By Dan Klefstad
The Russians knew they had no chance; we surrounded them. They also knew we’d have no mercy, but they surrendered anyway. They gave up their weapons and helmets, hoping for cigarettes which we no longer had. Were they buying time? Somewhere across the drifting snow, their swine-kin prepared another attack, but we didn’t know when, or how many. So we tried beating the details out, smashing their fingers and noses with rifles. After burning precious calories, we huddled in our so-called “winter outfits” and stamped our feet to get the blood moving. Then we tried to strip their coats which covered neck-to-ankle with thick, coarse wool. I knew very little Russian but it was clear we’d have to shoot them first. That sealed their fate. I ordered my last surviving officer to line them up and empty our German guns into them; the captured ones work better when frozen, and we’d need those for the next assault.
A corporal limps toward me and salutes. “Herr Hauptsturmführer, shall we aim for the head? The coats would be intact then.”
“If you want pig brains on your collar, that’s your business.” I yank the magazine from my pistol and count the remaining ice-covered rounds. “I’ll take the three on the right.”
Up to now, I thought Der Führer might introduce a Super Weapon that would stop the Red Army from entering Germany, but when half our guns failed to perform a simple mass execution, I knew it was over. The war would go on for another fifteen months but this moment in Estonia is where the end began – for Germany and these mongrel fucks who surrendered everything but their coats. At least their weapons worked; my men were thrilled. I, however, counted every one of the eleven bullets they spent.
“Hauptsturmführer Fillenius!” Major Haas motions from a staff-car that must’ve arrived while we were firing. I walk quickly and salute, expecting a reprimand for wasting ammunition.
Haas ignores the bodies. “I’m going to Tallinn to prepare defenses there. Need I remind you of Der Führer’s directive?”
“Stand and fight. No retreat, no surrender.”
His driver, a lieutenant, salutes. “We know you’ll give your all for the Fatherland.”
I ignore him. “Can you send some food, cigarettes, bandages – anything?”
“I’ll assess the situation and let you know.” Haas motions to his driver who shifts into First. “Don’t let us down, Søren.”
His use of my Christian name is another sign that the “thousand-year Reich” will last little more than a decade. I salute once more as he drives toward the final sunset I expect to see. I try to savor it, but someone yells “Deckung!” and I jump into the nearest trench.
I’ve seen men hallucinate before they die, so I’m not surprised by the woman wearing a low-cut peasant-style dress. This moonlit vision is a lovely distraction from the gurgling in my throat and lungs. A sucking chest wound gets priority in any triage, but there’s no one left to plug the holes. Suffocating, I try to relax and enjoy this little film about an underdressed beauty walking toward me through white and crimson snow.
“You don’t look Russian,” I wheeze. “Estonian?”
She gathers the long fabric as she kneels, and I see blue veins in her large white breasts. Long fingernails like shell splinters descend toward me, and I wonder if she’ll gouge my eyes out. I close them as she brushes aside a stray forelock.
“Please.” My eyes reopen. “Just stay with me.”
“What a pity.” She says in English. “You look like an angel.” She fingers a pin on my uniform. “SS Nordland.” Then she frowns and grabs a handful of hair, lifting my face toward hers. “I could have used those prisoners you killed.”
I focus on her accent which is different from that of my language tutor in Copenhagen. “American?”
Her grip tightens. “You wasted them!”
Wasted. What did that mean? This was more than a war. It was a crusade against Slavs and other sub-humans, and Jewish bolshevism – a crusade I joined four years ago to help the Nazis take over my native Denmark. The fact that the Aryans failed means nothing matters anymore – nichts. Nearly defeated, I spend one of my remaining breaths on a question. “What do you want?”
“What do you want, Søren?”
Definitely a dream; even my dog-tags use an initial for my first name. But I consider her words. “Leave the war. Leave this fucking continent.”
Her eyes narrow as if preparing to divulge a secret. “I’m going to America.”
“Take me with you.”
Her fist tightens against my skull, eyes glow red, and lips part revealing two long canines. “You’re a monster,” she hisses. “Only a fellow hunter can go with me.”
