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I do want to run this project right accross 2021 and plan to call it LIFE IS A NOVEL. It can ONLY happen if I can gather the right support around me, if I can not then nothing is going to happen.
For the next few days I am going to carefully count the number of words I write. To complete one million words across the year I need to write an average of 2,740 a day. Yesterday I fell short by 113. No big deal.
I have to be certain that if I do undertake the challenge I do not mess up part way through. Currently I am writing a book THE KA OF TIMOTHY FORD-NEWMAN. You KA is the spirit which lives within your body.
Yesterday I really was into the swing of writing the chapter A PHOTOGRAPH OF MUD AND DEATH. I scribbled all of the words into a notepad then typed them up later. As I typed I listened on YouTube to Beethoven's Für Elise, the music changed some of the words and I believe drove a spirit into the story line.
As I went to bed I knew I was going to find it hard making the end of that chapter flow into the next: AN UPDATED VIEW I did not think today was going to be prolific and certainly I would not reach anything like 2,740 words. Then around 4am an idea hit me to skip everything and write the final chapter. From this I would work backwards to where I left off yesterday.
The title I intended to use for that final chapter was THE SECRET PICTURE but this changed. Half awake and half asleep, the KA in me was listening to The Warsaw Piano Concerto.
This was the theme from a film DANGEROUS MOONLIGHT and that now becomes the name for my final chapter. 5.30am I composed the opening fifty-five words.
The gun pointed to the back of his head, Timothy Ford-Newman was drifting in and out of consciousness. Just a microsecond separated the pulling of the trigger to a bullet smashing his scull then tearing through his brain. The Ka now moved to a permanent residence where it was greeted with a warm golden glow.
I just know I am going to write many, many, many more today. Perhaps I will even finish the chapter.
Here are the 4,465 words from the second chapter in the book including that I wrote yestetrday. I hasten to say this is a DRAFT. It may not make complete sense to you without reading the opening chapter but see what you think:
Beethoven's Für Elise was not a long enough piece to use whil typing up all of the text so I also listened to Moonlight Sonata.
A PHOTOGRAPH OF MUD AND DEATH
It was not the picture that Tim expected to see. It was not a single picture, as Tim turned it and the light came in from a different angle so it changed.
“Major Ford – Newman.”
“Colonel ? What brings you to the medical post ?”
“You do Major, things are quiet now and this is the first opportunity I have had to come and speak with you.”
“With me Colonel ?”
“Don’t pretend Major, you know what we have to discuss.”
Major Timothy Ford – Newman knew very well what Colonel Rioch wanted to discuss, needed to discuss, had to discuss. He knew where he was and when he was but not why he was there, he had expected to be somewhere else.
“We have a problem Major.”
Doctor Ford-Newman knew this only too well but being a doctor overrode Major Ford – Newman. “I am a doctor Colonel, I can not sign a certificate saying a man is fit and well when he is not.”
“I appreciate that but the condemned man had to die, he was a coward.”
“He was a child Colonel.”
“He was old enough to serve his country and old enough to die, die he did in front of a firing squad. The paperwork has to be tidied up.”
Tim did not answer.
“The paperwork has been signed, both the fitness to die and the death certificate.”
That did not make any sense. “I haven’t signed anything.”
“I know Doctor, the sergeant in charge of the firing squad signed on your behalf.”
“No Doctor he should not have done that but unless I ignore his actions, unless you accept the situation he will face a court martial.”
“And you will shoot him !”
“No Doctor he will not be shot but his life will be marred.”
Doctor Ford-Newman thought carefully before speaking again. He then thought again.
“Colonel I am a doctor. Being a major in the British Army is incidental. I serve my country by doing all I can to save lives, it is against my sworn medical ethic to take a life. If you are able to assign someone other than myself to sign certificates at all future executions for cowardice then I will set aside the who unfortunate incident and the actions of the sergeant.”
Colonel Rioch thought carefully before speaking again. He then thought again.
“I will ensure you are never again required to undertake such a task Doctor.” Throughout the conversation Rioch had tried to call Timothy Doctor, only at the beginning using his military rank. He now used the word task deliberately and not duty.
The two shook hands.
The first aid station was a small dugout in the side of the trench, the walls and roof were supported by wood while the floor was made of mud. Too much of Major Ford-Newman’s work was certifying dead the bodies recovered from no man’s land.
“It’s a Blighty,” Tim said. “Private Albon you are going home.”
