A Burial Abroad | By Samuel Harden
Updated: Dec 19, 2020
I know where he stood, and I know where he fell. They had told me of that hell, over sullen eyes and hats clutched in awkwardly shifting hands. He was liked, I am told, amongst friends. It was dry, he went quickly. Yet my mind sometimes fills the gaps. A rifle raised against a shoulder, braced tightly. A hesitation, perhaps. The silence before the pull of a trigger, a meeting of eyes across sights, the intensity of coming violence. They told me of a pause, a sigh, as the air hung heavy in the midday sun. None of them saw it coming, apparently - the round, the bullet, his death. You do not hear the one that gets you. My own father told me such. The dust blooms with every step here. It was a boy, perhaps, not a man, intent on killing. I imagine an enemy that grew up under warm skies and orange trees. A weapon made in a factory by women proud of their craft. The bullet without fault, refined and perfected, produced in the millions. Carried to war by a hundred men, to arrive at the front, to wait for his head. Any bitterness has faded now. I do not pretend he was different. What good would it do? she said, before I left. He is gone, that is all. I have stood at the place, felt the soil, seen the craters. The grass sprouting from long bloodied ground. I wonder what my son thought as he bled, as a bird nonchalantly picks through the dirt. I feel my stomach twist again. I have seen his grave beside the others, well kept. Stark against a hazy summer sky. He was not the first to die here, nor the last. In good company. Does it matter? I couldn’t grieve. There was too much to do. She took it poorly. She did not want to come, and I hid my anger. I understand. The air is fresh with an evening ocean breeze, the sun blazing over the waves. It is quiet, now. Birds chatter instead of guns. I exchange a nod with the local caretaker as I leave.
Having recently found himself caught between events, Samuel Harden has taken to writing as a way to keep himself productive during the lockdown months. Whilst he has been working on a larger science-fiction writing project, he has also enjoyed the challenges of creating shorter pieces. He is a History and Philosophy graduate. This is his first published work.