Flash Friday – The second in the “flash fiction” series.

Fleet_Air_Arm_Attack_a_U-boat,_during_a_Convoy_To_Russia,_3_April_1944_A22859

Flash fiction is defined as a story of extreme brevity. It’s often given as a challenge with either a theme or having to include specific words in the text. I’m setting the limit at 500 words maximum. If you want to join in – post a story and a photo if you have a suitable one, in the comments. I’ll change the challenge each week.

This week – The topic is Reluctance

The iron sights of the gunner’s position fell squarely over the conning tower of the submarine. Johnny Markam’s training told him to squeeze the double-handed triggers and send searing cannon shells into the mass of men crowded atop the stricken vessel. Yet he hesitated. The intercom, its static hiss a constant companion to his freezing backside and numb hands, crackled with the voice of his aircraft captain.

“Gunner, what are you waiting for?”

Johnny didn’t answer. The aircraft banked around, maintaining his direct line of sight to those below. Still he held his hands steady, triggers unused.

There was no fire coming up at him. The deck-mounted anti-aircraft gun was a mass of twisted steel from where a depth charge had hit. That had been a good drop, Johnny reflected. They had seen a periscope, estimated a position and loosed a stick of five. Right on target. Pretty good considering they hadn’t really practised much with the new dispenser. First mission using it, first U-boat sunk. Only it wasn’t sunk was it? It had come to the surface and wasn’t fit to submerge, but she could still limp home. Back to the French pens, repaired, refitted. Able to renew her assault on Allied shipping.

“Gunner! What the bloody hell are you playing at? Are your guns jammed? Are they?”

Johnny wondered how many ships she’d sunk before they’d caught her. Was her Kapitän a Wolfpack ace? Was he one of their famed warriors of the deep? Was he a fanatical Nazi just baying for the blood of the Englanders?

Who knew? Who would ever know? Some on board might be fascists, but some might just be kids, drafted in to do the bidding of their masters. Of their master race. Sent out on her to sink the light of the world.

“Gunner!”

“Johnny!”

“Markam! Are you injured? Talk to me you bastard.”

But it might not be a her. They didn’t call all their ships by a feminine descriptor like the Royal Navy did. It depended on the name. The Bismarck had been a he. What on earth would you do that for? They really were a weird and mixed up bunch.

“For fuck’s sake Johnny, speak to me.”

They’d even banned Jazz. How screwed up was that? His sister had told him when she came back from Berlin, before all this madness kicked off. Who in their right mind would ban Jazz? Seriously, what moron would do that? The aircraft banked again. Johnny had played trumpet before he played machine guns. He felt the tightness in his jaw, the stiffness in his shoulders. Why would anyone ban music? Who would do that? What type of savage? What complete bastards. How dare they.

“Johnn-“

He played the guns and the staccato clattering of a thousand shells sounded like a Trad Jazz drum solo.

“Sorry Captain. Bit of intercom trouble. I think that’s finished them. Shall we go home now?”

UBoat Sunderland

Ian Andrew is the author of the alternative history novel A Time To Every Purposethe detective thrillers Face Value and Flight Path and the Little Book of Silly Rhymes & Odd Verses. All are available in e-book and paperback. Follow him on social media:

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Photos courtesy of the Imperial War Museum Fleet Air Arm collections and RCAF.
http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205187007