The soldier could not hear him, shell explosion after shell explosion had damaged his hearing beyond the limit where it would be safe for him to remain on the front.
“Will his hearing get better Major ?” The medic asked.
“It will improve but it will never recover properly. He is on his way home.”
“I will process him Sir. There are two more cases waiting for your attention.”
Two young soldiers stood in the mud outside the first aid post.
“Trench foot Sir.”
“What’s your name soldier ?”
“Robert but everyone calls me Bob.”
Bob could hardly stand and sitting down was painful. He moved to take off his boots.
“Leave them Bob, I am going to ship you back to the hospital. They can take your boots off. How old are you ?”
Twenty-three and he would be lucky if only one of his feet was amputated. Another Blighty, another survivor.”
Lance Corporal Foster, also twenty-three years of age, would not be going back to Blighty, he would live to fight and die another day. His uniform was torn where he had caught himself on barbed wire. His flesh was ripped but this was not a Blighty, he would be patched up there and then in the first aid station. The mud would continue to be his home.
Would Tim one day receive a Blighty ? He did not want to go back to England. He was a doctor and his place was exactly where he was. Was he a doctor ? His Ka was and his Ka was doing a good job. Please do not let the dream end, not while there are people in the photograph whose lives he could save.
Rats, there were rats in the trenches and rats spread disease. God forbid with the limited resources available to him that Doctor Tim would have to deal with any plague in the soldiers under his care. Those under his care were in the trench stretching for a mile in either direction. Which would be the better way to die ? Shot, killed in an explosion as a shell hit the trench or the plague ?
“Colonel. What brings you back ?”
“We need to talk.”
“We did talk, just a few hours ago.”
“A few hours ago ? I was last here a week ago.”
Was he ? To Tim’s Ka it was only a few hours ago. Major Ford – Newman thought quickly. “I am sorry Sir, life can be a bit crazy up here. I wasn’t thinking straight.”
“That is why I am here Doctor. I assigned your former duty to First Aid Station D7.”
“I am grateful for that Sir.”
“I respect your position Doctor, you are a good man, a great man. You have served our country at this post for a long time.”
“Seven weeks Sir.”
“That Doctor is a very long time. I think your abilities would be better employed behind the lines at the hospital.”
“I am sorry Sir, please Sir do not transfer me I need to be here.”
Colonel Rioch was not going to be dissuaded, Doctor Ford-Newman’s skills and dedication to work would repair more lives at the hospital than in his present location. With the rank of Major he would be appointed Chief Surgeon. Remaining on the front line his life was in danger and he was covering just a small area of the trench. Men were being lost every day, Doctor Tim could not be allowed to become one of them.
“My name is Michael,” The Colonel said. “Can we set aside rank where I am your superior officer ? Can we please set aside ability where you outrank me by a mile and a half ? Can we talk as two men who are friends ?
Rioch shook his head. “Michael please.”
He went on to explain his thinking then as one friend asking another friend to do him a big favour he asked Timothy to become the hospital’s chief surgeon. He tried to create a situation where Doctor Ford-Newman or Major Ford-Newman could refuse. He would become chief surgeon at the hospital, he would live there. Tim was prepared to do as his friend was asking but he would not leave the trench.
“You have a batman Tim ?”
“Not really, not in the military way, just a medic who looks out for me.”
“What rank is he ?”
“Then promote him to lance corporal and bring him with you to the hospital.”
Tim agreed. He agreed but what about the picture ? Would it change with the light and view the hospital ? He was indeed leaving the aid station but he was not going away from the trench so the picture did not need to change.
Duties would commence the next day, Tim would rest but he could not sleep. He was already asleep and dreaming so it was just not possible to sleep while already dreaming. It was the Ka who had been working at the aid station and it would be the Ka working as chief surgeon at the hospital.
There were nurses at the hospital, female nurses. Tim had not seen a woman for a while. He would change the way he had been working and draw upon the nursing skills of these ladies but that would be tomorrow. Right now he was going to sleep. Rest and sleep. Rest, sleep and dream.
How many lives had Doctor Tim saved ? Not enough. How many dead soldiers had he managed to recover and send to a dignified burial ? In the scheme of things hardly any ? Why could not those dignified burials be at home in England ? The logistics were in place, every day bring more young men to the font, every day bringing more ammunition. Why could the empty transport not take back the dead ? No political will.
