Warnings: Mild profanties and occasional use of the 'f-word'. Also, slight crude racial-based joking between soldiers.
War was such a morbid affair. It was no wonder that no one wanted to go back to war after the first large-scale war known as ‘World War I’. It was difficult to swallow the defeats and even less easy to keep ones head in the heat of battle. There never seemed to be enough instincts in a man to make him ready to deal with it all, and most he knew considered it luck or the good will of God that allowed them to live.
“Hey, Sasha… you got a smoke?”
Aleksandr turned his head to regard one of the other officers sitting nearby and gave a shrug of his shoulders. It figured he would develop a nickname so early into fighting, but he supposed that was better than being screamed something in German. He only knew a few words, most of them being curses or crude names, though he was proud that he did know how to introduce himself. He could then tell them, “die pig-fucker”.
He fished around in his jacket pockets and found one of his last cigarettes rolling around. It was half bent, so he smoothed it out and stuck it between his lips, having to lean over to one of the others for a light. He took a quick drag before handing it off to the officer asking for it in the first place.
Settling back against the broken fountain, he kicked a stone near his boot and glanced around him. He settled in with three other men, some of the only ones that had survived the initial assault outside of Tula. They were in a small no name village off the main road, but it was a secure stop over point for the Germans, so they were forced to hold the position. If they were lucky, they could fall back to Tula when the order was given, but as of yet, they just saw bullets and no way home.
The three that he sat with had served a few more weeks than he had. Yegor had been voted their ‘commanding officer’ more out of jest than seriousness. The man was considered a veteran among their small petty group given the man had the most experience on the fighting lines. He was grizzled and tended to drink whenever he could; Yegor used to be a professional dancer and singer before the war.
Next to him was Mihail who they all just called ‘Misha’ since it was easier to scream out. He was only two years his senior and had some sniper training so generally covered their backs while they made runs to get targets for Misha. That was how they lost two of their group before this point, but they tried not to count their loses. Mihail was terribly religious as well and tended to sing prayers whenever he could, which annoyed him to an almost murderous degree… at least Mihail did a good job to warrant him staying around.
Sitting across from him on a log was a young man a month younger than him. They had been bored and compared their birthdays almost to a minute, so he was technically one month, two days, and seven hours older than Dmitriy. They got along well too, which was a nice bonus to their posting. Dmitriy tended to hold him back from making a suicide run all the time, though the occasional one he had ran Dmitriy had followed him in on.
They were not the best unit in the small dust bowl, but they tended to get the job done and never looked back when one of their own died. They all had a rather similar outlook – save Misha. They had once taken refuge hidden under the bodies of their own dead to escape German assault on the city and completed a dangerous sneak attack to force the Germans back. Well… they had been the only ones to *survive* the sneak attack.
Aleksandr patted his once green jacket, watching dust billow off of it. He took off his helmet and dusted that as well, sighting too many blood droplets all over it. He was pretty certain that he had spatters on his face too from the soldier that had had their face shot and the back spray had hit him.
Thankfully, he hadn’t been shot yet, though he had his share of scrapes and bruises from crawling around in the demolished remains of tanks, buildings and walls. He had even had to hide down the town well once and shot a German in the throat for looking down it at him; all hell had broken loose after that one.
He was surprised he was still alive really. He expected to be one of the many bodies that littered the ground, but not yet… Misha said that God was on his side and protecting him until he outlived his usefulness. That was part of the reason he only tolerated Misha for skill and not words.
Yawning, Aleksandre glanced over his shoulder at the sound of some falling rock for a building. His eyes narrowed as he rolled himself over onto his knees and set his gun on the top of the well, scanning the area for any source as to why the building had fallen a bit.
His paranoia paid off as a group of two Germans from a previous assault limped out from where they had obviously been hiding. He felt Misha settle in beside him while Yegor and Dmitriy covered the sides and back.
“Sasha… take left, I take right,” Misha ordered softly. That was probably the harder of the two shots anyway.
Closing one of his eyes, he took careful aim as the pair moved as quietly as they possibly could towards where the German encampment was stationed. His finger settled on the trigger, holding it firm until he was certain he had a good shot.
“Heeeeey, we should interrogate one. Sasha knows German!” They all knew the extent of his German, but it was obviously that Yegor wanted a little revenge. What better way than to pick on a wounded German to take out their aggressions on? “What you guys say?”
“They are best in hell,” Misha’s obvious comment came. He wouldn’t stop them, but he wouldn’t participate either.
“I agree. We have a report coming down a communication line anyway. Just shoot them and let’s have some rest for the evening. They may come at us in the night.” Dmitriy had never really stated how he felt about torture. The man always avoided the subject by providing at least a little logic to the situation, and they really had never caught anyone alive to pick on yet.
Aleksandr wouldn’t mind having a good crack at a German either. His frustration had built up enough where a little violence under his direct hand would have eased him again. Still, he was tired from not sleeping or sleeping somewhere uncomfortable, so he would have to agree with the logic of sleep for a little while.
He continued to keep his head-shot bead on the assigned target instead of dropping it down some. He waited for Misha to say the common Russian Orthadox prayer for forgiveness, waiting until the last word was spoken before he pulled the trigger easily. Misha fired a half second after he did, and both Germans fell without much of a cry.
Rolling back to sitting down, he braced his gun against his shoulder and yawned again. He disliked how killing a man had become such a casual gesture now after a few weeks of fighting. He blamed the damn Germans for invading; everything was their damn fault. The war, the bad crop, the increase in taxes… fucking Germans.
“Eh, what are we having to dinner,” he asked, turning his head to regard the other three.
“German?” Yegor laughed after the comment, and Misha rolled eyes. Dmitriy just smiled.
“I prefer Polish,” Aleksandr commented with a smirk. He managed to get two ‘oooooo’s of mock disgust from Yegor and Dmitriy. They all knew that the war formally started with the invasion in Poland and what bad things were going on there.
Dmitriy felt around in pockets and pulled out some dried meat. “Mmm, the last of the rations…”
“I’d prefer to eat my damn boot than that stuff. Tastes like someone pissed in it,” Yegor said with a huff. They all so wanted a warm meal and a place to rest.
“We should be happy with what we have and that we still keep our lives,” Mihail reminded them all. “Plenty of our countrymen never made it this far.”
They sobered slightly and all went silent. It was the German’s entire fault, he thought. They were going to take everything away, and he knew that he would eventually lose his life as well. Eventually, he was die on this spec of nothingness or have to draw back to Tula to hold the position there instead.
Yegor suddenly stood up, kicking aside some debris that was in the area. He made a circle that was free of debris and smirked down at them all. He smoothed down his collar as if this was some kind of real performance and took up a cheery tune, starting up with a little jig to keep them entertained.
Aleksandr had to smile and shake his head a little. He leaned himself more heavily on the fountain and lit his last cigarette, watching the sing and dance routine and tapping a booted foot along with the beat. It was one of the little pleasures that they managed to have, and it almost made him like Yegor more than usual for the man’s abilities to sing even when they were all down and out with exhaustion.