Sometimes, I think back to before the war started. I was a normal person, with a loving family.
Then news came that Germany had attacked. I said goodbye to the people I loved most, and hello to the awful trenches and weapons of war.
So, here I am. Living in a water-filled bunk, in terrible conditions and the constant fear that each moment could be my last.
I wonder if my family remembers me. If they think about me as much as I think about them. If their hearts ache with the sorrow of loss. The thought of never seeing me again…
“James!” the Sergeant’s voice startles me, jerking me back to reality. “Get out there. The raiding party almost left without you,” he says simply, jabbing his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the broken-down door.
I push myself to my feet and grab my musket from where it’s leaning against the wall, heading for the exit.
• • •
Outside, the raiding party is waiting impatiently.
“Hurry up! Let’s go!” one of the men says, in a heavy British accent. In the low-light, it takes me a moment to recognize him as Corporal Hugh Martin.
“Yes sir,” I respond and immediately quicken my pace, taking longer strides.
• • •
We’ve gone out into the open space between our camp and the enemy camp. We’re staying low to the ground and in the cover of shadow. Corporal Hugh, who yelled at me earlier, also happens to be leading this expedition.
“This is taking too long,” he grumbles to himself. Then, a little louder, he adds, “Quicken your pace, you lazy slugs!”
“Are you sure, sir?” my friend, Dan Biggley, asks uncertainly.
We all know that going faster could result in being seen.
“Of course I’m sure!” he says, anger flashing through his eyes.
Even though I want to, I don’t argue. I exchange a glance with Dan, and I can tell that he disagrees too. But we both keep our mouths shut. After all, we’re just simple Privates. What authority do we have to contradict him?
We start walking faster. And then faster still as Corporal Hugh urges us on. No one seems to notice us, though, as we speed across the open land.
It’s actually quite peaceful. The cool night air brushing across my face, a breath of wind whispering in my ears.
And then there is a deafening BOOM! and I’m pushed flat on my back by the landmine that just exploded under my feet. The pain is terrible, starting in my right leg and seeping up into my very being. I try to scream for help, but I don’t have the strength. I just lie there, gritting my teeth against the pain that surrounds me. Trying to find enough energy to call out for help.
But I’m trapped. Stuck in this terrible world of fiery pain. Watching as the moon sinks below the horizon, and the sun slowly rises.
I’m dying. The thought flashes through my mind. I want to fight it, to fight for my life. But I know, deep down in my heart, I know that this is it. It’s useless to fight any longer. I’m dying, I’m dying, I’m dying.
I lay there for who knows how long, but eventually, the pain dies away. And with it, goes the fear. All I remember, all I know, is the soft, comforting darkness that’s pressing in all around me.
And I don’t fight it.