1600 Hrs:Somewhere in France
The setting sun marked the end of the day. It was time for the birds to go back to their nests. The rays of the receding sun came filtering through the clouds and the crimson hue it had cast created an aura that spoke for itself. Presently, a fawn stooped down to the rivulet that was flowing through the woods. On any other day, this setting would be enough to make even the most stoic amongst us philosophical and romantic. But not on this day…today the world was at war.
General Kösher was nursing his foot. The bullet had lodged itself in his bones. The pain, he had thought, would kill him. But he survived. He began limping and slowly dragged himself forward. The encounter with the French a few hours ago had separated him from his company. He couldn’t search for them now. He realised his chances of survival were low. He was wounded, low on ammunition and had a night to spend in the forest, behind enemy lines.General Kösher was a war hero. His tactical abilities at devising war plans were famous throughout the ranks of the German Military. He could speak 5 languages including Russian and French and had the unique distinction of getting recognition from Hitler himself for leading the German Military successfully through Poland.
Hitler had personally recommended General Kösher for leading the German campaign against France. But now, the thought of letting Hitler down began hunting Kösher and he began preparing himself for the night.
Dusk slowly gave way to darkness. Occasionally the silence of the forest would be broken by the howling of a wolf or the hooting of the owl and then suddenly silence would descend as if to gently remind oneself of one’s solitude.
General Kösher had left his rifle far behind as he had no strength to carry it forward and only had his revolver. He curled himself on the ground and braced for the cold. The moon shone softly which enabled the General to see up to a little distance. Presently, he lighted his cigarette and took a deep puff.
“Qui est-ce” Who is there? , came a voice in French from behind the trees.
General Kösher knew the voice was that of an enemy soldier. With cat like reflexes, he extinguished his cigarette and pointed his revolver towards the direction of the voice.
“Qui est-ce”. This time the voice was more persistent and angry.
The General remained absolutely silent. ‘I will only have one chance’, he said softly to himself. He heard the footsteps as the voice from behind the trees materialised before him.
Now the General could see his bête noire in full view. The man from behind the trees himself was pointing a revolver at the General who sat on the ground.
Neither of them said a word. They looked into each other’s cold, steely eyes assessing each other’s condition. Now it was all a matter of who pulled the trigger first. The General wasted no time and made his move pressing the trigger aiming at the French soldier’s head. But to the General’s utmost surprise and subsequent disappointment, tragedy struck…his revolver got jammed.
Now the French soldier turned from grimness to ease as a sense of relief passed over him. The war hardened General Kösher knew that he stood no chance now. He was already feeling weak and his leg pained like a thousand elephants. The French soldier looked at him for full one minute and his countenance broke into a smirk.
Then slowly the French soldier kept the revolver in the small of his back as he gave out a short laugh and said, “No bullets”.
General Kösher couldn’t believe his ears. Still unsure of his fate, he didn’t lose sight of his enemy even for a second. Now the French soldier sat under a tree some 10 feet away from General Kösher. The two of them faced each other. The French soldier realised that his German adversary was too injured to even get up and walk. Presently, the French soldier took out a small container from the inner pocket of his jacket and took a short draught out of it.
The General was perplexed. He knew that he would die before being taken a prisoner of war. The actions of the French Soldier only delayed the inevitable.
The French Soldier suddenly spoke up, “Captain Nicholas Bernard, 23rd Infantry Division.”
The German General, surprised at the turn of events replied, “General Klaus Kösher, 14th North Reich Command”.
After some tense moments of silence between the two, Captain Nicholas spoke in French, “How does it feel to plunge the whole world into war, you imbecile German?”
The German General replied,” We are here to claim what is rightfully ours-the world.”
The Captain again laughed loudly,” You and your fancy ideas. Had not Hitler lost his mind and started this war which Germany is set to lose, I would be enjoying this time with my little daughter and not at the battlefield.”
The General was now irritated and shouted back in flawless French, “And what did you do with the treaty of Versailles? You left Germany to perish. I saw children die for want of food in the years that followed World War I, Villagers taking their lives out of poverty. Germany has been through hell because of France’s actions.”
The French Captain suddenly found himself admiring his enemy’s courage “here is a man who speaks for his motherland even at the face of death”, Captain Nicholas thought.
The two soldiers now fell silent. Both of them began contemplating the whole scenario. Here they were. Two unknown people knowing only the skills of war. Two soldiers fighting for their countries, countries thrust upon them by Man himself.
Man has trained guns at each other. The passion for power has made us take lives of others. The two of them, in their silence began thinking about the whole motive of war and its futility, the lives they had taken, the friends they had lost, the blood that had been shed. They even began doubting the age old military saying, ‘You don’t choose battles. The battle chooses you.’ Indeed, it was them who had chosen their battle.
Presently the French Captain stood up from his place and walked towards the General. Sensing danger, the General swiftly took out his knife and pointed it towards the French Captain. But to the German General’s surprise, the captain moved his hand towards the General as the Frenchman had realised that the German had lost too much blood and would not survive unless attended soon.
General Kösher said,” Do you know what they say about the French in Germany,’ Ne jamais faire confiance aux Français’ Never trust the French. ”
The Captain, taken a little aback moved forward and raised the general giving him support, “There is a German outpost on the fringes of this forest. I can take you there before sunrise and then we could get back to fighting once again”.
General Kösher smiled and couldn’t bring himself to refuse. The duo began walking slowly with the French Captain completely supporting the German General.