Shangri-la in the Andes

Shangri-la in the Andes

Status: Finished

Genre: Mystery and Crime

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Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Mystery and Crime

Houses:

Summary

A former Nazi hunter tells his story of finding an enclave of seemingly reformed Nazis high in the Andes Mountains.
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Summary

A former Nazi hunter tells his story of finding an enclave of seemingly reformed Nazis high in the Andes Mountains.

Content

Submitted: March 15, 2017

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Content

Submitted: March 15, 2017

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Shangri-La in the Andes

Another Traveler, huh? What did you get lost?  No one ever come out here.  Well you may have traveled to the edge of the world but you still found me. Who am I? Just another foreigner like you, but I was no vacationer. I hunted men.  Men who escaped justice for decades by hiding here in Patagonia. Killers of the greatest kind.

Nazi hunter? Well that’s one way of putting it. I liked to think of myself as more a lawman than some vigilante with a gun. Although that was what I was. I didn’t turn in anyone I found. No, they would always turn up dead before the authorities ever found them. Shot in some dark alley or smothered by some intruder in their beds. But who cares if some dried up old Nazi never got justice, he didn’t give my Aunt that chance, or my uncles for that matter. Only my mother and father escaped their grasps and so I thought it best to return the favor.

So why do I waste my golden years in some rundown little village in the Andes? Well the edge of the world does have its comforts but I wish it was that simple. No, I decided to stay here after I discovered that evil, true evil, lies just beyond the edge of the world.

Ah, looks like snow. Well if you want to hear the ramblings of an old man come to the bar. They don’t have much but it’s warm and they will let you get good and drunk

 

 

Well, I honestly thought you would have just moved on by now or maybe hoped. Grab a beer and pull up a chair. Just ignore Alfonzo, he is a little more drunk today than usual. So, you want to know why I wound up in this unremarkable village getting drunk in some gloomy bar.

Well, like I said, I was Nazi hunter.  A lot of Nazis came down here after the war so it a fertile land to practice my craft.  As for me? Well my father survived Buchenwald and my mother Krakow.  They both lost all their families so they left for the promised land.  I grew up in Tel Aviv with stories about my lost family.  Their laughs and loves were my bedtime stories.  So, by the time I grew up I would do anything to bring them back.  Short of that, I would at least avenge them.

When I was 18 I ran off with my father’s pistol and traveled to South America.  A bold move for someone so young, I know, but I had to do something.  Here I found purpose, a goal to achieve I couldn’t find anywhere else.  Killing has such great finality about it.  You ended that person’s life and now, nothing more from them.  You get a rush of power that you can’t find anywhere else.  And if the men you kill were killers themselves, all the better.

 

Oh yes, Henrik Vasil! That was his name!  I couldn’t remember his name but it came back to me now.  He was the man who started all of this.  I had been here for a few years when I tracked down old Henrik. He was a low-level officer in the Gestapo.  How he managed to smuggle himself down here I’ll never know.  I frankly didn’t care.  He was mine to kill and I loved that.  Unfortunately, the cancer set in before I could.  It killed him all alone in that house.  I like to think he suffered.

His was a small cabin in the foothill of the Andes. You could see the mountains jutting up like old gods looking over their land.  It was in a clearing surrounded by a pine forest.  It reminded me of the pictures of Bavaria.  Probably why the bastard decided to stay there.

When I found him dead, I just left his corpse rot in his bed and searched the house for any clues for my next target.  The Krauts liked to stick together, maybe a nostalgia thing, I don’t know.  But it made my job easier.  I just had to find a letter or postcard and I was off.  On his desk opposite his bed where he lied I found a letter.  It was under a pile of old paperwork and letters.  All of them were in German.  It was addressed from an enclave of former Nazis run by someone only known as The Leader.  The letter pleaded for old Henrik to come and visit to see “what we made”.  Henrik had seemed to be a Gestapo officer for the ideology of the Nazis.  He was meant to strictly enforce the rules of the Fascist government.  Whoever this was want to show off what they had. 

The letter talked about the village of Borde del Mundo. I had never heard of the town before but I knew I could find it.  I jumped at the chance to kill a whole nest of them.

 

The Village, as you know, is barely accessible by car so it was sometime before I could come up here.  My obsession would not let me give up on this.  The village hasn’t change since that first day I arrived here.  Nestled in a steep valley next to a mountain creek, it would have been beautiful if not for the run-down town.  I remember the shacks looking a lot smaller and dirty back then.  Now I see their adobe brick covered in ivy as a sign of home.  Perhaps I have grown more forgiving over the years.

