DULCE AT DECORUM EST by John Paul Catton. What are the fields of WWI hiding? #dieselpunk Click To Tweet
The hideous miasma rolled along the shattered landscape. The Germans tried to outrun it, but they were too slow. The mist enveloped them. They floundered, limbs waving, their twisted, mannered figures reeling through it, the sound of their screaming voices growing more and more distant, until they disappeared.
“You told me that’s a German secret weapon,” Kelsey said.
“So why are they killing their own troops?”
Blake stared ahead, thinking. He’d been wondering the same thing himself. “The wind must have changed.”
Kelsey gave a quizzical look.
“Now look. Over there,” Blake said.
In No-Man’s Land, materializing at the heart of the swirling yellow cloud, was the figure that haunted Blake and his men. Shining metal, barely recognizable as human. It seemed to be composed of metal surfaces, moving in small jerks, grouping together, then splitting apart and reforming, diminishing and enlarging, forming columns and lines. The armored shape was surrounded by a brilliant glow that illuminated the churned-up mud.
“Good God,” Kelsey whispered.
This is my favourite passage from Ducle at Decorum Est, the most haunting episode of the entire story. We see the unimaginable, and still we don’t see it, and the ambiguity is what evokes the stronger feeling for me.
In other passages, you get a very vivid impression of what the life in the trenches must have been, a very realistic portrayal of it. Here, you get a transfigured image of it, but the impression is just as strong. This is the power of speculative fiction, for me. Giving reality a new form, so that it speaks more freely about itself.
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