He honestly didn't know what to say. For no amount of words would justify what his heart felt in that moment. Anger, sadness, fear, all of these festered a storm. All he could think about was that his blue jay and robin were dead and there was nothing that could have been done to save them.
Here I stand next to him in a bedroom. What was once a great tower of strength was disassembled by the death a single person. I watched as he submitted to the ground like a worm does to dirt and wallowed in it. I heard him cry and scream and curse the world and everything in it. Believing with all his heart that it was out of spite. No one was there just like before, and just like before, no one was alive. The world had become a barren wasteland filled with depravity and deceit so much so that even the stars faded too sad to witness the truth- that life, like most things, ends.
"He was just a boy." Reepicheep said when his episode of grief was over. "He was my son and I his father. He could've saved the world. He could've cured diseases. He could've saved the world. He could've had children. He could've been a father. He could've been a saint- instead he is a martyr. I hope you realize that."
He looked towards a German who wielded a simple hand pistol and bore the insignia of the 225th Panzer. The Man from Deutschland said nothing. He simply looked down on the floor noticing how beautiful the dust and blood was- how they mingled together. It was as if they were completely oblivious to the fact that a twelve year old boy, who only days ago only worried about the weather, now lay lifeless and still.
"What was his name?" The German asked.
Reepicheep, who stood on the windowsill, scowled the man as well as the question.
"Your ignorance of that shall not be forgiven." He said keeping his composure. He had half a mind to finish the man off, a fourth of a mind to spare him, and another fourth to simply let the whole business go.
The German nodded, sighed and bent down to get a closer look at Nikiv Popov's face. It was tranquil, sage, the kind of face one gives when all knowledge has been learned and the quintessence of peace finally reached.
"You lay a finger on his brow and you lose that finger." Reepicheep said, staring at him.
"You're sorry?" Reepicheep replied cutting him off. His whiskers drooped as well as his tail. Eyes in disbelief and voice completely within he reason, he spoke. "If you sorry, then why did you kill him?"
A question that the German could not answer. He stood back up, straightened his jacket and closed his eyes a moment.
"My name is Wilhelm, Wilhelm Holtz."
"Did I ask for you name?" The Mouse asked.
"No," Wilhelm answered.
"I asked why did you kill him." Reepicheep repeated, slowly reaching for his blade hilt. "Shall I repeat the world's most simplistic question? Or do I have to jump to conclusions?"
Wilhelm nodded, a bit of saliva built up in his throat and to be honest, I thought he was going to keel over. The poor fellow's face was a deep ghostly pale and all he had to do to end his mental torture of guilt and interrogation was to submit to Reepicheep's rage, allow an execution and fall straight into my arms so I can make a proper delivery. It was the most simplistic way to end this poor man's misery and to completely forsake his soul but, something stopped him from saying nothing.
"Before the war," Wilhelm said, "I was a shoemaker in Schwarzenbach am Wald, a small town in East-Central Germany. There was a boy, his name was Hans and he was very fond of me."
He moved over to the bed and sat down on the edge, keeping his gaze solely on Nikiv, finding solace in the boy's still blue, still hope filled eyes.
"He would ask every morning when I opened shop at seven, 'How was your breakfast?' I would answer, 'Fine, but how was yours?' He never answered me in the way that a boy his age should answer. He always said, 'I didn't have breakfast today.'"
Wilhelm sighed again, thinking back to Hans and looking at Nikiv made him ponder the reason and justification- the answer- to Reepicheep's question. The Mouse rolled his eyes.
"I personally do not care about this story." Reepicheep said.
Mister Holtz stopped. He gazed at the floor and moved up to Reepicheep possessing the face of a man who's heart had just broken. No tears were shed, for this grief had long surpassed the level of tears, but it would be obvious to an Idiot to see that pain was there. It consumed his eyes. His mouth, which was slightly agape quivered as if for a moment his unconscious was busy receding to primeval expression of sadness.
"Hans was an orphan." Wilhelm said voice a bit frail. "He was a good boy, just like this boy was. When the National Socialists came, I, I couldn't say 'yes' immediately. They- they threatened to shoot Hans but I told them that I would do it. So I did. I shoot him. Square in the back, just like I did this boy."
"His name was Nikiv Popov," Reepicheep replied noticing that Wilhelm was moving a bit closer to the ground. Submitting to grief and regret simultaneously, the German reached out his hand and almost touched Nikiv's hair, but remembered the comment from earlier about the loss of a finger so retracted and composed himself.
"I shot him because I didn't want him to die by the hands of people who would do worse." Wilhelm said. "I wanted to spare him the pain."