My Spanish was much worse back then so you can imagine that my conversations with denizens got me barely anywhere.  Finally, some drunk understood me enough to show me to a narrow mountain path that climbed the tallest mountain in the valley.

But before I could come up the mountain I realized that my wallet was missing.  As I turned around the drunk scampered away with my wallet in his hand.  When I caught up to him in an alley I confronted him about it with my pistol in hand.  As he begged for his life I knew he must be taught a lesson that clearly no one had taught him.  I beat him savagely with the butt of my pistol.  I could hear his cries to stop in a language I did not understand but still could translate.  When I stopped, he was gasping for air through all the blood.  The next thing I knew a police officer was yelling at me from the end of the alley.  I pointed my pistol at him yell at him to get out of the way.  I grabbed my wallet and left up the mountain path.  I thought I would never see this place again. 

 

The path was a small deer path that seemed to be only occasionally traversed by humans.  I remember the forest getting darker as I ventured further.  As I got higher on the mountain a storm came in.  I could not explain where it came from but it was a furious one that seem to push me back down the mountain.  I could barely make out the path through the snow as I marched up the mountain.  It was after an hour that I saw it, the enclave.  It looked like an old Teutonic castle from those stories of the monster movies.  Through the dark and snow filled air all I saw was a light coming out of a window in the tower.  The path wound up some cliffs that lead to the plateau that the Enclave sat on.  It was strange but I don’t remember what was beyond it. It must have been the mountain jutting up further but all I remember was a black abyss.

It’s important to note that I had no plan at the time.  I had come to kill them all.  Who they were and how many there was didn’t concern me.  All I could think about was how get out of the storm and then to kill.  That was when I slipped.

I remember tumbling down the cliff with the jagged rocks beating me on the way down.  Then there was darkness.

 

When I came to I was on a soft couch.  I could feel a warm fire in front of me and I heard its soft roars.  I contemplated that is was all a dream and I was still in the snow dying.  When I opened eyes, I saw a darkened lobby with a semi-circle of chairs and couches surround the fire.  A second-floor balcony surrounded the room.  The room was welcoming and made you feel like you had come to ski resort that was only meant for you.

The room would have relaxed me if it wasn’t for the most dominate feature of the room; four Red banners draped down from the second-floor balcony.  In the center of each one was a large white circle with the jagged lines of a black swastika in the center of each circle.  I followed banner in front of me down to the chair just below the black mark.  In it sat a tall, pale man with jet black hair who was smiling like a friend you hadn’t seen in a while welcoming you.

I tried to jump out of the couch but the searing pain in my chest and arm drove me back down.  “Please, your hurt”, he said. “You need to rest my friend.”  I was in a panic. What did he want from me?  Why was I not dead?

“Well it looks like you are going to make it”, he said with a smile.  “I knew you would. If you had the will to make it up here, you had the will to survive a little spill.”

He started to notice the concern and panic in my face.  He then said, “I wasn’t expecting anyone tonight let alone a Nazi hunter.”  He smirked after say this.

I finally managed to get out a sentence though the pain and said, “Are you going to kill me?” He then let out a guttural laugh.  “No, my friend. That would be such a waste.”

I then moaned with pain as I tried to get up to look around the room.  He then said, “Please rest, you have nothing to worry about.  Countless people fall on those icy cliffs so you shouldn’t feel embarrassed by it.  Why I fell when I was a child.  I survived and so will you.”

“Why do you want me to survive” I said not really wanting to know the answer. “All in due time, my friend”, he responded.  “For now, rest.  This is Albert”.  He pointed to a small boy hiding in the dark shadows of the room.  “He’ll lead you to the infirmary.  There he will care for you.  Goodnight, my friend.”  He then got up and left the room.  The whole time I could not take my eyes off the banner.  I still wonder why I ever took my eyes off it.

Perhaps we should get another round.  We may be here for a while.

 

 

What? Why did I buy Afonso another round? Well let’s just say that I owe him more than just one round.

