Poppy Flowers at the Front

Written by Jon Wilkins

December 21, 2023

Poppy Flowers at the Front

Poppy first met Élodie Proux by the side of a sunken road near Lebeuvrière in Northern France a mile or so from the Dressing Station near the Front. Her face was battered and bruised. She was huddled under a blood-soaked nurses’ cape holding a young Canadian soldier tightly. It was as if she was willing him to be alive, but he was dead and they had no idea how long she had been there. Covered in mud, his blood and soaked to the skin by the thunderous rain, they nearly missed her as the storm was so fierce. Around her was the detritus of war. A bomb must have landed plumb on top of the Dressing Station that was once there. Bodies lay around in the mud, the contents of tents were spread about the sludge, snow white bandages, livid against the filth of the mud, parts of bodies some still inside pieces of uniform, others corpses just lying there looking so out of place in the dirt and the mire as if they were asleep, untouched, and unbloodied. It was as if hell itself had opened up onto the world and was displaying all that was evil..

Élodie sat in silent horror in the mud as they eased the soldiers body from her hands. The silence enveloped her. It was not as if the ringing in her ears had started again, it was so silent. The silence of the dead, the dead that were all around. No one said anything as they moved her. No soothing words to break the intimidating silence, nothing. Her auburn hair was cut short and was plastered onto her skull. Her emerald green eyes were dull and lifeless. She was deep in shock, her nurses’ uniform stained with the young lads’ lifeblood, her face an unnatural white mask creased with the track lines of tears and mottled bruises. The Canadian’s body was placed in the back of the ambulance along with the bodies of some more of the victims and Élodie was wrapped in a blanket and sat huddled against Poppy in the front, shivering and sobbing until they reached the Clearing Station at Lapugnoy. The fragrant orange blossom scent that Élodie was wearing seemed incongruous as the ambulance slithered through the mud and the rain towards safety, well relative safety.

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Jon Wilkins

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