Jimmie’s turn came, and they led him into the tent, making short work of him—merely ascertaining that no artery was cut and that he would not bleed to death, and then tagging him for the brigade hospital. They loaded him into a truck with a score of other “sitting cases”, including Lacey Granitch, and treated him to a long ride which he did not at all enjoy. At the hospital, which was a big group of tents, now swarming with activity, Jimmie waited his turn again—so many wounds all at once, and so few to tend them!
At last he was led into the operating-place; the first sight that greeted his eyes being a couple of orderlies carrying out a tub filled with sawed-off arms and legs and miscellaneous fragments of men. There was a surgeon with a white costume smeared with blood, and a white mask over his face, and several nurses with white masks also. Nobody greeted him, or stopped for preliminaries—they laid him on the operating-table, and covered all but his shattered arm with a rubber sheet, and slit off his bandages, and then a nurse put someting over his face and said, “Breathe deeply, please.”
It was that ghastly odour again, but overpowering now. Jimmie breathed, and everything began to rock and swim, his head began to roar, worse than when he had fought the machine-gun. He could not stand any more of it; he cried and struggled to get loose, but they had strapped his feet, and someone held his other arm, so his frantic efforts were of no avail.
He began to fall; head over heels he went tumbling, into vast bottomless abysses-down, down, down. He heard a strange voice saying: “Their collars are too tight.” The words rang in his ears, they assumed monstrous and overwhelming significance, they became a whole universe by themselves—“Their collars are too tight!” All the rest of creation ceased, the lamp of being went out; there remained only a voice, pronouncing amid whirling infinities: “Their collars are too tight!”
Somewhere in the vast spaces of chaos was a snore. Then ages afterwards, out of the void there arose a mysterious forgotten effort to get something out of a choking throat. After several such unaccountable manifestations, the feeble flame of consciousness that called itself Jimmie Higgins flickered up, and he realized that it was he who was trying desperately not to be choked. Also he realized that he was become one horrible pain; somebody had driven a nail through his arm, and fastened him tight to the ground by it; also they had blown up his stomach, so that it was threatening to burst, and when he choked, it was an agony. He gasped for help, but no one paid any attention to him; he was all alone in the dungeon-house of pain, buried and forgotten for ever.