Anyways, Albert, the little boy talked about took me to the infirmary.  It was a long bunkhouse with two rows of beds lining the long walls.  The path made by the beds led the eye to another Nazi banner at the end of the bunkhouse positioned so that it was the first thing you saw as you entered the room.  It was not the most welcoming sight.  The room was empty and Albert laid me down beside a window on the right side of the room.  When I managed to look out the window despite the pain I saw a large stone courtyard.  There were a few benches that surrounded what looked like a makeshift football pitch on the cobblestones.  What amazed me was despite the raging blizzard that welcomed me to this place it looked untouched by any of it.  There was not a spot of snow anywhere for me to see.  In fact, I remember it being warmer than it was outside the Enclave.  The sun was shining down on the mountain tops I could see poking through the cloud cover.  It was positively heaven like.

I remember Albert fondly.  He was a boy of 12 years who was quiet and keep to himself but he tended to me with care.  In those early days, he was all the company I had.  He didn’t speak to me in till what I think was the second day.  I finally asked him, “What is this place?”  I got a one word response, “Home”.  There was a hesitation in his voice when he said.  I could figure out why but I figured that it was his shyness that caused it.

“Do you like your home?”, I asked him.  Before he could manage an answer the Tall Man walked in and call on Albert to leave.  He did it with a kind of disgust as if little Albert had betrayed him by being here with me.  “How about a walk, my friend? It’s a beautiful day and you look well enough to leave that bed.”  I wasn’t up for a walk; my arm was still seeing with pain and my back still had a dull pain running though it but I had to know what was going on.

I managed to get out of bed and join the Man for his walk.  We journeyed out into the courtyard where a few people in small groups of two to three where going about their days hardly bothering to notice me hobbling alone beside them.  We journeyed to the balcony at the edge of the courtyard that look out at the world around us.  When I looked down, contemplating jumping to escape this place, I say a 10 meter drop and then cloud cover.  It could have been further I had no way of telling.  The Man finally talked, “They call me the Leader, an informal title, if you were wonder what to call me.”  He looked at me with the smirk that seemed to always be on his face.  I had no response to him partly due to the pain but also because I still couldn’t grasp what was going on.  He seemed to notice this when he responded, “So you must be wondering why the son of a Nazi would welcome into his home the son of a Jew.”  He paused contemplating he next sentence. “They were wrong, the Jews were not what destroyed Germany.  Weakness was.  We didn’t have the strength of character to do what was necessary to survive so we blamed others for our mistakes.”  I was intrigued at this point, so much so that I stopped noticing that my leg was starting to shake from the pain.  “Look at what the Jews went through for two millennia.  Persecution, segregation, hate, yet they not only survived they prospered.  We should have look to them as inspiration not a scapegoat.  And now look at you, seek vengeance for your people after all this time.  They were so wrong.”

He reached into his jacket and pulled out my pistol.  “I believe this is yours.  I don’t think I should worry about you using this on me, do I?”  I grasp it in my hand and it somehow felt different than before.  I can’t place how but it did.  I then finally managed a sentence, “Then why stay a Nazi?”. I motioned to one of the banners that seemed to be everywhere in this enclave.  “Because they weren’t totally wrong,” He answered.  “There is a Master Race but it is not the Germans or the Jews.  It is the Strong.”

I felt a cold gust roll in for the outside world.  It made me feel weak.  It finally after all this collapsed to the ground and wheezed pain.  The Leader helped me up and took me back to the infirmary.

 

How are you enjoying your beer?  It’s not the best, but it’s the best you can get this far from civilization.  It does the job the job though, much like a game Albert showed me while I was recovering.  It was a guessing game, the other had to guess what the other was thinking.  I don’t remember the rules of the game, it was years ago, but I do remember Albert yelling “got you” every time he got my answer.  It was adorable and it keep me distracted from the pain of recovery also from the terrible feeling that I was being treated in a Nazi Enclave. 

Albert was all I had in those early days.  He was the only one who checked on me in those early days.  He would always help me with anything that I needed and seem happy to do all of it.  I was starting to realize that Albert didn’t have many friends.  He was shy, that was certain, but it was also how he carried himself.  Of what little I had seen of everyone at the Enclave, they all carried themselves with a certain swagger.  It was one of independence, they could carry themselves and knew what they wanted next.  Albert seem lost, always looking to others for direction and purpose.  His head was always pointed down as if he was ashamed of who he was or where he was going.  I usually didn’t like people like Albert, they required others to help them survive and that was a waste.  Everyone should know what they want and how to achieve it.

