War

by Anton

It sounded like a horrendous thunder strike. A bomb the size of a fridge dropped just 500 meters in front of me. I was stunned for than 5 seconds until I had gained full control over my body again. My comrade Gunther who was standing next to me seemed like he was still
shocked. The shots of machine guns and rifles that came from the other side of the battlefield had stopped after the bomb exploded. “Is – is it over?”, asked Gunther in a hectic and surprised manner.

He has always been an anxious and nervous guy, since I knew him. But Gunther and I hadn’t been friends for very long. When I started my career in my hometown tavern with the wish to become a high ranked officer one day, he was not in the training corps with me. However,
as the war started, he was drafted, probably against his will. It was said that he was a baker in our town, but I had never seen him before, let alone bought something at his bakery. With a still sceptical look I said: “Yeah, think so”. I peeked over our trench to get a better view of the situation and the battlefield and saw black smoke rising to the sky on the other side.

“Do you really think that it’s over?” he asked, and I assured him our victory. The others also realized what happened and dropped to the ground as a sign of relief and exhaustion. Gunther dropped his freshly reloaded rifle and hugged me out of pure happiness. “I can
finally see my daughter and wife again!”.

We were fighting at the front of this war for about 3 days now and finally made progress. But there was still this one thought that I couldn’t get out of my head: The order we got from our general was to push forward and cross a river on our way until we would have reached an open field on which we would have probably been encountered by enemies. However, our group was coming under attack even before we reached the river, so how could they have known that we would take this route and surprisingly attack them on their own land. It could have easily been a coincidence and because the fights were over now, I couldn’t
have cared less. Additionally, we had only very few losses due to support from the air.

Gunther pulled out his wallet and took a photo out of it which seemed to be a family picture with him and his, to that time pregnant, wife. And that was the moment were thousand thoughts rushed through my mind: the notes in it were pretty used off but I could decipher the word “Mark”.

“Gg-G-Gunther”, I stumbled, “where did you get that money from…?”. He looked up surprised and put his wallet back in his pocket, ready to deny my findings, but I already had my pistol pointing on him although my hand was shaking. “What are you hiding from us?!”. It just couldn’t be Gunther; he wasn’t made for such a job. Was he playing this role the whole time? Should I have noticed sooner? But I  overthought to much and Gunther, who new he was busted grabbed his rifle and shot.

