Perchance to Dream
Colonel Robert Hogan dropped through the hollowed-out tree stump to the tunnel floor outside Stalag Luft 13, stopping only briefly to wipe his brow. The unusually hot summer weather had been even harder to bear overnight, as he was almost completely covered in black clothing that had kept him hidden while outside the walls of the Prisoner of War camp in the middle of Nazi Germany.
As he made his way back down the tunnel and changed back into his American Army Air Corps uniform, his mind acknowledged the gentle coolness of the tunnel, and he longed to stay there and drink in the respite. But he knew roll call was only moments away, and he had to be there, or the cover of their complex sabotage and intelligence unit could be blown.
“Raus, raus, raus, raus, everybody out! Roll call!” came the bellowing voice of the portly Sergeant of the Guard, Hans Schultz. Hogan completed his hurried ascent into Barracks Two, banging shut the bunk that kept the tunnel hidden from view. Pulling on his brown leather bomber jacket, for once Hogan was wishing he didn’t have to leave it on for long. The sauna-like atmosphere in the hut hit him in the face, and he paused for a second before heading outside to take in a hot, stifled breath, and to accept the weariness bearing down upon him.
“You ready, Colonel?” Sergeant James Kinchloe asked, ready to open the door to the Barracks.
“Yeah, Kinch,” Hogan answered. “I’ve gotta stop these late-night rendezvous. A guy can’t get his beauty sleep this way.”
Kinch grinned as Hogan finished straightening his collar and strode out into the hot sun.
Speeches of German superiority by Kommandant Wilhelm Klink, grousing from the Allied prisoners, and rhythmic counting of the men present completed, Hogan and his men retreated to their huts. Hogan immediately stripped off his jacket and crush cap and with a brief nod to the others, headed for his private quarters and longed-for sleep..
The atmosphere was oppressive. As he lay on his bunk, trying to get comfortable, Hogan realized that his much-wanted rest was not going to come this way. He sat up, took off his shirt and socks, and tried again. The relief was brief, and he soon found himself lying in a pool of his own sweat. He sat up, frustrated, and stripped down to his boxer shorts, changed position so his head was at the other end of his bunk, and tried to settle in. Once more, he faced defeat.
Yawning, Hogan rubbed his face, sat up, and thought. Suddenly, his eyes lit up, and he redressed, then burst out of his quarters and headed for the tunnel.
“What is it, Colonel?” Corporal Louis Le Beau asked, looking ready to head outside with a volleyball.
“Just heading downstairs for awhile,” Hogan answered. He tapped on the side of the bunk and gratefully accepted the rush of cool air that met him as the ladder banged into place. “Let me know if the war ends.”
Le Beau shrugged and, making sure the bunk slid back into place, left his commanding officer to his own devices.
Hogan made his way a few feet down
the tunnel, where the men had put in a make-shift bunk. This had been mainly to
benefit Kinch; as the radio man, he was most often left downstairs for extended
periods. And it was occasionally used by a stray escapee while waiting to be
processed out of
The bunk creaked under his weight as Hogan shifted, willingly starting to get lost in that twilight world that comes when one is about to fall into deep slumber, and he sighed with contentment. The night had been long, but he had passed on the information the Underground needed, and now, between missions, and with nothing to do as a Prisoner of War, he was determined to catch up on some much-needed sleep.
An insistent tapping noise played in his mind. An insect? Down here? he wondered, unaware, and subconsciously waving an arm lazily in the air to stop it. The noise continued, and it eventually became apparent to Hogan that the sound was coming not from a dream, but from beside him. He opened his eyes and saw the nearby machinery tapping out some code.
Hogan sat up and groggily moved
towards the ladder. Upstairs, he looked around to see Kinch sweating it out on
his bunk, reading. “Kinch,” he beckoned. “
Kinch got up immediately and headed back down the tunnel. Hogan returned to the bunk and listened while Kinch’s fingers danced through a conversation with Allied High Command. When he finished, Kinch turned to Hogan and said, “A thank you for the information you got them night before last, Colonel. They’ve just analyzed it and say they’ll be ready to stage a bombing raid in the next couple of days.”
“Excellent,” Hogan said. “Anything else?”
“Not yet, but they said they’ll be in touch soon with details about the ammo dump,” Kinch said. Watching Hogan lie down, he said, “What’s the matter, Colonel?”
“Nothing,” Hogan answered. “Just
trying to get some shut-eye. It’s too hot in my quarters. Since when did
“Even Klink is complaining,” Kinch said. “Says it must be some kind of record, and he doesn’t want to be disturbed while he’s in his cool bath unless the Allies are right outside the gate.”
“I’d love to plan that,” Hogan said.
Kinch disappeared upstairs, and Hogan drifted off again into welcome sleep. Soon, another bang nearby interrupted his rest, and though he tried to ignore it, the bubbling sounds were playing in a rhythm that just seemed determined to interfere with any cohesive dream in his mind. When a loud discharge jolted his senses, he opened his eyes and looked around to see that Sergeant Andrew Carter had come down and was cheerfully concocting God-knows-what at the make-shift chemistry lab set up a few feet away.
