“At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them”
A Final Kiss Goodnight
My watch tells me it’s past midnight and time to go though my thoughts are far away. Such a still and calm evening for a night patrol. The air is warm and balmy, sticking to my exposed face and hands, tickling my senses with forgotten reminders of pleasures enjoyed long ago. A distant hill, a siren of the night, stands silhouetted by stars and a fading moon smiling at us from the horizon whilst darkness and shadow lie clasped to her chest hidden from us like a woman’s gown wrapped seductively over her outstretched form. It’s our mission to peer beneath, to look, to discover, to spot and to spy. You’ll do it within an hour, informs our Captain, and be back behind our lines for a Tommy’s breakfast. If you follow close no harm will come your way and no hazard will mar your path but avoid No Man’s land and a fatal smooch with the mud. Our chaps smile and raise a laugh. Trust in my words, have faith and keep yon distant hill always to your right. Now go, act swiftly lads, before you catch sight of dawn’s rays or hear the cock’s first crow. Speak softly with your cohorts and bring me back your account. Just watch for dawn, the enemy and that mud.
We were barely gone a quarter mile when a waning moon and dark clouds scudding across an ever darkening sky brought that driving, soaking rain and hid our hilltop lovely from our sight. Shrub and scrub and rock and sapling marred our trail and all the while the clock is slowly and silently ticking. Our band of six is down to four as night plays its tricks and dances in our midst. Soon with no cry or sound of warning the four becomes two, spectres vanishing softly in the swirling mist. Still it rains and a light wind begins to moans laughing at our plight and pulls down the shawl of night till we two stumble and fall. Totally lost, I am now alone with no map or compass, no waypoints, no hill to my right to act as my guide. And dawn becomes impatient.
Mud, it’s found me. That thick, cloying stinking wet earth. It sucks at your boots, grabs at your limbs, drags you down, holds you tight and saps your soul. No slipping its fingers or flying its grasp. I’m caught in No Man’s land with dawn rushing ever closer. How inauspicious and there seems nothing I can do.
Oh how I wish I could fly, not back to the trenches, to my position and my chums or to my captain. No, fly further afield and back to my old roost, to my home to be once again with my loving folk, my kith and kin, to kiss my darling wife. Alas a vision too for here comes yawning day.
Dawn is born and proclaims its birth bringing forth a scream of purgatory on the lips of warriors raising Cain on wings of war. This ignominious doom, inglorious failure, I can’t escape; I daren’t call out, just shrink ever deeper into this muddy morass. And so I succumb to this brown liquid death, its touch warm and soft upon my lips and so in one last fatal drink I slake my thirst and sooth my throat and toast my tomorrow.
My final kiss goodnight.
Words and photographs Copyright © 2014 by Antony J Waller