A few strong, brave souls were able to go to the deceased soldiers and bring back their packs and other supplies. It’s what we had been taught to do; after all, a dead soldier doesn’t need food anymore and whatever they had could be used to save a life.
Lloyd walks up to me and hands me Sophie’s tags. He places them in my hand slowly, as though they are the most precious things in the world. The chain sways against the sides of my fingers, dangling loosely in the sulphuric air. The smooth silver surface of the tag has been wiped free of blood, revealing Sophie’s name, identification number, and date of birth.
It is still laced with her warmth.
It’s only at this point that I really break down. My entire being crumbles within my numb body as I let myself fall to the ground, landing on my knees in the soft mud. I feel a slight sting run across the length of my calf but I ignored it.
Animalistic sobs wrack my body. They start in my lungs and push their way up my throat. My lips tremble in a futile effort to hold them back. Every muscle in my body shakes.
Sophie’s face is the only thing in my head. I see her as she was before joining the army– back when she still had her soft hair and unblemished, ivory skin. I see the twinkle of innocence and joy in her eyes being torn to pieces by the doom slowly encroaching upon the lives we used to have.
I watch helplessly as the face slowly melts and morphs into the weather-beaten remains that had spoken to me no more than fifteen minutes ago. I watch the spark of life depart from her eyes, leaving them as cold and glass as those belonging to a fish.
I feel Lloyd’s hand on my back but the gesture is far, far away from me. The whole world is separated by a thick black wall that I know I will never get past. I can never return to the life I once had, not without her.
I might as well have died alongside her.