Primal Hunger – Chapter II

Dieter slides the metal sheet back flooding the crater with light.  He lowers Gregor’s body through the hatch, then tosses the rifles and a pack of provisions down.  He wears Eckhart’s Luger on his waist.

He looks back the direction he came then down at the crater.  He kneels behind the rubble, extending his wounded leg, and digs out his tobacco.

You are leaving the others.

It’ll be dark soon.  They’ll be completely frozen before I get them back, but this one…

…is nice and soft.

For a while longer.  I’ll take the meat off while I can.  The others I can get another time and keep them outside here until I need them.

You did well today.

I was almost killed … four times.

Almost…

Dieter shakes his head, stands and limps to the crater hatch.

You have something to say.

“This isn’t how it was supposed to be.  You said I would be rewarded.”  He climbs in.

Dieter leaves a crack of light coming into the dark crater until, with flint and shreds of clothing, he gets a fire started.  He stokes it up with his stash of broken furniture.  Smoke drifts up through various vents in the rubble.

Dieter crawls back outside and checks the smoke.  Satisfied, he climbs back in and closes the hatch.

You think you have not been rewarded?  How do you know that you were not supposed to be dead in this life already, and that I have prevented it?

“No.  You said ‘riches and power’, that’s what you said; ‘riches and power’.  Well I have neither.  I have bullet wounds and lice; lice that come to life and drive me crazy if ever I am so fortunate to warm myself up a bit.”  He puffs furiously on his cigarette.

You must be patient.

“I have been patient.  I have been very patient.  At first I was elated; accepted in the Waffen-SS, then promoted up to Oberscharführer so quickly.  I believed in you then.  I thought it was really going to happen.  But then you had me rape that damn Jew!”

I told you to humiliate her.  You did what you wanted.  You have hungers too.

“But why did I get caught?  How does getting demoted and sent to die in this hell-hole with the Wehrmacht have to do with riches and power?”

You still live.  How can you assume you will not have riches when this battle ends?  Faith produces miracles.  Doubt, and you will have nothing.

“So you say.  I need to carve my meat.”  He throws the cigarette butt into the fire.

Dieter rigs up four horizontal sticks, then strips the pants off of Gregor.  He cut a large rectangular section of skin on the thigh then begins peeling it back, slicing as he goes.  The large flap of skin he throws aside.

You need the fat of the skin for strength.

His legs are too hairy.  I can’t deal with it.

Finicky.

Next, Dieter carves thin strip of muscle from the leg, one at a time, all the way down to the bone.  These he drapes over the sticks he rigged.

Blood pours out of Gregor’s leg and pools at the base of the crater.  Some runs into the coals of the fire and sizzles and bubbles there.  Gradually, as the ground thaws, the dark soil absorbs the blood as if thirsting for it.

Dieter repeats the process on the other leg, then rolls the corpse over.  He starts at the buttocks and works his way down the legs.

By the time he’s done with the right calf muscle, there is no more room on his sticks to hang Gregor’s flesh.  He carves up the left calf and lays the strips out on Gregor’s back.

From hips on down, Gregor is only meaty bone with knees and feet still intact.

Dieter grabs the pack he acquired from his murdered countrymen and digs out a poorly stocked med-kit.

His first operation is removing the fragment from his abdomen.  With no proper instrument to extract the fragment, he has to make clamps from rigid wire.  He bends the ends into tight loops to grab the lead and pull it out.  It takes him many attempts.

He bites down on his leather knife sheath; sweat pours down his forehead, mixing with the blood under his impromptu bandage and running watery-pink over his cheeks to drip from his quivering chin.

He finally pulls the destroyed MG round out of the bloody hole.

He spits the sheath out and sighs deeply resting his head back.  After a moment he inspects the little piece of lead that has caused him so much agony.

Dieter grunts and tosses it in the fire.

He melts snow in a can and brings it to a near-boil.  He test it several times then douses the wound.  Tears join the sweat and blood as he grits his teeth and struggles not to cry out.

