Ragnorak

23rd March 1939. The bullets were raining down on the Spanish soldiers whilst one man stood alone in the trenches of Tarragona. Domènec Batet gripped the cross hanging around his neck and prayed for this hell to end. A gas bomb was thrown into the trench. One man caught in the gas began to cough repeatedly, his body slowly sagging and folding as the coughing grew ever weaker.

As he closed his eyes, he heard a faint clicking noise. A gun was pointed at his head, the trigger about to be pulled. But only blood fell from behind him. The man had been shot before he could kill Domènec.

He gripped the cross even harder, staring at the battlefield. Without sparing a moment to look at the man who had almost killed him, he blankly gazed into the distance. Domènec knew, it was a miracle that he survived.

A rooster wandered over to Domènec. It was as red as the blood flowing through Domènec’s veins, but it’s eyes as gentle as a newborn child. It stared at him for what felt like an eternity. Until it wandered off. On it’s wing, the name “Gullinkambi[1]” was inscribed.

****

27th October 1922. Rome. Rain is cascading down from the heavens. The thunder is screaming war cries at the walls where the Prime Minister of Italy hides within. Benito Mussolini, clad in black, walks ever closer, followed by his legion of fascist followers who want him to have power.

60,000 people are clad in black and wearing skull masks, wearing the symbols of Nazi Germany and fascism with great pride. They were there to take the head of anybody who dared to oppose them. The Luftwaffe[2] planes flew over; the bombs were ready to be dropped. A red plane, covered in unclear writing, hovered over the city,

A rooster walked up to Mussolini. No one else seemed to see it. Of the 60,000 people behind him, not one person even glanced at the rooster. “Fjalar[3] was inscribed on its body. It stared at Mussolini, before wandering off.

****

One explosion after another.

There was an orchestra of chaos playing as bombs continued to explode, followed by screams streaming from the trenches. The noises seemed to follow some elaborate pattern.

“This is music for them, the fascists, they live off it,” José said, wading through the thick mud in the trenches. The screams behind them were almost perpetual, the people dying one by one, the two soldiers knowing that they could not look back, not even for a second, or they would join them.

They had escaped with their lives. They had to keep running until they had got behind Republican lines. The Republican army had lost another battle in their war for democracy.

“We are being moved to Madrid next,” Domènec said.

****

27th March 1939. Rome. Mussolini arrived at an airport to board a plane headed for Madrid. Military planes stood either side of him. On the planes, “Aviazione Legionaria”[4], was engraved on the wing, along with flag of “Regno d’Italia”[5], as if it was a tattoo to prove loyalty.

Mussolini turned to his soldiers.

“My brave soldiers, we have many battles ahead of us. We will destroy this world, we will set it alight and reduce it to dust, and out of the ashes create a new one in our image. A world filled with peace and prosperity. We will unite this new world with our beliefs” Mussolini roared at his soldiers.

Mussolini turned away from his soldiers. He had seen the injured soldiers who were lucky to escape, the coffins of those who were not, being lifted off the plane.

Behind him, in the airport, were posters looking outward towards the tarmac, “informing” them about the “evil” Jewish pople. Joseph Goebbel, the Minister of propaganda for Nazi Germany, was talking to people about the poster, attempting to convince the people that the Jewish people and also the Spanish Republicans were the cause of the Wall Street crash and the great depression. Mussolini’s followers stood behind Goebbel, wearing the skull masks, as if to force the Italian people into believing his lies.

One man, who tried to argue with Goebbel, was shot instantly by the men behind. No hesitation. No second-thought. The man’s cross fell into the puddle of his blood.

Goebbel looked at the dead man while he continued his speech, hesitating before continuing.

In another area of the airport, General Mario Robotti, Commander of the Italian 11th division, was teaching a group of new soldiers about Mussolini.

“Mussolini has the body and the face of a soldier, but what separates him from us is his mind; he sees and understands things that we can only dream of. That is the difference between us and him. That is why he is our God, our leader,said Robotti.

****

28th March 1939. Madrid.

“Three years,” Domènec said. “Our people have defended Madrid for three years but it seems we may lose”.

The two men had arrived at a graveyard. Having not yet been decided a position, they  visited their fallen comrades’ graves.

A flash of red.

And another rooster appeared, pecking at each gravestone, as if it was trying to rouse the dead beneath it. José didn’t seem to notice but Domènec was transfixed. But this time, the rooster ignored him, more fascinated by the graveyard around him. This rooster had no name inscribed on it. Domènec remembered an old poem he learnt as a child in school. He could only remember a part of it:

Sat þar á haugi
Oc sló hörpo
gýgiar hirðir,
glaðr Eggþér;
gól um hánom
í gaglviði
fagrrauðr hani,
sá er Fialarr heitir[6]

Gól um ásom
Gullinkambi,
Sa vecr hölða
At Herjaföðrs;
enn annarr gelr
fyr iörð neðan,
sótrauðr hani,
at sölom Heliar[7]

A few hours later, the two men were placed at the River Manzanares, back in the trench.

