The Reflection of the Snow

Reads: 636  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 1

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

It's 1944 and Finland has just been attacked by the Russians. Four Dornier Do 17 bombers are sent to bomb Russian air bases but one gets shot down. Only two members of the crew survive. They face hard hitting questions and these questions will ultimately decide their fate as the cold Russian winter threatens to erase them from the world.

The Reflection of the Snow

 

A dense black murk enveloped everything. No thoughts came at first—just a horrendous, sickening pain radiating up his arm and leg. As he struggled against the darkness, waves of pain crashed against his skull which made thoughts even more difficult. It was as if atmospheric pressure had increased tenfold and he was struggling to get above it, grasping desperately to anything that would keep him above the swirling maelstrom that is death. Fighting against the current he managed to grab hold of a branch and it became his anchor to the world. Pushing through the pain and the fog was one thought—his family. His eyes pushed open and his senses began to capture his surroundings once more. It was dark, and a foul smelling smoke filled his nose and added to the haze of confusion. He appeared to be in a forest laying on his back in the snow. His memory then came crashing back to him. The retaliation bombing for the Russians' attack on Helsinki. They had followed the Russian bombers back to their bases posing as Russians and then bombed their bases once the Russians had landed. It was a cunning plan. It was what good war was about. It was daring, heroic and vengeful. Finland, despite it's size, would not give in to Stalin. It had gone perfectly until the last possible second when the air defense forces at the Levashovo Airfield figured out what was happening and opened fire on them. The three others had managed to escape unscathed, but not his crew. Being at the lowest altitude of the four, they had taken significant damage to one wing and had lost the use of the engine on that side. If it hadn't been for the storm, they might have made it back but because of the conditions they crashed in the night half way back to Finland. They were now alone, in Russia, in February, without anything to stop their descent into the icy grips of death.

Realizing the situation brought on fear and adrenaline that cleared his mind and brought on a sense of urgency. Flipping onto his side and bracing himself with one arm he realized the cause of the pain in his arm. A large deep gash extended from his shoulder to nearly the end his elbow. Blood was seeping through the wound and dripping onto the crisp snow beneath him. Ignoring it the best he could, he stood up and realized his lower leg was also dripping blood. The scene before him was just as grisly. Bits of their Dornier Do 17 bomber were strewn everywhere. They had smashed some trees as well and the splintered evergreens and twisted metal blended in a scene of complete carnage. Wisps of smoke rose from one section but miraculously there hadn't been a large fire. Moaning came from his left. Rushing awkwardly through the snow on a bad leg he found their pilot, Ensio Siilasvuo, half buried in the snow.

“I'm sorry Jarkko,” he managed to get out. Ensio's voice was one without hope. It had changed fundamentally somehow. His positive, confident voice was now reduced to a mere whisper of sadness. There was no longer any romanticism about war—the pain left no room.

“No.” He replied quickly and defiantly. “You did well...” His attention turned from Ensio's pale face to the rest of his body. It was good that his body was partially covered in snow. Jarkko nearly vomited from the destruction that was visible. Barely attached flesh and snow mixed, and blood seeped into the surrounding snow.

Ensio moaned in a desperately tired whimper that slowly rose in volume. His body tensed, every muscle and tendon pulling taught. His body began to slowly shake and then it gradually stopped. Life was no longer visible. The pale blueness of his eyes just visible under his half-closed eyelids.

Jarkko sat there in the snow for a moment, his mind blank, struggling to understand reality. After a moment he pushed snow over Ensio's body, as if the sight of it had become unbearable. Turning away his mind focused instead on the idea that others could still be alive.

He passed wing sections and other bits of metal that were no longer identifiable as pieces of an aircraft and came to the tail section where Torsten Kekkonen, the oldest member of their crew, was propped up against a piece of crushed yellow metal. Neither of them spoke at first. Words just no longer seemed relevant or important.

Torsten spoke first, his voice desperate for good news. “The others still alive?” he asked.

“I don't believe so,” was Jarkko's response. “Ensio just died...I'm not sure about Hennka”.

The wreckage was spread out over a hillside which made searching even more difficult.

“Did you check down there?” Torsten gestured with his hand to a steep section farther down. He seemed to refuse the idea that it was just the two of them left alive.

“No...I'll go look” Jarkko explained as he limped off through the snow. It was difficult to see in the light. The sun was not yet up and the light radiating from behind the mountain was not yet enough for him to see in much detail. The very front section of the plane formed a jagged ball of steel resting precariously on the slope. Squinting in the light he thought he could see an arm.

“Hennka!” he yelled, hoping for a response. No response came. He then realized that the arm was not attached to a body. What he had originally thought was the ground scraped clean of snow was actually a large pool of blood. That was was the final blow. Vomit erupted from within him and he dropped to his knees. It was as if his body was trying to get out the pain, trying to get out of the situation. Eventually nothing was left in his stomach and he wandered back and collapsed beside Torsten. A quick shake of his head put an end to Torsten's hopes.

