Chapter 5 - Christian
I was sure it was a dream—there was no doubt that it was a dream. It had to be. Everything seemed so surreal, like I was locked out from reality and was instead floating underwater, unable to do anything. It was impossible to breathe, impossible to see, impossible to move. My body was paralyzed.
I had no idea where I was, or even how I’d ended up where I was. I could smell blood, so the first place that came to mind was a slaughterhouse. But then I could taste it in my mouth too and I realized it was my own. Consciousness was returning to me in small waves and I ever so slowly started to be able to feel where I was lying. The wet, cold ground was pressed against my cheek. My fingers started trembling first, followed by the rest of me, not only because of the cold, but also because of the building pain flooding through my whole body.
I tried opening my eyes to figure out what was going on, but instantly regretted it as pain shot through my head. I let out a small whimper and squeezed my eyes shut as it did so, waiting for it to wear off. But it didn’t. It only grew worse as each second passed by, and not only the pain in my head, but the pain in my stomach also. All my muscles were aching, but I still had to get up and I was so sacred.
Realizing that lying in the middle of the street at that time of night was nowhere near safe, I pulled myself up off the ground. The strenuous movements made my stomach turn around painfully, and I’d only made it on my hands and knees before I vomited, using what felt like my last strength to empty my stomach out on the ground in front of me. But it didn’t look right. It was dark—almost black. Blood. I could taste it, and not just from what ran down my face. It was coming from inside me.
Panicked, I looked around at the ground and saw it was covered in small puddles of blood as well, which only made the fear and confusion worse. Unsteadily, I moved a hand to my head to check if the blood was mine. I hissed sharply as my fingers touched a wound and pulled my hand back, only to see it covered in more dark, sticky blood. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t remember what had happened and I was nearly in tears from confusion and pain. Where was I? Why was I bleeding? Had I been shot? All I knew was that I’d gone to meet with Silas…
Somehow, I managed to stumble to my feet. My head spun violently and I felt like I would pass out at any moment. Limping heavily, I slowly followed the brick walls out of the alley and all the way down the street, probably leaving bloody hand marks on some of the store windows on my way. But I couldn’t care less. I just wanted to get home and pretend like this had never happened. That I’d never met Silas. That I’d never drawn on one single poster.
I couldn’t be quiet this time, not like the other times I’d snuck back into the house late at night. I couldn’t even see where I was walking now. My body wouldn’t cooperate with my brain and I felt drunk and confused. I was shaking uncontrollably and I was so sick and scared.
I only managed to make it halfway up the stairs before I saw the lights being turned on somewhere in the house. That was quickly followed by the sound of footsteps coming towards me, every step echoing in my mind.
“Christian?” It was my mum’s voice asking.
Part of me wanted to answer her because I knew that I couldn’t get away with this. But a much larger part of me just wanted to run. Just run before she saw me and never come back.
“Hvad laver du?” (What are you doing?) My mum’s voice sounded closer and I started getting more nervous. It wasn’t until she was standing right in front of me in the poorly lit hallway that she gasped and threw a hand up to cover her mouth. “Christian, what is this? Who did this to you?”
“It’s nothing…” I slurred as I pushed myself past her. ”Just leave me alone.” Sleep was the only thing on my mind—I could think of nothing else. But my mum grabbed my arm as I crossed her, making me cry out in pain at the touch.
“Where have you been? Did you get in a fight?” She sounded more sad and frustrated than angry. “What did you do, Christian?” Her grip loosened, which allowed me to get free from her.
“Nothing,” I breathed out through clenched teeth. I stumbled unsteadily along the wall all the way to my room with my mum right behind me. The pain was unbearable at this point. “It’s nothing,” I repeated, and I kept repeating it over and over, even though it was obviously too late to convince her otherwise. She had already seen my face, and from the look in her eyes I could tell that it wasn’t pretty.
“Christian, you tell us who did this to you right now before someone comes knocking on our door and does it for you!” The new voice echoed inside my head—as all noises were doing—but I couldn’t register where it was coming from. I kept walking until I reached my bed in the corner of my room.
Once I was sitting down, I looked up again. But I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to answer, so I didn’t.
