A cold, unforgiving sky kept scattering white ashes over the landscape. The smell of cigarette smoke and burning flesh mingled with one another, as small embers sparked in sporadic fashion in messy camps around you. You were frozen to the spot, your feet not obeying your orders no matter how much you wanted them to break into a run, away from the land. Shards of green were implemented into your feet, bleeding red onto the ground.
Away from your nightmares, away from your dreams—you wanted to get away so badly. And yet, it was another one of those dreams where you found yourself incapable of controlling your own movements. Your dreams hurt. The landscape was flat, barren.
Another painful reminder: flat, barren, grey, dead. One more reminder: broken liquor bottles, the stained green glass littered all over the ground like shining confetti. A party broken apart, a few people terminated. It didn’t matter anyways. Their families didn’t wait for them to catch up, to run away home and lose their identities.
Like magic, the sky was dyed an aquamarine blue with sprays of white here and there. Someone was mumbling into your ear. A helicopter, as if it were inebriated, precariously swerved a mile above your heads and swung into the distance. There was another startling flash of light, and a charcoal black cloud twirled into the sky, billowing in a curious straight line. Screams, everywhere around you as you finally were able to move and sprinted.
You faced reality, a fresh scream torn from your throat, as the familiar dark opened up around you.
You cringed with your eyes shut tight, your blanket like a shield to the world. When you woke up, it wasn’t like you did. The images were still clean-slated into your memory, the sounds and smells still choking your lungs. It was like… it was almost real. No—it was real. But no matter where you searched in your conscience, the memory of it happening wasn’t there.
You barely noticed that a figure had crouched by your bed. You could hear him shuffle over through the blanket. It stifled sounds from the inside and outside.
“Tell me you’re fine, [Name]!”
A gentle hand tried to pry your shield away as you whimpered and only pulled it closer to your warm body. You were shivering, even though it was warm.
“Bitte—just tell me what’s wrong…!”
He wasn’t impatient, but his worry gnawed away at his sanity. He bit his lip slightly, sat down in the chair opposite your bed and waited, watching you carefully as your fingers loosened and your breathing evened out again. You were asleep again, back into the land which distorted you so.
Ludwig gently pulled away the covers, his face tinged with worry.
A few small, salty tears had escaped your eyes in your sleep, your mouth slightly open without any expression. It was just the eyes that gave it away. He wiped away some tears, stepped back, tucked you back into bed, and left your room without a sound.
The silence was deafening.
“Good morning, Luddy,” you sang as you turned the frying pan slightly and flipped the eggs you were frying over. You wore a bright smile upon your face, and your mood was evident. “How’d you sleep last night?”
Ludwig was in his usual wife-beater and his blue boxers, coming down the stairs with the lack of sleep evident on his face. He stopped himself before he could say anything about how badly he slept after he discovered you were having nightmares that made you actually cry. Obviously, you didn’t know about them. “I—I slept fine. Thank you.”
You were lucky you lived together. It was sort of coincidental how you met through Feliciano, but eventually you became close and ended up as roommates. It wasn’t very hard to explain.
You untied the blue apron and hung it up in the kitchen closet, and caught a glance at Ludwig yawning. He never yawned; moreover, he never got up late. Rather than getting up at his usual five o’ clock in the morning, he had gotten up at nine.
“The house is cold,” you said gently to him, grabbing his green jacket off the coat rack and draping it over his shoulders as he sipped coffee, reading the newspaper with a pair of glasses on. “You’ll catch a cold just wearing that.”
You set down your plate of breakfast and his plate of breakfast down on the table, and left a plate in the microwave for Gilbert, who normally slept until noon. It was rather quiet and peaceful until around then, and for you, it was your bonding time with Ludwig.
“You overslept today,” you noted to him with a small smile. “Are you sure you slept well?”
“Ja, I’m quite sure,” he replied gruffly.
Cue the silence for another ten minutes as you toyed with your fried eggs and bacon, the fork and knife chiming against the white ceramic plate.
“Sorry to ask, but… do you ever have nightmares, [Name]?”
You perked up, putting your index finger to your chin as you swallowed your bite. “Come to think of it, I can’t really remember having bad dreams or anything. It sort of escapes me after I wake up, but sometimes they come back and I just remember I had one. But recently, no; why do you ask?”
“You screamed last night,” Ludwig started, folding his newspaper and staring you straight in the eyes. “I was so scared that something bad might have happened…” He shook his head as your cheeks went slightly pink with embarrassment.
“What, I did?” You were slightly shocked yourself. “B-but… I really can’t remember anything…”
“It’s alright,” he replied, getting up and patting you on the shoulder. “If anything does happen or it does come back to you... you could talk to me.” He left the table and went downstairs to do something, but you had lost your appetite for food. It didn’t seem right that you had screamed just because of a nightmare. It never happened to you before in your entire life.
After you cleaned up the table and the kitchen, you sat down and called Feliciano, just to get your mind off of things.
“Ciao, this is Italy!”
You talked for a while, even though the explanation itself was supposed to be short about how you supposedly had a nightmare and you were screaming in your sleep.
