The whistle blows to sound the charge and over the top they bustle and barge, covered from head to toe in mud and soon tainted with flesh and blood. Up the ladder with slippery rungs, a scream of rage from terror filled lungs, adrenalin coursing through every vein with the fear of not coming back again. Knee-deep mud sucking boots from feet, tangled in barbed wire, feel a blast of heat as a shell explodes just off to the right, leaving in its wake such a dreadful sight. Bullets whining and whizzing by calling the names of those who must die, screams for help from men in distress, their lives torn apart in the horrible mess. Distant machine-gun fire from a bunker, shells and grenades exploding like thunder. Looking for shelter to weather the storm and praying he won't come to any harm, a private, no more than twenty years old, who joined the forces, feeling gallant and bold, now shaking with shock and confused disbelief, just stumbling and mumbling in mortified grief. His heart skips a beat; his eyes open wide, a smoky shell crater; a place to hide. He dives down, into the shattered remains of fathers and sons without any names. The bile is rising along with his fear as he senses his breaking point is quite near, alone in a world of death and destruction, ducking down and beseeching redemption. A boom to the left, the ground heaves and shakes and that final shell is the shock that breaks, as a scream wells up from deep down inside that is far too hysterical; too terrified to hide. Breaking right through the walls within and carried aloft on cacophonous din, eyes squeezed shut to block out the sight as he enters a world of eternal night. The whistle blows to signal retreat and men bathed in death are now on their feet, running and slipping on the lives of their friends, aware that each heartbeat could yield a dead end. From the crater he watches with a vacant stare, he's no longer afraid for he's no longer there. Snuggling deep into his mother's embrace as he gazes up into her sweet smiling face. Curling up into a fetal ball, he doesn't register the Sergeants call. He's lifted and carried to be safe from harm, saved by his friends; his brothers in arms. * Written by Darren Scanlon, 6th June 2014. Revised 23rd July 2015. ©2015 Darren Scanlon. All rights reserved.