“Carter,” Hogan asked, “what are you doing?”
“Well, gee, Colonel, we’ve got that ammo dump mission coming up soon and I thought I’d better get some of the stuff ready for it. After all, it takes time to make sure it’s all perfect.”
Hogan sighed audibly and nodded. “Good thinking,” he admitted. “Just keep it to a dull roar, okay? I’m trying to catch up on some sleep over here.”
“Sure, Colonel,” Carter said cheerfully. “It’s nice and cool down here. Just right for making bombs.”
“Great,” Hogan muttered to himself, and turned over to face the tunnel wall.
“Carter, what have you done with the volleyball net?” called Le Beau. His body followed his voice down into the tunnel. Hogan groaned loudly and turned over. “Oh—sorry, Colonel,” he added, seeing Hogan on the bunk. “I did not realize—”
“It’s all right, Louis,” Hogan said, resigned. “This is turning into quite a busy little shop.”
“What are you doing down here?” the Frenchman asked.
“Trying—unsuccessfully—to get some sleep. I figured it was cooler down here than upstairs.”
Le Beau stopped for a moment, considering his surroundings. “Oui, it is much cooler here. A perfect place for a rest, Colonel.”
“I’m beginning to wonder,” Hogan answered. “Seems a bit too hot to be playing ball, anyway,” he added.
“It is,” Le Beau answered. “We were going to string up the net and drape clothes over it to make a shade cloth. But I think this is much nicer, Colonel.”
“So do I,” Hogan said. “Feel free to stay—if you can keep it down.”
“Of course, mon Colonel.” And Le Beau moved toward Carter, to see what the Sergeant was creating.
Hogan was about to close his eyes when he heard yet more footsteps on the ladder. He sat up to see RAF Corporal Peter Newkirk making his way down. “Bloody ’ot up there,” he complained, hopping off the bottom rung and onto the tunnel floor. “Good idea you’ve got, gov’nor, retreating to this place while the heat wreaks havoc up there.”
Hogan shook his head, feeling defeated. “And what brings you down here?” he asked.
“Well, blimey, it has to be the coolest place in town,” Newkirk answered. “Thought I’d spend some time down ’ere and get away from that sauna. We English aren’t used to this weather, y’know.”
“I don’t think the Germans are,
either,” Carter said. “You know,
“Carter!” Hogan called out. Carter faltered to a stop. “I don’t think anyone wants to be reminded. Let’s just be grateful we’ve got this little hide-away, right?”
Carter grinned sheepishly. “Sure, Colonel.”
Newkirk sat down at the desk nearby and carefully moved a bit of paperwork aside. Hogan lay back again, and with a weary groan, closed his eyes. He tried to forget that anyone had come down at all. He tried to go back to that dazed state that indicated sleep, blessed sleep, was coming. He tried to think of a cool, comfortable bed with clean, crisp sheets….
And then he heard it.
Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrip! Tap tap. Hogan furrowed his brow, his eyes still closed. Silence. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrip! Tap tap tap. Ready to mentally cry, he turned away from the noise. Once more the sounds assaulted his ears. “What is that?” he finally cried, sitting up.
“Oh, sorry, gov,” Newkirk said contritely. Hogan saw the deck of cards Newkirk was holding up. “Just shuffling. I’ll do it another way.”
“No, no, never mind, never mind,” Hogan said, upset with himself for letting it get to him. “I just—didn’t know what it was, that’s all.”
“My fault, gov’nor. You trying to sleep and all, it must have made a terrible racket.”
“It’s all right. I’m just too wound up. You shuffle however you want to shuffle.”
Hogan ran his hands over his face, thinking of the help that cotton balls might be, when the equipment next to Newkirk burst to life again, code flying out at great speed. Le Beau came out from beside Carter and said, “I’d better get Kinch.”
Bang, went the tunnel hatch above as he pulled the ladder down.
Hogan sat, beaten, listening to the gurgling, bubbling sounds of Carter’s lab floating out to his ears, followed by another small explosion and a “Drat!—Oops, sorry, Colonel.”
Dit dit dit, dit-dit, dit-dit-dit dit diiiiit, came the code.
Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrip. Tap tap.
All at once, Hogan put on his shoes, and stood up, massaging his temples, and when Kinch and Le Beau had cleared the ladder, he headed quickly, almost desperately, upstairs.
“Where are you going, Colonel?” asked Le Beau.
Hogan paused just long enough to answer. “To try and get tossed in the cooler. It’ll still be ten degrees cooler in there, I won’t have any company… and I might finally be able to get some sleep!”
And he was gone.
“Gee,” Carter said as the bunk above them shifted back into place, “it’s not like we were talking or anything.”
Text and original characters copyright 2004 by Linda Groundwater
This copyright covers only original material and characters, and in no way intends to infringe upon the privileges of the holders of the copyrights, trademarks, or other legal rights, for the Hogan's Heroes universe.