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?

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5. St Johns

"C'mon now, Private Brood. It's time for your luncheon."
I moaned, only quietly: feeling the immense aftermath of whatever extreme had brought me here. Yet that contented voice had brought me some of my lost hope back.
"Well done, Private Brood."
Gently, I opened my mouth. My lips had stuck together during the whole escapade and it took a lot of my limited effort to prize my scabby lips open. But I managed it.
 "W-where am I?" I muttered absent-mindedly, my head pounding: almost like my brain was a bomb itching to explode.
"You're in St John's Hospital," the voice said calmly.
It was then that I mustered enough energy to do it. Suddenly, for the first time since being here, my sticky eyes opened - only this time it was voluntarily. It took a matter of seconds for them to gain focus, but once they had I was glad of the wait. Leaning over in front of me was the most beautiful creature I had ever laid eyes upon. A wonderfully proportioned woman: with some corkscrew-chocolate locks escaping from underneath a medical cap and falling gorgeous along her jawbone and captivating sapphire-blue eyes, she was perfect. It was upon marvelling at this spectacle for a while that I realised. Somehow, this woman was identical to the figure in my dream. Her skin was a pale peach; a Goddess.
"Wow," I muttered subconsciously. I opened my eyes wider to take in her looks.
She shifted uncomfortably, screwed up her mouth and crinkled her eyes. "Pardon?"
I realised with a sharp intake of breath that I had perhaps not only given myself away, but was staring at her with an expression of awe. I quickly changed the subject. "Nothing."
Without warning, she beamed, blushing, and my heart missed a beat - leaping towards her. This was what I had been seeking all this time... a woman.
The nurse carried on, oblivious to the affect she was having on me. "I'm very impressed at your recovery, Private Brood. It appears-"
"Please," I interrupted, finding that I was desperate to make her happy and get to know her better. "Call me Colin."
She smiled again, looking down at her feet. She shifted from one pristine white-shoed foot to the other pristine white-shoed foot. Then, she looked up and stared into my eyes. "If you wish, Colin. I was saying how well you've been recovering... with your eyes I mean. You took quite a good beating if you ask me."
My brow moulded to my eyebrows. "Beating? By who?" I asked, puzzled. I don't remember being beaten - yet I didn't rememeber much. And under the soft gaze of this woman, my brain failed to comply with my thoughts.
Softly, she giggled, then seemed to compose herself as she cleared her throat. "No, I don't mean that. Firstly, you had your encounter with the Chlorine Gas" seeing the puzzled expression on my face, she added with a slight shake of her head,  "don't you remember?"

I thought back: my eyes rolling upwards and scanning the ceiling. All my past memories seemed to whizz past me like a raging hurricane. But all I could think of, the only thing that came to mind during my frantic searching for any form of remembrance, was a picture of my parents holding each other, caged inside a wooden picture frame.
I was defeated. "I'm sorry, no."
Thankfully, she smiled again, relief flooding me like a dam that had broken. "Don't apologise. Anyone as heroic as you must deserve a few days of memory loss - it's only natural."
"Well... thank you. I'm flattered. But... but what happened after the gas?"
"Well," she started, searching for the right words, "after the gas, you ventured out somewhere; possibly to help someone. That was when you were involved in the explosion."
My memory came back to me as fast as a bullet leaving a sniper. It seemed that one slight trigger - one little hint - had made me remember something of the events leading up to my being here: possibly admitted in a hospital?
"Oh yes, I remember," I said, deliberately not breaking eye contact as to not appear weak.
She ducked her head and a chocolate curl fell out her cap. Her index finger, as milky as the creamiest of milk, pulled it back under her cap. My heart lurched for her.
"But, I'm afraid there's a problem, Private Brood".
"Colin."
"Colin, sorry. I get so used to calling my patients by their rank - it's a habit really."
"Don't apologise, it's fine-" I added with a grin. She was the most beautiful, polite and perfect woman I had ever met. Suddenly, a thought. What must I look like? The nurse had already said that I had suffered injuries to my eyes - what if they were... gone? What if they were bruised and battered and would remain in a carnage of blooded mess? And it was clear that every part of me was numb: I must look an absolute mess. And here she was, spending time out of her day to have a conversation with me that was somewhat normal. And to look at me with those piercing sapphire jewels without an expression of utter disgust and revolt. This woman was an absolute saint.
I was suddenly conscious of what she must think of me.
Yet she was oblivious. "Thank you.
Shyly, she smiled, before continuing. "I hate to be the bearer of bad news."
Oh here we go... the problem.
She dragged a chair from beside my bed. It juddered along the wooden floor. The sound would have frustrated me, but because she was doing it, I was strangely relaxed. I think it was just the presence of her: it calmed me. Then she sat down gently, crossing her legs in an elegant fashion.
"Go on," I urged, fiddling with my fingers. But I never broke eye contact.
"Well, when the explosion happened... you, you, your..." she cleared her throat before continuing, "your spine was... ruptured."
