Raïsaic lit a morning cigarette after his bag was packed; smoking it next to the dead German sergeant he had found them on. The corpse’s eyelids were frozen open, shining with crystal blue specs that made it look like he was only in hibernation. The skin on his face was whiter than the snow, but the carnage and dirt that clung to it ensured that his story was not forgotten. The corpse was a color all its own, situated in the battlefield like the tombstone of a distant relative that Raïsaic had journeyed to see. He thought about making small talk, paying tribute in a way. Perhaps he would talk about his Christmas, or the anticipation of spring, but instead he decided to save his words for a letter home to his wife. He revisited thoughts of spring upon every puff of his cigarette, but remained silent. Smoking in front of the frozen corpse of his countryman was the only moment of guilt he had felt that winter. He had violated a friend he never knew. He removed a fresh cigarette and placed it between the dead man’s lips, lighting it to give him a final moment of springtime before the snow erased him forever.
He checked six more bodies on his way out of the graveyard but found nothing but talismans and mementos of superstition. Those tokens did not bring fortune to anyone, and so Raïsaic left them untouched lest provoke their rotten luck. He had kept to his own superstitions and they had proved beneficial so far, so he avoided the remainder of the corpses like their fates were contagious. Blind greed has a way of finding us all, however, and just as Raïsaic was nearing the edge of the battlefield he caught sight of a frozen corpse, leaning back-to-back with another corpse, with an unlit cigarette frozen in his lips. The man held onto an empty pack and the man he was leaned against had smoked his cigarette down to the butt. He looked at the two of them with indifference. He snatched the unlit cigarette from the man’s frozen lips – blood stains coloring the mouthpiece – and put it with the rest of his pack. It did not belong with the other clean, white sticks of tobacco, but Raïsaic ignored the warning of the new talisman he had accepted. He had entered the graveyard destined for death, but exited carrying the pieces of the dead instead. Warmed by a bloodied winter coat and fed by a can of murdered peaches, he continued to march homeward to the beast.