Not Victoria

My knife was deep in his belly. His eyes were wide across from mine. I pressed my chest into his, twisted the blade, and his dying breath warmed my face.

I pulled the blade. It was slick with his blood; my hand was covered, too.

His body, eyes empty of thought and memory, leaned against The Crossroads Tree. The others had been swallowed by the trunk as soon as a blade had cut their life-cord.

You must give him to me, Victoria, the ancient tree whispered into my mind. If you don’t, you won’t know how to return to your family.

I stared at the blade in my hand. Blood can be so black. While everyone else was also killing strangers and neighbors, in hope of being the one whose life-cord would be lengthened by every life ended against the tree, I was sure I wanted to be the winner. “My name is not Victoria,” I said to The Crossroads Tree.

You fed me last—his life, his memories… and yours. The name is recompense. Every other life you take under your new name, Victoria, will feed my strength and keep you young. End him. Begin anew. Wish him bled. Wish him gone. Wish him mine, Victoria, and I’ll give you back your memories plus life everlasting.

“No,” I said, sheathing my knife in my boot and reaching for the man’s body. I dragged him away from the blood drenched tree, and placed him gently on the ground. “What we were fighting for, what I did to you… it was wrong.”

I put two leaves between his eyes and me; then piled more leaves, sticks and stones over his entire body. My knife lay flat on the makeshift tomb. “I won’t kill to live.”

 
The sun was warm. Cool breeze played on my skin. I was standing in from of a earth mound that was covered in green grass and tiny wildflowers. A tree, its thick trunk resembling people hugging each other, grew crooked by the side of a bright trail.

I didn’t know where I was, or who I was, but I wasn’t scared.

There were a large blackened knife and a polished staff atop the mound. I grabbed the latter and walked passed the twisted tree towards a new path.

for Magpie Tales
Crooked Tree
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Kaffee und Kuchen… and Napalm

They bombed the city every Sunday afternoon after tea.

The first warning honked twelve minutes before the blast. A second cautionary toot, issued six minutes prior to the first explosion, reminded citizens to stash away their fragile tea things. If people ran out of time, then it would be best to collect left over kaffee und kuchen, plus anything valuable (or likely to scream in pain) and take the lot with the family to the nearest fallout shelter.

I lived in the streets, walking from place to place, surviving between flashes of lights and shadows. I scoped houses and recorded the behaviors of each occupant, in order to visualize the inside of their homes. If my mind formed a clear picture, then I allowed myself to delight in forbidden pleasures, while citizens hid in hollows and their city was shrouded in Napalm.

One minute before the first bang, I was forced to run into a building I had always avoided. Everyplace else had been shut to me. I ran through an open side door and up a wide stairwell with my eyes closed. I rushed into the first room I found, and breathed easier at the sight of a sink and a tub.

“Thank you,” I said to Fate and to the small white statue of a woman sitting on a table that faced the sink.

Wasting no time—air raids and miracles didn’t last forever—I started the water, undressed, walked out of my boots, and sat in the tub. I focused on scrubbing yesterday’s filth from under my fingernails… on avoiding the photo of the man, which sat on one edge of the tub. I had tried to remove the offending image, but the frame was part of the wall. What kind of person looks at his own picture while…?

I felt the eyes on my left shoulder, on the side of my neck, inside me… before I heard the chewing. Wanting to mask my fear and perhaps show that I had trespassed out of need, I took a few seconds before facing the door. I shouldn’t have bothered. The eyes of the man standing at the threshold, gnawing on chocolate cake, were filled with so much death and hatred that human things, like fear and empathy, would have never reached him.

Magpie Tales 260

Lee Miller in Adolf Hitler's bathtub, Munich 1945, by David E. Scherman

Lee Miller in Adolf Hitler’s bathtub, Munich 1945, by David E. Scherman