1 comment

Historical Fiction Fantasy Drama

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

There were still a few hours left until Private Liebermann and the rest of the guards of Stalag V C had to wake up ahead of the prisoners, and wake them up for roll call. Moving onto his stomach, Liebermann reached under his bunk, taking out a small clock and squinting in the darkness. It’s nearly three . . . I should get back to sleep. Shifting onto his back, Liebermann stared up at the boards of the bunk above.


After a few long minutes passed, something started to feel off. Confused, Liebermann looked around the barracks. Every other guard was sound asleep. He watched Sergeant Nagel turn onto his left side and bury himself in his blanket. Private Seiden above him had been breathing evenly the whole night. Corporal Viermitz was asleep on his back with one arm over his face, mouth open and snoring loud enough to wake the whole camp. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.


Quietly getting out of bed, Liebermann crept over to a window. The camp was covered in a fresh layer of snow. The night guards were still making their rounds. Again, nothing looked out of the ordinary. Despite that, Liebermann felt compelled to check.


As he pulled his boots on, a dull knotting sensation started in his stomach. Something’s wrong, he thought, taking his wand out of the sleeve of his coat. Anxious, he threw the rest of his gear on.


“Hey, Fritz, what’re you doing?” Private Jahn whispered from the bunk next to him.


“I’m going to check on the prisoners,” Liebermann replied.


“Why? The night guards are keeping an eye on them.”


“I don’t know. Something feels wrong. I can’t get back to sleep.”


“What feels wrong?”


“I don’t know. Something . . . just feels off. I can feel it in my stomach.”


Jahn sighed. “Do you want me to come with you?”


“I’ll be fine, thanks.” Liebermann tucked his wand in his belt before leaving the barracks. The dry winter air stung his face. The icicles hanging down from every building were growing larger. He glanced over at Captain Westheimer’s quarters, noticing all the lights were off. Surely if something were wrong, Westheimer would sense it. At the same time, Liebermann started to wonder if this feeling he was having had nothing to do with magic. Perhaps it was something else entirely.


Snow crunched beneath his boots as he walked across the camp to the prisoners’ barracks. As quietly as he could, he opened the door to Barracks One. A single candle was lit in the center of the building. Everyone inside was asleep, except for one.


Liebermann looked up to see Sergeant Plundell staring at him. “Are you alright?” he whispered.


“Yeah. I just can’t sleep,” Plundell whispered back. “Something—”


“Feels off?”


Plundell nodded. “You feel it, too?”


“That’s why I came here. Is everyone alright?”


“I think so. Everyone’s still breathing. It . . . feels like somebody died, or is about to die.”


“We should go talk to Westheimer.”


Plundell sat up. “While he’s sleeping? Are you insane?”


“He’ll probably know what to do. Except . . . I don’t know if this is at all related to magic. I think it’s worth a shot.”


“I think you’re risking getting your head torn off.”


“Could you come with me, then?”


“Alright.” Plundell climbed down his bunk, putting his winter clothing on before following Liebermann outside. The two walked up the steps of Westheimer’s quarters, and Liebermann pulled a keyring from his pocket.


“I won’t be surprised if he takes this away from me if this all turns out to be nothing,” Liebermann said.


“When did you start feeling this?” Plundell asked.


“About a half-hour ago. I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep. Something feels horribly wrong and I can’t explain why.” Liebermann unlocked the door, letting Plundell inside before closing the door behind him.


The commandant’s office felt different at night. It was dark, aside from moonlight spilling in through the windows. Liebermann was uncomfortable with going into Westheimer’s private rooms without permission, but he wanted this answered. The knot in his stomach felt like it was slowly turning into lead.


They had to go through Westheimer’s living room and library before reaching his bedroom. Liebermann’s heart was pounding as he opened the door. Westheimer was sound asleep in bed. If he’s still asleep, it must be nothing. We’re in big trouble.


His curiosity and desire to end the tight, heavy feeling in his stomach won over. Liebermann gently shook Westheimer’s shoulder. “Sir. Sir, wake up.”