Most of those who gave their young lives in this futility of war sank into the mud to rot and be lost for ever. Many, too many, were in pieces which separately sank into the mud to be lost. By day Doctor Timothy Ford-Newman would save as many lives as his medical skills would allow. Then by night Major Ford-Newman would rescue the dead from the hell of the mud to help them towards rest in a dignified grave.
“Corporal, are you feeling well ?”
“Just the change Sir, being away from the trenches and now dry in the hospital. I am feeling a little chesty.”
Tim did not have the same symptoms. He and his batman medic had left the trench at the same time. He would keep a special eye on his colleague.
The hospital ward was vast and extended across two floors. “How many of these are Blighties ?”
“Sadly less than half,” the nurse explained. Tim thought he recognised her. He knew he recognised her. Who was she ? “It would be better if an injury resulted in an arm or a leg being amputate than being fixed so the soldier can return to fight and die. A cat may have nine lives but a soldier in this war has just one.”
Walking round the ward all of the patients looked the same. Older men living in the bodies of youth. Those bodies of youth became one, all merged into a single life.
“This is Private Gordon,” the nurse explained. “He came in with a fever, he is responding well to treatment.”
“Gordon ? is that your Christian or surname ?”
“Private James Gordon Doctor, 178913 Private James Gordon.”
“How old are you James ?”
“What were you doing before the war ?”
“I was an apprentice toolmaker.”
“And I can tell from your accent that you come from the same part of the world as I do.”
“Birmingham, Doctor ?”
“Born and bred,” Tim smiled as he thought back to his time in England’s second city. Britain’s second city. Britain, England the difference was confusing.”
“I am going to be able to go back and fight ?”
It was a statement and not a question. Tim answered with a question. “Why would you want to go back to the mud and death ?”
“Because it is my duty Sir. Laying here in hospital with nothing more than a cold is cowardice. They shoot men for being cowards Sir.”
Doctor Timothy Ford-Newman knew that only too well.
“I am not a coward Doctor.”
Doctor ? Sir ? Which was Tim ? Almost as confusing as England and Britain.
“No you are not a coward Private Gordon. No you are not a coward James.”
Way behind the lines, further back even than the hospital. Senior officers were planning an offensive, another offence, to kick off in forty-eight hours time. With little fighting the hospital as quiet but the quiet had to be prepared for the change forty-eight hours would bring. In those forty-eight hours the lucky few would go home while the unlucky majority would return to mud and to death.
Forty-eight quiet hours to prepare if the distant commanders had their way but not so if the enemy had different plans.
Indeed during that day the hospital was quiet , with night the trench also quiet but the area between it and the enemy location it was not quiet. It could not have been more busy.
Hundreds and hundreds, thousand and thousands of soldiers from both sides were aimlessly walking about. They were all dead, it was their spirits who Timothy was watching. The spirits of the dead, they could see one another and Timothy could see them all but not a single spirit could see him. Not a single spirit could see Doctor Timothy Ford-Newman and not a single dead spirit could see Major Timothy Ford-Newman.
Although dead from wounds not a single spirit showed any sign of injury. Their fatally wounded bodies lay in the mud, some on the surface but most hidden yet Tim could see through the mud. He could see the bodies even if they had been blown to dust.
Timothy reached into the filth below his feet and picked up a man. With life exploded from his body the soldier was not heavy. The doctor carried to him to the aid station where the army major carefully placed him where in daylight he could be found. Twice more Tim repeated his mission. The three were dead but they would not be forgotten and their bodies would receive a proper burial.
Then, almost as an afterthought, Tim picked up and carried an enemy German soldier to his trench. German ? Enemy ? What was an enemy ? This enemy was as young and innocent as the British, should that be English, soldier he had been trying to save. Enemy ? His family: mother, father, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles they were not going to grieve their young relative as a name who had rotted in the mud and been eaten by rats. As Tim placed him down a tear formed in his eye.
“Goodbye my friend, you are not my enemy.”
The guns were firing ahead of the offensive. Back at the hospital it was difficult to speak above their thunder. Where the fighting would happen the sound had to be deafening. It was deafening. Had not Doctor Tim treated and sent back to England a soldier who had lost his hearing. What was his name ? Tim could not remember.
“I am sorry I cannot hear you doctor.”
“Sorry Nurse, I will shout.” Nurse ? Time knew her from somewhere, what was her name ?
How many guns were pounding the enemy. Enemy ? Just how many guns and shells were pounding young lives ? Those guns thundered all day and were still firing as Timothy engaged upon his second night helping the dead.