Finally, with shaking hands, he sews the wound shut.

His right leg is a through-and-through on the outside of the thigh and not deep.  Infection is still a concern.  He cleans it with hot water then gets the top sewn up fine, but struggles to get the hole in the back of his leg.

“Can’t you help me somehow?”

I cannot.

“Damn it!”  But you can see things.

I sense things.  That will not help you.

Dieter manages as best he can and bandages the leg up.  The other superficial wounds he cleans and bandages.

Adrenaline and the cold are wearing off.  Dieter’s wounds are starting to ache severely.

It’ll be hell in the morning.

Dieter skewers a strip of thigh on his knife and holds it over the small fire.

Within a few minutes he’s scratching at his scalp and body.

“Fucking lice!  Got to have fire to cook but it wakes the fucking parasites up.”

Eat it raw.

No.  Not when I can have a fire.  No way.

Then stop complaining.  It makes you dull.

Dieter inspects the meat.  Takes a bite.  It’s difficult to tear the chunk off.  He lays the strip down and cuts off pieces.

He sits back against the crater wall, scratches away at his lice and, with no apparent repulsion whatsoever, eats several strips of his countryman’s thigh.

Dieter spent the next twelve days in his hole, relatively warm and very well-fed.  On the morning of the thirteenth he woke in considerable pain.  It was some time before he could get his right leg to flex at all.  He checked his wounds and discovered the flesh was bright red and agitated on his hip and thigh.

I need something to sterilize these or I’m done in a few days.

You need to hunt Russians.

“Russians run in packs.”

Dieter has eaten most of the leg meat and realizes he will have to soon start on the back.  He saws the fleshy leg-bones off Gregor’s corpse, cutting through the ligaments of the hips.

They have vodka.

Ah, to sterilize!  That would be good.  If only we were so lucky to find a lone Russian drunk stumbling through Stalingrad.

You are resourceful, Dieter.  Find a way.

Dieter opens the hatch, peeks out, then tosses the boney legs through.  He gets his gear on, grabs his Luger and Gewehr, and crawls out.

Dark clouds hang low.  Snow falls steadily.  He throws Gregor’s bones far into the rubble.

I should see if the other bodies are there.  It’s getting colder.  We could get snowed in.

You are getting a taste for it.

Dieter grunts noncommittally as he peers over the rubble that hides his home.

The battle in the north is much closer.   Far up the street, through the white haze of snowfall, he sees a soldier dash across.  Two more follow after

I can’t tell if they’re German.

Rapid automatic gunfire echoes.

That’s a PPSh-41!  Those are Russians!  Fuck, they’re close.

Vodka.

There are three of them.

You killed three German well enough.

They weren’t together.

Semantics…

I’ll get one of the bodies—Alfred, he’s the smaller one—then we’ll hunt Russians.

He sprints across the street, and heads back to the scene of his triple murder.

Though small skirmishes seem to be happening all around him, he reaches the building without incident.

Dieter stands over the body of Alfred, frozen in the broken posture he impacted in.  Dieter tries to lift the body but it’s frozen stuck to the debris.

He finds a bent metal pipe and pries the corpse up.  He attempts to heft it again.  He gets it up but it’s too ungainly.  His injured leg won’t take the strain.  He drops it.  Alfred hits the ground with a dull “THOCK” like two wood blocks knocked together.

“Can’t carry him like that, and dragging him all the way is too slow; I’d be sniped for sure.”

Hack it up.

“No.  He’s frozen solid.  It’d take too long.”

You have company.

“Don’t move!  Don’t you move a fucking muscle!” commands a voice in German from behind Dieter.  “Over here!  I got one.”

“One what?  I’m German, brother; 24th Division, 4th Panzer, Group-B.”

The Wehrmacht Oberfeldwebel (Sergeant) circles around to face Dieter.  Five other soldiers join him.

“Drop the rifle.”

“My tags are around my neck, Sergeant.  Have a look.”

The Sergeant checks his tags.  They all relax a bit.

