Illustration by Margaret Price
Moscow, Soviet Union
The soldier who had been misfortunate enough to be chosen to keep watch over an unrecognizable heap of a body stamped his feet in a vain attempt to ward off the cold. Why he had to freeze his ass off babysitting a corpse, he had no idea. It wasn’t as if the poor sod was going to run off before the proper authorities turned up.
Stamping his feet again, he was glad that it was still daylight. At least he could smoke a cigarette while he waited for someone—anyone—official to appear. He looked at the malformed mass of flesh at his feet and shuddered, moving closer to the wall and out of the biting wind. He had heard the rumors of maniacs roaming the streets, taking advantage of the war to wreak havoc on the city. Rumors that had been verified as true in a very tangible way that afternoon when he and his buddies literally stumbled across this poor unfortunate.
The proper authorities arrived after what seemed like forever. It was probably only half an hour, but in the bitter cold it might as well have been a month. The soldier stepped aside but could not help but linger, his curiosity aroused when he overheard someone say that this was the second body to appear under mysterious circumstances and in such a state.
Someone noticed the soldier hovering, and he feared he was about to be reprimanded for not leaving right away. Instead, he was asked to assist in crowd control. Crowd control? In this weather?
Nevertheless, his curiosity had been piqued and he was glad for an excuse to remain close at hand. Then further surprises came to light. The man’s clothing was of a type no one had ever seen before. Moreover, his identity papers were undoubtedly bad forgeries, as the year of his birth was given as 1944. Obviously, that should have been 1904.
That was until they looked at his other documents. His money. All with dates…decades in the future. Was this a joke? A body with false identity papers left as a taunt. Why?
When the body was finally loaded into a truck and taken away, the watching soldier was dismissed. He left the scene, heading straight for the nearest bar. He had the sudden urge to get so drunk that he couldn’t remember his own name. Then perhaps he would be able to forget what he had just witnessed.
It was difficult enough to accept death at the front lines. There, at least, it was expected. But this. This was very disconcerting, and he found himself thinking that returning to the front might not be such a bad thing after all.
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