Enter the Darkness
6 June, 1980
The apartment was small but comfortable and looked like a hundred others crammed into the dozen standard issue buildings lined up like soldiers waiting for inspection along streets that were straighter than anything nature intended. And all of the streets looked the same. They all had the same playground between every second and third apartment buildings. They all had the same dark green dumpsters parked out front. They all had the same picnic tables between every first and second apartment buildings, one building down from the playgrounds. And at both ends of each street was a bus stop. Everything looked like it came out of some manual the government had developed during the 1950's and followed until modern thinkers began infiltrating certain sections of the Department of Defense and began pointing out that dependents of military personnel were not actually in the military and could use a little variety.
I grew up in the time warp that was Cold War Europe. Except for a few visits to the motherland brief enough to make me dread coming to America, I grew up an Army brat. Shipped from one U. S. military base to another, mom, dad, and I lived the high life of the enlisted military family. Yeah, right!
I was born in a city most Americans never heard of in a country most Americans couldn't find on a map if they were given three lifelines. I went to schools where, shudder to think, the U. S. was the good guy and all of our enemies were the bad guys. I watched t. v. with only one channel and learned to either watch what was on or go outside and entertain myself. I look back on those days of the Cold War, when everybody was still terrified that someone somehow would manage to blow up the world, as the good old days.
I went from the Cold War to the Dark War in the blink of an eye.
But I am getting ahead of myself. This particular story began in the gloomy days of American dejection. 1980. I was young enough that I don't remember much but my dad told me the story later, when I finally got brave enough to ask about certain fuzzy memories. We were on some backwater base in the hills of southern West Germany. Dad was in intelligence and often would be gone for weeks at a time. I kind of liked that. Mom and I would play dolls or bake cookies or paint pictures for daddy. Those were the days when it was still alright to be a little girl. Those were the days when monsters went away if daddy looked under the bed and in the closet. The days when boo-boos could be made all better by a kiss from mommy. My little girl days ended on 6 June, 1980.
I had nagged my mother for nearly two hours that morning to take me out on a picnic. Little did I know that she already had everything packed for one and was just teasing me. Lunchtime came around and we took the picnic basket and headed for the meadow that sat full of wildflowers between our housing development and the two-lane road which led to the only real military base around, a minor Air Force base that saw little in the way of aircraft. We unpacked everything onto a solid blue blanket and ate salami and cheese sandwiches, potato salad, and cookies. When we were done, mommy pulled out a pair of kites and two reels of string. I remember clapping and hugging her tight. I loved kites. We spent the rest of the afternoon flying kites and picking flowers, braiding them into each other's dark hair.
My last clear memory of my mother was looking at her with a swelling of love and a feeling of security. She looked beautiful in her yellow summer dress, blue and yellow and red flowers woven into her dark brown hair. Her pale skin seemed to shine in the last rays of the sun as it set behind the hills to the west, creating instant darkness under the stand of trees that ran in a wave along the southwestern edge of the meadow. She smiled at me, pointing with her free hand up at the speck that was her kite. That smile, those blue eyes full of love for me, was always how I remembered her. It was the last time I would remember seeing her face.
What happened next either happened too fast for me to comprehend or was too horrible for my young mind to allow me to recall. The next thing I remember was the bald headed man kneeling over me, his sword dripping a fluid so dark it looked black. He was dressed in a long robe, sort of like a Franciscan monk's habit. Its dark brown cloth was splashed with the fluid and behind him were three crumpled forms bleeding on mommy's blanket.
"Do not look, my young Kämpfer," he said in English with a voice which I found so soothing I felt myself instantly relaxing. His breath smelled minty as he spoke to me in that soothing voice, me only understanding about every fourth word of the German he spoke as he tied a length of cloth torn from his robe around my upper arm. Then his English returned. "This will heal quickly and you will remember nothing of this. In time, I or one of my brethren will explain to you what has happened, but for now you must only remember that you are in danger. Your instincts will save you until you are ready."
I frowned up at him, suddenly realizing my arm hurt really badly. I wanted mommy to kiss it better. "Ich nicht verstehe. Where is my mommy?" I demanded, my voice getting shrill and the world starting to look liquidy with my unshed tears.
A warm, rough hand stroked my auburn hair, my pale, freckled cheek. Soothing. "I must put you to sleep now. When you awake, you will only remember being hit on the arm. You will tell the policemen only that. You will remember nothing else. Now ... sleep," he whispered, gently pushing me into the flowers.
Of course, I did not remember any of that for more than a decade. I was a good little girl. That was the last time I was a good little girl. I don't know if it was something he did to me, or maybe it was something already inside me that my mother's death brought out, but from that day on I seemed to look for trouble. And I had no problems finding it.
When I awoke, I was surrounded by flashing lights, murmuring people from the housing development, and many more uniformed Army and Air Force guys than Donaus-Ursprung had ever seen. It was dark and there were also several guys in nice, dark suits. Two of them were German. When they saw me begin to sit up on the litter near the ambulance, they converged on me. The doctor made a passive attempt to protect me from them and then fled under the weight of what I would later find out is the "fed stare."
"Where's my mommy?" I asked in a weak voice, my memory having completely cooperated with the now-unknown bald man. My arm was now throbbing, sending tears trailing down my pale face. "I want my mommy!"
"Do you know what happened, little girl?" one of the more intrepid feds asked, the two Germans and more than one of the American feds shrinking back from my tearful face and pitiful demand.
I was now getting scared. I may not have remembered what happened but I was a smart little four year old and I knew that when adults ignored tears it either meant you did something bad or someone else did. The tears began pouring down my face and I began screaming for my mother. Several of my neighbors started yelling at both the fed trying to question me and the soldiers keeping them from comforting me. They seemed to know what was going on.
Then the most unexpected thing happened. My daddy came to rescue me! He had been gone for nearly a week on another of his secret trips. Usually he can't be found quickly or conveniently. Only mommy and I got to go to grandma's funeral when she died last fall because he wasn't found in time. But here he was, pushing the mean feds away from me and scooping me up in his strong arms. He was crying too, but that made no difference to me. My daddy saved me from that day!
"Sergeant McKiernan, you..." the fed started when daddy whirled and glared at him. Daddy had a great glare.
I don't remember much else. Daddy later told me that the doctor snuck up behind me with a needle full of something to make me sleep. The next day, when I woke up at Mrs. Johnson's house, he told me about mommy. I cried.