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Сталинград


Caesius

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This is a short story I wrote, which is a complete rework of something I wrote four years ago in my junior year of high school. I figured the subject matter would be of interest to CN players, so I made a blog for the express purpose of sharing it.

I deliberately didn't refer back to my old work until I was almost finished. Comparing the two, they're almost completely different in style, with their own strengths and weaknesses. I don't want to make this too tl;dr so I won't be posting the old work unless people show interest.

I also realize that the prose isn't very good and am open to criticism, but I hope you guys find the story interesting.

That morning, Ilya had received the letter informing him of his older brother's death. Andrey was a lieutenant in the Red Army and had died while valiantly leading his unit in an assault on German positions in Stalingrad, or at least that's what the letter said. Now, two weeks after Andrey's death, Ilya was in the same city, having crossed the Volga only a few days before with his unit. Unlike Andrey however, Ilya was only a cadet, and most likely if he died nobody would know.

Ilya didn't resent his brother, and in fact he loved him as his closest friend, but the realization that he was insignificant combined with Andrey's death devastated him. Still, he found that he could not weep for his brother, even though his depression was obvious enough for his fellow soldiers to point out.

"What's the matter, comrade Ilya? Why won't you eat?" they asked.

"It's nothing, I just seem to have lost my appetite," he replied. He immediately became angry with himself for lying, and he felt like a coward. "Excuse me, I need to take a piss." He got up, leaving his rations unattended, and entered an alley between two bombed-out buildings.

"Is this how I'm supposed to mourn my brother's death? Through denial and self-pity?" he wondered as he punched the wall. "Damn it!"

* * *

That night, the unit found shelter in an abandoned house as the battle raged on in other parts of the city. They intended to search the house for provisions but found that it had already been raided. Nonetheless they decided it would be a safe place to rest.

Ilya walked to the other side of the house looking for a place to sleep. On the far end of the hallway to the left was a small room. On the floor were two naked male corpses, with Red Army uniforms next to them. They had clean red holes through their skulls and puddles of blood and brains next to their heads. Both faces expressed unimaginable anguish.

"Poor !@#$%^&*," he thought. He wasn't phased by the sight, and instead sat down in the hallway next to the threshold, exhausted. He laid his rifle in his lap, closed his eyes, and fell asleep.

* * *

He awoke to the sound of voices in the next room. He looked around the corner and could see two naked soldiers of the Red Army kneeling and pleading with their German captors.

"Please don't kill me, I have three children. Please!" The Germans laughed. Although Ilya could not speak German, he could understand what they were saying perfectly.

"So the Schweinhund wants to live, does he? Well, if he can dodge a bullet, then surely our comrade deserves to live!" The captain swiftly withdrew his Mauser. He shot the soldier in the head, and the soldier collapsed.

"Dmitri!" The other soldier began sobbing. He had spots of his comrade's blood on his face.

"Quiet! Your friend had his chance, now you will have yours." The lieutenant smashed the butt of his rifle against the soldier's head, knocking him to the floor. He pinned the man's chest under his jackboot, and took aim at his face. There was a thunderous bang, and then silence.

The Germans stood there for a moment, observing their work. Ilya froze in his spot next to the threshold. Soon he could hear their footsteps coming toward him, and his fear multiplied with each step. The Germans paused as they stepped into the hallway.

"What's this?" The captain stared at him, but Ilya did not turn his eyes toward him. He was focused instead on the lieutenant, whose face was obscured by shadow. On the lieutenant's sleeve was not a German emblem, but the insignia of a lieutenant in the Red Army.

"Andrey..." Ilya muttered. The lieutenant smiled.

"Ilyushka."

Ilya struggled to lift his rifle, but its burden felt so heavy in his hands that it would not move. Andrey was smiling stupidly by now. Ilya never averted his eyes.

Andrey began to take his helmet off with an awful noise, like that of flesh tearing. Blood began to flow from his scalp and cover his face and uniform. His eyes and nostrils were missing, replaced by thin membranes of skin, now stained red. His grin became inhuman and sinister. Still Ilya could not move, and the captain began to laugh and taunt him.

