I sit in a trench surrounded by the smells of burning and gas. Around me there are the bodies of so many dead – some I knew, some I didn’t. Some I liked, some I despised.
Some I killed.
It’s easy to call me a murderer but until you have engaged in battle like this, you can’t understand. I would happily take the punishment for the crimes I have committed. It is, after all, justice. However, it would not change the past. It would not change me, my sense that no one else quite understands the mental torture that I put myself through to get to this state of sheer apathy.
Your sense of horror is the first thing to go. You become desensitized to the pure hell around you. A stench of rotting flesh and the whizzing of artillery prior to impact. The sight of a solitary flower attempting to push through the mire and the misery, only to be trampled by the next assault. The taste of gas that never quite leaves you again.
Eventually you start to take some perverse pleasure in plucking the flower before anything else reaches it and tearing it in to the smallest shreds that you can.
Perhaps it’s a representation of your dignity.
You throw yourself into every attack in the hope that this will be the one that kills you and when, instead, you are the only one to survive intact, you take to killing your injured comrades. Put them out of their misery.
I drag some bodies back in to an abandoned section of trench and sit amongst them. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry at the absurdity of it all, so instead I sit in silence. Mind-numbing, aching silence.
I wait. And wait. And wait.
And then I realise:
This is not reality, this is not where I am. This is where I was.
And where I always will be, as I continue to live this moment every time I receive even a hint of that gas or those bombs or that rancid flesh.
I can’t even bring myself to grow flowers anymore. I kill them off.