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Ivan Kommt!

There were hundreds of them standing at the edge of the forest. Patchworks of advanced units of the Red Army were congregating under the towering pine trees trying to shield themselves from the cold rains of early spring that fell in sheets from the gray sky. The restless soldiers had spent the last thirty or so minutes watching a captured self-propelled German artillery piece-a field gun that resembled a tank lumbering back a forth, its electric turret as it moved from left to right, the barrel adjusting its elevation up and down.
The iron cross-painted on the side was splattered with mud from soldiers hurling clumps of earth at it while making bets on who could hit the center. In the gun’s sites was a house in a small German farming village that sat on the horizon. It was just a few houses and barns, too small to even appear on any of the military maps.
Normal protocol would have been to burn it down and move on, but Germans had hit them with machine gunfire from there. Gray and black figures moved quickly between the houses in the distance, obviously a mix of Volkstrum and Waffen S.S.
The Red Army units standing ready to devour the village were a motley group of peasants taken from the farthest reaches of the U.S.S.R. and hastily thrown together on the battlefield. They had crossed into Germany just hours ago, or at least that’s what was indicated by the blood-stained and grease smudged sign that read, “Welcome to Goddamn Germany.”
The soldiers in their tattered and often mismatched uniforms hardly looked like a professional army. They had been ordered to “stand at the ready,” but as they watched the artillery grind its tracks deeper and deeper into the mud the mixture of fear and excitement was topped off by the surge of adrenaline that came with the prospect of combat was beginning to fade and boredom was breaking their discipline. Alex a particularly lowly soldier from far outside of Moscow was quietly fidgeting with his rifle while the soldiers around him spoke in hoarse whispers that grew louder and louder prompting the Lieutenant to walk over and threaten punishment if any of them “failed to keep his fucking mouth shut.” Each time this happened silence returned, but only temporarily.
Alex, having just turned sixteen, was the youngest in his unit. He was an awkward and melancholy boy. He had a bony body couldn’t fill his uniform. His feet were so small that there were no boots for him. He had to wear the same tattered shoes he’d reported for duty in. They were torn with holes that let the cold rain seep in and chill his feet to the point of numbness. The men around him were listening to their Sergeant’s stories, many of them sexual. The details of the stories varied.
Some girls he paid.
Some girls wanted protection.
And some had begged him to stop.
But they all got the same laughter from the men.
He recounted story after story in such vague detail that Alex had to wonder if some of them weren’t made up. During the occasional brief pause, someone else would try and tell a similar story. The Sergeant interrupted or waited for the story to end so he could tell his own even more fantastical tale.
With more women.
Or better women.
He could certainly keep their attention, but Alex suspected that had more to do with his large stocky build and loud booming voice that carried over all others, rather than with own personal charisma.
Alex was drawing circles in the mud with the muzzle of his rifle as he half listened to the Sergeant. He didn’t much care for the man, but the subject of sex was stirring enough to keep the young virgin interested. He’d never heard stories like the ones he’d heard in his very short time at the front.
Here women were a prize, and just one of many in a glorious march to manhood paved in fire and blood.
Fucking was a subject that came up more often than any other amongst the men, especially the Sergeant, and unfortunately for Alex, they found out he was a virgin.
It was something they never let him forget.
The Sergeant had just begun telling a story about a Polish university student when Lieutenant Uri stomped over with his pistol drawn.
“Shut up!” He commanded. “They’re about to fire.”
Alex was no expert, but he suspected the concentration of the men in the mammoth machine would not be broken by the sound of them talking outside, but he knew better than to point this out. There was a tense silence as their eyes continuously shifted from the barrel of the gun to the house in the distance. They all jumped at the same time when the shell burst out a heavy plume of smoke and exploded in the earth right in front of their intended target.
“Shit,” yelled the spotter and the driver emerged from the vehicle so the Commander could berate him. The Lieutenant sighed and turned to the men, “All right, stay at attention and keep your fucking mouths shut!” He yelled as he ran back over to put himself between the Commander and the machine’s oblivious operator.
Everyone kept quiet this time.
The pain from the ringing in Alex’s ears made him wince.
He suspected everyone else felt the same thing.
Taking only a fraction of the time as before, the gun adjusted its elevation and the turret hummed making slight movements from left to right. And the gun fired its second round, making the startled men jump again. This time the shell struck a house directly behind the one they were aiming for. The explosion produced a plume of smoke and debris that swallowed up their intended target. The ringing in Alex’s ears had moved to his skull and his whole head seemed to be vibrating like a tuning fork. As the high-pitched ring began to fade, the first thing he heard was the Commander screaming, “What? Those were our ONLY two rounds?” The Lieutenant put himself between the driver and the Commander trying to diffuse the situation.
Alex looked back at the village in the distance. As the smoke from the explosion dissipated, he could see men running into different houses.
