Caspian Hope – Written By Stephen Fahey. Part 50

I remember that watch more than any other I’ve ever taken. We’d reached the final leg, albeit after losing so many good men. I thought back to Ben getting shot outright when I sent him and Brintock back to HQ. I thought about Brintock trekking all the way back to us and raising the alarm only to have to march across a fucking country, and to then get shot and bleed out. I thought back to Thumbs and Simon and, of course, Bint, Kegs, Al, Shelley and Toddy; and I allowed myself to miss them all. Sheltered in the greenery of the island I watched the dawn fall among the leaves. The bright green of day had sunk into a deep gem green as my men settled in for a well-earned sleep, the by-then familiar smell of body odour lost on the wind. With full stomachs and a clear air of relief among us, we could have been in training back home. In the back of all our minds we knew none of us were finished yet.

As I sipped my morning tea the next day L2 approached me with his usual assertiveness. “Sir, I have everyone except Glynn out foraging or hunting and a schedule for clean up once everyone is back.”

“Thanks, L2.”

“Sir.”

I walked across the small camp and looked in on Glynn sitting next to his pack. Even though I too was revulsed by his actions he was still in my charge and I would have used him rather than allow him to drag himself down further, and the rest of us with him.

“You up to a job?”

In a flash his sombre disgrace swung aside and, jumping to his feet, he snapped to attention. “SIR, YES, SIR!” he heaved from his lungs like a war cry. The desperation clear in his tone.

“Bring your rifle.”

“Sir!” he barked as his scuttled for his Springfield.

And so, I led us from camp and walked inland, hoping to find some clearing. I wasn’t disappointed. Not a mile later Glynn and I were laid in wait for any game worth bagging.

In the faintest of whispers I spoke, “you know you’re gonna get a dishonourable. And you know none of men trust you anymore.”

He nodded subtly.

“And you know we still have a long way to go before we get home.”

Nod.

“You might even get time under dereliction as well you know too, but right here and right now you can still make a difference, Glynn.”

Silence.

“You’re not going to get any more watch duty, I can’t honestly do that. You may find a path to redemption if you search your heart though.”

“Sir,” he whispered almost to himself.

There we lay, side by side in the morning sun on a lip at the end of a lengthy open gully. Facing northwest we watched the plants and grass lean in the breeze that dropped into our naturally formed trench. Not ten yards across or five deep, and fifty or so long, we had a pleasant view to take in. It was perfect for small game and a natural haven for birds due to the abundance of flowers and insects. We didn’t see a single bird worth taking, but after half an hour or so Glynn whisper-sighed one appreciative word, “Sir.” I turned my head just enough to catch his eye with mine and gave him the slightest of nods. Then I moved us out, empty handed.

I gave the following day to rebuild our strength. We swam and ate and slept and cleaned our bodies and our minds. The journey ahead was wrought with the hallmarks of danger; coastline, populous areas and an emboldened enemy that had already taken at least half the country, if not more. I could see it in my men’s eyes but only just. Every last man, even Glynn, enjoyed the island for what it was – our last chance at peace.

To be continued…

© Stephen Fahey

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