The work of carrying nitroglycerine through the mountains fleeted through his mind. Nitro, he thought, or was it dynamite or perhaps — and a strange word came to him — stielhandgranates?
He lay face up on the pad of reed fibers wrapped in purple cloth, and Pira-Tapuya was beside him brown and naked, her eyes open and smiling.
The jungle was still. The kerosene lamp unlit. The scarlet parrot was motionless in its cage and quiet. But there was moonlight through the open window.
All was utterly silent.
Pira-Tapuya said nothing as her hand came to his uncovered chest. She pushed, he gasped, and her hand slipped through his skin and ribs.
She stroked his bloody, beating heart within, which was wonderful.
Tears of joy and relief ran down both sides of his face, and he knew he would stay in this sweet green jungle forever. And he would never be alone again.
The doctor sighed, not for the first time that long and difficult night, and pulled the blood-stained sheet over the young man’s face.
From the foot of the cot, he took the clipboard and read the slip of paper.
John Phillip Hudson, corporal, age 24.
Pulling a pen from his breast pocket, the doctor scribbled:
Time of death 11:24 p.m.
2 November 1917.
Cannon thundered in the distance.