“Run!” Josef yelled to his best friend.
Legs pumping and chests heaving, Josef glanced sideways to his friend and smiled. The exhilaration of pranking others was just too great for the duo to stop. The smile hurt both boys’ faces as they escaped from the angry men whom they just pranked. They were yelling curses and chasing after the troublemakers.
Ever since the Nazis invaded Paris, things have been gloomy. Josef had always been bright and cheerful, but now the only times he smiled was when he was running away from the fuming recipients of his pranks. He and his best friend Simon would create intricate pranks before testing them on unsuspecting people. Some people would laugh after getting pranked, while others would get angry and start chasing. This time was different, the footsteps stopped, but the boys kept running. It was all going as expected.
The sound ripped through the air and the concrete next to Josef was blown to pieces. The cold smell of gunpowder filled the air. They were getting shot at! Josef immediately picked up his pace, but his partner in crime stood frozen in fear.
“Come on! We have to run!”
The fear was evident in his friend’s eyes and as Josef looked down, an ominous bloodstain enlarged on the front of Simon’s shirt. Bile piled in his throat. This was a prank, how did it escalate so much so fast? His knees buckling, Josef’s best and only friend fell, lifeless. Looking up, Josef saw the group of men approaching to kill him. The guns glistened menacingly in the moonlight and Josef bolted. Looking back once, what he saw would be engrained in him forever. Armbands, with blood-red and dead black insignias. The symbol of fear. The symbol of the Nazis.
They had stripped so much away from him. When the Nazis rolled into town, they wiped the smiles off of everyone. Joy was replaced by fear and uncertainty. Buildings were destroyed and monuments were wrecked. Parisians starved while Nazi Jackboots ate and drank well. Now, however, they had gone too far, they had taken his best friend away from him. Though he should be terrified or at least grateful that he wasn’t the one to be shot, those thoughts did not even cross his mind. Revenge and vengeance were all that was in Josef’s head.
He wasn’t strong, he wasn’t big, he wasn’t intimidating, but he was determined. Once Josef had set his mind to it, there was no turning back, he was going to get back at the Nazis, the question was how. How could a scrawny teenager like him ever hurt such a powerful army? That was it! Josef thought to himself, as even he underestimated himself, the Nazis would not expect Josef to cause any harm either! His vision clouded by vengeance and powered by hatred, Josef sneaked to the woods to seek The Resistance.
It was going to be treacherous, tales of monsters and creatures in the woods were told often. It was said that once you draw near to the woods, darkness will consume you and suck your soul away. However, Josef believed none of that nonsense. Saying a quick farewell to his family, Josef walked away from his house for what may be the last time.
The forest was dark, the foliage was so dense even the bright moonlight could not penetrate. Out of the corner of his eye, a flicker of movement could be seen.
“Who’s there?” Josef timidly asked.
However, no answer, it seemed as if his voice had been engulfed by the endless darkness. Suddenly, rough hands pinned Josef’s arms behind his back, while the cold barrel of a gun poked at his back.
“State your reason for trespassing in our forests.” A demanding voice shattered the silence.
“I-I'm trying to work as a spy for you.”
“Even under the covers of the darkness I can tell that you’re just a scared teen, cowards and weaklings are no use in this part of the land.” The voice behind seemed to rupture Josef’s eardrums.
“They killed my best friend, I may not be strong, but I am determined, please let me prove myself!” Josef pleaded.
“The answer is no, you may as well be a Nazi spy and we are not taking that chance for someone like you.” The disgust was evident in his voice.
“No more buts, you have wasted enough of our time, now scram before we finish the Nazis job for them.”
Fury built up in Josef’s chest and he wanted to fight. However, he had no choice, a gun was pointed at his back and who knew how many more shooters lurked in trees. Turning around in shame, Josef ran. Blazing hot tears trickled down his cheeks and blurred his vision. They must be right I am just a scared teen. This thought attacked Josef as he stumbled through the forest back to his home. Running away again, just as expected. The voice teased him the entire way back.
