Yellow Fields

It's 1918. World War One is coming up to four years; and seems like it will never end...

Private Colin Brood is a twenty-one year old army soldier who has somehow made it through the many brutal years alive. Yet when a horrible turn of events happens and Colin is left injured; his friend even worse, will he have the courage of a General to save his friend's life?


2. Gunfire

Bang! Bang! Bang! I woke with a start. I felt the cold, morning sweat dribble down my forehead and run past my mouth, as scared as I was. It was quiet for a moment - deathly quiet - and I wondered why I had woken so abruptly.Then it hit me. The all-familiar, still-dreaded sound of gunfire - and lots of it.
"Wake up!" came the frantic voice of my Second Lieutenant, Lft Bill Buckley, booming his orders out to everyone in our tiny little habitat.
"Gunfire! Everyone to their stations... NOW!!" automatically, I leapt out of bed, my brain gearing up. I grabbed my moth-attacked jacket and leather jerkin from the chair where I had thrown it on the night before and, collecting my tin hat from on top of it, I sprinted outside into the trench. There was no time to have breakfast that morning - it was up and out.

Outside, the usual November mist had crept into the trenches, lining the ground in a thick, icy-cold blanket which made it impossible to grab any ammunition I would need. All around me: explosions. Explosions that seemed to pick up any excess ground and launch it fifty feet up in the air by some monstrous paranormal force, before slamming it hard onto the cratered-spotted terrain below. Fallen soldiers grabbed their blooded limbs in agony and a posse of infected rats the size of your average domestic cat burrowed their way into the short food supply of solidified biscuits and tasteless, watery soup. With earth being flung on top of me, bouncing off my hat and landing beside my feet with a thud I realised that I was standing there, in the middle of the trench walkway. It was all happening at once. There was no time to think. There was no time to cry out with sorrow and plead anyone who was caring enough to listen to allow me to go back home. I was stuck in this hell. And there was no escape.
"Colin! There you are Colin!" my Sergeant called over the explosions as he stumbled over to me, dodging past other running men.
"Sergeant!" was the small reply I could muster.
"What the blazers do you think you're doing here? Pick up a gun, boy! Get fighting!" he ordered. I noticed the glimmer of terror in his watering eyes and I knew that he was just as frightened as I was. I quickly respected him for  managing to maintain his general authority whilst still fearing for his life.
"Right away Sir!" I obeyed, peering around hurriedly for a rifle I could use. I must have forgotten mine back in my shack.
"Here boy, take mine!" he exclaimed over the explosions. There was suddenly a loud whirring sound that I imagined to be the wind on a loud night and an explosion crashed at the top of the trench banking above us. The Sergeant was flung forwards into me and we both ended up on the ground, the mud oozing into my jacket as sinisterly as the plague. He clamoured up, cursing somewhat loudly and offered a dirty hand to me. I took it and was heaved up into the air. Before I could say thank you, he was rooting past his mudded jacket and unhooking his back-up Lee Enfield, "now get to work!" and with that, he jogged off down the trench behind me, disappearing into a cloud of hazy smoke. I peered after him, wondering how he can still be such a considerate fellow despite his life being on the line. It was then that I realised that this was the most I'd been afraid in a long while.
"Snap out of it, Colin," I told myself, whispering, not being able to hear my own voice but the vibrations from my chest. "You're brave. You're noble. You're going to save some of these fellow's lives and we're all gonna live to be ninety." But who was I fooling? I knew just as much as you that I wasn't who everyone thought I was. I was the spiteful shadow on looking my past almost as if it was a fantasy, a fantasy that would never be gained again. I was an envious soul, perhaps killed silently in the night and was reliving my favourite memories before being dragged away into reality. Another explosion erupted like a volcano and clumps of rock and mounds of weeds were launched into the trench. I squatted and ducked: hands locked over my helmet and the rocks hit my back. It stung like a snake had bit me. I cried out in pain. I loathed my life - what it had become.
Around me was the echoing screams of men. The haunting wails of agony from those who had been hit and the even more terrifying howls of fright from those that were running like rabbits for their lives. Explosions echoed around me.
