Poena in Obscurum
Cold. Empty. Black. That’s all I can see. I feel heavy against the hard ground beneath me. I can’t move, I feel tied down. I can’t even feel my arms or my legs. Maybe I’m dead; maybe this is what death is. No fabulous light, no hell, no burning... I can remember running, petrified. Then I was transported to another place. Another world.
SM owns Eddie-poo and Carlisle. I own 'Poena in Obscurum' :)
1. Chapter 1
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Cold. Empty. Black. That’s all I can see. I feel heavy against the hard ground beneath me. I can’t move, I feel tied down. I can’t even feel my arms or my legs. Maybe I’m dead; maybe this is what death is. No fabulous light, no hell, no burning. I wonder if I could haunt somebody? Probably not - I don’t have use of my limbs, after all. Maybe I’m just unconscious, or having an operation. The morphine would tie me down.
What was the last thing I did? Why would I be having an operation? I can remember running, petrified.
Then I was travelled to another place. Another time.
“Go, go, go!” Somebody screamed.
I was standing on an embankment, overlooking the scene. There was a beach stretched out in front of me. It was familiar but something was off. I felt disjointed from the memory - like I was watching it through someone else’s eyes.
I looked out at the horrendous area and soaked in all the details. All the time looking for the source of the horror; there was no source. There were too many horrors occurring to only be one source.
Moving forward slightly, I saw boats racing towards the beach. Military boats - no doubt. Probably filled with dazed young men. Stunned into believing the lie of heroism and bravery. There was also amber and scarlet flames, licking their way across the beach. Battling for the most injuries; the most victims.
Looking, I could see men scattered around, like last years Christmas dolls thrown around the room. Some of them missing limbs - but all with the same peaceful expression on their faces.
I took a deep calming breath and the aroma hit me like a brick wall. Sweat, salt and death. I had heard people say that death had its own pungent scent. I never even considered they were being truthful. Foolish old men, I thought, deranged by the fierce memories of the horrors of war. Now, I could see how wrong and insensitive I had been.
I heard the booming gunshots coming from every direction; none of which were aimed at me. The bellow of grenades blasting. Crackling of the fire that was still roaring across the sand. And the faint sounds of doomed, troops' boots beating against the ground.
I could hear the swish or the water moving against the men that were running. Also, the clash of the waves breaking on the sand. Further out into the ocean I heard the drone of engines as the boats whizzed forward. All the sounds collectively creating an odd destructive orchestra.
Trudging forward, down the hill and onto the beach. The beach that I can't identify, all I know is that it is now bearing a war. I shouldn’t have been safe, I should have been running. However, I knew that there was no danger for me. I was invisible to them. I knew this because soldiers and bullets flew right past me - and sometimes through me.
I had a strange urge to keep walking to the waters edge. I listened to the urge. Somehow, this all felt too familiar to me, no matter how surreal. I am positive that I’ve been here before.
I reached the ocean and had to hold onto a wave-breaker to steady myself. What I saw was horrific. The sea was crimson in colour and was staining the sand were it hit. Warped bodies were flung all around - surrounded by the rancid stench of death.
A boat came closer, then. Filled with troops and a few sergeants struggling to control them all. Everyone terrified, waiting to be plunged into the icy, dark, red, depths beneath. The soldier controlling the boat shouted back to them, causing some of the men to kiss rosaries that they held. Others were muttering prayers under their breath.
One man stands out from the crowd of panicky privates. Sergeant Edward Masen. I knew this somehow. It was strange all the little things that I seemed to understand.
Masen was the leader to all these men. Instead of the nervous wreck surrounding him, Masen stood tall and, strong. His broad shoulders back, showing off the muscles in his chest.
