A man finds himself in a WWII battle. A time travel story.
|Somewhere, not in space-time neither heavenly nor hellish, something, not solid neither based on carbon, silicon, nor iron, placed its creation on a spinning disc. It deftly laid a needle on the outermost track and observed.|
It was amused that creatures within that disc gave it a name, the universe. They searched for how it started and how it would end.
It added random fluctuations that caused the needle to skip and wander creating scratches and dents.
I was drifting off. From my armchair, I watched the snow falling in big clumps. Listening to the logs crackling in the blaze of the fireplace, my eyes grew heavy till another world absorbed my being.
The needle slipped.
A shaking as in a earthquake woke me. I was strapped in a seat. In front of me were large glass panes framed in steel. Beyond was a taut thick rope leading to a cargo plane. Right and left, above and below were gliders tethered to their planes. Next to me, on my left, was a moustached man piloting a plane. I seemed to be the copilot in a glider, and the shaking was from the glider being pummelled by the shock waves of exploding ack-ack.
Everything was out of focus blurry from the shaking.
The pilot was yelling at me, but there was no sound. A large black cloud appeared to the left and with it a shocking world of ear splitting screams, explosions, and all the thuds and cracks of a damaged plane. The familiar smell of charred wood and bodies ripped open invaded the cockpit.
“Snap out of it! Do your bloody job and grab the controls.”
I stared at him for his left side was a bloody mess. The plane was leaning left. I grabbed the wheel. The shaking spread throughout my body. Struggling with the plane, I sensed its reluctance as it resumed level flight.
From the open door behind us, a voice shouted, “The port wing is half gone!”
“We can’t control the glider much longer. Pull the release lever.”
Still dazed, I looked at the instrument panel.
“Are you daft? It’s on the floor. The red lever.”
I couldn’t let go of the wheel. “One of you, in the back, come forward and help!”
“Pull that red lever up.”
He pulled. The glider shook.
“The tether is stuck! The bitch doesn’t want to be let go.”
The shaking grew. There was the sound of wrenching metal then a whip snapped the air. The glider dropped like a stone to the left.
Screams from the back.
Gravity stretched my face and choked my throat.
“You’ve got to pull up harder!”
Planting my feet on the floor, I fought the wheel as we plunged through the formation.
Aircraft loomed then zoomed past, as ours shuddered and swooped down to its demise.
“We’re going to crash in that marsh. Tell the men in the back to prepare for a crash landing.”
I yelled, “Brace! Brace!”
I heard profanity, an anguished plea to God, and a primeval roar of defiance.
“Now, focus on the landing, Sergeant.” Then, he slumped against the straps.
Every muscle hardened as I pulled the wheel up. The glider groaned. Its nose lifted.
Water and reeds rushed forward. Straps punched into my shoulders, as with a roar we hit the water.
The port wing ripped away. The plane spun around.
Opening my eyes, I saw the Captain was dead.
Rising from my seat, I went to the back of the plane. Jagged holes crisscrossed the fuselage. Blood, guts, and dead men were floating on water red with blood. Out of twenty, only three were alive and unharmed. Their eyes were bright with fear.
I pointed a shaking arm at one of them. My voice quavered. “Corporal, help me strap the Lieutenant into my seat.” I took a deep breath. “We need to make it look like everyone died. The Jerries will come looking for the plane. Get your weapons and get out.”
When we finished our distasteful task, we joined the pair outside.
“Sarge, I see a farmhouse over there. We might find some food.”
“Right. We need to rest and plan what to do.”
We splashed through the knee-deep water and reeds and climbed onto a muddy road that led to the farmhouse. We were on an island. The Jerries had broken the dikes and flooded the surroundings.
“We’re exposed here. Let’s get back to the reeds.”
Hours later, near our goal, we heard a motor. A large rubber raft with six Jerries and an mg. was heading our way. We went deeper into the reeds, lifted our rifles, and pointed. But, we couldn’t keep them steady, we were so cold or afraid.
The Jerries didn’t see us and proceeded to the farm house. Disembarking near it, they were met by an elderly couple, apparently, the owners. One of the Jerries talked to them while the others checked the house and barn. Satisfied, they returned to their boat and motored away.
When the sound of the motor faded, we came out of the reeds and knocked on their door. The elderly man opened it. The aroma of cooking and baked bread nearly knocked me over.
His worried and puzzled look made me take off my helmet and introduce myself. “Hello, my name is Aaron, and we’re British soldiers.”
“Henry’s me name.”
“Call me, Jack.”
Lovely, that’s when I learned their names.
We stood there waiting for a response.
