His heart was pounding so rapidly, he feared that, in a moment or two, it would tear through his chest and fall onto the floor- not that he’d even notice anyway; the only things he could think about were the faces of his dead friends, his intense fear of dying and his acute desire to make it out alive- to be able to kiss his daughter on the forehead again, to tell her he loves her.
In the very back of his mind, he wondered what had put him in this position in the first place- running senselessly to his death. Was it blind fidelity? Fraudulent jingoism? Or was it his constant desire to prove himself as a man?
Either way, there he was, a flimsy tin hat sitting uncomfortably atop his head, a Bible concealed beneath the ragged khaki- the uniform of his doom- and a bayonet bouncing up and down repeatedly between his anxious hands. He was nothing more than a heroic coward. A scared soldier.
Then, he saw it: the scene of a group of men he once knew, lying dead, scattered like unwanted clothes outside a charity shop, with pained, distant expressions strewn permanently across their faces, their blood flowing copiously into the welcoming vessels of the ground. Rest in peace, comrades. Rest in pain. Rest in power.
The scene of his dead, mutilated friends was almost too much to bear. Tom broke down and cried tears of dread and desperation. It was absolutely terrifying, because, in that moment, he had caught a glimpse of his inevitable future.