I tried to sing out to the rest of the men, but the best I could do was a kind of loud gurgle. There was no answer. My head was humming, and the blood seemed to be bursting my ears. I was terribly sorry for myself and tried to pull my strength together for a big try at throwing the weight off my chest, but I was absolutely helpless. Then again I slid out of consciousness.
It was dark when I struggled up through the imaginary water again. I was still breathing in gasps, and I could feel my heart going in great thumps that hurt and seemed to shake the ground. My tongue was curled up and dry, and fever was simply burning me up. My mind was clear, and I wished that I hadn’t drunk that rum. Finding I could raise my head a little, I cocked it up, squinting over my cheek bones—I was on my back—and could catch the far-off flicker of the silver-green flare lights. There was a rattle of musketry off in the direction where the Boche lines ought to be. From behind came the constant boom of big guns. I lay back and watched the stars, which were bright and uncommonly low. Then a shell burst near by,—not near enough to hurt,—but buried as I was the whole earth seemed to shake. My heart stopped beating, and I went out again.
When I came to the next time, it was still dark, and somebody was lifting me on to a stretcher. My first impression was of getting a long breath. I gulped it down, and with every grateful inhalation I felt my ribs painfully snapping back into place. Oh, Lady! Didn’t I just eat that air up.
And then, having gotten filled up with the long-denied oxygen, I asked, “Where’s the others?”
“Ayen’t no hothers,” was the brief reply.
And there weren’t. Later I reconstructed the occurrences of the night from what I was told by the rescuing party.
A big shell had slammed down on us, drilling Bonesie, the man in the middle, from end to end. He was demolished. The shell was a “dud”, that is, it didn’t explode. If it had, there wouldn’t have been anything whatever left of any of us. As it was our overhang caved in, letting sandbags and earth down on the remaining man and myself. The other man was buried clean under. He had life in him still when he was dug out but “went west” in about ten minutes.
The fourth man was found dead from shrapnel. I found, too, that the two unwounded men who had gone back with Lieutenant May had both been killed on the way in. So out of the twelve men who started on the “suicide club” stunt I was the only one left. Dinky was still inside my tunic, and I laid the luck all to him.
Back in hospital I was found to be suffering from shell shock. Also my heart was pushed out of place. There were no bones broken, though I was sore all over, and several ribs were pulled around so that it was like a knife thrust at every breath. Besides that, my nerves were shattered. I jumped a foot at the slightest noise and twitched a good deal.