Once upon a lifetime we can make a decision that changes the trajectory of our future. So it was on that fateful day in June, as a soldier, accompanied by his companions, struggled through the marshes, oblivious to his surroundings, focused only on putting one foot in front of the other. Their commander ordered a brief halt and sent the soldier to reconnoiter a mile west of the marshes and report back. The soldier wearily waded through knee deep water, peering into the mist for signs of the enemy. After half a mile, stopping to swat at a swarm of mosquito’s feeding on his flesh, he sensed the slight movement of a bush ten yards to his right. Pressing the butt of the rifle to his shoulder he inched slowly forward and parted the bush with his boot. Crouched behind the bush, peering at him enquiringly, was a young woman.
“Who are you. What are you doing here”, the soldier demanded.
“I’m nobody” she said ” who are you “.
” I’m Private Rogers, First Class, 5th Battalion” he replied.
” How dreary ” she said “wouldn’t you like to be nobody too”.
” I don’t get your meaning ” he said ” Why would I wish to be nobody. I’m a soldier. I have my place in the battalion. I have friends.”.
” But all you know is war and fighting” she said ” come with me. My parents are getting old and we need someone strong to help us farm the land. It’s a good life, raising crops by honest toil. Better than fighting.”
The young soldier, First Class, 5th Battalion, felt an attraction towards this forth right young woman and was sorely tempted to take up her offer. He was bone weary, tired, wet through and scourged with numerous insect bites. But he wavered. What about his army companions. Would he miss them. Would they miss him. Would he be letting them down by running off. The Norns began weaving their threads.
While pondering his decision he heard the sound of gunfire and the boom of cannon in the distance. He heard the harsh croak of discordant war cries echoing across the bog. He gave a longing look towards the young woman, hesitated a second and then started running east towards the noise. After ten minutes of struggling through the dank waters he came upon his battalion. He stared at the decimated bodies littering the marsh, captivated by the brilliant red of the water, the only survivor of the 800 that had set out that morning. Should he go back and rejoin his regiment to be assigned to a new battalion.Tears streamed down his face as he looked upon his companions for the last time. He abruptly turned and strode the half mile back to the bush where he hoped the young woman would still be waiting.
He saw her standing there, by the bush, forced a smile and said “I guess I’m nobody too”.
Thank you Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) for the inspiration. So many ways to go with this sublime poem. It also lends itself so perfectly to write about the Twitter Universe that I was sorely tempted, but took another path. Thanks also to Reena for her prompts that power my imagination.
I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish — you know!
How dreary to be somebody!
How public like a frog
To tell one’s name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!