Fragment Earth - 001 - SSHUT Author:Robert Ethan Skyler Title: Fragment Earth - 001 - S.S.H.U.T. — Author: Robert Ethan Skyler — Keywords: Short Stories, Political, Science, Fiction, Truth, Hitler?s Death, Alpine-Bavarian Redoubt, Zhukov, Stalin, WWII, Revisionism — Description: History, written by the winner, rarely records the events described, as they actually took place; sanitized and simplified, is... more » their lesson?s loss to protect, or condemn us? At the end of World War II, besieged in his bunker, his fantasy crumbling around him, Hitler makes his escape. Southward he flies for one last chance, one final stand and one more lesson history forgot to teach us.
Length: 5,500 Words or 35 pages approximately.
It is a child?s fantasy, these past few weeks in Berlin. This I know to be true as I have yet to meet an adult who can make sense of what is happening but we understand. It is a pretended fantasy come true and here we are at the heart of madness, battling with guns and grenades, against artillery attacks and bombing raids.
In the ensuing phantasmagoric transformation of my reality, my duties as messenger, driving me to exciting new places that months and even weeks ago were just my neighborhood, keep me lucid enough to stave off the creeping insanity which owns everything around me.
I attended school for years in a building which stands behind me today as headquarters of a dream battle against evil. The general store I regularly fetched ice from for my mother now lies ahead of me dark and glowing from the low clouds reflection of fire light through its missing roof and with each new explosion eerie shadows pulse out of its windows frightening me onwards.
These are the forges from which all nightmares spawn and I imagine they will remain so for all time, as even though I am only a child, every new breath I draw confirms I am still this dream?s master.
Messages secure in vest pocket. I push onwards with my mission to the Fuhrerbunker. Running alleyways and through the park where I had practiced this very game in summers past; ducking down streets, from storefront to debris pile, there is no one to be seen these days and even less around this time of morning, except for us soldiers. At least I think it is morning.
The tank I eyed to hide behind following my next leap was not there yesterday. Its lifeless hulk standing as high water mark of the last Red Army incursion shivers me onward, for at this moment its prime position is ideal cover on my current path. There is no front line, not anymore. There is this street and that alleyway, a bunker here, a hole in the wall there and only a child?s imagination to draw a map for this battlefield.
It cannot be that the Russians have been this close so recently, I thought as I leaned up against the wheel of their smoldering tank. Each time we push them back, their fire melts us further away. You have to think on your feet to stay in this game. Survival is as simple as seeing the brim on a helmet before that helmet sees you; only the quick live to the end of the morning in my neighborhood.
Everyone one I know is dead. There is something to be said for that. I never deny myself the privilege of reveling in my own mortality.
Arriving at the Fuhrerbunker, I crawl up into the Messengers Entrance: a crook in a bombed out wall which does not allow you to see in or out until you breach the passageway, where after I find myself in the silence and security of the outer garden of the Reich's Chancellery.
Slowing my pace, I allow my breath to catch up with me.
Cautiously, I proceed into the main yard where the guard, a dizzy statue of a man probably drunk again tries to stop me. I yell at him, ?get your hands off me, this message is for the Fuhrer.? He does not let go. I repeat myself.
He covers my mouth and says, ?you are too late.?
I am not too late. I am never late.
He continues, ?the Fuhrer is gone.?
?Gone?? I echo. The word everyone uses for dead these days. No one ever dies anymore. They are just gone. ?Gone?? I repeat, ?what do you mean??
?No, no, not that kind of gone,? he replies pointing to the sky, as his finger produces a tiny object, an aircraft lifting up over the city, ?gone,? he says, ?the Fuhrer has left; he?s gone south, to Bavaria.?
?I did not think I would get you out of there in time,? I said over the blaring engine. ?You put up a valiant fight. But you cannot blame yourself for this outcome. You made all the right moves at all the right times. The fates simply were not with you on this one.?
Looking over, into the silent reflection of his face off the darkened window staring down into the glowing ruins of our once thriving capital city crumbling under the heel of the advancing Red Army, I am drawn into his reflection. I can see perfectly within those eyes the haunting lost lust of a thousand conquered conquerors. Even in defeat this man is intoxicating.
?I could have done better Hannah,? shatters the silence of my rambling.
?Oh Mein Fuhrer,? I went on, ?could this have been any other way? You will still be triumphant in the end. I am sure of this.? On and on I droll, taking every chance I dare to drown myself in that reflection. A dip in the wings brings my attention back to the controls, and I am still talking. He could not have known I was barely flying this light aircraft to see me now.
What was I saying?
Does it matter?
Is either of us listening?
