A balmy breeze stroked Cecilio’s skin as he skipped through the Farnborough meadows with his five-year-old daughter, Aleida. Hand in hand the father daughter duo created a pathway in the high grass, trampling on the daisies that began to sprout out of the ground. Exhausted, the pair reached the small cottage they lived in with Cecilio’s parents. When they stepped through the door, Cecilio’s heart began to feel heavy. It was as if the memory of losing his wife entered his body every time he came home. He could get distracted, but he could never forget.
He picked up the daily newspaper from the dusty door mat that read ‘our home,’ shaking it to unfold and reveal the front page.
1914-28th June Daily Express
Serbian National Gavrilo Princip Assassinates Archduke of Austria-Hungary
“Can I have some milk?” In his own world, Cecilio failed to respond.
“PLEASE DADDY!” Aleida pleaded, causing her father to swiftly turn to her as if he were returning to reality.
“Of course, pet.”
He popped the green lid off of the glass bottle, letting it spiral into the air before stretching his neck upward, catching the lid on his nose. Aleida applauded and leaped around as if she had never seen this extravaganza before. Cecilio sat opposite his young girl as she gulped down her guilty pleasure, admiring the way her curly brunette locks sprung from left to right as she tilted her head back, ensuring she consumed every last drop of milk. She was beautiful. Just like her mother, she was beautiful. Longing for hope, he often stared at Aleida curious to whether he could give her the life she deserved despite her being a motherless child.
Aleida’s mother had died from enteritis when she was only 18 months, so she heavily relied on her father. And although the other men at the depot where Cecilio worked would mock him for ‘Acting like the girl’s ma’, the two of them were truly inseparable. She was his world – the only thing that kept him going – without Aleida the world was a dark place.
‘If the cap fits you join the army today!’
‘Women of Britain say go!’
‘Step into your place.’
The men of Britain were fenced in by recruitment posters on every corner they turned. The great war had begun! Young men were eager to fight for their country, causing hour-long queues at the recruitment drives. Radio stations. Newspapers. Town meetings. Escaping war talk was not an option. Cecilio and his friends were overjoyed to sign up – fighting for their country didn’t exhilarate them – the idea of a war did.
‘Fight for your child’s future.’
For her. For her future. Cecilio convinced himself it was for Aleida’s future. That was the only way he could bring himself to depart from his world. As that is what Aleida was, his world.
Cecilio attempted to explain to Aleida why he was going away. Her young mind could not yet understand why. Instead she saw betrayal. Her lungs filled with air before she wailed as loud as she could, turning her cheeks crimson. Banging. Kicking. Scratching. Poor Aleida could not comprehend why her father, her hero, would do this to her.
“But who will bring me my milk?” was the last thing Cecilio heard as the army motor car pulled out of the cobbled land of his home.
We go to the war to protect our loved ones, after all they’re all we have. All the pain will be worth it in the end when our children, the future of Britain, are saved.
Unsurprisingly, morale was at an all-time high as the men settled in the sea of mud called the trenches. Side by side chanting, shoulder to shoulder, left to right chanting simultaneously:
“Oh! Oh! Oh! it’s a lovely war,
What do we want with eggs and ham?
When we’ve got plum and apple jam?
Form fours! Right turn!
How shall we spend the money we earn?
Oh! Oh! Oh! it’s a lovely war.”
The soldiers were itching to get started, so much so bickering amongst one another had commenced.
ATTENTION! The commanding officer often had to distract the keen young men with army drills in preparation for the attack to avoid the mayhem that army generals could foreshadow.
Cecilio walked over to the big tent to fill up his water flask, carefully aiming into the blue tin to ensure the khaki woollen felt didn’t get wet.
“Hurry up mister; they’ll call us back soon.”
Cecilio stepped back, letting the young boy fill up his flask.
“Thanks. >y name’s Tandey, Arley Tandey. How do you do?”
Cecilio stared in sudden consternation, fixated at the young face in front of him.
“How did you do it” Cecilio asked. “How did you get here?”
A moment of silence was shared between the two before Arley grasped what the man was questioning him about.
“Easy as always; told em I was 18 and worked down at the big factory in Hackney. My old man always told me stories about that place. I can tell you everything about it and I’ve never stepped foot in the dump.”
Arley shook Cecilio’s hand before departing back into the crowd of other soldiers. At that moment, Cecilio’s heart felt heavy again. He took out a gold chain with a heart shaped locket at the end. Inside was a picture of Aleida; he stared at it until a teardrop fell out of his left eye.
The young officer had voiced his final commands before commencing the attack. The soldiers lay there hidden from plain sight awaiting their next orders. Cold chills dominated Cecilio’s body as he laid on the cold hard mud. The realisation that the war was turning out to be far more devistating than it was portrayed as became too much too handle. Cecilio felt ill. Arley, the young 14-year-old boy, was huddled under Cecilio’s arm for protection. Cecilio rested his forearm ever so slightly on Arley’s head to comfort him as he would with Aleida.
Bombs flew onto the frontline sending soldiers to an early death. The hot shrapnel penetrated skin, leaving more wounded by the minute. The crunching of the solid ground being broken was enough to make both Arley and Cecilio cry.
The enemy had attacked. It was time.
“ATTACK!” the young officer screamed.
Lewis machine guns were being loaded up behind the stacked sand bags by an elongated line of soldiers. Nine men stood in awe as the heavy howitzer fired like a shooting star, lunging at the enemies.
Coming back from the potty area, Cecilio felt as if his vocal cord had ripped. He screamed with everything he had yet it was not enough. Arley had stepped into the crossfire of the blazing guns, trying to escape the ground vibration. His head, shoulder, back left arm one after the other were flung back by the impact of the bullets.
Victory did not feel sweet for the men as they successfully took over the western front.
“I want to go home, I want to go home,
I don’t want to go in the trenches no more,
Where whizzbang and shrapnel they whistle and roar.
Take me over the sea, where the alley man can’t get at me;
Oh my, I don’t want to die, I want to go home.”
The soldiers sang to stop themselves from crying. Reality had set it: countless men were buried beneath the soil, the wrong soil, the enemy’s soil. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.
Cecilio tried to be happy during his return home; understandably it was proving to be difficult. His parents fussed over him as he walked into the kitchen each morning with a blank expression on his face. They tried their best to care for Aleida’s needs as her behaviour began to degenerate. Her dad was present yet still absent, and she handled it the best way a five-year-old could. Tantrums. His parents were just too old.
Cecilio tried his best not to push Aleida off of him as she sat on his lap; he couldn’t look at her without feeling pain. He popped open his daughter’s milk, slamming the lid onto the kitchen table. There was no extravaganza this time, not even a smile.
“Let’s go pet, out you come,” Cecilio softly spoke before stepping out of the cottage and heading for the meadows.
The father daughter duo ran through the daisies once again hand in hand. The wind whistled as they sat before one of Farnborough’s hidden ponds. The sun gleamed ever so brightly off of the brown pond water. The green moss and lily pads were intertwined with one another, creating a beautiful flower shape.
“Let’s play a game pet; here wrap this around your side.”
Stood side by side, Cecilio began to wrap some green vine around himself, giving it to Aleida so she could wrap herself in too. Bonded together, the father and daughter giggled, unable to separate from one another. As in a three-legged race, the two were tied together, except their arms were stuck too.
The pond rippled vastly as two pairs of feet submerged into the water. The two bodies slowly sunk to the bottom of the pond.
There was no escape.
When a person dies there is seven minutes of brain activity left after the last breath is taken.
Scientists suggest these seven minutes contain that person’s most significant memories.
Played back in a dream sequence.