Albrecht instinctively ducked and managed to just avoid the bullet. He sat down behind a brick wall and breathed heavily, his heart almost beating out of his chest.
All around him there were sounds. But they were nothing like the beautiful ones he was so familiar with from home. The subtle breeze that caressed the cheeks had been replaced by cascades of dirt, that instead rasped up the vulnerable skin. Pouring rain had been replaced by thousands of bullets covering the sky. And bird song had become deafened by constant screaming of pain and fear.
It never stopped.
This was no place for him. An esthete. He could in no way contribute to the success of his division, rather the opposite. It was Friedrich who had helped him through the practical stages of their education at Napola. Now, he was left alone to figure those things out. And to be honest with himself, it had not quite worked out yet.
His father had been right, in his own way. The Reich did not need people like him. It needed strong men to fight in the battlefields.
Nevertheless, Albrecht did not agree. Did the Reich not also need writers? One should not underestimate the power of words. Although of course, he himself would rather see that speech was used to raise awareness of the many injustices Hitler also brought to the society. People needed to know the whole truth, not merely a truth.
Though, it was too obvious where such opinions had gotten him.
"Stein! What are you doing? Get back here!" somebody shouted from a distance.
He stood, and on shaky legs he quickly returned to his former post, unharmed by rapidly passing bullets.
His sergeant approached him. Judging by the look upon his face he was about to unleash a minor thunderstorm. His eyes reminded him so much of those of Justus von Jaucher at Napola; amusement dangerously combined with pure evil.
"Being a coward are we?" he begun, smiling wickedly.
"Umm.. I just-"
"I didn't allow you to speak, soldier," he said briskly. "Get out of my sight."
Albrecht turned around and searched for a place to at least pretend to get busy. But before he managed to take a single step away from the sergeant, a sudden and excruciating pain exploded in his stomach. Reflexively, his hands sought the area and when he removed them again, holding them in front of his face, they had altered to a deep red color.
At first, the information failed to sink in. But when it finally did, he collapsed and fell to the ground, supporting himself for a second on his weak arms before they too gave up. Laying face down in the dirt he let out a silent moan of despair.
This could not be blood. No. He could not remember even being hit.
Everything around him appeared to go on in slow motion. Time almost stopped, but the events did not stop with it. Nobody noticed him, much less helped; everyone was too busy staying alive themselves. As always, he found himself left alone.
This was not the way he had pictured himself leaving this earth. It was supposed to be peaceful, buried deep in Friedrich's warm, safe embrace.
With great effort, he turned onto his back. His hands, as firmly pressed against the wound as he could manage, were drenched in blood. It did not matter how stubbornly he tried to force the blood to remain within his system, it kept pulsating out between his fingers.
"Help," he whispered in an effort to scream.
It was no use. Completely helpless and unable to move, tears started to seek their way down his cheeks as the surroundings started to fade before his eyes.
All that filled his mind was the thought of never seeing Friedrich again.
Author's Note: This did not come out at all as I intended it to. But I'm posting it anyways. I hope it reaches you on some level, as it did me when I first thought of it.
The title of the story is a reference to the incredibly beautiful song by Raised by Swans.