The Angel On Her Wing - 2 - The Future

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The Angel On Her Wing


THE ANGEL ON HER WING


War Changes Everyone.

From the Author:

Note, the references to Spitfires were changed to Hurricanes to better reflect 43 Squadron's actual aircraft.

Chapter Two - The Future

To this day, there is a great deal that we do not understand about the human mind. We can often theorise how it works and how it processes our emotions but many elements are as alien to us as the surfaces of distant worlds. Our dreams often serve as a sorting yard for our waking sensations. They are a world in which we can subconsciously file away our emotions and feelings into more recognizable and more digestible elements that allow our lives to go on in as unhindered a fashion as possible.

Brian’s dreams were filled with violence and fire. He did not replay his final waking moments in order, but rather a journey of more general sensation as his troubled subconscious attempted to process the sheer volume of signals and sensations that had rushed through it in the moments before the darkness claimed him. For a human being to feel so much, so very much while under such extreme stress was and is still poorly understood.

Flashes of gunfire and burning wreckage flashed through his mind as he relived his fraught and terrifying battle to survive. The adrenaline-fueled horror of combat warped and demonised the Nazi aircraft into strange and horrifying visions of evil. Cannon fire shook his aircraft as blood and oil clouded his eyes. The aircraft shook, jolting his body violently. Fire and terror gripped him as his eyes snapped open suddenly, searching for the eldritch horrors that pursued him. Instead of fire and violence, the sky above him was a beautiful blue. The blood rushing through his ears began to subside, only to be replaced by the growling rumble of a truck engine.

It took his foggy mind a moment to comprehend where he was and what had happened. No longer lying in a French field, he felt the hardness of wooden boards beneath him and the vibration of a truck engine. The trees lining the roadway flashed by between the bars that secured the canvas cover to the body. His eyes wandered slowly over the people seated around him. German Field grey uniforms and helmets lined the benches on either side. It took him a surprisingly long time to realise that they were looking at him.

“Du bist aus England, ja?” Asked a man kneeling to his left, seeing that Brian was awake. “You are Englisch, English pilot, RAF yes?”

Brian nodded weakly, raising his hand to his head. “Yes, I am English,” he groaned quietly, apprehensive of the response his admission would receive from what he now realised was his German captors.

The Soldier nodded as if he had suspected as much. “You lie still Englisch. You are hurt. We take to Field Hospital. You are prisoner now.”

Brian nodded but remained silent. A Prisoner of War camp was his future from now on and there was little point resisting his fate in his current state. His best chance of escape, it was said, was during the first few hours after capture; however, in his current condition, he was in no shape to fight back. His body was a canvas of different painful sensations and he wasn’t even sure he could stand. He had done his job, he’d fought and killed and it was over. With a calm acceptance of his fate, he allowed the pain in his head to reclaim his consciousness.

When Brian woke up again, he was lying on a bed under a gently rotating ceiling fan. There was a strong smell of disinfectant in the air and the unmistakable tang of blood that told him unequivocally that he was in a hospital. Looking around, he could see nurses attending to rows of occupied beds similar to his own. He wasn’t sure if they were all Germans or fellow prisoners like himself.. Besides medical staff, he could see no guards watching over him. Raising his hand slowly and carefully, he confirmed his suspicions; he was handcuffed firmly to the metal frame of the bed.

Upon hearing the rattle of the cuff, a dark-haired nurse in a smart white uniform turned away from a chart she had been reading and approached his bed.

“Hello, can you tell me your name?” she asked politely in German-accented English. “We need it for our records.” She shrugged apologetically. “I am not here to interrogate you, but it would help us ensure you are recorded as captured, not dead,” she offered as Brian hesitated.

“Brian Campbell,” he offered simply, not quite certain of who he could trust at present, military or otherwise.

“Ok Mister Campbell,” the nurse smiled. “You are in a Military Hospital in Valognes, a patrol found you and brought you in after your aircraft crashed not too far from here.”

“How long have I been here?” Brian asked quietly, closing his eyes and grimacing as a jab of pain shot through his body once more. “Do you know what happened to me?”

The nurse smiled sympathetically and lowered herself into the plain chair beside Brian’s bed. “You were brought in two days ago as far as I know. I was not working at the time, but it must have been then. As for what is wrong with you, I can tell you that you needed surgery to repair a bleed. Beyond that, you will need to ask the doctor about the specifics when he comes around. I know that at this time you are at no risk though, your charts show you are recovering well. Your vitals are good and you seem coherent enough for a head injury, so things are not so grim yes?” she smiled, touching Brian’s arm.

