This is my second entry here on Fiction-Press, but this is the second place where I have posted this story. Really I am giving it a gauge on a more hard nosed audience in pursuit of critics with constructive critisim.
I wrote this out of inspiration of my own Mauser KAR98K. It is a captured weapon from Stalingrad, but it doesn't tell me how it go that way. So, about four years ago, I created this story. After a six hour revision after discovering it with some other papers, it turned out better than when I had originally written it. You won't look at your old war relics the same way after this.
Please read and review. And of course: enjoy.
A Captured Mauser
Stalingrad, Russia; January 24, 1943
A Sdkfz 251 lumbered through the broken snow covered streets, pitching and rolling as if it was teetering over a narrow ridge of a mountain. What had once been a beautiful city of industry for the Russians, the Germans brought their blitzkrieg and their thousand year Reich to the cobblestone streets and buildings of Stalingrad, blasting them to the four winds with every ounce of high explosives from their shells and bombs. The huddled masses of what was left of the factories and stores looked more like eviscerated skeletons, their steel and concrete guts spilled over on the streets which the metal tracks of the personnel carrier trampled over.
Being surrounded was not his idea of going to war; neither was the idea of fighting in the harsh formidable cold. What he had on wasn't much to battle the elements: his green tunic with two layers of shirts under that, matching trousers, and his steel helmet. His boots showed more history than his uniform: scars over the leather, plus speckles of mud, blood, and even oil covered his hob-nailed boots. With each passing victory and retreat, more and more marks were added from the tussle of war.
He had no rank to speak of anymore. With hardly any staff to hold the ranks together, he was now a mere soldier; striped of being a sergeant thanks to the Russian Red Army. He had medals: an Iron Cross for one, plus a wound badge that he received from the opening shots of the pitched battle. But he never wore them. With the Russian snipers being top notch at their deadly art, he didn't want to be confused as an officer and be shot for it. And even if he did wear them, he was sure the Iron Cross would be sticking to his throat by now from the fringed air. If he ever survived this, he wanted to go to the man who ever designed this monstrosity that he was riding in and shoot him with his Mauser carbine.
The bastard could've at least put a roof and a heater in this thing, the young German complained to himself.
The long and shivering faces of the four other soldiers with him looked how he felt. He didn't know them nor did he care too. He had lost many friends to the Russian's and Hitler's taste for victory. The only thing that gave him comfort was his rifle: a 1939 Mauser KAR98K that was forged and put together in Berlin; someplace where he wanted to be at instant. His parents had a nice vacation house in the countryside not to far from the capital, and he longed for the warm fire and peace of it.
The half-track grinned to a halt, rattling the occupants inside. Some stood up to look over the armored sides of the grey beast while the young German just sat on the cold bench, clutching his rifle as of it was keeping him warm. Suddenly, his trembling trance was shattered as the rear doors screeched open, exposing an officer at the foot of the entrance. He wasn't hard to miss; he had a heavy winter coat on.
"Out, all of you!" he ordered with a throaty voice.
They scrambled to their cold feet as fast as they could manage, making their way out of the half-track and on to the snow covered, debris littered ground. They all stood at a trembling attention, holding their rifles in their hands. The sky looked sick; grey clouds mixed with black smoke raced through the air as the harsh winds carried them over the battered city that bore Stalin's name.
"Orders from the Fuhrer himself," the officer pronounced, still holding his pride as he spoke, "hold the city to the last man. For that we intend to do. The 6th Army shall make the Fuhrer proud."
They were marched through the streets, passing bodies of bombed out tanks and vehicles. The officer lead the way, holding his MP-40 at a relaxed port arms as he half marched through the city. The stench was horrific for the young German. The smell of expended gun-powder, human extremities, and rotting corpses that happened to be right next to burning fires which quickened the decaying process. It all lingered heavily in the cold, dry air.
As they coldly navigated through the torn city, he checked his ammo patches: he only had fifteen rounds, five of which were loaded already into his rifle. Supplies were low; the Russians had seized to vital airfields to the west of them and the last Heinkle 111 flew out only two days before. Now with the German 6th Army completely surrounded, it was only a matter of time before they were either surrendered or were wiped out thanks to Hitler's suicidal orders.
