I watched, absorbed in astonishment, as the scene in front of me was reenacted before my eyes, disbelief niggling at my sanity. How could this be? How can the past be replayed with such solidity as to have me believing that I was part of the events unfolding before me? And why was I being targeted by officers of the Gestapo whose accusations have me tried and convicted of treason against the glory of the Third Reich?
It's only a dream, I kept telling myself... that is, until I felt the pain. I winced as the breath was taken away from me by a crushing blow to my side that seemed to raise my kidney a full two inches, a searing pain burning in my lungs and bringing me to my knees, as I struggled to breathe. Then I felt the butt of a luger smash against my temple. I lost consciousness after that, until I found myself in a cold, damp cell with no idea of how I got there. From a dark corner of the cell a voice quivered, "Is that you ... Michael?"
I could not see anyone, nor did I recognize the voice. I did not know whether to answer truthfully, tell a lie or keep quiet and pretend I was still dreaming. Then I was conscious of someone, or something, crawling toward me. I flinched and drew myself back into the shadows, in a futile attempt to escape its attention.
"Michael?" That voice, distant, ethereal voice, chilled me.
"I... How do you know me?" I stammered.
"You're my brother, Michael," it answered.
I was dumbfounded. I didn't have any siblings, I was a classic example of an only child.
"I knew you'd come to rescue me," it said.
I could not stop myself from cowering from the sound of this disembodied presence, for although it had made no threats toward me, I could not help, but to fear that which I could not see. That which claimed to be a familiar!
I slithered along the wall until I was crammed, curled up, in a cold corner of the cell. The cell was dull and draped in shadows, but I could still make out the cold slab of concrete that served as a bed, yet still, I could not see my invisible cellmate.
"Are you not glad to see me Michael? I'm glad to see you. It's been so long since we last met."
I pulled my knees up tighter to my chest and a shiver of ice-cold fear shot up my spine with a shock of static electricity.
"Why are you trying to avoid me Michael?"
"Shut up!" I roared, "I am not your brother, nor even your friend. I don't even fucking know you!"
Then a whisper in my ear, so close that I could smell the rancid breath that it floated on, "But I know you, Michael."
I could do nothing to prevent the scream of terror that escaped my lungs. I must have passed out with fear then, because the next thing I remember is being woken by the sound of jack boots stomping down the corridor outside my cell, and the screams of the poor sod being dragged along with them. I presumed torture or execution to be the fate that awaited him.
I looked apprehensively around my cell, which was dimly lit by a morning sun still struggling to rise above the horizon, to burn away the cool, hazy mist of early morning air. There was no sign or sound of my companion from the previous night. I started to think that he may have been the poor sod in question.
As if to answer my unspoken query, a voice said, "Good morning, Michael."
I physically shuddered at the sound of that voice and let out a little yelp, instinctively backing away at the same time.
"Who the fuck are you?" I demanded. The cell felt arctic cold, my teeth chattered and I couldn't stop shivering.
"I am Peter, your twin brother, Michael," came the reply.
"I don't have any fucking brothers!" I roared back.
"You have me, I'm your brother," came the soft reply.
I shook my head in disbelief and said, "No, I don't even know you."
"Yes, you do," came a whispered reply of rancid breath.
The cell fell silent, then silent and black, as I fell into a coma of unconscious, fear induced, sleep.
When I awoke, I was alone in my own bedroom. The sun shone through my curtains, vaporizing the cold sweat that tried desperately to cling to my body. I looked all around me, taking in my surroundings as if to verify their reality. Why did my nightmare seem so real? And why did I have dry blood on my face from a wound to my temple?
In my confusion, I wept, more from relief than from pain, so glad was I to be back home. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and tried to stand up, but my whole body convulsed with the effort and I fell back onto the bed. I shivered with cold and fear, my mind struggling to make sense of the nightmare that seemed to be haunting me still.
