“It’s over, Captain Simms.”

A Field Hospital, Amiens, November 1918

Disinfectant. Eyes closed, it breaches my defences.
Memories of the nursery, Nanny and bedtime.
A sense of smell deadened by decay.
Trench life. No, trench death.
Rats, horses, comrades,
All smell the same in death.
I live,
Cowering behind closed eyes.

Hushed voices like Howitzers invade my refuge.
Curiosity summons a shrapnel of bravery.
I open an eye.
A lantern drills its beam into my skull.
I banish it, but with closed eyes comes memory.
A grey-green cloud, a spectre drags me to Hell.
The struggle for breath. The sickness. The agony.
Prayers to die. Sadly, the will to live too strong.

I stretch. Legs complain but obey, fingers touch sheets.
A feather pillow pecks my neck. A mattress.
Frozen mud the only mattress for the Major.
Or what’s left of him.
A starched apron crackles past.
“Nanny?” Will she read me a story?
“It’s over, Captain Simms.”
Not Nanny’s voice, where’s Nanny?