|FASTER THAN LIGHT
Fighter then lasts
Laughter then fights
Tights of the master
Lighter when fasts
The devils had got us pinned down. All day the 88mms had hailed into our position, a relentless, splintered confusion of shattered earth and shrapnel. Bill lay cold and motionless beside me, his thoughtless eyes blindly staring up at the torn sky, and part of me envied him. I didn't see Pete leap in and join me in the tenuous sanctuary of the shell crater. I slid my febrile hands from my head after yet another bloody symphony of fragmentation bombs and became aware of his presence the way one might notice an odd feature of a familiar room when the light in it had fallen in a unusual way.
"What a cock up, eh?" he sighed, as if continuing a conversation we'd been having.
"SNAFU. Bloody SNAFU, and it's us here again while the Brass move markers on their damn maps," I replied, with a bitter little laugh.
"Yeah." He shrugged, risking a quick glance over the edge of our foxhole. "We'll end up extras in a body count, while they'll get a knighthood and a street named after them in every bleeding town in the country."
The 88s had fallen silent for a moment, but we knew it was only temporary - they were just waiting for recon reports after the attack so that they could recalibrate their targeting for more accuracy.
Pete was brushing the dirt from his gun. He continued long after it was gone.
"Um... Look, I've been meaning to ask this, and... well... might never get another chance - not the way things are, so... erm... well, do you moisturise?"
I felt my face flush. "Yeah, sure," I shrugged, looking intently at something over in the other direction, though, for the life of me, I couldn't have told you what it was. "It's a personal grooming thing, isn't it?"
Pete bit his lip. "I just wondered because, well, I don't know whether you've noticed, but I have combination skin."
I had noticed, of course - everyone in the barracks had - but I painted on a surprised expression. "Have you tried that new cream from Laboratoires Garnier? It's very, very good."
"Even with the problem areas around the eyes?"
"Absolutely. And it's not greasy like some other applications."
"Yes, it contains Hydroxy-Ceramides."
"What are they?"
"I haven't the remotest idea."
"But can it reduce the appearance of fine lines?"
"Damn right - if laboratory tests are anything to go by." I caught myself for a moment, and checked the action of my rifle unnecessarily. "That's the appearance of them, of course."
A shell fell just to the left of us, kicking the air in a concussive wave against our ears. From near its impact point we could hear someone, I think it might have been young Terry, crying faintly, and hopelessly, for a medic.
"And how fast is it absorbed?" asked Pete, still obviously in need of reassurance.
"Oh, it's absorbed by the skin almost instantly." I replied, giving him a gentle punch on the shoulder in mock reprimand. "And this is a once-a-day application, don't forget. Before bed is the best time, after you've cleansed."
Pete dug a smile from somewhere. "Well, that sounds like the business to me. I'm going to see if I can push forward a bit now - we're just target practice here, we need to take the battle to them. Thanks. Thanks, you know, for everything." Without meeting my eyes again, he was up over the edge of the foxhole. I pressed my back against the soil wall and listened to his footfalls and grunts as he weaved forward until they faded into the wind.
I never saw Pete again. Later, I heard he'd been killed during an action to deny the enemy a strategic river crossing. Just as well, I suppose, with those pores.
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