The Trench Trudge
By Lydia Foote, Year 7, Linton Village College

I trudge half-heartedly through the sludge, the fields of upturned earth and musty rust of the barbed wire fences. We hear the cry of dawn breaking. This is the last time we soldiers will walk together. The cries of death, hunger and, most of all, regrets. They surround us, trying to warn us not to keep going. Turn around, RUN!!! It’ll be fun in the army, they said. More play than work in the army, they said. This was all gonna be a jolly good laugh. Whatever fool’s idea this was, it will be a joyful day when someone slaughters them. The soldiers marching next to me seem more nervous than I do. I don’t know a soul, picked out from the rest, good potential apparently — should I be taking that as a compliment? Some of them are singing the national anthem, I think to distract themselves from the life just starting. I’m not joining in. If this is what King and country has given us, then they are as bad as the people who started this. They’re just raising us like pigs to be slaughtered. Slaughtered — that’s my destiny.

We have reached the base — the dark, damp, life-draining trench. The deathtrap. Nevertheless, my order is where I go, and my order is here. The rats are laughing, I can tell. They provide no company, only bring hell. Their spiteful mockery stings as much as their lice.

The stone slabs, cracked and crumbling, carry me down to what is meant to be my home. This isn’t a home. These aren’t my friends. How could I ever consider this bunch of murderers my family? It’s like stepping willingly into a mouse trap, with the worst stench I have ever smelt.

As my foot sinks into the sludge, I feel the soft goo oozing into my feet. These socks won’t last for long. My sergeant hands me a rotting, musty tin. That’s lunch, my only way of survival!

I am blind with regret, fumbling with the others for a space on the small ledge that won’t hold us for long. The murky air surrounds me. Before I came here, to this — this place — I believed that no one deserved to die, no matter what they had done. Now I’m not that sure.

It’s closing in on us — sludge, rats, fleas, and worst of all the lice that get everywhere. It’s like they are having a war of their own. Corpses serve no purpose to us now. They form a barrier from our enemies, but they won’t protect us for long. The mud is squelching, sagging, searching out every crevice of my feet to infest. I look at my watch — the gift my father gave me when he found out I had joined up. I have been here five minutes. Only five minutes. Imagine what five months will do to me… I won’t have to imagine for long. Time ticks, and the mud thickens.