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The Red BaronMini adventures. Mini Sci-Fi. Mini History. Mini Fantasy. Mini-escapes. What you can expect from the…

“Five-Minute Escape”

short adventure story.



TIME: April 21, 1918. PLACE: The Western Front, France

Copyright Terofil Gizelbach, 2013

The Englishman’s luck…it is bad today…

Flying high cover on the arms of a strong easterly wind, Rittmeister Manfred Von Richthofen banked his Fokker Triplane and charged his twin Spandau machine guns. Beneath him and in his sights, a lone Sopwith Camel. The plane had broken from a dogfight and now bounced along the Somme Valley towards the English lines and home. Why the man had fled was clear: Richthofen watched as the Camel’s pilot worked frantically to free his jammed guns.

The Rittmeister weighed the risks. The flyer had surrendered altitude and was yet unmissed. Little danger, then, of enemy intervention. It would be a simple matter to dive, intercept, destroy. This morning—the twenty-first of April, 1918—would mark his eighty-first kill…if the Englishman could be downed before crossing the German lines.

There is time, he thought, rechecking his machine guns and nudging the red Triplane after the fleeing Camel.  A quick victory. Then back to base for a shave, a moment of solitude in his “dugout” amidst his “trophies.” A walk, perhaps, with his Danish hound Moritz—who of late had been strangely subdued.

His eighty-first kill. But would there be an eighty-two? Already Headquarters was hinting that the Rittmeister should accept a safer position out of harm’s way.  He had declined, citing his duty to the soldiers in the trenches. But the Rittmeister was a practical man.  It was only a matter of time before he was grounded and some other youngster—his brother Lothar perhaps—rose to equal or surpass his score.

But there was yet today. Eighty-one!  More than twice Boelcke; fifty more than Lothar; sixty more than Udet. Perhaps he would finally be awarded the oak leaves to his Pour le Merite. It was such a pretty medal. He knew it was wrong to covet such things, but….

I am due.

Beneath him, the Camel continued to bounce awkwardly over the river valley.  Richthofen closed quickly, watching as the plane filled his wire cross-hairs. It came to him that the Englishman would burn. Nine of his last ten kills had burned—including his seventy-fifth—a bitter fight in which the pilot and observer had died in flames.  The incident had affected Richthofen strongly, and he hesitated–his old “joy of the hunt” replaced by feelings of regret, duty, and the compulsion to score.

Hunched over his guns, Richthofen opened fire. His twin spandaus clattered. Tracers arched towards the Englishman’s plane, causing the pilot to crane his head rearwards. White-faced, goggles glinting, the Englishman turned, dropped altitude, and began juking at 100 miles per hour.

An amateur, thought Richthoven. Green to allow a pursuer to close unseen to within thirty yards…

Richthofen pulled high and to the right of the fleeing machine, trailing as Sailly Laurette neared in a gray, pocked wound. Trees scrolled by ninety feet below. He saw “No Man’s Land,” acres of shell holes filled with muddy water. Watched as his tracers zipped by the Englishman’s struts. And yet, no kill.

Concentrate, Richthofen willed himself, angling in behind the camel’s tail and firing short, controlled bursts. The Englishman fluttered his plane, sidestepping, jigging. The river Somme rose and dipped at their left wingtips, thrown into geysers by the occasional wild round.

Eighty silver cups so far; a trophy for each victim. You, Englishman, will be my eighty-first–

But the camel zigged safely just ahead. Eighty feet above the valley floor now, crossing and recrossing Richthofen’s sights, miraculously evading the Rittmeister’s tracers. Sailly Laurette flashed by on the right.  German and Australian rifle fire flared from the trenches. The village of Vaux appeared, ahead and across the riverbank. A shell-pocked crossroad  showed beneath, then was gone. A stand of hemlocks whizzed past. The town of Sailly-le-Sec came, went in a gray blur.

Over the engine’s roar, Richthofen heard the distant chatter of machine guns.  A second Camel, attacking!  Richthofen bent as tracers slammed into the Triplane and walked towards the cockpit.  He pulled the stick up and sharply right, judging that–at his tremendous rate of speed–this new Englishman must overshoot him. Giving the Rittmeister time to finish off his intended victim, who was proving surprisingly difficult to kill.

The attacking Englishman zoomed past and climbed sharply to the left—apparently convinced that at the very least, the Triplane had been seriously damaged by the attack.  Meanwhile, Richthofen, who was unharmed, settled back on the fleeing Englishman’s tail. Again the German opened fire, willing the plane to drop, his frustration and fear mounting.