They stopped at a man-made fortress; a small pile of rocks that didn't stretch no more than a quarter wide across the snow covered street.
This is what we are fighting to defend; a pile of rocks that has no military value?
The harsh reality beckoned him to cry, but he held onto his emotions, fearing that he would get yelled at by the officer in front of the others; shamming him even further.
"You are to man and defend this section at all costs. Retreating is considered desertion and deserters will be shot. Hiel Hitler!" the officer shouted, throwing his left arm up to give the Nazi Party's salute.
The others returned it, but for the young German, the pride that he had for it had vanished long ago.
We're just a small pebble in a raging river, giving the Russians more target practice and hatred to kill Hitler. Good for them.
They waited for half an hour on their bellies. Sharp edges of the rocks below him along with the snow punched through his tunic and made him squirm for better comfort. He found it, but he was afraid that it was more of numbness setting in from the cold than him finding a spot on the small incline of cover.
A silhouette suddenly appeared over the foggy horizon, then another. His heart began to pump faster as more and more appeared through the haze.
"Sights to 200 meters!" shouted the officer.
The young German pushed his opened rear sight up one notch, pushing the locking tabs in as he slide it up to the number "2" spot on the dial. He took careful aim as he stiffened his grip around the brown laminated stock before he squeezed the eight pound trigger. The rifle jumped in his hands, the concussion from the blast and the report threw his vision off from his target. As he regained his sight picture, he saw the man he had aimed at slumped over in the street...dead.
He quickly pulled the bolt back on the rifle, producing its distinctive metallic and mechanical sound as he chambered another round into the breach. With a quick aim, he yanked back on the trigger, dropping another Russian soldier across the frigid void. Soon, his comrades beside him opened up at the advancing Russian tide.
He chambered another round in and was about to take aim at another soldier, but he quickly slide down the rocks as the enemy returned fire with their submachine guns and Mosin Naget rifles and carbines. Bullets hissed and popped all around him; one finding its mark on the German soldiers to his right. The jacketed 7.62mm bullet landed right in the young blonde's throat, severing vital arteries that showered his life's elixir onto his comrades. Within seconds from the hit and the combination of shock and the cold, he was dead.
The young German placed his rear sight back to the hundred meter mark and took steady aim at another assaulting Russian. With a hard kick and the sight of his enemy's red blood that stained the Russian's white smock, it signified the end of the communist's life.
Hot brass from the officer's MP-40 showered the young German and another soldier as the nine-millimeter rounds perforated two enemy soldiers up ahead. He brushed the hot metallic casings off as he welcomed their warmth. He fired his last two rounds almost blindly, only slaying one communist down in his wake of desperation. Reloading his weapon with a five round stripper clip through the top, he began to shoot at anything that moved.
Another well placed round marked the end of another German soldier; cutting his life short in an instant. Screams echoed over the cracks from their rifles as the Russians gave out their rallying cries to kill the Fascist. Fear instilled the young German as he loaded another stripper clip full of rounds down into the magazine...it was his last one. He cowered even lower behind the rocks as he took down another Russian with his Mauser rifle.
But his action was countered when a bullet fatally ripped through the air, slamming into the head of the comrade beside him. Blood, bone, and grey matter lathered him, steaming in the air as the warm tissue met the cold winter Russian air. He returned fire and dropped the Russian that killed his fellow soldier. At first he thought the white puff was rifle fire from the Russian, but he instantly saw the white cotton fabric floating in the air where the Russian had once stood.
As he fired two more shots down the street, not one finding their mark, he noticed one of his comrades climbed up from the rocks and started running away for his life. That idea was beckoning the young German as well when he fired off his forth round. He was about to do the same until he saw the officer turn his open-bolt submachine gun around and fired at the fleeing German. The nine-millimeter bullets cut him down instantly in the back, throwing his body down to the white snow that soon turned red from his draining life's elixir.
This put fire in the young German's eyes as he turned his rifle towards the officer. You motherless child. Wasting bullets on our men who want to live another day!
And with that thought, he jabbed the barrel of his rifle in the chest cavity of the officer and squeezed the trigger for the last time. The muzzle blast split the officer's chest open almost at the seams as the eight-millimeter bullet ripped through his back. Without a shutter from the quivering nerves, the officer laid lifeless on the ground.