Instantly, my heart sank, the old nagging pressure to my lungs returned. Ruptured. What would I do with a ruptured spine? Nothing. That was the answer. Nothing. My old memories of woodland walks, of sandy strolls and my favourite hilly highland climbs would all be shattered into a thousand tiny pieces: never to be collected again. Ruptured... even the word was hideous. Even the word had a deeper meaning behind it: a meaning of peril and hardship that could destroy someone's life even before you heard what the news was. It was because it was a word used to describe something... ir-repairable. It was a word that was used to describe something major - something that was so devastating and equally as unbelievable that it would annihilate whomever's life it was being used in. Was it possible that my whole world, everything I was fighting to stay alive for, could suddenly collapse at one a small word?
The nurse seemed to pick up on this, shifted in her seat with a look of woe. "I'm so sorry, Colin," she sympathised, reaching out a tiny hand to touch my arm. She did so precariously, as if waiting for how I'd respond. I responded without even thinking about it. A tingling feeling flew all around my body, like a caged bird trying to break free from its barred prison. I placed my hand on top of hers: it was bitterly cold and it hit me with a force that wasn't in the slightest bit unpleasant.
"I understand it's sudden information."
I looked at her, biting my bottom lip hard as to stop my tears from falling - if I'd lost my legs I didn't want to lose my dignity too.
Then, like all the others before this one, another thought. "Does this mean...?"
The nurse seemed to know exactly what I was thinking. "Yes, I'm afraid so... you're...paralysed, Private Brood." She looked down once again, her beautiful eyes disappearing under pale sheets coated with singular black lines. I wanted to hug her, to sweep her up and kiss her; to marry her. But before I could do such things, she, again, looked up, awaiting my answer to this devastation, "well?" she asked politely.
"Well, erm... I... I'm lost for words. Is there any chance, th-that I'd... erm..." I was lost on what to say. Part of me wished that I'd never had to set foot in this place - that I'd had stayed under shelter and only looked after myself. After all, it was my damned fault for being too considerate. If I had been stone-cold and brutal and callous then maybe I'd still be alive and well. Maybe my lungs wouldn't be completely disintegrated and maybe I would stand a chance at living a fulfilled life. However, the people I've saved wouldn't have their lives - their futures. And, in a way, I wouldn't have met this astounding specimen if I had been so ruthless. Yet how did I know that I was in love with this woman? I had never been a believer in love at first sight, nor had I ever thought that I would meet someone. But, looking at this woman, whom I did not know where she had come from, I was completely and utterly in awe of her. Did that mean that I was in love? God only knows what it meant; I only knew that I wanted her to stay by my side: help me get through all of this. And one thing's for sure - I most certainly didn't want to go back to War.
"Private Brood", her soft voice sweetly interrupted my thoughts in a way that I could not be aggravated. "You've been quiet for quite some time now... is there anything I can get you?"
Without thinking - and quite abruptly - I asked "what's your name?"
She looked startled; leaning back slightly in her chair and blinking fast as if to comprehend the words I had just spoken. Then, ever so painfully slowly, a smile formed on her red lips and she chuckled: a sound that somehow carried the same texture as silk. "You've just heard news that you're paralysed, and all you can say is "what is your name?" well, Private Brood, you haven't failed to startle me," she paused for a moment, taking in my inquisitive expression. "My name is Celia Jones."
"Celia Jones," I repeated, sounding the name out in my head, over and over again. Strangely, it gave me hope, comfort - if I was to go that far. "That's a lovely name."
At this, she blushed: her creamy-white cheeks turning a bold cherry-red. "Well, thank you, Colin."
I grinned without thinking. Then, well aware that I may look hideous, I softened my face and replied normally. "You're welcome."
"Celia!" came an echoing voice from behind her. I rolled my eyes secretly - just when it was starting to go somewhere, as if the War hadn't already knocked my confidence at all. I awaited Celia's reaction and was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Celia, sweet Celia, seemed to be mildly put-out by this unwelcome interruption, much like I felt. But then again, that may be my eyes playing tricks on me. Before I could ponder whether it was my imagination pranking me or whether it was actually true, she turned around on her chair.
"Yes, Mrs Davis?"
"Come at once - Ser'gun' Marsh needs 'is luncheon." I peered around Celia to see who was the owner of this thick-accented voice. Stereotypically, a small, stout and considerably large barrel of a woman was stood in the middle of the hospital isle, holding a rectangular tray of what appeared to be some type of fuming broth balanced on her right arm.
Celia nodded obediently - a schoolgirl - before turning to me, her face alight in a breath-taking smile, "I'll be with you soon, Colin."
"I'll look forward to it," I replied. Blushing again, and grinning shyly, she then rose from the chair with an elegance a swan would be proud to hold, and walked off, towards the round-broth woman. I gazed after her, imagining what life would be like with her, not noticing the broth woman marching towards me, her whole body swaying and stretching in ways I never knew possible and mustn't have been healthy.
