What do they make of it all, I wonder? The noise, the chaos, the grey-faced tear-stained creatures running above and trampling their intricate civilisations to mud. Do they accept their fate with dignity, knowing their sacrifice is for the greater good?
No, of course not.
But they haven’t a choice, have they? They just scurry about, minding their own business, then suddenly BANG. Dead. Gone. Everything they ever thought or knew or wondered, instantly obliterated. Poor things.
That said though, maybe they do have some peace with it. More than we do, anyway. Because I’ve never seen one looking concerned about its fate. Never seen one staring into nothing, shaking and crying and falling apart because the blind terror has burned too far into its soul and there’s nothing left any more.
We could learn a lot from ants, I suspect, if only we could see into their minds.
And there I go again. Rambling. They tease me, the lads do- when they have they energy that is. I don’t mind. Gives them a bit of a laugh, brightens the day a moment or two. They call me Dreamy Davey, ‘cause apparently I spend more time staring into space than I do breathing. Probably an exaggeration, that. But I guess it’s probably not too far off the truth. After all, when the screams are echoing above and the world is hidden in bullets and muck and pain, what else is there to hold on to but dreams?
You know, I’m not sure why I’m writing this. I know you won’t receive it. Mainly because I’m not planning to send it. They’d only censor it, anyway. But it’s nice to write it, I suppose, like you’re here listening to me rattle on. I can see your smile now, soft and patient and gentle, not like the dull-eyed grimaces you get here. So if you don’t mind lending me your imaginary ear a little longer, Cathy, it’s much appreciated. I only wish you could know how much. You’ll have to excuse my handwriting though. Hands are shaking. Can’t stop them. It doesn’t ever stop. I can see that look in your eye, now. Disapproval. You think I should be resting, don’t you? And you’d be right of course. But I can’t sleep Cathy, not with his eyes staring at me. Sky blue, piercing, pinning me right through the chest. Do you think the ants have found them yet? Reclaimed some sort of justice for themselves, and him left with just black sockets staring ou- No, no, I’m sorry, I don’t know why I said that. You always said I shouldn’t let my imagination run away with me so much, Cathy. Oh, Lord, it won’t leave me now, that image. Just staring, staring, empty- How could he, Cathy? How could it have been him? Oh God, he’s dead and just left to rot up there on the battlefield and there’s nothing I can do. We promised to stick together, and he’s gone and left me in this hell and I couldn’t save him, I tried but I couldn’t Cathy, there was too much blood and he was too heavy and I had to leave him. I had to. I- had to.
Do you reckon he’s in Heaven now, already? If there’s even a place in heaven for us, that is. “Thou shalt not kill,” that’s what the bible says. But we’re not bad men, we don’t have a choice. I can’t believe Sam could ever be deemed evil. Does God understand, do you think? Does he care? We’ve been through enough suffering here to pacify a thousand Devils, surely. The Lord is just, that’s what we learned in Church. Well, I can’t see how there’s anything just about this war, but there must be something better on the other side for us, mustn’t there? So he’s probably up there now, Sam, probably watching down and telling me to pull myself together. Telling me I need my beauty sleep. Still, I’m not going to listen. Pig- headed, I know, but his face won’t leave me, like he’s haunting me, and who am I to deprive his memory of company on its first night under Death’s shroud? So I think I’ll just sit up a little longer, Cathy, if you don’t mind. It’s not like a good night’s sleep is going to make me any less likely to die, not here.
It’s funny, you go through all that training, all that learning to be a soldier, but in the end it’s not down to skill. It’s luck, pure luck, or fate perhaps. And I hope you’ll forgive me for thinking like this, Cath- and I’m glad you won’t see this, I know it’d upset you- but sometimes I can’t help but wonder if the good luck is on the side of the living, or the dead. The dead, they don’t have to cope any more. Don’t have to watch their comrades blown to pieces in front of them, don’t have to sit with some poor young lad newly arrived and watch the stories of hope and glory die in his eyes as he realises the truth. Don’t have to huddle in the cold and mud, never knowing if they’re going to see the next sunset.
You know I love you, don’t you? I hope you do. I hope I’ve done enough to show you that, so you’ll always know it, and if I don’t come home… well. I’ll be with you Cath, in some way. Memory, or spirit, or something, I’ll still be there for you and you’ll still mean all the world to me. You keep me strong, you know? I have to live, have to get through each of these days of hell so I can come home to you again. And if I do- when I do- please, forgive me. Forgive me if I cry, if I tremble with the burden of these memories, if I need your help to hold me together. I’ll help you, too, as best I can, in any way I’m able. We’ll stand strong, together, wont we Cathy? We’ll make it, we’ll both make it, we’ll live long and happy and glorious together some day. So for now, I suppose I can only do my best to live up to the ants’ example and endure whatever fate throws at me. We’ll have our nest eventually Cath. In this life, or the next.
Just please, don’t forget me.