I held my cap with my left hand and in my right hand was a bouquet of Rose flowers. I stared hard at the transparent glass screen. I couldn’t believe what l was seeing. She was arranging her ammunition slowly like a Robot. When l stood close to get a better view, she was fixing a barrel into the barrel well of an M16–series Rifle. Towards her left on the wooden table was a rocket launcher and a couple of grenades. I dropped the bouquet on a table nearby and walked to our resident Doctor in our base in Berlin.
“ why is she still in there?” l asked and gestured with my left hand at the assembly room where the only thing between me and her was the transparent screen. We were on a brief break and it was so strange to see her working at that time.
“ Colonel, you haven’t heard about it?” He coughed and took a lace handkerchief from his breast pocket.
“ The assault was successful, but as you can see…….”
“ Tell me what happened, l can see!” l shouted at the Russian doctor. He was startled by my hoarse voice. Maria dropped the Rifle, as if she was aware of our presence, then she continued with her task.
“ When she was launching the missiles something happened, l think that was the reason. Look Colonel Ajayi you can ask her friend. They were there Together during the air raid. She would tell you all you need to know. For now, Maria is still gathering
Suddenly a fiendish Anger got hold of me and l gripped the babbling Russian. I pulled him closer by his collar and stared hard at him.
“ What happened to her, what is she gathering. “ l asked in a soft but scary voice l use often whenever l was addressing a Junior in the Army.
“ She ar……ar……. She is mentally unstable at the moment. you should see the video records of the flight during the air assault on the Stasi. To get her back into her normal self, things she did before that flight should be repeated and her friends should visit her now” he said. I released his collar and gazed at the transparent screen.
“ she would be normal. Just give her some time. Are you close to her? “ The Russian asked. A nod was the reply l gave.
“ If you made her upset the last time you met her, please don’t go inside. You might destroy the scaffolding of hope we’ve been building since yesterday” He said and left. I walked to the wooden door. The knob was cold. I was about to pull it when l felt a soft pat on my shoulder. I turned slowly. It was Lucien, the American soldier in charge of the joint wing of Air assault in our base.
“ Good morning Ajayee” the American said, in his funny accent. I gave him a dry smile. He sniffed and gripped my shoulder. As if he was reading my mind , he said:
“ She would be fine. I think you should watch the video records of the raid. Man that gal is so brave”
I beamed. This was no strange comment. Maria was a trained volunteer from Croatia. We met during the recruitment of fresh pilots for the six-month training on how to fly military helicopters. She was on my team. And if you can remember, the second World War was no joke and the Germans were fierce, so we required more hands to claim more territories. She was in my team and what l had for her was nothing more than pure admiration. No strings attached.
“ It would nice if she can remember you. Your date with her would be nice,” he said and walked down the corridor. I smiled at My friend and opened the door.
“ Good morning Maria,” l said and walked closer to the wooden table. She dropped the draft pad she was holding and pulled out a map from a bag close to her.
She gazed at me as if l was an Alien from Mars. She took a divider and fixed it on the map.
“ Good morning “ she answered. I was surprised. Being my favourite Junior, this reply of hers was so strange , it was like a Pierce of a sharp needle.
“ l am Ajayi” l said and held out my hand. “ Kako si ?”**
She dropped the divider and shook my hand. I was relieved and my spirit rose from the dark abyss l fell into after l heard of her present state from the Russian.
“ How can l help you,” she said and smiled at me. I smile was Angelic and Da Vinci himself would confuse her for Mona Lisa if he saw her.
“ How was the flight ?” l asked, feeling stupid. She looked at me and brushed the curls of her gold coloured hair.
“ It was nice, we shot a lot of German birds during the raids. their pilots were good. And we blew two of their Antennas. “ she said. Even in her current state, the part of her that l knew so well was radiating. She was a proud professional.
“ And by the way, what is your name?” she asked. I was awestruck by her question.
What part of me is fading? I thought. What part of me in her memory is she remembering and which is she losing?
“ my name is Ajayi. Your instructor”.
She scratched her chin and pulled her map closer.
Is she thinking?
“ I don’t know you, but you resemble an African l know in Croatia. Are you Luke?”
“ No” l replied feeling dejected. My spirit went to its nadir. I knew l was lost somewhere in her past. l didn’t know how long it would take her to visit those places we met in her mind, and that is if they still existed in the archives of her memory. I decided to visit the Data analysis room to see the video that captured the moment everyone was talking about.
“ Bye,” l said and walked slowly out of the Assembly room. When l got Data Analysis, the video of the flight was playing. The soldiers were so focused on the video that they didn’t notice my presence. I sniffed and dragged a chair, which l sat on.
“ Guten Morgen,” a German ally said and saluted.
“ Good morning” l replied. If it was a good day, l would have replied my German comrade in the German language. The thought of Maria’s state of mind had changed my mood. My hate towards Germans and the war increased.
“ Play the video again” l ordered. A German stood and pressed the red button of the recorder. I trained my eyes on the screen, then the scene unfolded.
Maria was the first to start the raid. Her Helicopter was approaching the burning landscape. Buildings fell and apart and when they did mushroom like smoke rose into the air. Tanks were destroyed and Rockets were launched. The macabre of the attack field was great. The mission itself was to gain more ground and release refugees from the German concentration camps at Stasi ( a name we coined for a small area towards the end of Berlin).
The rotor of the other American Helicopters was spinning faster as they approached the Germans. missiles were fired on the Heer, a division of the Nazist Army. We could hear the various instruction the enemy Helicopters were making because of our hidden transmission Towers. I kept following Maria’s Helicopter with my gaze. She was approaching a German Helicopter. The Helicopter fired, the smoke of the missile covered the screen. My heart skipped a beat. Though this was a video record of the battle, l felt like it was still happening.
Then the smoke cleared and to my surprise, she was still flying and the enemy Helicopter that fired at her was crashing towards a building. We all applauded. Maria kept firing missiles and we were cheering. When she got to a junction, three German pilots were firing at an American Helicopter. The missiles were released repeatedly and the tail of the craft caught fire. It gave a shrilling sound, an indication that it was about to crash or explode. This was a dangerous moment. We all expected her to retreat then race back and aid her comrade. To our astonishment, she sped closer to the biggest of the German Helicopter and crashed into it.
The crash was enough distraction to save the day, the attacked American comrade turned and shot missiles that destroyed the other two.
Where is Maria?
We waited patiently, staring hard at the screen. The video player’s screen was filled with smoke and was almost blurred completely.
Then we saw a body going down to the earth with the aid of a burning parachute. We screamed and clapped. Maria saved the day even to the extent of dying. Now the haze cleared completely and l could see the reason she couldn’t remember me. I stood and saluted my Hero and my friend.
Meaning of words: Croatian: kako si — how are you. German: Guten morgen — good morning.
Oladejo Victor Olayemi is a budding artist and a secondary school
graduate. He lives in Ore, Odigbo, Ondo state and wrote in via email@example.com