I put a hand to my aching head and once more tried to stand up. This time, I managed to keep upright by holding onto my small bedside table. It shook under my weight and almost toppled. I closed my eyes in an attempt to rid myself of the giddiness that seemed to be plaguing my senses. It felt like everything around me was unreal, surreal if you like, as if it were all too brittle to be handled. I stood there, holding onto the little table, waiting for the blood to circulate, to ease the cramp that I felt in both legs. Then I turned around and looked in the mirror that hung on the opposite wall.
I looked ghastly. My face was bruised and battered, and the little that was not black and blue with bruises, was pale to the extent of looking deathly white. And yet, as I looked at my own reflection, there seemed to be something in it that wasn't me, something cold, ghostly and terrifying. Stranger still, as I grimaced at my own reflection, I could have sworn that it smiled back at me with the thinnest of smiles, like the thin edge of a knife blade. I could do nothing to stop the shiver of anxiety that forced me to close my eyes and turn away from the vision.
I shuffled my way to the door and gripped the handle tightly, resisting the urge to look back at the mirror. I turned the knob, opened the door and stepped out of the room into what was obviously not my hallway!
There was no decor of wallpaper and the little paint that had once adorned the walls had been left to crack and peel. It was a huge, cold corridor that seemed to extend forever into the distance. I made to go back into my room, but when I turned, the door was no longer there. It was all just cold, brick wall with not even a window to let in some sunlight. The few overhead bulbs that did light the way ahead, flickered their weak, baleful light in a seemingly portentous manner, causing the shadows to accumulate and dance like a furtive and threatening menace.
I could see no doorway ahead nor behind me. I was about to sink to the floor and cry with despair when I heard the sound of advancing jackboots running in my direction. Instinct immediately caused me to flee from the approaching threat as fast as my legs would carry me. I felt as though I was running on leaden legs, as if back in the nightmare dreamscape that had been haunting me of late, for although I could barely move a muscle, it seemed also, that my pursuers could not quite catch me. This notion didn't do anything to allay my fears though, as I still felt panic pick away at my sanity and fear strip and rend my logic. My tears were flowing freely as a door suddenly opened on my left hand side and an arm pulled me into the dark interior and slammed me against the opposite wall before the door was slammed shut.
"You must stay in the cell at all times, Michael," came the voice from the shadows.
"WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT! I DON'T BLOODY BELONG HERE!" I roared back.
A large hand gripped around my mouth and hushed me as the rancid breath whispered, "Be quiet. Do you want them to know where you're hiding?"
Just then, my jackbooted pursuers trundled past the cell door and off into the distance of the vast corridor outside. I tried to focus on the entity that had pulled me into the cell, but all I could make out was the shape of a shadow which felt cold to the touch, a cold that afflicted my outer hand every bit as much as the palm which groped the shape in investigative confusion. It felt otherworldly, almost evanescent, as though it could appear and disappear at will.
Still, it was my only hope of discerning my situation, of making sense of my dilemma.
"Where the hell am I and what the fuck am I doing here?" I asked in a whisper.
"We are at the Rue de Saussaies."
"The.... what?" I asked, incredulously.
"The Rue de Saussaies, the Street of Willows, in Paris."
"No!" I said in disbelief, "I'm dreaming. This is no more than a nightmare from which I shall awaken soon."
"It's no dream Michael. You are in the Paris headquarters of the Gestapo."
I was speechless for a few seconds before shaking my head and finding a vestige of sanity. "Look, whoever you are," I said, "I am not in France, I am not a prisoner of the Gestapo and whatever the fuck trip you're on, I am not about to share it with you. I was born over forty fucking years after the Nazis were defeated. Paris was liberated in nineteen forty-four, and whoever the fuck you are, your paranoid little game is not fooling me. You are not, you have never been nor will you ever be, my fucking brother!"
"Michael, Michael," he said. "You are my brother, you are a patriotic Frenchman and have been an active member of the resistance since November nineteen forty. That is why you are here, Michael." Again I shook my head disbelievingly, "you have been tried and convicted by the Volksgericht, the people's court, Michael. You had no right to defense witnesses nor to cross-examine the prosecution. Your fate was sealed upon your arrest."
