1. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Winner MCWhite Short Story Contest (62): Nazi Officer

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Mar 8, 2010.

    MCWhite - Child of God

    Dear Mother,

    I wonder if you and fellow countrymen are aware of this army’s actions. If you can guess the source of the ash in the air. And if you are aware, whether you can by proximity rationalize it, dilute it, relegate it entirely to the world of dreams. Because that is the quintessential ability of the human mind: to tame reality, transform it into a weaker paradigm we are mentally able to perceive and endure.

    I can tell you mother, the human mind is a fragile thing, a reflection of the vulnerability of life. It was not made to witness the act of genocide. And genocide is what I have been a part of. I, soldier of the Third Reich, herding innocent people into chambers that turn them from beings into ash. How is that a testament to the immortality of our species? What benign God would watch as his creations were burned alive and not come to their aid? Their screams are heard for miles. Surely they aspire to the heights of heaven.

    Those screams reverberate through these walls and within my mind, spectral and immutable, affirming what I believe will come to pass should Germany prevail. One day on earth there will be held a funeral where all witnesses to the burying will be ancient and themselves half-buried and there will be no child’s whisper to break the grey dawn. Because genocide has no end apart from apocalypse. It can only spread like some virulent plague. Today it is Jews. Who might be included tomorrow? What race or culture or religious group? And who next? Already there is no discrimination in age. There are bodies that stood no higher than your knees rotting in the graves here. How does the mind even begin to fathom the reason in that? At some point everyone becomes a minority and we will all die at the truculent hands of hate; men, women and children alike. And to Hitler such ending of the world might be perceived as the zenith of his empire, the final solution.

    I put a knife in a prophet yesterday. He used to be our neighbor. You would remember him were I to write his name. He was a kind man; a Jewish man. He asked me to hasten his life. In such simple terms too. We stood there parted by barbs, feigning readiness for an act immune to preparation, seeing each other and knowing in those quick glances that our positions on opposite sides of the fence were not the end result of our actions but fate, like the unraveling of a vast tapestry into which we are all threaded in finite strands, unknowing and therefore not unwilling. His hands, delineators of the better life he hadn’t lived, striae and dry like paper, gripped me through the wire as I forced the blade into his concave belly. He did not cry out, did not utter so much as a whisper. Just looked at me in a gaze peaceful and somehow unaffected by what was happening around him, to him. A slow cataclysm of death, an event unreal even as he bled down my uniform in clotting gouts and into the pale earth to nourish the weeds swaying there in the stale air like mournful specters. At once his life relegated to a sanguine mire at the fence’s edge. The gentle dampness there and the hollow shell curled and steaming at my feet, antipode of is.

    I had never before seen the eyes of a man after life has fled them. Hollow and gaping for whatever reason might flit before them among the flies stirring the rank air and landing softly on the pooled lenses. They would not close. I wanted to whisper to him, there is no reason, that reason is not what is needed to be at peace with mortality. I didn’t and the eyes kept up their vigil.

    Those intransigent orbs resurfacing now in my memory, veined reminders, as if in passing minutes I might have forgotten what I had done. Father said the world contains within it neither right nor wrong, just actions. I wish I could ask him what this is if not wrong. Is murder only an action? Something more? Something less? Nothing at all, mere reflection of its finality?

    I wonder what restitution I owe Him whose child is now a memory and a stain. Can the dead be called as witness to the defense? For he told me God would not begrudge me this act, that he had served his purpose and this would be my final gift to him. Not malice but mercy. I asked what gift could there be in death and he said, a gift that is everlasting and unreckonable. He told me his purpose had been to see me through this. But I am not yet through this. He said, you are. You are.


    After it was done I had to report to my commander. He wanted to know what I had done. To account for the life lost. I told him I was disgusted by that pig and he smiled and said we all are, that they are the enemy and I had done well for the country. I felt sick.

    Later I met with the Fuhrer. I thought I was in trouble for killing the Jew that way. He told me I needed facts but disciplined ones, as though fragments of knowledge were children to be tamed. And by whom? By him, breathing colander of all I might come to know, filtering out the true from the less true and the untrue and he never wrong because facts are absolute things.

    He asked me about father and what he learned in life. My father? Yes. I don’t know. Saying I don’t know to Mien Fuhrer. I don’t.

    He said my father learned but that he could die and as a result did die. Before me this replacement father with stained hands dressed in red and black and khaki and everywhere the four points that meant death to Jews. That my father could die but I, I something more, soldier and servant of the third Reich who might now be ready for the terrible truth. That my father didn’t know? Yes, he said. That the Jews are the reason, the reason, and he is screaming this now in his excitement, speckling my face with spit in his blind fervor, and who could have had the courage to ask, Reason for what, Mien Fuhrer, like a naïve little child. I could not. I could not and I am sorry mother.

    He promoted me to lieutenant. In this army you murder a good man and are promoted. And now I know what I must do. Because he is wrong, we are wrong, this is all wrong.

    A man can be immured in his own life. I am proof enough of that. Often at nights I have wondered aloud whether this might be a test from God, a test I have failed. Or it might be that this is Hell; this my punishment. Father would not believe that. In that final letter to me he spoke of religion: We tether ourselves precariously to an elusive God with a brittle chain called faith that one day may shatter violently or slowly crack through the years. But I believe, in all our hearts, there is a tiny kernel of truth that recognizes, we really are alone, that there is no deus ex machina to resolve our terrible plot. Giving ourselves up to God means drawing away from reality and contributing to the root of the problem, which is, and always will be, deceit, to ourselves and our cruel existence. He wrote this before he committed that final act, an act I believe was catalyzed by this loss of faith. I realize now I never asked you what you believe. It is too late for such a question. I only hope you still have the solace of faith to guide you in these latter days and that you will not mourn what is necessary. As for myself, I do not know what I believe. It may be that I am following in father’s footsteps but not his philosophy.

    If death is prearranged is it still death? Or something else? Can you hold a meeting with it to dictate the terms, the how and the when? I have attempted to do so. Please forgive me, mother. It is for the prolonging of love that I must do so, that I might die with untarnished memories of you and father and my childhood still in my heart and there untouched, un-maimed by what I have seen and done here. To endure any longer in this place is not possible. I love you always,

    Your son.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Well done, MC! Good use of the epistolary form of narrative.
     
  3. yellowm&M
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    yellowm&M Contributing Member Contributor

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    Fantastic job MC!
     
  4. MCWhite
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    MCWhite Contributing Member

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    Thanks guys!
     
  5. LordKyleOfEarth
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    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

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    I liked this one a lot. Great job.
     
  6. whgoss
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    whgoss Member

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    I don't mean to revive an old topic but I found this to be a fantastic piece, quite moving as well. A couple of your metaphors were seriously profound. I thought I'd point the one that stuck out the most for me, in case you're interested: "We tether ourselves precariously to an elusive God with a brittle chain called faith that one day may shatter violently or slowly crack through the years."

    Anyway, great job.
     

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