Violence, 1914

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The fighting is some of the hardest I’ve seen.

All war is brutality, but there is something different here. Something far more vicious than I’ve seen in quite some time, and it took me almost a month to find out why.

The answer came this morning as I moved into a new sector of the front. There was a group of men sitting near a tree. They were wounded and worn out, their words slurred when spoken.

I hesitated only a moment before I sat down with them.

They turned dazed eyes toward me, and one of them, his head wrapped in a bandage, nodded slowly.

“It’s not right,” the wounded man observed.

None of his companions responded to his statement, so I did.

“What’s not right?”

“She’s hungry,” the wounded man murmured, gesturing weakly toward a nearby dugout. “She needs to be fed.”

With this statement, the men around him nodded in dull unison.

“She’s in there?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“What does she need?”

“Anger,” one of the men whispered, and again the men nodded in agreement.

“Anger?” I asked.

“Yes,” the wounded man sighed. “We’re too tired to feed her anymore. She told us to send others. Before we forget. Send more.”

“I’ll go,” I said, getting to my feet.

The men watched me leave, and with each step I took, something malicious reached out for my soul. By the time I entered the dugout, the smell of dirt and kerosene washing over me, I could feel the unseen creature burrowing into my heart.

I stood still for a moment, listened, looked, and saw her.

She was a fetish, made of bones and discarded brass casings, twisted lead and bits of shrapnel. A black aura pulsed around the curiosity, and I stepped toward it.

There was greediness in the thing digging at my heart, and it caused me to smile.

The creature hesitated, but it was too late for her.

I poured all of my hatred into the creature. Decades of rage and fury caused her to choke. She tried to break free, but my foul heart kept her locked in place.

In front of me, the aura fluctuated, and then the fetish exploded.

Shrapnel and bones lacerated my face, but the wounds were already healing by the time I left the dugout.

The creature was dead, and my heart was still full.

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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