Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Revelations at Dawn

A low hoot woke him. The soldier didn’t open his eyes straight away, but listened to the creatures in the liquorice-black of the night, the owl and the crickets. The intensity of the sounds teased him, and, just for a second, he thought he could hear the earthworms sliding through the soil and the throb of his own pulse. The sounds of the countryside. Home.

He lay awhile thinking of his mother’s cooking, smelling the butter slipping in the pan as the breaking eggs whispered a quiet ssssh and rolled into fluffy mounds. The gammon being slapped onto the block in the honey his father had burgled from the hives just last week.

The soldier had been thinking about food a lot lately; daydreams that teased him with their attendant memories. He wondered what had happened to the boy he’d once been, hiding out in the woods and making a fire out of twigs,wrapping his two pork sausages in the square of foil he’d tucked into his pocket along with the penknife he was never without. Roasting them until the juices fizzed and the waiting was too much to bear.

He’d toyed with the idea of being a chef in some grand hotel, a sleight-of-hand genius plating creamy clouds of mashed potatoes under peppered steaks slick with sauce. Cajoling the waiters in his whites and, occasionally, murmuring his appreciation to the diners on the floor when they nodded their ecstasy at him. But the war had intervened. His kitchen dreams had faded even as the steam train burped him out at the port where he was hauled off to another country.

Army food became his imagined foe.

The watery chicken stews would turn his stomach; the bread chunks were an awful imposter of the still-steaming loaves he remembered from home. He began getting ill shortly after every meal, clutching his belly until the spasms subsided. Each day was another front to conquer in the mess, and, towards the end, he’d felt himself losing the inward battle.

He’d been slightly incoherent when a platoon had found him limping alongside a horse pulling a cart full of onions. They weren’t too sure what to do with him until he began hurling the little papery orbs at them, railing against the war, the war, the war. A scuffle. Dragged back to the trenches in restraints.

Wartime is brutal. A court martial was convened in a dark burrow. The soldier, kneeling on the duckboards that didn’t keep the muddy pools from seeping into his blistered feet, confessed right away that he couldn’t stand the war anymore. He’d deserted. In fact, he even laughed as he said it, picturing the sickly sweet desserts he’d left behind along with his family. He’d desserted them. The Officer in Command had no other option, then: the soldier would have to be executed at dawn by firing squad.


The owl’s hoot still echoing in his sleep-fuzzy head, he finally opened his eyes. There was no owl, but some sap nearby weeping his trauma into a balled-up trench coat. Sobbing his fear out in great gulps.

But the soldier wasn’t afraid. No, in the final silence of the night, when the air is coldest and the sun is still setting somewhere else, he was feeling alive for the first time in months.

As he was led towards a small clearing among trees splintered by shelling, he realised something. The only thing he’d ever really enjoyed in his life was a good meal. A well-executed one.

It was a flash of revelation brighter than the abrupt bark of the guns as the sky slipped into blues again, and he felt nothing other than the comforting warmth of his own blood oozing like syrup over his chest.

This post was written as part of a tandem blogging exercise/experiment. Five other bloggers have used the same title as a prompt, and their work will go live at the same time as this. None of us have seen anyone else's posts yet, so each will take a unique angle on their blogs. Please take a look at their creative efforts at blogging 'Revelations at Dawn' and like, share and comment if you've enjoyed what you read, too!


  1. Wow. WOW. Evocative, powerful! Reminds me of Roald Dahl's 'Pig' - stunning writing, Scott!

  2. I've read this three times now and each time I have to stop and remind myself to breathe. So beautifully crafted. XXX

  3. Oh wow, such imagery and word playment - great stuff Scott or great Scott stuff or something. Good to have you on board...

    Keep on
    love brett fish

  4. You never fail to amaze me, Scott. Gosh.

  5. Hey, thank you all for reading. It's tremendous fun to write but I always think it is crappy.


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