The young German pulled back the bolt to his Mauser and pushed it forward, but it didn't go any further. He looked down at the breach and his heart sank as he gazed at the magazine catch...he was empty. Discarding his rifle, he picked up the officer's MP-40 and hammered out the last rounds in the stick magazine down the street, causing some of the Russian's to either spring for cover, or be sent to the afterlife. When the bolt slammed forward on an empty chamber, the German dropped the weapon and dodged his way out of the ruined city.
Stumbling through the snow, he made his way west into the country side. Ever step became harder as his joints began to freeze from the harsh climate. He was shivering uncontrollably, his arms crunched around his chest as he fought to stay warm. When his shakes became too harsh, it sent him to the frozen tundra ground. He didn't feel his knees hit the ground for they were so numb. His teeth rattled, his chapped lips shivered as he looked up at the cold grey sky. Black smoke filtered in and out of his sight, looking like waving black hair in the dim sunlight.
He missed home at that instant. Longing for his parents and a warm house. But he knew he was never going to see it. He whimpered out his last and final prayer as hypothermia began to set in. His last act of defiance came when he threw his helmet to the four winds, casting his allegiance to a madman away as he did.
His heart rate slowed as the cold took him in. At one point he didn't feel pain for his nerves had frozen to his brief delight. Soon, hypothermia took its cold and demented course; slowing his heart beats to a deathly halt as he closed his eyes for the last time.
A green canvas truck slowed to a halt near the rock pile that a small band of Germans had called a defensive post not to long ago. Several well clothed men jumped out of the back of the truck and started sifting through the laid down arms of the dead. One of the weapons they came across was an empty Mauser; its bolt still back. They tossed the rifle in the back as if it were trash. Soon, they moved the bodies over to the side of the street to feed the stray dogs of war and to make way for their army's last push to cast the Germans out of Joseph Stalin's city.
Months past as the rifle was sent to an armory. It was stripped down completely, it's serial number electric penciled all over its parts as they were put to storage. For years it laid in boxes, dormant from the acts of war, staying cold without firing cartridges to warm the barrel and breach, it's pieces like a broken family, scattered and never seeing each other.
Until Mother Russian collapsed under Her own weight.
"How much for the Mauser?" a man asked. He stood over a couple of glass display cases that showed the latest pistol models. But all he was concerned about was the laminated stock of a Mauser KAR98K.
"Two-fifty, sir." replied the gruff looking man across the counter.
"Yep, Russian's are finding capitalism very well."
"What do you mean?" asked the man with an odd look.
"Well," fumbled the salesman, "these were captured during the war by the Russians. From what I hear, this one was taken during the Battle of Stalingrad from the 6th German Army. But that's based on hear-say," he stated. "Anyways, when the Curtain came down, they started needing money and all. Well, they found these captured weapons in storage bunkers and had them put back together and sold to the Americans and whoever wanted them. They put an 'X' in the middle of the year and factory code to show that it is their war trophy."
"Spoils of war, eh?'"
"You got it. So, will you be taking home a Mauser today?" asked the salesman.
The tall slender man twitched his lips before he nodded. "Yea, I'll take it. What the hell, 'ya know. Might turn it into a hunting rifle."
"Okay, need you to fill out this form here, and need to see you driver's license."
The man placed the rifle in the back seat of his car. As he drove home, he thought hard whether to just put a scope of the rifle or change out the stock to a Monte Carlo aftermarket. He changed his mind completely and decided to leave the rifle as it was. The rifle looked decent as it was, and the nostalgia of it being in a major battle with the small dings in the stock to prove it strengthen is decision.
It was when he got home that he showed the Mauser to his teenaged son and explained what the man at the gun-shop had told him. The young boy looked it over with envious eyes, gazing and studying the markings, scratches, and dings of the weapon. He wondered at the thought of what the rifle probably had seen, but came to a conclusion that it was probably given up in surrender. He never fathomed that if the rifle cold speak through its cold steel and aging laminated wood, that it would tell the story of a young German, not much older than him, and about the last desperate hours of his life.
I hope you all have enjoyed this little short I wrote. And I thank you for being my audience.