Conveyor Belt

by Jakob

BEEP, frozen pizza, BEEP, Coca Cola, BEEP, bag of chips, BEEP, my god I hate this job, BEEP, should’ve just stayed in school, BEEP. “That’ll be 14.64$ please”. I look up and into the swollen and puffy face of some obese middle-aged white lady. She hands me 20 bucks. “Here ya go!”, she says in a painfully air-headed voice. I take the money and give her back her change. “Uhhhhh, where is my receipt?”, she says. She is starting to get on my nerves. “Oh, sorry.” I try my best to smile and hand her the damn receipt. She snatches it from my hand and waddles out of the store. I try to relish her panting but can’t hear it over the sound of shrieking kids. I look up the conveyor belt and witness a bunch of maybe twelve year olds screaming and laughing while slamming candy and energy drinks on it. I think my eye is starting to twitch. Was I such a little shit when I was a kid? It’s their turn at the register and I scan their things. “That’ll be eight ninety- sixty nine, please.” One of them giggles. My anger starts to balloon up even more. He hands me a crumbled up 10 dollar note and i give him back his change along with the receipt. He looks at the receipt. “I don’t want that.” His voice makes my ears ring. “Alright..” I sigh and throw it away. Meanwhile, the kids walk out of the store, still behaving like gremlins. I look up at them from the trash can and spot a chocolate bar in one of their pockets that they have obviously stolen. My eyes swing over to the old security guy but he’s too busy gawking at one of the young female cashiers, good-for-nothing creep. “Uh excuse me…” I look to my right and realise I’ve been spending too much time looking around and left a customer waiting. I look at the things he’s put on the conveyor belt and realise it’s all goods with reduced prices. While scanning them I look back at the guy: In his forties, uptight, wealthy-looking (the annoying kind), and yet he only buys the cheap shit nobody else wasn’t to buy. Huh, cheapskate. I can feel he’s also looking me up and down, all judgy and higher-than-thou. My blood starts to boil. I feel as though my udder hatred for this man, no, all the morons in this damn supermarket could evaporate a small city. I don’t spend too much thought on the transaction and just hand him is change, AND RECEIPT. He scoffs and walks out. I look down at my phone to check the time. It’s 5pm, not even half of my shift. I think i just discovered a new varicose vein on my body. I look up at the next customer, eyes practically twitching. It’s the annoying fat lady from before. “Huh Karen, back for more, eh? Ran out of chips already, huh fatso?” Is what I want to say but reality kicks back in and my common sense gets ahold of me. She wants to buy a cereal box she must’ve forgotten the first time, and this time she has her child with her. Little boy, maybe five to seven, also fat, chocolate smeared over his mouth, and a voice like nails on a chalkboard. “Mommy I want this! Mommy I want that!” “No Kyle! I won’t buy you that!” Bad idea, the little crotch goblin immediately starts screaming at the top of his lungs. I try to distract myself and look down at the cereal box. I find no respite though as Captain Crunch’s empty eyes stare into my soul. His smile just makes me even angrier. Finally, little Kyle calms down as he is dragged to the register by his ogre mom. She pays for the cereal and i hand her her change, WITH the receipt this time. “Hmmmmm, I don’t want that.” I’m at my breaking point. I stare at her in complete and udder disbelief as she leaves, still dragging her little gremlin behind her. I want to hit her… square in the face… with fire extinguisher… as hard as I can. Still dreaming of my violent fantasies I don’t see the next customer. I snap back to reality and look over. Some old guy, buying a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of liquor. He pays, I give him his change, all good. Next is a young couple with what looks like groceries for the next eight weeks. Annoyed but not quite as angry anymore i start scanning. While I’m scanning, I sense some movement to my left, in the entrance of the store. It’s the cheapskate, he looks very determined, storming into the store… and right at me. Something tells me all hell is about to break loose. “Hey! My receipt says 3.15$ change And you only gave me 3.05$! I want the rest of my change!” TEN CENTS. This guy is screaming at me over TEN CENTS, ten cents off of groceries that already were sold for lowered prices. THIS DIRTY CHEAPSKATE PROBABLY DROVE BACK TO THE SUPERMARKET OVER TEN CENTS. This is it. I shakily clutch onto my mask of sanity as i try my best to calm him down. “Sir, I’m sorry but I can’t just open the register right now, you’ll have to wait until I’m finished with these two customers.” “I don’t care about your customers I want change!” “That’s alright you’ll just have to wait for a second.” And of course I’m just scanning the biggest batch of groceries i have ever had the pleasure of dealing with in my entire career as a lowly cashier at the supermarket. So, let me recap, I’m scanning about 300 dollars worth of groceries for some annoyed couple while i have some FUCKING CHEAPSKATE yapping on in my ear about his TEN CENTS of change i forgot to give him off of his grocery run that already consisted of products with lowered prices. Then, something comes over me. Rage. Rage that can level buildings. I feel like setting fire to a retirement home for every annoying middle-aged white lady that gave me shit for not weighing her onions the right way, bombing an orphanage for every preteen causing ruckus at checkout, pissing on murals of public heroes for everyone who complained about not getting a receipt from me. I wanted to watch the world burn, and it felt amazing. I finish up the groceries for the couple and they pay up. Everything goes smoothly. “Now give me the rest of my change!” I take ten cents from the register and slam them on the counter in front of him. “OKAY!” “Excuuuuuse me?!” Damn. I messed up. The guy starts screaming at me but I pretend to drift of, hoping to myself he just takes his change and pisses off. Realising I’m not listening anymore he stomps out. I slowly look over to the line that has formed. More people standing along the conveyor belt like zombies, waiting to eat away at my brain, if it doesn’t explode first…

Go With The Flow

by Finja (Revised by Samuel and Kim)

I’m standing in line at the checkout at Ikea. I had to buy a new lamp for my desk, which means I have a cart filled with candles, tea towels, two potted plants, and one of those giant stuffed animals. I hate Ikea. I hate waiting in line. It’s just one of those moments in life. One of those moments you are fully exposed to yourself and your thoughts. There is nothing you have to do, nothing more interesting to do than staring a the back of the person’s head standing infringe of yourself. It’s in these moments that you feel the farthest from reality. Time moves differently. I’m taking a quick look at my watch, 15:37. that can’t be true. Three hours? I can’t believe I’ve spent three hours standing in line and barely moving forward. I check the time on my phone, 15:38. I brush away the brown curl that tickled my wrinkled forehead and notice pearls of sweat covering the tips of my fingers. I turn my head to notice that the line has gotten even longer, people were standing around the huge shelves filled with boxes in a color that was sucking life and joy out of your soul. The bright yellow stickers on them were like pickles on burgers, simply disgusting and unnecessarily aggressive. That feeling of anger was now taking over all my senses, suddenly I’m hearing that baby’s scream louder and clearer than anything ever. The loathsome smell of pickles mixed with ice cream made me want to throw up.

I wasn’t able to take it anymore. I am letting go of the tight grip around the cart handle. Walking slowly a few steps away. The small but noticeable green neon sign across the hall filled me with a will to live again. ‚EXIT‘, reading those four letters saved me from going insane. Straight headed to the exit my steps were getting faster and faster, not caring about what was happening around me. In order to get to the exit, I had to walk through an empty register, with no one waiting in line, just an elderly woman napping behind the register. Turning around to take a look at the line I noticed that the people in line weren’t waiting to checkout or waiting for someone from the support team. They were just standing in line, maybe not even knowing why they were standing there, thinking there was a purpose. But there wasn’t. No one was going to tell them, no one was going to save them. They were lost.