“I am Liam. Come in. You are very lucky. Tonight, we are celebrating the liberation of Antwerp with hazenpeper and cider. Do you know hazenpeper?”
“It’s rabbit stew. Emma, four boys are joining us.”
“Lads, we’re in for a treat. Homemade rabbit stew.”
There were cheers. Our spirits soared.
We added our rations to the table and between spoonfuls of stew we sipped the cider. Liam told us the Canucks were the nearest troops, across the bay, but we had no way to get there, for the Jerries had taken his boat. The only way off the island was at low tide, but toward the Jerries.
Rising from the table, we thanked them for their hospitality and retired to the barn.
Grabbing some hay, I found a place to lie down. “We can’t stay here. The Jerries might come back.”
Tom spoke. “What say we give ourselves up?”
“You can’t be serious. We’d be as good as door-nails.”
Jack cut in. “Our situation’s not hopeless. Search planes will be looking for stragglers.”
Henry suggested, “We could set up an ambush, take their boat, and join the Canucks.”
So, Henry’s the aggressive one, Jack’s the optimist, and Tom’s the defeatist.
“Do any of you have a smoke grenade? No? Well then, I know there’s one in the glider. At dawn, we go get it, and a Bren plus ammo for it, then wait for a rescue plane.”
“And, if there’s no rescue plane?”
“Then, Tom, the day after tomorrow, we go to Plan B. Which is Henry’s suggestion.”
“What’s Plan C?”
“If Plan B fails, we’ll be joining Marley.”
“Me thinks you love Dickens too bloody much.”
“Me thinks you need to get some sleep.”
There wasn’t much else said as all were weary.
During the night, I heard artillery and explosions from across the bay. The Canucks and Jerries were killing each other.
When I woke, Liam was standing over me. “I’ve brought a pot of tea and a scone for each of you. Light is in the eastern sky. Don’t leave anything behind.”
“Thank you, Liam. We’ll be very careful to clean up.”
“May God be with you.”
“And, as always, with you, sir.”
We quickly had breakfast. I had Henry return the tea set as the rest of us cleaned up. After a final check, we waded toward our glider. We arrived without event to discover all the weapons were gone as well as the rations. The grenade was still under the controls, so our trip was not entirely in vain.
The dead were lined along the bank of the road, still in their uniforms, and uncovered. I didn’t know what to do till Jack took out his knife, and cut down the reeds to cover them. We all helped.
Several times we saw planes go by, but we weren’t in their path.
It was late morning when Tom pointed across the bay. “Look!”
All day we’d been hearing, seeing, and smelling destruction from that way. Now, it was obvious the Canucks had won. Five boats, half-way across the bay and filled with Jerries, were retreating our way.
I did a quick calculation. “Looks like fifty or sixty men… most of them in two boats. They’re heading for Liam’s farm.”
Henry picked up his rifle. “We can’t hide from that many. There’s cover at the farm, and the Jerries will be easy pickings in those boats. How about it, Aaron?”
I watched, as on a grey sea black boats with black plumes rising behind them…coming closer…if only we had a Bren…something was…
The needle bounced.
There was a sideways rocking with the smell of muck and rancid sweat. I was in a boat and wearing an S.S. uniform. Half a dozen men, with faces so dirty and desperate the white of their eyes blazed, sat next to me. One began shouting and raised his rifle up and to the stern. Everyone turned, raised their weapons, aimed skyward, and fired.
I couldn’t hear a thing until…
An orange ball of flame mushroomed out of the larger boat in front of us. Screams, gunfire, and all the sounds of a wooden boat being blown apart slammed into my body with the shock waves.
An engine roared, louder, and loudest then screamed away. An American fighter plane passed, soared, and banked.
“Thunderbolt! It’s coming back.” He glared and squatted. “Brace that m.g. on my back.”
I placed the gun on his back, sat down, and leaned back.
Another loaded and held the ammo belt. “Fire!”
I still couldn’t believe what was happening.
Another boat, on the left and three times as large, opened up with two guns.
The Thunderbolt’s wings twinkled.
“Do you want to die!”
I aimed. Fired. My arms shook.
Bullets splattered into the sea, then ripped apart the other boat.
I held down the trigger in a blaze until it jammed. I was in a world of deafening mayhem that churned my stomach.
Bodies and debris were tossed into the air, splashed into the sea, then floated to the surface.
Feeling sick, I looked up. Thin white smoke was trailing the plane. Someone slapped my back. “Good shooting.” Then, he grunted and fell into the water.
On the shore…orange smoke from a smoke canister…men firing at us… smoke drifting away… Aaron aiming a rifle at me.
The reeds swaying in the wind… my dead wife’s face wavering in the water...
The needle screeched.