The wind whispered down the trenches. "Over the top," it whispered. "Today, noon."
It curled around the cold and dirty soldiers that littered the damp trenches, until it reached me. I stood with the stinking filth, waste and who knows what else gathering in my mane, tail, fur, eyes. It was everywhere. It clung to me like a flea and never let go. Charlie's kind hands caressed my forelegs, brushing off the grime that clung to my fetlocks. I nickered quietly and he stopped and rubbed my nose.
"Soon, boy, soon we will go over the top… too soon," he murmured into my ear. His voice sent shivers of happiness down my spine. I looked at Charlie - so young for one who acted so brave… and that could all be coming to an end. Those three words, "Over the top," could bring an end to the person I loved the most. Charlie walked over to where my battered saddle lay. He hoisted it onto one shoulder, then squelched back to where I stood. Gently he lowered the saddle onto my back. He fumbled with the freezing buckles; finally managing to do them up. The boy heaved himself into the saddle; numb legs shaking from the strain. He gathered up the reins and guided me to the place where we would leave the trenches.
Soldiers were huddled in small groups around dwindling fires. We took our place among the lines of weary men and waited for that dreaded whistle to blow. We didn't have to wait long. The whistle blew and Charlie gentle steered me onto No-Man's land. The moment we stepped hoof onto the shell ridden ground, the enemy fired at us. The cavalry was ordered to group and charge, with me at the head! We charged fearlessly at the enemy trenches; the sudden speed causing me to neigh anxiously. As we raced towards the enemy trenches, enemy fire crackled around us. Suddenly I felt Charlie go limp on top of me. I felt him slip from my saddle and onto the ground. I tried to stop; to go to him; to save him, but I was swept away in the mass of horses. As soon as possible I broke away and raced back to where I had last seen him. He lay slumped in an awkward position on the floor and I could see from the pale colour of his face that something was not right. I put my head to his face, and he raised his hand in a feeble attempt to stroke my nose. Then he sighed and his body went limp. I neighed softly.
"Badger?" said a voice. I turned. There was Sergeant Louis. He saw Charlie and said, "Poor boy… That's more for the list." Then he gathered my reins and led me away back to the trenches, away from my beloved Charlie, away from my one and only friend in this desolate landscape. How I wish we had never come to this place.