“Who were you talking to?”

Dieter looks around.  “Myself, of course.  I’m the only one here.  I was trying to figure out how to get our brothers back behind the lines.  There’s another upstairs.”  He points.

“There’s nothing to be done.  Leave them.  Where’s your unit?”

“Scattered.”

“Come with us.”

Fortunes change yet again.

I hope they have a full med-kit at least.

They grab the MG-42, then the squad meanders through the bombed-out city.

The soldier on point peers around a corner.

With a sound like a wet towel smacking a wall, and the “PLINK!” of a hammer striking metal, the point-man’s head is blown off, and his helmet shot right off with it.  The sniper’s rifle report follows close behind the impact.

“Sniper!” the sergeant yells.

Everyone takes cover.

“Anyone see the muzzleflash?”  All answer in the negative.  “Shit!”  The sergeant takes off his helmet.  “Jak, Hidel, you two work around this building until you have a line of site ahead.  Signal when you do.  I’m going to draw this fucker’s fire.  Spot the flash.  You got it?”

The both nod and move.

Another shot rings out.

Jak shouts back desperate, “Corporal Hidel’s hit!”

“Fucker!”  The sergeant pounds his fist on the wall.

It still lives.

Dieter moves up to the sergeant.  “I have a med-kit.”

“Go!”

Dieter hurries off.  He rounds the corner.

Jak cradles a gasping, bloody Hidel in his lap.  “Watch the whole!” Jak points and warns.

Dieter sees the artillery blast-hole in the wall that Hidel was sniped through.

Damn!  This sniper’s is fucking good.

It’s almost dead.

Dieter ducks and goes to Jak.

“Lay him down.  Step back.  Stay down.”

He opens Hidel’s coat and blood-soaked shirt.  Blood gurgles out of a high right sucking chest wound.

Hidel looks up at Dieter desperately, and tries to speak.  He coughs up foamy blood.

Finish it!

Dieter tries to position himself so Jak is at his back.  He pulls his knife.

“Do something!” Jak cries, and moves to see.

Shit!

Dieter feigns as if he’s doing something important with the knife, and scrapes the blood away from the wound.  He unshoulders his pack and digs for the med kit.  The corporal begins to convulse.

Be quick!

“Do you have a canteen?”

“No.”

“Go and get one.  Hurry!”

Jak ducks past the hole, and runs around the corner.

Dieter puts his hands around Hidel’s neck and squeezes with all his might.

I’m sorry, brother.

Hidel’s convulsions cease.  The gurgling of his sucking chest wound quiets.

The soldier’s body glows as his spirit lifts up out of his corpse.  He does as they all do; points accusingly.

“You killed me.  You…”  He sees the darkness rise.  “My God!”

Jak slips and falls on the ice as he sprints around the building.  The canteen flies out of his hand and bounces in the snow.

“Fuck!”  He gathers it up and runs to Dieter’s side.  “I got a canteen!”  He thrust it out for Dieter who, as if in a trance, ignores him.

Hidel’s spirit pleads.  “Help me Jak!  Help me!”

I will help you … to sublime nothingness, my pretty.

The demon takes Hidel into its shadow.

Yeeeeessssssss…

“What are you doing?”  Jak hits Dieter’s shoulder with the canteen as the demon retreats.

Dieter looks at Jak.  “He’s gone.”

Jak drop to his knees beside his friend, and sobs quietly.

Alright, sniper, you’re fucking next.

Dieter gives Hidel’s helmet to Jak.

“When I give the signal, you lift this helmet up on the end of your knife real slow through the hole.  Okay?  I’m going to get a fix on our sniper when he fires.  Got it?”

Jak nods, and draws his knife.

Dieter creeps to the edge of the wall.  He looks back at Jak.  He points at the soldier, and watches as Jak raises the Helmet.  Dieter peeks around the corner as low as he can.

The far wall of the building has collapsed entirely.  A burnt and blackened children’s park with a twisted jungle gym and swings lies beyond that in an open square.

He withdraws.

