Brian was looking at the wall in his hospital room, thinking about life as it was now, compared to the life he lived before those fateful months in 1915, when his life changed forever. While he sat down peacefully in his wheelchair, he looked out of the window at the gloomy autumn scenery that was common at this time of year. People of his age were going out to pubs, or having a kick about in the park or field with their mates or children. They had their lives to live, enjoying every moment of it, while they could sleep safe in the knowledge that they were able to enjoy life as much as they wanted to. Brian, on the other hand, was confined to a wheelchair. He had no arms or legs, so he was basically dependent on help from the nurses and the occasional visitor he had
His life was so miserable, it was hard for him to wonder if he and what was left of his family, as most of them cut off all links with him after the accident, mainly because they could not be bothered to, as they put it, “waste their time on a cripple”, would be better off if he ended his life. Obviously he could not do it, but he wondered if someone would do him the favour of assisting him in suicide, but, he knew no one would do, not because they cared, but because they did not want to go through the problems that would inevitably come in helping him commit suicide, both from whoever in his family cared, and from the courts, who could arrest them for several years at the least, as assisting someone in suicide is illegal. As he turned to the window, he could hear noises; noises which brought him back to that night at the bar, which he could not remember the name of, after the cup final in football.
It was a crisp summer’s evening, and there were 2 minutes left in the football game, where Brian’s team, Cambridge Amateur AFC, were playing their close rivals, the Oxford Men’s Amateurs. Cambridge had a free kick, 20 yards away from the goal, and Brian, a “tough-as-bones” central midfielder, was getting ready to take this free kick. As he was preparing for the free kick, he saw his beautiful girlfriend Meg giving him a nod of approval, which seemed to motivate him as he took his free kick, which took a deflection off the wall and trudged its way through the muddy pitch into the bottom corner of the goal, giving Cambridge a 2-1 lead, which they successfully defended for the last two minutes, plus the four minutes of added time. Brian and his mates each got their medals, then went to the podium, which was only a raised stage big enough for 16 men, and lifted up their trophy high in the air. The party continued into the streets, then to the local bar, where drinks were free to the players, which evidently lead to the players taking advantage of this, and getting quite drunk
“Yeah, we are the best team in the world”, came the drunken voice of the goalie, Steven, while cries of “Champions, Champions of the cup!” could be heard ringing around the pub from both players and their small pack of fans, known rather ironically as the “Blue Army”. As Brian had finished drinking a pint of lager, he went over to Meg to see if she was enjoying herself. Although she had to pay for her drinks, she was still drunk, so as Brian walked over to her, she fell off her chair and started giggling loudly.
“Meg, are you enjoying yourself?” Brian asked, as he picked up Meg off the floor, and amazingly put her back up straight on the chair, and took a seat for himself.
“Yeah Brian, this atmosphere here tonight is funny”, Meg replied, as she started swinging slowly on her chair.
“Okay, so what do you think we should do once we get back home?”, Brian asked rather loudly
“Don’t know, but one thing I heard is that Will is joining the war effort, you should do it as well”, was Meg’s response.
Brian, with a rather shocked expression, pulled Meg to one side and asked her, “Are you crazy Meg, I could get killed”
“No, you won’t get killed, you’re too good for them Germans, you would look like a god in kilts as well”, Meg replied, rather shocked at how Brian reacted.
“Hmm, I am not convinced; give me a good reason why I should put my body on the line at war?” Brian forcefully asked.
“Well, not only would you have Will there to keep you company, it would be a brilliant experience, and you could have great memories to tell the grandchildren once we grow old” was Meg’s response.
“I must admit, it does sound rather fun. Okay, I will enlist. Better inform the gaffer that he will need a new centre midfielder for next season”, Brian said, more positively. Both Brian and Meg went off to drinking, and eventually went back to their respective houses.
Brian, who was now deep in though, travelled now to the time of his enlistment, when both he and Will went to the office to join up. Now, they only experienced one problem in joining the war, they were under the legal age. Brian, though, came up with the idea of lying about their age, so they got rid of that problem quickly. Brian now went deeper into though about the exact events of the enlistment, and why it was such a turning point on Brian’s life. He and Will waited for twenty-five minutes in a line filled with other young recruits, many of whom were probably lying about their age as well. The recruitment lady came out and shouted “Next!”, and Brian walked in.
