Christmas Eve, 1914

A letter from a soldier - Christmas 1914
I may expand this into a story later.

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2. Darkness

I looked up from my writing, watching my fellow soldiers. The night was bone numbingly cold, with a brisk breeze that froze the blood in the veins of the sentries that stood guard. My army issue uniform offered scant protection from the bitter winds.

I didn't know why I was writing this. Maybe because deep down I knew I was unlikely to make it back home. If I am to die, here in the desolate war-strewn battlefields of France, I want this piece of paper to be a reminder that I was human, not a mindless killing machine.

Ha. What a joke.

I laughed to myself, thinking of how ignorant the people back at home must be. How they must view this war from an outsiders perspective. Do they judge us? I know I did before I joined up. It was my own choice, to join up. My life back home was dull, monotonous. Nothing ever happened to me. I was 17 when I joined up, in November. Since then I've had my birthday. I'm now legally able to fight.

I wrote my thoughts down, scribbling straight from my head, raw, uncensored thoughts.

I often ask myself why I signed that sheet. I was a nobody at home, just the bakers boy with no parents. In the army, I became someone. I have a rank, I have friends, and most importantly, I have a purpose.

"Charlie, hey!"

My thoughts were interrupted by the greeting. I looked up once again. My friend, Private Sam Heedsmen, was looking at me quizzically.

"What ya doing out here on your own mate? It's bloody freezing!" he said, rubbing his arms for emphasis.

"You know me, Sam. The loner," I replied, my voice void of the warmth displayed in Sam's.

"I don't believe that! You more than most know the  importance of friendship, especially here."

I smiled at him, in a grin that didn't quite make it to my eyes. 
"Thanks mate. You're right. I just needed some space, and that is hard to come by!"

Sam guffawed at my lame attempt at cheering myself up.
"That's certainly true. There's no such thing as privacy in these blasted trenches."

We sat in companionable silence for a while, both of us contemplating the situation. The sky grew steadily darker, the air slightly colder, if that was possible. Finally, Sam stood up, stretched, and said, "I'm gonna turn in now, Charlie-boy. You coming?"

Charlie-boy. A nickname I had acquired from some of the older members of my battalion.
I shook my head.
"Give me a mo. I'll be there soon."

Sam nodded his head in understanding, and left me alone once more. Alone, I noted, but not lonely.

I looked at my battered watch in the near blackness, my eyesight having improved to no end since training. Just past midnight. 
I murmured into the darkness, to the silent stars and cold, unforgiving night;
"Happy Christmas, Charlie. May this not be the last Christmas you see."

 

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