 

When he awoke rays of sunlight were streaming through the trees, making the fresh snow glisten in the light. It was now about midday and a squirrel chattered in a tree nearby. Looking down at himself he noticed his leg had stopped bleeding. His arm had also stopped bleeding for the most part. His once pristine uniform was now stained with blood and covered in a fine dusting of snow. There was no confusion now, only dread. There were large marks in the snow leading away from where Torsten had been. He got up in search for him and found him a short distance away, leaning heavily on a broken branch.

“How did we get into this mess?” he asked, having heard Jarkko come up behind him. It wasn't a question that could be answered, but he tried to give an answer anyways.

“We had to protect our country,” was the only thing he could come up with.

“Protect our country from what?” Torsten snapped. “Communism? Why? Everyone being treated fairly? Having the same? Being equal? We're fools to think we can stand up to Russia anyways, even with Hitler's help.”

“It's—“ Jarkko tried to interrupt, but the rant continued.

“Who's the idiot who came up with that idea anyways? Get help from the Nazi's. That's a hell of an idea! After they win we can just continue on like before, an independent country. We're fools Jarkko, completely blind foo—”. He lost his balance and fell sideways into the snow before Jarkko could catch him. Jarkko offered him a hand up but he refused it, preferring to pull himself over the snow to a tree nearby.

“What do you propose we do now,” Jarkko questioned, trying to change the subject and get onto more important things.

Torsten let out a sickly laugh. “You actually think we can do something? We're 60 miles from the nearest town and you don't think they'll just let you stroll over the border do you?”

“What are we just supposed to? Give up?” Jarkko snapped back.

“What other choice do we have?!” Torsten bellowed. “The bone in my leg is shattered and neither of us would be able to walk that far before nightfall. We'd freeze to death.”

“We can can try,” Jarkko refused to accept defeat. “There will be roads, it's downhill from here”.

“Go ahead, but it's useless. The frost will numb you and you'll end up a frozen corpse buried face first in the snow.” Torsten slouched back into the tree. He wasn't budging from his opinion.

“I'll send help back to you,” Jarkko reasoned.

Getting up from the tree Torsten mumbled, “Don't waste your time”.

 

It was well into the afternoon when Jarkko finally left the crash site. Using parts of the interior of the plane he had bandaged up his arm and leg but he doubted it would help much. Torsten was still leaning against the crumpled tail section, Ensio's pistol resting in his hand. He had insisted that he keep it in case the Russians came to inspect the crash site. As much as he hated to think that Torsten would die there, perhaps an exchange of fire with the Russians would give him a valiant death. A good ending. An honorable one. The hillside was steep and the snow made his descent difficult. Jarkko's path was sometimes be blocked by thick brush and branches weighed down with snow and he would have to retrace his steps to find a better path. As he descended into the valley it became a maze of deadfall and thick groupings of birch. Eating snow and ice was all that he could do to quench his thirst. By mid afternoon his entire body ached, the snow unable to put and end to the burning in his stomach. He came to a clearing just as the sun was setting and in a state of mental and physical exhaustion laid down against a cedar tree at the edge of the clearing.

The area had been logged some time ago but there was still branches and stumps sticking up through the snow. One lone birch stood in the middle, it's top decaying gradually. It hadn't been worth the trouble of cutting down. Small birds chirped and tweeted around the edge of the clearing, taking advantage of the last few moments of sunlight. It was peaceful here, almost enough to forget the situation. Almost enough to stare off into nothingness and melt into godlike reflection. As Jarkko was beginning to notice the birds, a single shot came from behind him. The wave of sound traveling through the valley. Deep down he knew what it was. He had know it all along. It felt colder now, as if all life had vanished from the valley. A wind started to pick up from the East and blew the snow up in sheets. The sun was no longer bright. A pale gray light was all that was left. The forest looked dark and cold now. It was then that he admitted to himself that he wouldn't make it out. The logging slash didn't mean a thing. Hostile civilization was still many miles away. The next moment of thought was the one he had dreaded all along—reflecting on his death. Whether it would be better to go quickly, on his own terms, pretending he had some real control over it or to die fighting. It had always seemed to him that fighting for the last bits of life was the way it should be done. To die with dignity and honor. How ignorant that seemed now. “Perhaps that's all there is in the end,” he thought to himself as the biting snow blew at him. Maybe there was no bravery in the face of death, just an ignorance of the real pain of suffering. Without shelter he would freeze to death. His clothes were already wet with sweat and his toes and fingers had started to go numb. The snow and darkness meant that there was little to see now but the waves of snow and the branches of the cedar tree swaying gently in the wind. Despite the harsh winds the branches just swayed lightly, seemingly care free. What had pulled him from the maelstrom was now lost. The pain and situation cast aside the thought of his family and his grip was no longer enough to hold on to hope. It didn't end suddenly, but life gradually faded away into the night. The swaying of the branches was his last glimpse of the world.

 

 

 


Submitted: November 26, 2014

© Copyright 2022 Raymond Paulson. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:

Comments

Raymond Paulson

Any feedback would be appreciated. It was written for a grade 12 English assignment. Hope you like it.

Tue, December 9th, 2014 6:48pm

Facebook Comments

More War and Military Short Stories

Other Content by Raymond Paulson

Short Story / War and Military