Turn back. Leave him before it is too late. No! Fall! You must fall!

The ruins of Vaux-sur-Somme sped by ninety feet below. The planes roared over the village. Startled Australian soldiers ran from their billets to see the commotion. Spent shell casings from Richthofen’s guns clattered to the streets.

More speed. No! No, throttle back! Aim. Aim well–

They contour-hopped over a rise and turned away from the river, the planes flying barely twenty meters above the ground. Richthofen’s sense of urgency grew. He anticipated the attacking camel’s return, a second strafing pass. I’m running out of time. Fall! FALL!

Richthofen saw khaki uniforms, a flicker of light below and to the left. Heard the whine of Lewis gun bullets whipping past. Heavy ground fire! The English!  Somehow, in the heat of battle, he had passed over the German lines. The English! Heavens above, the English!

His machine shuddered with hits. Breaking off pursuit, Richthofen banked the Triplane sharply right, and held the turn until he faced the German lines. Quickly! Must gain altitude— 

A wheel-mounted Lewis gun flashed. A bullet passed through the canvass walls of the cockpit, catching Richthofen below the right armpit and tearing through his heart.

Richthofen’s head snapped over and he clawed off his flight goggles. The oxygen left his brain as he fought the plane to the ground. Dying, a final thought came to him: what will come of poor old Moritz…

Somersaulting on impact, the Fokker hung like a cross in a tree.




READ ANOTHER ONE LIKE THIS: http://www.gizelbook.com/five-minute-escape-the-surrender/

For more information about the Red Baron, please click the following links:

For a general overview, try: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manfred_von_Richthofen

For further info, click: http://acepilots.com/wwi/ger_richthofen.html

Or: http://history1900s.about.com/od/1910s/a/redbaron.htm

ABOUT THIS BLOG… Each “Five-Minute Escape” short adventure story in this blog series will be kept under 1500 words. Most will clock in at about 1000. The “Five-Minute Escape” short adventure story will allow you to log on, take a fast trip, and get back quick to what you should have been doing in the first place…though hopefully the experience will stay with you long after you have moved on to something else. Subscribe to the “Five-Minute Escape” short adventure story blog and take a weekly “Five-Minute Escape!” “Five-Minute Escape short adventure story: 81st Kill copyrighted Terofil Gizelbach, 2013


Mini adventures. Mini Sci-Fi. Mini History. Mini Fantasy. Mini-escapes. What you can expect from the

“Five-Minute Escape” short adventure story.


TIME: September 27, 1933. PLACE: The Sundarbans, India

Copyright Terofil Gizelbach, 2013


“YOU shouldn’t have followed me, Taral. We dare not go back through the thickets until dawn. Death pads in the mangroves this night.”

Ramesh glanced at the boy standing next to him in the clearing. In the moonlight, the youth’s face seemed very earnest.

“I am twelve years old, Grandfather. I know the ways of the tiger. I have heard your tales of the great hunter Corbett. I can help. I know I can.”

The old man smiled, deepening the wrinkles creasing his ancient face. “Your father, if he were alive, would be proud. But you must stay very close and keep your eyes open very wide. A leaf does not fall as softly as does a tiger’s paw. I would not have you be the forty-first to die.”

“I will do as you say, Grandfather. I will be the eyes in the back of your head.”

The old man nodded, his attention focused back on the forest’s moonlit-dappled walls. The night was very still, with but a whisper of wind that rustled the palm leaves lining the distant riverbank.

The tiger was a mankiller; forty already it had taken from his village. The British had sent help–the hunter “Roberts”—but Roberts had failed, and tonight the old man had seen the tiger in the grove just beyond his dead son’s hut. The hut where he lived with his daughter-in-law and his three grandchildren. The hut and the family that he had promised his son to protect.

“Are you armed, Boy?” He asked, watching the forest’s stillness.

“I have my knife.” Taral spoke with bravado.

The old man nodded and smiled. He carried an ancient long rifle, a musket with a flintlock dated 1807. It had been his father’s rifle, and his father’s rifle before him. Its scarred, worn barrell had been wired down to its ancient wood to compensate for a missing band. Longingly, the old man remembered Jim Corbett’s weapon, his “275” bolt action Model 1893 Mauser. Many shots. Many chances at  survival. The old man and the boy had but one.

“We will wait here in the clearing for a while. I am too old to climb trees and too poor to sacrifice a goat. You must be my ears as well as my eyes, Grandson. I do not hear as well as I once did. Show me the tiger when it comes, Taral. The goddess Bonobibbi will protect us.”

