written by lauren d. h. miertschin

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Waiting for Sunrise

This one's from the archives -- written about fifteen years ago. The big clue that it's an oldie is that I wrote it in the first person point of view (a male pov at that!). I rarely write in the 1st person pov anymore. I used to find it easier, now I realize that it's much more difficult.

We scrambled through darkness. For hours . . . hell, maybe days. Days with no sun. Who knows. One thing for sure: enemy fire had ceased.

I don’t know . . . Jeez, who knew it would be so hard to tell this story? Hell. Well . . . anyone who knows the battlefield can tell you – to call out means death. All Jed and me could do was wait. Wait for that sun who took its sweet-ass time, before we could assess.

You tell me, where do we wait on a godforsaken snow covered mountain? A mountain that’s crawling with enemies, aiming to shoot our nuts off. Well, Jed and me drudged through waist deep snow. Dug ourselves into a snow cave – you know that hollow spot beneath branches? Like a dream, no, wait . . . a nightmare, slow motion kinda, we buried the entrance and crawled up to the trunk. I grabbed onto its icey bark, grateful for cover, but dreaming of that wartime Christmas Eve feast we were supposed to be enjoyin’.

Hours passed in blackness. Maybe it was minutes. Shucks. Who can tell? I shoved a stick through the wall, yanked it out. Then we switched off guard so the other could sleep. Neither slept. Instead we sat against the trunk and stared at that damn hole. We waited for dawn.

“She says she loves me,” Jed whispered. “Can you believe it? Loves me.” His teeth chattered as he spoke.

After months of no mail, it finally found our camp that night. Jed still clutched her letter in his pocket, like it were gold.

“Believe it,” I said.

He breathed quickly, his fingers smoothing the envelope’s fold. Poor kid scared to death, now that he knew she loved him, getting back to the States meant everything.

“Think they’ll find us?”

Figured he meant our company. But if they were going to find us, they would have by then. Last thing I saw was Major Helms surrendering. Those bastards mowed him down.

“They gotta find us, Kid.”

Had to give him hope. But hope crashed before we could grasp it, when the backside of our cave fell in. A bright light shot at us. We were blinded.

“Wer ist drĂ¼ben?” said the shadow.

I grabbed my M1, pointed in its direction. Strange. The shadow didn’t move. I pulled the trigger. No kick; I pulled again. Oh shit! It was frozen solid. Jammed.

We were dead.

Then somehow during that second, a second that lasted forever, Jed brought down the wall of snow behind us, and pulled me out into the darkness. Scrambling on hands and knees, we were off back into the Ardennes. A shot whizzed past my head, another hit my shoulder.

I didn’t look back. You can never look back. Never. Instead, I pushed on through the snow, away from the light – that’s all that mattered – get away from the light.

I lugged my automatic behind me, fought to keep up with the kid. My legs felt like lead weights slicing through snow, my shoulder still gushing blood had grown numb.

“Go,” I said.

“I can’t leave you man.”

“Go,” I yelled. “Forget me.”

Crazy kid. He grabbed hold of my arms at the elbows and walking backwards, pulled me along. How far did he pull me? Hell . . . far enough. The kid was super human, didn’t even flinch. Then as instant as it had appeared, the stream of light disappeared, and we found ourselves hunched down behind a boulder on a hellish slope. For a while there, I thought maybe we lucked out and lost ‘em.

The sky glowed a dark orange as the sun finally began to make its appearance. Jed peered over the boulder. I rubbed my legs to gain back feeling.

“There’s just one of ‘em, I’m sure,” he said.

A light snow fell as his fingers ran along the envelope in his pocket. Soon the sun would rise above the horizon and we’d be able to make out where tracks led. Damn sun. Had it showed its face a little sooner, we would have known the rotten Nazi flanked us.

His first shot smashed into the boulder an inch above my head. Jed turned and fired his pistol while I rushed to remove mine from its holster. Damn. Why was it in the holster? The eternal question. A fricken’ holster is no place for a gun. Before I knew it, a silhouette dashed out from behind a tree and broad sided me. I slammed against the rock and fell face down into the cold. When I lifted myself out of the powder I saw that the blood cutting through the snow did not run from my shoulder. It flowed from Jed who lay a few feet away. Tough kid all right. Even when he was down. He raised his pistol and got that damn Nazi smack in the knee.

As I pushed myself up, the bastard shot Jed in the stomach and then, damn him . . . in the head. He shot again after that, and then again – God knows why – until there was only a click, then another. And another. That dumb bastard emptied his gun into my buddy who lay dying, clutching a letter from his girl.

Then the Nazi turned to me, and I saw for the first time that he was just a boy really, about Jed’s age. Not a day older. His eyes looked crazed, sweat trickled down his face. His lips were cracked and bleeding, his boots torn. He reached out to me and stepped back at the same time. The snow fell faster, heavier, until it covered his dark hair with a thin, white layer. He brushed the snow out of his eyes, then raising his gun threw it down and showed me his hands, palms out.

“Bitte . . . bitte,” he said dropping to his knees.

Sure, you’d think I had myself a prisoner. Good as gold you’d think – use him as a hostage, help me get my way back. I’d be a hero, collect myself some award. Shucks. You’d think that, wouldn’t you?

“Screw that,” I said. I bit my lower lip so hard that blood seeped down and warmed my frozen beard.

I shot once, and then again. Again after that. Emptied my gun into that son-of-a-bitch just as he had done to Jed. The guy’s eyes opened wide like he was surprised. Damn fool. He staggered for a second, and looked up to the sky, almost as if he recognized someone up there. Then, funny thing . . . he smiled before falling into the snow, and as his blood poured out to mix with Jed’s, the sun finally peeked above the horizon, shooting golden rays across the snow covered terrain.

“Damn sun,” I yelled. “What took you so long?”

(c) Lauren D. H. Miertschin

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