Liam O’Flaherty: Sounds from a dead world. Nothing but worms and rats feeding on death.
From Return of the Brute (1929)
The two enemy soldiers stopped chattering and began to move away.
“What did I tell you?” said Gunn. “See? They’re moving off.”
They listened to the queer, brutal sound of two human beings dragging themselves over the sodden mud in the darkness.
“It’s funny,” said Lamont, “those two blokes are soldiers same as we are, with people at home. And they’re wet and lousy and hungry and fed-up same as we are too. But we think…I mean to say that whenever I think of Fritz I see him only as some cruel giant that’s…No! But just as an enemy. What’s an enemy, I wonder?…”
“Now listen to me. I’ve been out here over two years on this lousy front and I’m as fed up with it as you are. I don’t give a curse who wins this rotten war and I’d like to run my bayonet through the fellahs that started it. We’re just fighting for a gang of robbers, as ’79 Duncan said. I’ve got my eyes open now, although I hadn’t when I enlisted…”
They became silent, standing side by side, looking out into the darkness over the parapet. With their steel hats and their oil-sheets, which they wore, laced about their throats, over their great coats, they looked like ghouls in the gloom, buried to their waists in a hole; while all around them the earth lay naked, turned into mud, holed, covered with the horrid débris of war, emitting a stench of rotting, unburied corpses.
From the pitch-dark sky the rain fell, unceasing and monotonous, like the droning of brine water falling on a floor of black rocks from the roof of a subterranean cave where moaning seals are hidden and flap themselves about on their ledges; sounds from a dead world; the mysterious gloom of the primeval earth, where no life had yet arisen; no sap of growing things; nothing but worms and rats feeding on death.