After a brief signing of the forms, Brian was back out. So, that was it. A small series of questions, and Brian was in the British Army. He waited for a little bit, no longer than five minutes, and Will came out with his entry form. Both men walked back to the pub, where they grabbed a quick drink, and showed off their forms, which got attention from numerous men and women, admiring the bravery of the two men. After someone brought them their next drinks, and they finally cleared off the crowds, Brian and Will went back to their respective houses. As Brian was thinking through this next stage, he heard some footsteps which brought him back to his room, but they were just that of a nurse walking by, so he went back into thought, and went this time to the Wednesday when they were walking through a bunch of people, cheering them on to go to war.
Brian, who was on the right hand side of the pack of soldiers, was nearest to the adoring women and the proud men, so obviously he was getting hugged by people, whilst others were wishing him all the best in way. Brian, smiling at the crowds, was only looking for one person in the crowds, Meg, whom he found, as she had made her way to the top of a tree just to see Brian, and she almost fell off cheering and waving when she saw him. As Brian boarded the train, he wondered whether this was the right decision, but Will saw Brian and came over to chat with him, so those thoughts were quickly dashed, and both men were having a good conversation for about fifteen minutes, by which time they had left the train station, and had made one stop already for more recruits.
Brian had packed his own food for his journey, and it was nothing fancy, just some sandwiches, with either ham or corned beef inside them, and some water for him to quench his thirst. Something else he kept with him that no one else but him and Meg knew was a letter Meg wrote, wishing him the best of luck in the war, and that she hoped that Brian would come back as a hero. Brian made a promise to Meg that he would have the letter around his right ankle, covered by the long socks he was going to wear, also covered by long, baggy trousers. Three stops into his journey, which stopped at virtually every station to pick recruits, a young man, about twenty years old, with a body that looked like it was chiselled out of stone, walked into Brian’s cabin. He was a very quiet bloke, who seemed to keeping himself to himself, but on the rare occasions that he did talk, mainly when people came around offering food, he had a very soft voice anyway, so his looks were very deceiving as far as his personality was concerned. Halfway through the journey to Portsmouth, it started raining heavily, and this would carry on throughout the rest of the journey. After what seemed like an age, they got to Portsmouth, and, after putting on their rain jackets, Brian and Will got off the train, and took the short, ten minute walk, to the docks, where the boats were ready to ship these men to Calle, in France.
Brian was tired, and slept through most of the boat trip, mainly because he was easily seas sick, but also because of the fatigue he had, and was woken up as they boat docked at Calle. Brian had found out by the end of the train ride, that the man who sat on him in the train was called Joseph Stelling. Brian, walking while thinking, realised he was at base, so dropped his bags and decided to simply lie down and relax, until dinner. When he woke up, it was well into the evening, so he knew dinner would be near, so he walked to the hall, where the dinner was being served, and tucked in. After dinner finished, Brian, Will and Joseph went back out to have a conversation. However, this was soon dashed out as a storm was brewing outside, so each man was ordered back to their respective bases so that no one was hurt by being unprotected from the wonders of nature, therefore Brian once again did not get his chance to chat to Will and Joseph. For Brian, the next day went by quickly, as he was somewhat tired, but by evening, he was fully awake, and decided that he would do a bit of drawing to pass the time.
He found out that he was not put in the same quarters as either Will or Joseph, but apparently he would be working closely with Joseph anyway. Brian was up at 6am the next morning, and was straight out, doing some exercises, which kept them fit and ready for what would be coming. These exercises lasted 6 hours, after which they had lunch, had a 2 hour break, then went back out for a 2 hour run, followed by an endurance test. After this, they went for dinner, had another two hour break, then ended the night with a quick 30 minute session of sprints, before going to bed, ready for the next day when they needed to get ready to fight. Two weeks later, and the war was under way, and Brian was walking across the woods, when he found a body of a young man, who had a gunshot wound to his head. He went to grab him, but had to run and duck for cover as an an enemy footsoldier noticed him, and opened fire. Brian got back to base unhurt, and did not mention anything about his experience to anyone. Two days later however, tragedy struck. Brian was at the edge of the quarters, going for a run, when someone who was guarding the area thought he was a member of the opposition, so he threw a grenade at him, which sent Brian flying over the fence.
