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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6. Unwanted Hope

I onlooked helplessly as my best friend was wheeled in by three nurses: past all the recent casulties to the unoccupied bed next to mine. I felt so worthless. He was, looking at him, in a state close to death, and I couldn't do anything to save him... not this time.
"Right, that's it. And lift!" one of the nurses said and all three of them heaved Alan from the stretcher and onto the mattress. He lay there like a limp newborn, his eyelids shut and his chest rising slowly up and down in a rhythmic, if not slightly interrupted fashion.
"Alan!" I cried, yet I knew that he wouldn't hear me.
"Sir!" the same nurse called to me, just above a whisper, "will you please try to control your volume - this is a hospital after all."
Perturbed, I nodded obediently: a bad dog who had just been disciplined by its owner.
"Thank you." She replied indignantly. However, she couldn't stop me watching him with worrying eyes.
Celia came around the other side of his bed, close enough for me to say something and for only her to hear. "He doesn't look good," I said.
She looked at me, sadness watering her eyes, "I know, Colin; I know. But he needs you right now, you may not see it, but he does. It's up to you to make him feel better - to make him happy when he does wake," she explained in her calm, soothing, therapeutic tone.
For what seemed like the hundredth time that day, I nodded again, closed my eyes tight before opening them to her beautiful face. "I will."
Celia smiled weakly then turned on her heel and walked away. As the sound of her small heels faded away, an overwhelming sense of loss bit me like a rabid dog. Despite Alan being here with me, somewhat safe, I was alone. I stared after her like I always did, wishing that she was mine, wishing that her answer to my fantasy was "yes." But I had Alan to think about. Violently, I shook my head, throwing the thought away. I had suddenly turned angry, frustrated that I should have thought about something so insensitve and selfish when Alan's life could well be on the line. Was on the line. That was it: I had to think about his future. Not mine. Not anybody's except Alan's. Without any family to go home to, I was almost like his guardian - it was my responsibility to manage his life now whilst he was in such an unstable state... if there was a future to manage, that was. No. I shouldn't think like that! Alan was my friend, my friend in need. If I didn't have any hope, how would he have anything to live for? Although, with all this upset eating away at me like a maggot would a corpse, I couldn't help but feel that all hope was lost. Even I, "The Mind Reader," (or so my comrades had affectionately nicknamed me), didn't see light at the end of the very long and very dubious tunnel. So how was I to expect Alan, the man who had always followed in my footsteps, to find something worth fighting for? Everything was falling apart. Everything was not what it would have been if this blasted War had never happened in the first place. Many emotions had crossed me, some too callous to bear. Most were new to me and unforgivingly evil as they played on my malicious mind for over three years: seeming to be permanently engraved in my head... what type of man would succumb these dastardly thoughts? I could only await poor Alan's awakening...

                                                                                          ****

"Colin, Colin..." I slowly woke to the soft sound of my name being called.
"Yes?" I replied into the air, unsure now whether I had randomly dreamed of someone calling my name and whether or not I was mixing my dream with reality.
"H-how are you?"
Reality hits me: I hadn't imagined it. I open my eyes, expecting to see the lovely Celia peering over me - her elegance grinning at me from under the nurse hat... yet there was no one.
"Fine...?" I continued, wondering again if my mind was speaking to me.
"Good; I thought I'd lost you for a minute there."
Reality hits me again, this time more forcefully. It suddenly dawned on me, and without my brain conferring with my neck, I turned to glance at Alan's bed, driven by the small feeling that he may be awake... and much to my astonished amazement he was!
"Alan!" I cried happily, my throat hoarse and stinging with a throbbing pressure, but I do not care. Reaching my hand out and offering it him, I try to hide the creasing pain my back was battling with all the while. "How are you?"
"Fine..." he pushes himself further up his pillow, pain striking his face like an axe. "I think. My neck's a bit twitchy and my leg feels like it's been snapped right off... but other than that I'm tip top!"
I laughed along with him, the heavy feeling of despair heaving at my heart. If only.
"So, where are we then?"
"St John's Hospital."
His mouth opened wide - his eyebrows peeling off the top of his eyelids in general shock.
"God blimey - St John's. How long have we been here?"
"I don't know-" I admitted, "no one has told me... I'm guessing about three days though".
"Three days! I guess we got admitted after that explosion then."
"Yes; we did." How did he remember that far back in such short notice? It took me ages until I remembered what had happened yet Alan had managed to recall it all in a matter of... well hours, I'm guessing.
"And, am I... going to - to... you know?" his face had suddenly turned solemn and hurt, despite all the cuts on his face.
I took a deep breath... getting ready to lie through my teeth: "no, of course not. The nurses said you'll be perfectly fine. You just need to take everything slowly and you'll recover in good time." My lies must have seemed truthful enough, as a huge grin of relief spread across his face, and he sighed.
I smiled too, trying not to make it look sympathetic and biting back the tears that attack my eyes.
"God, I can't tell you how ecstatic I am to hear that news!"
"I know, fellow. I know."