“Good evening soldier.” Although in the middle of the world’s biggest ever thunderstorm the guns did not take away the words which Tim heard clearly. He looked towards the source of the words.
“Good evening soldier,” he replied. “Good evening German Soldier”, he added silently.
The soldier, the German soldier, the enemy soldier smiled gently. It was dark but the darkness did not obscure vision. This soldier could see Timothy and Timothy could see the soldier. Around them thousands of dead soldiers’ spirits were walking but none could see the duo. So was this German soldier dead like the others ?
“Can I help you tonight Soldier ? Can I help you move the dead to their graves ?”
How did he know that was what Tim had been doing. Soldier ? “My name is Timothy,” he said. “Tim.”
“And my name is David.”
“David ? That does not sound very German.”
“David is universal and crosses all nationalities. David in the Bible was a Jew but he has been adopted by Christianity. David is English, or should that be British, and David is German.”
Timothy instinctively reached out his hand and offered it in friendship. David responded. Not only could they see one another they could feel each other’s hand.
“Please come with me and help me save the mass of tangled body parts in our trench.” When he said our trench he not only meant his side in the war but included Tim in his invitation.
The guns were continuously pounding, why was the other side not responding ? Instead young men were being mangled and torn. Together the repatriated and rebuilt two of the mangled and torn towards a dignified final end.
“You are a doctor are you not ?” David said.
“I am. Is that what you are doing in this war ?”
“Not quite, I am a doctor of horses, I am a veterinarian taking care of the horses in the transport system.”
David a vet ? Somehow Tim thought he should have known that.
Overnight they rescued more fallen, five on each side.
“I will see you again tomorrow ?” David said in part question and part confirming statement.
“I shall look forward to it my friend.”
How could anyone look forward to death ? It was not the death Tim was looking forward to but dignity in death.
“Nurse can you come and help me ?”
Lance Corporal James Gordon was unwell and this was not a cold or a heavy chest. Tim put his stethoscope to Batman Medic Gordon’s chest. In another year it would be a century since the stethoscope was invented.
“What can I do to help Doctor ?”
“Nurse Tanya can you check his temperature and pulse then take his blood pressure.”
Tanya ? Nurse Tanya ? How did Doctor Timothy Ford-Newman know her name was Tanya ? And where had he seen her before ?
“When did you last smoke David ?”
“I don’t smoke tobacco Sir, I do not like the taste. Perhaps when this war is over someone will invent soothing that tastes nicer to smoke.”
“Chocolate flavoured tobacco,” Nurse Tanya smiled. “Ladies do not smoke but I would love a puff or two of chocolate flavoured backy.”
“I need to run some tests before I can sign the documentation,” Doctor Tim explained, “but if I am right you are going home. You are going home to Blighty.”
“What is wrong with me Doctor ?”
Nurse Tanya looked to the patient, to Doctor Timothy and then back as reassuringly as she could to lance Corporal James Gordon.
“You have Tuberculosis but back in England there are treatments.”
“TB !” Corporal James Gordon knew there were treatments, the whole country knew of the disease. There were treatments to extend life but no treatments to prolong it and no method of treatment to save life.
“It is good to see you Tim, David greeted his friend.”
“A pleasure to meet up with a fellow ghost.”
“Whatever did he mean by that ? Tim dismissed it thinking it to be a reference to their mission.
The guns were not quite so loud, just occasional shells but their numbers were not be counted in single digits. Why was the other side, why was David’s side in the war, not responding ?
Music, beautiful music could be heard in the air. Softly it took away the terrible sound of the guns. Could the spirits of the dead hear it ? Could David hear it ? He could.
“Beethoven,” David said, “he was my countryman but he gave his music not to Germany, he gave it to the whole world. During this war people all round the world listen to Beethoven.”
The music the two friends could hear was Moonlight Sinatra. Although Tim had not heard it before he knew its melody well. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata but there was no moonlight that night only the flashes of the guns. During that night the moon was too ashamed to show its face.
Work began on the British, or was it the English, side of the shame. Handful ls of dust were taken from the mud and reformed into a soldier. He was older than the predominately young mens’ spirits walking round oblivious to Tim and David’s presence. Did this particular solder have a wife and family at home ? Had they yet heard of his death ? How many children would not grow up without their father ?
Two more rescued then David spoke. “If there is a god,” he said, “then on whose side is he ?”
Tim did not hesitate with his answer. “There is no god but if there was he would without question be on the side of the devil.” There was no god and t here was no devil but if there was the devil would certainly be smiling.
