In the grey dawn of the Western Front, 1914 a young English soldier, his uniform still crisp and his eyes wide with the unspoilt fear of the untested, prepared to leave the dubious sanctuary of his trench for the first time. Named Henry, barely more than a boy he carried the naive valour of youth that had not yet met the full face of war.
As the order was given a surge of adrenaline coursed through him. He gripped his rifle a lifeline amid the chaos and with a deep breath that tasted of damp earth and gunpowder, he ascended the wooden rungs that led to the battlefield above.
The world outside was a stark contrast to the crowded muddy confines of the trenches. A vast expanse of no man's land stretched before him, a desolate landscape punctuated by the craters of shells and the twisted barbs of wire. The sky bled orange and crimson, the colours of a new day or perhaps an omen.
Henry moved forward with his comrades a line of soldiers stepping into the maw of the unknown. Their boots sank into the soft earth churned by the artillery that had sung through the night. His heart pounded against his chest a drumbeat in sync with the staccato bursts of gunfire.
But as he crested the earth's edge, a searing heat flashed across his vision. Time slowed the world turning to a canvas of red and black, painted in bold chaotic strokes of an unseen artist's brush. Henry's senses became distant muffled by the roar of an explosion that swallowed sound itself.
He stumbled, his movements becoming ethereal as if he were a ghost drifting through the remnants of the world. Henry did not hear the calls of his comrades, did not feel the reassuring weight of his rifle. There was a strange peace in this detachment a silence that was both alien and comforting.
He wandered forward, not noticing the stillness of his body left behind cradled in the arms of the earth. Henry walked towards the sunrise his form dissipating with the morning mist becoming part of the lore that the trenches whispered to every fresh faced soldier.
It was his first day of combat, and as he had climbed out of the trench Henry had met his end, a truth unknown to him as he marched onward, a soldier bound for eternity.
December 4th, 2023
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