Film: Raiders of the Lost Ark
Time of death: 1 hour, 20 minutes and 55 seconds
The small army contingent rumbled to life. Made up of several cars, a motorcycle and a canvas-roofed cargo truck, the convoy was in possession of a great and terrible secret, which lay inside the belly of the truck, resting within a large and unfastened wooden crate. It was vital to remove it from the site immediately. The desert had become inhospitable to its European visitors.
Seven men were charged with protecting it.
The crate rocked as it passed over the stony road, and the men guarding it, save for one, flinched with every shudder. Each was, in his own way, troubled by the contents. Intellectually, they knew there was nothing to fear from an artefact – they were members of one of the most powerful armies in the history of the world – but this remnant of the old world disturbed them. Far from home, in the heat and sand, they were susceptible to the potent superstitions that seemed to float in the warm air.
The remaining man, Wilhelm, was also uneasy, but his mind was troubled not by what lay inside the crate but by lingering thoughts of his own.
‘I had a dream last night.’ Wilhelm said to the group.
Dieter stood across from Wilhelm, his hands steadying the crate between them. He sighed loudly.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ he asked. ‘I don’t want to hear about your dream.’
‘What’s wrong with me?’ Wilhelm replied over the roar of the engine. ‘I didn’t realize it was a crime to initiate a conversation with a colleague during the work day.’
‘Initiating a conversation is fine. The problem is that you initiate the same conversation each day. Every day this week you’ve described whatever gibberish entered your head while you were asleep the night before.’
‘That’s true,’ nodded Heinrich. He was crouched to the left of Wilhelm, picking a fly out of his teeth. ‘It has proven to be very annoying.’
Wilhelm was quiet for a moment. He looked out on the road. He was positioned at the head of the crate, which sat at the open end of the truck. He could feel the hot desert sun on his face and taste the sand in the wind.
‘Anyway, last night I had a dream . . .’
‘Oh God,’ Heinrich said.
‘Let him speak,’ said Karl, a soldier positioned at the end of the crate, eager for distraction. ‘I quite enjoyed yesterday’s dream, the one with the man dressed up as a bat, punching clowns.’
‘Fine,’ said Dieter. ‘Wilhelm, go ahead.’
Now the centre of attention, Wilhelm knew he’d need to engage his fellow soldiers. He drew in a deep breath and said, ‘We were standing in a strange corridor. We all wore this odd uniform, gleaming white armour with a helmet that covered our faces and made us look like bugs. It was difficult to see out of the helmet, I recall. I was holding a strange gun with two hands. It shot fatal beams of light.’
‘A strange gun that shot light?’ asked Heinrich.
‘Yes, it was in the future, maybe. I remember now. We were in outer space in a floating ship. We heard that there were intruders in our spaceship so we had to run to catch them.’
‘Oh good, we are in this dream too,’ said Dieter. ‘Why don’t you ever dream of girls?’
‘One of them was a princess. She had really funny hair, like a pair of Plundergebäck. Anyway, we ran into this room where there was a massive gaping chasm. There were only two platforms. One was higher than the other. We were on the higher one. Suddenly the intruders
. . .’
‘Yes?’ said Wilhelm.
‘What is the purpose of this room?’ asked Dieter. ‘Why is there a room with a great hole in it?’
‘Dream logic, I suppose,’ Wilhelm said. There were images that recurred in his dreams. He knew he would never question the dreams, just as he knew he would never stare down into the chasm. ‘Anyway,’ he continued, ‘the intruders appeared on the lower platform. They saw us and ducked behind the wall. One shot at us.’
‘At which point,’ said Karl, ‘you got hit, tumbled over the edge and fell to your death.’
‘Have I told this before?’
The soldiers laughed. Confused, Wilhelm tried to solicit an explanation for this hilarity.
Wiping away a tear, Edvard, who had not said anything up to now, explained, ‘Wilhelm, all your dreams end this way.’
‘You even make the same scream each time,’ added Karl. ‘Arggh!’
‘How did you know about the terrible scream?’ asked Wilhelm. There was indeed a scream. He remembered it well, his plaintive and unmanly final note.
‘Each time!’ Edvard exclaimed. ‘You have some strange dream and each time it ends the same way! You get shot or punched or knocked or something, you make that same scream and fall from a great height.’
Wilhelm narrowed his eyes at Edvard. He never had liked him very much.
‘I guess it’s similar,’ Wilhelm admitted, and stared down the road. He had noticed a passing similarity within his dreams, but until now had not been struck with the obvious symmetry of the endings. He began to consider the possible meanings when he was interrupted by the sound of a whinny.
‘Is that a horse?’ Edvard asked. The men looked out and saw a man in a hat appearing from the tall rocks on a white horse. It was the archaeologist everyone had been warned about. He had been
in charge of looking for the contents of the box for the Americans and was not pleased with the National Socialist Party’s attempts to hinder him.
He shouted ‘Giddy up!’ at his horse and attracted the attention of the entire procession of Germans. Hans, stationed at the mounted machine gun perched atop the car, began to shoot in the direction of the archaeologist, who was advancing alongside the truck.
Crack! Crack! Crack!
The bullets popped through the air. As Hans was a poor aim, they pierced the canvas of the truck. A hot chunk
of metal whizzed past Wilhelm’s ear. A fear ran through him. He had felt this high excitement before; not in the battlefield or on missions, but in his dreams.
‘He is catching up,’ shouted Edvard as the archaeologist disappeared. Wilhelm, feeling uneasy, clung to his gun.
A hand made a brief impression on the trunk’s canvas roof.
‘That lunatic is climbing up the side.’
Wilhelm heard a scream and saw Heinz rolling out on the road behind them. He had been sitting in the passenger seat. Wilhelm steadied himself. It was not the same scream that he himself had emitted those countless nights. He placed his finger on the trigger.
Nothing was going to make his dream a prophecy.
Smack! Pow! Umph!
The sounds of a fight. It was impossible to tell from the grunts and slaps and pounds who was winning. The truck swerved on the road, narrowly avoiding a passer-by with a camel.
The truck braked, causing the crate to slide towards the front of the truck. Unable to stop in time, the car tailing the truck rammed straight into the back. In response, the truck accelerated again, sending the crate hurtling backwards. It flew past the men and, with a mighty thud, connected with Wilhelm.
Launched into the air, Wilhelm watched a grim realization flicker across his mind. He had done this before. He knew what came next and it frightened him. He didn’t want to die in such a pointless, almost comedic way. He released all his fear and dread into a noise.
He fell forward on to the bonnet of the following car and his head connected with the windscreen. The glass shattered.
For a few moments, Wilhelm lay motionless. Then he shook his head and brushed the shards from his cheek. The driver screamed at him to get off the bonnet, but all Wilhelm could hear was his own voice whispering ‘I’m not dead’ – three words he repeated with increasing speed and joy.
He had a second chance. He was not to be the victim of some cosmic joke. Wilhelm would live to see another day and not be another forgotten fatality.
The car swerved and Wilhelm slid off the bonnet. As he dropped under the wheels, he felt the scream rise up again but his head was crushed before it had a chance to escape.