“What is this?” Only then did I realize it was my dad speaking. I looked up at him. He was standing tall in front of me, holding up my notebook. “Is this what this is about? Were you destroying German property? Is this some kind of game to you?” His voice was harsh.
“No, you don’t understand—” I tried, knowing well that it was too late to make up lies.
“I understand completely! This drawing, Christian, was on a German poster.” He threw the notebook in my lap, making me flinch as he did. My heart had to be racing at sixty miles per hour; it was pounding so hard I could hear it in my ears and feel it in my throat because I was so scared. I did everything I could not to let it show. “I’ve spent the last three years trying to protect this family and keep us safe through this war! And then you go and throw us all in harm’s way so you can pull stupid stunts like this?!”
I glared at him the best I could through my blurred vision. “Protect us? Is that what you call what you do when you go along with everything they say? If no one stands up to them, then what’s the point?” I asked, my voice determined. “You’re just being a coward!”
I regretted my choice of words as soon as I’d said them, but I couldn’t hold back anymore. Trying to seem like I didn’t care about his reaction, I started wiping off some of the blood with my sleeve, although it was mostly dry already.
“No. I’m just trying to keep this family alive and that’s the bravest thing I can do right now. You are risking all of our lives by pulling stupid stunts like this and drawing too much attention to yourself! There’s a difference between bravery and stupidity, Christian, and you crossed the line a long time ago!” he spat. “You’re just being selfish now!”
“Am I being selfish?” I choked out. “Who is it that invites all the German officers to dinner parties once a week?”
“You cannot compare those two things! Do you think I’m glad about having them in my home?”
“Well you never tell me anything so how should I know?!”
We were both yelling now and my head was starting to spin even more. This was the longest conversation I’d had with my dad since the war began. The fact that it should be like this made me sad, but also only fueled my anger towards him.
“It’s not my decision to make!” he exclaimed. “Do you have it in your brain that this will actually help something? Because it won’t! It’s foolish and childish. You’re just a boy! You’re not a soldier, Christian!”
“I’m not trying to be a soldier! Powers reside where people believe they reside,” I quoted. “I’m just trying to show them that they can’t walk all over us.”
The secret had been broken; I was vulnerable now.
“But they can and they will!” he shouted back. “It doesn’t work like that. This is not your battle—it’s for someone else to fight. You are my son. I will not have you acting like - like some stupid renegade!” He spat out the last word in disgust.
“Better than being a pushover!” I exclaimed in anger.
“No. Better to be alive. Wars never work out for the renegades!”
After that he just turned around and stormed out of the room, leaving me feeling empty. I started crying because now I was powerless. The situation was too much for me to handle. In one night, I had placed my entire family in jeopardy; we could be killed now, and it would be entirely my own fault. So I just sobbed.
Eventually, my mum tried to calm me down, to convince me that we’d be alright, but it was useless. My whole world had just fallen apart in my hands.
Over a week passed before I allowed myself to go outside again. No one had contacted us yet, but it didn’t mean it wouldn’t happen. Anxiety still filled me every time someone knocked on our door.
With the thoughts still circling in my head, I left the house for the first time after what felt like ages. I just needed to find him, and so I did.
“What are you doing here?”
I didn’t run into him this time. I hadn’t been sure I’d even meet him there anyway. But I had to try, so I’d waited. And I’d waited for a long time, not that I cared because it felt so good to be breathing in fresh air again.
“I knew you would be here,” I mumbled, trying to avoid eye contact. Instead, I focused on the soft ground beneath my feet.
He shouldn’t be seeing me like this. I didn’t want to make him feel bad, and I knew that this would. He’d done this to me, and even though it’d been the only option to save our lives, he’d still done this to me.
“You mentioned this place in your letters,” I continued nervously.
I glanced around. It was beautiful. I could understand why he’d said he’d come here when he needed peace. The only noise breaking the silence was the sound of birds singing. The warm summer breeze kissed my skin and the smell of grass and flowers surrounded me. It was like a picture from a book, and for a moment, it didn’t even feel real.
I felt Silas stepping closer until he was standing right in front of me. He gently placed a hand under my chin to lift my head. My heartbeat quickened slightly by his touch, and it skipped a beat once my eyes were locked together with his. The pain in his eyes was impossible to describe. His gaze travelled across the bandage on my forehead, continuing down past my blue-and-yellow bruises, and ending at my bandage-covered wrists.
