The Long March of Ares, Part 2
Written by Azmodi,
Edited by E.A. Morrissey
The Long March of Ares
Part 2 of 3
Click here for Part 1 of 3
Frederick allowed Erlen several more days rest and recuperation, but finally
he brought the private to Irwin and asked that he be put to work in the fields,
to repay the villagers for their kindness. At first the farmer refused, but
finally accepted Derych’s demand, not wishing to create a confrontation or
make his guest uncomfortable.
Garrick protested the moment he saw the man who would guide him in the fields
- a Jew. It took Frederick a moment, but he finally recognized the middle-aged
man as the same one whom he had first barged in on upon arriving in Nachtholm -
he seemed older in the sunlight. The sergeant ordered Erlen to cease his
resistance and finally the private was led off into the fields.
His vision weary from nights of ill-rest, Derych desired more then comfort of
sleep than the solitude of the forest - even if it meant a journey through the
sea of alien faces and the potential for prying questions. Frederick ignored his
basic desire - as he had so many times before - and forced himself out into the
dark maw of nature once again.
Wearied from restless nights, the sergeant’s mind swam in images his eyes
did not always perceive, and memories of the past mixed with the stark present.
Trying his best to free himself from these torturous visions of collars and
robes, blood and innocence, Frederick retreated into the very depths of the
forest. Here the branches of trees dipped low under their own weight, green
fingers trailing across the ground. Their trunks like iron rods, Derych sat,
propping himself up against the reassuring stability of one of the great giants.
He drifted off into dreamless sleep, glad for the quiet.
He was awakened by a thin voice, when the shadows had shifted and the sun sat
balanced on the tops of distant peaks. Frederick’s eyes snapped open and he
was ready, expecting to see gun barrels pointed at him, his hand slipping down
to his boot, ready to draw the knife. He found a small girl standing before him,
in a blue and red dress with wildflowers clutched in her hand. A shard of metal
glinted on her chest - a silver crucifix.
Derych looked away, anger rising in him that he had been discovered. The
child stared at him silently for a few moments, before asking why he was there.
"It doesn’t matter. Go away."
She told him she knew who he was - the soldier staying in the village. She
told him his friend was not being cooperative in the fields. He did not reply,
merely wishing her to be gone. She continued to talk the unending stream of
words that comes from a child’s mouth. She never talked of the war - she
seemed wholly unaware of it, though a soldier sat right before her. She talked
about her brother, how they had grown up together and how he showed her how to
fish in a nearby creek.
"Where did you grow up?"
Frederick breathed evenly, attempting to keep control, the rage within him
"Did you have any brothers or sisters?"
He closed his eyes, curled his hand into a tight fist; he feared the bones
would shatter. His mind cleared of thoughts, running like scared animals before
the approach of the ultimate predator. His chest burned.
"What did you do before you became a soldier?"
He snarled like a beast and rose in a flash, blue-grey eyes shining in the
fading light. With a single step, he had breached the gap between himself and
his enemy, raising his hand to strike her. The back of his hand connected with
the soft bone of her jaw and she fell, the wildflowers falling haphazardly to
Breathing heavily - the panting of a tortured animal - Frederick stared down
at the girl. A red welt already rising on her face, a thin trickle of blood
issuing from the corner of her mouth, mingling with the tear from her eye.
With incredible grace she rose, obviously fighting to control her emotions -
winning - she looked at him again for a few moments. She did not bother with the
wildflowers, their soft petals covered in dirt, their beauty irretrievable.
"You should get some new clothes - you smell like a dead dog."
The girl left, and Frederick did not follow. Again, he sat against the tree,
this time unable to sleep. He saw with his eyes closed, until thoughts returned
to his mind. With them, he found strange sensations, those he vaguely
recognized; though he had not seen their shape for what seemed eternity.
Night falling, Frederick stood and left the dim heart of the forest. It was
not until the journey back to the village was nearly complete that he at last
remembered the texture of those feelings that washed over him, ground him
beneath iron wheels.
He made toward the fields, his feet dragging, but slowed even further as he
heard shouting. Carefully be crept up beside the barn, the stench of horses
coming unabated to his nostrils, and watched as Erlen berated the man who had
led him off at the beginning of the day. The farmer stayed silent even as
Erlen’s rage grew, as he waved around a rake, even threatening him with it.
Finally, the private gave up, snapping the tool’s wooden shaft across his
knee, throwing it at the farmer’s feet and stalking off.
Frederick intercepted him on the way back to the house. He saw Garrick’s
grey uniform was covered in brown earth now, stained - even his glasses were
streaked with dirt, though he could obviously still see clearly. However, at his
shoulder the brown and grey were giving way to red - his tirade had reopened the
The sergeant chastised him for endangering the health that many had worked
hard to preserve.
"My apologies sir, but the Jew - that Jew! How can anyone work in such a
field for so many hours? It is not possible! Moreover, the tasks, so mundane
that they are not worth my efforts! We must leave this place as soon as possible
- I want this village reported and that one hauled off - I’ll shoot him
"You are not ready yet."
