by Michael Edwards
It’s not that I am in a straight jacket in this place of eternal institution that bothers me. It’s the fact that the Lab Coats look at me sideways, like all the war boys sent here. A Lab Coat tells me, “The horror of war affects many; you poor boys should feel no shame.” It’s when I try to explain that it’s not the dead, it’s not the drilling of bullets, it’s not the wet or the cold, it’s the – he isn’t listening. He’s writing something down on a clipboard, paying as much attention to me as an abandoned chemistry tube. That’s all I am: a chemical in a cloudy test tube they think they know the solution to. Lab Coat is probably writing his order for dinner rather than listening to me.
When I was in the trenches firing into the mist at those yellow tracers churning the ground all around us, I stopped and looked to the men next to me firing back at the yellow beams. And not for one second did I catch horror in their eyes, like they wanted to look away. It was only when we lumbered back to our bunk beds, opened our neatly sealed envelopes with that familiar hand writing that our eyes would look to the floor. On the page was a life that had turned into fiction.
But to tell the truth, the fright that will always be burnt into my brain was the sight of a white thatched cottage that suddenly appeared in the middle of no man’s land after the smog held a crescendo of violent, bombastic contortions. It was like the hands of a ghost craftsman finishing his work before letting the sun hold a spotlight over what we were really fighting. It stood alone, no cottages around, no enemy fire. No enemy. Bullet holes had chipped away most of the white brick. However, the windows were completely unharmed. Some of our soldiers took their helmets off like they were paying respects to the house, as if it were alive, as if it contained their own family. I could not look at it without being transported back home. It was identical to where I and Emily lived in Cornwall. I had looked after her while she battled Influenza, but I was made to go to France while she fought a war. The letters from her had stopped coming three months in. That was as good as a bullet for me.
I always hold the idea that the horror of war is not the same for everyone. For some it’s the eternal hammering of shells, or trench foot that gnaws away until you can no longer stand at your post. But for me, the horror of war was what I was going to see when I turned the door knob to my home.
I try to tell Lab Coat that one straight jacket does not fit all, that one medicine does not cure all, “Every soldier will need a different remedy,” I say to Lab Coat. But he’s too busy sighing as he writes on his clipboard. He then tears the sheet off. Folds it with the slick efficiency of an origami master, and places it in his breast pocket that is already bulging with all the other prescriptions he’s written today. Next, he pulls out the syringe.
About the author:
Michael Edwards is a 23 year old writer from London who for seven years has been writing many short stories, the occasional poem and has even tried script writing with varying degrees of success. He likes to write stories that explore the inner working of people’s minds, but has a habit of creeping into the surreal or just plain bizarre, depending on how you look at it.