Masen was a young man; especially for a sergeant. He had wild, bronze, hair that peeked out from underneath his khaki-green, metal, army helmet. His eyes were wonderfully emerald in colour and looked like gems. He wasn’t praying and he didn’t cry. All he did was walk around the deck, every once in a while he would encourage a boy that was struggling - and when I said boy I meant it. He repeated comments like, “Don't worry, Private. You’ll be home soon enough.” That wasn’t strictly true, most of them would be lost in this horror, but Masen had hope.
Masen had been a soldier for years. It had been his ambition since a young age, he could only be seventeen now. Even that, was pushing the boundaries. Masen had been changed by this, he used to be a normal well-spoken boy with a rich family. As I thought of his family my heart twisted in a strange way - a way that suggested loss. Now, he was a hard-skinned, professional, soldier. It was almost a shame that he had turned out like this, he would have been a good family man.
The roaring boat reached its destination and the men were plunged into the icy water. They swam frantically towards the shore - some didn’t even make it that far. Those who did created a loosely linked line, with Masen at the centre; at the heart.
It was chaos. The bullets hit the water around Masen and his troops. A few of them passed through me, as if I was a ghost. The bullets created ripples that covered the oceans surface. It looked peaceful, almost beautiful. If I didn’t already know I would have never called the things, that created beautiful patterns, deadly.
Masen and his recruits began to move, splashing the water that was still beating against their legs. Masen leading by half a step and everyone else following to the side - like a fleet of birds, gliding through the air. They bolted forward; still firmly in formation. The troops held their guns in position, ready to shoot down anyone who stood in the way. All of their knees were bent slightly, making their every move flow.
Only one of the many men had fallen. Like a rag-doll dropped by an over-excited child. When hit the private tensed for a moment before relaxing and adding to the stench that was becoming heavier as each doll was dropped.
Masen had already killed three of the snipers. His love of playing darts with his father from a young age was paying off. I noticed that the two men on either side had taken out four men - in collaboration.
Then the man on his right stopped smelling like sweat and sea water, and began to reek of blood and death. As the fight went on three more men fell.
Masen was left with twenty-nine recruits and himself. Making a grand total of thirty. These thirty that had already fought hundreds of bullets aimed at them. These thirty who would definitely lose friends and comrades in the fight. These thirty who probably wouldn’t see anything but this beach. These thirty that had given up their lives to try and save their country.
The heroism may be a lie. The bravery, however, was not. I had never seen men that would give so much to their country, even if their country didn’t give it back.
The reached the first hillside they had been struggling for; I followed them on their mission across the beach. As they lay against the hill - about to re-load in preparation for their next fight - a group of Germans surrounded them. The group consisted of three holding machine guns, and another ten with shotguns. All of which were a better quality than our troops.
The German in the middle, who’s name I did not know, pointed his gun to Masen’s head. I lunged forward, intending to knock it out of his hands, but my hands just passed straight through; like some sick hallucination.
He looked at Masen and said - in his thick accent, “You will come with me.” He turned to the man with a machine gun and ordered, “Kill the rest. They don’t know anything.”
He obviously didn’t care that he was committing a war crime and when this was over he would be punished.
I was in the darkness again. The darkness was wrong, I could see slits of light above and below the darkness. As well as this, I could feel - and taste - material on my mouth, to stop me screaming. Taken away from Masen and the Germans. The problem was that this time I could feel, I could feel pain. I could feel my limbs perfectly; now I wish that numbness would come back.
Somebody was hurting me, trying to kill me the slowest way they could. Each spear of pain that rippled through me was a surprise, I couldn’t see what it was that caused the pain so I couldn’t expect it. I let out muffled cries, it was useless
What made things worse was that my senses were heightened by the loss of my sight. I began to hear and smell and even feel more. I could hear the repeated drip-drip of a leaking tap. I could smell the salt in the sweat dripping down from my forehead, I could also smell the metallic scent of blood. There was no smell of death around, so for that I could be thankful.
I heard the tap of boots walking across a concrete floor. The sound grew with each tap so I knew that they were walking towards me. It terrified me, somebody was near me but I couldn’t see them to defend myself or prepare. There was a scratching pain in my arm and the pain began to fade. Everything began to fade.