“Bella, what I always used to do is write a letter to Germany talking about my nightmares and feelings!”
“I don’t think that’s going to work for me…” After all, it was a rather weird idea. Plus it was embarrassing for you, because you had some feelings for Ludwig and putting it all into a letter was pathetic on your standards.
“It’s okay! Just try it!”
“No, thanks… Bye.” You hung up the phone just as Ludwig came upstairs in a suit and tie, ready to leave for work. You beamed at him and jumped up, throwing your arms around him as he grumbled something unintelligible.
“Leaving for work? You’re late already, maybe you should call in sick!” you teased playfully, giving his tie a small tug. He grimaced and loosened it up slightly, blushing. “Nein, [Name]. I really can’t do anything about it, no matter how late I’m going to be.”
“Just teasing,” you giggled, giving him a peck on the cheek. You couldn’t keep that smile off your face as he gave you another peck back on your cheek, leaving a small warm spot that spread through your entire body. He smiled at you and shut the door as you went to the window and waved at him, murmuring “bye” as he got into his BMW and left.
That’s when the lethargy set in. You never realized you were this tired, until Ludwig left, really. At first, you sat down on the couch; then you eventually ended up lying down, one side of your face pressed into the couch cushion and one arm dangling off the couch with the remote in your hand. The TV was now on, courtesy of you, and it was the news.
As if you cared!
You shook from your sleep in a dark alley, your clothes soaked from stale water which was dripping onto your back and slipping down your spine from the clotheslines above you. Everything was tinged a raw blue, the color of thick ice. It was like you lost your voice; you wanted to shout or at least mumble some cynical phrase to yourself, but you could only move forward out of the alley, your bare feet splashing against some puddles.
“Ludwig?” Your voice came back to you, mocking you as it echoed. The street was empty, and the streetlights were even emptier. They had no life to them at all; no comforting golden glow, signaling that nothing bad had happened.
You tripped forward, but fell backwards into black.
This time, it felt like your body had betrayed you. You were free to walk anywhere you liked, but you could see yourself in a mess on the cold sidewalk. You felt like you didn’t care, so you kept walking. Someone was mumbling into your ear again, and you realized the green-stained shards of glass had embedded themselves up and down both arms and hands—but you weren’t bleeding.
It was excruciatingly painful, but you didn’t have a voice. What difference did it make to try?
You woke up again for real this time, finding wet tracks were on your face. You wiped them away and was about to sit up when you met face-to-face with Gilbert. His voice was shaky as he spoke.
“Frau… you okay? You were crying in your sleep,” he whispered roughly.
“I… I was?”
“Yeah…” He looked down at your hands, and his red eyes opened wide. “Wait! You’re bleeding!”
You looked at your hands interestedly, realizing there were two long cuts down the face of each hand, leaking blood slowly. You shuddered and gasped as Gilbert wrapped them up quickly and none too gently in some bandages.
“[Name]—do you have a knife?!”
“Not that I know of…” you replied, shaking. The cuts looked perfect, however. They were vertical, straight up and straight down from your wrist to where your fingers started. There was no way that you could’ve done that in your sleep; you know that you didn’t get up, judging from your stiff limbs.
“What’s going on?”
You were still staring at your bandaged hands when Ludwig came in through the front door as Gilbert searched the medicine cabinet for some ointment. Almost immediately, Ludwig threw his briefcase aside and rushed over to you.
“Gott, I leave you alone for a few hours and this happens,” he exclaimed, taking your hands. “What happened now?” He didn’t look at you. He looked at Gilbert, as if it were his fault. You looked down and shuffled your socked feet nervously as Ludwig let your hands drop into your lap.
“I don’t even know what happened, okay? I was upstairs with Linkin Park cranked up to the max and I heard something downstairs, and I found [Name] here—!”
“I burned my hands on accident,” you lied with a guilty smile. That smile of yours was always there, no matter what happened. “Please don’t worry about me.”
“No, that didn’t happen,” Gilbert interrupted impatiently. “I came downstairs and she has two cuts down the backs of her hands. Not her palms, the backs of her hands! She claims she doesn’t have a knife!”
“I don’t,” you growled in response, the first time your signature smile had been wiped clean off your face. “I don’t even understand what happened.”
Why was the silence so powerful in this household?
You sighed as you watched Ludwig fluff up a pillow and set it down next to you on your king-sized bed, getting under the quilts and reading a novel all the while. You climbed in as well, not wanting to put a burden on Ludwig by waking him up with your hysterical screams and stuff that you didn’t even realize you were doing.
“It’s alright, you don’t have to,” you began weakly, afraid of what you could do. If you could cut yourself without your knowledge… you trembled.
“Nein,” Ludwig responded flatly, not taking his eyes off the book. “I don’t want anything bad to happen to you, and it’s not that I don’t believe you that you don’t know what’s happening…”
Your expression faded to a sullen one.
“But let me finish, [Name]. I hate to see you sad or in pain, so please…” He sort of choked on his words there, but he finished. “…please let me just protect you from whatever it is.”
You turned around on your pillow and stared at the wall, watching your own shadow on the wall. You finally spoke, “F-fine.”