?I did better, last time,? he interrupts with astonishing zest rocking forth and back in his seat. Turning toward me, he looks to justify his comment further. Squinting my assistance sees only failure's familiarity subdue his gaze back toward the silent judgment of the German countryside streaming below us.
We fly low through our safe corridor to the south held open at the cost of so many lives. Is he worth it? I wonder for the briefest of moments, but no answer comes and I would not want one if it did. It is not for me to ask such questions. The silence strikes me.
Arriving safely over our landing site, the droning of the motor, I thought had deafened me to anything the Fuhrer might have said, as on our approach he mumbles something I do not comprehend and dare not ask him to repeat. Landing smoothly like some dreams end, the jostling of rough turf under wheel awakens me.
My heart beats again.
A guard runs up to the aircraft?s side. He opens the door. Hitler turns to get out but stops, and turns back looking into my eyes and says, ?forgive me.?
I freeze, as babble fills my throat but say nothing with a swallow.
He leans to get out his last words, ?I will do better, next time.?
?I am sure you will Mein Fuhrer,? I reply in a gush.
Or think I did.
I cannot say for certain I said anything at all.
Maybe he did not either.
Shuffled into my waiting armored car, we sweep off through the countryside. ?The latest reports anticipate the Red Army could be here at any moment of unexpected weakness, Mein Fuhrer,? says the accompanying S.S. officer to Hitler, ?there is not a second to be lost in transit to our destination.?
Feeling the weight of that last statement, I press on even faster toward the best kept secret of the war, and the only salvation I imagine might save me, short of fleeing west to surrender to the American Army.
Behind the front line borders of the Nazi?s Third Reich lay our fate, where I had unwittingly aided in the enslavement of countless souls whose creation I now feared would soon see us joining them in their shallow graves down the long winding dirt road I now drove to our destination; a hole in the wall, which held within it an insurmountable horror of defensive positions no rational army could breech, to guard a prize no rational man could refuse.
The future of the Third Reich, and the victory Soviet Russia bled for lay within this mountain fortress. Its external defenses sat at the ready as the remnants of our elite S.S. Troops, having abandoned their Berlin defenses, flowed south behind us.
Berlin soon fell, but much to the Red Army Supreme Commander Zhukov?s disappointment, Hitler was not found in its ruins. Seeing this deception only after the fact, Zhukov turned his forces southwards toward the only substantial body of resistance remaining in Greater Germany.
Following our arrival, our troops filled their stations.
The River Elbe and my Division with the US 1st Army lay one hundred miles to the west of my current position. They should just be beginning their planned meet up with the first arriving divisions of the allied Russian Red Army, signaling the victorious procession to the end of the war, which for me however, perpetually seemed to lay just beyond the next battle.
Standing here among the green rolling hills looking west into Bohemian Czechoslovakia at the mountain which directly stands between us and victory, I remind myself, that total victory has no exceptions. Like the Battle for Berlin this Redoubt before us was going to be solely the Red Armies prize.
As one of the few American Liaisons embedded with them to coordinate our meet up on the Elbe, I stood here in witness of the endless columns of Red Army soldiers in pursuit of this previously unimagined, even once mythical and now unavoidably realistic obstacle.
The approach of the Red Army was not one of a tactical nature; the Red Army did nothing covertly. Despite their inferiority for years the Nazi?s S.S. soldiers had routinely routed superior Red Army forces due to this lack of subtlety. The Red Army living up to its nickname had a singular solution to the Nazi?s tireless maneuvering, endless soldiers and equipment.
Stalin stood at the head of the Soviet State as yet another Russian Emperor demanding victory as the only outcome to any battle for which there was no cost too high in obtaining. The Red Armies blood flowed in the pursuit of Stalin?s goals like no army history had ever witnessed. The Soviet had literally washed the Nazi occupied soils of their Mother Russia clean with the blood of the uncounted millions of conscripted peasantry they dressed up and presented as soldiers before me today.
To watch the Red Army in the field was as I observed in my few short weeks with them, like seeing the slow agonizing death of one of nature?s noblest beasts. It was as poetic and glorious as it was ignorant and torturous to see so many lives thrown into the fire to meet the unrealistic schedule of a Tyrant. The Red Army won and yet somehow lost every battle they ever entered into, and that is to say that surely no opposing army ever encountered the same Russian soldier twice.
Seeing the mechanized arm of the Red Army arrive on the field was a wonder words could never describe properly. This late in the war, they at a whim fielded thousands of tanks and uncountable artillery pieces, yet still managed to fail to meet their potential, leading to the ever predictable retraction so as not to destroy their own advancing troops who would share in the overall incompetence of the attack, which time and again found the Nazis back at their stations ready to bear witness to the next rising tide of farm boy blood.