I lost consciousness again and again. Drifting in and out of the pain. It was unbearable, my heightened senses were now non-existent. I don’t know how much time had passed, it could have been a few days or a few months.
I was awoken from my stupor by someone repeatedly screaming directly into my ear, “Tell me everything that you know, English scum.” I was shaken by this, I didn’t know anything that would have been of any use. I only know what I saw before submerged into the darkness.
I thought back as I had done before and memories flooded back. I was Masen.
That was why the beach had seemed so familiar. That explained my random knowledge. It also explained why I felt so connected to Masen and his troops. My troops.
“I..I don’t,” I couldn’t get the words out, what I said sounded woozy. “Know anything apart from my orders.” My head was rolling and I couldn’t hold my eyes open. I couldn’t see anything anyway, there was a heavy, dark, material still covering my eyes.
I felt less drowsy now and I could feel my body. My wrists and ankles hurt from what I can only guess is rope burn. Apart from that I was relatively pain free.
“And what exactly were your orders?” A different German bellowed.
“To take…” I tried to force the words out more clearly than last time. “To take my, my troops. To shoot you down. Not to give up.”
“That is all! We kept you alive for nothing,” the same one roared.
The boots tapped their way around the room. Coming closer and going more distant again and again. Circling me, making me feel helpless yet again. The boots stopped there tapping and a door slammed.
More time passed, there was no pain and I wasn’t in my dozy state any more. It was just frustrating, not knowing why I was here. Not knowing how long I would be here. Not knowing if I would ever be able to see my family again. Or ever get the chance to fall in love.
More time passed and more ‘interviews’ came and went. Some of the Germans were better than others; some were worse.
I was only a shell of my former self. If I ever got the chance to escape - which I wouldn’t - I would be a different person. My parents couldn’t love me because I wasn’t me anymore. This meant that I was doomed. Doomed to a life of despair. They had won, I was broken. I stopped fighting to be brave, then. If they had succeeded why bother? Maybe they would have an ounce of mercy in their hate filled bodies and kill me.
I cried. For the first time since my childhood, I cried. Not only that, I wailed and bawled and begged. The mercy that I had hoped from them didn’t exist. The enemies made me live this pitiful existence. I continued to beg and continued to hear them speak in German around me. They didn’t even tell me to be quiet.
Dreams came and went. Some of happier times - that was when I was lucky - most of the dreadful day on the beach. All of which consisted of the same things: me watching as my troops were shot, me doing nothing to save them. I felt guilt, it was my fault. I’d killed twenty-nine young men. Men who had families and homes.
After time, reality started fading into fantasy. I couldn’t tell you whether I was awake or not; I couldn’t tell you anything.
I was in a crowded room. Filled with music and laughter. It was pitch-black outside but in her there lights, casting shadows onto the tall walls. The atmosphere was electric, that alone would have kept the room bright.
I scanned over the faces in the room and sure enough all the ones I love surrounded me. There were many forms of love in this room. There was the love for my parents, an unconditional love. Then, there was the love for my comrades almost brotherly, but not exactly. It was a tricky type of love, less joyous and more excruciating. It was a forced love, respect being the foundation of it.
I couldn’t make sense of it. People who I had watched die were dancing to jive. There were celebration posters all around. One in particular stuck out ‘V for Victory!’
I shook the doubt that I had and enjoyed the moment. I rushed to my mother and she wrapped her arms around me. I placed my head on her shoulder and became the boy that I once was. I took a deep breath as a single tear rolled off my cheek and onto her shoulder.
She leaned away and laughed. “Not just a 'hello, mother' today then, I see?” She said, though it sounded like a question.
“No, not today.” I sighed.
She was already fixing me. I might have acted strong,and tough before but now turned back into the just-turned 17 year old boy that I was. I wanted to tell her what it was like. Get comfort in the fact that others cared.
