The Angel On Her Wing - 7- Break Free

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The Angel On Her Wing


THE ANGEL ON HER WING


War Changes Everyone.
Terrible events lead to an opportunity

 

Chapter Seven - Break Free

 

“You seem to be far more developed than when I last saw you.” Doctor Muller mused as Brian bashfully redressed. “I am quite surprised by the difference a few months has made.”

“Is it bad?”

Muller shook his head, “No, not bad. You are, according to my measurements, entirely healthy.”

Brian dropped down into the seat by Muller’s desk and inclined his head. “Healthy, but not normal.”

“Can I be frank with you Brian? One hundred percent truthful?”

The young aviator nodded reluctantly, “Go ahead Doctor, I trust you.”

Muller frowned and collected his thoughts before continuing. “If you had come into my practice in Frankfurt before the war, and lacked one critical element, I would tell you that you were developing into a healthy and dare I say, delightful young woman.”

“I think I can guess what element you mean,” Brian cringed as he blushed crimson. “Is it really that bad?”

“There is nothing bad about it Brian. Is it unusual? Most certainly. Whatever this whole mess has unearthed is proceeding at its own pace and will conclude in its own time.” The German reached out and clasped Brian by the shoulder. “I think, dear boy, you will need to come to terms with the fact that you will struggle to present as a male in time to come if, that is, you are not already.”

Seeing the look on Brian’s face, he continued. “I expected as much. It does make me fear for your safety amongst the other prisoners. They are officers and gentlemen, but we all know that war changes people.”

“I have good friends, they… they look out for me.”

Muller nodded and smiled, “That makes me feel a lot better. I will try to speak to the Kommandant in the coming days to express my concerns over your situation. I do not believe being in that space with… I cannot say ‘other’, men is right anymore.”

“I’m not sure how to process that Doctor,” Brian admitted quietly.

The two sat in silence for a moment until Muller spoke up. “May I ask a question?”

“Go ahead.”

“My experience in this field is limited, but I have… had read some of Doctor Hirshfeld’s material. In your childhood, were there ever any feelings of… what is the word? Incompatibility? That you did not fit in perhaps with your peers?”

Brian nodded reluctantly, “I never really fitted in I suppose. I always expected I would feel more… normal when I caught up with my brothers.”

“Physically?”

Brian nodded. I think that’s why this hit me so hard at first; realizing I would never catch up.

“You never stopped to ask if you wanted to.”

Brian considered the doctor’s words carefully. The very thought had been rattling around his head for months as he came to terms with his situation.

“Allow me,” Muller interjected, “Do you feel abject loss, that your worth as a man is now less after your accident?”

Brian shook his head, “No.”

“How do you feel about the changes you are experiencing; does appearing female bother you?”

Brian looked away, unable to meet Muller’s eyes. “It doesn’t bother me at all. I… it feels better.” he croaked.

 

* * *

 

With Christmas past, time began to take on a strange fluidity for Brian. Within the confines of the camp, days were beginning to blur together as they spent time isolated from the world outside.
News and information didn’t reach them and events of a normal peacetime life were not present to break up the seasons. The war itself remained the greatest mystery with only the certain knowledge that they might know one way or the other when it ended.

It was somewhere between the end of January and the beginning of February as far as Brian could tell. The snow and frost had melted and its disappearance was a welcome gift to the prisoners as temperatures began their slow crawl towards springtime.

He had just finished another language class in the mess hall and was presently working away in the camp gardens. The small plot was located at the southern end of the compound along the fence line that bordered the forest. Brian joined the other prisoners tasked with preparing the ground for their first crop of the year.

The sun was weak but promised warmer days to come. The ground beneath his fingers was thawing and it gave them the chance to plant once again. Concentrating on his job, Brian worked quietly and efficiently, separating the weeds from the damp earth. He enjoyed the garden work; he felt proud of what they managed to cultivate within their small patch of earth. It helped everyone to eat better and allowed him to feel as though he was truly contributing to the well-being of the whole. Truth be told, in a world of turmoil and uncertainty, it gave him a sense of control and order when he needed it most.

“Come on Campbell,” jeered one of the other prisoners. “Hurry up, we need to get this done or we’re going to be here till the bloody war’s over.”

Brian realized he’d been staring into space and returned his attention to his work, tucking a lock of hair behind his ear as he did so.

“God, I’m almost so desperate for cookie that I’d have a tussle with that.” One of the other prisoners commented to the man who had spoken. Brian couldn’t see the man, but he hadn’t even attempted to lower his voice. “Dunno why they have her out here, we should just stick her in the kitchen where the women belong.”

“Kitchen, Bedroom, anywhere useful,” the original speaker chuckled.

Brian grimaced and resisted the urge to react to the words and the cruel laughter that followed. He had learned the hard way that any response or reaction on his part just resulted in a confrontation that he would never win. Even before he had lost what little strength he had, he had never been a fighter; a physical confrontation with men much larger was a poor choice and he knew it well.

Straightening up, Brian dumped the weeds he had collected into a basket and dusted the soil from his hands. Without looking back toward the others he simply walked away. Gritting his teeth as he left the vegetable garden, he tried to keep his mind off the barbs and the thinly veiled intent of the man’s words.

He had been wrong when he had thought it was almost like school; it was exactly like school. The bullies ruled the coop and nothing could be done about them. He had friends, and they offered him some modicum of protection but the problem was that many of the worst men knew how to play the system. Any sense of it being them versus the Germans had long since departed as many gave way to their baser instinct to act like caged animals.

