My English teacher hated this (lol, then again she genuinely hates me :-P) I decided to write this piece from the perspective of what it may have been like to be a Nazi soldier venturing into Russia during WW2. Just because it was such a stupid waste of life and even though they were the enemy, many would have just been simple men forced into the army and then to their deaths.
The wind nips and claws at us, a ferocious animal on the twilight hunt. Darkness swallows us as the last rays of the sun dip over our hilled horizon. In this valley of death we shall meet our maker, this mountainous valley imprisons us, giving us no reprieve, no trial only the inescapable death that surely stalks us.
One would think we would be used to this hollow existence. One would think that we would have seen it coming and that we would have fled. One would be wrong. There is no escape from the cold embrace that meets us, even as children we were prepared for this eventuality and no other. We were created to serve, to march forth in our rippled ranks into the unknown, to fight, to serve, to die.
Reinforcements would be here by morning but by that time the enemy will have redoubled and we will all have been felled. Our ranks will hold off the enemy till then but no longer. If the elements do not first destroy us, then we will be smote by the filth of our enemies, if we outlast them we will still die. Even now our skin breaks and puckers. The shell of our bodies becomes translucent will malnutrition, no colour lightens us and the darkness sinks into our very flesh. Even now some of us fall, broken by Death’s cruel scythe, but… we keep on marching.
The grime of our enemies has polluted the Earth. That is what they tell us, and yet, is that not what they think of us. Poisonous thoughts – thoughts to get a man killed. But what do I care when I’ll be dead by morning anyway. I try not to think of my children, small and full of adoration they would follow me everywhere and even now they are being poisoned by the lies, the tales of death and glory. Where was the honour for the slaughtered village whose smoky ruin lies strewn across the mountainside? Children so like my own. Eyes still heavy with the early morning now sleep in the grass in beds of their own blood.
I check my emotions and look to my comrades. Their grave countenances mask anything they might be feeling. What are they thinking about? Is it of home, their families? Or are they still clinging to the lies that we were spoon fed, fables of doing good through this bloodshed? The acrid taste of war has cleared my mind of the stories. The bile has cleansed my pallet, the lies now like a stone in my gut, I prey only that those of the mountain village find their way to the glades of the evergreen. I wish no redemption for myself; I am a grown man that should have seen through the foolish temptation of the lies.
The men around me are nameless, faceless in the eyes of our masters. They see us as chess pieces to be moved around the board but this is no game, our lives are being led for us and we have become hounds chasing the prey of our masters who sit safe in the saddle.
I look up to see the grey dusk, the last of the suns red light is sapped up and away as if running from the pursuing darkness. I would flee from it too; flee from the black night, its icy fingers ripping out every last trace of warmth from our bodies and the earth. Were I able, I would climb aboard the chariot of Helios and be away, following the day, but I am not in his favour and so I must be taunted by his sister’s pale glow while Night bays for our lives and the ground stiffens over with hoar frost.
How did it come to this? This nauseating existence, each step turning our blood into ice. The landscape now matches the flags that litter our country and uniforms: Red, the background of our existence; the blood, the fire and the fury. White the colour of the landscape and our shivering bodies. Black, the colour that is left behind, the ash, the rubble, even the colour of the arms and legs that must all too often be amputated.
The way we march on parades, our bodies at perpendiculars, is nothing like the trudging now. Now our feet, blue-black at the extremities, are sucked down to the earth by exhaustion, as if gravity had decided to suddenly intensify. We march on… if you can call it marching at all, that is.
Our bodies are battered, our bones bare of the flesh that once covered them. We will be of little use to the scavengers who come to pick at the skin covered skeletons that lie around at morning.
I look to the mountains, their towering peaks glare down at us as if already proclaiming judgment. They see everything, the men, cold and shivering and the men cold and still. If the hills could speak what would they say, they have seen much of late in this great sink of a valley. They have seen as we carved our cruelty into the landscape, breaking banks of rivers with the blood of our own and that of strangers. They have watched as thousands of men wash into this basin thinking themselves to be soap come to wash away the filth of a nation that they knew nothing about. The peaks watched scores of soldiers fighting on against the elements, their guns rendered useless and they know how we keep on now, washed down into the sink leaving behind us the lime scale rings of our dead and our misdeeds.
We are no more than soap bubbles on the brink of bursting. We have become hollow and translucent with no further purpose. Our old camaraderie has vanished as we are drawn further into ourselves. The ground beacons to us, calling us to fall and embrace it and many oblige while the rest of us continue to swirl in a world of illusion further and further into the sink.
Every murmur and cry from the battles I have seen flash fresh to my mind’s ear until it forms one great gurgle that sucks me further and further into the abyss that awaits me, that awaits us all.
We were following orders. I think as my face hits the ground. I do not feel it; I cannot feel anything but the faint murmur of my heart growing fainter every second. Such a stupid reason to do anything; the world’s most childish excuse. My mind wonders as my eyes grow dark and turn to ice. What purpose did it serve all the death? The detritus of my thoughts grows thinner as the ice carves its name into my soul.
Life’s fragile beauties flash before my mind, the innocence of a new born child, each tender moment of their lives that are not cherished to the extent that they should be. A waste, such a waste, such fools are those who believe death can solve a problem. Only idiots can believe that soap can wash off blood.
A bubble pops is washed away down into the sink.