Waking up, Josef wished the events of the night were just all a nightmare. However, looking down at his bruised legs and feeling tearstains on his face, his hopes diminished. It was a new day though, the sun was bright, which re-energized Josef. His interaction with the rebels was just a minor setback. If no one would help him, Josef would just have to take matters into his own hands. From all the adventure stories he had read, spies fed on information, what better place to get information than the bar! Drunk soldiers and officers spit out the most knowledge, influenced by alcohol, no one will suspect a young waiter. Pacing the room, a plan was hatched. Josef would get a job as a waiter in the Nazi’s favourite bar and feed on useful information.
Getting the job was the easy part, due to the unattractive, low-paying job of serving rude, ruthless men, Josef was set to serve the very next day. Given a stained, blue uniform that was a size too large, Josef was set to serve drinks to the Nazis, the terrible Nazis. Other than the occasional spilled drink and cups thrown, nothing exciting occurred on his first day on the job.
Soon, however, everything changed when a man emanating immense power entered the room. The rowdy bar hushed and whispers replaced the shouting and fighting.
“He’s the General.” One drunk Nazi loudly blurted to his friend.
“Most powerful man here.” Another whispered with a look of awe.
Seeing his chance, Josef immediately greeted the newcomer with a bright smile and friendly demeanour. To his surprise, the General gave a genuine smile back in return before ordering drinks for the whole bar. The General had a slick uniform and friendly face, he was also very well respected and liked by everyone serving under him.
Coming back with his drinks, Josef walked in the middle of the powerful man telling the tale of his fight against the French. Seeing that he was interrupting a story, Josef awkwardly stood there. He did not stay uncomfortable for long as the General soon turned his attention to Josef.
“Hey boy, thanks for the drinks.”
“Oh, yeah, you’re welcome sir.” Josef nervously responded.
“Enough with the formalities, just call me Alexander or Alex for short. Just because I withhold power doesn’t make me any more terrifying than these folks.” The General said as he was gesturing to the drunk Nazis around him.
“Yes sir, I mean Alex sorry,” Josef mumbled.
“What is a young man like you working these nasty bars? Is it for extra cash? Alex inquired.
“No, just thought it would be enriching.”
“Hmm, you got the eyes of a clever young man, you don’t seem to be lying, but are not telling the truth either. Just leave the drinks here and meet me at my place tomorrow, I want to know more about you.” The man ordered kindly as he passed a note with an address to Josef.
“Thank you, Alexander, I will meet you there,” Josef said as he left the drinks and retreated behind the counters.
Off to a good start, Josef thought. He had not only met the General, but was going to meet him tomorrow as well. The address on the slip of paper led Josef to a small apartment with boarded-up windows. At first, Josef was confused as to why Alexander was living in such shambles. However, he was soon interrupted by a man in black who signalled for Josef to come inside. Once inside, Josef picked up on the faint smell of mould and shivered due to the cool draft.
“Greetings, young man.”
Josef was startled, but when he looked towards the direction of the voice, he made out the faint outline of Alexander.
“Hello, Alex.” Josef politely replied.
“Couldn’t quite catch your name yesterday, would you be so kind to enlighten me,” Alex asked.
“Josef, my name is Josef Garnier.”
“I don’t have much patience so I will skip all the useless parts. I just wanted to ask you what you think about the great Nazis.” Alex abruptly asked.
Wanting to get on his good side, Josef acted very in favour of the Nazis, which seemed to please the General. The two discussed about Nazis and sacrifices and bonded over the hours of talking. At last, Josef gained Alexander’s trust.
“Josef, I have a very vital mission for you. I have now come to know that you live and are willing to die for the Fatherland. You have gained my trust and I am about to give you something that will turn the tides of the war.” The General spoke.
Fetching something out of a briefcase, Alex produced a blueprint of some sort.
“This here are the plans for a mega weapon which make sure that the Fatherland lives on. Your mission is to smuggle this to Berlin headquarters. Your plane tickets are paid for and if you succeed, you will be rewarded greatly.” The General continued.
“Why me? I am just a kid you met yesterday.” Josef countered.
“That is exactly why I can trust you. There is no way for anyone to suspect a teenager and no way for anyone to predict that I chose a bartender whom I had met yesterday to smuggle these documents. Your eyes tell me that you are smart and I strongly believe that you will make the perfect agent for the Fatherland.”