They waited. Far away they could hear village sounds. A barking dog. Cattle lowing. A clinking pail. And the old man remembered his son, a honeygatherer who had died during harvest time by a tiger’s claws. Yet, the old man found that he did not hate the big cat. He knew tigers to be the forest’s heart, its soul painted in the color of flame—and like fire, they were at once beautiful and orange, and black and deadly. And, he thought, mysterious. He knew tigers to be afraid of man, and the old man wondered what had driven this particular animal to turn man-eater. Was it lame? Toothless? Unable to hunt the swift Chital deer that lived in the thickets? The old man felt sad that this magnificent animal must die. Life, he thought, was filled with bitter choices; decisions that killed both beauty and soul in the name of survival. He hoped that he would not live to see a time when the tiger did not rule the Sundarban’s mangroves.

“I heard something, Grandfather,” Taral whispered. “Beyond the trees. There, in the tall grasses.”

Ramesh stared where the boy had pointed, towards the lace of branches and the waving grasses beyond. Though he strained his eyes, he saw nothing.

“It may circle, boy, and come at us from the forest or the thickets. Look behind. Point me so that I might shoot. Do not fail me, Grandson, or it will be the death of us.”

Again the old man looked to the grass. This time he thought he spotted movement, a ghostly glide of shadow and darkness behind the moon-silvered blades, but he could not be sure. Show yourself to me, Tiger, he willed. Show yourself so that we might meet as warriors.

But the night remained as before: trees swaying in the gentle wind, leaves rustling…but now the forest sounds were hushed. No night birds split the quiet. The cattle in the village had ceased their lowing. Even the insects were still.

He is near.  Very near.

At his back, the old man could feel his grandson. The closeness of Taral caused him to fear, to clench his rifle tighter in his gnarled hands. The old man had not many years left, his life was of but little consequence…but the boy… The boy must be saved.

Sacrifice me, Bonobibbi, if you must. But leave my grandson be…

Sweat trickled down the old man’s spine.

In the village, dogs began barking fiercely, causing the old man to start.

“There, Grandfather! There!”

Ramesh man spun and aimed his rifle first at the thicket where the boy was pointing. Then instinct caused him to jerk his rifle back towards the forest, where a shadow had split from the gloom. Vaulting into the moonlight, it came: in orange and blackness, as if night lived on it pelt. Its fangs were white, gleaming; its muscles, flanks rippling; its eyes flashing. The boy cried out and moved to stab the Bengal with his knife. Sidestepping and knocking the youth back, Ramesh pulled the trigger. The explosion drowned out his grandson’s voice and tore the belly from the night in a blinding flash. The old man was lifted and thrown to the ground. A great weight covered him, tiger smell thick in his nostrils. He braced, expecting teeth, claws, death. But the heaviness remained motionless, and the tiger smell was replaced by the scent of blood.

“Are you well, Grandfather?” Ramesh heard a voice asking. “Are you hurt?”

The old man pulled free of the tiger and stood, feeling his bones. He could see that the animal was ancient and that its teeth were broken. This then is what drove it to prey on the village.

“I am well, Grandson,” he said, suddenly weary.

Taral stared at his grandfather with awe. “You killed him, Grandfather. With just one shot you brought him down! Corbett himself could not have done better!”

Ramesh shook his head, knowing that if Corbett were here, he would share in his sadness. “Killing is nothing to be proud of, grandson. You will understand in time.”

Bowing his head, Ramesh offered up a prayer to Bonobibbi. Then he knelt by the tiger and stroked its grayed muzzle. “I am sorry,” he whispered. “Please forgive me, I only did it because I must. The Sundarbans are diminished with your passing. You, old one, were the fire in the heart of the forest.”

The two heard voices, shouts, calls. Men were approaching from the village. The hunter Roberts’ voice was among them.

“That man, Roberts, he is nothing like Corbett,” the boy said. “He will say that it was he who downed the tiger.”

The old man smiled and rested his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “What does it matter, grandson? For tonight you, your mother, brother, and sister…this night, you sleep without fear.”




READ ANOTHER ONE LIKE THIS: http://www.gizelbook.com/five-minute-escape-the-surrender/

Since the setting of this story, tiger population in the Sundarbans has dwindled to perhaps 200 to 300 animals, though some experts claim as few as 100 remain. New methods are being explored to prevent human deaths due to tigers. People must be protected, but hunting is no longer the only answer if we hope to save the tiger from extinction. Even tigers in zoos are at risk. For more information about saving the tiger, please see: http://worldwildlife.org/species/tiger.

For more information about tigers in general, please try this excellent link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger.

