It was cloudy; the sky, overrun with grey-black hues, was reminiscent of a day I had buried in the depths of my past.
July 21, 1914. As I walked down a narrow alley on Canal Street, I wondered if history would repeat itself on that same day 104 years into the future.
Small droplets of rain started falling from the sky, forcing me into the nearest cafe. The cafe I had just walked into, Charlie’s, was brimming with people of all shapes and sizes. The overpowering smell of drink permeated the air as I settled down in a corner, listening to the steady pitter-patter of the rain. Closing my eyes, I remembered everything like it happened yesterday.
“General Felix! Quick! The British, they’re here!” It was one of my comrades, shaking me awake. Somehow, amid the pungent smell of the trenches and excitement of war, I had fallen asleep. Standing up right away, I headed to the podium and saw that the British were indeed approaching. There were so many of them that it seemed like the horizon was inching closer and closer every second. Instinctively, I reached for the pistol hidden away in the scaffolds of my clothing. With adrenaline coursing through my veins, I braced myself for the attack.
“Felix?” Somebody was tapping my right shoulder. “Is that you?” Once again, I had drifted off into a slumber tormented with snippets of the past. I opened my eyes to a man who looked to be 65. His hair was greying, but I could see traces of the rich chocolate brown it used to be. There were lines on his forehead, indicative of the strain he was under. But I stopped when I reached his eyes and my heart skipped a beat. I knew him. Or used to.
“Steven?” My voice was tinged with disbelief. “What are you …” My voice trailed off because I knew the reason he was here. There was only one reason he could be here.
“We need you.”
“How did you find me?” They were the same words I had said in the winter of 1939. A British soldier had found me lying in a ditch on the outskirts of Berlin. He did not take me as a prisoner of war and instead offered me a slice of his bread. Perhaps the origin of his sympathy was the ragged look I had in my eyes or the hollowness of my cheeks. Whatever the reason, for a soldier fighting his second war, even a glimpse of human emotion was enough to believe that all hope was not lost for humanity.
“That is inconsequential, Felix. The president needs your help. They have declared war.”
“Doing this to me wasn’t enough? Now he needs me to fight a war nobody wants?”
“You knew the deal. You knew exactly what you were getting into.” That’s the problem. I didn’t know what I was getting into. When the US government offered shelter, food and warmth in return for a few samples of my blood and sessions in the lab, I had said yes without hesitation. Little did I know they had condemned me to an existence bereft of meaning, for the rest of my time.
“I have no knowledge of nuclear weapons. What good am I to them? I only served on the battlefield.”
“Still, you were the only reason Germany ever came close to victory.”
“Mutually assured destruction. That is all that will happen. I don’t wish for the end of mankind just yet and so I will have no part in this.”
“They will attack and when they do, we need answers.”
The look in his eyes was grave. He knew as well as I did that the reasons for this war were unfounded; it was merely about the egos of two dull-witted leaders who believed that the world was at their feet. That, with the push of a button, they could do anything they wanted.
“You will not get any answers from me,” I said, getting up from my chair, never wishing to see his face again. I went back to wandering the alleys of Canal Street; I didn’t mind the rain this time. I could faintly make out the traces of jazz in the distance. The musicians were playing Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World. Ah, the irony.
Edited by Nicole Moraleda
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