Enchanted Spark

Writing Inspirations
Congratulations to our February Winner E. Lillith McDermott!




Dear Eliza

By E. Lillith McDermott




April 6, 1943


My Dear Eliza,


I’m not sure how I’m going to post this letter as my C.O. has just given us the two-hour countdown for our first live mission. In point of fact, ever since joining this unit I’ve been somewhat unsure that any of my letters have reached you. Some of the boys say that our correspondence is checked over. As I’ve only had one letter from you, on the topic of my acceptance into this unit, I’m beginning to doubt. So I guess it might not matter much if I can’t mail this out.


I have visions of you getting all my letters at once, right before I walk through the door. I hope, at any rate, that you aren’t worried. That you know I’m well and thinking of you. My only fear is that you think I’ve abandoned you. That is the thought that wakes me at night.


But enough of these morose thoughts. Tonight, at 0100 hours we set out for our first mission. I must tell you, my dear, that this is not the war I thought I signed up for. To chase the Nazis out of Europe is one thing, but this is another all together. The things they showed us in training, the things we’ve seen. I can’t even put them into words, and even if I could, I’d sooner die than trouble you with this knowledge. What a fool I was! Thinking a combined British and American unit would be such a lark. If only I’d known.


But, I know well enough, after what I’ve seen, that we are necessary. Maybe more than necessary if Hitler’s mad ambitions are to be stopped. I know little of our mission tomorrow, and can tell you littler still. But I do know that our purpose is to stop a further evil from growing, and we will do whatever it takes. My only hope is to see you again. You are what keeps me sane.


All my love,

-A



April 8, 1943


My Dearest Eliza,


I wasn’t able to post your last letter, and I have little hope of this one finding you for some time, but I needed a safe place to lay my thoughts and worries. Hopefully, once we are out of here (and if they’ll let me), I’ll be able to send this off.


We left base on schedule two nights ago, headed south. Even as second in command, I knew very little of the mission. Major P- gave me nothing more than coordinates for the pilots. Our unit has always been small, and for this mission the major selected only 5 men plus our pilot and co-pilot. I rounded them up, told them to dress for cold and got underway.


We flew threw the night, right up until morning. As the sun rose, I could see a vast range of snow-capped mountains ahead. The sky was cloudless, the wind almost nothing. Conditions as perfect as any pilot could wish. You can imagine the shock when the plane began to pitch and yaw. I tried to make it to the cockpit, but the turbulence was too great. I was only able to get to the jump seat before having to strap in. I could hear the pilot and co-pilot yelling. I’m still not sure if they had radio contact, although given our present isolation, I think not. The plane continued to buck, and the popping in my ears told me we were losing altitude rapidly. I tried to listen to the cockpit, but I can only recall the pilot yelling about loss of attitude control, and then we hit.


We’ve trained for emergencies, but simulations don’t even come close to reality. I wish I could take you through the thoughts and feelings of those moments, but they were nothing more than flashes – fleeting and instinctive. I’m still not sure how I made it out of the plane. There was so much fire and smoke. I got the major out, but that was all. We regrouped a little uphill of the crash and watched the fire burn itself out.


It didn’t make any sense, Eliza! No sense at all.


Perfect flying conditions all around. We certainly weren’t shot down – too many of us have seen combat to fail to recognize enemy fire. And yet we crashed.


It’s beautiful, this land into which we’ve been deposited. We are high and remote in a foreign mountain range. I traced the coordinates to northern Nepal. Funny how I thought signing up for the army would take me places. I just thought they’d be places more in line with France and England. The plane had broken into three main sections. Those of us fit to forage were able to find a good deal of supplies. My pack was just lying out on the snow, my letters still intact.


Yes, I said snow. Spring had just arrived on base, but up here, the snow seems permanent. We seem well off for rations and survival gear, but quite low on ammunition and weapons. I fear we’ll run into a few of the Jerry’s we were chasing and be out manned and out gunned.


Of the nine of us on the plane only five made it off. A few hours ago Fitzpatrick died of his injuries. This leaves only myself, Major P- (who is not in the best of shape himself), Scott and Johnson. Once the major has woken, I plan to discuss our target. There is little doubt he will share the mission specs after this turn of events. I doubt the success of our mission at this point, but we must try our best to complete the task. Every member of our unit knows the importance.


