We burrow where they lie, our fallen brothers. Old sweats and fledgling crow bags, both. In death as in life, they have our back…and so we plough on into the abyss by the light of a caged phosphorus flare, hot metal spraying the midnight hour like some vengeful fay’s buckshot.
A human scaffold supports us for the distance of four miles. That’s Piccadilly to Hampstead; Circus to Heath. The length of a lifetime…of hundreds of lifetimes. In the winter when the rains come and the trenches run like a quartermaster’s latrine, the soil sloughs away to reveal the ossuary within. It is then that I, in my now customary delirium, imagine that I can reach out to shake their hand again.
‘Sunrise and sunset are blasphemous…only the black rain out of the bruised and swollen clouds…is fit atmosphere in such a land. The rain drives on, the stinking mud becomes more evilly yellow, the shell-holes fill up with green-white water, the roads and tracks are covered in inches of slime, the black dying trees ooze and sweat and the shells never cease…they plunge into the grave which is this land.’
- Modris Eksteins, Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age