“Aside from being in an enemy military hospital, I’d be inclined to agree with you.” Brian murmured softly, “thank you, nurse.”

Squeezing his arm with a polite smile, the nurse stood and left him to attend to another patient in the ward.

Brian lowered his head back to the pillow and tried to focus on the ceiling fan above him. He wasn’t sure about anything anymore. His body hurt, and he wasn’t in a position to examine himself as he lay cuffed to the bed. He’d never been this seriously injured before in his life, even as a child, so his expectations of hospitals in general were limited.

His body hurt, though where specifically was hard to place as he was on relatively strong pain medication, drip-fed into him by the German medical staff. He remembered the pain he felt when his parachute opened and how it had sliced through his body like a hot poker. He could move his legs and hips, although painfully, so he assumed that he hadn’t somehow shattered his pelvis in the accident.

The fate of the German pilot he had battled with over the French countryside also clawed at the back of his mind. The man had been good, he knew that. The very fact he had survived almost felt like a miracle. By rights, the more experienced aviator should have torn him to shreds. He felt almost guilty having won the duel. He hoped the man had survived their encounter.

* * *

Later that afternoon, Brian was woken by a stern-looking older man with a thin moustache and round wireframed spectacles hovering above his bed. The man’s white coat was indicative of his career, even if the stethoscope around his neck had not given the game away.

“Doctor?” he asked groggily attempting to move himself up into a sitting position.

The doctor frowned absent-mindedly and waved a hand at Brian to remain where he was. “You are awake I see? Good. I wish to make you aware that you were injured by your parachute landing and there were complications, but you are recovering well. I have been instructed by the Luftwaffe to attend to your immediate medical concerns and then turn you over to them for transfer to a Prisoner of War camp when I deem you healthy enough to travel,” he replied stiffly.

“What complications?” Brian asked, concern edging his voice.

“Those… I am not permitted to comment on that at this time,” the doctor replied firmly. His mask of indifference slipped slightly to one of mild discomfort as he spoke. “You must wait for the Luftwaffe Officer who is coming to explain this to you.”

“Hey, I have a right to know what’s bloody wrong with me,” Brian shot back. “Am I your patient or the Luftwaffe’s?”

The doctor frowned deeply. “You are not my patient by choice, Englishman; I treat you because I must, as a doctor, not because I like you.”

“Surely a medical issue is just… it’s right that you tell me?”

The man hesitated, almost as though he was considering telling Brian the truth. Instead, he turned and left briskly without further word.

Brian was frustrated by the German physician’s attitude, but shrugged it off; he was, after all, an enemy combatant. There was no reason to expect flowers and chocolates at his bedside. He was more concerned however by the reference the doctor made to ‘complications’. It seemed at odds with his reportedly good health. The man’s apparent discomfort certainly made him uneasy.

That the doctor would not tell him the truth was frightening. What could be so horrific that he didn’t want to tell him? Brian tried to dig through the muddy pain and narcotic haze that he felt to locate the source of his injuries but failed. Nothing seemed quite clear. With a mix of apprehension and frustration, he drifted off to a fitful sleep.

* * *

The next morning, Brian awoke to find a German officer seated by the foot of his bed. The man was quietly reading what appeared to be a paperback novel and was in no hurry for him to awaken. Every once in a while, his eyes would drift back to where Brian lay before returning to the pages of his book. Brian watched the German carefully for a moment before the man realised that he was awake.

The man smiled broadly and closed his novel after meticulously marking his place with a leather bookmark. “Good morning Heir Campbell, my name is Hauptman Markus Bergmann,” the man announced formally as he reached over and offered Brian his hand. Brian accepted the greeting with caution and confusion.

“As you can see, I am not in a fighting state at the moment myself,” he grinned nodding towards a wooden crutch leaning against the window sill. “I desired greatly to meet with the English pilot that has awarded me this brief respite from the tireless pursuit of your brethren.”

“You were the pilot I shot down?” Brian asked with trepidation as he lifted himself into a sitting position in the bed.

“I am indeed,” beamed Bergmann. The man leaned forwards conspiratorially and lowered his voice. “I was speaking with your doctor just now. Between you and I, he is an awfully dour fellow. He mentioned that you were well enough to perhaps take a brief constitutional. Would you care to join me for some fresh air? Perhaps we could talk more about… our common experiences away from the formality of this place.” He added nodding in the direction of the doctor, who Brian could see was hovering just out of earshot.

Brian smiled. “I’d take you up on that offer Hauptman, but I am somewhat at a loss to personally agree,” he mentioned raising his shackled wrist and shaking the chain.

