Sleep WellMature

This is the first chapter, from a piece of short historical fiction about the writer of the poem 'In Flanders Fields'. Go nuts :)

McCrae stood upright for the first time in weeks and straightened the residual hunch in his spine, feeling the muscles crackle with unfamiliarity. He looked up at the bloody ball that hung omnisciently in the sky above Battalion HQ, not needing to squint; such was the weakness of its rays. He tried to bathe in the light, let it warm him, inspire him, let him relax and return to the clear state of mind long since departed, but found himself only cold and depressingly short of answers.
He’d been all along the front line in the call of duty; he’d slept beside his men in the dugouts that trembled with every shell-burst and rained fine dust upon those whom sheltered inside them. He’d smelt the entrails that lay untouched above the parapet, and the damp that endured below it; he’d smelt the fear of the men beside him as they’d prepared for an assault, and the acrid stench of gas that lingered hand-in-hand with death’s sickly perfume. He’d tasted blood and sweat in the food he’d eaten and the coffee he’d drunk. He’d seen the colour drained from the very landscape to leave but a greyscale palette, bereft of feature and life. He’d seen the men walk in the same boots and sleep in the same clothes, and he’d heard the scuttle of rats and felt the itch of lice. He’d been far into the Vimy salient and heard the whispered German conversation from just yards away; felt the very earth and the air tremble with nervous anticipation before an artillery barrage was unleashed, and smelt the powder of discharged rifle and gun that burnt the nostrils and choked the lungs.
All the time he’d detached himself from it all, as he’d advised young Alexis to, and in doing so he’d been reduced to but a shell of his former self, and now he was tired, and he was out of patience. Alexis’ sentiments had served as more than a reminder that he was an unmarried man who’d left behind what little family he had left, to fight in a war he didn’t have any energy for anymore. In truth, he’d never felt further from home.

The End

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