The Earth shuddered as another explosion burst aflame within close proximity to our trench. Its soil was stained in demoralizing blood, becoming the tinge of a deep maroon that also held the scent of a mass grave. The crude walls of the trench were damp, completely saturated in the horrifying color. The Earth had been weakened by bombardment and everything had become adrift within the smoky haze of this soul-less dust. Even our own barbed wired defenses had drifted into the unknown. No one knew for sure whether the person next to them would be left to live or to be consumed by this unrelenting haze, or even if they themselves would be chosen next for that deathly fate we had all feared most. The sky reflected the emptiness of the front; it was a blinding, ghastly light. I had felt as if I was in a different world, a twisted nightmare of endless desperation. Emotions swirled around the air as the light and dust seeped out of the multitude of butchered corpses and into our frightened souls. We shivered in our positions just waiting for the moment of our judgment to come, leaping one after another blindly onto the wall as each body fell.
The vibrations in the air were frantic, dense with booming artillery and rapid gunfire. Next to me was the systematic thunder of a massive gatling gun that constantly fired into the heavy dust of insanity. The bullets that were exchanged were all I could hear, my ears filled with the intense violence. There wasn’t a single gap in all of this discord, it just went on into what felt like a continuous surge of senseless violence. I almost missed the stale silence and the mundane chores that made up daily life in the trenches. However, these sporadic storms of combat are what made this routine so eerie. There was never any real sense of rest, no ease for our tampered with minds, just constant worry, constant wonder, and the constant presence of death at our weary feet.
I held tightly to a ring in my coat pocket, seemingly clinging onto something left for me to cherish. I hadn’t had the chance to give it to her yet. I wanted to fill my lonely life with her image, but all I could feel now was the destruction surging across the battlefield. The thought of her made me smile, made me hope, and made life exist within me once more. Yet, this only lasted for a fragment of a second, being pulled violently from me as the trenches shook beneath harsh blows.
I gazed out toward the hollow sky wishing I could be home. Why was I there? What were we even accomplishing? How had this become my war to fight? This stretch of land became useless to me. I was here to fight and die over a mere few yards of land, if hardly even that. We all were. Back and forth we went, every single day, back and forth. I was enraged and I was saddened with the pain of not knowing my fate. Why must I be put on the line with my love pushed to the side and my ambitions thwarted by meaningless gains? I would never know these answers because none existed that carried any sort of value. I was turned into a mere puppet for a purpose that was commanded to us as being for a greater good. Yet, for who’s good would I lose my life for? I understand some things are worth protection, but this doesn’t seem to be the way of accomplishing such a task. We fought and died out here. Even living in those trenches seemed worse than death itself, because it loomed over the front like a cloud of disease eating away at our sanity. I had none left. I was empty of hope with only a few drops of memories keeping me human. The trenches shook more violently this time, the bombardment growing nearer. I clasped my hand around the ring harder now than I ever had before and I felt a tear stream down my left eye, yet it was hidden by the dehumanizing gas mask that was locked against my face.
I saw that our trenches had now begun to empty out into the obscure light. It seemed that we had been called into the unknown to chase an enemy none of us even truly understood. I got up reluctantly, hoping I would make it through this immense cloud alive, but knowing my chances still grew slim. My uniform read a name that would exist no longer as a title for life but as a number to a list: Ulrich Hoffen Rupnow. We fought for Germany and lost our lives just as everyone else had. We faced just as much pain and gloom as any other nation must of felt. I knew that now. I knew it too well. I heard the desperate prayers drift away; each individual had been completely drained of their life and had been replaced by the dust filling the air. We climbed the damp walls of the trench, our blood soon contributing to its spiteful cause. The sounds that filled my ears all combined into a loud ringing and the ghastly light grew stronger. I closed my eyes for a second, remembering a familiar face that I would never see again. We carried onward. The light consumed us and I felt myself slip into the very nightmare that I could never escape. The trenches, an abyss of madness now left behind us in their absurdity, disappeared as we travelled into the light filling the hollow sky. For me, the war was over. I felt nothing but my hand slipping away from the ring and only heard the systematic sound of a gatling gun from the other side.