June 14th 1645 – Naseby, England – Stuart Buck

The ghost, flesh now. All day the sound of metal slicing to bone. The dull metallic clang of weapon hitting helmet. Piles of bodies strewn over vast expanses of red and brown earth. Grass matted to the ground with viscera like dogs fur. The ghost and several others have taken refuge in a hole dug the night before. By good fortune, several bodies have fallen and blocked the entrance from site. The ghost and his new friends whisper stories to one another, about wine and women. One man sits with his back to the rest. Cromwell’s New Model Army are setting up camp all around them. Night has fallen and most of the enemy are drunk on mead. They are pissing everywhere, including into the hole. The ghost and his compatriots, trying to get some rest, are pulsing in and out of a virulent sleep, warm urine filtered pink through the bloody camouflage, dripping onto them from above. The ghost does not mind so much. It is a form of warmth, being pissed on by the people trying to kill you. And even better, they are as yet undiscovered.

The ghost, still flesh, still in the hole. Two have died. One has dysentery, which for him and the ghost is worse than death. The hole is filling up with excrement and bodies. The ghost has backed himself as far into the earth as he can. He has spent hours digging with his bare hands, making himself an extension to the hole. Trying to scramble through soil and roots, the essence coating his fingernails, always blood running through the earth, men split in two, men with pikes through their throats, men with swords run rusty across their throats, men with stomachs full of musket fire, men with their scalps removed, men with their eyeballs crushed underfoot, men still alive, breathing as if through a sponge, wheezing, asthmatic corpses lining the fields of england and all the while the ghost in his hole, listening to the crying and the shitting, the piss and the blood, the dead moaning above, the dead men attracting flies, the ghost crying, whispering for his mother to come and make it better, the sick man crying for the pain to stop, to stop shitting, to get out of this hole and make something of his life, to return to his parents house, his sister, the boiling kettles and the sunlight through the windows, the smell, the smell that seems to cut the back of your throat, the smell that you cannot stop assaulting you even if you bury your face deep into the ground, let the soil pour through your every hole, stretching out your fingers, grabbing huge handfuls of soft clay and stuffing them into your mouth.

The ghost, still flesh, still in the hole. He is alone. It has been three hot days and the bodies above on the battlefield are leaking a liquid the color of week old bruises. The ghost tried to climb onto the bodies of his companions and reach for the rim of the hole, to dig his fingers into the ground above, but he fell and broke his ankle. Now he is propped up against the earth wall, watching a small green shoot grow from the breach in his skin. There is very little light in the hole, but the sprout is thriving, seeming to grow as he watches. The ghost has not eaten or drunk for four days now and while he is sure that he is sick, he feels good. It feels good to be the compost, the mound of dirt on which things thrive. He slowly raises his hand and touches his face. It is like touching the beach after the tide has coagulated the grains of sand into a thick mulch. His fingers bring away chunks of flesh which he thinks about eating before deciding he has very little reason to eat anymore. He is slowly turning to loam. He can feel sand rising from his throat and spilling onto his naked chest. Above him, the tiny disc of sky turns black, then white, then black again. Over and over, the days flit past, a binary that the ghost finds comforting as he falls to pieces.