Introspection copy

Juliette Bentley

Australia

I am a teacher, writer and foodie. I lead a thriving RL Writer's Club and live in an incredible place of sunshine and beauty. I go under Banjodog and my published work can be found online.

Message to Readers

honest constructive criticism.

Whistle Blow

July 31, 2015

FREE WRITING

2
The rattling Gatling gun echoed dully, the sound deadened, absorbed by walls of slick mud and tired bodies. The corpse lay unremarked upon in blood drenched trenches and barren pock marked plains, fallen comrades who in time, would be gathered, cleaned and laid to rest, away from the barbed wire and charnel hell of the battle field. But for now, the living had to fight to draw each new breath, battling against a barrage of ricocheting bullets and mortars that rained their indiscriminate, unrelenting bitterness down on them. Captain Carmichael adjusted his glasses for the hundredth time and shifted boots in an attempt to waken his damp and frozen feet. Waiting for the order to go over the top was agonizing. Each passing minute weighed like an hour. The anxious pinched faces of his men, blanching in the light of gunfire, made the enormity of his responsibility even heavier. Sargent Jenson stubbed out a half smoked tailor made and wedged it between the sandbags that lined the trench they currently commanded and looked at him sympathetically. Unexpected comrades, the two men had shared many nights thus and yet tonight, the air seemed cooler and their breath, hanging in the air looked ominous and protracted, like it feared dissipating in case it was their last. Carmichael knew that the enemy, like him, waited in trepidation for the onslaught, the carnage that would be heralded by a shrill single whistle splitting the night. Like he and Jensen, they would mutter their prayers to their own God, not so different from their own. Nurse Michaels would no doubt hear the thundering rumble of mortar fire and bullet cries from the makeshift hospital they had on the point. He could imagine her watching the waterline, whispering the words he would probably never hear her say again. Her beautiful brown eyes would bruise with pain as the sky lit up and the thought of her torment, not knowing if he survived, looking for his face in hours to come, in the dead and wounded, tasted like ash in his throat. Jensen looked up as a runner approached down the trench, squeezing his way past soldiers whose bodies were taught as wire, their fingers resting stiffly on their triggers, bayonets impaling the sky above them. His whispered apologies bounced off the backs of the soldiers h pushed past and he searched their faces looking for the captain. His expression was resigned. He staggered to a stop before Carmichael and extended his begrimed hand which clutched a small note, neatly folded and oddly pristine apart from one smudged thumb print. Captain Carmichael nodded and took it gingerly, sending the runner, guilty with relief back in the direction from whence he’d come. A pregnant moment passed before he flipped it open. He knew its contents and yet they numbed him in their calculated brevity.

He drew his shoulders back and adjusted his glasses once more nodding to his men. They too straightened their backs and drew in mindful breaths, watching them gather and rise on the cold air like prayers. Some put gently kissed photographs carefully into the safety of their breast pocket, others scratched their names in the mud, lest they be forgotten. And one smiled wryly. Jensen pulled out his whistle and blew.

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