The Writers' Block #49:
Theme - Opening Line is 'I thought you were dead.'
‘I thought you were dead!’ Archie jumped back, appalled and ashamed. But the man’s eyes just stared at him, not accusingly, nor with any apparent comprehension. They were vacant - like his mind was far away, thinking of sweeter things.
Archie thrust the man’s papers back at him, which he absently took. A photograph fluttered to the mud, face down. Retrieving it, Archie wiped it on his sleeve and glanced at the woman on it. He half-smiled and added it to the pile in the man’s outstretched, motionless open hand.
Guilt forced him to return the tobacco. The food ration. The watch. And the small engraved penknife. But still the man did not move, his eyes staring far away.
That’s when Archie became aware of the man’s injuries. There was blood coming out of both ears, probably a broken left leg and his breathing was laboured and painful to listen to.
Archie stood up straight. ‘Medic!’ he called. There was a distant whistle of acknowledgement and Archie crouched down. The rain had started again and he covered them both with his coat as best he could.
At least the shelling has ceased.
The man turned his head to him with a moment of clarity. He tried to speak, but dirt and muffled words mingled together.
Archie tried a comforting smile. ‘It’s alright, fella. I got ya. You’ll be fine now.’
The man showed no emotion as he tried to speak once more, his brilliant blue eyes searching in vain for some unknown solution.
‘Listen. What’s your name? I’m Archie. Me - Archie. You?’
From the jumble of throaty words, Archie heard one that made some sense: ‘Wasser.’
‘Wasser? Water? Yes. Here.’
Archie shuffled, found his flask and unscrewed the lid. He lifted it to the man’s lips and allowed the stuff to pour in. At first, the man coughed then he drank, insatiably, as though there would never be enough to satisfy his desire for it.
‘Alright, fella, slow down. Take it easy.’
Archie removed the flask from the man’s reach, then stuffed all the objects into various pockets of the man’s uniform. ‘What’s her name? The lady? Er - was ist her name?! Das frau. Or is it fraulein? Frau?’
The German perked up. He whispered, painfully, regretfully, longing and pining at the thought of her, ‘Sie ist meine Freundin. Meine Agnetha.’
‘She is beautiful.’
They looked at each other - two men who could be friends in any other setting.
Archie smiled, then called out, ‘Where is that Medic?!’
A whistle peeped twice. They were close by.
‘Mir ist kalt.’
‘I don’t know what you’re saying, fella. But keep talking if you feel like you want to. Tell me about Agnetha.’
‘Agnetha? Sie ist schon. Wir sollen heiraten. Sie will zwei Jungen. Ich möchte ein Mädchen…’
A Medic arrived, scuttling over the rim of the crater and letting himself slide down. ‘Archie! What we got?’
Archie had been listening to the lilting words of the German. The chap sounded so sad. ‘Shh, will you? He’s trying to tell me something.’
‘Bloody ‘ell, Archie. A Kraut! You called me over ‘ere for a fuckin’ Kraut!? Our men are injured, too, you know!’ and with that he stood up and scrambled back to the top.
‘Oi!’ shouted Archie. ‘Help ‘im, will ya?!’
The Medic looked down at them both. ‘He’s a gonna, Archie. Too late for ‘im. We’ll pick ‘im up later. First, I’ve got to help the living.’ He turned and ran out of view, shouting some instructions to other unseen Medics across the battlefield.
Archie frowned, feeling let down and confused. ‘Sorry, about that, fella. Tell me some more about Agnetha…’ and he stared into the blue eyes.
But although the eyes looked at him, they were empty now.
Archie hugged the man, promising he would stay with him until the Medics returned.