For what was it all for I asked myself continuously? To allow incompetent Generals the right to be weighted down with one more metal earned at the cost of a few thousand more lives, or to claim back the right to rule over yet another people whom only the death of the last had afforded them.
This is what watching the Red Army brings, contempt for the methodology of this system and as the bile rises in my throat to speak to these allies of ours. I must measure every word before it is spoken or risk future generations of their stout youth being impaled on our own bayonets in the name of some perceived insult or betrayal through their Commander?s eyes.
Collecting my thoughts just short of a breakdown I swallowed my pride and focused on our objective. Right here and right now these murderers of Russian youth were the lesser of two evils and though I am certain we will live to regret this convenient ally. Right here and right now is our chance to use one evil to rid the world of another at far less of a cost to our own than would ever be possible should we attempt to be rid of them both ourselves. It was a fire sale only morality would not attend; every other inclination demanded one was better than two.
The Red Army artillery began firing on the Mountain Redoubt with tremendous force the likes of which I had only heard like a thunderstorm on the horizon while south of Berlin. This close the force of the cannon blasts hit me in the chest like a well healed boxer. It was standard operating procedure for the Red Army to open every siege in this manner, just as standard as it was for the Nazi?s S.S. Divisions to survive these ground leveling attacks mostly intact.
The following morning, the Red Army attacked again. The forests around the Redoubt, reduced to stumps and fields from the previous night?s barrage, saw the Nazi?s external defenses obliterated and yet the terrain?s new chaotic formations remained equally defendable and thus the dance carried on like so many before it though none with so much riding on its outcome.
Inevitability unfolded before my eyes. I watched because I could not turn away but this spectacle of destruction was dumbfounding in its hypnotic allure. The end of the day saw the Nazi troops replaced by piles of Red Army corpses too deep to walk through but even that would not stop their advancing armor.
This sort of thing cannot happen anymore! I screamed to myself, but was powerless to change this calamity?s course as Zhukov ordered wave after wave of soldiers to die for one more foot of ground and where each attack failed the next continued because it could not be denied he was gaining ground. The logic of his processes was staggering and his flaw recognition nonexistent, for this man did not act based upon his own merits. Stalin held this mans hands bound, and Zhukov, like his soldiers, had nowhere to go but forward. I could read this in his eyes; it was their lives or his.
The following day brought relief at last. We won the field at a cost in lives that was quickly being shuffled away by an equally large army so as not to clot the flow. There was a favorable plan this morning to deal with the next obstacle before us, the tunnel defenses leading into the Mountain Fortress were to be conquered through a series of coordinated tank attacks.
?The Joseph Stalin II Heavy Tank, the latest in the Soviet?s Arsenal,? my counterpart Alexei said to me with a smile as these monsters made their debut on the field before me. Not a moment to late I thought either. These tanks, an almost solid chunk of steel distinguished only by the cannon sticking out of their massive turrets, were to be the surprise we needed, for which the Nazis had no answer.
A line of these unprecedented behemoths rumbled past our observation dugout more than a hundred yards away, shaking everything around me. Proceeding toward the tunnel?s entrance each tank fired at its closest approach then abruptly turned rotating out of the way, to let the next tank in line approach and fire, as the first cycled around to the back of the line.
Generally impressed, but not seeing a lot of initial progress and less willing to witness as one more valiant effort turned into another pile of bodies. My hunger and I retreated back up the road to the newly forming Field Headquarters for a meal and to generally observe operations as often I did. My handler Alexei, never more than a step or two behind me, soon joined us as we found our meal.
At least I think this was a meal.
Lacking from the front line excitement and not wishing to face down this meal undistracted, I searched in vain for some middle ground between the deaths and staring into space while I contemplated my plan of attack for choking down today?s unfair faire.
Witnessing a soldier being scorned by his Sergeant, my opportunity arose. Figuring it was safer to approach the Sergeant we followed him from the chow line, and with a few choice looks and comments were soon discussing the issue he had been discussing with his retreated and scorned disciple.
It was what he called, a farm boy fantasy. S.S. soldiers being shot only to get up afterward. To which he continued, ?Probably just wounded or perhaps another solder from the same direction,? looking sad at his last statement. He leaned in and quietly said, ?I have seen this as well.?
I looked at the Sergeant with a skeptical eye. He retorted, ?that is the exact response I received from my captain.? I smiled and shook my head and he concluded. ?So I crush these rumors first hand, but really, I have seen it myself.?
