When the bombardment finally stopped the mud still seemed to churn and shift. Corporal Alfie Parsons smiled grimly at this from the bottom of his dugout. He was probably the only man to suffer sea sickness ten or twenty miles inland. He certainly seemed to be the only man alive in his trench. He watched his hands stop shaking then after tidying up a dragging puttee he crawled out into the main alley to see if any of Ypres remained.
Cruelly, it was a beautiful sunny day. A light breeze played on the shattered mud-smeared world around him and plucked at the twisted limbs of the raggedy dead and the splintered wood and tangled wire of their failed defences.
He looked instinctively up at the outer wall, in case the Hun were about to fall upon him, and gasped aloud as a butterfly fluttered into land on top of a shrapnel pocked periscope. Its breathtaking beauty and open fragility stilled the earth beneath Corporal Alfie Parsons. Tears welled in his eyes as he reached out to cup the unattainable.
He felt it flutter and then settle in the doting prison of his fingers and drew it to his grimy face. To breath in its innocence before freeing it.
A sniper’s bullet entered his clavicle and ricocheted amongst his ribs. Corporal Alfie Parsons retched out gouts of blood and sank to his knees. The butterfly resettled on some nearby cable. The trench was retaken by evening.
(Arnhem, Naesby, Im Jim, Khe San,Waterloo, booby trap ulster, baggage train at Agincourt)