"Right yu', get this down yu'. 'T will 'b gud' for yu'," I was finding it hard placing her accent. It was only when she muttered - or rather shouted - "'tis wha' us Yorkshire folk du' tu' get ya' be'er
"W- I-" before I could even protest to her she had already scooped a spoonful of the green substance onto a spoon and was shoving it down my throat with the same brute force a farmer would have if he were gutting a pig. I gulped it down, practically choking on its bland taste as it burned my throat.
"Tha's i'... and the next won' " she continued -much to my complete shock that there was another one to take. This time it scolded my throat even more and I swallowed quickly: gasping for air before another spoonful was force-fed to me.
"It's gud' for yu' this. Lef' over soup. Go' all the nut'rents yu' need," she explained, scooping another dollop onto the spoon.
This time I managed to grab her fleshy hand before it was halfway down my windpipe - "erm", I started to choke, "I don't mean to be rude and I really do appreciate your care, but I can feed myself", and just for good measure and in an attempt to change her puzzled and mustering expression, I added, "thank you."
The woman raised her eyebrows in a mocking way, possibly wondering what to say, but seemed defeated by a force that I couldn't quite put my finger on. She nodded and handing me the bowl and spoon, "suit yu'self. Pu' tha bowl on' table when yu' done."
"Thank you," I said, trying my best to manage a sweet smile. She simply nodded and marched back along the isle, stopping off to collect a bowl or two and barking some orders to an unseen nurse before disappearing through the double doors leading the corridor. I sighed with an overwhelming feeling of relief - more for the fact that I had saved myself from her manly force, and peered at what she was feeding me. It was a plain mixture: a few carrots and the odd half-spud bobbing on the greeny-white-frothy surface; in all honesty it didn't look altogether appetising. Yet I ate it all the same, slowly working my way through it until I had cleared the bowl. I followed the broth-woman's orders of placing it on the side table, careful not to get on her bad side. My back jittered agonisingly as I tried to lean over so I had to hold it in my hands and try to get someone's attention. Every nurse that passed seemed to be rushing about the place, slipping past each other carefully as they hurried in different directions. A few times I raised the other hand in the air and feebly wagged it back and forth, not even managing to get it above my head without the agonising throbbing and stabbing I felt from somewhere along my spine. But still they whizzed past like bullets: blurs of white and blue and red. Was I that invisible? Defeated, I sighed, drummed my fingers on the round bowl, composing a dull tune that only I could hear. I had never felt so lost in my whole life. Even the War was better than this: alone in a stiff bed with paralysed legs and a noiseless bowl that was once filled with molten grime. I peered up and for the first time took in the ward. Casualties were everywhere I looked. Some had their arms in slings. Some were on crutches. Others wore blooded bandages around their eyes like blindfolds. One held a long white stick in front of him, patting it gently on the floor. What was this place? Did my Parents know I was admitted here? Had they been informed that their son had suffered dangerous injuries on the front line and was brought back "home" to recover gradually? So many thoughts were racing through my head. Why hadn't I just stayed in that damn shelter? What was so important that I had to run out and injure myself like this? I let out another sigh, this time clenching my eyes shut to prevent tears once more.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Celia, deep in conversation with a fellow nurse. I watched her, half unaware that I was gazing upon her when she was talking privately to an associate, yet so long as I couldn't hear the words coming out in her lovely voice, I was not interrupting anything. Suddenly she glanced at me: a worried look on her face, quickly looked back to the nurse. Nodding her head, she  looked down at her feet. What was happening? Did she know something I didn't know? Was I... dying? No. I can't be. If I was dying, that troll-woman wouldn't have force-fed me my luncheon but instead some medication to relieve the pain. But that was just it: I wasn't in so much pain. At least not when I was lying stationary. Surely if I were dying, I would be in pain regardless. Yet what else could she be worried about? I peered again, staring more intently as to try and pick up any hidden expressions she might show: but yet she simply glanced at me and nodded again. Then, she walked towards me, her head down and hands linked together in front of her stomach. She looked perfect.
"Hello again, Colin," she spoke quietly as she came towards me, only looking up at the end of her sentence.
"Hello."
"Colin, there's something you must know..." her voice trailed off, her eyes wandering. Suddenly, a thought occurred to me that triggered by a memory I had forgotten. How could I forget something so important? Why would I allow myself to fall for this woman when the one thing I felt I wanted to live for had been taken from me?
"Where's Alan? My friend, Alan? Is he here?" I asked, my voice shaking slightly, yet still determind for answers. At this, she quickly looked down, biting her thin lip and clearing her throat in a womanly-fashion.
"That's it, Colin..."
"What's it?" confusion coursed through my veins in a mad panic.
"A-Alan, was... he took more serious injuries in the explosion... I'm afraid he's..."
"Dead?" I finished the sentence for her: my chest collapsing.
Looking at me swiftly, her eyes locked into my pale tawny ovals. "No. Not dead. He's... just been admitted here. It's just his condition, Colin and being the closest thing he has to family according to your Sergeant, you need to know what his state is."
I nodded, my lungs feeling pressured again.
"He's..." just then, the double doors - the entrance to the hospital - swung open. Two nurses were wheeling in a casualty on a stretcher. I looked at Celia and she nodded - knowing exactly what I meant. It was Alan.

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