Hauptman Bergmann shook his head sadly and waved over a nurse. After a brief conversation she disappeared off and promptly returned carrying a set of keys. Leaning down, she unlocked the cuff around his wrist and stepped back. Freed, Brian rubbed his naked wrist, encouraging the circulation to flow once more.

“Thank you,” he offered, looking over at the German officer. “Although what’s to stop me doing a runner?”

Bergmann chuckled. “Oh, you could try, although like myself at present I believe you are no flight risk, as they say.”

Brian glanced down to the man’s lower limbs that had been previously hidden by the bed. Bergmann’s left leg was in a cast.

Brian pulled the woollen dressing gown about his shoulders as the two walked slowly through the small garden within the hospital grounds. Before the start of the war it had been a town clinic of some form and a few merciful vestiges of that civilian life still remained. The garden itself was surrounded on three sides by the Hospital; A quiet area of flower beds, paved pathways, and seating areas to allow the convalescing somewhere tranquil to get away from the hospital itself. The garden could have been anywhere in England if it had not been for the drab military signs on the walls in German text that proclaimed it property of the German Army.

Tugging the dressing gown tighter, Brian walked slowly and uneasily alongside the German officer in silence. He felt cold, despite the summer sunshine that bathed the courtyard; he wasn’t sure if it was the doctor’s words, his predicament, or his proximity to the enemy. His body felt stiff and unfamiliar after his time in the hospital bed. There was still pain, but it was far less focused now.

Stopping by a small bench, Bergmann gestured for them to sit before opening a silver cigarette case and offered it to Brian wordlessly. Gratefully accepting the cigarette, he held it to his lips as the German gave him a light before tending to his own; the two smoked for a moment in silence savouring a brief moment of peace. Whatever Brian had expected of life as a prisoner of war, smoking in a French hospital garden with the German pilot that he had shot down was not on that list.

He looked over at the German Captain and regarded him for a moment. The man was about his age or perhaps slightly older. Much taller than Brian’s five foot six, Markus Bergmann was almost the poster child for the Aryan movement; Tall, broad, and blonde-haired. His dress uniform was immaculate save the cast covering his left foot.

Bergmann caught his look and smiled. “You were flying before the war?”

“With my uncle, nothing particularly exciting, but I could fly. I only joined the Royal Air Force as war broke out,” Brian admitted. “Sort of a patriotic duty to serve I suppose.”

“I have been flying all my life,” explained Bergmann with a sheepish grin revealing his deeper feelings on the subject. “My father, he taught me when I was but thirteen. For most of my youth I would fly for pleasure; for any reason I could find. I almost wished I would never have to return to the land.”

“You joined the Luftwaffe before the war then?” Brian asked.

Bergman shook his head. “No, not at first. I was a naval officer of all things,” he chuckled. “My father was a Fregattenkapitän, ah, sorry, Commander? in the Kriegsmarine, our navy. I had wanted to possibly fly seaplanes, although I never did like the idea of being shot from a battleship into the air.”

“So dodging bullets was preferable?” Brian asked with amusement, a crease of a smirk on his lips.

“What is it you English say? I traded one frying pan for a fire,” Bergmann smiled sardonically. “But either way, I defend the Germany of my family and future generations. Regardless of the politics.” The Pilot said with a dismissive wave.

“So you’re not one for the goose-stepping about then?” Brian asked teasingly, feeling more comfortable in the other pilot’s presence as the man opened up to him.

Bergmann shook his head. “Why we fight, I do not wish to discuss, but fight we do. I do my duty; It is my job as a soldier. I follow the orders of those above me as an Officer should.”

“But what about Hitler and his thing with rounding up the Jews and others? I’m not sure I could willingly stomach that on my watch.” Brian offered. “There’s fighting because we must, and then there’s willing ignorance.”

Bergmann lowered his head. “That there is, but we are both airmen yes? Tell me this… Can you tell me of one time when you have flown a mission that was not a response to enemy action? We intercept, we escort, we reconnoitre, we attack, but all of it is a direct response to conflict, not politics. Our jobs are far removed from the desks. We fight because we must, not because we want to…. Politics.” Bergmann shrugged. “It is largely irrelevant once the shooting starts no?”

Brian nodded more to himself than in agreement. “True enough,” he offered softly. “True enough.”

Bergman chuckled. “On the subject of shooting, I had wanted to speak with you about the manoeuvre you used when we fought, where did you learn to fly in such a way?” the German airman asked with a hint of awe, “It is not a standard tactic I think.”

“Tricks of the trade,” Brian smiled, tapping his nose with his index finger. “I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you.”

