Kirche
rating: +23+x

The German Border, near Dresden
February 15th, 1945

Calling them members of a charitable foundation was half-right.

The instant the bombs stopped on the fifteenth, a platoon from Prague — Baker-Six-Six, aka "Rare Mediums" — had been deployed to Dresden. They were relatively close, barely an hour and a half away. The Yanks had decided to take the Axis from two ends, and as such, bombed both Prague and Dresden, so a good part of B66 was behind aiding in recovery efforts and trying to prevent things from getting even worse.

Officially, they represented the "Allied Relief for Victims of the Conflict in the European Theater Foundation", and they had all the trappings of it; fake documentation, supply trucks full of emergency rations and water filtration, bandages for the wounded.

Dresden was close to both the southern and eastern borders, and they were desperate for any kind of relief, for fear that the Soviets would come in from the east and deal them the killing blow.

Anastazie Dvorak kept her head down as they passed through the checkpoint; too often in the occupied zones, she had been stopped because of her 'Jewish eyes', whatever that meant. someone else had told her that it was a perverse compliment, and that it meant that they wanted to take advantage of you.

Her handler, a kind Ukranian man who she just called Humphrey — because he looked so much like Humphrey Bogart — had finished talking to the German at the checkpoint, and soon, they were bound towards Dresden. It was a fair distance into the country, still, another half-hour.

"Are you all right, Ana?" Humphrey asked. His Czech was passable, at most, but she could hold a conversation with him.

"Yes, thank you." She swallowed, looking towards the northern horizon. "…I feel so much sadness from there. So much loss. They're saying twenty-thousand dead?"

"Two-hundred thousand, Ana." He glanced at the driver of the transport, and then looked back at her. "But word is that the Fuhrer is inflating the figures. I'm sure it's far less than that!" He had a genuine smile on his face, hiding his own unease.

"…they're lying again, then." She felt at her uniform; a nurse's garb, for their cover. "Why do they lie about the number of deaths? It's dangerous and will induce panic."

"I think they know that," Humphrey said, looking north with her. "I just don't think they care."

He didn't have the same sensitivity that Ana did. He couldn't talk to the dead. He couldn't cause spots of cold. He wouldn't faint or scream in the presence of death and destruction. He was just there to make sure she was kept safe.

But you can't kill something that's already dead with a bullet. He clutched his Bible in his breast pocket.


The bombing had stopped at half-past noon. By the time they got there, it was almost five o'clock. The city was dead silent, except for the burning of the flames in the distance, and the sound of the trucks. Every now and again, they would see clothing sticking from the rubble. Ana tried not to think about it. She just focused on the pain she heard.

This city would forever have a psychic scar on it. Even if the wounds were to heal, the mind of this city would be forever concussed, shellshocked. After ten, fifty, one-hundred years, there would still be something in this city to remind the people of Germany — and the world — of what happened here.

"What the hell?" someone asked in Czech. It was the driver, who she called Clark, after Clark Gable; he had the same voice as the actor. "Her ears are bleeding."

"Dammit." Humphrey reached forward to dab at her ears with a handkerchief. "That bad?"

Ana nodded. "The worst yet. Remember Trafalgar Square, four years ago?"

"You wouldn't stop seizing," Humphrey nodded, taking out a white pill and a bottle of water, offering both to her. "Kept saying the children there could taste the war rations, and they were hungry for chocolate."

"Yes." She nodded. Ana took the pill placed it under her tongue, and swallowed it with some water. "It… it wasn't good."

The truck came to a stop. "We're here," Clark said, stepping out of the cab. "I recognize the building."

They stepped out onto the street, in front of what had once been some form of church. It could barely be recognized as one; only a few walls were left, and in the center, some rubble of what had once been the dome and spire. The chancel was the largest part left standing, all dark stone; whether the surroundings smouldered in such a way that it looked dark, or if it was naturally that way, none could tell. The altar, somehow, was mostly intact.

