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Scenes From A Memory
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Scenes From A Memory
Stefan Kaufmann reflects on his past.
[1,064 words]
Michael Armstrong
[March 2005]
[email protected]
Scenes From A Memory
Michael Armstrong

"Stefan? Stefan! Please wake up!"
	The sleeping boy groggily rolled over to face his assailant. His irritation at being roughly shook awake soon dissipated at the look of sheer terror in his older brother's eyes.
	"What? What is it? Jak? Tell me!"
	Jakob Kaufmann began his frantic explanation, but it soon became unneeded...
	A shrill scream pierced the morning hububb. A scream that was sickeningly recognisable.
	Stefan immediately sprinted to the door of the dingy room he shared with Jakob, but felt a pair of strong arms pulling him back.
	"No, stay here, there's nothing you can do..." his brother trailed off. His eyes betraying his calm words, his face pale as a sheet. Stefan resigned himself, and crept to the single, blackened window, and glanced out through tear-stained eyes. Outside there was an entourage of soldiers, bayonents poised like spears, waiting for orders, which came like a gunshot.
	"Kaufmann, Bertha!" exclaimed a short, portulent man, reading from a list. Stefan sank back on his bed and huddled in the dank, dirty corner.
	"Come on, we knew it had to happen sometime, we'll see her soon, remember? People always come back, don't worry." Jakob's attempts at consolation fell on deaf ears. "It won't be too bad, remember that dad will be coming back too?"
	"How do you know?"
	Jakob made to reassure his brother, but was cut off by the muffled sounds of a struggle. Both boys rushed to the window, only to catch a last glimpse of their mother being violently shoved, punched and kicked into the back of a waiting van. Her usual rotund and jolly face was decorated with grime and blood as the soldiers completed their mission. Almost at once, the calmness of the spring morning returned, and an air of almost eerie silence followed... 
	A shadow stood alone in the forest. The first rays of sunlight shone through the overcast sky, slightly illuminating the trees. The shadow sat down. Waiting. Minutes stretched into hours. The shadow didn't move. Waiting. Waiting for... footsteps? A gentle crunching was gradually growing louder, leaves rustling and twigs snapping; the forest living and breathing. The shadow reminisced; the silence was a comforting luxury...

	He was running faster than he ever had before. Bomb blasts. Craters. Gunshots. High pitched wails followed him through the alleys, zig-zagging through the rubble, the battle raging behind him. Though commanded to stop, he ran on, and on, never stopping, his only thought of escape. Of survival. Trying to pick his way through the ruins of their old neighbourhood from the light of the explosions dancing through the sky. I'll be ok, he thought. We'll be ok...
	Snapping out of his trance-like state, the shadow looked up to see a person standing over him.
	"Hello Mr Kaufmann." 
	"Isn't that my line?" The shadow rejoined, chuckling. He rose, helped to his feet by the intruder.
	"I'll always be there to pull you up, Stefan."
	"And I'll always be there to be pulled up by you, Jakob."
	Stefan grabbed his brother in a bone-crushing hug before retreating back to his log. They were boys no longer. Four long years of fighting and running and hiding destroyed childish innocence forever. All this without a guardian, due to the disappearence of their mother, all those years ago.
	"You took your time getting here."
	"Well there is a war going on little brother," came Jakob's playful reply. "Besides, we've waited four years to get here, what is an hour or two? Better late than never."
	"I suppose," conceded Stefan. "I can't believe we actually made it..." He trailed off. His voice reflected the awe in his eyes, replacing the bitter thoughts and visions of the past. "It's a wonder we're here at all..."

	...The hooded stranger started urgently whispering instructions
	"Now, stay down, stay silent, be swift. Get to the shed over there. Go!"
	So they ran. Barely slowing down enough to avoid careening into the wooden shack, whose sound would betray them. The stranger fumbled with a rudimentary lock, before beckoning the brothers inside.
	"So you want to know why I brought you here?"
	Jakob and Stefan nodded. The stranger pulled back the hood which had cast a shadow over his face, allowing them to see. It seemed he was once a handsome man, now ravaged by war. His hair was filthy and matted, his face gaunt, and creased with scars; souvenirs of the ongoing war.
	"Yes sir?" Prompted Jakob. Stefan however, was completely nonplussed.
	"Well... things aren't getting better any time soon." The man went on. "Look at you, how old are you? Fifteen? Sixteen? Children should have no place in war!" His voice rose at this proclamation, vehemently stating his point. He seemed to shake himself before continuing. "I know where you'll be safe. Far away from this place."
	"We want to stay and do what we can." Jakob quietly replied.
	"There is nothing you can do." He then lowered his voice further, adding to Jakob in an undertone, "Look at your brother. He's terrified. Get out while there's still time. Please."
	"Only for Stefan's sake." Sighed Jakob. Resuming his 'normal' volume "Where do we go then?"
The man turned away to rummage through a small metal box. Upon finding what he was looking for, he turned back.
	"These are directions to a forest. On the other side is Switzerland, and there you will be safe."
	"Thank you very much sir."
	"I'm sorry to say though, that I think you'll have to split up. Travelling together is too big of a risk now. You'll surely be caught." He looked sympathetically at the two brothers. "I think you should go first." He went on, referring to Jakob.
	"I'll leave straight away." He then turned to Stefan, who was looking increasingly distraught. "I'll be there with you, we'll make it, never give up."
	Stefan tried to smile, although it came out as more of grimace. Jakob grabbed his hand for a fleeting moment, before departing, sprinting off into the rain...

	"Well then I suppose we're just living the dream!"
	"Yeah..." Stefan leaned back against a tree, deep in thought. It was minutes before he spoke again, "Jak, was there ever a time where you thought... you know... that we wouldn't make it?"
	"Not once. We made it, just like I said." He grinned. "Never give up little brother, it's what I've always told you..."


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© 2005 Michael Armstrong
March 2005

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