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1941 – The Russian Front
The coldest winter in a hundred years-
It was madness. The noise all around, screams and garbled orders that no one understood anymore. The never-ending thunder of gunfire and shelling. Dodging, and ducking, slipping in the slush of mud and snow and blood. Friend or enemy, all looked alike in the swirling white of the cold.
And it was cold.
A soldier dodged behind the burnt-out carcass of a tank, and looked around. He was lost, disorientated by the foulness of the bloody Russian weather. There were bodies, some still moving, piled around the snow. Bodies of his countrymen and bodies of the enemy, turning blue beneath the weight of the winter. And what a winter! Never in his life had he seen such cold, such biting winds.
He gripped his gun harder, and glanced around again. Gott im Himmel, if he could only see something through the snow. It was just a swirling mass, with shadows moving behind it. His friends, or the enemy? How much longer could they keep on fighting in this weather? It was killing them.
There was a faint noise from the other side of the tank, and he stiffened, curling his numb fingers around the barrel of the gun. "Kamerad?" Something was stumbling towards him. "Kamerad?"
Another shell. He crouched down, trying not to hear beyond the ringing in his ears. If you listened hard, you could hear men dying. He should move- the advance would pass him by. Cautiously, he sidled around to the northern side of the tank, scanning the snow for movement. Nothing.
Mein Gott, ich bin-
A figure fell out of the storm towards him. The soldier raised his gun, ready to shoot. "Kamerad?" His finger curled around the trigger. Better alive than dead. Better alive. A sudden flare lit up the world in a flash of red, and the figure turned to look at him, claw-like hands outstretched.
"Neit- Neit-" An old voice. An old man, white beard and hooked nose. No weapon, no uniform, just a ragged coat and a stick.
The soldier squeezed at the trigger. An enemy was an enemy.
Bitte. Please. He could see the old man’s eyes now. And they weren’t afraid, just tired. Tired old eyes. The soldier knew he should shoot, rid the fatherland of another Russkie enemy. But – well, the tramp was going to die anyway in this cold. He reached out and pushed the man away from him.
"Go- you go." For emphasis, he spat into the cold air. "Not worth the bullets."