Crimea, 1854: bloodshed and politics are always first among equals; festering wounds and indifference are what a mangled soldier earns. Whether Florence Nightingale was a ministering angel or not misses the point. War needs its heroes and sufferers need their icons. History needs its reputations to build up and then tarnish. A man racked with battle wounds or cholera in a prefabricated hospital doesn’t pause to conjecture; he reaches out feeble hands towards a face that’s shining down on him with pale, unyielding kindness, before life’s black book snaps shut.
This piece of flash fiction was written in response to the Light and Shade Challenge Friday 4 July 2014, which requires a story of 100 words or fewer using the following quote as a prompt:
Her pale face was the lantern
By which they read in life’s dark book
– RS Thomas On the Farm