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2013-09-30 12:47 am (UTC)
salamander rumors: memories of schmidt
The men who call themselves revolutionaries share their anecdotes by the fire:
Did you hear?
They begin to tell war stories of a pyromaniac, defined by her scarred face and brutality. If anyone asks who the Salamander is, the answers tend to vary. Sometimes it’s a woman with a sword fused to her arm. Other times it is a man who can breathe fire. Others would tell of an androgynous creature that isn’t even human, sporting gray skin and demonic features, such as pointed ears, a crooked tail, and no genitals.
When smoke plumes over the Russian forest, the rebels keep talking. Casting glances each way, they continue to tell their tales: The smoke is a signal; it means the Salamander is coming. For she is a war-torn disaster, and her comfort is the gun.
This is why they keep their distance from Sergeant Schmidt. She is an outsider, hailing from the borders of Germany. Being the legacy of two drug-addled parents who died of overdoses, she carries the memories of their bloated corpses with her. There are nights where she closes her eyes and sees her mother and father, their bodies twisted and maws open with white fluid coming out of their eyes and mouths. She hates drugs, and declines when the rebels offer some to her. Schmidt doesn’t even cast second glances as they kick back one vodka shot after another.
These Russian men only happened to be passing by when she was on her way through the mountains, where she had requested refuge in their camp to rest. Most of them are independent — rebels who want to have nothing to do with the Long Winter, the war waging for seven decades now.
Although Schmidt claims to be a revolutionary herself, they do not invite her into their tents or campfire at night. Instead she sits in the shadows, watching the trees and listening to the forest.
From far away, the wolves howl.
Through the varying descriptions they had, many of the rebels decided that Sergeant Schmidt was the spitting image of their ghost story. She listens to their talk of a pyromaniac who can walk through fire. Schmidt stalks their circle as she listens. When they sleep, she protects them.
One night a twig snaps off in the woods, followed by a crunching of snow. Schmidt leaves with her gun, and returns a few hours later. When the rebels wake the next morning, they see her sitting by the dying embers of their campfire in bloodstained fatigues. They whisper amongst themselves that Schmidt smells strongly of ash and sulfur.
People cannot help what they are, so Schmidt does not blame them. She can’t stand her own skin.
Come afternoon, more smoke rises miles in the forest. The rebels decide to move soon, but are stirred by the sound of Schmidt’s screams.
When their captain investigates, he finds her thrashing about the ground in her sleeproll. Her fingers claw at her own eyes.
In her mind, she sees a knife. Deeper, she hears a man’s voice in her head:
“I CAN’T STAND YOU. I CAN’T BEAR THE SIGHT OF YOU. I HATE YOU. I HATE THAT LOOK ON YOUR FACE. STOP STARING AT ME LIKE THAT. YOU’RE NOT BETTER THAN ME. STOP IT, STOP IT, STOP IT! YOU’RE NOT BETTER THAN ME!”
You are a vessel. You are born to die.
When Schmidt wakes, she hears opera.
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