Slamming the door to the hut behind himself, Brian slumped down against the wall and wrapped his arms around his knees in an attempt to hold back his tears of frustration. The man’s words hurt because he knew they were true. He felt powerless to avoid the attention of those who saw him as a desirable prize or an object of scorn. No matter what he did, he was prey in a predator’s world. Nothing seemed to make sense in his mind anymore; his feelings were difficult enough to interpret and the changes he had experienced over the last few months of captivity had only made them worse.

There were some homosexuals in the camp contingent and some didn’t attempt to hide their nature from the others. It was certainly not encouraged but rather, it was tolerated under their particularly isolated circumstances. He saw how some of those men looked at him. What was more unnerving was that he saw how some of the normal chaps glanced in his direction when they thought he wasn’t looking. The rest, he was convinced, probably considered him homosexual because of his appearance alone.

While he had not as much as kissed a girl before he joined up, he was relatively sure that he wasn’t attracted to men. In all honesty, he wasn’t sure he was interested in anyone at all. He knew that he felt different from the others, even those he considered to be his friends. He wasn’t sure what those feelings meant or how he could convince others differently.

“Ah, there you are darlin’,” a voice growled from the doorway. “Here I thought you were running off to your mates. I’m rather glad you made my job a good deal easier.”

Brian flinched at the voice and turned towards it. “What the hell do you want?” he spat acidly, his frustration overriding his better judgment as he recognized the man from the garden.

“Now don’t talk to me like that! You need to learn your bloody place queer.”

Feeling some adrenaline-fueled shard of bravery, Brian scrambled to his feet and took a step toward the larger man. “I’m not a queer,” he snarled. “Just because… I’m not. Just stop it, ok?” he trailed off, at a loss for the words to defend himself. Brian let his shoulders slump as he understood just how little any comeback meant at that moment.

The larger man smiled and laughed at him, Brian wasn’t even sure if he even knew his name. There was certainly no reason that he could have possibly drawn his ire beyond existing. Before he could react, the man shoved Brian squarely in the chest, sending him stumbling backwards until he lost his balance and landed on the floor with a bump.

“You’re not even a bloody queer,” the man growled down at him. “At least a queer would be man enough to even try and fight back. A man would have tried to throw a punch at me. I don’t think you’re worthy of even being a man.”

Brian’s blood ran cold as he recognized the look of cold hunger in his attacker's eyes. At that moment, he recognized why the man was here and exactly the danger he was in. He tried to scramble backwards to widen the gap between himself and the intruder but ran up against the solid barrier of the hut wall.

“I think you’re a woman,” the man laughed, making effeminate hand gestures and pouting mockingly. “You think I don’t see you wagging that rump around the camp eh? You’re the closest thing we’ve got in here to a bit of skirt and I’m going to use you like one until you accept it’s your new reality.”

Brian blinked back the beginning of tears; he almost believed the man’s cruel words. It was as if part of him felt he deserved whatever was about to come.

“I’m going to teach you to be a proper woman you queer shit,” growled the man as he approached Brian slowly, each footstep falling like thunder on the wooden floorboards. Brian’s heart felt as though it would burst from his chest as adrenaline flooded his system. The man stopped directly above him and looked down with a mask of hate and lust etched on his drawn features.

The man leaned down and idly backhanded him. “Look at you, pretty little thing just teasing us all. You think you don’t have to deal with the consequences? I see you flaunting that body, waving your ass around and teasing us girly. I’m going to make you regret your sashaying around you little bitch.”

The man grabbed Brian by the throat and forced him to his feet. Pinned against the wall, Brian felt tiny and insignificant. He struggled for breath and escape but the man’s hand was clasped firmly around his neck. The man sniffed at Brian’s hair and ran his free hand down the side of his body. Brian squeezed his eyes shut and gasped, his entire body revolting at the man’s touch. The man shoved his hand up Brian’s shirt and squeezed at his flesh roughly, his eyes glowing as he grasped a breast. “What is this?” The man snarled, his stinking breath in Brian’s ear. “Oh this is what I wanted,” he muttered as he ground his crotch against Brian’s hip.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Matheson barked, his body filling the doorway. “Unless you hadn’t realized, we’re all on the same bloody side here.”

The man above Brian turned and grinned at Matheson. “That’s true enough, but this queer keeps eying me up; I figured it was time I taught him his place.”

“You won’t touch he…him,” Andrew replied. His words were even and quiet but they carried a finality that demanded that they not be questioned.

“Oh you want your little fruit all to yourself eh?” the man laughed darkly. “I’m sure you get plenty in here with your mates every night. Step aside for me to have a go eh?”

“You won’t touch him,” Matheson repeated, “I will not tell you again.”

The man smirked and squeezed tighter around Brian’s throat, “Are you going to make me, friend?” The man enquired slowly, the challenge obvious in his voice.

Before the man could close his mouth to grin at Matheson, he was slammed backwards into the cabin wall as the pilot plowed into him with a snarl of rage. Released from the grip, Brian dropped to the floor and rolled away from the threat. Flattening himself against the bunk, he tried to stay clear of the grappling men.

Matheson swung the man around and threw him into one of the bunks with a tremendous crash, rocking the structure backwards with the force of the impact. Recovering his wits, the man swung a fist at Matheson: It was a violent but uncontrolled attack that allowed the airman to sweep it away before landing his own squarely into the man’s gut. As he doubled over with a grunt, Matheson grabbed a fist full of the man’s hair before driving his knee sharply into the man’s bowed head with a sickening crack. As Matheson released him, the man fell limp to the floor.

His chest heaving, Matheson turned to look at Brian. “He didn’t hurt you did he?” he panted. “I’m sorry I didn’t get here sooner; one of the chaps in the work detail overheard what that bastard was planning with his mates and I came as soon as I could,” he apologised, his face filled with concern.

