Steps of Delusion

Chase Meehan

Winter is a damned thing.  There is no dry state in such a time.  That’s all I can think about while they guided me into this little one candle hut.  Over and over again they repeat the word “Spion!…Spion!” and hit me, all the while I say “no” with the little energy I retain.  What’s the use of fighting such conviction? How will I convince them to eradicate the image of a German in another country’s uniform?  My body shivers as the candle’s warmth grants me some wicked joke of hope. How I wish that this hut was the wick of the candle’s flame.  

 I am ripped from my now beloved interrogation chair and taken outside.  While standing and blindfolded, I am tied to a post that can only bare one outcome.  I would think most would struggle in such a moment as this, but a sense of calm arises that seems to slow my sense of time.  My eyes close as I picture Alstadt. I drift off thinking of a tune that used to play outside a shop just two doors down from my home.  My fingers dance the notes as if they are playing an instrument not quite invented. The voices of the soldiers begin to drone out as I am there again, on the doorstep, watching cars and trams pass before me.  A smile places its presence upon my face bestowing a feeling of happiness unknown until this moment, as if I am going to that treasured stoop soon.

Just then, I notice some looseness in the rope around my right wrist.  The cold begins to dissipate from my body as a new sense of purpose lingers over me.  With a slight shake of the arm, and some interrogation from the fingers from my left hand, my right wrist becomes unrestrained.  A fool would give away such an opportunity like this with frantic movement, so I calm myself as I remember the walk towards the hut, past the post that almost captured my fate.  I recall a slight deviation in the woods to my right… must be something like fifteen meters, before a slight defilade. I must act. “What a cold night” is the last thing I hear the soldiers say as I take action and start running towards my intended escape route.  Blindly at first, I dash to the right of the pole, and the opposite of the voices before unfastening my blindfold. Bullets and screams chase after me as my one newly free eye catches the beginning of the change in elevation, all while my feet already know its presence.  The quick tumble down the small hill provides some much needed cover as my pursuers take aim from afar.  

Running is a simple chore in a time like this.  A chore I must say I have never completed with such efficiency before.  Conceilling my dastardly route is the protective fingers of the Ardennes.  Its stubbornness has shown through many a war, and now it acts as a backdrop that will mask my escape.  After much time, I reach a clearing. On its edge I stop and examine my future movements. The clearing is one of natural creations: some small outlying trees surround the perimeter, while the center is guarded by the poorly timed full moon.  Before deciding my next move, I listen closely for my pursuers.  

After some deliberation, what could have been a full ten seconds of silence, I began my push around the right side of the clearing.  This route contains some heavier shrubbery which would make my progress slow, but would conceal my further withdrawal if my ears had deceived me.  A small hut lie ahead with a small candle burning in the window. My hands began to feel warm as if they were huddled around the little ball of flame.  This warmth quickly leaves my body as the flame is extinguished. A hunger begins to consume me. This hunger is not one of nourishment, but one of desires.  A hunger of holding a rifle. A hunger of getting back to my lines. What is there left in a life such momentarily stricken as mine, but to take action against those who wish to keep it that way?  The sense of vengeance takes aim as I am further motivated to join the ranks of my own.  

At last, a road appears before me some hundred meters away.  I see lights that momentarily blind, as if waking from an unconscious state.  The heels of boots hitting cobblestone begin to ring out from behind it, beating in such unity as to provide an amplification of the rubber on stone collision.  The unity provides another clue. The soldiers of our ranks are of professionalism, yes; but more so are they the embodiments of tired souls. Their marches rarely fit the description of unity in these late days.  We march with scattered intentions, scattered thoughts, unified by one mutual feeling: exhaustion. These soldiers must be from the same origins of those I have just escaped.

The road does pose as a guide through this rough entanglement I now call a friend.  I use this to my advantage and decide to travel behind the convoy of marching soldiers, for one does not march in such orderly fashion away from a fight.  As I near what I believe to be the front lines, I began to hear voices; frantic voices that are muffled in a sense to obscure their travel to any distance beyond the intended recipients.  From here, my approach must be slow. One of great calculations.  

The location of the voices becomes apparent as I near yet another clearing.  This space is riddled with craters and remnants of past altercations in which many must have lost dearly.  The landscape of which is illuminated by the ever persistent moon. Spotting a small communications trench in the center in front of me, I weigh the futility of the opportunity.  The trench is covered by newly uprooted oaks, some of which display the vast power of the artillery from both combatants. It appears as if this route of escape is clear underneath, but the other side is out of sight.  How much open terrain is left before I vanish from the glow of the natural flare? 

The question could not be deliberated anymore as the voices appear closer.  Making a dash for the trench, I keep my body low and my eyes prevalent. The snow amplifies my movements as every step brings about a crunch that is ever more present.  Stealth is no longer an option as my frantic state drives me to run harder and harder to the protection of the devastated landscape. As I near its entrance, shouts from behind me ring out with confusion.  These shouts are different: foreign by origin, but aim at sincerity. This sincerity suggests for my well being, sincerity for questioning the choices that are about to be made.

Hesitating only briefly, I notice that the other side of the trench previously obscured from my vision is protected by some low lying tree shrapnel.  My run must now turn into a knee over elbow crawl as I make this final plunge for security. Keeping my body low to the ground to avoid the jagged edges of my salvation, I hear what seems to be the amplification of my heartbeat against the ground.  Its reverberation makes its way to my ear consuming all that enters it. My heart races as if being stirred by a final frenzy of fuel. A ridge lies before me that will allow me to slither back into the protective hug of the trees. As the shrubbery recedes, my crawl transforms into a hysterical run that aches for protection from the moon’s light.  As my foot enters the shade, a voice from the front issues the command to fire. With a rush of confusion and winter’s cold touch, my vision becomes dark and my wrists feel the irritation of rope. The snow beneath where I stand tied becomes stained with the color of delusion.