For more information about the hunter turned conservationist Jim Corbett, please try: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Corbett. (Choose the link for Jim Corbett, Hunter)

To paraphrase the old man, it would be a shame to live in a world without wild tigers.


Each “Five-Minute Escape short adventure story in this blog series will be kept under 1500 words; most will clock in at about 500. The “Five-Minute Escape” short adventure story will allow you to log on, take a fast trip, and get back quick to what you should have been doing in the first place…though hopefully the experience will stay with you long after you have moved on to something else. Subscribe to the blog and take a weekly…”Five-Minute Escape!”

“Five-Minute Escape short adventure story copyrighted Terofil Gizelbach, 2013


Mini adventures. Mini Sci-Fi. Mini History. Mini Fantasy. Mini-escapes. That’s what you can expect from the “Five-Minute Escape” short-short story!

TIME: April 17, 1869. PLACE: Midway to Abilene, Texas, riding the Chisholm Trail.


Copyright Terofil Gizelbach, 2013


Cutter never knew what spooked ‘em.

He only knew that a minute earlier the ground had exploded into a rumble, and that the dust had swirled up in night clouds cut with fleeting moonlit glimpses of galloping longhorns with lolling tongues and wide frightened eyes. There was no turning this herd: they came in a wall. A yell would be swallowed in the pounding of hooves like a yippee in a thunderstorm. A gunshot would only spook them to gallop faster. They would have to stretch themselves out.

Cutter bent to the saddle and was swept alongside, praying that his mount, Angel, had eyes better than his own, and that the palomino would be surefooted. Watch fer gopher holes, he urged her mentally, taking hold of the saddle horn. Don’t you step in no dang crack, Girl.

The chuck wagon loomed ahead, and Cutter saw Cookie diving for the safety of a buckboard. The stampede rushed past, stamping down bedrolls and saddles. Cooking utensils, pots, and dinners were pounded into ruination. Cutter cursed, and wove Angel through the debris. He heard the crack of a pistol ahead, saw the shadowy figure of another rider. Save yer dern ammo, Cutter thought. Aint nothin’ stoppin’ this skedaddle but a case of the tireds.

The stampede rumbled on, irresistible, surging. The rider was lost in veils of dust. Cutter heard no more shots.

The cattle swung right, angling between two thickets of mesquite. Angel stumbled, and Cutter jumped from the saddle as the horse went down. He hit on one knee, felt a jabbing pain. Angel righted herself and was off, reins flopping wildly behind.

Cutter staggered up and began to run for the mesquites, feeling the rumble from the cows through his boot heels. A longhorn brushed past, catching his shirt with a horn, then was swallowed by the stampede. Cutter ran in a hobble, cursing the stabbing pain in his knee. He saw an arm of the herd wheel in his direction, and redoubled his efforts. He could smell them, in a musk of hot, sweaty, frightened, and dusty.

Heedless of thorns, Cutter threw himself at the nearest mesquite. It was a small squatty thing, and Cutter prayed that it would shield him. He clambered up, the branches razoring his cheek. He could sense them coming—not by the sound, which was deafening—but by the trembling of the mesquite as he climbed.

The herd thundered past, parting, sweeping by in a mad rush that ended at the edge of a ravine some three miles distant.

The dust began to settle.

Cutter stared after the herd for a long moment, savoring the breath in his lungs. Then he went about the business of extricating himself from the thorns and branches of the mesquite, and cursing the ruination of his favorite shirt.

“You lookin’ fer fruit, Cutter?” drawled a voice from behind. “I might be plum wrong, but that don’t look like no dang apple tree to me.”

Cutter flushed. He’d hoped to recover his mount before being discovered. Wiping the blood and dirt from his face, he said: “Nah. Thought I’d have a climb here and have a look see. Never seen a stampede from a tree afore. Was mite interestin’. You oughta try her sometime, Spencer.”

The rider cracked a grin across a grizzled jaw and offered up a calloused hand. “I reckon sometime I will, Cutter. I just reckon I will.”


The End


(For more information about the Chisholm Trail, please try this excellent link:  http://www.kancoll.org/khq/1936/36_1_rossel.htm


Each “Five-Minute Escape short-short story in this blog series will be kept under 1500 words; most will clock in at about 500. The “Five-Minute Escape” short-short story will allow you to log on, take a fast trip, and get back quick to what you should have been doing in the first place…though hopefully the experience will stay with you long after you have moved on to something else. Subscribe to the blog and take a weekly…”Five-Minute Escape!”

The “Five-Minute Escape” short-short story is copyrighted Terofil Gizelbach, 2013


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