I’m the only one left of my squad. I don’t know why—am I immune to the Americans’ bioweapon? The doctors aren’t living long enough to find out why. The exposure is killing them too. They’ve disinfected me and they’ll send me home on a UK ship with the few soldiers lucky enough not to have been attacked with the disease. Until them, I’m in quarantine at the refinery. If the Americans return now, I’ll probably die. It doesn’t matter if I do. The invasion is aborted and I’d just be coming home a failure.
It is deathly silent here tonight, and so dark. Nobody will come near this place but me. Even Commander Rojas won’t venture in, but that’s fine. I need the silence like I need air and I need to hide the graves so they won’t be desecrated when the refinery is taken back.
I want to say a prayer for them, tell a joke like the Lischke sister would have wanted, or promise Radnitz I’ll make his death sound more dignified than it was when I deliver the news to our family, but I can’t. My words are too heavy and sink down into my chest like iron. I can’t even cry for them.
The ship arrives tomorrow. More keep dying and I wonder why I’m the one who had to live and see it all. The only hope I have left is that Petty Officer Henschel was successful in being taken captive and infecting the enemy. She always protected us. It seems so like her to avenge us in her final moments.
All we wanted was to force them to make negotiations so we could end the crisis. Was a single refinery so important, to resort to something so monstrous? What will I tell Emilie when I come home? All these months she worried over me, pointless. What will she think when she learns just how cruel war is—how cruel they are?
As I watch from the deck of the UK ship, I feel a sense of cruel satisfaction I would have hated myself for not long ago. I know what I’ve done will not ease the crisis. Oil is finite and we can’t afford to lose any of it. People at home will suffer its loss. I don’t care. They burned my dear friends. I’m only returning their evil back to them. A hot wind blows towards the sea and sends a dizzying whiff of smoke and burning petroleum over the ship. The horizon of Corpus Christi is like a crimson sunset below heavy, black storm clouds.
Was it worth it, plague-rats? Go ahead and reclaim your oil refinery now!
– A powerful ending to The Birkenhain Journal. Glacaus historian Sarah Driffill did a great service in preserving and translating this important historical document. While there are other accounts of the events leading up to the Collapse, I find this personal, anonymous account strangely powerful and touching. It saddens me to think that this unnamed soldier may have been the carrier that brought the Plague of Fire to Europe.