The bombardment hadn’t relented since this morning. The ground trembled incessantly. In the corner of his eye, a dark shape moved. Almost habitually Roger glanced at the barbed wire along the top of the parapet. In the tangled mess hung a soldier, arms spread wide in the wire, head lolling backwards. With every explosion, he swayed. They’d have taken the poor sod down long ago if not for the bullets that came flying whenever someone tried. The only ones who could reach him without getting themselves killed, were the rats.
‘Yeah, I know I should be helping the lads. Don’t judge me,’ Roger grumbled at the corpse. ‘We’ve been at it since dawn, again. Can’t feel my legs any more than that bloke just now.’
The corpse grinned, lips and cheeks chewed off by vermin. Roger snorted when he noticed the empty sockets. ‘Fat bastards finally ate your eyes, did they? About bloody time. That blank stare of yours sucked all the pleasure out of a man’s thirty-second break.’
Suddenly, a lull between the shells. Shouts in the distance, but too far away to concern him. A blessed moment in which nothing made a sound. He counted, eyes closed. One, two, three, four, f—
Shouts as a group of the stretcher bearers came up from the forward lines. He took one last draw and he dropped his cigarette. It disappeared between the planks of the duct board, where it was devoured by the mud. He wished the ground would swallow him, too.