Look at how the fritzs lives,” said the grim voice of Oleksander, a young soldier from Ukraine, who was standing next to him. His sunken eyes and shallow cheeks made his face seem still as if it were made of stone. Alex wasn’t sure if he was talking to him or just thinking out loud. “Their animals live in barns nicer than my home.” He spoke so rarely that Alex could remember the exact moment when he’d last heard his voice.
It was two days ago.
He was standing over the body of a dead German. He spit on it and said, “I hope you’re getting fucked in hell.”
The only other time he ever spoke was to curse the Russian soldiers under his breath. The Commander erupted in a frenzy of profanities. He turned and looked and the driver was on all fours. The Commander’s leg snapped out like a snake as his boot made contact with the man’s head, sending it smashing into the side of the tank. He fell to the ground screaming as the Commander continued his assault, raining blows down upon his flailing body. Alex quickly looked away and acted like he didn’t notice. Lieutenant Yuri ran back over with his pistol in the air. “We charge now!” He screamed at the men. No one moved a muscle and an eerie silence fell over them.
Yuri repeated his order and fired a shot into the air. The round snapped in Alex’s ear and all at once a hundred battle cries morphed into the collective roar of the charging stampede. The rhythm of their boots was the perfect accompaniment to the resonating choir of gunfire. Alex’s legs went numb but somehow they were still quickly carrying him into the open field towards the eruption of muzzle flashes that were blinking all over the town like fireflies, and even though he was running the rest of his body was frozen. The air stopped in his lungs and beads of sweat and rain ran down hair and into his eyes. He could hear the dull thud of bodies hitting the ground around him. He could see the window ahead of him growing larger and the machine gun mounted in its frame became louder and louder. He was going to be crushed between the walls of the German fortifications and the panicked herd he ran with.
He ran past men in various stages of death. Some of them writhed on the ground trying in vain to hold back the blood that was running out of their bodies carrying pieces of their organs with it. Others lay quietly and let the life run out of them, accepting their opportunity to see the war finally come to an end. Alex was close to the machine gun now. He could even make out the steel helmet of the German pulling the trigger. He closed his eyes and waited for the bullets to tear through his body.
“Get down!” Someone shouted and Alex hit the ground. A grenade exploded in a shower of glass and other debris. Alex looked up, bewildered. Oleksander had saved his life and kept him from running into the exploding grenade. The Ukrainian soldier pulled Alex to his feet. There wasn’t time for a thank you.
Time ceased to exist. Alex lost himself in the blood soaked confusion as he floated through his nightmare. The maelstrom of fire and screams blended into the hum of violence. As he began to reconnect with his body and regain control over his cognitive faculties, he was swept by a group of men wandering the battlefield. Yuri led them, rounding up the wide-eyed young soldiers who were bleating like lost sheep. Alex felt secure when he was around the Lieutenant. He had been fighting the war for more than two years, and his mind had internalized the visceral images of war and was no longer shaken by them.
“Follow me, boy!” He yelled and Alex promptly obeyed. 
They followed Yuri to one of the houses and stopped outside the door. The men lined up behind him, gripping their rifles in anticipation. His boot crashed through the door with one swift kick, and the men poured into the house. There was immediate gunfire, and by the time Alex even got through the door, it was over. The room was filled with smoke and screams. On one side of the room, three piles of shredded flesh wrapped in gray cloth were sitting in a pool of blood. Yuri was on the ground holding his arm to his body. Blood poured through his fingers.
Son of a bitch!” He screamed. “That son of a whore shot me in the fucking elbow.” He directed his eyes at a young chubby-faced Asiatic soldier who seemed genuinely caught off guard by the accusation. He shook his head and started backing away, but before he could explain himself, the butt of a rifle struck him sending blood and teeth into the wall. “Kill that horse fucker!” The Lieutenant screamed. The men obliged his request and began stomping on the man’s body with their heavy boots.
No one seemed to notice as Alex backed slowly out of the room and stumbled out of the house. Unfazed by the clattering sound of submachine gunfire, he stumbled through the village’s narrow streets left alone to piece together his first combat experience. A drizzle fell as the fighting quickly gave way to pillaging. The orgy of violence against the remaining population was a much more drawn-out affair than the actual fighting had been.
That night the soldiers set up camp in that little village. More men began to catch up with the advanced units and brought with them vodka rations. As the liquor flowed, the officers began to melt in with their men and what discipline there had been faded away. The soldiers turned the village into a bonfire, the flames casting their long shadows over the earth as they did their dance of madness. Alex sat in the middle of this carnival of depravity contemplating the events of the day through the lens of his vodka-soaked mind.
Oleksander sat down next to him. He was swaying back and forth and a large grin was plastered across his face. Alex was certain that this was the first time he’d ever seen him smile. And it was enough to pique his curiosity.
Enjoying yourself?” He asked. Oleksander nodded his head, “Alex,” He said, as he tried to steady himself. Alex waited for him to gather his thoughts and finish his sentence.