One of the days of the recovery I went for a walk.  On one of the balconies in the living quarters was a young couple sitting on wicker chairs looking out at the peaks.  They were both pure examples of the Aryan race, blonde hair, blue eyes, strong faces.  I guess despite what the Leader had said not all of the race politics of the Nazis were gone.  The young women was clearly pregnant as she was very far along.  They were glowing obviously looking forward to the coming days when they could welcome their child into this world. 

The young mother turned to the doorway to see me standing there and called out to me.  “You’re the outsider aren’t you.”  It took me as a shock, I had not realized that I had been staring at them for some time now.  “I’m sorry for disturbing you, I should be going”, I responded as I turned to leave embarrassed for intruding.  “It’s fine,” the young father responded. “You can join us if you like.  We would love to meet you”. 

Frankly I had nothing else to do so I joined them.  I approached the Balcony and looked over the edge to see if I could see the outside world now but that thick cloud cover still hung down there obscuring the ground below.I had never been able to orient myself in the Enclave to the side I saw coming up the mountain.  For some reason the desire to leap off the balcony to safety had left me.  There was something drawing me back into the Enclave.

The mother spoke first and said, “The Leader told us what our people did to yours and that your people didn’t deserve that fate.  I for one would like to apologize for it.”  I never would have thought an apology would ever cool my hate towards the Nazis but for some reason it worked on this occasion.  I thought to myself that they were different somehow and that I should give them a chance.  “Thank you”, was all I could say and I barely could get that out.  The conflict that was raging inside of me prevented me from saying any more. 

“How is it to live here?”, I asked.  The young Father responded this time and said, “It’s fantastic!  No one to bud in to tell us what is right and wrong.  No one to tell us who to be.  We have Just one responsibility, to take care of ourselves.  Is that not great?”

I could not argue with him.  It was how I had lived my life.  Once I had left home and came here I was on my own with no one else to care for.  I had thought that made me happy but up in till this point it had always come with guilt.  “We have hope here.  Hope for a future”, the Young Father said as the young couple both looked down at the bulge that contained their future.  Hope had been scarce in my life.  What happens when I ran out of victims to avenge and killers to bring down?  What was I to do then?  The more I thought about this place the more it felt…... well like home. 

But I could not believe it yet.  They were still Nazis and I was still a Jew.  I could not betray my family like that.  Then again, what had they given me but a trouble past and an uncertain future.  Here they had hope.

I had to continue my walk and think about this.  I felt torn apart by these feelings.  What was this place doing to me?  I then journeyed into the courtyard where I saw some kid playing around in the far corner.  All the children were so beautiful.  Blonde, blue eyed perfections that had no blemishes or flaws, except Albert.  His dark hair made him stand out amongst all the rest.  He was also so much smaller than the other children.  Especially the Lagest of them, a tall blonde girl with braids.  She seemed to be the leader of this band and she seem to be turning on Albert.  She pushed him to the ground and began kicking him.  The other children started to laugh.  Albert cried out for help.

I called out for them to stop when I heard a familiar voice from behind me calmly call out to me.  “Let them play. Albert must learn to stand up for himself.  That is the only way he will learn to survive and prosper.”  It was the Leader and he seemed to be indifferent to Albert’s calls for help. 

Then a bell rang out.  I remembered that it was the dinner bell and all the children stopped their beating of Albert and ran off to the meal hall.Albert struggled to get up and when he failed he just sat there till he could manage it.  “Look at Hilda, the one with the braids, she is our most promising child,” the Leader continued.  “Driven and strong, she may replace me someday.  Now look at Albert.  What can he manage?  He let those other children take advantage of him and when it became too much for him he asked us to bail him out.  That is weakness my friend.  Albert must learn to stand on his own or get out of the way.  We can’t let him drag us all down.” He was right, if I cared for Albert I must let him stand for himself.  It wouldn’t have helped anyone if I had stopped the attack.

The Leader call out to Albert to come to us.  He struggled to his feet and shuffled over to us with his head hung in shame.  “Albert, our guest will return to the infirmary.  Bring him his dinner then you can have your ration.”

“Yes sir”, and Albert shuffled away into the bunkhouse.  “About all he is useful for.  Someday that may change but for now eat your dinner, my friend, and we’ll talk later.”  He walked away and I was left alone in the courtyard.  I was now convinced more than ever that this was becoming my home.

