The soldier is tired and weary. He is bleeding, crying, ready to die, when he is startled from his anguish by the sudden silence. The guns have stopped.
As he lifts his head from the blood-washed mud, peering through the tangles of wire and mesh, he sees the golden evening sun breaking through the dark clouds. The radiant beams force their way through the mist, warming the tender skin of his face. After thirty-six days of explosions, death, gunfire, and shelling, he revels in the half-forgotten sound of silence, broken only by the lonely song of an early nightingale, somewhere far in the distance. He remembers this feeling, from somewhere.
He looks to his side, at the bodies piled inside the muddy crater which, until moments ago, had been destined to become his grave. One is moving, clad in grey, with an iron helmet, blood trickles down his head. As the Flanders sunset bathes no man's land in a lazy orange hue, the enemy soldier turns to him and smiles...
The hunting party stopped, shocked. The boy was on his first trip, it was his first shot, and it was his first kill. His father's rifle was still smoking in his hands as the cheers ran out among the assembled men. But the boy felt no joy. The deer had fallen into a hollow among the trees, and it was clearly not yet dead. A terrible, agonising shrieking was filling the air.
The boy ran as fast as he could, reloading the weapon, he knew what he had to do.
As he leapt over the top of the hill, full of remorse, full of self-loathing at his childish desperation to go against his beliefs to please his father, he was paralysed with horror. The deer lay in a matted bed of damp heather, surrounded by three tiny fawns, surely no more than a few weeks old. The deer was dead, shot clean through the skull.
The three infants were nuzzling the body, his sickening prize, trying to evoke a reaction from their mother. They were shaking, cold and scared, their piercing screams spoke of confusion, misery and grief.
The boy slumped down onto his knees and wept. He looked through a sea of tears as his father came and stood by his side, patting him on the shoulder. Before either could speak, he had turned, raising his rifle to his shoulder, taking aim...
He was all that she had known for these last twenty three years. They had been inseparable since childhood, and married straight after graduation. The typical childhood sweethearts, their entire lives had been intertwined for as long as she could remember. The long walks, the arguments over furnishings, the children, the private jokes that no one else ever understood. Without him, she would just be a lonely broken half, never able to feel whole.
She looked down at his frail body, trying to ignore the beeps and clicks from the life-support machines, and tried to picture him as he was, before the accident. He was the only thing she ever truly needed, and he was about to be taken away.
She squeezed his hand and closed her eyes, reliving a lifetime of memories, embracing her feelings of undying love.
For a brief moment, his eyes opened, flitting to his wife, he gazed one last time upon the most beautiful girl he had ever known.
The sudden, piercing, constant beep from the machines shook her from her trance as nurses dashed into the room. He looked peaceful, his eyes were open, staring vacantly at the ceiling, his mouth wore the hint of a smile...
Sometimes, the most powerful words are those which are left unspoken.