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Bravery

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Author's note: This was originally written for a year nine english assesement, all that was required was to...  Show full author's note »
Author's note: This was originally written for a year nine english assesement, all that was required was to write an account of a soldier going 'over the top' in the first world war. Since creative writing means a lot to me, I thought I'd add a bit more detail and well...this is what happened!  « Hide author's note
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3

I was left standing in No man’s land as the first droplets of rain fell from the above; I looked up as the cold pellets of water peppered my face. ‘Even the sky is different here’ I marvelled, gazing at the sharp contrast of pastel grey-blue sky and the angry black of the swollen storm clouds that threatened to smother away the light of the sun. There was not a bird to be found. I found myself thinking of the sky at home, the sky that had always seemed to be a bright blue, littered with wisps of snow white cloud. I missed that sky. I missed lying sprawled on my back with long, dew littered blades of grass brushing against my neck as the trees swayed. I missed looking up at the sky with my father or my sister or my school friends and guessing the clouds shapes and listening to the soothing bird-song. I missed everything I had before the war took it all. ‘That is what scares me the most’ I whispered softly into the roar of battle noise, ‘I am scared I cannot get back what I had before’ I squeeze my eyes shut as grimy streams of rainwater trickle down my face. I realised I must have looked like a madman stood stock still while the war raged around me, I might even have looked like I had no fear. A small laugh fluttered out of my throat.

The first explosion came then, it did not feel like I thought it would. Listening to the explosions from a distance, curled up with my hands cupping ears in the Dug-out as I had many a time had given me the wrong idea. There was no dance of flames before my eyes and no surprised, helpless feeling of gliding through the air. There was only the terrifying whistle of an approaching shell, the split second of panic, and then I was on the ground, face pressed into the drenched soil and ears ringing. I propped myself up on my elbows, staring confusedly at the dark red stain on the ground where I lay, when I raised my trembling fingers to my forehead, they came away sticky and scarlet. I drew in a sharp intake of breath and cursed. I noticed my bayonet was gone and concentrated on that, dragging my heavy bones as I shuffled forward on my hands and knees, determined to find it. Then there was a second shell. This time I heard the frantic screams of others, my friends, maybe the Nameless saviour as well, as the ground shook violently and I was thrown forward. Fiery heat scorched my back and I tumbled over and over, my vision blurred with tears and dirt, debris flying at me from all directions. There was no sense of up or down as my momentum carried me forward, the very ground we stood on erupting again and again as a hailstorm of shells came at us.

The peace was so sudden it was startling. I was on my knees, clutching a broken wrist with white hot pain shooting up and down my arm, when I looked up and blinked. The shelling had stopped, the rain had not. I shook my head, my hair plastered to my scalp with water and blood, my sodden uniform clinging to my skin. All around me, soldiers lay like broken dolls amongst the splintered remains of bayonets and steaming shell craters. I fixed my gaze on my upturned helmet that lay a few feet away, shaking with the effort to block out the sight of their stillness, to block out the sound of the anguished cries from those that were not yet gone but going. I sniffed and dabbed at my stinging eyes with a dirtied sleeve. I shifted and got to my feet, still holding the twisted and bruised arm against my middle. I wanted to go home; there was dull ache in my chest that I knew was not caused by a physical wound. I stood for what seemed like years, but it could have only a few moments, until a movement nearby caught my eye. A dark lump I had first assumed was a mound of mud squirmed, and then let out a sharp cry of pain.
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