Victims of War
Do you not think a train whistle is the loneliest sound in the world?
Or is it just that I think so, because I am here on this station – because trains are my life?
Have you not seen them, the young men in khaki, hiding their fear behind gallows humour and stiff upper lip, when you know well they are not old enough to leave home, to face the guns, the foe in all their fierceness to push us out of Europe…
I see the men; I see the light around them. I can tell before they go who will come back missing a limb or even two, for those limbs have no light around them. I could go to them and say ‘don’t go, don’t go, for you will come home legless, armless or wounded in some terrible way. But they would laugh at me and get on the train anyway.
But the real nightmare I live with day after day is the ones I see with no heads, just a skull Oh yes, I see the ones who will not return and how sad, how heartbreaking sad is it to see them for are they not young and energetic and have much to give to this world?
How many are so shown to me? I cannot say. In a crowd there could be 3 or 4 of them, maybe more. I see the skulls; I turn away for I cannot bear the thought of the loss of the young men.
The draining of the country is how I see it. Those who would work, those who would labour, those who would teach, those who would lead, they are heading for the Front, that mystical ever moving ever dangerous and treacherous Front, where they will come face to face with the enemy, with gunfire, with barbed wire and with every fear there is known to man.
They will come home damaged in body and in mind.
So you see me, a porter here on this station, ushering the young men onto the trains, smart in their uniforms, casual in their humour, dying inside with fear and gut wrenching longing not to be there, someone they ignore completely. I wave my green flag, I blow my whistle; I send the train out of the station to the coast where they will board the ships that will take them into Hell and damnation. For they will return changed beyond belief, beyond recognition, except for those who wear the skulls, who will end up under grass in a foreign land.
Those who boarded those trains are the lucky ones. Those who stayed behind suffered the agonies of being left behind.
I wanted to go. I thought I had to go.
But I looked in the mirror the day I was due to go to the recruiting office, I looked and I saw –
And I could not go.
I stay here, with my cowardice. In my own hell.
Dorothy Davies lives on the Isle of Wight, a small island off the south coast of England. There she works as an editor, writer and medium, channelling books from the rich (and not so rich) and famous from all eras of history, ancient through modern. Her novels are available from Amazon. She edits and features in Static Movement anthologies.