During the next few hours Alan had allowed himself to drift off into a deep sleep, under the impression that he was going to recover. I kept on replaying the moment in my head, the moment when I had blatantly lied to a dying man... why would I do something like that? How could I do something like that? The war. That's the answer. The war. The war does these things to you: changes you and moulds your character so the boy that once left his mother's arms returned a man that was more a beast than human. But was he even dying? Had I just jumped to the worst possible conclusion and presumed it was right? I must find out what Celia was going to say... it was the only way to rest my brain. I looked up, around the ward, yet I couldn't see her anywhere. I would simply have to wait.
"Colin?" I turned to my right, where my name had been called only to find Celia. The person I needed!
"Oh! Hello Celia, I was just looking for you."
She laughed weakly, "didn't get far then."
I smiled, "no."
"Listen, Colin. That thing that I was going to tell you..."
"Oh yes. Please, Celia. Tell me. If it's about Alan I want to know - it would break his heart even more if he found out without anyone else knowing and I know he wouldn't want to upset me."
Celia shuffled slightly on her feet, fidgeting with her tiny, petite hands.
"Celia." I prompted politely.
"I'd best sit down."
I motioned to a small wooden stool placed rather mismatched next to my bed. She accepted my offer and perched herself daintily on the hard oak.
"Please, go on."
"Well... you know how... you know how bad you was injured, with all that dreadful Chlorine Gas and the explosion you were involved in," she started, resuming fiddling with her hands on her knee.
"Yes." I found myself completely and utterly engaged in the way she held herself and spoke.
"It's just that, to be brutally honest, you got off lightly."
My heart skipped a beat; I only got off lightly. I was only just alive.
"And, well, poor Alan..." she looks over her shoulder at the sleeping Alan behind her: chest raising and falling in a slow rhythm, "he wasn't quite as lucky as you. You see, when the explosion occurred, he obtained many..." she took a deep breath, her shoulders gently rising and falling, "internal injuries."
My whole body seemed to had fallen into this deep abyss. Internal injuries. My childhood friend, the person I had grown up with, climbing up trees, racing through the corn fields with our model aeroplanes soaring high above our heads like the real fighters, then returning to my Mother's kitchen and helping ourselves to her strawberries and cream. I felt a sudden pang. Not only was I reminiscing about times long gone, I had remembered my parents again. I hadn't thought of them for a while. How were they? Were they worried about what state I was in? Did they even know about my condition? Did they think I had...died?
I carried on. "So, is there any hope that he would, survive this?" I asked, but all my will had passed through me.
Celia's perfect, bulbous eyes fell, her eyebrows drooping and her cheeks seeming to collapse. Yet she was still astonishing. "No."
I would say my heart rate stopped. I would say my lungs corroded and dissolved into nothingness. I would say that every single drip of tiny hope left within my fantasy-oriented head was lost into a deep, black hole never to return. I twisted my head to look at Alan. He was lying curled up underneath his quilt, his bad leg stretched out straight under the covers, his chest still gently rising as he breathed slowly and calmly. He looked so quiet; I felt like it was my need to be a parent to him in his last few... what? Days? Weeks? Months? Minutes... All the hardship faced by me in the recent days was overwhelming. It was true what they say: the war changes lives, and sometimes for the worst.

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