Suddenly, Liebermann was staring at the end of Westheimer’s cane. The old man was sitting up in bed, reaching over to turn the lamp on. “What the absolute hell are you two doing in here?!” Westheimer shouted.


Liebermann stammered. “W-We’re sorry, sir! We need help! S-Something’s terribly wrong somewhere—”


“Slow down!” Westheimer lowered his cane. “I do not appreciate being woken up at this abysmal hour, but knowing both of you, you would not have done this if it were not urgent.”


Swallowing hard, Liebermann recounted what he felt in the guard barracks, as did Plundell. Westheimer gave a heavy sigh when they finished. “So, let me get this correctly. You both feel as though . . . something, something indescribable, is wrong.” He pointed to Plundell. “You feel as though somebody has died.”


“Is dead or about to be,” Plundell replied.


“If you don’t feel it, it must not have anything to do with magic,” Liebermann added.


“No. I was sleeping peacefully until you two barged in.” Westheimer rubbed his face. “Let me get dressed and we will figure out what the problem is.”

------------

It was closer to four in the morning when Liebermann, Plundell, and Westheimer left the commandant’s quarters. As they checked each building in the camp, the ache in Liebermann’s stomach had grown worse. Maybe I’m just sick, he thought. I can’t be. Plundell feels like there’s something wrong, too.


“Are you alright, son?” Westheimer asked.


“I-I don’t know,” Liebermann replied. “My stomach’s been hurting ever since I started feeling like there’s something wrong.”


“What kind of hurt?”


“It started as a very dull pain, and . . . it’s gotten worse. Now, it feels like someone’s driven a spear through the right side of my abdomen.”


Westheimer pulled off one of his gloves to feel Liebermann’s forehead. “No fever. Have you thrown up at all?”


Liebermann shook his head.


“I think we can rule out your appendix, then.”


Plundell spoke up. “Maybe it’s not physical, sir. This sounds mad, but . . . perhaps it’s related to whatever’s wrong. He's feeling someone else's pain.”


“Empathic pain is generally limited to psychic witches,” Westheimer explained.


“And I’m not a psychic,” Liebermann said.


Plundell’s gaze switched between the two men. “It’s worth a guess, though, if nothing else is wrong. How do we test it?”


Westheimer walked Liebermann along the perimeter of the camp. “Pay close attention to how you feel, son.”


Liebermann nodded. As they came to the southeasternmost corner of the fence, he felt almost nothing. “It’s weakest here,” he said.


They kept walking. Liebermann wrapped his arms around his stomach as they came up the west side of the fence. Westheimer gently squeezed his shoulder, helping him forward. At the northwest corner, Liebermann was blinded by pain, nearly falling to his knees. He felt as though someone had taken that spear again and was shoving it deeper and deeper in.


Westheimer looked at Plundell. “You were on to something. We will have to go outside the camp.” He looked back down at Liebermann, holding him steady. “I do not want you to suffer, son, but this is the only way we can figure out what and why this is happening. Can you do this?”


“I don’t know, sir,” Liebermann moaned.


Westheimer pulled him away from the fence. “I have an idea.”


They went to the camp’s motor pool. Plundell was ordered back to the barracks, and Liebermann was helped into the sidecar of a motorcycle. Westheimer grunted as he swung his injured leg over the bike itself.


“We’re going to wake the whole camp, sir,” Liebermann said.


“I have a feeling I know what the problem is now,” Westheimer replied. He handed Liebermann his staff. “Hold this, son, and do not, under any circumstances, throw up in my direction.”


The night guards opened the main gates, letting Westheimer drive the motorcycle out of the Stalag’s perimeter. He turned somewhat sharply off the road and into the snowy woods bordering the north of the camp.


The pain returned with the force of a tidal wave. Liebermann gripped Westheimer’s cane with one hand and held his stomach with the other. “Northwest, sir. It’s strongest northwest.”


