Saturday 24 June 2017

Cannon Fodder by Alyson Faye

The gnawing started as soon as night fell; incisors clicking, toes scurrying over both the dead and live bodies. The rats feasted. There wasn’t much you could do about it. The living had nowhere to escape to anyway. Their living quarters were awash with mud, corpses and spent bullet cases. There was no colour anywhere. The landscape was brown mud, punctuated by wire fences. At night the blackness was broken by the sound of men moaning.

Private Bill Mason sucked heavily on his cigarette. Huddled down, soaked through, the lice itched his scalp. It had been a day to end all days. A living hell. The enemy’s Howitzers had hammered away for hours. Mason’s ears rang, constantly. He didn’t know what to write home. There were no words to describe what his life had become. Writing had never been his strength, he’d been good at making things. Bloody useless in this war though, he thought, when all he’d done was watch everything and everyone be pulverised.

My dearest Lily
It is night now. I can see hundreds of stars. It is quiet enough. I miss you, your cooking, our…. 

Mason absent-mindedly rubbed his right foot. The stub of his big right toe buzzed, with phantom energy. He’d lost it a few months back. Frostbite, gangrene, the usual. He was lucky though. It was just his toe. So far. He felt his eyes fill. He swallowed hard. You had to get a hold of feelings, else they’d be your undoing. He’d seen men dragged away, gibbering.

When I get home I’m going to make you that dresser you always wanted….
He contemplated the planing of the hardwood under his hands. The wood’s smell. Lily’s face. He could not think about tomorrow.

(First appeared on

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