Clark looked at the photograph they had been given, then at the remains of the church, then waved Ana over to inspect it. She herself had taken the picture, with a special camera; 'spirit photography' she called it. It depicted the remains of the church, with dozens, if not at least one-hundred, black-eyed, pale beings looking at the camera. It had frighted her, the Foundation, and the New Dawn Initiative enough to come and find it.

"Who are they?" Humphrey asked, disembarking from the back of the transport.

"I don't know." Her hand balled up in her uniform. "Better question might be what are they. You've heard reports from where Husiatyn Woods used to be? Black-eyed men being seen in the remnants?"

"Then why could you see it?" Clark looked at her, worried. "You said your gift only works on ghosts."

"I'm not— oh." Ana's balance failed, and she leaned against the chancel. "…oh god."

"What is it?" Humphrey rushed to her side, supporting her.

"Someone… someone's underneath. Screaming. Screaming. They're dead and they're screaming. Oh…" She sat down in the rubble, and started crying. Her voice changed, distorted, into first a child's, then a man's, speaking in German.

"Vater, vater, bitte, es heiß! Es schmerzt! Vater!"

"Alec, schließe deine Augen, mein Bärchen… schleiße deine Augen…" She broke down crying in a masculine voice. "That's what they're saying. They burned to death, in the chapel. They were seeking solace. And they died." She began bleeding from the mouth.

"God in Heaven…" Humphrey looked back at the truck, at Clark, and at the half-a-dozen agents that had stayed there. He said, in English, then Ukranian, "Don't just stand there! Let's dig this up!"

The various agents — all men, all soldiers of some form, whether under the New Dawn or the Foundation — all took up pickaxes meant for removing the rubble. "Where do we dig?" Humphrey asked Ana, holding onto her.

"Crypt… they burnt in the crypt…" She looked skyward, at the setting sun. The heat from the freshly-bombed city had made her forget it was winter. The sun was setting so fast.

"Petros!" — Humphrey was addressing Clark here, in Ukranian — "Get on the radio and check with the other teams. See if any of the other mediums are having a reaction like this."

"Yes, sir." Clark ran back to the transport, speaking into the radio.

Ana, eventually, was able to stand. "…give me a pick."

"Are you sure?" Humprhey asked. "You look like you could fall at any moment."

"I have to see them," she growled. "It is the only way I can put them to rest and get them to stop screaming."

The rubble beneath their feet shifted in a motion violent enough to knock one of the diggers on his front. Everyone stopped to look at it, suddenly afraid of what they would find under the ruins of the church should they continue digging. For something dead to move rubble that extremely required a lot of pain, and a lot of anger.


Ana had taken a break after they had set up the work lights. A few civilians had stopped by and offered their services in the excavation; while grateful, they were turned away with emergency food, water, and supplies. They were masquerading as an aid organization, so they had pitched some tents for those who could find them to sleep under.

The church, as it turned out, was a landmark. A younger couple who had survived the blasts had come by for food and mourned how they were to be wed in it in March. Humphrey — being a New Dawn Initiative pastor — had offered to wed them on the spot, so he was off doing that. Something good could come of this, at least.

They were sitting in the cool of the night air, winter suddenly creeping back into the devastated Dresden. They hoped that snow would not come, or else it would mask the cold spots that the mediums in B66 often relied on to detect spirit activity.

The rubble shifted again. It kept getting closer to the altar, and the vestments on it were starting to shake. It was a miracle that it had managed to survive when the rest of it had been burned to the ground. The stone didn't melt, but it was hot enough that everything supporting it broke down.

"I hate Americans," Ana concluded, muttering in Czech so that the Americans from the Foundation wouldn't hear it. "I hate that they can destroy a city like this for no reason."

The rubble shifted once more. Ana jumped, as she was at the back of the chancel, and it had come almost at her feet. She carefully walked around it, and called to Humphrey, "It's gotten to the back!"

"What has?" he called in return.

"The…" she knew he didn't know the Czech word, so she managed, in English, "Ah-nom-ah-li!"

