It is said by the thinkers of my day that man can kill without thought, and yet will give his life to save that of even a stranger. Well, I can only say that, for me, I was forced to kill by the redcoats, not having the luxury of such a noble action as saving anyone.
And yet I have had much time to think on my life, and my death, here alone with only my bones as company. ‘Twas a bad time for me and I curse the men who caught me in the gloom of my home town in the lowlands. They forced on me a shilling, and having taken it, given me a redcoat to fight their enemy, the highlanders, who called us sasanach.
I had no grouse against them, I just got on with earning a living best I could for Martha and the bairns. Just as they did on their crofts, but theirs was the hardest living I think. The Engelish treated them like vermin I was told, till a bonny lad from the Nether Lands saw their grief and used it for hisself. The news-sheets say he was a rebel come to stir up trouble for the Scott’s, but the clans believed him to be their rightful heir. In truth, I wish he had not come here.
But come he did, and roused the Highland clans to do his bidding. Fighting all the way down to Engeland before stopping before its capital and coming back. A weakness the King’s soldiers sought to use to avenge their brutality. Ha, I tell ye, isn’t all war brutal, neighmind who ye fight.
A great lord, the King’s son, the butcher, came to us and lead us north to engage the enemy. We were fairly treated and given vicuals, a sword and some a musket. On the battle field, a desolate moorland, we were given orders and put in groups. Some shit theyselves when they saw and heard the Highland clans, banging their swords against their shields. They in their rough tartans.
I heard the shout to march in formation, to the killing field. Memory does not serve me well thereafter. I yelled and slashed, stabbed, and fell. In the mindless slaughter my time seemed to stand still. I felt not a thing as the sword slashed at my neck, only the shit and piss running down my legs, warm, comforting strange to say. I have had no warmth since then, feeling only the cold damp sodden earth. And the wind blustering round the peat hags.
Here I remained, watching and watching, waiting for The Lord knows what. Seeing the sun come up and go down so many times, beyond count, seasons come and go. Then people came here, with their spades and shovels and dug trenches around my bones, the best to drain the peat. They came back, and with trowel and brush uncovered me with the greatest of care. Something upwelled in my soul, like the tears once shed as I lived. There in front of me was my father, looking just as I’d seen him afore taking the King’s Shilling. Resplendent as an angel. And many angels there were too. My dread melted away like sun on snow. My joy was such I cannot say, but oh, the glorious light shone down on us all.
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