January 12, London 1966
I was laying in my recliner when I felt a sharp pain in my chest. I fell forward out of my chair and let out a gasp of air. My daughter heard me collapse to the ground and came running towards me. The next thing I know there were sirens and I was being carried into an ambulance. The sharp pain came back and stung me. This time it was a worse pain. This pain caused me to fall asleep. I then remembered a scene. I felt alive again and I felt I was there again.
January 12, France 1916
Gunshots stung my ears, but I continued firing my rifle. The gunshots continued until there was finally a relieving silence. Silence I needed. I was stationed in France during the harsh winter of 1916. The mud and the rain made our lives terrible. Oh! And there was also the small matter that any one of us could die at any moment! We had not moved for two months now. We dug a strong trench about 10 feet in the ground and waited. Second by second. Minute by minute. Hour by hour. Day by day. It was turning colder too. Winter was approaching and there was nothing anyone could do about it. You don't really notice the dampness after a while. Everything was wet. Our clothes, our boots, our beds. But the cold made things worse. As if it could get any worse! I was on late watch. Nothing much happened at night these days. It was all a waiting game now. Our orders were clear though. At night we were to stay where we were and only engage the enemy if they attacked us. But everything happened during the day. They shot at us. We shot at them. It was constant gunfire. Some of us died. Some of them died. It all seemed so pointless sometimes. But we all knew our purpose in the Grand Plan. Night-time had become routinely quiet. No gunshots. I remember making some tea that particular night. Steaming in enamel mugs. It tasted like dishwater, but at least it was something to warm us all up on a freezing cold night. There was Sergeant Smith and a couple of other boys on night duty with me. There was an uncanny stillness to the air. Punctuated by the odd sound of gunfire. Nothing major, I thought, just small-scale night maneuvers. Here and their rivulets of mist started to form and soon began to drift serendipitously around the lower reaches of our trenches.
I first caught sight of him then. Out of the corner of my eye. Just a glimpse. But he was there.
Even though the mist was obscuring some of this boy before my eyes, I could, nonetheless, see him quite clearly. He could have to be no older than six or seven years old. And he had brown, unruly hair.
Surprisingly, despite the cold and of a Winter's night, he was only wearing blue checkered pajamas! Two or three sizes too big for him as well hand-me-downs I suspected.
What on earth was he doing here? No living soul should be in these trenches. Let alone a small child!
But when I turned around fully to survey the spot where I had first seen him...he had simply vanished...into thin air? He probably ran off back to where he came from. Even though that sentence did not ring true in my head.
After all, the nearest village, St Claire, must be a couple of miles away from here and although it was currently behind Allied lines and woodland covered the area leading there. It was not safe. Not safe at all! And highly unlikely, in my mind as a soldier, that a small boy would have got this far on his own.
St Claire was basically no more than a small hamlet. Only a few families had stayed put. One's with sick and elderly relatives. Most had fled in fear. Those that remained eked out an existence as best they could know death could strike at a moment's notice.
I tried to put the incident behind me. But there was something about the boy's troubled face. I couldn't get his image out of my mind. Even when I slept!
I told no one else about my strange experience. Maybe I should report to the medic on staff? But there was nothing wrong with me despite witnessing what I already had. There were enough poor fellows who had been too severely scarred by this war to carry on fighting and plenty of those who would have taken any opportunity to get a one-way ticket back home. I was no hero but I was here to do a job. One I was willing to see through to some sort of end.
Three long weeks passed. We still remained at a standstill.
I didn't see the boy again, but his sad little face still haunted me. As if life here wasn't haunting enough!
Then came the tragic news.
It was always a heart-warming moment to receive communication from home. But those rare occasions of joy were also tinged with the horror of this war.
And for Sergeant Jack Smith, a close colleague and someone I considered to be a good friend of mine, it was a morning he, nor I, would ever forget.
His letter from home was of an official nature. The kind we all dreaded receiving as much as those back home.
He and his family lived in Coventry. The experts had said that they wouldn't bomb Coventry.
But they had. Hundreds had been killed on just one awful night. And his house had been one of many to bear the brunt.
His wife, Emma, was safe. But his poor little boy, Jack Jr, had perished in the storm of bombs while he slept. He was just seven years old!
I heard of this terrible event secondhand. But when I heard the date of the air-raid that had claimed so many souls, it chilled the marrow in my bones.
It was the very same night I saw the little boy in the trenches! A boy I knew now was the traumatized ghost of young Jack Smith Jr! Looking for his Father to comfort him.
January 12, London 1966
All of a sudden I awoke to another sharp pain. This one is the worst of all. It felt like a thousand knives being stabbed into me. Then I felt at peace. It was still and quiet.
Author Notes: This is based on true storys aside from the ghost part. There was a british man whose son died during a bombing in Coventry.