There was still time for one more to die.

More chapters from Night Side of Dark

A VG Serial: Night Side of Dark

Episode 70

No one considered the punishment either cruel, inhuman, or intolerable. It was quite simply the order of the day, a clean, quick, and uncomplicated method of removing unwanted faces from a hospital that had become little more than a way station for wayward souls on their final journey to hell or purgatory or the ditches, depending on their creed and religious beliefs.

One last march into the snow.

One last shot.

One last moment of silence.

And the day waited for another shot.

Life passed by with one sudden and startling sound, then no other.

Life did not pass the forest that lay black and bare beyond the snowfall.

The sight had become commonplace.

Soldiers walking with the Jews.

Gaunt, weary faces with names that no one would remember, withered arms tattooed numbers that no one could forget, clinging to a single promise when hope had faded into the snowdrifts, but the promise lay embedded in the apocalyptic days of the Old Testament, and the promise was unfulfilled and a lie.

The day ended early for those who song.

It ended immediately for those who prayed.

Those who blasphemed kept their sin intact and unspoken.

The soldiers carried the rifles.

The soldiers would return.

No one saw the Jews again.

No one asked where the Jews had gone.

Everyone knew.

The Storm Trooper at the far end of the corridor was deep in thought and mired in a myriad of his own self-inflicted problems. They were written on his face.

He was a young man growing old.

He was one of the feared and the elite, a trooper growing fat.

Growing slovenly.

Growing complacent.

He was no longer as wary as he once had been.

Why did the insane need guards anyway?

If the idiots all left, who would miss them and know they were gone?

Maybe he was just as crazy for staying around.

He could walk out and walk awayany time he wanted to, but he feared the cold outside.

They said freezing to death was the easiest way to go.

What they said was propaganda.

He did not believe them.

The trooper would never grow any older. His ascent to immortality abruptly ended as day turned to night and night turned to dark and dark turned to guilt.

Lincoln broke the man’s neck before he ever heard footsteps approaching him. He was lost in his own selfish and personal little world, a place from which he would not return. The doors closed with the silence of a whisper.

A sharp, sudden, and sickening crack was the only sound that ricocheted inside his brain..

An StG 44 assault rifle bouncing on the floor was the second.

He did not hear the second.

In an asylum for the insane and idiots where strange and unexpected noises were as common as screams and dying, no one heard.

No one was listening.

The little man stiffened when he heard the bone break and feared he would throw up as he witnessed the storm trooper’s dark eyes roll back into his head, but he kept it together and shoved down inside of him.

One was destined to die in the shank of the afternoon.

He was the fortunate one.

The little man fell back against the whitewashed wall, stained with vomit and urine, and watched Lincoln dress quickly in the German officer’s uniform, throwing a woolen overcoat over his shoulders.

Lincoln laced the boots.

He picked up the fallen rifle.

His face turned grim, then sour.

“You have not forgotten,” Bahnker said.  His voice was hoarse and weak.

“No.”

“You are taking me with you.”

“Leaving is the easy part,” Lincoln said. “Staying alive once we walk out of here, that’s something I can’t predict.”

“I will take my chances.”

“You may be in a grave by morning.”

The little man laughed.

“I have been in a grave my whole life,” he said.

Lincoln nodded, and together they walked through a crowded lobby, the barrel of the StG44 jammed against the little man’s neck. A man awakens and never knows if his day has come until it comes or walks to the far side of him in search of another, and man never knows if death will tire of looking and return to remove the final beat of his heart.

It was almost dusk.

Twilight had not fallen upon Dalldorf for a long time. Twilight required the sun. The sun had abandoned the city.

The dark was stalking through the forest to carry the condemned away.

There was time for one more to die.

The shadows were waiting.

Everyone watched Lincoln and the little man walk through the front door. Bahnker was wearing his tailored blue suit with blood red stripes, too thin and too worn to turn back the angry winds of winter.

It was not heavy enough.

The little man would freeze.

It did not matter.

He would not have time to freeze.

Was death warm?

Or cold?

That did not matter either.

Those in the lobby grew silent.

Even the inmates were pensive.

The insane remembered how to pray.

The idiots remembered why.

They awaited the muffled bark of the shot.

They would be waiting for the rest of the night.

The snow was blinding by the time Lincoln and the little man reached the edge of the forest. It was falling harder now, and the blanket on the ground was thick and patched with ice left by the freezing rain.

Lincoln removed the heavy, woolen overcoat and draped it across Bahnker’s thin shoulders and fastened the buttons tight around his neck.

The little man laughed.

“I had forgotten what it felt like,” he said.

“What?”

“Freedom.”

“How does it feel?” Lincoln asked.

“Cold,” the little man said.

He laughed again,

He followed Lincoln into the forest, the tail of the overcoat dragging along the top crust of the snow.

The little man looked down at his arm and ripped the Silver SS insignia from the sleeve of the coat.

He stared at it.

He spit on it.

He tossed it into a ditch covered with a new mound of dirt.

The snow had buried it by the time he and Lincoln reached the far side of the woods.

Chapters of Night Side of Dark will be published on  Saturday and Sunday.

Please click the title, Night Side of Dark, to read more about Caleb Pirtle III and his novels on Amazon.

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