Sunday, 11 November 2012

Over the Top

by Zachary Choppen

Like dogs left to die. The men just idly stand, shrouded with terror waiting for death. The early morning mist hangs low, teased on by the ghostly fingers of the sun, its tendrils creeping into men’s last havens. The spectral veil covers them, smothering emotion, sapping their spirit.

A watchman passes, carrying a lantern, illuminating them with his light, the men just standing there indulged in their heads. The light passes me; I stare at it, its glaring gaze burning. I close my eyes. The light still there; bloated but there.

My family in the light.

Their faces there in the light, my son, daughter and wife. All there just looking at me. Past me. As though I no longer exist, which in truth I don’t. I keep my eyes closed for another minute. The light dimming, fading, only left with the faces now. My last grasp at life; not this hell around me. The demon pool where a man’s face hides hideous horrors, has the image of a man’s last cry burned in their eyes. The broken melodies of gun fire and shells still vibrate in their ears. All this etched in their memories, their life, all their hopes gone. Above, a faint chorus of bird song. My emotion breaking as I finally realize that I will never see them again. I try to fix them in my mind but the image shatters as the whistle pierces the silent air.

The men stand silently, some with faces of tempered stone hiding all emotion, denying their death but aware it is to come. While most are crying freely, I’m shocked to find I’m crying silently too. But I realize as the tears pour down my cheeks, that I am about to die. No one is bothered to hide the fact that they’re scared. The whistle blows again. We move up in a line, behind the earthen barrier, holding back the furies of death waiting to fly from the barrel of the machine guns. To take us from this world. To the gates of heaven of the abandoning Lord. But we will pass them, down, down to the real Hell. Hell exists; as I live it, I find it hard to believe that there is an almighty God up there --- a good, caring, perfect God, who lives in us, who feels our pain. For if there was, would we be here? Would we be here away from our friends, our families, our lives?

The men stand silently waiting. Watching the sun rise over them, lighting up the bleeding wall in front of them. Hands are shaking. Not even the gloomy sun can warm them. I look down, my hands are shaking and only my grip on the rifle gives me control over them. The whistle blows again; two minutes to go. I stumble to the crude steps behind twelve boys. It starts to rain. The trench a swamp. Any other day it would have been a blessing to leave but now... here we are just standing in front of a bleeding wall dripping with dark blood that spills in torrents down the side, pouring down beneath our feet. The final whistle blows and I take a firmer grip on my rifle my life my partner through this.
“Thirty seconds.”
Heart racing.
“Twenty seconds.”
Final goodbyes.
“Ten seconds.”
End of emotion.
People start running up the dugout steps rushing forwards, some shout loudly,

screaming their insults at the misty rainy air. My eyes are dry and itchy. My turn. I

scramble up the now almost non-existent steps battling with my rifle. I bring it up to

face the fields of death.

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