 

Later that night I found myself in the same lobby that I woke up in just over a week before.  I was there to talk to the Leader but I did not know what about.  My head was spinning with the questions about this Enclave that I found.  Could the maniacs who killed my family really be redeemable?  Why did I feel at home with these people?  What was I still doing here?  I need answers but I had no one to ask.  The Leader would talk about how this place was a paradise and the locals seem to all agree with him.  Albert was the only one who seemed to not be in lock step with the party line but he was too weak to make a stand.  I keep wondering these things as the Leader walked in.

“So, my friend, I have a proposition for you,” he began.  “I think you should stay and I think you want to stay too.”  It had a flash of joy at hearing that. It was what I wanted.  The world outside made no sence and I never seem to belong in it.  Here I didn’t have to belong so long as I was myself.  It was my home now. 

Then a feeling of terror rush over me.  I couldn’t explain where it came from.  I was in no danger.  The leader wasn’t threating me, he was welcoming me.  I still felt like I was betraying myself.  I then asked the Leader, “Why me?”

“Because you are one of us.  One of the few who can stand on his own.  If we have any hope that what we have up here ever coming down this mountain, then we need people like you.”I was to be a messenger for them.  I would have a purpose. 

“What do you need from me?”, I asked.  I wanted to join so bad I almost hurt ever moment that I was still an outsider.  “For now, take in your new home and in a few days, we will celebrate your joining us.”  I don’t seem to remember if the Nazi banners were still hanging there when we talked, perhaps I stop noticing them.

 

 

My initiation was a giant party in the meeting hall.It was a long mead hall made of all wood with carvings of ancient dragons battling brave warriors.  The long tables were filled with meat, beer, and people.  They were now all my new compatriots, my new family.

The leader lead off the festivities with a big speech about what we were doing here.  Clearly everyone had heard it before because I wasn’t the only one who seem bored by it.  I had been saying the same thing over and over to me in the weeks I had been there.  Albert was there with me too.  He was my closest friend out of everyone.  In fact, I wasn’t sure if I knew any of the people who was there.  It felt like I knew them but I can’t place any other names to them. 

We drank and sang into the night with Albert on my side the whole night.  When it was getting late in the night I saw the Leader get pulled aside by someone and they left together.  He looked troubled by what he heard and I had to see what they were going to see so I followed them.  I followed them outside to a long stone staircase leading into what appeared to be catacombs below the Enclave. 

Down in the catacombs I saw the Leader standing with the young couple I had met before standing staring into a window.  I notice the young mother no longer had the baby bump but she or her husband seemed happy or glowing like young parents should.  Through the window, I saw just one light illuminating a table with something small on it.  As I moved closer I saw it, an infant lying still on a cold metal table.  It was alone in the dark room just lying there still.  It was dead.  I came up to the glass and asked what had happened.  The Leader was the one who answered saying, “It didn’t make it the three days”.  “What three days?”, I asked confused by what I was seeing.  The young man responded this time saying with a low depressed voice, “Every child must survive the first three days of its life”.  I could see him fighting back tears as his wife could only look at her child stone faced seemly oblivious to the world around her.

I turned to the Leader for assurance that what I was hearing was wrong and the child did not die alone.  “If a child cannot survive the first three days of life on its own how can we be sure that it can survive the rest of its life on its own”, was what he said.  “I don’t understand”, I said in disbelief never taking my eyes of the dead infant.  “You will my friend.  Give it time and you will see why this is necessary”.

“Can I go in?”, I asked.  I can’t explain why I wanted to go in that room, perhaps I didn’t want it to be alone now.  The Leader looked at me with a puzzled look and then let me go in.  All I remember about the room was it was dark and cold.  The child lying still and lifeless was the only focal point of the room, there was nothing else.  I place my hand on the table beside the child and closed my eyes.  I could feel myself beginning to tear up.  “Why did the child have to die?”, I wondered to myself.  That was when I felt a cold little had grab mine.  When I opened my eyes, I saw the child grabbing at me.  Its eyes were barely open but it was looking into mine.  I knew that it just wanted me to help it.

I screamed out at the Leader to come and help.  He came in asked me to come with him.  I obeyed but I keep asking him to help the child.  He finally out of frustration screamed out at me and said, “It’s day two.  If it can’t make it, which it will not, then it doesn’t deserve to leave that room”.  He calmed down and apologized.  He led me back to the party but I could celebrate anymore and just went to my room.  It was the first time since my first few days here that I had felt fear again. 

 

 

As the days dragged on I forgot what had happened on that night.  I could only think about the future ahead of me here at the Enclave.  I was becoming one of them with every day that passed by.  I still seem to have trouble talking to the others in the Enclave.  Albert was still my only friend and it seemed that was true of him as well.

