TITLE: A Proper War
GENRE: Historical Fiction
The morning the Germans disappeared, Emil wasn't asleep.
Since they took him prisoner, he'd ceased sleeping. Too many nightmares hid beneath the skin of slumber. Instead he lay all night in a half-doze, thinking of his wife's hair. The way she shook it loose at bedtime. The way it always smelled like sunshine, even in the dark of night.
The shout for roll call usually yanked him reluctantly from those thoughts. That morning, though, it was the eerie silence which pushed him upright in his bunk. He hadn't heard the shout, yet the hut was empty.
Heart pounding, he leapt out of bed, kicking the tangle of blanket aside. He wasn't asleep--he didn't let himself fall asleep, did he?--but had somehow missed the shout from the courtyard. He ran through the hut without stopping to pull on his shoes. He'd only been late for roll call once; the backs of his legs still carried the marks of that mistake.
His bare feet slapped on the planks and he slowed himself down on the doorframe.
The prisoners weren't lining up. Instead they clustered in knots just outside of each hut, madly whispering.
Over the heads of the others, Emil saw nothing. No sleepy-eyed soldiers shuffling through the mud. No one bellowing for roll call. No guards at the gate. Nothing apart from the whispers of the prisoners. The Germans had vanished.