Have you ever had a blonde girl?” Oleksander asked, his grin somehow becoming larger. Alex shook his head. “Oh right, you’re the virgin!” He said, with a laugh. Alex already liked silent bitter Oleksander much better than the loud boisterous character that a few drinks made him.
Sorry to tease,” He said, slurring his words “but Alex there is a girl here that you can have right now.”
What are you talking about?” Alex asked.
Follow me,” Oleksander replied. He helped Alex up and the two of them almost fell over. Oleksander led Alex to an open cellar. Dozens of inebriated men were going in and out. Alex followed Oleksander inside. The temperature immediately changed as they went down the stairs. The air was heavy with musk and sweat, and the roar of the men was deafening. The soldiers had packed themselves into the cellar so tightly that there was barely any room to walk.
Alex and Oleksander stumbled through the cellar to where it opened up in the middle. And under a single hanging light was a young blonde girl, as Oleksander had promised.
She was lying on the floor stripped completely naked. Her flesh was covered in dirt and bruises.
Alex stared at her for a second and Oleksander patted him on the back. “Now is your chance!” He yelled into Alex’s ear, but Alex froze. He turned to leave but immediately ran into a formidable obstacle.
The Sergeant’s heavy body.
Alex!” He exclaimed, almost stumbling as he clapped the young virgin soldier on the back. “Looking to become a man, are you?” Alex shook his head but before he could object, the Sergeant pulled him into the middle of the circle so they were both standing over the frightened girl. The Sergeant shouted for silence and after a moment the crowd noise abated. Once again he had their attention.
Comrades, you’re looking at a boy…But not for long. This boy has seen battle. And after he fucks this little German bitch he will be a man!” The crowd erupted into cheers and Alex looked at the Sergeant unsure of what to do.
She’s all yours!” The Sergeant shouted. He backed away and joined the wild crowd of soldiers who were to bear witness to Alex’s most intimate right of passage into manhood. Reluctantly Alex fell on top of the girl.
They were face to face.
He could see the streaks that tears had left behind on her face.
He could feel her warm blood sticking to his leg.
He froze but the chants grew louder and louder. Panicking he began to thrust blindly until he was inside her.
She didn’t react.
Her vacant eyes just stared past him, her lips moving as if she were talking to herself. When Alex leaned in he heard the word “Gott.”
She was praying.
The next morning Alex awoke on the floor of a barn. The light proliferating through the wooden walls burned his eyes. He tried to stand up but the room was spinning and he could feel the warm vodka shooting its way up from his stomach to his mouth. He threw up on the ground. Outside the clinking of ammo cartridges were loaded into rifles, accompanied by the heavy growling of vehicle engines. It was time to move out. Alex left the barn. The village was a charred and twisted shadow of its former self. The quaint wooden houses were ashy shells and the air stank of gasoline, vomit, and blood. Alex saw the Sergeant who waved him over.
Hey! How was your first time?” He asked.
His voice was too loud for Alex to handle in his hung over state. The Sergeant laughed. Several of the men patted him on the back and congratulated him. Apparently he had now become a man. But for Alex most of it was a blur. There were only a few vivid images permanently etched in his mind.
Her vacant yet beautiful blue eyes.
The way tears streaked down her bruised and dirty face.
He wished he could forget them.
They marched out of that little village in high spirits. Last night was just what they needed and Berlin wasn’t far away. Alex was wracking his brain trying to remember last night.
He would have a whole lifetime to remember what he wanted to forget.
As they marched out of what was left of that tiny farming village, they passed its former residents, who were now nothing more than a pile of bodies. Their contorted frames fit together just enough so that the pile was stable. Some had been beaten, but many just had a single bullet hole in their heads. Some of their eyes were open and they seemed to follow Alex as he walked by. He couldn’t look away. He craned his neck as they walked away.
And he saw her again.
Her once honey blonde hair was matted with blood that had run down her face and stained her skin a dark crimson. But her lifeless blue eyes were still the same. There she was.
Alex’s first love.
The girl who had made him a man.
He would always remember that first time.

                                                       THE END

Now, a little note from the author:
About seven years ago two stories I submitted were printed by an Australian based literary magazine called Skive. Just a few months later more of my work was accepted by a publisher in Scotland and another in Kentucky. That’s when I knew the first time hadn’t been just a fluke! From then on I wrote as much as I could and submitted work anywhere I could.

As it stands, my work has been printed in 11 different volumes and has been featured in numerous ebooks as well as distributed on literary-themed websites. I try and be as industrious as possible and strive for at least two short stories a month. Usually, these are about 1,000-3,000 words. I have no plans to commit myself to a novel my style just works best at that length. So take a look at my work. If you donate, you have my undying gratitude! Even if you don’t but at least come back and see what I’ve written from time to time that would be greatly appreciated as well

This story was originally printed in an anthology called "Soldier Story". If you enjoyed this tale of youth in war you may want to check out the rest of the book.


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