Markus Bergman Laughed heartily. “I am not so sure it would be a complete loss if you did.” He grinned. “Rarely do I come up against pilots that understand the limitations of their own aircraft, never mind that of their enemies also. The way you forced me to commit to a chase before you sprang your trap…. It was truly a delight. I will not make the same mistake again.”

Brian blushed. “I think you give me too much credit,” He smiled weakly, “I could tell you were an experienced pilot and that I wouldn’t have much chance. I was low on fuel so I tried something absurd to try and rattle you and keep my behind out of your gun sight.”

Bergmann nodded, “That it did, I was not prepared for such an action.”

The conversation wore on, experiences were shared, the shop talk that aviators amongst their own kind engaged in. Eventually, things began to wind down and the pair sat in silence. Brian, however, desperately wanted to raise a subject that had been evading him since his arrival at the hospital. Stubbing out his cigarette, he turned on the bench to face the German officer.

“Look,” Brian began, getting Bergman’s attention. “I’d like you to be straight with me here, flyer to flyer. That bloody excuse for a doctor in there won’t tell me what’s wrong with me,” Brian frowned, nodding towards the hospital. “Has he told you anything? I hate being left out of the loop like this. It's obviously bad, so just spit it out.” He said with mounting frustration.

Markus Bergmann’s expression fell and the man frowned. “I suppose you should be told…” he mused. “However, I was not quite prepared to tell you so soon.”

“I’m going to die,” Brian stated flatly, as an unusual calm washed over his body.

Bergmann shook his head. “No, nothing like that. Actually, you are healthy; at least physically.” He began, choosing his words carefully. “It is more, well, the doctors were forced to operate on you when you were brought in,” he explained. “Your…” he gestured towards his trousers. “Hoden, ah, testicles. They were damaged, you were bleeding and…” He trailed off. Placing a hand on Brian’s shoulder, the man smiled sympathetically. “They had to remove them, I’m very sorry Herr Campbell.”

Brian sat quietly for a moment, unsure of how he should feel at such news. “Oh,” he finally responded quietly, “I see.”

“I expected you to take this news more, badly?” Bergmann said tentatively. “You are not angry, upset? You would have the right.”

Brian considered this for a moment before responding. “I’m really not sure what to think,” he admitted looking out over the garden. “I suppose in a way it’s my own fault for not fastening my harness properly and expecting to live forever. That and bad luck I suppose. Hadn’t really considered myself the family sort really. I would rather be alive than dead after all. I am a little annoyed that the doctor wouldn’t tell me though, Numb? of course. Though I don’t feel angry. I’m alive right?”

“You have every right to Heir Campbell.”

“My name is Brian,” he said flatly, looking at the German opposite him. “I think after dropping a bombshell like that one on me I would have thought we would be beyond formalities,” he chuckled nervously.

“Brian it is,” Bergmann nodded, “I am Marcus.”

“What’s to become of me Marcus?” Brian asked, tentatively changing the topic. He looked up at the German officer with a more nervous expression on his face. “What comes next for me?”.

Bergmann interlaced his fingers and sighed. “You will be transferred to a Prisoner of War camp soon. Well, as soon as you are fit to be transported. I am sorry; these are the rules of the game we play. You will be treated fairly, we are not monsters.”

Brian laughed. “No need to be sorry, I’m the dolt that had the bad luck to come down in your back garden. It’s the rules of the game.”

“You English have strange ways of coping with bad news,” Bergmann added before offering his hand to the English pilot. “I think perhaps we could share a drink after the war is over. We could learn much from each other.”

“Yes,” Brian agreed softly, grasping the man’s hand in return. “Yes, I suppose we could.”

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There is an old saying that wars are always fought…….

D. Eden's picture

Over economic reasons. That old men looking for economic gain are why we fight.

That is very wrong. Yes, there is always someone looking to make money off of war, but wars are fought by young people for idealistic reasons.

No one is willing to put their body in harms way, to possibly die, just so the price of oil can be controlled. Or so some rich person can become richer.

No, people fight for their ideals. Things like freedom, or honor, or very often for religion.

Or as this chapter says, to defend their own country.

Wars may be started by old men looking to get richer - but that is not why they are fought. In all my time in the service, not once did anyone ever tell me they were fighting for Exxon-Mobil, or so Donald Trump could make more money.

D. Eden

Dum Vivimus, Vivamus

Very true.

Kit's picture

I really enjoyed the potential for this story to not just look at a trans character, but also... people. German people, English people, human beings. Who they are, why they fight... what motivates and drives.

The war is always viewed as this black and white (not a film of the era joke) good vs evil. That isn't true. There were good and bad on BOTH sides. Yes the Nazis were evil, but that wasn't every single German. Just like America's right isn't JUST maga...

I like Turtles.