By Michelle-Maree Coffman
It is dark; it is raining; it is cold. I can see the flashes of enemy fire in the distance. There are many emotions running through me but the most dominate feeling is fear. The fear I feel has got such a strong grip on me that the only movement I am capable of is the shaking in my boots. I couldnít tell anyone, expressing emotions like that in the trenches is as dangerous as a grenade with out a pin.
I could hear the squeaks of the rats, scampering around. The sand bags are piled up so high above my head I canít reach the top of them. Thereís a gap in them, though, which I can see through to the outside.
There are explosions and shots coming from the other side of the sandbags. Every now and again a shell drops. I see the flash from the explosion and then I hear a shell falling. WaitÖ thatís not right; I hear the shell falling then see the flash from the explosion. Yes, I hear then I see.
I drop to the floor. The enemy fire is coming nearer and nearer as each minutes tick passed. Time is a funny thing here in the war. Your watch can read quarter to eleven when you look at it as the bombing starts. After being blown to hell for what might seem like hours on end, you look at your watch again and itís only just eleven oíclock.
Iím the last one of the battalion left. All the rest have died in one way or another. Most have died by enemy fire and as a result their corpses lay in front of the trenches; some whole, some not. Most canít be recognized because of the almost constant shelling. A lot of them have been there a long time and have started to decompose. It stinks; not just the rotting corpses but the mud and gunfire and shells.
A part of me wishes I wasnít alone here but that part is selfish. If some one else was here then they too would be suffering like I am. Most of the men I fought with were just lads; lads who had been called away from their mums and wives to fight for England. They had no business being in a war. They were keen and kind and gay but the war stripped them of that and of their lives.
I grab my gun as I reminded myself that you canít be caught unawares in a war. Having a weapon could be the difference between live and death.
Another shell, that one was very close. The enemy must be right outside the trench.
Iíve made up my mind; Iíll go out and fight them and meet them head on, despite my fears. Iíll join my friends in the mud. Iíll die with honour and dignity.
As I prepare myself I grip my gun a little tighter and hold it closer to my chest. I say a quick prayer and start to move for the gap in the sandbags.
I can feel something holding me back. I canít move to fight. I canít move to get out of the holeÖ window?
ďPa, what are you doing? You almost fell out the window. What are you doing with that old broom handle? Here, let me have that. Come away from the window or youíll get wet and then get sick and we donít want that. I thought I told you to get that window fixed, no wonder youíre still up. All the banging and creaking and the thunder and lightning isnít helping either I suppose. Here, sit down and Iíll fetch you some tea to help you calm down.Ē
As she left I sunk into an armchair. Everything around me was slowly changing. My gun was a broom stick, the sandbags, bricks. The enemy fire and shells were just a broken window, crashes of thunder and flashes of lightning.
What had become of me? It had been years since the war yet I still revisit the battles in my dreams. People tell me that, in time, they will go away. The selfish part of me wants them to go but I know I canít let them. As the younger generation grows up they will see war as just a game to be played and won. I have to be there to remind them that war is full of blood and horror.
For the sake of tomorrow and for the sake of those who lost their lives in war I canít forget.