Jak lowers the helmet.  “What happened?  Why didn’t he fire?”

“Because he’s too fucking good for that bullshit.” Dieter answers.

“Did you see anything?”

“No.  I couldn’t leave my head out there that long.  I need another look.”  Dieter moves over to Hidel, then drags him towards the hole.

Jak watches anxiously.  “What are you doing?”

Dieter snatches the helmet and places it back on Hidel’s head, then leans him in a kneeling position against the wall facing it.

“You’re going to lay on your back, and with your feet in his armpits, you’re going to push him up so he’s exposed to the sniper’s fire.”

“Are you sick, man?  No way.  He’s my best friend.”

“He’s fucking dead, and another one of us might be joining him if we don’t nail this sniper, so do it!  Or go tell the sergeant to send somebody who can.”

Jak reluctantly positions himself for the task.

Dieter returns to the corner, breaths deep, then gives the signal again.  He watches Jak push Hidel’s body up and expose the head.  He peeks out again.

Across the park square, a tall four story structure stands above the rest.

That’s where you are, aren’t you?

Dieter sees a flash from a window on the top floor, followed quick by the report.

The shot impacts Hidel’s head, blowing brains, blood, and bone all over Jak’s chest and face, as the helmet goes flying.

“Oh my God!  Oh my God!  Oh my God!”

Dieter withdraws, and checks Jak.

“Are you hit?”

“No!  He’s all fucking over me!  Oh God, my friend’s all over me!”

Dieter slaps the younger soldier.  Jak shuts right up, and looks at Dieter stunned.

“Are you through, soldier?”

Jak nods.

“Good, because I know where the fucker is.”

Dieter liberates some ammo from Hidel, then he and Jak return to the sergeant.  The other Germans look at Jak as he tries to clean the gore off himself.

“He’s on the fourth floor across the park, sergeant … about 450 meters.”

“Can you get him?”

“He’s mine.  Just keep him occupied.”  Dieter hurries off the way the squad came.

“Be careful, Müller!”

Dieter dodges and dashes to and from cover, always mindful of his direction and lines of site on his position.

This is a new you.

Shut up.  Leave me alone.

Dieter, the Vengeful Vindicator…

Shut up!

He sprints a full block, then circles back around.  Another shot rings out.

He’s firing at the squad again.  Good.

Dieter peers around the corner through an alley.  He sees the building the squad’s hunkered down behind.  He looks up.  The sniper’s perch is a tall tenement building right in front of him.

Shit…

Yes.  Now the hard part, hero.

Fuck you!

He sneaks to the front and into the foyer.  The burnt-out building’s interior is unrecognizable.  He finds the stairs.

The ascent is nerve-racking; to make sure he’s not ambushed from above he’s got to look up, but to ensure he doesn’t slip on rubble or ice, and give away his position, he’s got to look down.

His pulse pounds in his chest and thumps in his ears.  His breath comes out in thick plumes of condensation.  He reaches the third floor.

Why hasn’t he shot again?  They’re supposed to be distracting this bastard!

Perhaps the last shot killed them all.

Help me, Goddamnit!  Where is he?

He is on the far side of the room from the stairs.

Okay.

Dieter carefully tip-toes up the last step, and peers around the corner.

A partition wall blocks his line of sight on his quarry, but he sees the sniper’s long shadow on the dust and debris strewn floor.

He circles around, shoulders his Gewehr, looks down the sights…

Dieter kicks a brick as he sidesteps.

The sniper whirls around.

Dieter get the woman right in his sights…

Woman?

She levels her rifle.

Dieter fires.

The shot takes her dead-center in her chest.

She fires high as she’s rocked back, the round ricochets off the ceiling and harmlessly into the corner.  The sniper slumps to the floor.

It passes already.

The sniper’s naked soul departs her glowing flesh.  She sees Dieter and the demon walking towards her, and she screams.

Ahhhhhhhhh … wonderful!

It takes her in its talons.

No!  Slowly … take the bitch down slowly.

