Ivan scrambled out of the artillery scar he had entered early during the infantry assault. He was surrounded by gore and corpses. The battlefield was made even more dismal by the setting sun, causing the ruins of once great Stalingrad to turn a dull hue of grey, speckled in lucid crimson. A fallen German soldier lifted his head slightly, the movement nearly undetectable. Ivan hefted his Mosin-Nagant 1891/31 to his shoulder, took aim, and laid a bullet through the man’s head. “That makes twenty-four,” he said under his breath in gruff Russian.
He hunched slightly at the knees and paced forward at a diagonal toward a building with a somewhat intact near-wall. When
he reached the moderate cover, he dropped onto his stomach and
proceeded to crawl forward against the brickwork, rifle inches above
cracked cobblestone. All was silent. Another survivor, this time a solider of mutual nation, came out from behind an opened door and followed after Ivan. Ivan paused for a moment to allow the man to catch up. “Two is better than one, as they say,” he thought.
After several moments, the fellow sniper arrived beside him. His demeanor, face apathetic, showed that the man was used to seeing death, commonly at his own hands in fact. The
weapon he held was near identical to Ivan’s, save a lack of scratches
caused by constant scraping on the edge of the pit he had laid down in. “Your rifle startled me despite myself,” the man told him in a hushed tone, a slight smile across his dusty face. “I did not know anyone else had survived that last wave. We sure pushed them back though, and for a meager loss, nonetheless.”
“I wouldn’t say it was meager. Perhaps three hundred are dead. The Nazis are defeating us. First the bombings with their aeroplanes, and now these heavy ground assaults. It will take every able gunman in the city, or whatever remains of it, to keep them back now,” Ivan replied.
“Let us move forward then, may our fire instill fear in those dirty Germans. Their young soldiers haven’t seen a Russian sniper in combat, especially not students of Vasily Zaytsev.”
“May his doctrines keep us alive, and with us dear Stalingrad.”
two crawled forward and turned the corner to the perpendicular street,
climbing over mounds of rubble as they copied the German’s retreat path. Soon, sound could be heard in the distance, evidence that the German position was only a few blocks ahead. The
constant mortars had injured Ivan’s ears, so what he heard was heavily
muffled, but it could still be detected, and he was alert.
Nearly an hour passed by as the patient Russians crawled ever forward, slow as snails. They had moved three blocks, and here the thick coat of smoke from the constant melees was not as thick. Ivan caught sight of a German soldier far ahead, lifted his gun, took aim, and fired. “Twenty-five,” he said.