I’ve Got Your Back

Based on the poem 1915

The sound of the trumpet came blasting through the camp.  Men wearily rolled over, and then moaned as they pulled their tired filthy bodies out of bed.  It was still dark, but the air was thick and humid.  Logan stretched his arms up above his head and yawned.  He picked his clothes up from where he had placed them last night.  Most of the boys slept in their clothes.  Logan had tried it once, but the only thing he could hear when he closed his eyes, was the sound of his mother’s voice droning in the back of his head, telling him what to do.  He had never appreciated it at home, but now that he was on his own, he would have given almost anything to her her voice.

He was dressed now.  The uniform weighed down on his shoulders.  It had felt so strange when he first put it on, but now it was like a second skin.  There was mud all over his boots and his pants were wearing away.  A wad of handwritten letters held together by a piece of string made a familiar bulge in his pocket.  They were the unspoken voices from home which kept him fighting long after his strength had gone.  Logan put his hand inside his pocket to fiddle with the string.

‘Oi Logan.  Get over here,’

Logan turned and joined the group of guys standing around their leader.  He was shouting out commands, ones they had heard a million times before.  They were all tired and worn out, and as Logan moved, he could feel the muscles in his legs burning.  At least he was still alive.

The group broke up and they walked for a distance to line themselves up in the trench.  The mist of the morning had started to rise, illuminating the area with a chilling light.  Logan found himself walking next to Brian, a young guy not much older than himself, only about nineteen or so.  Their boots were sinking into the mud, and the sound of gunfire was already polluting the air.  They walked side by side, not saying anything.  Brian pulled a photo out of his pocket and looked at it for a moment.  Logan peered over his shoulder at the image.  It was in black and white, and showed a beautiful girl with long dark hair falling down her back.
‘That your girl?’
‘Yeah.  My wife.’

There was ragged silence between them.  Brian kept staring straight ahead.  When he spoke again, his voice was less harsh.
‘She’s pregnant.’
Logan kept walking.

‘Think it’ll be over soon?”
The question hung in the air, suspended by reality.  There really was no answer.  They kept walking in silence until they were positioned along the trench.  Rain had fallen overnight, and the dirt was now a thick sloshy mud.  Brian took place to the right of Logan.  His eyes were dark, as if stained by the images he had seen.
Brian grinned at Logan and winked.
“I’ve got your back.”
Logan nodded.

They heard a whistle screech through the morning air, and every muscle in their body became tense.  Their rifles were slung over their shoulders.  All along the line boys from sixteen years of age were positioned in exactly the same way.
They waited, poised for the count.  A metallic voice ran along the trench.
One… two… THREE!  On three all of the boys charged up over the trenches and straight ahead. Logan and Brian ran side by side.  The rays of sun were diffused into an eerie light by the lingering gun smoke haze.  They were exceedingly outnumbered.  Anguished cries filled the air as one by one, men fell to the ground, injured or dead, the blood soaked ground littered with machinery and loose limbs.

A gunshot pierced Logan’s leg, and he collapsed.  Brian stopped and turned, realising that Logan had fallen behind.  He grabbed his weapon, and shooting a few more times, moved back to help him up.  Their eyes locked for a moment as he came running back to help his mate.

“I told you I would.”  He shouted above the roar of guns.
There was a startled look on his face, as his body suddenly jerked forward.  He fell to his knees, and then flat on his face.  Brian lay there unmoving.

Logan closed his eyes.  The pain in his body did nothing to overcome the torment that flooded his soul.  Living would never be the same.  Self sacrifice was a bloody hard word to deal with.

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