They call it shell shock. There had to be some sorta term for it. You see your buddy ripped to ribbons by a Kraut machine gun and you tend to develop a sort of psychological notion, something more than a tiny twitch. You get bombarded by bombs for up to a week at a time, and you're stuck with a case of insomnia that's gonna last you a little longer than the war. It's a fear of enemy fire, a bit of panic when it comes to pressure, a "shock" to "shells" that fits the bill.
'Cept unlike actual shock, you never really recover. The experience sinks its claws into you, marking up your face, stealing the light from your eyes. There are lines a twenty year old shouldn't have, scars deeper than skin, changing young to old, man to monster. You can laugh and smile, of course, make the same old jokes and tell tired stories, but it's just not the same. They've ultimately lost their luster. They're just lines, rote recitation to pass for something resembling normal. You're just so happy to be home that you figure everything'll be copacetic in the long run.
But you never really left the Continent. Hell, you never made it of Argonne. You're angry and sad, and you hate the world. You wake in a cold sweat by the pop of a muffler in the middle of the night, you dream of ghosts who blame you for not being fast enough, smart enough, good enough, and the authorities have the goddamn temerity to call it shell shock.
Fuck them for that.
Fuck them for sending us there.
Thanks to Katie for helping me out. She read to a few prototypes of this that didn't sound nearly as good. Hopefully with her sound advice, I'll grow as a narrator.
Get it? Sound advice?
Oh, fuck you.