"Dangerous gunfire! Everyone under cover!" my Second Lieutenant shouted to the men around him and instantly masses of troops fled to the nearest shelter: huddling together to prevent the high chances of getting the full aftermath of an explosion. I followed, like a duckling swimming to catch up with its mother; like a sheep straying from its herd.
"Colin!" a soldier called Lawrence Farrier smiled weakly despite the devastation. "I'm so glad you're still with us... I thought you might have..." his voice trailed off, his eyes loosing contact with mine. He suddenly went into a blank state, as if he had left his body for a moment.
I patted his back, hand trembling but my voice was normal. "No, I'm still here-" the jokester inside me seemed to willingly speak out, "I think you'll find it very hard to get rid of me." I laughed half-heartedly and the same jolly smile appeared on Lawrence's face for a simultaneous second.
"That's what keeps me going."
"I'm glad," I replied, a warm smile crinkled my mud-splattered eyes into half-ovals. Lawrence was one of the few men who had no family to return to - the trenches was his life. Then another whirring and boom that spat even larger lumps of earth into the trenches.
Before I could do anything, Lawrence fell to the floor. Instantly, blood soaked his uniform and he lay with one leg tucked underneath his body awkwardly and with one hand clenching his side. He was screaming with pain: the colour drained from his once-peachy face.
I bent down and held his shoulders, stroking his head. "Lawrence, don't leave me. Lawrence! Stay with me!" then to the air, "help! Somebody! Help us!"
My Second Lieutenant spotted us and gently pushed men out of his way as he came rushing over to us. He didn't even ask any questions: he just picked up the bloodshot Lawrence and carried him down the trench. I could only hope that I'd see Lawrence again.
I turned around quickly. Was I hearing things?
No. I was most definitely not hearing things. Someone was yelling 'help me'.
On impulse, I started running back the way that Lawrence and my Second Lieutenant had - presuming that I was running in the right direction. I had no idea: I was completely oblivious but somehow my legs carried me there subconsciously.
"Where are you? Tell me where you are!" I called, as I ran. The noises around me seemed to engulf my words and carry them away with a mocking that hurt. I was running in a labyrinth of blood, tears and terr. And I was never going to escape.
"Private Brood get back in here this minute!" my Second Lieutenant called behind me - a distant sound that was strangely solitary, carried by the wind. I wanted to go back; I didn't want to disobey a man I had grown to respect. But that voice rang in my mind like a repeating vinyl record that had stuck on a note. I knew I had to do this. I knew I had to save this man. For the first time in my life, I voluntarily disobeyed - no, ignored  his orders.
"Where are you?" I cupped my hands around my mouth and yelled as loud as my battered lungs would allow me. Thankfully it appeared to amplify the sound that had previously sounded so feeble and wounded.
"Brood!" my Second Lieutenant growled from afar. It was if he were a wolf: growling at his pup to obey him when it had strayed away from him, or didn't acknowledge his orders. The word he spoke was with venom - but not a hatred. Whether the wind had smothered syllables and the tone to his voice or not, my Second Lieutenant seemed to be worried. My brain forced me to a stop. I should listen to him. Serious implications could come to a private who didn't follow his superior's orders and the man was not one to be reckoned with. Nor did I want to be the reason why he may be... fretting. Especially not in this situation: if a man is not on top form, horrible mistakes will surely be made. However, my heart wrenched me forwards with an energy crossed between resentment and sheer empathy, determination: a stone-cold knack for adventure and being a saviour that demanded my legs move forwards and my feet eat up the earth below me like the mines and explosions had.
"Tell me where you are!"
There was silence. Then, "help me! I'm near the canon!"
Dread hit my chest like a shotgun pellet and seemed to emotionally knock me off my feet. The canon was all the way around the other side of our trench. From my shelter, it would be about a fifteen minute walk - minus the reams of men passing you and making walking difficult. Still, the man's pleas motivated me, and I found myself skip into a sprint as I skidded around corners: hoping that everyone was under their shelters or inside the bunkers. The more men that were around, the harder it would be to reach the canon.

