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Art Imitating Life

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Up the long flight of steps, each six inches a struggle to overcome. He stepped in off the Washington streets and through the frosted-glass doors and was met with a blast of cold air, dry and overly filtered sapping the moisture from his body. Passing through the turnstiles with a stuttered step, he entered the atrium of the marble encased building. Shuffling down the endless halls, he entered a gallery filled with mid 20th century works. One seemed to catch his eye and as he strode towards it as best he could, faint stirring of memory started to return. He stepped forward, viewing the triptych. An Otto Dix.

It was no longer a museum showpiece. His world swirled around him from the depth of the scene he was pushed backwards with the putrid aroma of rotting flesh. Der kreig. Wars of attrition and hate, carrion and carnage, it was all around him. The ravens, gluttons perched awaiting their next meal, the next massacre so they might stuff their bloated bellies, to pick out the eyes of the nigh-dead and hear the screams of agony and writhed with convulsion as they felt the chord snap, the eye pull free with a slight slorp.

The charred skeletal remains of a building hover over him whilst others peep over heaps of indistinguishable rubble. The street ahead cleared by Hauwitzer fire, blackened with soot, lay ahead of him. And though it coated the ground, a dusting of snow, evil incarnate, he left no footprints, no signs of having passed through at all.

Maggot-eaten festering wounds, the mud indistinguishable amongst rivulets of blood coursing around their feet. And the disease, it made its presence quite known. He, however, was only missing the company of three toes on his left foot, his right pinkie finger had been a summer camp incident when he was seven.

The shrill screaming, shells had come ripping through the air. The preliminary bombardment, softening of the target. They had all known the advance would start just as the shelling ceased, it was elementary military theory, but still they had not been prepared for the horrors that awaited them, no one had. For honor, for bravery, for adventure, for comradery. They had truly convinced themselves.

The abrupt silence was deafening. The storm troopers, their gasmasks, potato-mashers, stepping over the dismembered sappers, full belief in the motherland and their cause. Encirclement was no longer a problem for them. Advancing on machine gun nests, they had disappeared back into their holes only to mow down another line. Men falling left and right, he could no longer stand it. Lone survivor syndrome, the psychologists had called it.

Engines of war, engineers of insanity.

He cried out in misery and pain, depression, hatred, mourning, but found his lips could not part, that no sound emanated from the depths of his soul.

The medics rushed forward with defibulators, tore his sweat-drenched shirt open and applied the leads to his chest. No letter of consolation would ever be sent.





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