Again I shook my head, telling myself that it was no more than a dream and that I would wake up soon.
"I am afraid for you, Michael. Afraid for us," he said. "Perhaps you should confess what they ask of you. Maybe then they will let us live."
"Confess?" I asked. "What the fuck am I supposed to confess, smart arse?"
Just then, the door was thrown open and two brown-shirted facists came in. Before I got the chance to focus on them, one of them hit me in the face with a baton.
The next I remember was being interrogated in a chamber while handcuffed to a table with my palms face down on the surface. My hands were bruised and swollen and only the sheer pain convinced me that they were, indeed, my own hands.
"Who ordered the assassination of Philippe Henriot?" I was asked.
I could only wail back, "I don't fucking know anyone by that name."
I felt the blow of a baton on the back of my hand, heard the bones splinter and crack under the force. I grimaced in agony.
"LIAR!" Was all I remember hearing, before another blow to the back of my head sent me once more, to the land of oblivion.
Once more, I woke up in the cell with no recollection of how I got there. Once again, he spoke to me in a shallow voice.
"All they want, Michael, is information. If you tell them what they want to hear, then you can save us both from their wrath."
"I don't know what they want to hear," I pleaded, "I am not a man from your era!"
He raised an eyebrow at my claim, "Then why are you here?" He asked.
"If I knew that, I wouldn't fucking be here, you twat!"
He smiled that thin smile back at me, "Your choice of insults are lost on me. Perhaps, for your sake, it is just as well. If they understood your aggression toward them, I have no doubt they would have you executed on the spot."
"Fuck them. And fuck you too! If you really were my brother, then you wouldn't be acting in their interests."
He laughed mockingly and said, "It is a foolish man who thinks he has a right to redemption. Only by cooperating can you save yourself from the gallows pole. I can save you if only you will make the right choice."
I shook my head at his enthusiasm and said, "It is ironic that you behave so cocksure of yourself whilst I hold the knowledge in my heart and my memory of the justice that will befall your so-called glorious Third Reich. It is you who are fucked, not me!"
"This is an empire built to last, you treacherous dog!"
"Do not try to frighten me, you puny little man!"
I looked out through the bars at the rising dawn, and said, "In less than twenty-four the invasion will begin. In ten months, your Führer will commit suicide. I may have to face my own fate soon enough, but you will have to face yours soon after. I will wake from my nightmare, you won't awaken from yours, for this is your reality. This is your world!"
"And you share it with me, my brother. For you also, there will be no escape!"
His words chilled me to the bone, for what if this were real and not a nightmare? I tried telling myself that it had to be a dream, for how else could I understand the foreign uttering of my captors? I spook not a word of French nor German and yet, I understood every syllable. Their words were as real to me as the pain.
This last thought sent shivers of doubt up and down my spine and I started to doubt my own sanity. With anxious dread, a thought came into my mind that may be this was really happening to me? I felt a great despair come over me then. For the first time, I truly feared that my soul was destined to relive this purgatory in an eternal torment!
Rancid Breath interrupted my thoughts.
"I am afraid for you, Michael," he said. "Please tell them what they want to know, my brother. It would be much better if you were sent to a labor camp than to meet your maker on the gallows pole."
"If you are my brother, then I have no doubt that you will be next to me, sharing the same fate."
"Not I, Michael, for I, Pierre Blanc, have immunity as a serving member of the Milice Francaise."
He had lost me. All I could do was to look at him quizzically. As if to answer the enigma forming in my mind, he added, "The French Militia. We were formed to infiltrate the resistance and put an end to the terrorist attacks they make on the Glorious Reich."
It all began to make sense now. He was a collaborator, a spy, sent to me to coax a confession. A realization that made me hate him even more!
"If you're my brother," I smeared, "why did you join the militia?"
He smiled that thin smile and said, "It has its rewards. I get double rations."
I shook my head in disbelief, "It is not so rewarding as to make a traitor of you, to turn your back on your own countrymen."
