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Book One World War Three 1946

Book One World War Three 1946
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Episode 5 by Christopher Marcus

"As Heart And Blood"
- a story from the Third World War ... that erupted in 1946

by Christopher Marcus

Previously: Volunteer soldier, private Javier Gonzales, had only just arrived in Spain from his native Bolivia to try to hold the line together with the rest of the Spain's hastily upgraded national army and the NATO Expeditionary Force. Poised to break this line stood the combined might of two Soviet Fronts, ready for a final offensive into the 'old country'. Along with the rest of Javier's 5thOverseas Regiment his column was making its way from Bilbao to reinforce their allies ... but they didn't get far up into the rugged Pyrenees before they drove straight into an ambush by Communist partisans …

Episode 5
Date: Unknown
Location: Unknown

"He really doesn't remember what happened? Perhaps cutting out an eye will refresh his memory?"

Javier had only just come out of the darkness again - the merciful darkness of unconsciousness, but he immediately wished he could escape back to it when he heard the gruff emotionless voice next to him. He couldn't get anywhere, though. He was tied to something, it felt like a table, and the only darkness now was that which filled the small room (in a cottage?) that smelled of rotting wood, piss and fear.

The man who had suggested cutting out an eye, continued walking slowly around him and Javier discovered, by turning his head ever so slightly, that the man was not talking to anyone ... but himself.

He was a big man, broad-shouldered and had a face like a rock - bald and weathered. Javier vaguely remembered being hit by the man several times, before the darkness had shown mercy and descended over him. Before that he could not remember much.

The man caressed a big hunting knife; it seemed again like he was talking to ... it?

"Pablo will be impatient if another one of these traitors don't have anything to say … but you ..." - he looked again at the blade that gleamed slightly in the dark, because the glow from the man's cigarette reflected in it - " … you are different," he seemed to conclude. "You are patient."

He turned abruptly towards Javier:

"Well, what will it be? Will you talk?"

"I … don't know what you want ... " Javier stammered.

The man hit him hard. Javier's head was knocked to the side, but his body was still immovable, strapped to the table. He felt the warm, metallic taste of blood surge in his mouth.

" - Tell me when the next troop transport is coming, so we can hit the fascists and their NATO allies once more!" the man spluttered. "Hit them hard!"

"I - I don't know."

Another fist in Javier's face and then … the knife. The man was holding it in two fingers now over Javier's right eye, carelessly, as if he could let it go at any time.

"Look here, young friend," the man said, his voice ghostly. "I am very old, you know. My hands are not what they used to be. Things can … slip from them."

"I don't know when the next transport is going to be!!" Javier howled. He felt a deep nauseous fear bore into his gut now.

"That's a pity," his interrogator said and scowled. "I didn't want kill another one. Pablo will be disappointed. It took them 2 hours to dig you and the two others out of that truck's wreckage, you know."

Now it came back … in strange, clouded images bubbling up to the surface of Javier's wounded mind:

We were attacked … somebody had shouted 'partisans' … yes, that was it. There had been mines, too. Landmines. And rifle-fire. Oh, God … de la Serna. de la Serna had died right there beside him. One moment they were talking and the next … Oh, God … And he had grabbed for his carbine, scrambled to get out with the others. And then there was another explosion and the truck had turned over with a sound from the metal in its ribs that was almost like a wail, and then everything … turned round and round … and something hit him in his head. And then … the first darkness.

"Yes … " the interrogator nodded enigmatically, as if he had seen this kind of fractured remembering in his victims numerous times before and had to decide whether or not it meant anything - a postponement of the inevitable kill:

"Yes, that's right ..." he continued. "Your fascist comrades in arms didn't come back for you. Probably thought you were dead, eh? You should've been, too. It's normal when your truck slides down a mountainside, isn't it? Even if it's only 20 or 30 meters."

"I … the others … dead?" Javier coughed. He had to know.
The interrogator looked at him with something that almost, and quite perversely, resembled ... pity.

But it was only for a few seconds. Then he said:

"Two survived, beside you. One of them, a corporal - I cut his throat a few hours ago. He wasn't worth shit. The other, a big loaf, might be more fun but I doubt he knows anymore than you. They don't tell you grunts much, do they? Probably because you are traitors … "

"I'm not a traitor … " Javier tried to say, although it felt ridiculous to insist on - now of all times. But a part of him didn't want to die like this, being called that. He hated the word. His father had used it often enough about the men who had deserted his platoon in the Chaco War against Paraguay not so many years ago.

It seemed illogical and yet there was something in that particular word that felt more dangerous to Javier, if only for a breath or two, than the knife that still hovered above his eye.

A part of him still struggled in the normal way, of course - it was only natural: Think of this, think of that - how to get away.

And another part struggled with despair: It can't be over already. I never even got to the front …

And then there was that part of him. That odd, irrational part that made it important for him to press on to get it out - to say it:

"I'm not a traitor," he repeated firmly.

Was it a part of him that belatedly demanded the dignity he could never really conquer in his own, secretive, sedated life back in that desolate provincial town of Tarija? Whatever the case, even if he somehow got his wish - some surprising agreement of his self-assessment from his interrogator - in a few moments he would then be dead anyway. He was sure of that now.

"You are a traitor to me!!" the interrogator spat, " - To everyone of my brothers, you are! Coming up from your safe lil' homes - in colonies liberated from exploitation - coming up here to fight with the fascists now. But where were you when me and Pablo and our brothers got slaughtered by Franco?"
Javier had no answer to that. The man ranted on:

"We fought - and we were almost wiped out. But now we have another chance, for a socialist Spain. For a true Spain … !"

The sudden surge of defiance left Javier again. All he could do now was stare and the knife.

It seemed like it came closer to his eye, the more angry the man got ... the more he spurted out tirades against Franco, wailed about his lost comrades from the Civil War, or ranted about the glories that Stalin and "true socialism" would bring to Spain and how he, and other groups like his, would be "the vanguard" … Yes, they would pave the way for the victorious Worker's And Peasants' Army soldiers, by killing as many "fascist pigs" before the final Soviet offensive ...

… and so on.

The rant went on for a few minutes and the man never took away the knife from Javier's eye while he rambled, growled, raged - like nobody had listened to him for a long time.

Then he suddenly stopped:

"And now, amigo … you know why you are a traitor," he concluded.
That's when Javier decided he was indeed crazy. Perhaps the loneliness of living with these partisans, or whatever they were, hiding for years in the mountains, perhaps it had driven him crazy.

Yes, the man was crazy, and now that glory and redemption of his cause were near - in the form of the two colossal Soviet armies that loomed at the border between France and Spain - now he became even crazier. Like a small flame that blazed up, when sparks from the big fire fed it.

But it didn't matter that Javier had decided anything. It was just one last, worthless act of defiance.

The man raised the knife. Javier closed his eyes hard.

That's when he heard the first sounds from the outside he could not see - the first sounds he had heard in hours, aside from the rants of his captor:

Sounds like gunfire …

You can read Chris' own short stories at

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