My first fictional story. Our creative writing group was given the task of producing a story or a poem on the theme ‘light’. I decided that the fighting Western Front offered a wide range of lighting effects that I could describe. Blindness is involves the loss of light and of course an artist would find the loss of his sight difficult to face. I used the names of my grandfather, grandmother and my mother. My grandfather did fight in the war but was killed at Arris.
Light is life
When he slept he suffered disturbing dreams of the Front. Star shells at night spreading a brief white light, illuminating grey ghostly shapes, the bodies and detritus of war that littered no man’s land. On the horizon, in another far off sector, the pyrotechnics of artillery sporadically smudged the somber clouds. Then, the sun, rising ponderously, a pale red orb, its light diffused through the putrid morning mist…….Sounds, the soft thud, plop of the gas shells, barely discernible amongst the cacophony of the high explosive projectiles. Like the shell that had landed near, too near, to the section of the trench that Clem had been standing in, collapsing the trench walls, partial burying him, but leaving his upper body exposed to the creeping chlorine gas.
After the attack Clem had been rescued, exhumed to join a snaking line of his comrades in the long walk back to the casualty station. They moved along, lifting their feet high to avoid tripping, each with a hand on the shoulder of the man in front, their unseeing eyes wrapped in bandages.
Only at night the horrors of the war invaded his unconscious dreams. In his daydreams he visited his home, thought of his other life far away in Norfolk. There, when the war broke out he had been an artist, a painter of landscapes in the impressionist manner. Standing outdoors at his easel he would try, with some success, to capture on his canvas the effect of the transient nature of the light of the sun.
For Clem, time was suspended as he lay still on his bed, trapped in a bleak black void. He thought of his loss, the colour and light that had been intrinsic components of his life; the subtle hues of the landscapes and the ephemeral shimmering seascapes. He thought too, of Laura, his beloved wife and Nell, his unseen daughter. Grief gripped him. He felt tears well in the corners of his blind eyes only to disappear, absorbed into the linen bandages that were coiled tightly around his head.
“Clem…. Clem.” The nurse touched his arm gently. “Doctor Sommerville is here, to remove your bandages and examine your eyes.”
Clem reluctantly emerged from his reverie. “Will l see again Doctor? Is there any hope?”
“We must always hope, Clement, we must.” The Doctor replied, his voice devoid of optimism. He had witnessed too much suffering in this long war to speak of hope.
The nurse supported Clem’s head as the Doctor slowly, with care, unwound the linen bandage but, as the final bandages fell away, the darkness remained, immutable. Moments passed, then imperceptibly, around the margins of the blackness, a faint light, an aura slowly expanded.
“Light,” whispered Clem, almost inaudibly, “ l can see light.”