She had a heart-shaped face that was framed with long mahogany hair, the contrast was brilliant. Her features were perfectly symmetrical. Her wide green eyes - which I had inherited. Her lips were tinted with the blood-red rouge that she wore.
She was still curled in my arms when father came to me and patted me on the back. I snaked my arm around him and squeezed him, desperate for some contact.
“I missed you, father!” I exclaimed, as he squeezed his arms around me. I let go of my mother for the moment.
“I missed you, too, son.” He managed to choke out. Desperately trying to keep composure, I was too. It was harder than I thought thinking of them dealing without me.
“I'm back," I said. " I looked after myself just like you told me to.”
As he looked at me, I could tell he was proud of me - his only son. Nearly as proud as I was that even at this age he could take care of himself and mother.
I smiled and pulled my mother back to us, only to have my arm pass through her as they both disappeared. They were only dust in the wind, the whole image left me.
The darkness enveloped me and it was the same pain free, dead darkness as before the beach. I couldn’t feel my body, only the cold and the heaviness were left.
The tears left my eyes as I cried again. My only family was never here, it was all a dream. Fantasy was now an abruptly different thing from reality. I could give you the definitions, reality was lonely; fantasy was hopeful, filled with the things that I wished for.
I was rudely ripped from my musings by a slither of light in the darkness. That was it, I was dead. God had sent me to hell so I would learn my lesson and ever merciful he would now accept me to heaven. The slither of light grew, like opening a book, it became a block and then a rectangle - the exact shape of a door.
A magnificent being entered through that door. He was dressed in all white, I decided he must be an angel. An angel come to collect me. The magical creature was as pale as the strange white coat he was wearing. His hair was only a shade or two darker than his skin. He was handsome, even I could see that. He would easily fit in with the stars of the silver screen.
The beautiful angel walked swiftly towards me, the heels of his shoes barely touching the floor. This meant that it didn’t sound like the clunking of the heavy boots and I was thankful.
“It’s time for your medication, sergeant Masen,” he said, as he opened his hand which held two small white pills.
That was when everything came flooding back. I was saved from the German camp but was sent here suffering with shell-shock. I was crazy. Those pills he had were sedatives, they were what had tied me down earlier. I fought the same battles every single day, and after I took those pills that would send me to sleep. They were the catalyst that would start the battle all over again.
I’d never expressed this to the doctor. I thought if I took the tablets then I would get to go home, eventually. The idea had made sense in my mind - the mind that got me sent here in the first place.
Listen to what the doctor says and they’ll let you go, you’re not imprisoned here. They just want to help. Help you and your family.
I’d repeated that over and over, trying to see the inexistent truth in the statement.
I decided to do something I hadn’t done since I came here, tell them what I thought.
“But I don’t want to take them,” I uttered. My voice was hoarse, probably from the length of time I hadn‘t consciously used my vocal chords.
Looking the doctor straight in the molten gold eyes I saw his expression change. First of all he had seemed calm, detached. Now, he looked shocked and I could see a glint of fear in his eyes; I knew that glint far too well.
“They make me forget. Please, get me out of here.”
The doctor looked pitiful and I resented it, I didn't need it. he then nodded his head, seeming determined. Then gave me the pills, I shook my head, thinking he was going to make me forget again. "Trust me, you're going to need it." I took the pills and everything started to fade. The last thing I saw was the doctor's head lean toward my neck.
I felt a heat begin to build in my chest. The warmth in my heart became more and more pronounced. Warmer and warmer. Hotter. Hotter. Uncomfortable now. Too hot. Much, much too hot. The heat grew and grew until it was uncomfortable. It was like being in the flames that took over the beach. Fire licked across my body and swallowed me. Every time I thought the flames couldn’t get any hotter they did. I was screaming by now, writhing in pain.
It continued like this, until the heat subsided from my fingers. It retracted and concentrated on my heart. It stopped after a while and I opened my eyes with a start...