"What's wrong, comrade? Aren't you happy to see your brother?" As Andrey slowly started to lift his rifle, Ilya heard a horrific, constant roar coming from outside, which was getting louder. As Andrey brought his rifle level with his brother's chest, the roar was deafening, drowning out the captain's maniacal laughter. But still Ilya could hear Andrey's last words.

"Goodbye, brother." Andrey pulled the trigger.

* * *

Ilya awoke to the loudest noise he had heard in his life. The room beyond the threshold was gone; so was most of the house, and with it his unit. Tears were streaming down his face. He curled up into a ball and wept as sunlight slowly started to flood the hallway.

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I enjoyed that a lot.

My only suggestion would be to try and lengthen it a little, have some more development of the characters and plot. But I think you have the workings of a good short story there. ;)

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I am actually flattered to have had my character stoellen. :P

I may edit this at some later date, but I only wrote this yesterday because when I woke up I had a strong, unsolicited urge to rewrite the story with new and changed elements. In particular, for some reason I had the exchange between Ilya and Andrey in mind, and now I think, "wow, where did that come from?" It probably stems from a dream that I've since completely forgotten.

I pretty much never get the urge to just write, so I might never come back to this, but if I do I'll expand and refine it a bit, especially the introduction (that was actually the last part of the story I wrote).

And just to show I was serious about how the story had changed significantly, well, here's the old version:

The Soviet cadet had been deployed to the front just the day before, when he crossed the Volga with his comrades – many of whom were dead by now. He had been only a few yards from his lieutenant when shrapnel from an artillery shell bore a clean hole through the officer's skull, killing him instantly. It was but the first of many gruesome deaths that the cadet would come to witness.

What was left of the platoon had taken shelter in an abandoned factory for the night. The soldiers were now exhausted, frightened, and leaderless – They were little more than rats left as game for the Nazis. Many of them were reluctant to sleep, and when rest did come the events of the past few days haunted their dreams. The private fared no better.

He crouched behind the door, his rifle loaded and ready to fire. He could hear the enemy in the other room as the wooden floor creaked and rats scurried across the floor. There were two of them, two filthy Nazis blathering in their filthy language. Such dirt that had come to defile the Motherland!

They were laughing now – They knew he was there. They knew what he thought. They were mocking him, a soldier in the Russian army! He wanted to kill them so much, to finally take revenge for his fallen comrades, but he couldn't bring himself to move. His breathing became harder and great volumes of air passed through his nostrils, alerting the world to his presence. He heard the loud bang of a rifle, and a rat which had been passively eating bread crumbs in front of the doorway was blown to pieces, its innards thrust to the floor. The Germans were laughing again. He knew what was to become of him.

The Nazis' boots steadily plodded towards the doorway, and the cadet's shivering became more intense with each advance. They were speaking to each other casually, undoubtedly bragging about what they had done with the bodies of his comrades. Now they were coming for one more.

The rifle's muzzle was the first thing that the cadet saw come across the threshold. Then came one boot, then two, then four, and at last he looked up and could see the entirety of both soldiers smiling down at him. He gripped the trigger tight as his rifle stood facing the roof, useless, for it seemed so heavy a burden in the soldier's frozen hands that it can't ever be brought level with the enemy.

One of the two soldiers was a corporal, and had clearly German features visible under the brim of his helmet. But something was amiss in the other's face, which seemed eerily familiar and was certainly not German. The cadet glanced at the rank embroidered into the soldier's sleeve. There he saw not a German emblem, but the insignia of a Russian lieutenant. His heart immediately filled with a completely different kind of terror, and the lieutenant's grin became even more sinister.

The lieutenant began to take his helmet off with an awful noise, as that of flesh tearing. Looking closer, the cadet was startled to see the face shift into something hideous. With the veil of humanity gone, the demon's bloodied and half-missing face was thus exposed in its true form. The demon lowered the rifle level to the soldier's head. He engulfed the young boy's soul in maniacal laughter as the German looked on, infinitely amused.

With the pull of the trigger came the same thunderous roar of merciless death. The soldier was now no better than the rat, or his comrades, or his soulless lieutenant. He felt something welling up inside himself, and he could no longer contain it.

He was still weeping as the dawn of light flooded the cold horizon.

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