Pausing a minute while he looked around the tent carefully. ?It was a few months ago,? he said, ?we were outside of a railway junction back up the road. I had just finished my rounds; we had the weekend off and were staying in the rail house, when a messenger arrived. He told us we had to turn back up the road to deal with an unexpected surge of resistance fighters, Nazi collaborators. And we did, there are no refusing orders or delaying where I come from, so back up the road we went.?
Walking toward an unoccupied table in the corner of the dining area, we all sat down and the Sergeant continued, ?when we arrived on site there was nothing to be seen at first. Then a series of shots came at us from a house up the hill. We pursued. It was, an easy enough fight. We only lost four men, they a dozen or more.?
Leaning in a little closer, ?the barn behind the house drew my snipers attention which after a few shots drew mine. He kept picking guys off in the barn. I sat and watched with him for a while, as every chance he got, he shot another S.S. soldier. Just common foot soldiers you understand. I told him there must be a whole nest of them in there, so we called for artillery support. Around midday, after a few well missed shots the barn blew to splinters.?
?So finally, when we were sure it was clear we walked up to the barn proud as could be and what do you expect we found??
Spellbound, I blinked.
?A solitary soldier where we had expected to find a pile of corpses, there he was, impaled through the ribs from the force of the artillery?s explosion with one of those large harvesting tools but for all I could tell none the worse off. I smiled at him and shot him in the chest. He smiled back. My smile fell to the ground and I shot him several more times. This guy would not die. Each time I shot him, it looked like little more than me punching you in the arm.?
?Anyway,? the Sergeant looked around again, ?we took him prisoner, sent him back and moved on and that was the last I heard of it. But to this day, the word from the top is to stifle these false defeatist rumors. And I do.?
I became aware of myself again. A little too engrossed in his story and found myself, for the moment believing it as well. I looked over at my handler Alexei whom having long since finished his meal was now nodded off, apparently not interested. I asked the Sergeant, ?and this is not an uncommon story then??
He frowned, nodded in agreement and said, ?whelp this is my cue, back to the front, pleasure chatting with you.?
?Nice knowing you,? I said with a wink.
He did not smile back.
Nudging my partner, we got up and walked out the door behind the Sergeant. Alexei leading the way, slowed then stopped between the trucks parked outside, turned and said, ?that is not the smartest thing to do around here.?
I replied with a smile, ?I am not from around here.?
He laughed and continued, ?just keep in mind that the truth is a dangerous weapon and no one here needs anymore danger than we already have. For both our sakes please.?
I nodded, ?of course Comrade. Let us get back to the safety of the battle then, and see how they are doing.?
Antagonized by my sarcasm Alexei continued talking on our walk back to the observation bunker, ?truth means nothing without priority,? he boldly stated.
I looked up like I was listening. He said nothing else so I asked, ?you don?t find truth to be an anchor in an otherwise chaotic world??
?Whose truth should anchor me?? he replied.
I said nothing and in my vacuum he continued, ?you have a minimum of two truths even in the best of cases: The truth of the person who is right and the truth of the person who is wrong. The capacity to decide the difference, drawn from our own priorities, defines for us, right from wrong. Without our priority we cannot say with any degree of certainty whether right exists at all. Without it, we have simply two people, each telling their own version of an event. It is with the priority of the observer that we define the rightness of one over another and through something as arbitrary as priority, do we decide what truth is.?
I walked on in silence for a few minutes before retorting, ?truth to me is what the majority of people can agree upon. Truth is tested over time and cannot be denied, until truth fails to meet the test, then it is modified to make up for its shortcomings. Truth remains the goal despite the burdens it encounters. We do not always know the truth we seek and our path toward it is rarely straight but we pursue it none the less and are all the better and much the wiser for the trials our failure's force us to endure.?
?So your priority is truth?? Alexei concluded.
We walked on in mutually confused silence, toward the only truth we both knew was waiting for us, but only I seemed to dread a new exposure to the continuance of this barbaric day. I wondered why I was even here, this was not what I had signed up for and every step I took brought me one step closer to seeing things I might never again forget.
It was another afternoon paying careful inattention to the smoking hole in the side of the mountain before us. The Reds had breached the tunnel while I was gone and were inside fighting within what sketchy reports held as an enormous and well defended cavern deep within the mountain, with hints of further stifled accounts of men, S.S. soldiers, not dying when they were suppose to.
As Alexei had suggested, I dismissed these rumors as fantasy and whether for his sake alone, or for my own nagging disbelief of such a possibility, or simply because such information was not actionable from my position, I allowed these curiosities to pass without further disruption.
