I heard a woman weeping and went to her.
I followed the sound of her sorrow, making my way across a land destroyed by shellfire and bearing the wounds of war. When I reached the source of the sound, I feared, for a moment, that I had walked myself into a trap.
I had not, though.
In front of me, a ravaged piece of German equipment lay, and it was from this pile of twisted metal that the woman’s pain-ridden voice rose up.
Yet she was not trapped beneath the vehicle, nor was she close to it, hidden by debris.
She was the vehicle.
Blood, not oil, leaked from the shattered engine, and it seeped from the rents in the metal.
She seemed to sense me, if not outright, see me, and in a quavering voice, she called out, in an old and formal German, to ask me who I was.
I told her, and for a moment, she was silent.
Then, in a voice filled with controlled fear, she asked, “Are you hear to finish me, Duncan Blood?”
“Is that what I do here?” I asked in return.
She sobbed and answered, “Not you, it would appear.”
“I am glad.”
I sat down close to her, and the smell of blood was thick in the air.
“I do not think I can ease your suffering,” I told her.
“No. You cannot,” she whispered. “But I thank you, Duncan Blood, for wishing that you could.”
We sat in stillness for a few moments, and then she cried out again.
“Is there naught I can do?” I asked.
“Will you sing to me?”
“What song would you hear?”
“The song of Peer Gynt,” she whispered. “If you know it.”
And as the machine-woman eased towards death, I sang to her of Peer Gynt in the hall of the Mountain King.