Domènec’s cross was no longer around his neck; it was buried deep in the trench mud of the last battle, along with the bodies of the soldiers.

The guns began to fire, the perpetual noise of the first battle repeating itself, as if Domènec and José were in some kind of loop. Even from deep in the trenches, they could still see some of the people standing on the opposite side: Hitler and his Nazi soldiers were there. So were the Italians, although Mussolini was nowhere to be seen.

A gas bomb was thrown into the trench. One man caught in the gas began to cough repeatedly, his body slowly sagging and folding as the coughing grew ever weaker.

Then there was the faint clicking noise he knew all too well already. His hands lay by his side; the cross was missing. He heard something said in Italian before blood again fell. This time it was Domènec’s own blood. His world grew darker as the thunder set ablaze the dark clouds. As his vision blurred, he managed a brief glimpse at a large hammer, covered in markings that could not be man-made, buried under the dirt. “Surely not…that would be ridiculous,” Domènec murmered, smirking.

Mussolini removed his skull mask from his face, cleaned the blood off his gun and left the body on the ground. He spared a moment to feel remorse over shooting Domènec, but only for a second.

“The leader of a nation cannot waste time feeling remorseful”, Mussolini said, as if to reaffirm his resolve to fight. He glanced at the hammer and rolled his eyes.

A red plane flew over the area, dropping bombs that exploded into small, almost white flames, evaporating the river’s water instantly and carving open land. Surtr[8] was inscribed on the wing.

On the body of the plane, more writing was inscribed:

Sutr ferr sunnan

með sviga lævi:

skinn af sverði

sól valtiva[9].

The Republican soldiers trembled at the presence of Mussolini and Hitler. A cloud hovered over the battlefield, casting a shadow over the soldiers.

The Gods were ready to pass judgment on the Republican’s souls.

Zyklon B[10] was thrown into the trenches as Hitler muttered under his breath:

“This is the beginning of Ragnarok”.[11]

Thunder. A hammer. These thoughts were the only things going through Domènec’s head. His curiosity was preserving his life. He did not know why he was still alive.He dragged himself closer to the hammer until he could grab it.

The hammer didn’t move. No movement at all.

A figure appeared behind the Domènec, his armour covering his entire body. A sword and shield.  Domènec knew him all too well already. Haldor[12] Caballero, an army general, nicknamed “The miracle” after somehow surviving World War 1  with only a sword and shield, no guns.

He picked up Domènec and the hammer simultaneously. No effort at all. “Is this hammer yours?” Haldor asked, confused. He began to run back towards the army base, carrying Domènec and the hammer, along with the weight of his own armour and weapons while explosions were happening everywhere around him.

He then suddenly stopped running and started to walk, the explosions seemingly not bothering him. Haldor’s demeanor had drastically changed after holding the hammer, he whispered to Domènec.

“This war is not over, child. My father, Odin[13], has blessed your people.

Back in Tarragona, it began to rain. The rooster, Gullinkambi, picked Domènec’s cross up out of the mud, the rain washing the blood and dirt off of the cross.

 

[1] Means the “All knower”. Warns all the giants that Ragnarok has begun.

[2] German air force

[3] Warns all the gods that Ragnarok has begun

[4] Legionary air force

[5] Kingdom of Italy

[6] Part of the old Norse poem Völuspá. Translation – The giant’s watchman, joyful Eggthér, Sits on his hillock and harps well; the red cock, called Fjalarr, boldly crows from Gallows wood

[7] Part of the old Norse poem Völuspá. Translation= Gullinkambi sung at the Aesir’s place, who wakes the Armies Father’s warriors: A soot red rooster also calls from Hel’s hall, deep under the ground.

[8] A Jötunn, a giant, in Norse mythology. a major figure in Ragnarok who engulfs the world in flames

[9] Part art of the old Norse poem Völuspá – Translation: Surtr moves from the south, with the scathe of branches: there shines from his sword, the sun of Gods of the Slain.

[10] Zyklon B: Used in gas chambers during the Holocaust

[11] “Judgement of the Gods”. Norse mythology, the doom of the Gods and the humans, a cycle where the world is destroyed and reborn

[12] From the Old Norse name Hallþórr, which means “Thor’s rock”

[13] Odin was the most prominent god in Norse mythology, and the father of Thor

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