I still hope for my own survival. If only to hold you again, my love.

-A





April 11, 1943



My Dear Eliza,


We've been marching through these mountains for nearly three days. We are all cold and tired. Our salvaged rations are holding up, but they can do nothing to fight the fatigue. A certain panic has begun to settle over the group.


Only hours after the crash had burned its last, Major P- shared with us the goal of this mission. It is nothing more than a grainy photograph of a photograph. He didn’t seem to know where the picture came from, only that the crumbling building it depicts is of utmost importance to Hitler and his Ahnenerbe. Our intelligence thinks Himmler himself may even be on this expedition. Beyond that, he only knew the supposed coordinates of the building.


We have plotted our location as best we can. During the night, we try to follow the stars, during the day, the compass. At least we try. The very mountains seem to want us to be lost. If it were possible to mine up here, I believe one could become quite rich quickly. More than a dozen times each day the compass will spin erratically, and we know we’ve wandered near an iron deposit. When such occurs someone must take the compass and walk away in ever widening circles until the readings become clear. At times this has taken over an hour!


And the air is so thin and the heights so disorienting that more than a few times a night we find we’ve gone off course as well. Once Scott swore the stars had rearranged themselves before his very eyes. Altitude sickness may be setting in.


But I’m afraid I scared you with my earlier talk of panic. Do not be afraid for my own safety. My men are true. They have faith in Major P- and myself. These men are steady. Our panic, and I must say ours for I too share it, is that we will never find this crumbling ruin. If Himmler wants its secrets enough to send out members of his Ahnenerbe--


We must not fail.


And I confess, Eliza, that I am also afraid for the major. He tries to hide the extent of his injuries, but I can see him weakening more each day. I believe I can lead in his stead, but am I good enough for this mission? I’m nothing more than a captain, after all. I know so little about this unit, about this secret side of the war. And what will happen if I cannot fill his shoes?


All my love,

-A





April 14, 1943


My Dear Sweet Eliza,


So much has happened in the last day and a half, I barely know where to begin. Shortly after I finished writing my last letter, the compass again gave us North, and we resumed our search. Within hours we came over a rise and there, tucked away so neatly we might have missed it if not for luck, lay our quarry. It is hard to believe such a place has any value, more decay than architecture. The stones seem to crumble away just at the looking.


Perhaps we were too caught in the moment. Perhaps we had just grown weary and careless. Like fools we dashed over the hill and down into the valley. No thoughts. We never saw the ambush. I don’t even know if they were expecting us, or if we were just so stupid an opportunity. I only counted three before I took cover, but I believe, from the fire pattern, that there must be more, at least 6. As I feared, we were outmanned and outgunned.


Johnson went down immediately. Scott and I were separated on either side of a small outcropping of trees, but too far away for either of us to reach its safety. What happened next will be forever seared in my memory. From his cover a few yards downhill, Major P- tossed me his pack, stood, screamed and charged.


It took all my willpower not to chase him down the hill. But you must understand, my dear, he was doing it for the mission, for us. I believe we both knew he wasn’t long for the world. His sacrifice allowed Scott and me to make the trees. But I already miss him.


We doubled back up the hill and managed to find tree cover enough to circle halfway around the building. Scott says it reminds him of an old abbey near his family’s farm in Berkshire. It reminds me of the city in that film you liked so much, I can’t remember the name exactly, something Baghdad. It’s too round and squat to feel like a church to me.


We are hiding in a shallow crevice beyond the tree line. After several hours of watching we’re pretty sure we know the enemy locations. I may have even worked out a way to get inside. The problem is, we don’t know how many more are waiting inside and what, if anything, we can hope to find there. If only I had more information! Unless we can think of a better plan I suppose we will wait until dark and th—


Oh my dearest! We are not alone! Impossible as it is to believe here in these God-forsaken mountains, the building is occupied. Scott appears to have been correct, it is some sort of church. The man who came into the garden is clearly dressed in the robes of a monk. More importantly, he wants our help!


