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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Dark · #2309938
A village in Russia endures a Nazi invasion.
"Ivan, come here. Look at this present wrapped for you," Eva said.
Eva had spent the previous day folding paper printed with designs around different "Christmas presents" she had picked up on their farm. It was futile to try to get her to look away from a job once she had set her mind on it.
Ivan turned and looked at Mihail, leaving Eva crestfallen.
"Have you heard anything yet," Ivan asked his brother.
"Hush! I'm listening. Anna, get the coats on the children. Get their boots, too. We don't want to be caught in this village when they come," Mihail said grimly. Anna began to grab the children and force their arms through the sleeves of their coats.
"Mihail, can't you show some Christmas spirit, for just a moment," Eva pleaded.
"Eva! We don't have a moment. If we don't do this right all of us will die. That is the reality we face. There will be no Christmas this year!" Mihail stated.
"The Fall rains are over, and the ground has hardened enough that their tanks can travel across the land," Anna exclaimed in a desperate tone.
Eva cried quietly.
"But the children ... " she said.
"All we can do for our children is keep them alive," Anna stated to her friend.
There was the sound of a violin playing "O Holy Night" in the distance. A hauntingly beautiful sound, but bitter in its present context.
Eva suddenly looked up with fire in her eyes and determination on her face. The notes of the violin struck home with her. She stood up and went to the linen closet.
"The cold is not too bitter tonight. That's a blessing and a curse. It is warm enough that their tanks can get stuck in the mud, but not cold enough to freeze the lubricants they need. At least we don't need to worry about our children getting frost bite," Ivan stated.
"Hush! I hear something," Mihail said.
Ivan rushed to the window and listened quietly.
"Anna, get the children!" Ivan exclaimed.
Tank treads clanked in the distance.
Eva came into the living room with a pile of white sheets.
"Look, Mihail. We can wrap ourselves in these, and we will be invisible in the snow," Eva said.
"That's my girl! Now you are acting right," Mihail said.
"Children, place these sheets across your shoulders. If you hear anything threatening lay down on the ground and cover yourself in them," Ivan said.
The family rushed outside, moving like stricken sheep trying to find their way in the snow. The tanks grew louder.
The whole world had been reduced to three colors in the dark - the white of the snow, the black shadows of the trees' foliage, and the deep brown of the trees' trunks. The scene was mostly dominated by the white of the snow. Mihail looked at Ivan with his white sheet draped over his shoulders, and he realized that Ivan would be invisible in the snow if he was more than ten feet away.
"Freeze! There are soldiers between us and the forest," Ivan hissed.
"Stay here. I am going to lead them away from here," Mihail whispered back.
"Mihail, no!" Eva exclaimed.
"It is our only hope! I can die here, and you can get away. If I don't do that we all will die. Tell our children to remember what their father did for them," Mihail fumed.
Mihail took a sheet and wrapped it around his shoulders so that it hung down to the middle of his calves. He moved carefully, because he did not want to die before he led the Germans away from the others. The look on Eva's face said she would rather have a live husband than a dead hero as Mihail began a crouched run at an oblique angle to the Nazis. He stayed in the shadows because he did not want his shadow to draw attention to him. He stopped intermittently and crouched down with the sheet around him. Lights appeared ahead. The others held their breath. When the lights were turned away from him he began his crouched run through the trees again, parallel to the Nazi armored column. He dropped his sheet and ran standing up. His form was black against the illumination.
He made it to the street and yelled, "Die all Nazi swine! Nazis go to hell!"
Mihail turned and ran. The lights turned his way.
"The music! The music is still playing!" Eva fumed quietly.
The faint sounds of the violin playing "Oh Holy Night" drifted over the snow covered ground.
"Nazis eat maggots in hell!" Mihail yelled again.
Bullets smacked into the trees next to the road. One hit Mihail in the leg. He stopped briefly, but then he continued running with a massive limp, leaving a trail of blood on the snow. Bullets flew around him as his hunkered form continued to make its way through the trees. Finally he stopped and waited for the Nazis to catch up with him."
"That cleared the way for us to get to the forest. Come on! Let's go!" Ivan spewed at the women and children.
There was the sound of a Nazi submachine gun spraying Mihail. Mihail cried out. His two children wept briefly. Then they turned to follow Ivan. The faint strains of the violin playing "O Holy Night" fell silent.
"Come on! Move quickly!" Ivan said as the small group hustled into the night.
When they reached the cover of the forest Ivan turned and saluted his dead brother.
"That is one act of heroism that will go unheralded, like many other heroic acts tonight," Ivan muttered.
As the family moved through the night the flames of burning houses cast flickering lights into the shadows of the trees. The Nazis were dragging people out of their homes and shooting them in the head. Dead bodies were spread over the ground. Streams of blood ran across the ground. Out of a village of five-thousand people maybe two-hundred would survive the night.
Frozen tears trailed down the children's faces. Ivan realized he would have to take Mihail's place and raise his children as they were his own. He had to protect four children and two women. The family trudged deeper into the forest. Tall black trees towered over the party. They were alone and afraid. Their entire lives had been overturned. They were leaving friends behind, people they grew up with, people they had known all their lives. They had been a part of a community.
