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Home before the leaves fall...

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Avatar for Samantha-Smith
Written by   38
1 year ago

Sat barely 3 foot away from me, head bowed, hands meticulously breaking up a stiff rough chunk of rye bread. He was as dishevelled looking as I felt, and like me, probably hadn't seen a decent shower in months. Looking up, he smiled and passed me a piece of the dry baked dough, which I washed down gratefully with a swig or two of cheap champagne, from a bottle that was being passed around. The only light came from the odd lantern swaying in the cool breeze and a few small open fires, around which huddled shadowy figures in dark trench coats. Murmurs of strange and broken conversation drifted back and forth through the hazy night air.

I watched him rub his hands together briskly, before pulling his collar up over his ears and crossing his arms tightly across his chest, his fists buried deep within the pits of his arms. The two of us sat together quietly puffing heat clouds into the darkness of night.

I fixated on his slight stature. No older than 17? 18 at a stretch? So young, too young for all this! I was only 22 myself, so not exactly a veteran of life, but we'd both experienced the world in a way no person should ever have to do. Reaching into my inside pocket, I pulled out the small tin that held the remnants of my little luxuries; a small bar of chocolate and a box of fags. His eyes followed my hands, unwavering, unblinking. I handed him the chocolate and motioned for him to tuck it away inside his coat; a treat for later when the lanterns were extinguished and the night would draw back into itself, waiting for the next dawn. He clasped it tightly with both hands in thanks and stuffed it quickly inside the vastness of his coat.

I pondered a short moment. I could feel the sting in the corner of my eyes as my sight blurred momentarily. I pretended to brush the messy wisps of hair from my face, in an effort to conceal my fragility.

I decided there and then that my next haircut would just have to wait! I tapped the small box remaining in my hands until two slightly bent cheap cigarettes revealed themselves. Lighting first one and then the other, I proffered one up to my erstwhile companion. It was accepted with a nod in silence, as he inhaled deeply and then quickly spluttered a succession of choking coughs as the unfamiliar peppery afterburn cut a rawness into the back of his throat. The intensity of his gaze had waned to an empty look of hollowness, but still he smiled and drew on the unlit end again, this time more slowly. This moment of quiet in the stillness of night; a peace I had not felt for sometime.

We exchanged few words that evening but instead joined in with a few festivities and songs, whose joyful words carried through the night air, juxtaposed against the harsh reality presiding beneath them. Minutes turned to hours and the jovial voices slowly waned around us. Then all too soon, the call came, and our time together was over.

My companion's eyes widened as he pulled himself up with a seemingly great heaviness of body and spirit. I took his outstretched hand in mine and held it tight whilst drawing him close in a hug that has connected him to me forever. "Ich bin Hans" he said. " I am Peter, Merry Christmas" I whispered back. As he turned to leave, I pulled the woollen scarf from around my own neck and wrapped it around his; a scarf that had made it's way to me from the distant shores to which I longed so very much to return.

"Home before the leaves fall" the propaganda that has once swept through England. "No way this would last beyond Christmas", the popular narrative. But, here we were.

"Back to the trenches. Everybody! Now!" came the calls from High Command. Soon the Silent Night, the Holy night, The "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht" would be broken, and replaced by the familiar sounds of reciprocal gunfire across the trenches.

Christmas day, 1914.

A Christmas on the Western front that would forever be emblazoned on my heart and in my soul. A memory of an evening spent with a stranger in no-man's land; an erstwhile enemy whom I came to realise was just like me. Both just young boys, barely men, fighting for a cause neither fully understood. Unlikely companions for a short time; in a wasteland, in a world turned upside down.

I will never know whether Hans made it out alive that night, but he will remain forever in my memories, a companion til my very end.

Photo credit: Ahmed Zayan

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Written by   38
1 year ago
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Comments

aw thank you so much. I really appreciate that from you...hugs. I was writing to a prompt for the Proof of brain WOTW (word of the week) contest, with the word being "companion". I absolutely love writing to prompts. I feel they push me outside of my comfort one and challenge me to do better. I really enjoyed writing this so am so happy that you liked it.

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1 year ago

Amazing! You're a pro :) Prompts do give us that kind of push. And yes, guilty here for not visiting Hive :D I hope to get the hang of it soon. Are you using the same name in Hive? Thanks!

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1 year ago

I am @samsmith1971 on Hive. I would highly recommend you read the following article by @ryzeonline to help you get started on the Hive. It's brilliant and demystifies the whole seemingly daunting experience of signing up and getting started that seems to put people off. Once you are up and running, it is such a great community and the opportunities for personal and financial growth are fantastic. The article is part 1 of 2 but the link to the follow up can be found in part 1 I think, and if not you can just go to Jay's profile and find part 2 :-)

https://www.proofofbrain.blog/hive-189306/@ryzeonline/hive-a-complete-beginners-guide-with-fun-doodles-pt-1#@samsmith1971/re-ryzeonline-qy3x5o

here is part 2: https://www.proofofbrain.blog/hive-189306/@ryzeonline/hive-a-complete-beginners-guide-with-fun-doodles-pt-2

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1 year ago

Found this an starting to follow the links. Thanks!

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1 year ago

Fab! They are really useful article

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1 year ago

Okay, I have followed you there. Thank you for sharing these, I will have them bookmarked and check it out very soon.

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1 year ago

Wow... wow... I saw all of them and felt too, like I was watching you from a closer distance. This is beautiful and definitely another level of writing from my point of view :)

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1 year ago