There was a lightening of the sky signalling the end of night, but not of nightmares. Sunrise did little to disturb the grey fingers of mist that unfurled over the now silent battlefield.The snow, once white, held a pink tinge not painted by any dawn.

Bodies having bled their life essence to colour their surroundings, lay still, stiffening in the snow. Frank could picture the carnage.

It was the silence that he felt the most. The guns finally quietened; the softly falling snow deadening the sound of footsteps. He was unable to turn his head to see his neighbour, so he lay not knowing if he would die with friend or foe. Not that it mattered. They were all men of honour; young men filled with the adrenaline of youth, enlisting in a wave of patriotism.

Frank chose not to call out to those silent footsteps. He was too wounded to last as a prisoner and he had no desire to feel a bayonet in his chest. He felt no pain although he could recall the machine gun bullets entering his legs. If the enemy found him, there would be pain; If his comrades found him he would be a burden for life. The bayonet would be quicker.

His hand inched towards a vestige of warmth; whoever lay beside him was not yet dead. Fingers locked and lay still. Perhaps it was an enemy who would share his final moments. Visions of two bicycle riders struggling through bombed out streets, to deliver death notices floated through his mind. Would their parents open the telegrams with stoicism, having expected the news each day since they had enlisted, or would grief and despair rise from both sides of the channel? He wished he could tell them that their sons weren’t alone at the end. That they had comforted each other.

The stranger’s fingers relaxed their grip, the absence of warmth leaving Frank bereft. He closed his eyes against the pink glow. Images of childhood and the touch of a stranger were enough to lead him gently to the other side.

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2 years ago

The nightmare of the battlefield and the futility of patriotism are counterbalanced by the potential of humanity giving and receiving comfort. Quite poignant.

Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
2 years ago

What a truly touching story, Mary. Another entry that has made me feel very emotional, so well written.

Genya Johnson
Genya Johnson(@genya-johnson)
2 years ago

This is so emotional and I could feel everything through his final thoughts. Very well written story.

Susan Giles
Susan Giles(@susan-giles)
2 years ago

War puts us all on the same plane. Thank you for a very moving story.

Eric Radcliffe
Eric Radcliffe(@eric-radcliffe)
2 years ago

Hello again Mary, how you bring the horror of war to the senses, and I like everyone, hope that the lessons of loss prevent the next one, we can only pray and hope. You capture the insanity of war, and the loneliness of death. A thought provoking write Mary..

2 years ago

Mary, this story is very beautifully written. You do not hide from the brutality, fear and pain of war and death, but you manage to emphasize our humanity and kinship. Having read many of your stories, from ZenGarden and now from Voice, I see a common thread. Many of your characters make peace with death and their experiences of dying are often gentle and loving. You are a gifted and nurturing writer.… Read more »

Eric Radcliffe
Eric Radcliffe(@eric-radcliffe)
2 years ago

Mary I have just come back to tick the like button. As I like to tick it after I have read the story, but sometimes I forget, as I did now, and now I found that you can also tick the Star. Funny that I have never taken any notice of it before. Anyhow you have a extra tick now. Eric.

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
2 years ago

A very well written story, Mary, and an unusual aspect of dawn. It is amazing how you can put yourself in the position of a wounded young man on the battle field, waiting in the early morning for death to come, thinking of his family. The aspect that keeping company with an enemy soldier gives him solace is very touching and beautiful.

Andrew Carter
Andrew Carter(@andrew-carter)
2 years ago

You contrast life and death so seamlessly here against the brutal backdrop of war, Mary. It reminds me of a poem you wrote for Friday Flash Fiction. I like how you explore the character’s thoughts in his last moments.

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
2 years ago

Hello Mary, you got me again. Your story touches my heart. A well-written story about war, death, and pain. You manage it well. 

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
Reply to  Mary Wallace
1 year ago

You’re welcome, Mary.

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