May 1945

© J. Francois Barnard - 5 February 2024

As dawn broke, Siegfried emerged from the trench that served as his uneasy refuge through the night. Casting a wary glance around to ensure solitude, he carefully moved westward, steadfast in his journey homeward to the Fatherland. The landscape before him bore the scars of recent battles with the Russians; the timeline of those encounters blurred in his weary mind—was it yesterday or the day before?

Wehrmacht SoldatThe pungent aroma of death intensified as he approached a farmer's desolate homestead. Within sight, a lifeless Russian driver remained trapped in the seat of a disabled truck. Dead eyes stared accusingly, prompting Siegfried to avert his gaze. A sombre realisation gripped him that somewhere, an old Babushka would mourn the loss of her son, evoking memories of his own mother. "Mama," he uttered softly, his eyes fixated on the westward horizon.

Yet, the pressing demands of hunger and thirst could not be ignored. Hastily scouring the homestead, Siegfried sought sustenance and stumbled upon another fallen comrade. In the deceased Russian's possession, he discovered a half-filled bottle of vodka. Tucked in a pocket were two slices of stale black bread and a modest piece of cheese.

Armed now with Russian rations, a rifle, and ammunition, Siegfried gauged the sun's position, estimating it to be around ten o'clock, before resolutely heading westward across the Ukrainian steppe.

Editor's note: The above story was the result of an assignment done in the Creative Writing course, Section The Craft of Style, at Wesleyan University.