Bullets fly. From the arms of men they are received by the bodies of boys. Those too young to experience a woman’s love but too old to be shielded by a mother’s. They drop beside him. He stands and watches; viewing the final expressions of those he could once have called friends. Overarching disappointment, that is what he sees. Disappointment in their training. Disappointment in their Führer. That He had not prepared them. That He had not taught them how to meet death. How, when faced with an unyielding enemy, you welcome death as if he were your friend.
Pools of white appear from the darkness. Lights of the enemy, they search for him. Waltzing across the forest floor, red flashes zipping from their core. Gunfire. Forgetting his orders, he begins weaving as the Wehrmacht officers had taught him. But the crimson sparks, they chase him. Through trees, through undergrowth. When he shoots they swarm and so he scrambles, forcing his tired legs on.
The wings of a beech tree open up offering shelter. Once inside, the branches withhold the noises of war. The gunshots. The shells. The girlish screams of boys.
A figure appears – British – and a voice from within commands him: hold the gun at chest level, look where the bullet should go. Breathe in. Aim. Breathe out. Fire.
The British soldier shouts:
“A boy, he’s just…” Silence.
The balls of his feet release and he springs up, flies forwards. Arms pumping. Breathing, always breathing. Running until the sounds have receded. Running until death’s eternal grasp can reach him no longer.