He stared down at the grave, silent as the lifeless of night around him. The earth was freshly dug and not quite settled. There wasn't much time for proper burials anymore, too much was happening. Often they happened in the dead of night after the other side had gone to bury their own dead. Except this was different. It was not an Englishman looking at an English grave or a German looking at a German grave. No, it was an Englishman looking at a German grave. Even more surprising was the fact that genuine tears and sorrow leaked from the man. Though he was barely a man, more of a boy really. But after being in the war for two years he no longer felt youthful or innocent. He felt old and broken, as if he had gone through an entire lifetime in two years. He still remembered what they had said about the war. It was to be finished by Christmas and all the young men could come back heroes after defeating the Germans. Two years later and he had lost countless friends along with comrades he had lived and loved with.
Then came the encounter. He had been deployed on the front lines at The Second Battle of Ypres. His luck, it seemed, had run out. Before then he had been behind the lines, mostly used as a medic. He saw the effects of war but was fortunate enough not to be seeing the gunshots and battles first hand. But Her Majesty's army was losing men fast. He was commanded to the frontlines in Belgium at Ypres. He had heard the horror stories from the first battle and was terrified of his first true taste of war. Sure, he had been trained but nothing; nothing can prepare one for looking across to enemy lines and seeing faces of terrified human beings. They were not the monsters that the government had claimed them to be, but they were people who held the same expression and defeat in their eyes as many soldiers from the Allied side. He had felt the bile rise in his throat. The only difference between those people and his people were the uniforms they wore and the language they spoke.
Then the gas attacks started. They had been semi-prepared because of the first Battle of Ypres. But the true horror of the gas was apparent moments after the Germans first attacked. The burning of the eyes and nose, the choking and the loss of senses would forever haunt him. But he was one of the lucky ones. He survived. Though, he was no longer sure if being a survivor could be considered 'lucky'.
He looked at the sky; it would be dawn in an hour or so. If he was caught here…well, that was best not thought about. He doubted the Germans had anymore use for this land after they buried their deceased here but he could take no chances. He looked down at the gravestone that marked the place where the body lay. It was not a true marker, simply a slab of stone that was marred with German words written in charcoal.
Kein Schmerz, Kein Leid, Keine Angst Angst
Erreichen Unsere Geliebten Menschen Schlafen Hier.
Pain tore at his stomach and he remembered the first time he and Peter had encountered each other.
He had been torn with pain, the only person from his platoon who had survived. He could barely see or hear. Everything was a flash and blur from the gas. He had stumbled out of his trench, exposed to anyone who dared to fire. Both sides were recovering and mourning their loses. Only the anguished screams of the wounded broke through the night. It was a bone-chilling sound rife with terror and pain.
He suddenly heard a noise aside from the suffering from the two sides. Footsteps, approaching him.
"W-who are you?" He cried out in English. He heard an intake of breath.
"One who is your enemy." Came the heavily accented English. He felt chills go up his spine.
"Are you here to kill me?" He demanded.
"No. There is too much pain and suffering on this battlefield. We must return you to your comrades."
He felt a hand guide him toward his side, the moans getting louder.
"Why? Why are you helping me?" He demanded. He felt the German shrug.
"My brother died today. You look like him. This is for Hans."
He was just deposited at his line when he asked one final questions.
"Who are you?"
"Peter, Peter Fleischer."
A year later Peter Fleischer was dead.
I hope everyone enjoyed this little story I wrote. It was an assignment for my creative writing class (sorta…not really. We had to make our own journal entry so I wrote my teacher a story). I think it turned out fairly well. This one shot is based slightly off of the movie/play War Horse. I adored the part where Peter and Colin were in cutting the war horse free..anyway. The inscription on Peter's stone should roughly translate to: no pain, no sorrow, no fear of fear shall reach our loved one sleeping here. If I screwed up don't blame me-blame Google translate. Please review! It adds so much more happiness to my day!