My numb feet swelled in my boots as I squatted with the others in the frozen mud.
McCombs had scrounged some charcoal somewhere and made a fire in a 305mm Skoda shell the Germans left behind when they retreated.
We crowded around its scant heat, holding over the flames our tins of bully-beef skewered on bayonets.
Everybody had snipers deployed all along the lines, so our chief amusement was putting a helmet atop a stick and waving it above the trench wall.
We’d take bets on how long before it was shot through.
This seldom took longer than a half-minute.
They rowed by the sprawling house with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the lake.
“Pretty deluxe,” he said, resting his oars as they drifted. “Place like that set you back two million at least.”
“I’ve never seen anyone in it,” she said, shading her eyes. “Just the caretaker mowing the lawn.”
“Must be nice,” he said.
Over the months they kept an eye on it, even made a bet about when they might see the owners. They never did.
It was she who first noticed the windows. “All that fantastic view, yet the shades are drawn tight.”
“Must be a story there.”
Anyone less on the ball might have missed it, but Henry wasn’t one of those. Sheeple he called them, gullible consumers of whatever garbage was slaked in front of them, be it TV shows or sports or fast food.
Henry stayed one step ahead of them.
It wasn’t until the last payphone had been ripped out that he surrendered his pager, opting for a decade-old flip phone.
Even so, he knew they were watching him, probably more closely than before because he wasn’t on the rest of their grid.
But at least he hadn’t found any trackers in his walls.
Always the fear of waiting. Will they come? Will they forget me?
They never forget, of course. Yet this feeling of dread gets stronger with every passing year, seems to grow inside her as though her brain is swelling inside her skull, pressing into it, striving to escape.
She becomes obsessed with ritual, counts her footfalls, takes notice of birds. She avoids using the verb to be in any form, as though naming a thing will give it shape, make it real.
Soon she avoids talking altogether.
But still the formless fear grows to fill her.
She becomes furtive, watchful.