Humphrey directed his crew to dig towards the back; while they had unearthed several pews, no evidence of the crypt was found. They were moving from the front of the church to the chancel, methodically; in hindsight, they should have done it the opposite way.

The picks and shovels came down, lifting away the rubble and beginning to reveal a depression underneath. Ana swooned again. "It's… down there."

"There?"

"Yes," she gritted her teeth. "I hear them. Their eyes are black… they were burnt by fire. All of their eyes. Their skin was covered in ash as it was burned through, and their eyes… they boiled. Oh god alive, they boiled as they died." She ran toward the rubble, and began digging through it with her bare hands. "Let me in!"

"Ana!" Humphrey tried restraining her. "What the devil—"

"I can only put them to rest if I can see their bodies! Let me in! Please!"

"Ana, let the men work—"

They did not need to work much further. The debris exploded outwards, a small chunk of stone grazing the medium's temple as she recoiled from the blast. She clutched the wound on her head and stared at the dust and stone going down a set of stairs; fragments of wood were around it, no doubt the doorway that led into the crypt.

"I'm going down," Ana declared. Before there could be any protests, she had vanished down the stairs.


The crypt was quiet enough that Ana could hear her bones creak, and the blood going through her veins. She could hear the little sacs in her lungs expand and contract as she continued down the tunnel.

She could almost hear the men of B66 behind her, protesting her descent, but she kept onward. She forced her mind to open; the amount of psychic force in this city had made it seal itself like a door welded shut. She destroyed the welds, and leaned against a wall, shocked by what she had seen around her.

There were 432 souls here. She could feel every single one in her head, and she counted them in an instant. Men, women, children, all of them German. "Where are your bodies?" she asked. "Please, I have to put you to rest."

432 pale hands pointed in different, nonsensical directions; some up to the ceiling, some into the walls, others through themselves. She walked on the floor of the crypt, forward, towards the spirit of a child. She expected her foot to hit something; a burned chunk of flesh, some incinerated clothing, a brooch, a toy, anything. Any clue to tell her where the bodies were.

Instead, she found nothing. She groped along the floor, feeling for any sign of human life. Eventually, she found something: a ticket to a play, dated February 10th. Five days ago. It was unburned.

Ana's eyes widened. There were no remains, just debris, from survivors, people who had evacuated the structure. She looked up at the spirits, tears in her eyes. "I'm so sorry," she said, standing against the wall. "I can't help you. You never existed. I can't put you to rest."

There was a mass of confusion from the spirits, a murmur, a mumble. How could they not exist? They remembered their lives, their names, their…

…their…

The spirits screamed as Ana sprinted up the steps, echoing their pitiful wail. They never lived, so how could they ever die, ever pass on?


"They didn't exist?" Humphrey asked as he set up his cot. They had made some sort of camp among the rubble, and refugees were coming in to seek warmth, food, and shelter. "That doesn't make sense."

"…Hitler is inflating the figures, you said?" Ana swallowed. "If… if enough Germans — no, if enough people believe that two-hundred thousand souls died here, then… two-hundred thousand souls, who lack bodies, who have always lacked bodies, are going to exist."

"That's insane," Humphrey frowned. "That would mean that, every time a death is falsified, every time a statistic is hyperbolic…"

"…more ghosts exist than the dead." Ana curled up on her cot. "And it's going to get worse. Even if the war is ending, if Germany will soon surrender… Dresden, and the world, will be left with scars for generations." She looked back at Humphrey. "This is the New Dawn you people are facing. This is what is creeping over the horizon. A world where three, maybe four ghosts exist for every body. Not just here. In Russia, the Ukraine, Spain, England, France, Poland… even America. The world will be haunted by the actions of all. Axis and Ally, Foundation and fiend." She pulled a blanket over herself.

"Can humanity live with that, Bernard?"

Bernard Kostyshyn looked towards the horizon, where the moon was rising over the rubble. He would never be able to answer this question.

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