Brian nodded weakly, trying to dampen the tremors he felt racking his body. He wiped away a tear and forced a weak smile. “Thank you,” he offered quietly as he felt the full weight of shame descend upon him. “This wasn’t your fight you know?” he added looking up at Matheson. “It was all my fault and I should have fought back, I rather think I deserved it really.”

Andrew Matheson moved over to Brian and squatted down in front of his friend. “No, It wasn’t,” he said finally. “You didn’t ask for that and he didn’t have the right to do or say those things to you. You’re my friend and friends look out for each other, right?” he smiled reassuringly, wrapping the smaller pilot in a tight hug. “You never deserved any of this Bri.”

“Isn’t this lovely,” a voice called mockingly from the open doorway. Brian’s eyes snapped towards the sound and he spotted his attacker’s friends blocking their only escape route. “You two having a private moment eh? Maybe I should...” The man trailed off as his eyes fell upon the sight of his friend’s prostrate form. “What the hell did you do to Webber? He growled as he rushed over to check on his friend.

Reaching down, he felt for a pulse and recoiled with a look of surprise and disgust on his face. “He’s bloody dead, ” the man cried in surprise. “What the hell did you do that for?”

It was his own fault,” Matheson growled, straightening up. “That will teach him to try to attack others on the same bloody side.”

“You bastard!” the man yelled, launching himself at Andrew.

Blocking the man’s clumsy attack, Matheson kicked him in the stomach before deflecting the blows dealt by his two accomplices. He swung around to hit one of the others when he was distracted by the sudden shade created as a Guard filled the doorway, his submachine gun raised.

“Alle Halt! Hӓnde Hoch!” The guard yelled as he waved the barrel menacingly at the group of men, frozen mid-brawl. “Hӓnde Hoch!” he yelled jerking the barrel between the men.

Overflowing with adrenaline one of the men turned and launched himself foolishly at the nervous German. As if signifying the final punctuation mark on his death warrant, the gun roared in the confined space of the hut, and the man crumpled to the floor, his hands grasping weakly at his bloodied chest.

“You bloody Jerry bastard!” screamed the ringleader as he turned on the German, catching him across the cheek with a lucky punch. The gun went off again, bullets pinning the third attacker to the hut wall and sending Brian scrambling to the floor. The ringleader fought the guard, the two struggling before he finally turned the gun against him. The man coughed blood before dropping to his knees and collapsed to the hut floor.

Matheson struck while the surviving attacker was turned and drove his knee into the man’s back before snapping his neck with a sickening crack and allowing his body to drop to the floor to join the other corpses.

Rushing over to Brian, Matheson quickly checked him over. “Are you ok? You’re not hurt?”

It had all happened so quickly he had barely had time to feel shock. Pushing its tendrils away, Brian shook his head. “No, I’m ok… oh god, what happened.”

Matheson grimaced, “Something brewing for some time; maybe something else too. Come on Bri.” he said, offering his hand to Brian.

“Let’s get out of here before this goes to total hell.” Without missing a moment, Matheson began digging quickly through the dead German’s pouches. Removing four spare magazines for the man’s submachinegun, he reloaded the weapon before slipping the remaining ones into his jacket pocket.

“Well now, that was a little exciting,” he muttered quietly as he glanced out of the hut doorway quickly before snapping his head back inside.

“Bri, can you grab his sidearm and cover me? I think we might have to modify our timetable somewhat. This little tussle has escalated matters somewhat.”

Brian moved away from the wall and over to the dead soldier. Crouching down, he unfastened the man’s belt holster with trembling fingers and removed the Luger pistol. “How do we even begin to explain any of this?” he asked dumbfounded. “I… I messed everything up.”

“Not quite,” Matheson replied smoothly without taking his eyes off the alleyway between the huts, “Come on now.” He hissed beckoning Brian to follow him as he darted out of the door and across the alley and into the one across from them.

“No, you didn’t mess anything up; you just modified the timetable somewhat,” Matheson smiled as Brian reached the hiding place beside him. “You might have improved our chances too, so chin up eh? Jerry is going to help us escape.”

“Did you forget about the bloody company of Luftwaffe guards outside the wire?” Brian hissed urgently at his friend, trying to work out what madness was running through his thick skull.

Before Matheson could answer, two guards rounded the corner at a run with their weapons raised. The men made their way cautiously towards the scene of the carnage, neither of them paying the huts to their rear any notice as they approached the open door. “Wo ist du Rudolf?” one called as he poked his head through the doorway, stopping dead as he was confronted by the bloodbath within. “Mein Gott,” the man exclaimed, “Alarm Heinrich, gib Alarm!” he yelled turning to his compatriot. The man didn’t have a chance to raise as much as his weapon as Matheson swung the hut door open and sprayed the pair with his submachine gun.

“Come on! help me get their weapons,” he ordered, making his way quickly out into the alley and removing the first German’s equipment. “The more we kill and more of us we arm the better the chance we have for this to work. This place is so isolated that we’ll be long gone before they have a chance to get any reinforcements up here,” Matheson explained. “If we can cause enough of a ruckus, we might make it out of here in one piece in all the crazy. Unlike bloody Berkley’s convoluted schemes, this is the kind of plan that has some hope of us making it.”

“That’s all well and good,” Brian replied skeptically, slinging the spare weapon over his shoulder. “What is your plan for tiptoe past Hitler and the rest of his pals outside the camp?”

Matheson chuckled as they ducked between the huts following them closer to the center of the camp. “I’ll work it out when we get there, or rather, out of here.”

As the pair rounded the next hut, they barely managed to avoid a collision with Hamley, Down and Maddox moving quickly towards the sounds of gunfire.