I shall savor this one then.

Dieter watches as the demon’s claws lengthen, slowly impaling the spirit-body of the woman sniper.  Her essence is sucked into them, and pulled down into the deep umbra of the demon’s shadow.

Her soul withers as her life force is drained, and oh how she shrieks; a scream of mortal terror unlike anything Dieter, in all his time at Auschwitz, or all his years of war, has ever heard.

Dieter smiles all the while.

She wails on and on, until the last golden light of her disappears forever.

The demon HOWLS ferociously, then settles back within its host.

I enjoyed that immensely.

Dieter says nothing.  He strips her body and throws her out the window she was sniping from.  He watches her the whole way down.  So does the squad, confused as to what they’re witnessing.

She smacks in a bloody heap on the concrete below.

You had better run down and get a slice while it is still warm.

Fuck you.

Dieter hurries back to the squad where he’s greeted as a hero with reserved cheers.

They travel in cover formation for a half kilometer before they run into enemy soldiers, and fight another half kilometer to escape, loosing another man.  Finally they make it to a large, sturdy four-story building.

Inside there are about 800 defenders and a thrown-together infirmary.  Some of the men waiting for aid on the cots have frozen.

“You have ammo left?” the sergeant asks.

“Very little.”  A lie.

The sergeant points through a hole in the floor above.  “Find Sergeant Heinrich up there; he’s 4th Panzer too.  You’ll be with his defenders.”

“Defenders, Sergeant?  Since when are we defending?”

“For two weeks now, Müller. You been fighting another war or something?”

Yes, actually.

If he only knew…

“The Reds’ 8th Army is less than five-hundred meters to the northeast.  We’re a hot Cossack pussy and they intend to fuck us royally.  We have to hold until the weather clears so we can get our air drops.  General Paulus and his remaining units of the 6th are right across Red Square to the south.”  He points.

“We’re cut off?”

“That’s right.  You’ve been limping bad since you took down that sniper.  That leg need attention?”

“Yes, Sergeant.”

“Go see the Doc, then get your ass upstairs and find Heinrich, and good luck, Müller.”

Dieter finds the Doc—a woefully under supplied field medic—and gets his wounds cleaned and dressed, then finds Sergeant Heinrich.

From Sergeant Heinrich he learns the details that his long weeks of desertion have left him unaware.  The Russians indeed counter attacked splitting the 6th Army and encircling 150,000 Reich soldiers inside Stalingrad.  The irony of attacking the Russian defenders in Stalingrad, only to become defenders of Stalingrad themselves, was not lost on Dieter.

The Russians were not this German’s primary concern, however.  The demon would be hungry again at some point.  If he couldn’t kill for it to feed, he would have a sizable problem on his hands.

After his demotion from the SS and assignment to the front, Dieter had little problem satiating the appetite of his hell-spawn passenger.  There were plenty of farmers and other civilians, as well as prisoners of war to feed the demon.

Once in Stalingrad, as things became more chaotic, he was able to sneak away for his murders, then finally desert altogether.

Dieter made one attempt to run from this rabble and return to his crater, only to find the Russian line had swept over that position and prevented passage.  He wished, not for the first time, that he spoke fluent Russian.

Now he was trapped, and once the demon was hungry, the logistics of Dieter’s situation would matter not one bit to the voracious entity.

They received one meal a day; a bowl of flavored broth little more than hot water.  It was while he was suffering over this, and longing for Gregor’s fire-roasted thigh meat, that he was approached by three soldiers.

The tallest of these, who looked familiar to Dieter, introduced himself as Hans Keil, brother of Alfred Keil.

Dieter felt his heart skip a beat as he swallowed a mouthful of lukewarm onion-flavored water.

“The Sergeant told me you risked your life trying to bring his body back to our lines.”

“Uh … I didn’t want to leave him there is all.”

“I just wanted to thank you.”  He offers his hand.

Dieter shakes it.  “I’m sorry about your brother.”

Hans nods his acceptance.  Another steps forward.

