I am falling, sliding uncontrolled down the muddy sides of the shell crater. It is night and the images of a fall come to me in the flashes of lighting and the flickering of flares in the stormy night skies. My hands claw and rake at the sides but I can not stop my descent, mud oozes between my fingers, it is as if the world is made of liquified earth.
There is a splash, the world of noise, machine guns, the screams of men and the Artillery mixing with the thunder, fade to a muffled nothingness as I crash into the muddy pool of battlefield swill at the bottom of the crater. I struggle to stand as I become aware of the bodies that float around me, I begin to panic as my feet try to push against the soft mire below. There is a brief moment of hope as my head brakes the surface but it is cut short by the realization that I can no longer lift my feet, I am sinking.
Around me, the eyes of the dead, sickly cloudy orbs, gaze at me in expectation, wordlessly communicating to me that I am soon to join their ranks. I fight and strain as I sink to my chin, “Lord no!!” I scream “Not like this!” as my mouth sinks beneath the surface, I try to will my nose higher as my final moments approach and then... it is there.
It is like he emerged from the greek underworld onto the mortal plane, its dusty, dirty wings tucked behind his huge cloaked visage as his bone hand grasped the sickle he would use to sever the threads of my life, I beheld death himself. It is if the rain fears him as not a drop touches his horrible form. I can not scream, I can not run, I am at the mercy of he who has none.
Slowly his hand pulls back his hood and I stare into the void of his eyes, his skull face tilting from side to side trying to make sense of my predicament. With one sure footed stride after another he begins to descend towards me almost looking as if he were gliding down the slippery slopes.
He does not sink into the water, but crosses it like a man walking across his living room carpet. The nearer he gets the more panicked I become, my hands are thrashing, only my eyes and the top of my helmeted head remain above the surface, I can feel the last grains of sand falling from the hour glass of my life. He bends down towards me...and that is when it happens.
As the light of a flickering flare touches this horrible vision, it transforms...not all of death, just the portions touched by light. Confusion now mixes with my rampant panic as I see him the way he first appeared to me on that night in June in the woods west of Bouresches,as death becomes the form of Gunnery Sargent Owens.
He stood over me like he did that night, His cheek laid open from the corner of his mouth to his infected wisdom tooth ( that, in one of the ironies of war had stopped the progression of the Heine’s trench knife and at the same time removed Owens bothersome tooth) and now the flesh flapped open to reveal his bloody clenched teeth...his Forest green tunic turned brown by the blood that soaked it. His eyes...his dark eyes showing no sign of pain or any other emotion for that matter, seemed to take in the world around him. The world changed
No longer was I in the shell hole but I was once more in the woods, those horrible woods, tangled in the debris of a German Machine gun nest that we had just rushed. Collins was next to me with the Heine Entrenching tool sticking from his head and Rose lay nearby nearly ripped in half by a burst from the gun...and he, Owens, hovered over me, his horrible visage glaring down at me “You ain’t dead yet kid....lets go you ape, your on the clock” he grunted, barely audible, through his clenched teeth. He reach out with his left hand to help me up, and as I grabbed it, I realized that the pinky was dangling from it, blown off by a german luger. I looked up to apologies, it had to hurt, but as I stared into that ripped face....his eyes showed no pain and as the light from a flare caught in his dark eyes... they reflection looked like skulls of light.
Then I wake up... Its always the same, a unchanging nightmare.