“Your king and my Keiser are cousins.”
“So is Tzar Nicholas of Russia.”
“Why must so many die to enable their squabble ?”
“Who understands war ? Who understands this or any war ?”
“Perhaps we should have been born Americans,” David suggested.
“America will join the war sooner or later.”
“The only safety in war,” David added, “is to be a ghost.” He was right.
“A ghost David, are you a ghost ?”
“Of course I am, you are a ghost are you not ?
What was a ghost ? Tim decided to reveal his ignorance. “What about all these dead soldiers ?”
David smiled, he was good at smiling. “These are not ghosts, they are only spirits.”
“Lost spirits,” Tim said.
The music s topped playing, time to return along their different pathways.
“The offensive has started,” Tanya said.
Of course it had, attacks on the enemy line always started at dawn.
“The ward will soon be full again,” Nurse Tanya explained,
“And I will have a full list of patients to operate on,” Chief Surgeon Doctor major Timothy Ford-Newman sighed.
As the word medic was screamed for help almost as many times as there were guns firing fell, as they fell they hoped somebody would respond to the call for help. The person calling for help passed forward where soon someone would scream medic in the hope help came to their aid.
How many injured would actually have a medic rescue an individual and take him to the first aid station ? How many would survive time at the first aid station and be transported to the hospital ? How many would fall, how many would be seen to fall without another calling for a medic ? How many would have a medic attend ? How many would die and await rescue in death from David and Timothy ?
Doctor Timothy Ford-Newman cut away the blood stained fabric of his patient’s trousers. In his own trouser pocket was the photograph, he could not see it but how was the light catching its image ? There were three bullet holes. How many shots could a machine gun fire in a single second. Two of the bullets were lodged in the leg, Doctor Timothy would have to remove them. The third had passed right through the leg leaving two wounds. Three shots, four open wounds. How many shots of pain did the patient feel ?
“Will I live Doctor ?”
“You most certainly will. Have a little sleep and dream while I operate on you.”
One bullet did not always mean a Blighty, two probably but not always certain, three that was definite.
What was David doing ? How many of his horses were being hit by the advancing fire so needing his veterinary help ? Surely any horses would be fare behind the line to be in any danger but something must have happened to Veterinary Surgeon David at some time for his friend to have become a ghost.
The next patient had been shot in the shoulder, his right shoulder.
Patient after patient but just a fraction of those who were being injured during the offensive and a tiny fraction of those laying on the ground waiting to die without any help ? How many ?
How many had been overtake with fear only to have run away and ensure their lives would end in another way ? What became of those who were shot at dawn ?
Bullet would after bullet wound. This one right through the palm of a right hand. It had cut the tendons of three fingers. Tim hoped his patient was not an artist or a concert pianist. What job could a person do without a properly functioning right hand ? He certainly could not fire a gun. Tim hoped his patient was not left handed.
Throughout each operation Nurse Tanya was at his side. She had not spoken very much, instinctively knowing what assistance the doctor needed from her. What she then said hit Doctor Tim harder than any machine gun bullet.
“Have you heard about the ghosts of Nomansland ?”
Doctor Timothy Ford Newman froze. He did not freeze physically as a stature but his mind was frozen as solid as an iceberg.
“Somebody, it has to be a ghost, is each night collecting dead bodies from Nomansland and placing them into our trenches.”
“That sounds to me like a myth.”
“The evidence is in the mortuary wing. The bodies have been brought back from the front line.”
“Surely not, they must have died where they were found.”
“That is not what the evidence says Doctor, everyone thinks it is a ghost. The Ghost of Nomansland.”
Timothy did not believe what he was being told but he knew it was true.
Just what was a ghost ? Doctor Timothy Ford-Newman, Major Timothy Ford-Newman was not a ghost. At that precise moment he was a spirit, he was a Ka living and working on the Astral Plane. But what about when he went to sleep at night ? How could a Ka, how could a spirit which had already left a person’s physical being to exist on the Astral Plane go to sleep again and have a second spiritual form leave the original ? Logic said it could only happen in the second spirit was a ghost.
David was a ghost. He was a ghost. It was going to be hard to sleep that night.
Tim felt something strange pressing against his right thigh. He could not reach down to touch the area as his hands were fully involved in sewing up the patient’s wound. It was not a scratch his leg needed, this was not an itch but an ache. For how long had he been standing at the operating table ? A long time, that was for certain, this was only a touch of cramp.