Brian was not hurt by it, and got up, but was a bit confused as to his whereabouts, so instead of walking back to base, he walked further and further away. Brian was walking down some dark woods, and couldn’t make heads or tails of where he was going. Brian wondered if he was going back to base, but he had taken a knock to the head, so he was struggling to keep conscious. Everything seemed fine, until he got hit by an enemy air strike, which left him paralysed from the neck downwards, and Brian’s last memories were of him seeing an arm on the floor, and him thinking he was going to die, and what a mistake it was, joining the war effort. Next thing Brian knew, he was back in the hospital, after being looked at, and the doctors had told Meg and his “friends” that he was going to have no limbs, and be paralysed from the neck down. Most of these friends, actually all of them left him after that, and none of them have ever bothered to visit him again. His only visitors were Meg, who visited five times a week, and the vicar, who visited on the other two. This brings us back to Brian now, as he comes out of thought at the knocking of a door, where Brian answered “come in”, and a nurse came in saying that he had a visitor. Brian nodded his head in approval, and the vicar came in.
“Brian, how are you doing this autumn evening?” asked the Vicar.
“I suppose it is as fine as it could be, being in my situation and all, but I did get a couple of hours’ peace, recollecting the events, and overall, it was not a bad recollection. Sure, there were the bad times at the end, but I remembered the good times, and even though I will never experience them again, the good times stay in the memory, and therefore I feel pleased,” was Brian’s long response.
“Well, that is good to know, the Vicar enthusiastically replied, at least you are happy, and not being upset at everything. Now, I brought over a bowl of fruit, and I would love to stay here longer and all, but one of the services got pushed forward last night, so all my plans got thrown out of the window.”
“Don’t worry Reverend. Making the effort means enough to me. I understand you need to enjoy your life, and I am happy that you can preach to future generations. By the way, could you do me one favour?” Brian asked.
“Yes Brian, what is it that you want?” the Vicar inquisitively responded.
“Could you tell the people there of the dangers of the war, and use me as an example of what can happen if you go to war.”
“I will Brian. Now, I must go, but I will see you on Wednesday. Goodbye Brian”
As the Vicar walked out, and the nurses finished checking up on him, Brian slipped back into a state of tranquillity, thinking about the fact that he had just told the vicar a bunch of lies, because he was upset, his life was shattered, but he preferred that the vicar did not have to worry about him too much. Brian then fell asleep for most of the day, and by the time he woke up, it was time for dinner, which was not exactly of the standards he received on the ship to Calle, it was some soup with a glass of water for him to quench his thirst. Brian had his food fed to him, then went to sleep for the rest of the night. Next morning, Brian slept in till Midday, had his lunch, and then was put into his wheelchair. Soon after he was in his wheelchair, he heard a motorbike revving outside. Now, normally he did not take notice of these kind of noises, but today he decided to, and to his horror, he saw Meg, on the bike of Will, who had come back from duty after having fractured his arm. He was due to go back in three weeks, but Brian wished he had already been gone, so that he didn’t have to see his own heart broken.
Brian called for the nurse who was in the room at the time, and asked if she could give Meg the following message. “Meg, I have seen enough, I was watching you outside of the window. I do not want you to fill my head and heart with lies, so please, you go on and enjoy your life. I know it must be a struggle looking after me, I can understand that, I just don’t want you to have to lie to me any longer. Please, for my sake, just enjoy your life. You do not need to visit me any more, but if you want to you can send me letters, and deliver them to the hospital. Goodbye, Brian”. Upon hearing the nurse deliver the news, Brian could then hear whimpers in the background, followed by the footsteps slowly disappearing in to the distance. Brian then looked out of the window, as the bike drove smoothly out of the distance, and Brian just looked out of the window at the world, a world he could no longer be an active part of, but a world he still had to put up with.