“We heard shooting? What’s going on?” Maddox panted, his eyes widening at the sight of the pair laden with weapons. “Are you two after getting yourselves killed?”

“Fight went badly wrong and a Jerry bought it. It presented an opportunity. Here,” Matheson offered, holding out the weapons as he explained quickly to the group. “Help yourselves chaps. I think our tenancy here is just about up.”

With practiced ease, the men checked over the weapons and ammunition. “What’s the plan then boss?” Down asked cocking the weapon in his hands. “We gun our way out of here and off to Paris for cocktails?”

“Stick within the confines of the huts,” Matheson instructed. “We’re out of sight of the towers and their heavy guns. Drop as many Jerries as possible and arm as many of our chaps as we can. If we can cause a general riot with more confusion the better it will give us a fighting chance of legging it before the dust settles. I’ll see about sorting out those towers myself if you can buy me some time.”

“You’re a mad one,” chuckled Hamley, “but this sounds like good craic, so let's have out of this place eh? I think I’m tired of fuckin’ cabbage.”

“Go in pairs,” Matheson added sharply, his happy-go-lucky facade slipping under the focused military exterior. “Hamley and Maddox, Down and Campbell, I’ll go alone for now, I’ve got something I need to sort out… And for god’s sake,” he added looking over his shoulder. “Try not to get bloody killed will you? I’ll find you when I’m done.”

The group split up and began to make their way through the maze of huts. Brian could hear the camp sirens wailing as gunfire rattled out around the camp. It was clear now that other prisoners had taken the initiative and risen up against their guards. The entire facility was in a state of general revolt. The sharp bark of the tower machine guns was a worrying bass line that accompanied the sounds of battle.

As they rounded a corner, Brian spotted a group of heavily armed guards slowly making their way between the huts as they hunted the rioting prisoners. Before the Germans could get any closer or spot the pair, a group of allied prisoners jumped the squad and began beating them with garden implements before gathering their weapons for themselves. The definitions of guard and detainee were now almost totally forgotten as the former lines of battle had been redrawn within the wire perimeter of the camp.

“God damn this is the wild damn west,” Down remarked with a whistle, “that silly limey’s gonna get us all fuckin’ killed.”

“He was saving my life,” Brian replied defensively. “He started all of this to save me,” he added more softly. It didn’t matter what Andrew had said to him in the hut. He felt responsible for this entire mess and he could only hope they made it out of it in one piece.

Down shook his head slowly and worked his jaw. “I hope to heck he knows what he’s doing all the same.” As he scanned the alleyway ahead, Brian could see the worry in the man’s eyes. His friend didn’t need to verbalize the fear and apprehension he was feeling, he could feel it in the pit of his own stomach.

A loud crunch made Brian turn suddenly as he heard the sound of running boots behind them. Without thinking he raised the German Luger pistol and squeezed the trigger at the shape of a German helmet as it rounded the corner. The bullet struck the man squarely in the throat before he had a chance to raise his own gun. With a gargle and a look of surprise, the soldier dropped to his knees with his hands gripping his ruined throat. The man seemed to wobble for a moment before collapsing immobile to the ground.

“Damn kid, that was some darn good shootin’,” Down grinned with admiration. “I barely heard that fella coming.”

Brian didn’t answer, he was still looking between the German’s body and the smoking barrel of his pistol, shocked at what he had just done. He had trained with his issued revolver as they all had but it’s use had always been a theoretical concept for him. As pilots, they never expected to ever fire their sidearms at anyone in particular. It’s purpose was for self-defence in an emergency and none of them really expected to get shot down. Their main enemy was the paper targets of the shooting range where it was merely a mechanical skill with no ramifications.

He had shot down enemy aircraft and men had died that much was true, but the boxy outline of an enemy aircraft was far less personal and much easier to dehumanize than killing a man face to face. The act seemed far more gruesome and unforgivable; it was hard not to see the man lying before him as a fellow human being rather than an enemy.

Down spotted the look on Brian’s face and grabbed him by the shoulders. “Hey, look at me, Brian, for gods sake! we can’t stay here,” he barked as he recognized the state the British pilot was slipping into. “Come on,” he yelled and pulled him down another alley behind him. “You can worry about that Kraut later; we still need to get the hell out of here in one piece.”

The Deep krump of an explosion reverberated through the camp, shortly followed by a second louder blast that deadened all other sounds for a brief moment. In it’s aftermath, the vicious chatter of the machine guns in the towers was silenced. Down whooped as they ran onward.

“Fuckin A’ man! I think he’s actually gone and done it!” he cheered punching the air. “Come on, let’s beat this damn joint!”

They reached the end of the row closest to the source of the explosions and peered out onto a scene of mayhem across the breadth of the camp. The dead ground between the huts and the gun towers that had been the gardens and football pitch was littered with the bodies of prisoner and guard alike. There were people running and diving for cover, most of them were prisoners. Both of the towers had been nearly shredded by explosions that left them twisted and burning; only the crackle of burning ammunition was left where the machine guns had formerly resided.

As they surveyed the carnage, Matheson jogged over to them looking slightly singed. “Got the bastards,” he smirked, clutching his submachine gun in one hand. “I think we might just make it out of this one. You seen the others?”

“Not yet.” The American admitted as they took cover behind a low wall, “What’s it looking like out there?”

Matheson reloaded his weapon before responding. “Rather surprisingly, it's going in our favor: We control inside the wire and several groups made it through the main gates. The fighting has moved out into the garrison now, so do me a favor Down; go round up the others and meet us by the gate.” The American snapped a lazy salute before taking off at a jog back the way they had come.

“What the hell did I start?” Brian muttered taking in the destruction around them.

