The Austrian shells exploded somewhere above our heads. Ducking, I covered my head as I dropped to the earth. The soil was cool and damp, perfect for a summer night. But spring had gone forever, summer with it.
The next thing I knew, another shell hit, this time closer to us than before. And everything became still and dark.
Once I opened my eyes, I saw that I had been moved out of the trenches and was with the other wounded. Someone was calling my name from—it seemed—far, far away. With Herculean effort, I turned my numbed head towards the owner of the voice.
“Thomas!” he kept repeating. I tried to move a limb, indicating that I could hear him. “Oh thank goodness, Thomas!” he said when he saw me move. “You are alive! I thought you were going to die for sure. The bloody shell exploded right next to us!”
No wonder I felt almost dead. Maybe I was. This was all an illusion, anyways.
I felt so numb, so cold. I wish they would provide me some blankets or some clothing. Did no one else notice the sudden drop of temperature?
“Oh god, Thomas,” he said. “You are hemorrhaging. I’ve got to get a doctor. Stay he—”
I mustered all my energy to yell in a whisper. “No!”
“Thomas, I must!”
I shook my head. Don’t leave, I shouted with my eyes. Just please do not leave!
He intertwined his finger with mine. It felt moist, possibly from the blood, but it was warm at the same time. Almost burning.
A doctor came around, speaking in deep, fluent Italian. My head was spinning fast; I did not catch even a word he said.
“They’re taking you to the British hospital, Thomas!” I heard his voice through closed eyes. “Thomas, I’ll promise to come see you.”
I felt two hands lift my shoulders while two others lifted my legs. I hung limply from their grasp, too numb to help myself. It was so bloody cold.
I was put in the ambulance; I waited, slipping into a dazed daydream, seeing him in my mind. Azaleas. When we got back, I would decorate our house with the Azaleas.
Another person was loaded into the truck; by the sound of it, it was a high-ranking official.
The vehicle moved, finally, ascending a steep slope. Feeling nauseated, I slipped into a conscious sleep. Within moments, I was woken up with the sound of someone yelling something to the driver about someone bleeding to death.
“The man on the stretcher over me has a hemorrhage.”
The driver grunted something incoherent back and we started moving again.
Then all sounds, the sound of the truck groaning as it went up the road, with the sound of the other wounded breathing heavily, all disappeared. The foul smell of blood was replaced with azaleas. Tons of them. And I could not see anymore, either.
I remembered him and how he had said he would be visiting me in the hospital. I realized, now, that there would be no need for that anymore.