I know the end is near. I shall soon be yet another statistic for historians to mull over, or maybe my platoon will take Stalingrad for us, and I shall be their hero; the Glückspilz who danced with death so the rest could sneak ahead and fight. I smile feebly at the thought. I wonder as I lie here if anyone will ever get to know what really happened here over the past one week. How a battle was paused for a few moments for the sake of love, and how two soldiers substituted the tragedy of war and death with the tragedy of unrequited love?
I broke the stalemate, because I saw no other option. For how long could I go on in this state of limbo, dividing my loyalties between my country and him? I took a choice to end this conflict within me, and now I lie here waiting for all of it to end, so I can finally stop feeling so tortured. I had a choice between betraying my country or him. Now I die and he lives. And the war goes on.
I had wished to end my life a while ago by his bullet, because I couldn't take the hate. But to be in love, surrounded by hate was way more torturous. I'm just glad it is his bullet that lies close to my heart.
I lie in the midst of the rubble, eyes closed, listening to the distant sounds of the Luttwaffe and the shots of gunfire. We, the rats are at it again. We shall fight till the end, for the sake of the Führer or Stalin, till one of us is no more. Unlike me though, the ones out there will never give up, every battle a struggle for survival. I can hear the shot of bullets close by, the bombs a little ahead, a scream every now and then, and then silence. The eerie silence only punctuated by the sound of war.
I can sense someone coming closer, but I am too scared to open my eyes. I know it is him and I wish that he would just go away. Because I know he stands there watching me. I have betrayed him, and I don't have the courage to face him anymore. I wish he would shoot a bullet into my heart and end all this.
I sense him come closer, his warm breath on my cheeks, coarse and strong hands supporting my head, and a gentle murmur of Russian. His hands brush my hair off my face, and gently caress my cheeks. I take a deep breath and open my eyes, and look into his dark sunken eyes. We look at each other for a few moments, his dark brown eyes looking right into me and my pain. I raise my right hand to grip his.
"Es tut mir leid", I repeat, shaking my head, tears in my eyes. I never wanted any of this to happen.
He looks at me, but this time I think he knows what I mean, because he nods his head, and grips my hand harder. The sound of gunshot distract him and he looks around at the ruins. I see his face harden as he hears shots and screams in the distance. I know I have left him with no choice here. He looks at his sniper rifle by his side and then he looks at me again.
I nod and beckon him to leave.
"Hilf mir zu sterben", I say, begging him to end this for me, pointing at my heart. I just want all this to end.
He pulls out a pistol. I have seen that pistol many times before. Cornered, they always take their pistols out, waving it around like madmen against a battery of machine guns.
I close my eyes as I see him raise the pistol. A shot and I feel pain rushing in from my chest to the rest of my body...
I see him lying in the hole, breathing but unconscious. I kneel next to him and try to support his head. I push the soft blond hair off his face and gently caress his cheek. I am confused at what just happened.
"Почему?" I ask him. "Why?"
I hear him take a deep breath and open his eyes. His clear blue eyes look into me, and I feel the same emotions that I have felt all these days when I watched him through my scope. He looks sad and vulnerable, and tired. His hands grip mine. He speaks to me softly in German, his eyes welling up and I know what he feels, because I feel the same. I nod my head, and grip his hand harder. I don't want to lose him. I don't want to be his murderer.
I hear gunshots ahead of me, and I look up. There is screaming, punctuated by shots. I am suddenly brought back to the war. I hear more screams, and then the sound of grenades exploding. I hear the batteries of machine guns in the distance, and then I hear the pistols. Pistols, the weapons for the desperate, when you are in close quarters and have nothing else left to fight with. My brothers, my comrades are out there, fighting desperately to hold onto this city. I look around me at the rubble, our battlefield, the desert of ruins.
I look back at him, lying there. He had been sacrificed by his platoon, and he did it willingly. He was the bait that I fell for. Now, while I sit here, his platoon is out there killing my brothers, my Comrades who I had spent so many months protecting. I look at the rifle lying by my side, the weapon that had kept the enemies at bay for so long.
I have betrayed them, my brothers, my Comrades. This German sacrificed himself for his country and I sacrificed my country for him, only to shoot him down. I feel frustrated and angry. Did he have to do what he did? Did he really have no choice here? No free will? Will people like us always remain pawns in this game of war?
I look back at him. He nods and beckons me to leave him. He understands and knows that he has left me with no choice here. I really wish things had ended differently.
I hear him say something in German, pointing at his heart, his hands shaking, his voice weak and pleading. Maybe he is talking about love, or maybe he is just begging for forgiveness; but this has gone on for too long.
He had always been vulnerable; I could always see that in his face. He didn't belong here, he never did. I cannot let him go through any of this torture anymore. He never wanted to be here and he doesn't deserve any of this.
I take out my pistol, the gleaming metal reflecting off the sun. He closes his eyes. I stand up, take aim and shoot into his chest.
My heart is heavy, but I tuck my pistol in, pick up my Mosin-Nagant rifle and walk towards the building ruins away from the gunshots.