Good morning! How are you guys? Currently I’m enjoying the cool spring weather and scanning the sky in the hope that a few rain clouds will appear some time soon. Now, we’re up to Chapter Ten, so let’s jump into it!
The door clicked shut behind me and my stomach clenched. I found myself in a tiny space, I had to curl my knees up to my chin to fit in. It was cramped and horrible and my breathing became erratic. What if I was trapped here? What if he never planned on letting me out again? Panic made sweat break out on my forehead.
My breathing hitched as the muffled sounds of voices outside the boat came to my ears. A military voice. That tone could be recognised in any language on the planet. “You there! Stop! Don’t move.”
Forcing my breathing to become regular, I pressed one ear against the outside wall of my cubby space. I could hear the men barking out orders and I instinctively realised that these were the Military Policemen we’d avoided all along.
“Benjamin Simeon?” snapped one of the MPs.
Simeon’s voice was low and calm. “Yes.”
“Benjamin Simeon, you are under arrest on charges of being absent without leave, of fraternising with the enemy and aiding the escape and return to action of enemy soldiers.”
I strained my ears and heard the clinking of handcuffs. There were no sounds of struggle, but I was silently begging Simeon to run, to flee with me. Anything.
“Where is the German boy?”
Simeon said nothing. And for the first time, I saw him as something I’d never seen him as before. Not as a friend, or a guide, but as a soldier. A disciplined leader. And in that moment, I thought I would do anything for him. Turn myself in, deny his part. Anything.
But to reveal myself would only make his sacrifice in vain. I forced myself to stay in my hole, chin jabbing into my knees.
“He’s gone, eh?” demanded the MP. There was a pause and then he went on. “Restrict the docks, don’t let anyone in or out. Call reinforcements! We’ll search every boat here!”
Hours passed. Occasionally, I heard the MPs searching the other boats. I drifted into an uneasy doze, but woke with a raging thirst. Finally, the MPs searched Sullivan’s boat. I heard them clattering in the cabin, only two meters from me.
They did not find me. I was praying harder than I had ever prayed before. Begging God to keep me safe.
And He did. I fell asleep again and didn’t wake for several hours. The MPs were gone, and I had been awoken by the door being opened.
Sullivan’s head appeared. “You can come out now, boy,” he grunted. “We’re at sea. Shouldn’t be any problems ‘til we get to France. ‘less the Huns blow us with their subs.”
I had never been so grateful to get out of anywhere before. I crawled onto deck and collapsed there. I breathed in the delicious scent of sharp sea air and gave a sudden cry at being free. I was alive and I was free.
It was past midnight. The stars had never seemed so pretty or to shine so brightly. The only sound came from the prow cutting through the water.
I crawled to the rail, then stared down at the black sea and laughed aloud with delight. Illuminated by the moonlight, dancing in the white foam, riding on the crests made by the boat were dolphins. Silver dolphins also elated at being alive and free. I watched them, fascinated, and for a few brief moments I could forget everything—Ernst’s death, Ella Carter, Dr Roberts, Simeon’s arrest—all of it. For a few brief moments I was as free as those dolphins, riding on the wings of joy and gladness.
Several days later I awoke feeling slightly refreshed and mostly prickly. I flung aside the hay that I had covered myself with last night before sleeping, then I stood, picked the straw out of my collar and belt. I began to walk.
My arrival in France had been uneventful. Once we’d docked, I slipped away and left Sullivan to his own devices. And since then, all I had done was walk, avoiding French and English soldiers and making my way toward the front lines.
I could drink nothing but rainwater, and I could eat only the scraps I found by the roadside. I slept in ruined houses or unoccupied barns by day, while I walked by night.
I thought I should be getting close to the German lines. German soldiers. I kept walking, with painful slowness, trying to keep the weight off my ankle. Somewhere along the way, I found a sturdy stick, and I threw away my crutch and began to use the stick as a cane.
Eight days later I was there. I didn’t where there was, but I was there. From miles off, I could see smoke and flashes of rifle fire. The ground beneath me shook with artillery fire. I’d never seen a battle before, but the soldier in me knew one when I set eyes on it. It was hard to mistake it for anything else.
For several minutes I stood where I was, watching the destruction wreaked by the guns. Below me lay the skeleton of a village, decimated. I shook my head. Nein. Nein. Nein.
But I had to go to the battle to find my soldiers. So I walked towards the exploding shells. When I was among the shattered house of the village, I heard the screech of a shell in the sky above me. Without even thinking, I dove for cover beneath a pile of rubble. The shell exploded mid-air, scattering fragments of red-hot shrapnel all around me. I bit back a scream of pain as a sliver buried itself in my hand.
When the rain of metal abated, I climbed to my feet, struggling to see in front of me. A man ran into me and I grunted as he hurled me back. I staggered, then righted myself.
Another shrieking shell, then a deafening explosion threw me to the ground. I landed, breathless, on my back, then noticed a greenish fog falling over the village. It was hazy… hard to see…hard to breathe… I rolled onto my stomach, coughing as the chlorine gas seized my lungs. Panic clutched at me and I coughed harder.
What an awful end, I thought, bent double, unable to breathe. What an…awful…way to die…
With the last of my strength and wits, I tore two lengths of cloth from my shirt. I tied one over my mouth, hoping it would do in lieu of a gas mask. Then I crawled back into the shelter of a pile of rubble, tied the second slip over my stinging eyes. And then I lay there, trembling and wondering how long it would take me to die.
How are you guys? Have you had a lot of rain where you live (I know some of you have been in a hurricane lately, so probably yes)? Do you wish I would stop torturing my characters?