"Spare him the pain?" Reepicheep said, again, not believing the words in which he was hearing. "Did it ever cross your mind as to what pain I would feel? Others would feel? Murder is the most selfish act in the world and yet people like you, psychopaths like you, give the same justification. To spare him the misery, to spare him the grief, to spare him, to spare him, to spare him."
He jumped from the windowsill and to the ground. Reepicheep scurried across the floor and stood next to Mister Holtz who was trying his hardest not to produce tears. Reepicheep, who was thirty milliseconds from speaking again, stopped himself to look up at Wilhelm's face. He thought he was going to see a man who felt nothing, a heartless machine devoted to a collectivist system whose main goal was pure genetics forever engraved in the mindset. Instead, the Mouse witnessed a tear and then the movement of a hand.
Wilhelm slowly moved his right hand over Nikiv's face and closed his eyes gently. He then crossed the boy's arms and kissed the forehead, as if he were the parent tucking him in and saying goodnight. After this, Wilhelm stretched out his left pointer finger.
"You can cut off my finger now."
Reepicheep said nothing. He simply stared at the man's finger and said, "I don't think that will be necessary anymore."
The German exhaled, leaned his head back on the bed, closed his eyes and spoke in German for a moment.
"Am I supposed to know what that means?" Reepicheep asked somewhat curiously.
Wilhelm laughed. "Please forgive me."
The Mouse shook his head at this. "I don't think that will be possible."
"I figured as much." The German replied as he slowly stood and once again straightened his coat and resituated himself to protocol.
"You know I never wanted this uniform." Holtz said continuing, "I never wanted to be part of it. I just knew that if I didn't, I would dead just like the rest. A number, a face, never a name."
"Do you think that what you've just said can be applied to everyone else that you've caused grief and misery to?" Reepicheep asked.
"Who said I caused it?" Wilhelm said. "I never wanted to be part of it. I never was. I didn't even know we were doing it until about a year ago. So don't you dare make generalizations when they simply aren't true."
He turned towards the door and exited the room. A colleague of his, a man by the name of Immanuel Jollenbeck, approached him.
"Sir," Immanuel said, "did you do it?"
"I did." Wilhelm replied.
Immanuel laughed. "Good, the little bastard deserved it."
"Yes he did." Wilhelm said.
Jollenbeck walked towards the library. I had the feeling I was about to be very busy again. Wilhelm re-entered the room and resumed his seat on the bed.
"You asked why I killed him," he said. "I don't think I answered it."
"You said something about wanting to spare him." Reepicheep replied.
"It's true. I wanted to spare him." Wilhelm said. "I think that's justification enough. A good humanitarian reason. Did he deserve it? No, but unfortunately that's how this game is played. Those who do not have the means to defend themselves are trumped and weeded out. It's evolution. It's life and it's insane."
He turned towards Reepicheep a moment and slowly shook his head. "I don't expect you to forgive me, to let me live or my words to be valued. But I have not been lying to you."
"I cannot believe your words I'm afraid." Reepicheep said, looking at Nikiv again and sighing out of grief, "He was a blue jay, and his only crime was singing a beautiful song and you slaughtered him- ending the beautiful song just as it reached the chorus."
Wilhelm said nothing. He looked out the window and watched the rain and pictured himself in it, playing a game of catch with Hans- back when the world made sense and people did not have to do crazy irrational things to stay alive. Back when morals and honor meant something to most people. In this moment of silence, Mister Holtz cried.
Wilhelm stood, walked over to the windowsill, stepping over Nikiv respectfully and spoke.
"I am just a boy. I could've saved the world. I could've cured diseases. I could've saved the world. I could've had children. I could've been a father. I could've been a saint- instead I am a grief filled man. I hope you realize that."
Immanuel walked back down the hallway. As he passed the doorway to the room he peered in and saw Wilhelm lift Nikiv off the ground and move him to the bed. He then situated the body in the same fashion as before and as before, kissed Nikiv's forehead. Reepicheep, who oversaw the deed from the far side of the bed, admittedly smiled.
Immanuel produced a pistol and without uttering a single word fired. The bullet entered Wilhelm's forehead and as he fell backwards, I caught his soul and carried him to loving hands. Reepicheep meanwhile exited the room and upon reaching the door looking the German in the eye, shook his head and continued down the hallway. After a few steps however, the Mouse stopped, turned back around and said.
"Why did you kill him?"
The German smiled. "My name is Immanuel Jollenbeck."
"Did I ask for your name?" The Mouse asked.
""No," The German answered.
"I asked why did you kill him." Reepicheep said, "Shall I repeat the world's most simplistic question?"
"You may." Immanuel said.
Reepicheep sighed and shook his head. "He was a shoemaker who had a heart. I hope you realize that."