I should have died twenty-two times today. Twenty-two of my compatriots have fallen around me. Their blood stains the ground we charged on. We lost the battle, and they lost their lives. I counted each of their bodies collapsing like a puppet whose strings have been cut. One second we’re charging together and the next they’re gone. But the gap closes quickly and a new ally would join me. None of them looked at me until their lifeless eyes stared up from the ground. The chaplain would help them blink once more.
I wasn’t glad when they died. But as they fell I became more thankful that it was them instead of me. It didn’t make any sense. We were all charging blindly, into a cloud of smoke that sat inches above the ground. It was like the lottery, but my number was never called. In this game, it paid to be unlucky.
The trenches felt like mass graves waiting to be filled. We had literally dug our own graves. It was hard not to cry, to scream, to collapse in agony. I wanted to. As each of the twenty-two fell, I wanted to mourn for them. The news of their death would not travel home for months. Their families would receive crisp, formal letters devoid of emotion. Someone should have cried for them while their souls still resided on the battlefield. Some human emotion should have been shown on that primal, animalistic plain. But I couldn’t.
I wonder how many more men will die instead of me tomorrow. The tally increases daily. But I only keep track of the day by day. Surviving today is all that matters. Twenty-two today. Maybe I’ll be part of someone’s twenty-two tomorrow.