This is an extract from my second attempt at a crime novel. This is set in 1917 at the Western Front. My heroes are Poppy and Elodie. They work at a Casualty Clearing Station in Lapugnoy in France.
It was the screaming. I could put up with most things and to be honest I had done so these past few months. The sound of the bombs didn’t really faze me, nor the constantly falling rain and cloying mud. The fleas I found in my hair or clothes were just a nuisance as long as you caught them early. What I did hate was the screaming. It made my blood run cold, the screaming of men in agony, men who had lost their sight or had lost a limb. It ripped my heart out. Young boys in pain, a pain they did not deserve. Boys who screamed in terror, far from their homes and their mothers. Boys who screamed at things that weren’t there, at memories of falling friends. Boys who screamed when they should be at home having fun. The number of times I had lied to a dying boy with the words ‘mams here now son’ were countless. I lied to help them, to reassure them, to remind them of their mother’s love, the love they would never feel again as they died in this foreign field. I often wanted a hug from my mother, I knew what they were missing.
So, rain and wind, snow, and ice, all this I can put up with. Incessant screaming though is another thing all together. It is unseen. They are behind me in the ambulance. Unless I have to load it up when we are an orderly short, all I do is hear them. Then when I park up at the Clearing station or at the ambulance train I have the honour of seeing them. Mangled bodies, missing limbs, gas burns, trench foot, gangrene… all the pleasures of this so called modern war. All the pleasures plus the screaming that never seems to end.
It’s my birthday today. I told them when I enlisted I was nineteen so today should be my twentieth. I’m not sure the commander Lady Greenwood believes me. she can see through quite a lot! On my small up-turned crate are my birthday treats from home. Some toffee, humbugs and delicious looking soaps. Though what I do need is some carbolic rather than some fancy French stuff. I often scrub myself raw to get rid of the grime. Mother sent me a journal which I will fill in. It will certainly be for my eyes only. She must never see it or I will have her preaching at me even more not to be here.