They left the forest and entered a vast field. The field looked like a sheet of paper after the midnight snowfall, untouched by anything except the tracks of animals. That made it easy to see the dark stains of blood that started just outside the forest bordering the western edge of the field. Westheimer followed them to a dark heap in the snow.


Liebermann was struggling to even stay conscious. Seeing the blood made the pain worse. His hands were shaking, and he wanted to cry out. Tears streamed down his face. When the motorcycle came to a sudden stop, Liebermann saw the figure laying in the snow, surrounded by blood.


Unable to hold back anymore, Liebermann leaned over the sidecar, throwing up violently. The force of vomiting exhausted him tremendously. His hands kept shaking, but he forced himself to look.


Westheimer was already kneeling by the figure. “A British paratrooper!” he called to Liebermann. He swore upon seeing part of a fencepost sticking out of the paratrooper’s stomach. “And he is badly injured.”


Stumbling over, Liebermann was awash with relief, but tears continued to roll down his face. “Is he dead?”


“No, but—”


The paratrooper’s eyes opened. He screamed and tried moving away from the two. “Fucking Germans!” he hissed, fumbling for his revolver.


Westheimer switched to English. “We are not going to hurt you. Relax and stop moving.”


“I’d rather die than go with you!”


“Not on my watch, young man.” Westheimer looked up at Liebermann. “I have to wrap both ends of the wound before we can move him. Can you go back to camp and get Corporal Wenzel? Go! Hurry!”


Liebermann tossed Westheimer his cane before hopping on the motorcycle. He kept glancing over his shoulder, unable to understand why he felt the paratrooper’s pain. It dwelled on his mind as he returned to the camp to wake up Corporal Wenzel.


He raced back to the scene as quick as he could, though his mind was elsewhere as he tried answering Wenzel’s questions about the extent of the paratrooper’s injuries. One word made itself clearer than all others in his mind: Why?


They stopped near Westheimer and the paratrooper, who had stopped fighting and was lying on his left side with a twisted grimace of pain. Liebermann knelt by him, wondering why he suddenly felt responsible for this man, this complete stranger.


“How on Earth did he survive this?” Wenzel asked.


“I am not sure, but he will die if we do not get him indoors,” Westheimer replied. “Can we safely move him?”


“Have you tried pulling the post out?”


“No.”


“Good. Leave it in for now. Liebermann, can you hold this man on your lap for the trip home? Do not try to take the post out, and just hold him steady.”


Liebermann nodded, careful to avoid touching the fencepost as he sat in the sidecar with the paratrooper. “Just hang in there, alright? You’ll make it.” I didn’t sense you for no reason, did I? He squeezed his eyes shut as they rode back to camp, praying this wasn’t all for nothing.

------------

It was impossible to go back to sleep when Liebermann was ordered back to his bunk after getting cleaned up. He was exhausted, but concern and confusion over the British paratrooper remained at the forefront of his mind. Why was it me who felt him? I don’t even know who he is. Was it the only way he was ever going to get any help?


Jahn shifted in his bunk when Liebermann returned. “So, what happened? You were gone awhile.”


“It was a British paratrooper outside the camp. He accidentally impaled himself on a fencepost. I don’t know how he survived, but Westheimer and I got him to the medics’ building.”


“Is he going to be alright?”


“I think so. Westheimer said conventional medicine alone isn’t going to help. He’s brewing some healing potions right now.”


“Does he need help?”


“I offered. He told me to get some sleep. I can’t.”


Jahn sat up, rubbing his eyes and yawning. “I’ll stay up with you. You sound like you’re in shock.”


“I just don’t understand how or why this happened. I’m not a psychic warlock.”


“Well, it might not have anything to do with magic.”


“I thought that earlier, but . . . it doesn’t make sense.”


“It probably never will, but it happened. I’ve noticed you’re very intuitive, but you’re also highly sensitive, emotionally, to other people.”


“I’ve never thought of myself as sensitive.”


Jahn nodded. “You may not think it, but you are.” He shrugged. “It’s not a bad thing.” He was quiet for a moment, laying on his bunk looking deep in thought. “Perhaps it’s a gift you have. Something you didn’t realize you have until now.”