“I… Who… What are you?”
Her mouth closes but her glowing eyes remain fixed on mine. Of all the things I expected to see while dying, I never imagined a seductive hellish creature calling me a monster. What does that make her? My frozen lips barely move: “Vampyr?”
She scowls. For a moment, she appears uncertain about what to do. Finally: “You’re useless now, nearly bloodless, but I can change you.” Her face is so close, our noses almost touch. “First, I’m going to give you something I never had: a choice.”
“Make me one of you.”
“You haven’t heard the terms.”
“I don’t want to die.”
“If I save you, the sun will be your mortal enemy. And your thirst will never end.”
“Please… ” I cough a final time as my lungs collapse.
Both her hands support my neck as she moves behind me. Then she rests my head in her lap and holds her right hand above my face. A nail slices her wrist and my head instinctively turns as blood rains down.
“Open.” Her fingers squeeze my jaw. The drops cover my face as I struggle for my last breath.
When I awake, I hear a heart beating and know immediately who it belongs to. I sit up and hear his panicked breathing, but pause to take in the surroundings of a command bunker I visited once, now abandoned. Fiona relaxes in the Field Marshal’s former wing-chair, sipping from a glass of red liquid that I already know – I can smell it. And I want it.
“You can relax.” Fiona swallows. “It’s safe here.”
“Safe for whom?” He yells from across the room. “Hauptsturmführer Fillenius! Untie me and arrest this woman!”
“Sturmbannführer Haas,” I rise, noting the major’s civilian clothes. “Where did you go after you left our position?”
“To Tallinn – like I told you!”
“He’s lying.” Fiona examines her nails. “I found him at the Loksa Shipyard, arranging passage to neutral territory. He and his lieutenant – who’s delicious, by the way – had Swedish passports.”
I glare at him, sitting in a wooden chair, arms and legs bound. “Stand and fight, you said.” Then I see the passports on a nearby table, plus a dozen gold coins. “My men were killed – all of them – covering your rear.”
“Oh, I think Lieutenant Baumann covered his rear just fine, wouldn’t you say Major?” Fiona smiles as she takes another sip.
“Søren, listen.” Haas fixes his eyes on me. “She kidnapped us in Tallinn, planted that stuff on us, and killed Fritzi.”
“Don’t call me ‘Søren’ – I do not consort with cowards!”
Haas’s face wrinkles with disgust as he looks at Fiona. “Then, like an animal, she bit his neck and drank his blood.”
I inhale deeply, suddenly aware that my teeth are longer. Haas’s skin reveals a spider web of throbbing vessels, but I know which one to attack first. I glance at Fiona. “Can I take him now?”
Fiona looks amused as she leans back in the Field Marshal’s chair. “Permission granted, Hauptsturmführer.”
The Stockholm Palace looks stunning at night, yellow lights reflecting off the sandstone exterior. But the fact that a King lives there – plus the surrounding architecture, music, and fashions – reminds me that we’re still in Europe. I look at Fiona’s hands which rest on the wrought iron balcony, and place my right on her left. “I hear the war will be over soon.”
“It should be safe to travel, no?”
“It’s never safe.” She looks at me. “The first leg, to England, is a small risk. We could take two or three passengers, but we’d have to share them. The second leg, though…” She looks at the night sky. “That would be seven or eight – again, shared – so we’d still be starving. If we’re alive when we get to New York, the police will know something’s wrong and board the ship. All they need is a little luck and they’ll find our trunk.”
“Why not have separate trunks?”
“That doubles the chances they’ll find one. If they discover you or me, they’ll keep looking.”
“Remind me. Why are we doing this?”
She points west. “Because that’s where we’ll get dinner every night.” She waves toward the city. “They just had two devastating wars, and God knows if the Russians are finished marching. There aren’t enough people to hide behind while we make the others disappear.”
I gaze at the rising moon and imagine how it looks from New York, Boston, or Chicago. Then I lift my glass. “To America. May we thrive among her teeming multitudes.”
“To whoever controls the universe,” Fiona raises hers. “May she still need us enough to grant safe passage.”