This post is part of the April A-Z Blogging Challenge, wherein participants blog throughout the month according to the letters of the alphabet. For more on the challenge, click here.
Note: If anyone wondered, I tagged the blog as having adult content due to a few factors: one, strong language; two, the possibility that excerpts I post may have graphic descriptions of sex or violence and therefore unappealing to some readers. Never fear, though, I’ll be sure to warn y’all if a post of that nature comes up! In the meantime, feel free to read on!
Cheers and happy ABC’ing,
This post seemed appropriate given that this month marks the ninety-seventh anniversary of the battle for Vimy Ridge. It stands as one of the key battles of World War One, particularly in the Canadian consciousness.
In 1917, Canada was still part of the British Empire, and we fought because they fought, having entered the war immediately in 1914. By now Canadian troops had had two years in France (the first troops saw action in 1915), and had demonstrated their ability to persevere where French and British troops had failed. In April of 1917, they were ordered to seize a long stretch of raised land with an advantageous view of surrounding lines: Vimy Ridge.
It took intensive planning and secrecy and new tactics to boot. On April 9th, 1917, the four Canadian divisions attacked together for the first time, and after a few days and ten thousand casualties, on April 12th, Vimy Ridge was in Canadian hands. It was the first victory that gave the Canadians a sense of self apart from the European nations whose battles they were fighting. The battle of Vimy Ridge is often noted as Canada’s first steps towards independence from Britain, and we haven’t forgotten it. Even today, our memorial on the land the French ceded to us still stands, and the address of the Canada War Museum in the nation’s capital is 1 Vimy Place.
We don’t forget, and neither does Jack Breault. The difference is, few people alive today remember the battle, but for Jack, it’s still in his recent past. He may be aware that time has passed, but his mental state is stuck at the moment his heart stopped—a man who went to war to bury grief, and instead buried friends and, eventually, himself. He’s different from other ghosts Darcy meets, not ruled by emotions or the memories of his past, nor yet trapped between two selves the way Eliza is. He explains it very simply when Darcy asks him about it, too.
“Were you like this when you were alive?” I ask by way of greeting, and he looks taken aback.
“No. I was…” English apparently failing him, he makes a face and gestures widely with his hands. “Open. Friendly.”
“Then why can Eliza be cheerful if you can’t?” I wonder.
I might be provoking him a little. It’s somewhat rewarding to see a muscle in his cheek jump.
“Eliza died as the result of a single act of violence,” he says bluntly. “Perpetuated repeatedly, yes, but to her, only once, and that was enough.” He looks at me. “I had four years of war before I died. The dead are more immovable than the living, petite. While you live, you may yet change the life you lead. But when you are dead, there is nothing that will change that.”