The lights were still on, painting the room a clear white, but you had fallen asleep.
Ludwig kept an eye on you all the while, giving you a small kiss on your cheek before the lights went out.
It somehow finally came together.
You were in a tan military uniform, cap on and your hair put into a neat bun behind it. You were laughing at some jokes your comrades around you were cracking, and took a swig from your beer bottle. The world didn’t sway as long as you didn’t get up, so you continued to drink.
“One more, [Name]!” Gilbert’s voice nagged. “One more beer and you win the bet!” You hiccupped and leaned on the guy’s shoulder that was next to you, and waved Gilbert’s hand away drunkenly. The roof of the tent reflected a warm orange as the lantern burned.
“Tomorrow we storm the front,” a strong voice declared, showing battle plans to the people in the small ring of soldiers. “Those verdammen Allied Forces won’t stand a chance.” A roar of agreement rose up and around you. The strong voice lowered to a gentler one—it still had that strength, but it was still kind.
“[Name], you heard what I just said, right?”
You nodded once.
“Good. Let’s get you to bed so we can get up nice and early tomorrow morning,” he murmured as he lifted you to your sleeping bag, tucking you in. Some taunts and crowing voices teased the guy who helped you to your sleeping bag, but he barely cared and shrugged it off. You could tell their gambling and games carried on late into the night, but finally their groupie disbanded and someone lay next to you.
“Are you still awake, [Name]?”
You opened your eyes drowsily and nodded yes, realizing the person in front of you was Ludwig. So he was the one who dragged you over here? You closed your eyes again, seriously tired. He placed a small kiss on your forehead, and turned off the last lamp, the light of the stars breaking through the tent ever-so-slightly.
“Italy’s got first shift, so don’t worry about anything until morning comes…”
It was only a few hours that the thrum of planes overhead woke all of you up. You, being completely hung over and wasted, could only manage to prop yourself up on one arm. There was a flash, and everything fell apart, the empty bottles in a straight line by the tent entrance shattering upon impact.
“Schiesse, they must’ve found our camp! Get up, get up!”
You stumbled awake and got up in your uniform, someone supporting you by one arm. You could see the faint outline of an albino person leading the way, a rifle at the ready with the safety off. Even though you were now outside of the tent, everything was enveloped in the night black. Somehow your feet kept moving, even though you could feel the blood and the glass cutting into your skin.
“Come on, [Name], keep going,” someone gasped harshly as another flash of light hit. “Keep going!”
“I can’t…” you chuckled, grinning weakly. You continued to realize through the night it was Ludwig who kept on helping you through this, and he gave you one last shove as one last flash of light spread through the ranks.
Ludwig couldn’t sleep at all.
He kept on imagining what sort of horrors you could hold in your dreams that could just continue to pester you nightly. In what little light there was, he watched your face twitch slightly in your nightmares. It wasn’t until then that you suddenly grabbed onto the back of his wife-beater in your sleep, clutching fistfuls in both hands and burying your face into his chest.
You were muffling your screams.
Eyes wide, he just lay frozen until he hugged you back, murmuring sweet nothings into your hair to try and calm you down. Your grip loosened, and you sat straight up, pupils dilated in your beautiful, scared [e/c] eyes. Ludwig sat up with you, concern reflected in his own ice-blue eyes, and held you tight as you turned to him again and started mumbling about your nightmare.
You could finally comprehend what was bothering you.
“It’s alright” and “Take your time” was what Ludwig kept repeating to you. You couldn’t help but sniffle and hiccup as you recovered from the scarring nightmare. It was scarring because it was so real… It was almost impossible to just shrug off now. Once you stopped crying, you could finally speak normally, nose stuffy and eyes tinged red.
“It’s just…” you began. “In my nightmare, we were in a field at first. It was a cornfield. You were trying to find me in all the stalks, but you couldn’t.”
“Then we were on the African front, and we were in a canvas tent. The night was beautiful.”
You paused again.
“I was drinking a lot and people were putting bets on how many beers I could drink…” You smiled at the thought of Gilbert placing the highest bet. He really did put his trust in you, whether it was in a dream or real life. “And you helped me over to my sleeping bag, and everyone was teasing you about it but you didn’t care.”
“Really…?” Ludwig murmured, surprised.
“Yeah,” you replied nonchalantly. “Then you told me things were going to be fine… That everything was going to be fine and I don’t have to worry. I tried to find you. It was like a dream inside of a dream, like that movie we saw… Inception. I was lost.”
Then you brought your knees up to your chest, and hugged them to you.
“There was a flash of light. The Allied Forces had found out where we were…!”
Your voice broke, and you swallowed as Ludwig put an arm around your shoulders.
“They were bombing us,” you managed to continue, your voice somehow still calm. “And I was the only survivor…” You broke down into small sobs, the words rusting in your mouth. It was all so horrible when it all came back to you.
Ludwig held you tighter, murmuring, “Don’t worry, [Name]. I’m here now, see? Nothing bad will happen to us, and I’ll keep that as a promise, alright?”
You looked up at him with tear-stained cheeks.
He hooked his pinky with yours.