Sunday 4 August 2019

The Front Lines

by Luke S

  nice comforting hot chocolate

I slumped against the muddy wall of the trench in the cold; my fever was not treating me well at all, especially when I was staying here, hungry and having not slept in a very long time. It was 1916 at the Somme; it had been two months since this tremendous battle had begun. My lieutenant cap was askew. I closed my eyes, wondering if I would survive and get home. A short and plump soldier with black hair wearing a dirty battle bowler ran up to me, “Sir? Sir, are you alright?”

I slowly opened my eyes. The soldier looked about eighteen years old. He was carrying a large dust sheet and looked quite worried. 

“Oh, good, you’re alive, here take these,” he said passing me the dust sheet. “They’ll keep you warm and hopefully help your fever a little.” 

I took the dust sheet and wrapped it around myself. I closed my eyes again and muttered, “Thank you, trooper.” 

I pulled some of the dust sheet behind my head so that I didn’t have to rest it against the muddy wall behind me. I was thinking about my family and eating my grandmother’s homemade pies, when I remembered about my best friend Wallace. I hadn’t heard from him in ages and apparently he hadn’t sent letters back to his mother. I opened my eyes and started to get up. 

The trooper put out his hands to push me back down, “Sir, what are you doing, you need rest, no, sir you need rest!” he said as I struggled against him to get back up. 

“I need to find a friend.” I said through gritted teeth. 

The trooper looked at me. 

“Who is he?” he asked, finally letting me stand up. 

I grabbed the dust sheet in my hands, “Sergeant Wallace Hull.” I replied, putting my lieutenant cap straight. 

The trooper thought about the name for about ten seconds and then said, “Oh, yeah, him, I’m pretty sure he’s on the front lines, sir.” 

I immediately started walking, 

“Sir, wait.” 

I stopped. 

“I don’t think going to the front lines will help your fever, sir.” 

I looked back at him and said, “I don’t care.” I turned around and carried on walking. 

The trooper followed me; I thought he was going to tell me to turn back again but instead he said, “If you’re going then I’m going.” 

I looked back at him and nodded, he nodded back. I looked forwards again and plodded on, faster than before. After about ten minutes of speed-walking, the trooper and I arrived at the front lines. I looked around for my friend franticly. I moved forwards more to try and spot him. Suddenly, many German soldiers arrived at the top of the trench, aiming rifles and flamethrowers.

The Germans started shooting their weapons, the soldier and I ran back the way we came, keeping our heads down, soldiers were being shot down and set on fire behind us. The screams rang in my ears; I did not dare look back. We turned around a bend and saw Germans at the top of the trench there; luckily, there was another straight passage that we could go through. I tugged the soldier so that he would notice the passage. We sprinted down it, mud flying on our uniforms. When the passage ended, it was not a pleasant sight; there were men, drowned in an enormous pool of their own blood and around the outside of that pool, there were dozens more dead soldiers, almost cemented into the mud. Reluctantly, I walked forwards through the blood, my socks now extremely wet. I collapsed; I needed rest if I wanted to go on with my trench fever. The soldier pulled me out of the blood. 

 “I can’t go on without some rest,” I said weakly. “Find him for me.” 

The soldier put the dust sheet that I had dropped on the mud when I collapsed over me, “No, sir, I have to stay with you.” replied the soldier. 

I looked at him, “That’s an order.” 

He stood up slowly and reluctantly then nodded at me, “Yes sir.” He turned and walked away through the passage. I closed my eyes and started to drift off. I dreamed about being at home with my family, no fever, no war, eating a delicious Sunday roast. I heard fast footsteps coming to the house. Germans smashed through the walls with rifles in hand and started shooting down my family. 

“Sir! Sir, wake up!” I awoke, the trooper was crouched down in front of me. “Sir, we have to move; Germans are coming this way on the top of the trench.”

The soldier helped me up and I picked up the dust sheets. We walked through the blood and into the passage, crouching a little. Suddenly, a shell went off a few metres in the air above us.  We fell to the ground and I dropped the dust sheets, mud splattered all over my face, making it more dirty than it already was. We started crawling, hoping that the Germans wouldn’t spot and kill us. The soldier and I heard a sound behind us; we looked to see what it was and saw yellow mustard gas coming towards us. ,

“GAS!” shouted the trooper. I fumbled around frantically for my gas mask. I found it and put it over my head; the trooper did the same. We waited and eventually, the gas disappeared. I crawled to the end of the muddy passage, the trooper behind me. We stood up and I ran back through the rushing men to where I was before the Germans attacked. I saw a random trooper standing at a ladder that soldiers were climbing up. I turned to him, “Have you seen a friend of mine? He is Sergeant Wallace Hull.” 

He looked at me, “Yeah, he just went over the top,” he said loudly so that I could hear him over the noise. My heart skipped a beat. I had to go and find him. I started climbing the ladder. 

“Sir, you can’t go over there! You’re unarmed and have a fever!” shouted the trooper that had given me the dust sheets. 

I stopped and turned my head around, looking him directly in the eyes, “He would do the same for me.” I climbed up to the top of the ladder and then clambered into no-mans land.

Chaos; Shells were going on left and right. I ran as fast as I could, trying my best to avoid bullets. My fever couldn’t take it; I threw myself onto the mud, wishing that none of this had happened. The air was horrible.  It was a mix between gas that had faded, pollution, blood and the stench of dead bodies. I turned my head and saw a man that had been blown back from a shell and hit a sharp branch from an old, decayed tree that had stabbed him through the chest. Everywhere around me, there were dead bodies. Loose coils of barbed wire lay scattered around the land. Suddenly, I heard Wallace call my name; I scrambled around to look where it came from. The noise could be because of my head from the fever but I didn’t care. I crawled through the mud. My ears had never taken this much noise at once.  All I could hear were screams of pain, the rattle of machine guns and shells going off. I could feel bullets ripping through the air past me.  “WALLACE?” I cried out. My light brown hair now looked black from the mud that entered it.  “ARE YOU OUT THERE? WALLACE!” I slightly heard a call that sounded like him. I immediately started crawling to the place where it had come from. Before I could reach the place, however, a shell exploded a few metres in front of me. It blasted me backwards into a lump of mud and my leg got trapped in barbed wire. I yelled in pain. My vision went blurry and then I passed out.

I woke up slowly; the material underneath me didn’t feel like mud or rock, it felt comfortable. I fully opened my eyes. A ray of sunshine beamed through a window at my eyes and stung them because of how much darkness I had been in through the past two months. Where was I? My eyes finally stopped hurting and I looked around; I was in a lovely, clean and white room with luxurious comfortable beds lying around the room. I finally realised that I was in a hospital bed. I heard a voice, “Peter? Oh goodness, you’re awake!” I looked to my left and saw my fiancée crouching down next to me. Her smooth brown hair was done up perfectly into a bun. I sat up suddenly and she held me in a tight embrace. I had survived. 

Suddenly, Wallace jumped into my mind.  “Wallace…” I muttered, “Amanda, where is he, where is Wallace?” I started to try and get out of the bed to look around but Amada stopped me.

“Peter, Wallace, he…um… well he didn’t make it.” she said. I couldn’t believe it, my best friend, the man I had been with for almost all of my life, he was gone? A tear slowly rolled down my cheek, “It’s ok Peter…” Amanda said, “You can rest now.”

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