Matheson shook his head. “This wasn’t your fault Bri, it was coming for some time. Don’t blame yourself for anything, especially…” Matheson paused and squeezed Brian’s shoulder. “Especially not for what happened in the hut.” Brian was about to speak in protest but the Navy man shook his head and smiled reassuringly. “Honestly, I see us getting a good shot at making it home if we play our cards right here, so I should thank you for that.”

Home: That would be interesting.

It wasn’t long before the remaining machine gun towers surrounding the camp had fallen silent and infrequent bursts of gunfire and explosions died down as the surviving prisoners began to break through the wire and make their bid for freedom in the dense forest surrounding the camp.

Brian and Andrew were soon rejoined by the other men from their hut as others took advantage of the confusion and anarchy.

“What’s the plan then Andrew?” Hamley enquired calmly, as he rested his weapon against a hut wall and lit a liberated German cigarette before offering the pack to Matheson. “Don’t get me wrong, this little bout of payback was great craic, but how does ye magic plan go on from here?”

Matheson accepted the cigarette with a nod and smiled cheerfully. “We still use my plan, but we use a lot less of it thanks to Bri here. We’ll be driving home old chaps; we take German uniforms and identification papers along with one of their vehicles outside and we bloody well drive to Switzerland.”

“That simple?” Down asked sceptically. “They aren’t going to stop us or wonder why we don’t speak any German?”

“Not at all,” Matheson added smiling. “I speak fluent German, I know Maddox is pretty decent and Brian here is bloody close to fluent too after spending all that time back in school. I told you that would be useful didn’t I?”

Brian shook his head in disbelief. “You’ve had a scheme this whole time haven’t you?”

Matheson simply grinned as he turned back to the others.

“So what next boss?” Maddox chipped in, racking the bolt on his weapon.

“I’m the boss now am I?” Matheson chuckled. “I don’t think I deserve that.”

“Well someone’s got to be I suppose,” Maddox shrugged. “You seem to have the answers so far, I’ve no issue defaulting to your command old boy.”

“Yeah well we can deal with that later.” Matheson waved dismissively “We’re all equals in this. If you guys want to come with me I think I have a good shot at getting us out of Germany alive. We may have to do some bad things, but we will survive. With fair seas and following winds, we’ll make it back to blighty in one piece. Anyone that wants to go it alone or stay, now’s your chance.”

“You know my answer,” Hamley grunted, “My Missus would skin my hide if I didn’t get back to her and the girls as soon as possible.” He chuckled, stubbing out his cigarette butt.

“Just as long as you limey’s buy me a pint of that English beer you keep telling me is so darn wonderful,” grinned Down.

Maddox shrugged, “the Jerries don’t exactly host a good game of Rugger boss.”

The group looked at Brian, who stood still fingering the pistol in his hands. Brian looked up and smiled sheepishly. “I didn’t like the food here anyway.”

Matheson looked at them all in turn and nodded, “Good, that’s settled then.” There was a tone of relaxed authority in his voice that outlined the true character of the man. “We need to get over to the admin building outside the wire and take whatever uniforms and documents we can get our hands on: If we do this half-arsed like most of the other chaps, we’ll be back inside or shot before the week is up. If we take a little time to prepare and cover our tracks we can make this work for us instead.”

“So what do you need us to do?” Down asked purposefully.

 

* * *

 

Maddox shoved open the door to the Administration block and swept the room with his weapon. “Clear,” he called moving forward cautiously into the room. The others followed him inside and began to fan out and explore. Maddox moved past a row of desks before coming to an abrupt halt.

“Over here,” he called out flatly, his eyes not leaving the spot on the floor. As the others congregated by him they caught sight of what had stopped the man in his tracks. A group of Germans lay dead on the flood where they had fallen. Each with a bullet in the back.

“Damn,” Hamley cursed, “those fuckers executed them.”

“Dead kraut is a dead kraut,” Down shrugged. “It’s a few less for us to deal with.”

Hamley turned on the American and jabbed him in the chest with a finger. “Now listen here you,” he spat with menace. “Yes, we might be fighting the Krauts but when people are prisoners, they are prisoners. Both sides look after them: Them’s the rules. They stood by ‘em with us, we do the same. These were not armed soldiers; They were unarmed enemy combatants in uniform. This is murder, straight up and down and that’s not on where I come from. You mind your damn tongue, Yank.”

Matheson put his hand on the Irishman’s arm and shook his head. “Not here,” he said quietly. “We’re on the same side and it won’t change anything, Arthur. Down; watch your tongue like the man says and try to be a little bit more respectful.”

“Maddox,” he called, “these Germans must have lived around here somewhere. Go and find their billets; they will have more than one uniform, unlike us.”

The Navy pilot nodded before disappearing through a side doorway.

“Sort through these bodies,” Matheson ordered, turning to Brian. “Find any papers on them and any effects and Identification material, we’re going to need it all.”

Brian nodded his understanding and set about his gruesome task.

The bodies had been left where they fell as the marauding prisoners had rampaged through the camp. Papers and objects were scattered across the floor creating a scene of great brutality even within wartime. The prisoners had all been treated fairly by the German guards. There was an understanding: They were not friends, but there was a responsibility of honor that had been entirely upheld. It was one thing to break out and take up arms against the equally armed guards. But the camp staff were not all armed, these office staff certainly hadn’t been. What appeared to make matters worse was the bindings on the wrists of the victims; they had been captured before their execution.

Several of the bodies yielded identification disks and papers that Brian piled on a desk by his side. The final body belonged to a young woman. Her rank pins marked her out as a an Oberleutnant, the german equivalent of a Lieutenant. Brian stared at the woman for a moment; he recognised her. Her face looked surprisingly calm in death. Despite the horrid wounds that blossomed from her chest her expression was calm. It looked as though she had understood the futility of fear in her final moments and made peace with her end.