My heart rate increased so much that I could almost feel the blood pumping around my body in a rapid attempt to keep me alive. But I didn't feel alive. I was a dead man walking. My feet were pounding and so was my head. My thighs had seemingly been reduced to gelatine. I felt dizzy and lethargic and had the overwhelming sensation that I was going to throw up. But I swallowed the feeling and pressed on, more weary now: more of a sway and hobble than a run of any sort. Left. Right. Right. Follow the corner around. Hard left. I followed the maze of cross-paths and bunkers like I was a rat in a sewer. Automatically I made tight corners and gradually managed to pick up the pace along the straights. It was good, because all the men I had presumed I would have to dodge around and weave in and out of were under the ground: in bunkers designed to reduce the impact of aftershocks from nearby explosions but not strong enough to withstand a direct hit from one of these bombs or rocket launchers the Germans had on their side. Finally I was nearing the canon. Adrenaline coursed through my body: a racehorse charging along the winning sprint.
"I'm almost with you! Hang on!" I could only hope that they'd be okay when I reached them. Right. Left. Left. Left again. Right. Left. Up the tiny mound... closer, closer, closer. Suddenly, a package dropped right in front of me. I skidded to a halt. Precariously, I walked up to it, crouched over, creeping quietly up to it. It looked like some sort of package in a dirty cloth...was some Fritz over there having fun with us? But then I realised. It wasn't a cloth at all; it was a shell. A canon shell. Panic surged through my body and just as I opened my mouth, a thick, dense, green gas filtered out of the metal cage.
"Chlorine gas!" I exclaimed as loud as possible before the smog-like substance oozed out of the canon shell: a wound that was seeping blood.
"Chlorine Gas! Gasmasks!" my Second Lieutenant screamed from an unbelievable distance. The man had a pair of lungs on him. Panicking, more than I had done now, I rummaged through my layers - shoving away my un-needed rifle and tugging my mask off of my belt... but it wouldn't come off. Harder, I yanked at it, trying to prise it off of the small knot that was binding it together.
"Damn... thing!" I cursed, using all my might to wrench it off. I spared a few seconds to look up. There was no sign of the canon; only the tiny cries of the man's voice in the distance - the near distance. And all the while the gas was quickly smothering the trench. I climbed the muddy banks almost as if it were a predator seeking out its prey. 
"Hang on, I'm coming!" I cried, fiddling to undo my even tighter knot. But the gas had beaten me to it. For a normal man who had not had to endure four years of his life murdering others alike himself, he would argue that he was seeming things. Imagining things. Exaggerating things. But for a solider, a man who has had four years of  his life snatched from him in the blink of an eye, it would be the only logical explanation. It seemed as, when I spoke out to this wounded soldier, that the gas heard me. It seemed to stop climbing the banks and turn, towards me. Hunting me. It was a blind predator and it had heard me. Of course, a sane man would blame it on the wind changing direction. But when you had been confined to a prison open to all elements, it was the only thing you could come up with. The only thing you could rationalise with and think of, really. The gas seeped towards me, zig-zagging and crawling like a spider in a bathtub - closer to me. Closing the gap between myself and death itself. I stumbled backwards, one hand still clenched around the knot that was the factor of life or death. Then the sanity kicked in. I pulled as hard as I could - forcing, willing the knot to break. The gas laughed: an echoing sound of torture and taunting. It knew I was helpless. It knew I stood no chance of fighting it. It was as if my life was flashing before my eyes - as bright as the flashes of explosions both distant and nearby. It was as if time stood still, and all I could wait for was heaven to open its doors to one more innocent soul that had been taken by the profanity of war. I pictured my parents: their bulbous, sunburnt faces beaming at me through black and white. They were together in unison, arms around one another. I thought about how I had never managed to say goodbye. Then Alan came to mind. He was probably sat in one of the underground bunkers by now, worried sick about me. I would never see him again, either. This was it. The dreaded and anticipated feeling of death, but, more frightening, of giving up. Allowing the Germans to add one more life to their endless list of names. Allowing myself to realise that I had been defeated. Forgotten. Turned into a memory just like my childhood. Suddenly, a wave of pain, of horrible pain overcame me. It demanded me to fall to my battered knees. My eyes stung like a million bees were attacking them. Tightly, I squeezed them shut, preventing any more agony. I screamed out for everyone to hear - for anyone to hear - not caring anymore. Still, I gripped my gas mask. This was it. This was what all those poor souls must have felt in their last moments: alone, afraid, not only for dying but of what the future held. Was their life after death? Was there such thing as heaven? If there was such a thing as God, would I be accepted into heaven for protecting my country and its people or be deemed to a life in hell, for murdering the innocent? An urge of combined agony and determination came of me, and before I knew it, I was hacking at my gas mask string with the forgotten pocket knife that was wrapped safely in my pocket in a handkerchief. Hack. Hack. Hack... I found a rhythm and, despite the sizzling of my eyes and the burning of my lungs, I seemed to get faster and faster and finally, finally, it was free! Using the little strength I had left, I shoved the gas mask onto my face and secured it with the rubber strips. Yet my eyes were still being ripped from my sockets and the pressure to my melting lungs was indescribable. Wheezing, I drew fast, shallow breaths - trying to calm my damaged organs and regain some sight. I dared to open my eyes. They stung; they watered. But the moisture seemed to heal them momentarily. Slowly I stood, holding my knees as they straightened out and I opened my eyes again. Nothing. Nothing but thick smog as far as the eye could see. I thought about seeking shelter with the other troops like I had before - after all I was injured and needed urgent medical treatment. Everyone knew the immense danger you were in if you suffered Chlorine Gas injuries. But just one thing was playing on my muddled mind, taking priority over my own health. Save the man who had called.



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