I encouraged him try and get alone with the other kids.  He had to stand up for himself and not sulk away into a corner every time he was confronted.  He was apprehensive about it but he could see that I was trying to help.

The kids were putting on a football game one day and I encouraged Albert to go play.  He reluctantly went into the courtyard to join the other kids.  I remember the young blonde girl, Helga, being upset when Albert was picked to be on her team.  They put Albert as the goaltender because that was largely all he could play. 

I sat on one of the benchs surrounding the courtyard to watch the children play.  I remember Helga being the best at everything on that day.  She lived up to all the hope that people were putting into her.  She was a pure example of what we all wanted to be.  Albert was simple there, a non-entity.

Then it all changed on one play.  Helga misplayed the ball and left Albert all alone to defend the goal.  It was impossible for him to make the save, even Helga couldn’t have made that save.  To any objective eye the play was Helga failing but she couldn’t except that.  She naturally blamed the one person who was defenseless against her, Albert. 

It began with the screaming, it was loud and filled with hate, then the beating started.  I remember the blood sprang up on Helga’s face as she relentlessly beat Albert.  He screamed for help as Helga keep going.  She grew more and more intense as the beating lasted longer. 

My Friend!  I watched him die and felt nothing.

I only realized what had happen till it was over.  Albert lied there gasping for air unable to move.  He was choking on his own blood.  Why did I do nothing? Why did I feel anything?  That’s not true, I did feel something; contempt for Albert. 

I panicked when I saw Albert lying there.  I ran to him to help him.  I had to do something, anything if it could help him.  I was the only one who came to him.  I carried him to the infirmary so he could be cared for.  When I arrived, and placed him on the bed I realized that my whole time in the infirmary only Albert was there.  There was no staff other than Albert.  He was the only one weak enough to care for the weak.

Then an all to familiar voice came from the doorway behind me.  “Let him die, my friend”, it called out.  I couldn’t face him, not after what had happened.  I looked down at Albert’s blood and swollen face as it gasped for air.  All I could say was, “He doesn’t deserve this”.

“Deserve this?”, The Leader responded calmly.  “You earn what you deserve.  What did Albert do to deserve anything but this?  Now leave him.”

“No,” I said back forcefully.  I couldn’t leave Albert alone.  “Fine,” the Leader responded.  I could hear the disappointment in his voice.  After he left I felt a weak could hand grab mine.  I held Albert’s hand as he died in that bed.  He couldn’t die alone, I wouldn’t let him.  When I looked up I saw it again, the red banner with the black slashes.  It dominated the room again.

 

I had to leave, I couldn’t live with what this place was.  What I had found in the beginning was just an illusion.  There was one problem with my escape, there was no exits.  The whole time I was at the Enclave I never saw a door that lead to the outside world.  Only the balconies that looked over the clouds and the mountain tops led to the outside world.  I tried to see if I could see a wall I could jump down but everywhere I looked there was that fog 10 meters down.  I didn’t know what was beyond that; a cliff face, the soft snow, or someplace worse.  For a whole day, I went back and forth on whether to jump out into that nothing.  I couldn’t tell anyone about my conflict because I knew the Leader was listening.  I could have told Albert, I think he could understand what I was going through. 

One night, I couldn’t sleep, not with my guilt, so I decided to jump.  I left everything of mine in my room.  I imagine that my pistol is still up there, maybe that’s where it belongs.  I jumped because I had no reason not to. My life should either leave here or end here, there was no life left here. 

So, I jumped and 10 meters down I landed in soft snow.  When I jumped, it was a clear night, it was always clear in the Enclave, but now it was a blizzard much like the one that I was in when I found that place.  I looked up and it was that menacing castle that I found.  None of that fazed me now, I was free and I had to get down the mountain.  When I tried to step, I felt a shooting pain in my leg.  I realized that I had sprained my ankle.  I couldn’t let this slow me down so I limped away from the Enclave. 

Little ways down the path I looked back at the Enclave.  I don’t know why I looked back but something made me look back.  There I saw Leader standing just outside the Enclave staring right at me.  He had in his hands an old Mauser Rifle.  Somehow through the storm I heard him call out to me with perfect clarity. 

“You never understood, did you?”

The terror from a generation ago came back to me.  I knew he had come to kill me.  All I could do was run now and somehow lose him in the storm.  I had to run like my parents did so long ago.  I had to reach a sanctuary somewhere in that storm.  All I could like about was this village.  It was my only chance.

