This is a revised and newly edited version of my short story Germania from earlier this year. It is about 200 words shorter. Considering the upcoming elections in Germany which mark the end of an era and the beginning of another not only for Germany, for Germania, but especially for the European Union, I wanted to post a new version of the same story.
I was countless things and many of these things I never wanted to be. I remember when my lands, my flesh was one big forest. But now most of my trees are cut down. They were burnt by my children long ago. They made me bleed but I could do nothing else but love them. You see, I am an ancient spirit, born in the thickness of the forests of old. I do not even remember my real name. This name, Germania, is a name that was given to me by invaders of the south, the Romans, who conquered and enslaved my first-born children.
From then onwards they called me Germania and my old name was banished from this world. Now I carry this name, trying to think about the sunny and careless times. When I was not a mother but a child of the forest. Sometimes I am able to remember when I was young but often I do not. The pain that has since accompanied my children is too strong.
It is a pain that has only grown and never really faded away. I think the reason is that most of my children don’t get along with each other. I nurtured all of them, saw them thrive and I saw them grow old and I saw them die.
Do not get me wrong, I felt all their joy and happiness too, but it always ended in a dreamless sleep. I was always there when they left me and for every single one of them, whether my child lived a good or a bad life, I was there. Because I am their mother and by the gods, I love my children!
And then there are other children of mine I love just as much. They were not born on my soil. Some came by ship on my great rivers, on the silver Rhein, and the blue Elbe. Others simply pass my invisible borders that were put in place by forces unknown to me. Most of them arrived when they had already seen much of the world. I felt their pain and sorrow but I embraced them with love and offered them a place by my hearth and often they accepted gladly. They had seen so many horrors in this world and I hoped that I could take some of their pain away and make it my own. I adopted them because what mother could ever turn away a child in need.
After the Romans were gone my children built many castles and fords on my earth, on my skin. Some still stand, others are long forgotten ruins I still like to visit. Nature there returns, young trees and ivy grow over memories both good and bad putting them to rest. Sometimes I wish to join them but I cannot because I am immortal and I always have to watch out for my children. Unspeakable terrors wash over them ever so often like rain corrodes the pillars of the old castles in the wild. Unlike the stone that disappears, my children always come back.
One of the horrors that befell my children, one I still remember vividly, when brother turned against brother was some centuries ago. But oh, I can still taste every single drop of their blood. It was a war that lasted decades and I still see and feel all the scars on my many coloured skins. They called it a war of religion. They called it the thirty years war but in truth it was a war to control the riches of my flesh, the fruits of my pain. By the end of it most of my children were dead and nothing was won. I thought I would never see such nightmares again but oh was I wrong!
For some time, I saw my children thrive under the sun. There were many discoveries made and I was so proud of my children. Poets, scientists, explorers, artists and many more individuals who I remember gladly. They truly managed to live up to their potential and like me, they saw the good in this world, in my soil, and wanted to leave it a better place behind. But they were mortal. They were instruments of change, whereas I was just immortal, doomed to see it all but never to interfere. And I saw them build new machines I felt suspicious about. So many machines of steel and weapons I wondered what for. They sold them east and west, north and south and then it dawned on me what some of my children intended to do. With all the growth they had created, they still desired the taste of war. And this time it would be different.
It was two wars when I really wished me and all my children dead. Not because I hated them, no, because I loved them so much, that death, a sweet dark dream would be the only relief. The first one cut so deep I thought I would never recover. My children called it the great war and great were the hills of corpses that piled up day after day.
During that time, I remembered the thirty years war in all its horrors but it was nothing compared to this. I cried every day and every night but it would not stop. The blood came running out of me like rivers. My children bled until there was no life left. And I bled for them until my rivers ran dry.
