Extract from a message from a soldier killed during a skirmish in Libya
I wanted a drink so badly! But for some reason, I couldn’t manage it. However, I wanted it so much that I finally succeeded. This will make you laugh. But never in my life had I wanted something so much as that whisky and soda. And it just appeared, like magic; the soda sparkling and limpid! I poured myself a glass and drank until I was no longer thirsty! To start with, the whisky seemed good to me, but after a little while, I only wanted to taste the soda, pure and limpid. My wish came true. I hadn’t yet realized that my wishes were generating events.
29 January 1943.
Another message from Libya
O. K. it’s working. I’m happy. I’ve been trying to thank you for a long time, but it was impossible to make myself heard by you.
We arrived in Spring. I came from Snodsbury. I’ll give you my name later, but you probably wouldn’t remember me. We were all separated and I was sent to Egypt. It was something! I never would have believed that I was going to go through all this. You know what I mean. I didn’t know that dying was like this. I thought that everything was totally over and finished. Sometimes it was so hard that I didn’t see how I could still hang on. And then suddenly, it stopped – and I felt as fresh as anything. The instant before I was exhausted and hot; terribly hot, and thirsty, with a horrible headache. The sound of the battle was literally tearing me to pieces. Then, suddenly, I was feeling great, as cool and rested as anything. I was watching what was happening and hearing the noise, but I wasn’t affected by it. I couldn’t believe that I’d bought it. I saw my body with holes everywhere, and I still didn’t believe it. It seems to me that I tried to drag it away from the gun, but I couldn’t extract it from the mass formed by those who had fallen all around me, and even on me. We had well and truly taken a direct hit.
The others weren’t there; that seemed odd to me. There was no-one. Then I saw our Captain. He came to me, and I made a sign in the direction of my body. It took his breath away for an instant, then he declared:
“Oh well, I suppose that there is nothing more to say. Funny planet, Johnson. And I presume that it’s better to continue.”
“Yes Sir, but what do we do now?”
“Load the gun of course you idiot”,
he said, just like before. I obeyed him, but as strong as I felt, I couldn’t move the shells. It wasn’t that they were very heavy, but I couldn’t hold them. I said this to my Captain who came to help me. He didn’t stop swearing. We tried together, but did it move? Not an inch. We were there, two strong fellows, trying as hard as we could to lift a little anti-aircraft shell, and we couldn’t manage it. In the end, I sat down and started to laugh. I said:
“Well, have you ever heard of two dead chaps firing a gun?”
He was red with anger.
“Absolutely, and, not only that, we’re going to succeed. We’re in good enough form, aren’t we? Come on.”
I kept quiet once more, thinking that he had gone mad and it was better not to ruffle his feathers. We tried again and I began to see, not the efforts we were making with our hands, you understand, but the Captain himself. His tenacity was such that he seemed to project a force. In my eyes, he was like what you imagine a radio station relay to be (if it’s possible to see one, that is), and the answer was going through, not his fingers, but through his whole body.
Lots of people with indistinct forms joined us and worked with us. I can’t say that the gun was fired as such, but projectiles were launched from it. The ‘planes that were flying back and forth above us suddenly started to lose speed, return to their base or crash. I was stunned. I’d never seen anything like it in my life. In appearance there was no sound, the firing was silent. We all however felt the gun’s recoil. This encouraged us for what followed. It was the weirdest experience. This is when I saw Jock approaching. He too had received bullets, but he hadn’t been with us until now. Having recognized the Captain and me, he stood to attention. The Captain was too busy to pay any attention to him, but Jock had always been a talker. I hurried to shut him up:
“Wait a minute, my boy, the dead people in the gang are in the process of inventing a new operational tactic. Come and join us then and try not to give up along the way.”
I stayed near Jock and got him to watch what the Captain was doing.
The Captain was a great fellow for sure. His will seemed to retreat before nothing. I was preparing to move when he glared at me, and said:
“Keep still and think – for the love of God, think with all your might, that’s what you have to do now. We have our intelligence and our willpower, and if the three of us join forces we’ll manage to fire and protect our boys’ anti-aircraft shelter. Don’t you see the men who are helping us?”
That’s when I saw Sandy, who had been killed last Thursday. He was standing in the water which was up to his waist and was making funny movements with his arms. I looked at his eyes. They really were Sandy’s eyes, but they were different, bright like stars. He seemed inspired, if you can say that…
I don’t think that I can finish this story today. Can I stop now and come back? I liked telling it to you a lot. You understand, it’s my first real adventure. Thank you.
To be continued.