“I am—“ He paused briefly, as if the words were hurting him, “—so sorry, Christian.”
That was all he said, but I didn’t need more than that to know that he meant it. The truth in his voice was obvious. This was the memory I wanted to keep of him. I wanted to remember the real Silas. He wasn’t a soldier. He wasn’t a bad person for doing what he did. And I wanted—I needed—to remember that.
With that picture in my head, I opened my arms and wrapped them loosely around his waist, just holding him. I just wanted to hold him to know he was there. And when I felt Silas laying his hand on my sore and fragile body, I started crying silently, the past few years falling over me all at once. It was too overwhelming.
I couldn’t stop the tears, but at the same time, I didn’t want to. It felt like such a relief, being able to cry properly, and he seemed to understand. My choked sobs mixed with the pain that was still haunting my body made it harder and harder to stand. I started shaking, but Silas supported me in his arms.
“I’m scared too,” Silas breathed out, almost too soft to hear. “I’m so scared, Christian.” His voice was thick.
We were just standing there, trying to block out the world around us. Nothing about this was right, but I couldn’t care less. It was so calm—just the feeling of Silas running his hands down my back in soft, comforting movements. I didn’t want him to stop, even though it hurt a little every time he brushed against a bruise.
My breathing grew deeper instead of gasping, and my head gradually stopped spinning as I stopped crying. But I didn’t want to let go.
“I ruined your shirt,” I mumbled into his neck.
“Don’t think about it—not for a second,” he assured me. “Come on.” He released me from his arms and guided me down to a bench beside the water so we could sit down. I followed him without any questions.
“Don’t cry.” He smiled as he moved his thumb across my cheek to wipe off the tears once we’d sat down. The smile couldn’t hide the sadness in his eyes. Still, I smiled back.
We both focused out on the water for a while without saying anything more.
Silas broke the silence. “I’m going back to Germany…” he said emotionlessly. I turned to face him, but he was still looking straight ahead as he spoke.
“You can’t do that,” I said quickly, before he got the chance to say anything else.
“It’s not my decision to make, Christian,” he tried. “I can’t change the orders—”
“But why?” I interrupted. I lifted my chin up and turned fully around to face him, breathing heavily.
The more I looked at him, the more he started tearing up. He let out a shaky breath, followed by a nervous smile. “I don’t know what’s going to happen to me, Christian. But they’re not happy… Do you understand what I’m telling you?” He looked so frightened and yet so sorry at the same time.
“They can’t do that. They can’t. You-You’re innocent!” I furiously shook my head, not wanting to make it too obvious that I had tears in my eyes too. “You can’t go back. We… I’m going to think of something!”
“We’ll smuggle you to Sweden! Or… hide you here. I can hide you. I know someone in the countryside. We… I—”
“No! They can’t this, Silas! It’s illegal. There’s always something. We’ll find a solution. You can’t go back!”
He just couldn’t leave; I wouldn’t let him. Just thinking about what was going to happen to him made my stomach turn around. The war was getting too close again. I knew him—he was my friend. And now it would be over, just like that. He’d be forgotten in history, and no one would remember the soldier who’d saved my life.
“What we’re doing is illegal, Christian. There’s nothing we can do.”
“I-I did this!” I was sobbing somehow without really crying. “It’s my fault, so I’m gonna make it right,” I said, determined. I couldn’t just surrender like this. He was innocent—I was the offender. He shouldn’t be paying for my actions.
“Christian, stop it!” Silas burst out. “Don’t you get it? It’s over. We lost. End of story. Understand?”
His voice was raised and I was taken aback by it, so I didn’t say more. He was right, of course. I didn’t have the power to change anything. A lump was forming in my throat, but I promised myself not to start crying again. It wouldn’t help anyway. It couldn’t change the fact that he was going back.
So I just nodded, because I understood. No matter how much I’d known something like this was coming, it still it made me feel empty inside. The pain of realization.
“Promise me you’ll be okay…” I murmured thickly. “You’ll have to promise me you’ll be okay.” The desperation in my voice was obvious.