They saw two figures scurrying from tree to tree in the forest. As they became more visible it became apparent that they were young men. One of them had a Nazi submachine gun slung across his shoulder, and the other had a 9mm Lugar hanging about his waist. The previous experience had caused a craving for good cheer and good will among the four kids and three adults, and they greeted the young men enthusiastically.
"Hello, friends. Aren't the Nazis swine?" Ivan asked his new friends.
"Yes, God knows I want to kill Nazis. I hate them. We got out just as they were breaking down our front door. They didn't check the back door. You people have a real advantage with those white sheets. We could not see you ten feet away with those white sheets draped across your shoulders. You walked right up on us. I am Nikolai, and my friend here is Sergei."
"This is my wife, Anna, and this is my sister-in-law, Eva, I am called Ivan," our young hero said.
"What is that wonderful smell?" Ivan asked.
"It is sausage and cheese. If you have a knife I will cut some of this wonderful food up for you. It's good and nourishing," Nikolai said.
Nikolai brought out two white pillow cases crammed with food. There was no way to warm up their sustenance, but the calories were badly needed. The Russian people knew very well how important food was in cold weather. He began to cut chunks off of the meat, cheese, and bread and give them to Ivan who gratefully gave the food to the children. Their growing bodies needed many calories to fight off the cold. Food would be hard to get before long.
"What are you guys going to do with yourselves? Where are you going?" Ivan asked.
"We are partisans. We will help the people with the Germans' boots on their necks, and assist the Russian Army any way we can, when the time comes. Want to join us?" Nikolai asked.
"I don't know. We have children to take care of," Ivan said.
"Do you think their chances will be any better here?" Nikolai asked.
Ivan paused to think.
"You're right," he said dejectedly. "There is no safe place for children in Russia anymore."
"We will rest here for a couple of hours, and then we will embark on our journey to the port city of Sevastopol. We can get guns and ammo there, if the Nazis haven't taken Sevastopol," Nikolai stated.
The small group, four children, two women, and three men, began the long trek to temporary safety. Nikolai and Sergei took it easy at first because this kind of hardship was new to the kids. The two boys and two girls did fine at first, but they seemed to grow weary towards the end of the night when morning was coming. One night Sergei crept up to a German half-track and stole a pair of German binoculars.
The Russian countryside crawled with German soldiers. Sergei and Nikolai took turns with the binoculars, determining which insignias determined which units the German soldiers belonged in. They would make tallies of the different German soldiers and their units so they could pass along troop movements to their partisan comrades. If any of the partisans got caught they were immediately killed. Nikolai and Sergei also stole a couple of German Lugar handguns from a rear echelon unit.
Then one night the two young men got chased by a platoon of German soldiers in half tracks. Apparently they had been brought in to deal with the Russian partisans. Nikolai and Sergei slipped from hiding place to hiding place, but this German unit was relentless. The two young men killed a German colonel one night, and then the Germans became more aggressive. The whole group, Ivan, Mihail, the women and children, and the two young partisans decided to make a run for it. They took all the trails and backroads to get out of the area, but as soon as they stopped to rest they'd see two German halftracks full of soldiers coming after them. They would have to get up and run again. The children were moving like zombies. Only an hour of furtive sleep a night was especially hard on them. They fell asleep on their feet sometimes. The adults were not in much better shape.
One day Nikolai said to Ivan, "These Germans are turning up the pressure on us. Your family's chances might be better if you split off from Sergei and me. We didn't expect them to react this aggressively. We have a safe house not far from here. The Germans have not figured out what it is yet. Sergei and I will direct you there. I also have something you might need."
He handed Ivan a nine millimeter Lugar along with several clips of ammunition.
"This won't help you fight a whole squad of well armed German soldiers, but if a single German soldiers stumbles onto you while he's taking a piss you can kill him before he gets back to his comrades. This pistol might save your life, but remember, your best defense is stealth. Avoid being seen at all costs."
Ivan and Nikolai then shook hands, and they went their separate ways. When he got back to their camp Ivan was astonished to see all four children and two women shot dead. A bolt of white hot rage shot through him. Then he heard the sound of two soldiers talking in German. Ivan could only understand part of what they said, but he knew that they were congratulating each other on killing women and children. What a couple of pigs! Ivan chambered a round in his Lugar, and he crawled up into the rocks. He waited for the Germans to get near. When they were close enough that Ivan could see their blue eyes he shot the first one in the head. The other soldier reached for his gun, and Ivan shot him in the face. Ivan picked up his gun and tried to chamber a round, but it was jammed! He fumbled desperately with the weapon trying to get the bolt pulled back. Then Ivan saw two German half tracks loaded with soldiers pulling up to the base of the hill. He dropped the weapon next to the soldier he had taken it from. He scrambled up to find better cover. He might get one or two Germans, but it was just a matter of time until they killed him. As the German soldiers began to climb up the hill Ivan decided to circle around behind them. They were not guarding their flanks, so Ivan thought he might get a couple of Germans with his pistol if he did that.
As he positioned himself he saw two Germans approaching. Ivan shot them both in the head. Then he grabbed one of their submachine guns and put on the German web gear to carry the ammunition clips.
When the partisans found Ivan the next day he had a bullet hole in the middle of his forehead, with fifteen dead Germans in front of him. He died the bittersweet death of a true hero, but there were no flowers to put on his grave. It was winter, and too cold for anything to be in bloom.

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