He shrugged his shoulder, "War creates treachery, survival of the fittest becomes the rule. Those who cannot adapt, die!"
"I would rather die than renege on my ideals. I have always valued my democratic principles."
"That is why you won't survive the war. Your principles far outweigh your logic."
"Not every instinct should be selfish. Sometimes it is loyalty that makes us winners, not the dog eat dog attitude of egomania."
"Call it what you will, Michael, but it won't be I who shall face the firing squad in the morning!"
This statement sent a shiver of fear carousing down my spine. The reality of my situation was starting to sink in. The pain I felt was proof that I was caught up in a dilemma over which I had no control. This was not a dream, I would wake up from. But I had no information with which I could trade my life!
I thought of my wife and kids then, and I knew that I would never see them again, stuck as I was, in the purgatory of 1944 war torn Europe. Oh how I would have sold my sorry soul just to be back with them in 21st century London.
Just then, as he casually lit a cigarette, the door flew open and a group of SS officers charged in and beat me to a pulp with their batons!
I woke up and tried to open my eyes, but they were shut tight by the blood and the swelling. I could see nothing, but the darkness that helped to fuel my pain. Indeed, the only reason I knew I was awake, was because he was whispering to me in his usual rancid breath.
"You came to rescue me, my brother, but perhaps you need to rescue yourself first, by telling them what they want to know," he said.
I could only shake my head in frustration.
"They will execute you, Michael, if you don't confess."
I slowly raised my head as much as my strength would allow and forced my left eye opened just enough to see the outlined shape that knelt before me, "I have nothing to confess." I said.
He stood away from me then and I was dragged, once more, from the cell by two surly SS officers.
The next thing I knew, I was submerged in water, my lungs struggling for a breath of air. I was pulled out by the hair, just long enough to hear the word, "Again," before being resubmerged in the bathtub, still coughing and spluttering. I took in a lot of water and my lungs felt as though they were about to explode.
Just as I thought my life was ebbing away from me, I was pulled out once more.
"Who ordered the assassination of Pierre Henriot?"
At last, resigned to my fate, I said, "Fuck you!"
They dragged me from the water and beat me then, until I once more, blacked out. My shoulders and back ached from the pain of being stretched as I hung by the wrists from bracelets attached to a metal ring on the wall. Rancid Breath was talking to me as he freed my wrists. "I have tried to help you, Michael, but alas, you continue to refuse to take my advice. I therefore must do what is necessary under the circumstances. Goodbye, my brother."
He bent forward and kissed my forehead. He stood then and for the first time, I noticed that he was wearing a brown shirt and blue beret. He held a British sten gun on me as two others came in and dragged me out into the corridor. I was dragged out into the fresh air of the courtyard where a number of SS officers waited. I felt the ropes burning my wrists as I was tied to a wooden post. My legs were so weak, I slumped forward. In a last desperate attempt to defeat gravity, I raised my head and faced my accusers with a contemptible sneer!
I woke up feeling great relief that my nightmare was finally over, my senses keen to step outside and enjoy the freshness of the new morning. I stepped out of bed and went to the bathroom to shower and shave, after which, I dressed and went downstairs, straightening my tie as I went.
I passed through the living room, heading toward the kitchen and was surprised to notice that the television was still on. I shrugged my shoulders, entered the kitchen and made myself a mug of coffee. I returned to the living room, sat on the sofa and lifted the remote control, intent on turning over to a news channel.
I stared at the screen, mesmerized by a scene from an old black and white war film. I watched as a pair of jackbooted SS officers dragged a half-starved, beaten, shadow of a man to a gallows pole and tied him there, where gravity caused him to slump forward towards the ground. I was spellbound as the corpse-like prisoner lifted his pulverized head and with an outstretched hand and pleading eyes, muttered, "Peter... have you come to rescue me, Peter?"
Just then, a volley of gunfire terminated the scene with the end credits to the film... The one credit that left me dumbfounded being that the part of Michael White was played by Pierre Blanc!
It was then that I had my heart attack!
Dream of ResistanceA time warped nightmare.
By Harry Boslem