IRON WRITER CHALLENGE #1, ROUND 1
Hauptmann Hans Messerschärfer was miserable. Unglücklich, as they would say back home. Home. The very thought of home brought tears to his eyes. Hans quickly wiped the tears away; if those tears froze, he would be the most unglücklich man in the Third Reich.
For months, Hans and the rest of the troops had been marching toward Russian territory. They had endured heavy rains and slogging through mud, but when the cold grip of winter set in, true despair came with it. It didn't help that their uniforms were not meant for winter combat. Perhaps the Führer had not anticipated this action to last into the winter months. Perhaps he simply did not care how many died in the pursuit of his dream. These were the thoughts Hans tried to push out of his mind at night, as he slept huddled close with his fellow soldiers in their attempt to survive the night.
The verdammt Soviets had burned their fields as they retreated, leaving no supplies for Hans and his men to replenish their stores with. So many good men had already been lost in this action. Hans promised that if he ever made it home, he would drink to his fallen comrades until he was completely betrunken. Maybe then the chill would leave his bones.
Hans thought of his lovely Inga back home. No doubt she would be fretting for his safety as she busied herself with her duties at the krankenhaus. If it meant being sent home to Berlin to be tended by Inga, he would gladly take a Soviet bullet. Unfortunately, the only angel of mercy he could expect was Sanitätssoldat Friedrich Hurst. Hurst was a competent medic, but he was no Inga.
Orders. They were to march to Leningrad! Hans could not help but envy the men who had been selected to remain in Kiev, if only for it being closer to home. There's that word again. Still, it was good to have something to look forward to, especially as it was to support the men who had reached Leningrad before them. Marching with purpose helped to keep legs warm and spirits high. Still, it was a long way to Leningrad, and Hans could not help but think of how many more men could be lost before they even arrived.
By the time they had reached the rear lines, the sounds of battle could already be heard, as cannonfire from their haubitze - or gaubitsa, as the Soviets called them - lit the night sky. BOOM, BOOM rang out the Soviet gaubitsa, like giant drums tapping out a cadence of death.
Unseen superiors conferred. Orders were issued, and Hans marched his men through the falling snow to the Western flank. BOOM, BOOM rang the drums, as the night sky lit up like the maws of Hell itself yawning wide. The light lit the falling snow nearly to opacity, and Hans couldn't help but feel like Chicken Little as the sky fell around him.
BOOM, BOOM went the gaubitsa, but to the miserable Hauptmann Hans Messerschärfer, it sounded less like drums and more like Gabriel blowing his trumpet. Gabriel's trumpet sang higher and higher, until a piercing note no mortal trumpet could play marshalled its crescendo. At the trumpet's bidding, the earth itself before Hans exploded as a mortar shell struck.
Lying in the Russian snow as blood and heat and life poured from what was left of his abdomen, Hans felt more unglücklich than ever.
“I'm sorry, men. I won't be able to drink to your final rest. And Inga ... my sweet Inga ... I am so sorry, my darling. If God accepts me into his bosom, then I will see you in Heaven.”1
On a snowy field outside Leningrad, Hauptmann Hans Messerschärfer's misery came to an end.
- translated from the German