As Brian lamented the woman’s untimely end it came to him; she was the woman that had spoken to him when they had been detailed to assist the painter. He had barely spoken to her then but she had seemed so vital and alive. Her present state seemed to have snatched her youthful innocence.

“I didn’t know we had any female prisoners here,”

The woman’s words echoed in his mind as he knelt beside her body. Was it that easy to confuse him for a woman at this point? Brian carefully slipped the identity disk from her neck and read the name aloud; “Oberleutnant Maria Horler.” He said a silent prayer for her untimely passing and closed her eyelids. Brian couldn’t help but believe that it would be one prayer too few in this terrible war.

Maddox reappeared at that moment with a grin of triumph on his face. “Boss, I found their quarters. Just as you said, spare uniforms, luggage and everything we need.”

Matheson nodded, “Did you find the papers Brian?” he continued, turning to the younger pilot. Brian nodded, still clutching the disk in his hand.

“Right then, what do we have?”

Brian sorted through the stack of identity papers before him before placing them on a desk in a row. “One Major, a Hauptmann, two Oberfeldwebel, and… an Oberleutnant.”

Matheson looked strangely at Brian for a moment before nodding. Then picked up a set of documents and handed them to Maddox. “Ok, Hauptmann Becker for you, and take these two for Hamley and Down; find their quarters and get yourselves sorted.”

Maddox nodded curtly and left to find the others. Matheson watched him leave the room before he turned back towards Brian and raised an eyebrow. “I’m sure we had only four men a moment ago?”

Brian blushed slightly and nodded. “Correct, we have four men here, however have five sets of identities and five sets of uniforms to split amongst the five of us.”

“We could probably find another set somewhere else in the camp surely,” Matheson asked pointedly as he walked over towards the young airman and leaned on the desk across from him. “You’re thinking about what I think you are, aren’t you?”

Brian swallowed and nodded. “I think it’s something we have to entertain; I don’t see us having much of a choice if I’m honest. I think right now it might be my best chance and, well, it would lend credence to our authenticity, wouldn’t it? If they are looking for escaped prisoners, it would be a group of all men, no?”

Matheson was quiet for a moment before he pursed his lips and nodded. “I suppose you have a point but isn’t that a rather drastic step? Are you even comfortable with it? Please tell me you haven’t taken those bastards' words seriously.”

“Six of one and half a dozen of the other I suppose,” he replied meekly. “No,” he said more firmly. “I’m not suggesting this because of… that. If I’m honest with myself I suppose this has been something weighing on my mind for some time.”

Brian pushed his hair out of his eyes and sighed. He weighed the thoughts in his mind for a moment before speaking again. “What am I, Andrew? Don’t get me wrong, I know what I was. The reality is that things have changed and I can’t explain it, but I can’t deny it either. The strangest part is that if I strip away all of the guilt, I really don’t mind at all. I’m going to do this because I want to know if these stilly thoughts rattling around in my brain are real or not. You can understand that can’t you? I need to do this as much for me as for all of us. I see the strategic benefit to it of course, but I also need to understand If I’ve gone totally silly and lost my marbles.” he chuckled darkly.

“When it comes to the others, I’d prefer it it was exclusively for the group; for the sake of the mission,” he prompted, his eyes pleading with his friend.

Matheson looked at him for a moment before he straightened up and nodded. “Not a problem,” he reassured his friend, “I won’t pretend I can understand it but I do need your head in the game. If this clears things up; well, why not?” Matheson shrugged. “Anyway, the ‘official’ reason is actually a damn good one. It might just keep us out of trouble and help this daft plan succeed.”

Matheson gestured at the doorway towards the officers’ billets where Maddox and the others were currently putting on their disguises. His expression softened and he smiled more kindly.“Off you go Fraulein Campbell, I think you’ve got some work to do.”

Brian nodded and left without another word before he could change his mind. The doorway led to a long-covered corridor that connected the main administration building to several smaller barracks, each building was subdivided into individual rooms. His heart was hammering at the thought of what he was about to do. He knew that he could stop at any point; hell, if it didn’t work, he could abandon it all and nobody would be any the wiser. What scared him more was the niggling fear that it would work just fine.

Since the accident he had spenta great deal of time lost in his own thoughts and fears. The physical effects of his problem coupled with the deeper feelings that he had never tried to confront were troubling. He felt conflicted; on one hand, he felt he had no choice but to see where this journey led him. On the other, society told him that to explore this pathway was shameful and ungodly for a man. What if he wasn’t really a man anymore, did that still apply?

The whole situation seemed so convenient; it was an opportunity to explore what had been plaguing his thoughts since that fateful day in France. He could only hope the others could accept the reason behind the ruse. If Matheson was right, then this would help them; perhaps that was all the justification the others would need.

Finding the door to Oberleutnant Horler’s quarters, Brian tentatively reached out towards the door handle as though it were glowing red hot. His fingers closed around it, and the world didn’t seem to react. Turning it, he slipped inside quickly before anyone in the deserted building could accuse him of impropriety. While relatively spartan, the room had delicate feminine touches that marked it out as belonging to a woman; a hairbrush on the desk, a small mirror, and several small flowers in a vase on the windowsill.

Sitting carefully on the bed Brian looked around slowly, wondering where exactly to begin. Lifting the identity disk by its chain, he looked at it for a moment as though the thin metal disk might burn his skin. With a sigh of resignation, he slipped it over his head and around his neck. “Maria Horler, Maria, Fraulein Horler, Maria...” he repeated quietly to himself, trying the name on for size. “Maria Ca…”

Brian wasn’t sure why this had felt like such a good idea at the time. It had only come to him when he had collected the identity documents moments ago but it was calling to him so strongly now that he was barely able to resist it. It was an opportunity, he now realised, an opportunity that he would have taken in whatever form or time it arrived in; It was only his shame and his conscience that held him back from the precipice.