Or at least it seems as if he does. The Jerry guarding him grew bored and Scott was able to signal to the monk with the flashes of a pen-light. We think he wants us to enter through the back door. That was my plan, but now he’s left it open a crack. I cannot discount the possibility that this is a trap, but my heart tells me otherwise. I hope the next time I write it will be to tell you I’m coming home!


Love,

-A




April 15, 1943


My Dear Eliza,


I have just returned from the sanctuary, and my mind is a fever of thoughts and fears. I now know what Himmler wants. And I know he must not be allowed to obtain it. No matter the cost. It is only through sitting here and writing to you that I can control my mind, to hold my sanity and force calm. Ever fiber of my being is so alive with fear and desperation that I want nothing more than to run back to the sanctuary, gun ready, and drive my enemy away from this place by force and blood.


But I must be calm. I must only wait until midnight, when the Brotherhood will be ready. You see, they are sworn, bound to this place, by more than mere oath. This sanctuary, and the others like it around the world, must be protected at all times. There are seven, I have learned. Seven places hidden around the globe that could lead to the downfall of all humanity.


But I get ahead of myself, this will make no sense without some explanation.


You see, Eliza, when Scott and I went through the garden door we didn’t know what to expect. But what we found, well, given a million years of guessing I would never have guessed correctly. While out here snow and cold blanket the mountains, in the sanctuary is nothing but warmth. Warmth and wet. We were instantly sweating. The brother from the garden was waiting for us. He didn't speak, only lead us through winding passages and stairs, ever downward. I felt as if I were walking to the very base of the mountains, maybe further.


Strangely, I never feared. I could not have told you why, but I felt nothing but peace and calm.


Eventually we reached a set of iron doors. On the other side lay the most wondrous of caverns. It was monstrous vast, the edges disappearing into darkness. Candles burned here and there, illuminating the walls.


And what walls they were!


They were painted with the most beautiful renderings, such magnificent work. At first I thought they showed the Bible, and certainly the stories of Old and New Testament were there, but so much more! And as I looked I realized I could see things that have no place in the Bible what so ever. Castles under siege, great palaces, roman cavaliers. All of human history is painted on those walls.


But as amazingly terrifying as the walls were, they were nothing to the floor. The brother led us along a path between the wall and a low fence. Inside the fence the center of the cavern was teaming with vegetation that should not, cannot, grow in a cave with no light. Intermixed with the plant life were figurines of every size and shape. They looked as if they had been collected from all over the world from the very beginning of time to the present. Some, most perhaps, were religious idols, but not all. Some I could not begin to describe.


Scott and I had not been in the cavern but five minutes when another brother emerged from the darkness of the path ahead. His name, he told us, was Brother Abe. He took me by the hand and led me past the fence. We had to step carefully, using only certain footholds. Once away from the walls he bade me look to the ceiling.


Oh Eliza! If I could tell you what I saw! If there were any way to describe it! If I had any hope that you would believe me!


So much more than history is painted on those walls. There on the ceiling I could see images of things I cannot understand, things from the future. Things, Brother Abe said, that might be and should be. That was why they were grey, out of focus. And the floor, he said, was littered with the offerings of time – past, present, future. The whole of human history, start to finish, in one room.


Brother Abe told us that the Germans were searching the sanctuary and had not yet found the chamber, but it was only a matter of time. But they have a plan! However, with so many of the order confined as prisoners, they doubted their success. Of course Scott and I volunteered. At midnight, we begin.


I do not know if these letters will ever reach you, my dearest. Scott will deliver them if he survives, though neither one of us is hopeful. But we knew the stakes when we took this assignment. I wanted, after all, to save the world.


My dearest Eliza, I do so hope to see you again. But if I fail, I’m afraid for your future much more than mine.

-A

 

E. Lillith McDermott writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror for young adults and adults who wish they were young. Her work can be found in the anthologies Under the Stairs and Short Sips: Coffee House Flash Fiction as well as The Realm Beyond Magazine.  She lives in the sleepy midwest where she periodically embarrasses her children by frightening her neighbors. She can be contacted at elillith@elmcdermott.com.

Add a Comment

(Enter the numbers shown in the above image)