The Meeting

by Samuel

For the sake of variety, the weather today is beautiful. The sky is dyed in a light blue colour and the sun is about to reach its highest point, thereby smiling upon the landscape of quaint fields and destroyed villages on the ground. I am sitting in an excavated, long pit right next to one of those destroyed villages, overlooking a road southwest of this village. Behind some sacks filled with sand, I am about to finish the letter for my sister and mom waiting for me at home. Just before signing it, I hear a noise coming from the direction of the street. “Guys, brace yourselves, the convoy with relief supplies to be protected is coming – we have been waiting for this since the day before yesterday.”, says the commander of our unit, carefully peeking out of the trench. “Three days without sleep, goddamnit!”, I said to myself. Subsequently, the only young guy left in my squad, born in Kiev, reloads his weapon and puts on his helmet. I do the same by reloading my Kalashnikov rifle and counting how much grenades I have left in my backpack.

The convoy in the vicinity suddenly stops. We see a group of strange civilians coming out of the forest on the other side of the road and replacing the people in the trucks. The former crew, all of the members dressed in Ukrainian uniforms, then disappears in the forest. “Now what the hell is that?”, asks the commander. “Well, perhaps we switch the crew members of the convoy for security reasons.”, the young soldier from Kiev answers. After six minutes have passed, the convoy continues to move – directly towards Mariupol. Simultaneously and apparently louder than the fading engine noise of the disappearing trucks, we hear someone approaching our trench. Turning towards the direction of the noise, an armed man wearing our Ukrainian uniform as well as a moustache is standing in front of us. He stammers: “My name is Alexander Resnikov, I ́m from the radio station north of the village. We have received the transmission that the convoy should be driven by our civilians, since it attracts less attention. This is the reason for the event you’ve possibly just witnessed.” The Kievan lad and I exchange glances. Both of us were sent to the region around Mariupol for the first time some days ago and we know practically no other troop divisions in this area. Desperately, we try to catch the eyes of the commander, who should know about the unknown radio-station-guy. He finally responds: “Alright, dobre, thank you Sasha! This takes a load off my mind.” The commander then asks Sasha to join us – with a gesture that should resemble a wink.

Sasha sits down shyly, right next to me. “What is your name?”, he asks me with a stretched out hand. “Vlad, Vlad Tkachenko.”, I answer by shaking his hand. “Nice to meet you, Vlad. May I ask why you are here?”, he continues. I believe that there is something wrong with this radio-station-Sasha and – just judging by the face of the Kievan lad – he thinks so too. Where did he come from? It is as if he just teleported to our trench. I answer: “Well, I was born in Kremenchuk in the region of Poltava and I used to work in the mining facility located in the neighbouring city Komsomolsk. However, after the war had broken out, I decided to sign up as a volunteer to fight for my country.” “Interesting.”, Sasha stutters, “I have a similar situation: I come from Lviv and I actually wanted to study medicine, but I obviously couldn’t manage to do so with all the things happening right now. Therefore, I am here for the same reason as you are.” A pensive silence follows. The story of Sasha sounds valid, I thought to myself. However, during the endurance of this silence, I notice something strange: There is no yellow tape around Sasha’s sleeve, which usually classifies volunteers in war and distincts them from ordinary armed forces. Again, looking at the sweaty face of the Kievan lad, he seems to have perceived it too.

To break the silence, I offer Sasha a cigarette. Hesitantly, he helps himself with my pack of Marlboro Red. While he searches for his lighter in his pocket, two other features catch my attention. In the inside pocket of Sasha’s tactical jacket, a pack of “Perekur” peeks out – Russian army cigarettes. Moreover, and even more macabre, there is a patched area next to his inside pocket, covering a big and dry stain of blood. The stain is not visible from the outside, since the Ukrainian flag is sewn up at this height on his jacket, which in turn also is untypical for tactical jackets of our Ukrainian army. Then, a realisation makes me feel dim: The crews of the convoy, the yellow tape, the cigarettes, the blood…

While Sasha is still rummaging through his things for the lighter, I quietly reach for my Makarov resting in my holster.

Unexpected News

by Finia (Revised by Daniel, Hannah and Emily)

I put my feet up. It had been a long day and I decided that I was finished for now and that it was time to watch some TV with my roommate. I wasn’t really paying attention to the TV. Still having my mind on the things that took place that day. It only caught my attention when they were talking about a serial killer that has been roaming around in our city. It was impressive how they find out everything so fast. The people were scared, which I could understand. The news said that he was ruthless. I looked over to my roommate, whose eyes were still trained on the TV. I wasn’t too scared to be honest, but he on the other hand seemed rather stressed and kind of worried. He was tightly gripping the pillow laying on his lap. The news already moved to another topic, making my thoughts wander off again. I decided that I could no longer wait till tomorrow otherwise my mind wouldn’t come to rest. I excused myself and walked out of the living room. Passing my room and going down the stairs into the cellar. God, I was tired, this has to be the last I’m doing this here…

There he was.

Without any kind of hesitation, I took his legs and tried to pull him into the direction of the backdoor. He didn’t move one bit and his face was already pale. Next time I’ll pick a lighter. There was a big bloody smear on the ground. I would have to clean that up the next day. Just as I was going to grab a knife, I heard a noise of squeaking stairs and light came into the dark cellar. My body tensed when I turned around. In the door stood my roommate, looking at the dead man in front of me.