Flashes of light illuminated the shadows for split seconds, explosions shook the ground, and the air smelled of blood. Shadows approached the ruins of a house in which a bomb had just detonated. In the brief flashes of light it could be seen that they were throwing aside the corpses of the civillians who had taken shelter there, searching. Far to the side of them, the faint sound of movement came. One of the men turned, his eyes searching in the darkness for the source of the noise. He raised his rifle and took a step forward. It was 1943, the middle of World War Two. The soldiers searching the house bore stark white swastikas on the chest of their dark uniforms.
"Over here," called the approaching soldier to the others in German. The four others turned and hurried over, the leader of the group bending over the figure on the ground. With the toe of his combat boot, the German rolled the man on the ground over and smirked. A young American, not more then twenty, lay on the ground before him. The boy struggled, pushing weakly on the foot pinning him to the ground. The soldiers laughed as the leader told them to bring the boy along. To the boy it all sounded like gibberish, and he continued to struggle until the leader turned and struck him hard across the face. The boy's eyes bore a dazed look as he struggled to keep his eyes open, trying to speak.
"Where are you..."the boy muttered, his voice fading as his eyes fluttered closed.
An armored jeep trunddled its way along a torn dirt road, it tires kicking a cloud of dust up behind it. In the open back two Nazi soldiers held semi automatic assault rifles at the ready and a third carefully watched something lying in the back. That something groaned and opened its eyes, causing the Nazi watching him to quickly raise a gun toward him. The young American who had been captured in the house stared around him with confused eyes. His hair would have been brown if not for the blood staining it crimson. His emerald eyes locked on the soldier in front of him and realization seemed to dawn in them. The Germans were talking to each other in their own language and the boy stared at them without comprehension.
"What is name?" one asked in broken english. The boy stared at him silently until he kicked him hard in the stomach. The American yelped in pain and curled into a ball. When the Nazi pulled his foot back again the boy held up a shaking hand.
"My name is Danny," he gasped, struggling to straighten out and sit up, which he did slowly so as not to get himself killed. The soldier grunted and then went on babbling to the others. Danny looked around at the bland countryside and was studying his captors when a horrid stench assaulted his nose. He whipped his head around to see looming fences growing in front of him.
"Welcome to Mauthausen," the Nazi said to him, breaking into laughter with the others. Danny recognized the name from the list of concentration camps. Any hopes of escape he had sank abruptly. The Germans noticed and laughed all the harder.
A loud bell sounded, rousing the prisoners. Danny blinked and opened his puffy eyes, sitting up slowly. He was on the edge of the cot, and beside him the three other men he shared it with were pulling themselves from the depths of sleep as well. Several Germans walked down the aisle between the rows of cots, handing out small bowls of thin and vile gruel. Danny took his and swallowed it in one gulp, since that was all there was enough to do. As a second bell chimed he hurried out of the barracks, ignoring the pain in his body. It had become a part of him in the three months he had been imprisoned, so much so that he could push it aside and forget it was even there.
Following the line of men making their daily trek to the dig sites, Danny stared at the ground, watching his feet closely. The job he had been giving was vile, digging the mass grave sites. He never knew if he was going to be one of the ones falling into the graves he dug, and frankly he didn't care. It would have been sweet relief from watching his body waste away and enduring the most pain he had ever felt in his life. He was alone, the only American in the camp, and had long given up hope of rescue. When he ahd first arrived he had been stubborn, disobeying the guards and laughing through the beatings, but now it was all he could do to do his work, get back to the barracks, and get up the next morning.
He felt himself bump into someone, and by the German exclamation and the strike to his already bruised face, he assumed it was a Nazi. When he looked up, he saw that it was a young man with sad eyes. The Nazi's face was stern but his eyes said that he did not really want to hit Danny again. The man glanced around and hurried away quickly, leaving Danny to ponder what had transpired. He forced his mind back to the present. The men had reached the dig site, and he was handed a shovel and ordered to dig. He began, but already felt his body begging for rest by just lifting the shovel. By noon he could barely stand, and, an hour later, he collapsed to the ground. The nearest German ran over and ordered him up, but Danny could not force his limbs to move.
The guard lifted him up and struck him across the face with the butt of his pistol. His other arm pulled back, this one armed with a short combat knife. Danny saw it slicing for his heart and cringed, waiting for the pain and the shadows of death. When nothing happened he opened his eyes to see the man lying on the ground, the same knife plunged into his chest up to the hilt. Danny felt himself lifted off his feet and turned his head to lock eyes with the young German from before.
"Why-" he started, but his vision faded to black before he could say anything else.
Danny awoke to the bright white lights of a comat hospital. He groaned and blinked, turning his head to the side to see that a nurse was adjusting the iv in his arm. "Where am I?" he asked, noticing her jump and whip around. Her smile spread wide, but she did not answer his question, hurrying off instead. Danny pulled himself into a sitting position, noticing that he could not move his right leg. He pulled the blanket back to see a large bandage around his calf and thigh. A rustle from the curtain providing him privacy caused him to glance to the side.
The nurse had returned. "Where am I?" he asked again.
"You're in a hospital, and lucky to be alive I might add," she said matter-of-factly. When he asked her why she replied, "You were found wandering on the road outside of an American army camp, delirious. You kept talking about your 'savior' but no one saw anyone else with you. There were two bullets in your leg there, and any longer you would have bled to death." Danny stared at her until she left.
Two days after he was pronounced well enough to be discharged, Danny went to search the field he was found near. Finally, at the end of his search, he found four spent casings, a metal helmet, and a muddied and bloodied swastika torn from a dark uniform.
- Title: With Your Shield or On It
- Artist: Daughter of Elves
- Description: I wrote this after doing a research paper over WWII, which is something that I take a strong feeling for despite not really having any sort of connection to it through family and what not. It's just another short story, so if you don't like it, I'm sorry. But if you do, please send me some feedback.
- Date: 09/05/2008
- Tags: with your shield