“I can’t promise that.” Quickly, he wiped the tears from his cheek with the back of his hand. “And I’m so s-sorry,” he continued shakily.
I shook my head at him. All this was my fault. I was the reason this all was happening. I should have never asked him to meet up again. We’d had such a good thing going and I’d loved it so much, finally being able to talk to someone without being scared. But we’d gotten in too deep—taken too many risks—and now we were nothing but scared. And it was all my fault.
“I haven’t told them anything. But they know. There’s no doubt.” He paused quickly to get his breathing under control. “You’ll have to stop, Christian. If they find you, they’re going to kill you. You need to stop everything you’re doing.” His gaze locked with mine as he talked, making sure I caught every word he said. “You cannot speak to any German soldier. Don’t do anything more and they should leave you alone. Promise me—you’ll have to promise me you won’t do anything, Christian. Promise me,” he begged.
“I promise,” I breathed out. “I promise I won’t do anything.”
And that was the truth. I’d never meant to put anyone but myself in danger by my actions. But now Silas was risking his own life to protect me.
Maybe my dad was right… It never works out for the renegades.
“We need to burn the letters. We can’t leave anything.” He paused. “Erase me, Christian. Erase every memory you have about me. We never met because I’ve never existed, okay? I don’t want them to find you.”
But that I couldn’t agree to, so I just shook my head. “You saved my life and for that I’ll be forever grateful, Silas. I’ll never forget you. No matter how much I try, I’ll never forget as long as I live. And I’m sorry, but I can’t,” I said, determined. “I can burn the letters, I can lie, but I can never forget you.”
Silas sighed, but didn’t say anything in return. Sitting in silence, he just lifted up his hand to lightly brush his fingers against the damaged skin around my eye. It didn’t hurt so much anymore, so I let him.
“That one is going to leave a scar,” I said softly, pointing at my forehead. “What happened to me, Silas?”
My memories from that night were still so blurry that I couldn’t distinguish between reality and dreams. All I knew for certain was that if not for Silas, I wouldn’t even be sitting here.
“The soldier pointed a gun at you. He was going to shoot you, but I stopped him and he hit you in the head instead…” He spoke the words in a low voice while looking away, clearly ashamed. “And then you were knocked out. After that I don’t know what happened because we had to leave. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”
I nodded at his explanation, still not remembering.
We didn’t say more; we didn’t need to say more. But I liked the silence. It was the kind of independent silence where you didn’t have to say anything to be heard because the person next to you understands without words. We just sat there, and for a moment I felt like laughing, though I didn’t know why.
“I’m glad you spoke English when we met. Or else we wouldn’t have talked,” I said quietly.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have so we wouldn’t be standing in this mess.” Silas let out a nervous laugh as he spoke. “But I’m glad I got to know someone like you through this.” A smile spread across his lips—a true smile.
I nodded as I watched him stand up from the bench. “I’ll have to leave now, Christian,” he sighed.
I nodded in response, standing up too. “I have something for you before you go,” I started nervously.
Silas looked curiously at me, his eyebrows drawn together, as I handed him a bunch of brown curled pages I’d kept on me. Without questioning it, he held up the fragile papers to get a better look at the front page. I felt my heart beating faster while he read it.
“Renegade?” Silas asked quietly.
“It’s a story. About a boy who fell in love with a soldier…” I explained, not looking away as I did. “Finish it, Silas. I don’t know how it ends. I want you to finish it,” I breathed out heavily. “All stories have endings, but this one is still without.”
But Silas didn’t answer me—not with words. Instead, he carefully pulled me into a hug, his hands once again resting gently on my back. It was like all pain and fear vanished in that moment. All problems became small.
“Don’t forget me, Silas. Promise me you won’t forget me,” I whispered into the back of his neck, burying my fingers in the fabric of his shirt.
“I could never forget you, Christian.” He let me go and for a moment our eyes met for what would probably be the last time. He smiled calmly as he hid the papers I’d given him in his coat. Then he turned around and started walking down the path, my gaze following him all the way.
“See you after this, okay?” I called after him. Because that was what I wanted to believe. My words made him turn back around so he could look at me.
“See you after this,” he called back, grinning.
This was the ending of my story, because that was what I wanted to remember.