With no choice but to accept, Josef took the documents and bid farewell to the General.
Josef was conflicted, does he go according to plan and betray a person who trusted him so much or does he help Alexander? If he were to betray Alex, he would be in much more peril and break their friendship. However, if he helped the General, he could be rewarded and would be in less danger. The Nazis had caused all this trouble in the first place and with the thought of them killing his best friend, Josef’s decision was made.
Late that night, Josef was back in the forest with the documents tucked in his sac. This time he was not scared, he had a mission and he would do it right. Just like last time, he saw a flicker of movement and a gun was pointed at his back.
“I have important documents and information.” Josef cried out.
“You’re that child from a few nights ago, your information better be worth my time.” The familiar cold voice responded.
Telling the group the whole story and showing the leader the documents, he seemed convinced. We need to smuggle these documents to Switzerland then. It took some arguing and planning when finally, Josef was set to get on a bus the very next day to the border.
The bus ride was long, but Josef couldn’t sleep, adrenaline pumped in his veins and he was wary of everything. The trees and scenery flew past in a blur while Josef urged the bus to move faster. Even though he was famished and dehydrated, he was too nervous to drink and eat. Arriving at the last bus stop, Josef left the bus with shaky legs and shivered due to the cold. The alabaster-tipped mountains towered over Josef as he prepared to climb them. Progress was slow, and the ill-equipped Josef soon was frozen all over, running purely on fear and anger. Josef gripped the briefcase with the documents so tightly, his pale knuckles were whiter than the snow. Huffing and puffing, Josef took one step at a time until he finally neared the pickup spot. According to the Resistance, a helicopter would pick him up from and fly over the border. However, as he arrived at the place and spotted the helicopter, something felt wrong. Brushing the thought aside and blaming it on his paranoia, Josef walked towards the cockpit. The driver greeted him awkwardly in a strange accent that sounded suspiciously German. Instead of asking Josef for the code word, the driver let him on the copter. Sensing that something was wrong once again, Josef looked around, from the corner of his eye, he saw a red armband flash past in the distance. Realizing that it was a trap, Josef began to run.
However, he was too slow, the driver lunged forward and snatched Josef’s arm. Josef struggled, but the grip was too strong, seeing that a ring of Nazis were closing in, he desperately bit the driver’s hand. The grip loosened for a moment and that was all Josef needed. Lurching forward, he escaped the hands of the driver and began to run. Knowing the general direction of Switzerland, Josef began to sprint towards the border.
From behind, Josef could hear the hoard of angry Nazi soldiers. Even though Josef was fast, he was exhausted from the long climb and the Nazis began to gain. Josef could hear the voices of his former friend, Alexander screaming.
“Josef, don’t sabotage the entire country’s chance of winning the war! We can work something out, think about the glory and fame, just come back!”
The offer was tempting, but Josef had made a vow, and he was going to honour it. The chase seemed to go on for ages, Josef’s lungs were burning and his legs were on the verge of buckling. The wind howled in his face and snow hit him like a million shards of glass. Gunshots rang behind him, whizzing past his ear. It seemed hopeless, the Nazis were too fast, he was so close, yet he would not make it. Suddenly, a stray gunshot hit a huge snow patch. The ground started to shake and looking back, Josef saw a wave of snow rolling towards him and the Nazis. The wave of death picked up speed and when the Nazis finally realized that they were not the ones chasing anymore, it was too late. The snow tumbled and buried the Nazis alive.
“Saboteur!” Alexander screamed as he was smothered by the snow.
With no time to rest, the avalanche was closing in on him as well, Josef was just about to suffer the same fate as the Nazis when he was grabbed by rough hands. Josef was thrown into a concrete bunker, he almost had a heart attack when he saw the red armband on the man who had saved him. However, before he attempted to escape, Josef realized that the armband showed the Switzerland flag, not the Nazis.
He was saved.
“Thank you,” Josef mumbled as the adrenaline left his veins and his vision started to fade.
I’m saved, I’m alive. That was all Josef could think as he fell to the ground unconscious, still gripping the briefcase.