And when it was over and I was numb from all the pain and I thought I could heal, it all started once more. My children turned against one another. Again, when they could have thrived, they chose to kill and murder. Some of them were so angry, that the hate they gave was enough to cover the entire world in darkness. The nightmares that spread from my ground made ancient spirits cry out in pain all around the globe. Not that they haven’t done that before, but this time, we all sensed it could be over forever.
I did not wish for it to end. I wished for nothing anymore because what is there to wish when all hope was lost. I did not bleed rivers but I bled oceans. And where there were great waters of torment there were even greater storms of fires all around me and within me. My children were murdered by fires raining from the sky and they died from bullets and bombs of all the greed they had unleashed. The beautiful cities they had built over centuries turned to ashes and rubble within hours.
And my own children burnt my own children. This fire, this gas was one I thought I would not survive. The hate some of my children felt and the despair and horror some other children of mine had to endure broke my immortal body. This was the moment in time when I tried to remember the cool wind and the green leaves of my ancient forests. Long before the first invaders came and everything was green and blue. When my blood was young, my spirit untamed and my mind was free. When I ran through the forest, light on my feet, laughing like a child.
And for a time, it worked but the pain of my broken body was too grave. I thought I was dead. I did not move. I made no sound. I was buried in the ground between the corpses of my children and the ancient roots of my beloved trees covered us like a warm blanket.
But then I could hear a new generation of children crying and screaming and I could not help it but come back to them, take them in my arms and nurture them once more. Because I was their mother and I loved them more than my memories of a long-lost quiet forest.
I saw that the world had changed and all around me new powers and new spirits had risen. There were still some old ones around but a lot of them who buried themselves like me in the earth had not stirred again. And I realised that a lot of my children had left as well. Children I gave birth to, I nurtured but had now run away. I did not blame them. They were not immortal. They were restless and I wished them all the luck in the world and bid them farewell. I do not understand what it is with my children but they always seem to bounce back. And when I thought I would see them thrive again I was cut in half.
Now, there was a west and an east and a painful stabbing border in-between. It was the old fight again, a fight about power and who would make the greatest profit and rule this cursed world. Once again, my children turned on each other and I sat there so tired not even able to lift a hand. I could sense a coming doom again, like I sensed it last time. There was a shadow growing above my rebuilt cities, my fields, my rivers and the few forests that remained. A shadow of a spirit that was more powerful than all the shadows I encountered in my millennials as mother. I knew, if this shadow was to drop, it would all be over.
My children called it the cold war. To me it did not matter anymore. They have given wars so many different names. This time I did not feel the burning fire or the bullets piercing my flesh. This time there was a cold wind that spoke of the end of things. This time, I knew there would be no coming back. It would be the end for me and my children.
So, I did what only a mother could do. I embraced them all, to the west and to the east, right and left I stayed with them, knowing that this time, the end would be swift and final. I could feel the winds freezing me but then, it was a wonder, the coming storm lifted, and a new day came to pass.
The frozen tears on my cheeks suddenly ran hot, not out of despair but out of joy. I looked around and I saw that some, not all, but enough of my children had turned away from the past and looked on into the future. And for the first time, in, I don’t know how long, I did not taste blood on my tongue but the sweet juices of a fresh harvest and the golden warmth of the sun on my skin. And I was ready to embrace a new generation of children. Some of them were born on my soil and some others were born abroad and came to me for the same reasons as before. I embraced them all the same with all the love I had because that is the nature of a mother.
And now, times have changed again. I look around and I see some of my children fall for the same greed and power as they have done centuries before. Some of my children turn on brothers and sisters again, saying they do not belong with me. If only I could tell them that a mother loves her children equally. But I am just an old spirit with a name given to me millennia ago.
Germania, they call me. But that is not my name. My ancestral one was taken from me and I cannot recall it. But sometimes I still smell the fresh forest in which I grew up. Sometimes I can still hear the birds sing to me. Sometimes I can still feel the gentle touch of leaves moved by a warm summer breeze on my skin. When my rivers were blue and I had a mother too.