The difficult truth was that even before the war, Brian Campbell had felt incomplete; a shell, existing within the world of the living. What had happened, had exposed a crack in that shell; a way into the core of the matter. The only question remaining was whether or not this was the right answer, or just something to fill that void.

Carelessly stripping out of his worn uniform, he allowed the pieces to lie where they fell. Stepping before the mirror, he regarded himself critically. The Brian Campbell that looked back was a far stretch from the young man he had once seen. The person before him appeared extremely feminine but he hesitated to say that they appeared female to his eye.

Regarding his reflection, he could most certainly not deny that he had breasts; their shape and curvature were prominently visible on his thin chest. Below them, his waist was narrow above broader hips and smooth thighs. Seeing his reflection in a mirror was almost shocking. The person staring back at him didn’t look anything like he remembered; how had he changed this much? Tearing himself away from the mirror, he turned to the task at hand.

In the small wardrobe, he found a full Luftwaffe officer’s uniform which he carefully laid it on the bed before adding a blouse and shoes beside it. Aware of the timeframe they were working to, he began to search the drawers for the appropriate undergarments.

Brian didn’t really know where to begin; he had never worn women's clothes before and was rather lost to begin with. Thinking back to his childhood, he began to recognise items his mother had owned and worn. He held up a pair of knickers in his hands uncertainly. He knew it was only underwear, simple fabric and stitching, but there was a distinct social line sewn into the soft satin fabric of the garment. With a sigh, Brian shook his head and began to dress. After all, he rationalised, it was only clothes.

Once he had them on, he turned to the suspender belt and stockings, rolling them up his legs the way his mother had done when he was small. Vivian Campbell had always been an elegant woman; Brian could remember the pretty dresses she wore and how she would style her hair. He smiled at the memory of watching her get ready as a small child.

It took him several failed attempts to fasten the brassiere before he managed to secure the garment around his chest. The brassiere’s cups that Brian had planned to pad out were, to his surprise and embarasment, not quite as empty as he had expected. Searching the drawers for something appropriate, he ended up using a spare pair of stockings to assist his less-than-faux bust before turning to face the outer clothing on the bed.

The blouse turned out to be relatively simple once he had realized the location of the buttons mirrored that of his own shirts. The crisp cotton garment was darted at his bust and waist and fitted far better than he might have expected it to. After slipping the skirt up his legs and buttoning it higher at his skinny waist, he smoothed down the clothes and took a breath. Turning, he faced the mirror. He expected to see a clown, a man in woman’s clothes but the reflection that faced him was nothing of the sort.

The image that returned his gaze was shocking, true, but it was shocking in a way he had dreaded. The gangly young pilot had been replaced by a somewhat skinny girl with messy short blonde hair and a less than plain face. Brian stepped towards the mirror and raised a hand to his cheek, his lips parted slightly in surprise. Somehow, the image that looked back at him through the glass was him. As much as it scared him, it felt almost reassuring to Brian.

The young woman seemed so familiar to him; he recognised her from somewhere, but his mind would not place her in his memory. All that Brian knew was that at that moment they were one and the same person: She was him and he was her, somehow. His stomach felt as though it had bottomed out. Feelings and confusion churned within him, but he chose to bury the doubt for the time being and accept things as they appeared to be. This had, after all, been his idea.

Brian sat down carefully at the small dressing table in the room and began to sort through the woman’s makeup bag looking for items he could use. He didn’t know very much of anything when it came to makeup but supposed he would manage if he stuck to the basics. Closing his eyes, he recalled memories of his mother and sister applying various pigments and powders to their faces and the images of women he had known growing up. Simple would be best he knew; rather to look female and plain than to appear clownish and overdone. After all, he was representing a woman in the military, even if it wasn’t his own.

In the bag, he found a tube of mascara and a brush in a small case. He remembered his sister’s frequent experimentation with cosmetics as a young girl and tried to emulate her as he carefully brushed the mascara onto his lashes the way she had, all the while attempting to avoid stabbing himself. It took him a few attempts but before too long he had achieved a passable result that didn’t remind him of a badger in a foul mood.

Next, he took a pair of tweezers to his eyebrows and attempted to carefully tidy them just enough to give them the hint of a feminine arch. Thankfully they were not entirely too wild to begin with, and he was relatively pleased with the result. He applied a few gentle swipes of blush as his mother had worn, just enough to give his cheeks some life. With that task complete, he unscrewed a tube of lipstick and attempted to paint his lips. The first few attempts were pitiful and childlike in their results, leaving him looking more like a clown than an adult woman. Cursing himself, he wiped off the remains and left his lips bare instead.

Looking in the mirror at the completed picture, his appearance was startling. His hair was still relatively messy, but beneath it, his face was quite a surprise. It was certainly more than simply female as he had hoped. Fingering his short hair idly, he frowned. He would have loved it to be longer, but for now, it fell haphazardly to the collar of his blouse. It was limp and a little lifeless from the neglect in the camp but it had potential. Tutting quietly to himself, he brushed it as best he could and parted it over his left eye. With the help of a little hair crème, he tidied up a few errant hairs and tucked it neatly behind his ear on the right. It wasn’t a professional job by any stretch of the imagination, but given the circumstances, it was more than suitable.

