I sit shivering in the darkness. The smell of blood takes me back to my little village at home, working all day at the butcher shop. The stench of gunpowder brings me back to the war. The rain plasters my hair to my face. I look down at my hands; they are covered in dried blood and mud with a thick layer of grime beneath my fingernails. I feel as if the hard clay walls are closing in on me. The constant blast of explosions rumbles in the distance. The shock waves ripple through the trench. It trembles, threatening to collapse. Fortunately the trench manages to stay in one piece. The grim mood smothers the flame of hope like a wet blanket. I try to stay confident that I will make it back home and see my family but it is hard to think a single positive thought in the middle of this horrific war.
Every time I close my eyes, I remember. The gruesome fights on the battlefield; my little girl crying and begging me not to go as I say goodbye; watching helplessly as my best friend gets shot from behind, screaming in agony and crumbling to the ground. I remember that day. It was months ago but the guilt is still unbearable. I should have done something. If only I’d moved sooner then maybe I could have saved him. I shake the thought from my head. I can’t let his death weigh me down.
Despite being surrounded by dozens of soldiers, I have never felt more isolated and alone. I gaze across the trench. A man is sitting in the corner muttering to himself. His eyes are jittery, crazy, like a wild animal’s. That’s what war does to people. It turns you into an empty shell of your former self. I can’t let that happen to me. I have to pull myself together.
Listen to this story read by Chris here.