------------

After morning roll call, Liebermann headed right to the hospital. Wenzel was pacing with a clipboard, and glanced up when he saw Liebermann come in. “Everything alright?”


“I’m fine. I . . . want to know how the paratrooper is doing,” Liebermann replied. He braced himself for the worst news.


“He’s going to be alright. It’ll take time, though. I’ve never seen anyone survive being impaled like that.” Wenzel looked at his clipboard. “Muscle and tendon damage can heal easily, but what has me worried is the damage to his internal organs. I was in surgery with him for several hours trying to make sure there were no splinters left behind after taking the post out. The fact that he’s still alive is incredible.” He sighed. “I just hope he continues to pull through.”


“Did you get his tags?”


Wenzel reached into his pocket, pulling out two small chips, one round and one octagonal held together by string. “His name is Austin Tretheway.”


“May I go see him?”


“If he’s asleep, don’t wake him.” Wenzel led Liebermann to the post-operation room. There were several beds, and all were empty except for one. The paratrooper was laying partly propped up in it. A thick mass of bandages covered the entry and exit wounds on his back and stomach. His eyes were closed, and he was breathing evenly.


Taking a folding chair and placing it next to the bed, Liebermann was lost on what more to do other than sit and think. Obviously, Tretheway wasn’t awake, so he couldn’t really say anything.


As he delved into his thoughts, Liebermann was pulled from them by Westheimer entering the room. He stood to salute, but Westheimer gestured for him to sit.


“I’m sorry I’m not at my post, sir,” Liebermann said.


“You are not on rotation today, because I knew you would be distracted,” Westheimer replied. He held up a tiny bottle of a pale blue liquid and shook it a couple of times before taking the cap off. “Hold open his mouth, please.”


Liebermann gently opened Tretheway’s mouth. Westheimer poured the contents of the bottle in, and carefully tipped Tretheway’s head back so it went down his throat. “What is that?” Liebermann asked.


“Regeneration potion,” Westheimer explained. “It will assist in repairing the damage done to his muscles and organs. I forget you were never taught how to brew potions.”


Liebermann shook his head. “Am I going to be punished for last night, sir?”


“No. Why should you?”


“I barged into your quarters and woke you up.”


“You saved this man’s life. No sane officer would punish you for that.”


There was a minute or two of silence, then Liebermann said, “I talked to Jahn about this, but I want to ask you; why did this happen? Why did I feel Tretheway’s pain?”


“What did Jahn say?”


“He said it may not make sense, but it probably never will and it was meant to happen regardless.”


“He is probably right. Try not to dwell too much on the ‘why’ and ‘how.’ The point is that it led to you saving Tretheway’s life.” Westheimer glanced at the sleeping paratrooper. “I have already told the Red Cross about this, and they are taking care of alerting the British government. For now, Tretheway can rest and recover.”


“This isn’t serious enough to send him back to Britain?”


“Technically, it is, but like I told Wenzel, Tretheway will need more than surgery and rest. With the damage done to his intestinal tract, it is likely that he will not be able to eat properly for several months. His weight will plummet like a stone.”


Liebermann looked down at the floor. “You’ve seen this before, haven’t you?”


“World War I. Battle of St. Quentin Canal. A sergeant was bayoneted in the stomach by an Australian soldier. He probably would have survived without my help, but I did not want to take the risk. The same applies here to Tretheway. He will survive without magical aid, but I will not have a prisoner die on my watch.” Westheimer stood up. “I had best get back to work.” He leaned on his staff, looking down at Liebermann. “I suggest you find something to distract yourself. Tretheway will be alright. You cannot sit here all day.”


Nodding a little, Liebermann got up as well. As he left the room, he looked over his shoulder, silently hoping Tretheway would pull through.

January 02, 2022 18:05

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

1 comment

Heather Z
17:30 Jan 10, 2022

Soldiers with psychic powers! Cool story.

Reply

Show 0 replies
RBE | We made a writing app for you (photo) | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.