The soldier lay face down in the mud, next to his fallen comrades. He dreamt of home. Canons fired in the distance; the battle had forged on without him. He could not move himself, even to pick his head up out of the mud. His body made its discontent from the lack of oxygen well known, as his insides convulsed and raged. He was giving up on the world of the living.
Nearby, a wounded man cried for God to show mercy on the man’s soul. His cries were silenced; his prayers apparently answered.
The soldier was losing consciousness.
More desperate men, clinging to their own lives, called out in agony, and all were met with the same quick release.
The soldier could not die fast enough. Images of his life passed through his mind. Sad, depressing images of loss, failure, and ineptitude filled his brain, and he became tortured by it all. His tears would not mix with the mud.
The sounds of battle shifted, as though carried by the changing wind. Scythe-swinging Death was coming back with canons and rifles and bayonets to once more heave his way through the living, but the soldier planned to be dead long before Death’s foot sank in his tear-stained puddle of mud.
When, however, the moment of total asphyxiation came, and the soldier saw the light of the eternal afterlife, his head was untimely ripped out of the mud and his rebellious body took in an enormous gasp of air. When his eyes readjusted, he saw the booted feet of a man dressed in green with a matching green hat that had a long feather sticking out of it.
“I must be crazy,” said the soldier, “but I think I see Robin Hood standing in front of me.”
“That you do,” said the Robin Hood. “Or so I am dressed.”
The soldier rested on one knee, still catching his breath.
“Then you are not Robin Hood?”
“I have a bow, don’t I?” The Robin Hood showed the soldier his bow.
“That makes you a yeoman who is dressed as Robin Hood.”
“Then that is what I am.”
A canon ball flew over their heads and brought the facade of the apartment complex behind them crumbing down.
“Why are you dressed like that?”
“Don’t be rude,” said the Robin Hood. “I didn’t ask you why you were suffocating yourself in the mud, though I assume it is because you have a twisted sexual fantasy involving self-asphyxiation and mud. Do not pry into my business, and I will not pry in to yours.”
“You are a strange fellow,” remarked the solider as he stood on his feet.
“And you are quick to judge,” replied the Robin Hood.
“Am I dead?”
“Do you feel dead?”
“There you have it.”
Rifle fire joined the barrage of canon balls hurling towards them. Death was, as they say, knocking at their door.
“But let’s continue this elsewhere,” said the Robin Hood, “for this place is depressing, and I am tired of mercy killing.”
The soldier’s instincts kicked in and he grabbed the Robin Hood and dove sideways to avoid the landslide of falling debris from the apartment building. They landed in the mud, both face down, and again the soldier thought of home. More memories came to the surface of his mind, this time pleasant in nature: early summer at the lake house, the smell of freshly baked cakes, the laughter of children; memories worth living for. They were memories he wanted to repeat.
He picked himself up off the ground and helped the Robin Hood to his feet.
“We have to get out of here,” said the soldier.
“I agree. It’s time for tea,” said the Robin Hood, as he took off running.
The soldier followed. His instincts, against the logicality of his mind, told him to stick with the yeoman dressed as Robin Hood who had performed mercy killings on his wounded comrades and enemies.
Behind them, Death stepped in the soldier’s mud puddle, and, aggravated, scraped the soldier’s tears off of his shoe as though it were chewed gum.