20th September 2016
The intensity of fear was overwhelming; I could almost have tasted it. A
surge of soldiers arose from the trenches, met forcefully by a ferocious
avalanche of bullets and explosions. Men fell to the ground like
dominoes. Without any warning, the ground erupted, sending soil and
soldiers metres high. Bodies littered the ground as the brutal massacre
continued on. Terror seeped through the advancing soldiers, as thick as
treacle, impassable. The cruel, merciless guns were relentless, unfaltering.
The skies were sunless and blackened by death.
My eyes were fixated and my whole body trembled. Terror gripped me
with its icy fingers. The unimaginable was unfolding right before my
eyes, and I could not move. Shells exploded, pounding my eardrums,
again and again and again. Men were knocked down. More soldiers
marched in, only to meet their death. Repeatedly, fresh waves replaced
each other, but all hope and confidence was lost. Please … someone stop
them. Why was nobody stopping them?
Soldiers around me stood terror-stricken and stunned into silence. It was
a heavy sort of silence; weighed down by the countless thoughts passing
through our minds. Explosions carried on above us, but no one was
listening. It was as if we were in our own little bubble, where time slowed
and outside noises seemed distant and muffled. Memories flooded
through my head, filling it with the voices of my loved ones and images
of their smiles. Her smile. The bubble abruptly popped by the harsh
realisation that I would never witness it again.
So we waited. And then came the voice, the dreaded voice-, shouting “Fix
Bayonets!”, readying us for our finals seconds. This was it. Everything
came down to this. And for what? My eyes surveyed the petrified faces
around me – not one of us could’ve even pretended to be brave in this
moment. The boy in front is 17, I know that. He gave me a biscuit once.
Now his grimy face is streaked with tears. We are all men. Just men. All
human, with thumping hearts and living souls. I don’t care about
winning this war anymore. There’s nothing gallant or glorious
about victory now.