Brian stood back and regarded his reflection in the mirror on the far wall. The young woman that looked back at him was almost pretty. Her fine features and delicate brows gave her a look of childlike innocence that was at odds with her pretty but short hair. The most shocking part for Brian, was the resemblance to the women in his family. Now he could see the whole image, the girl in the mirror shared a great deal with his mother and sister. He felt a sudden pang of sadness at the distance and time he had spent away from them both; it would be nice to see them again. He glanced at the girl in the mirror once more, the one that couldn’t be further from her brother and father, and sighed heavily. The image he was seeing in the mirror was not one he had time to deal with at the moment, but he had a feeling that a cat somewhere had been let out of a bag.

Pulling a small suitcase from the foot of the wardrobe, Brian packed it with any spare clothing and necessities from the room. Slipping on a pair of low-heeled shoes that were only slightly tight, he donned the Luftwaffe blue uniform jacket and side cap before checking his final appearance in the mirror.

The young woman who looked back at him appeared too innocent to be wearing such a stark and dour uniform. He sat down on the bed for a moment and absorbed the quietness around him. It was an alien feeling after so long spent in proximity to people. He placed his hand over his heart as if to quieten the drumming in his chest. Steeling himself, he rose and opened the door to the room. With a last glance towards the mirror, he stepped out into the corridor and began the short walk back to the administration building. The short heels felt a little strange, but he managed to find his footing soon enough in the unfamiliar footwear.

Brian’s hope that the entire plan could be written off as patently laughable was completely off the table and he knew it. This presented him with a new concern; he was going to be meeting the others. Up until he walked through the doorway and into the office, this fantasy, this experiment could be put back in its box; Pandora be damned. The second they saw him, however, their relationship would be changed forever and he could only hope that it would survive the change. He considered going back and changing then telling Matheson that it hadn’t worked and that it had been awfully silly after all; it was extremely tempting.

The truth was far more complex; he found that he didn’t want to. A small voice inside his heart told him that if he didn’t try, this moment would haunt him for the rest of his life, however short that might be. Brian placed his hand on the door and pushed softly.

 

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I remember the first time I dressed in my sister’s clothes……

D. Eden's picture

I remember how right it felt and how everything seemed to fit so much better than the stupid boy’s clothing I had been wearing. I remember the first time I looked at my real self in the mirror and saw her looking back at me. That’s the girl I should have been way back 55 years ago.

And I remember the first time I worked up the courage to step out in public as my real self. I remember my heart pounding so hard I was sure everyone would hear it. I remember thinking that every person I saw must be secretly laughing at me, even though no one did.

And most of all, I remember the first time my family saw me dressed properly, and the first time I walked into work wearing a skirt suit and heels.

All of the little thresholds which we cross on the long journey to being ourselves - the fear that each of us feels, and the courage which we must dredge up to make those first few steps…….

Courage is doing what you know is right, doing what you know you must, even though you are scared shitless. Courage is the greater fear of being afraid.

D. Eden

Dum Vivimus, Vivamus

Difficult times.

Kit's picture

It sounds like life has been better for you since :) And I'm glad for that. Being authentic is important.

Courage... oh, you're in for a ride. Our poor protagonist is in for a real rollercoaster :D

I like Turtles.

A tough way to transition

First of all, I really like the additions you have made to set up the prison escape. I hate to say it but the hunt for those other prisoners will serve to distract the hounds from searching for the residents of Hut 12.

The expected atrocity is shitty but that has been discussed to death.

His sudden transition is nerve wracking as he is not fully prepared mentally or emotionally to do this but is compensated for by the fact he is pretty darn passable already, a great advantage I am sure so it seems like he probably has no body hair, probably even less than a genetic female.

Being Asian I had very little body hair pre-transition and hormones neutralized all but the beard growth but it seems like he did not even had to shave and just changed clothes so that is amazing.

In this situation he can use all of the 'advantages' you can get.

I like the continued superior foundation being provided.

I am glad he did not get sexually assaulted since he is so emotionally fragile that it would have broke him and even if he still managed to escape would arrive home as severely damaged goods with nobody giving him sympathetic support, to be blunt.

Speaking of sympathetic support, I do hope the doctor was not at the camp during this riot, he is obviously a sympathetic character and I don't know if his death can make the point even clearer with regards to atrocities in war.

Finally I fully understand his transition moment (and yes I will change my gender reference once the character fully acknowledges that about him/her self) as I went ahead and transition at the most financially perilous time of my life in 1989 where I was living on unemployment, very little savings and went ahead and planned on interviewing and winning a job in engineering, as a woman.

It was more difficult to do so back then for women engineers and doubly so for a trans one. Let's just say I managed to secure that job by the skin of my financial teeth, having only like a thousand dollars to my name and being on the last month or two of my unemployment benefits by the time I got moved to my new job.

My now deceased partner and her family supported me through that difficult time, allowing me to visit out at Cutchogue at her parents's home where they had retired to. This story further emphasizes that point as without their self-made family, Brian would never have made it this far and nor would I. And yes, I was getting hysterical near the end and had considered the unthinkable for myself. I would never had made it without friends. And Family.

:)

Kit's picture

I wanted, like the original for Brian to be forced into this situation in a way that they weren't prepared for. It needed to be sudden... it makes their inner conflict harder to grasp.

The original was so short, it felt... lacking. This feels far more established and I think sets up our protagonist's struggle better.

I like Turtles.

Not A Good Way

joannebarbarella's picture

To do that first time transition, but necessary under the circumstances. And, yes, you've left us with a cliffhanger! what is going to be the reaction when she opens that door?

Sometimes, we're not ready.

Kit's picture

Some people dally forever unless shoved through the metaphorical and this time literal door :D

The next chapter is the last of the original material... reimagined. Things start to take a really different direction going onward :D

I like Turtles.