“My brother was on their team.  They didn’t find him.  Do you know what happened to him?  His name’s Gregor.”

Dieter suddenly vomits.

“Oh, God … sorry.  This fucking slop.”  His mouth tasted like roasted Gregor.  He vomits again.

The demon laughs.

“Are you okay?” Hans asks, genuinely concerned.

Dieter nods, getting control of himself.  He holds up the bowl.  “Doesn’t agree with me.”  He tries to spit the imagined flavor of flesh out of his mouth.  He shakes his head.  “I didn’t see your brother.  I’m sorry.”

The trio thank him again then shuffle away.

Small world…

The Russians attacked the following day, and virtually every day after for weeks.  The carnage was incredible.  Once again the irony of his situation was not lost; with all the people dying around him, Dieter could not feed the demon—he had to make the kill personally for it to work—nor could he feed himself, not to his satisfaction anyway.  He was able to slice a piece off a couple of downed comrades, but those chances were rare.  Rare also was the meat, and his opportunities to devour it.  It took far longer to chew raw flesh, and it was hard on the digestion after weeks of broth.

Hold until the line could hold no longer, then retreat and reform the line.  That was the battle routine of their lives for months.  Orders from the Führer Himself were that there would be no surrender; Germany—meaning the starving, freezing, lice infested soldiers in tattered uniforms, with no rations, and a mere handfuls of ammunition—would stand to the last man.

It was during these times of hasty confused retreat that Dieter managed to feed his hell-born hitchhiker on several occasions; once having to feign attempted resuscitation of his victim when another German soldier came upon the crime.  Unbeknownst to the soldier, the demon took the soul as Dieter and he lingered over the recently departed.

The Luftwaffe’s attempts to resupply those cut off within the city by air drops worked splendidly … for the Russians.  Most of the parachutes carrying the much needed ammo, food, and medical supplies drifted over enemy lines.

It was deep into the Russian winter, and more soldiers froze to death in the trenches and foxholes than were killed in battle.  In mid-January the Russians took the airfields so air drops ceased altogether.  Now, even those meager supplies were denied the haggard German defenders.

“To the last man!”  Was sent down from on high once again.  And on the 30th of January, General Friedrich Paulus, Commander of the beleaguered 6th Army and the last defending Axis forces in Stalingrad was promoted by Adolf Hitler—via tele-type of course—  to German Field Marshal, the highest rank in the Axis Army.  Nobody in Stalingrad cheered.  In fact, the following day General Paulus surrendered, and 91,000 withered and weak Germans were taken prisoner. 10,000 plus Romanians and Hungarians allies joined them.

Dieter was among these hundred-thousand sad soldiers waiting to be marched to far away prison camps deep in Siberia, and his demon, as always, went along for the ride.

ATTENTION READERS: I REALLY WOULD LIKE TO GET FEEDBACK ON THE CHAPTER OF PRIMAL HUNGER, PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT REGARDING YOUR THOUGHTS OR EMAIL WITH THE LINK PROVIDED IN THE SHARE SECTION,  chrisshawbell@gmail.com    — THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT

-Chris

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2 Comments

  1. ltdalin

     /  January 13, 2013

    Early on, I read this: “Gradually, as the ground thaws, the dark soil absorbs the blood as if thirsting for it.”

    It’s art like that, which has kept me reading. You wield words with such force that I simply need to continue reading. Even if, to my shame, it is a bit too graphic for my taste.

    I write Fantasy for YA. This world, the realism behind it, I can all too well imagine. Perhaps also, because I had relatives, far back, who went to concentration camps.

    As for content: You kept a steady pace, showing me, the reader, progression in the story. The tiny drips of back-story was just enough for me to gain a clear picture, and as I mentioned before, the realism behind it makes me wonder how you came to writing this (The war, I mean: not cannibalism and demon-possession).

    Reply
  2. rocco613

     /  December 2, 2012

    Good details about the battles, helps with immersion in the story. “Hell-born hitchhiker”, Ha! Nice.

    Reply

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