But in my own mind, right along with the once rumored existence of the very Redoubt I now stood in front of, I knew consensus meant something. Dismissed as popular myth by the General Staff, the frequency of these reports was difficult to ignore. ?What uncommon valor these men have,? Zhukov was rumored to have said long ago, ?what I could do with men of that caliber.?
It was well after midnight when a series of screams and a puff of smoke drew our attention again, we all looked up to see yet another image that might haunt me well past my death. Why was I here? I screamed inside my head as I dug my palms into my eye sockets deep enough that I might finally be blinded to this horror.
Early that morning the news came. We were in control of the tunnel and adjoining cavern. I did not ask the cost, I could not live with myself knowing the full truth of what I had witnessed and maybe my formerly stifled inquiries had made me cautious of what I should ask of my hosts. The battle was drawing to a close, that was enough for me and as the Redoubt guard dwindled it became apparent that they could be killed, that these rumors were the stuff of farm boy fantasy. The Nazi?s invincible S.S. was fading into history at long last.
Hitler was captured that evening. Alive!
I was not near Zhukov when the news hit but I knew this moment was one of great opportunity. His ego would be my ticket inside the Redoubt to fulfill my role here. Moving quickly, I converged on the point I knew he would have to cross to reach the entrance and sure enough, as he approached I was swept up in his wake, as the only certainty more pleasing than a conquered foe, is witnesses to the account thereof, and into the Redoubt I went.
My mind raced faster than my pulse as I absorbed every detail I saw. This fortress was the stuff legends are born of, I thought, as I followed Zhukov?s entourage up the long tunnel into the mountain.
The official tally was not in of course, nor did I expect one, but the body count required in its capture held future promise and as the closing days of the war began so would the looting, which among my more tactical purposes, was where I came in, to make note of this sort of technology.
Following our short hike we entered into the first chamber. A huge cavernous space opened up before me like I had walked outside again only as I looked up, I found there were no stars to be seen, nor was there any ceiling I could discern through the smoke.
The vast floor of the cavern was covered in a mostly destroyed labyrinth of tank traps and barbed wire obstacles that separated us from a multi leveled structure clad in burnt out machine gun nests and artillery positions forming the opposite wall. To the left, a bright light shone out from a tunnel next to a large door blown off its hinges. It was toward this light our party progressed.
Beyond a bank vault like door still teetering on its last hinge, pressed open by an armored vehicle pinning it against the wall revealed a tunnel lined with windows down each side through which you could see the flicker of water filtered light.
Through this curiosity in wide eyed silence each member of Zhukov?s party passed relieving their disbelief of the spectacle onto the next man as they stepped into the more familiar safety of the granite walled second chamber beyond. ?An enormous sphere suspended in a liquid shell some twenty five meters around it,? the officer leading the way said to Zhukov, of our new surroundings, as we entered.
Unnoticed or unconcerned with my presence, I continued to follow them through the second more complex chamber; down a long hallway, around a corner; down a second longer hallway, up a dozen flights of stairs; along another hallway, into a huge room, leading to another room to the left.
The guards stopped me at this point. Zhukov, still ahead of me, walked into the room and stopped at the edge of my line of sight. I could see him standing there but I could not see more and as I stepped to the side, his guard jabbed me in the ribs with a rifle butt. This was as far I was going.
Hearing Zhukov mumble something incomprehensible, I leaned forward as the almost respectful tone of his words danced by me. The guards turned at this as well and I slipped right and caught a line of sight view of Zhukov?s cornered quarry.
There he was, a short old man; the funny mustache was the only recognizable marking I needed. He frankly did not look the part, they never do. Suddenly yelling in German pierced my eardrums. It was Hitler all right and what a voice, this man commanded all around him. I was surprised not to see Zhukov fall into line behind him as his barking echoed off the granite walls; I know I felt it, like some sublime force, pulling me off course.
The shouting continued. It grew louder and more terminal. Something was coming, and under Hitler?s yelling I heard a second voice in Russian saying, ?I told you this was true! You did not believe me,? said the Colonel walking past Zhukov, ?look at the blood on him. That is his blood. Does he look wounded??
The Colonel now standing in front of Zhukov stared intently at the doubt in his Commanders eyes slowly shifting toward himself, he drew his pistol in response, turned, and fired it once, twice, and Hitler fell. Zhukov shoved the Colonel and his guards quickly mobbed him.
Hitler lay on the floor.
I moved in closer. He was bleeding, lying in a pool of blood. He was hit badly. The Colonel yelled, ?watch him!? from under his pile of guards and then it happened. Hitler slipped around a bit looking for traction. Zhukov and everyone in the room took a step back mentally if not physically and stared as he rose again like the shouting which followed.