"But I will be soon - we must get back to Berlin soon, to help Herr
Hitler stave off the American advances. Otherwise... No! We cannot be defeated -
the Americans and Russians will fall before reaching the capital."
Before sleeping Frederick once again cleaned and bandaged Erlen’s wound.
The dog was silent that night; the sergeant did not sleep well.
The following days were spent in a state of perpetual numb for the sergeant -
not the imperviousness of iron, but the cold of ice that promised to either melt
or grow stronger. Unable to sleep well in his bed or in the forest, Frederick
wandered, the constant march his only source of comfort or rest. He remembered
little specifically of his journeys round the perimeter of the village, his
exhausted mind weaving in and out of awareness.
Erlen met with him every night in the small room, raging about his day of
farming. His grey uniform had been replaced by simple brown trousers and tunic,
and the same color as the earth he sew with seeds. Garrick seemed to grow
stronger each day as his wound healed, while the sleepless nights wore on
Frederick as combat never did.
The sergeant simply ate his evening meal as Erlen went on and on, paying
little attention to the private’s mutterings.
"That Jew - I cannot stand him any longer! I must be rid of this place,
no matter how quiet it is..."
"For someone so clearly inferior, it must have taken him years to master
the techniques he teaches me... Not long from now I will be superior to him in
"The old man, he seems to have no brain at all - he does not even grow
angry when I make a mistake in plowing the field with oxen or break a tool! He
did not even react when I fixed the shovel I snapped with a touch of concrete
from the creek. Damn him. These people, they’re like old clay!"
"I’ve accomplished in a short time what Arnim couldn’t do in months.
I can feel my skills growing, sergeant - I am a more skilled farmer than I ever
was a soldier. A few more weeks we’ll have the whole field done."
"A shame I won’t be able to see the crop come up... The journey back
to Berlin will be a long and difficult one. Have you noticed how quiet it is?
There seem to be no planes in the sky at all anymore... Nevertheless,
shouldn’t I be able to see the crops? I planted them all..."
"Arnim seems to grow weaker with each passing day - perhaps he is sick?
I’ll have to finish the planting without his help - not that he was much help,
of course. At times he looks like a dead man propped up on a stick..."
And each night Frederick attempted to rest, but could not - he was distracted
by the barking of the dog, or a grey moth persistently beating at the window, or
the rotten odor rising from his own clothes. He desired to bathe, change his
uniform, but what would his commanders think when he arrived in Berlin?
Arnim finally died, no more than a handful of days after Erlen had mentioned
his mentor’s increasing illness. The private joined in the funeral train,
taking the wooden coffin up to the hill, taking off his glasses and bowing his
head in respect as Arnim was laid in the ground, beside his brother Jürgen.
Frederick had stayed in the room, unwilling to help with the funeral. Yet, he
had agreed to eat at the dinner in honor of the deceased farmer, to be held
after the burial. Thinking it disrespectful to arrive for a such a meal in the
shambles he existed in, Derych requested new clothes and soap so that he could
wash himself in the creek. He arrived at Irwin Wenzel’s house in a brown shirt
and tunic, his flat face clean-shaven and his blue eyes seeming to shine in
their pits with newfound vitality.
Irwin sat at the head of the table, his wife to his right, her belly near
bursting. All around the long table - taking up the entire common room - the
village sat, the population so small that nearly everyone save the children
could be seated comfortably; the younger ones sat at a small table nearer the
Erlen talked at length regarding Arnim, describing how he had learned so much
from the older man and how difficult it would be to complete the task without
his help. He reached for bread when he was done, seeing well in the dim light
despite his lack of eyewear.
Stories were passed around the table of how good a man Arnim was and the
exploits of his life. There was talk of the great tragedy of the two brothers
passing away in such a short span of time.
Erlen seemed surprised by this, "Arnim never told me he had a brother.
What happened to him?"
There was some hesitation from the village as a whole, each member reacting
in the same manner, but Irwin swiftly took the initiative and explained that Jürgen
had died not long before - he had fallen on a piece of cutlery. The farmer had
opted for death rather than a life without the ability to give life. His hands
had become so crippled with arthritis that he had experienced constant pain and
had been unable to aid his brother in the fields. A sad story, and one the
villagers obviously did not enjoy speaking of.
"Sergeant, perhaps you can help me in the field?" Erlen asked after
a long silence, "The other farmers are occupied with their own tasks."
A faint flicker of anger bloomed in Frederick’s heart, but he suppressed
it, unconsciously looking over at the small girl near the fire, eating soup, the
swelling in her jaw only now beginning to fade.
"It is not necessary, Erlen." Irwin said, "The sergeant does
not know how - we can spare others from their tasks."
Frederick felt struck by the naked kindness of the man, and he found himself
surprised to say, "I will."
Continued in issue #3
We hope you enjoyed this brand new original fiction series by Azmodi, writer of the Cosmic Powers Fan Fiction Group's Twilight War, Foundations Forged Before Nightfall, War Waged At The Stroke Of Midnight, and Tales of the Timeless fan fiction stories. Please send Azmodi your feedback at email@example.com and if you have an original story, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org about having it published in our new Beyond Reality imprint at Cosmic Powers Unlimited.
E-mail feedback/submissions to email@example.com