As I ran I heard a bullet pierced the tree next to me.  He was still behind me so I had to leave the path.  I ran into the woods not knowing what was out there but it had to be better than here. 

The night grew darker and the storm grew stronger.  I was lost in the woods but hopefully the Leader was lost too.  I stopped at a clearing in the woods and hid behind a large pine tree on the edge.  I sat in the snow and tried to get my bearings.  Then I heard his footsteps entering the clearing.  I peeked around the tree to see the Leader standing in the middle of the clearing with his rifle lowered.  He didn’t know I was there but knew that I was close. 

He cried out to me, “Why couldn’t you see what we did?  Why dwell on the past when the future can be so great?”  The past was all he could see.  I wasn’t running for my family, I was running for Albert and that little infant.  I was running for a future not just for me but for them too.  “I told you that we changed.  We are stronger now, you could have joined us,” he cried out.  I heard him walking away out of the clearing away from me.  The last thing he said was, “Why couldn’t you see?”

I sat there for what could have been an hour.  I was frozen by terror.  What had I really found up here?  Why did I not see what they were?  What have I done?

When I noticed the snow pilling up on my shoulders, I brushed the snow of and limped down the mountain in the opposite direction of the Leader. 

It must have been another hour before I reached the bottom of the mountain.  There I saw the village lit up in the valley below.  I began to cry, I had made it out of the hell I found on that mountain.  It was over for me.

Then I heard a crack and a sharp pain shoot through my chest.  I couldn’t breath as I felt a warm liquid flow down my chest.  I fell to the ground I looked behind me to see the Leader standing there with a smoking rifle in his hands.  I began to cough up blood as he approached me. 

“You could have been something great but you yielded.  You gave up your strength for what?  Perhaps your people are weak”, he said looking down on me with disgust.  “Goodbye my friend”, was all he said as he turned to leave me there to die.  I was dying there cold and alone but before I passed out I felt a hand grab me and start to drag me down the mountain. 

 

I woke up in a jail cell sometime later.  I was bandaged up and lying on a cot when I regained conciseness.  I was still in a lot of pain but I was alive somehow.  I looked out the open gate of the cell to see a policeman looking at me from a desk.  “Hello there”, he called out to me as a struggled to get up. “No stay down, you have to rest, a gunshot doesn’t heal overnight.”

“Where am I?”, I asked through the pain.  “Bundo de la Mundo, the police station specifically”, he said with so joy.  I had made it to the village somehow.

“How did I get here?”, I said through my heavy breaths.  The officer pointed to the outer room and cot were a disheveled drunk was sleeping.  The same one that I had beat in the alley what now seemed like years ago. I could see the scares on his face where I beat him with my gun.  It then occurred to me that the police officer was the same that I had threatened with my gun. 

He could tell this had just come to me as he said, “Don’t worry, he doesn’t want to press charges so your fine there.  As for threating me with a gun, let’s say you help here at the station for some time.  You seem like you’ve been through some shit.”

“Do you want to know what happened to me?”, I asked.  “Bodies show up on that mountain all the time”, he said with some disinterest. “You’re the first we found alive.  Frankly, after see you, I don’t want to know what’s up there.”

I looked over at the drunk and was filled with guilt.  He was another person who I had betrayed.  I could understand why he helped me so I asked the officer. 

“Alfonzo?”, he responded. “He’s always wanted to help people.  The alcohol prevents most of his attempts but I’m not surprised that he would help you.  He’s a good person.” 

 

 

So here I am, decades later still at the bottom of this mountain, getting drunk in a bar.  I went up the mountain again years ago and I saw the Enclave again.  The Leader was there in window peering out at me through the storm that seems to always be there.  I could feel his hate for me still after all that time.

I decided awhile back to not leave this place. If whatever is up on that mountain comes down, I must stop it.  If not for Albert and the infant, for Alfonzo now.  The world wasn’t ready for it when it came after my parents and it will not be ready now.  I don’t know how I’ll stop it but it must be me, I know that.

Well traveler, you should be on your way.  The snow has stopped and it’s getting late.  Just follow the road down the valley and be on your way.  Oh, and do me a favor, don’t go up that mountain.  Just leave it, please.  Good luck.

Alfonzo! Get up, we’re leaving.


© Copyright 2017 Samuel Reifel. All rights reserved.

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