I woke up with a fright, gasping for breath.
The cannons were a war cry, heralding the start of what would be a gruelling few months, if not years. Though truthfully, I wasn’t sure what was more piercing: the boom of the cannon or the echoing, silent screams of the dead and dying.
It was time for war.
The mere thought of what was to come sent shivers down my spine. Little goosebumps pebbled on my arms and legs as this hysterical fear bubbled within me.
“Attention!” the general growled.
Hurriedly, I grabbed my gun and put on my war belt on my navy uniform. My arms and legs locked into a salute as though I was a returning soldier and not the amateur who had volunteered on a nationalistic whim.
Alongside me stood my fellow soldiers. As one, we marched out of the tent and into the battlefield.
Almost immediately, we were overwhelmed with the frenzied sound of gunfire. It formed the overture of a gruesome symphony of life and death and everything in between.
Almost immediately, I saw a fellow soldier collapse to the ground.
Blood blossomed across his uniform. I saw his face and the cry of pain on his face, now forever silenced. In my head, I could still remember the late night conversations we had shared and the way he had cried for his parents at night when he thought we were all asleep. Vaguely, I wondered whether what his life had been like before a bullet got in the way. I wondered about the man he could have been and the boy he was and more than anything, I wondered if this was all worth it. In that moment, staring at his blank face, it was hard to think so.
Later, I found out that on that day alone, thousands of us fell on the grounds. But in the moment, there was no time to marvel at the number of bodies that littered the battleground. All I could do was keep going, keep pushing, keep marching on and ultimately: keep hoping that this war would quickly pass…
Only it didn’t.
Every night, every evening and every morning: we found ourselves replaying the same gruesome soundtrack, replaying the same scenes. With time, the battleground changed and so too did the faces around me but it was all the same. I pulled the trigger of my gun and watched as bullets flew into the air. Would it ever end?