Adam opened his last ration in his backpack. “Olives with mashed potatoes” read the cover. He started eating slowly the greenish thick paste contained in it. With each morsel he could feel nausea creeping up his stomach, accompanied with a vomiting sensation. It reminded him his time in the trenches.
These human versions of mole tunnels, narrow and tight, wood crackling with each step had become the symbol of despair for many. The area between his squadron’s trench and the Germans’, the “no man’s land” as they called it, had claimed an uncountable number of lives and became a euphemism for suicide. Soldiers contracting diarrhea had nothing but their helmets to use. Adam was stationed at a turret. At first, this had solaced him. No direct exposure to enemy fire. But it only took the first few battles to pass and harden, that Adam discovered his station’s horror. After three months of being deployed, Lacroix had ordered him to fire at any allied soldier that tried to desert or to even turn back. After having witnessed the death of his friends, he had to cause it himself to avoid being sentenced. The begging faces, the red tears and the cries of horror haunted his memories.
In spite of his revulsion, he managed to finish his ration. He could not risk another night without sustenance. Not when he was so close. Night had almost befallen, the rain stopped. Adam remembered a small room that Martin had on the second story of the bakery “It’s in case any lost tourists show up during the night, kiddo”. What’s left of it now was nothing but rusted bed support with a worn ash-covered mattress on top and a broken window.
He sat on the mattress and revealed from his pocket a small matchbox. He rubbed one of the two remaining matches against it. As a flame started to grow, the wall facing him brightened, the colour white propagating through the other walls as well. A feint apparition, with a feminine figure rose in front of him. It was her. She was the one who was pushing him to go on walking from the morning towards the night, from dusk until dawn. The reason he was here. She approached him, caressing his cheek, smiling. Tears drowning his eyes, the expression on his face depressed and miserable had turned into an expression of determination, ready to face anything. He thought of the years preceding the war. He thought of Rose. When everything was serene. Of the baby he was awaiting with excitement. The child with the unknown fate. The nameless one. And then one day, two men knocked on his door handing him a letter from the ministry ordering his deployment. He had but a few minutes to say his goodbyes.
The flame died, and immediately the ghost with it. He lied down and closed his eyes