A Raid, 1914

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They were not shooting at me.

The Germans didn’t even know I was there.

It was close to evening, and I had my knife in my hand, and I was there to take a prisoner and bring him back.

I would, in due time, carry out my task, but I was taking scalps. The Landsturm unit across from my own had been particularly vicious, leaving our dead butchered and mutilated between the lines.

While my mission was not to exact revenge, I did not see a reason to abstain from vengeance.

So, I did not.

The machinegun team was focused on whatever was moving in front of them, and for a moment, I was concerned that some fool had sent out another party after me.

That was not the case.

The Germans, while they appeared calm, spoke in sentences as short and rapid as their weapon.

There was a monster between the lines, one that hunted both sides.

A heartbeat later, it was in the trench with us.

The creature was a mass of flesh and uniforms, a mashed together monstrosity of bits and pieces. A version of Frankenstein’s monster that not even Shelley could have conceived in all her brilliance.

I confess the sight of the monster took me by surprise, and by the time I recovered, two of the men were dead.

The beast tore the face off one of the living men and stuffed the bloody mass into its mouth as the man died shrieking. The fourth soldier fired two shots from his pistol into the monster’s chest, and when the beast let out a wheezing, gasping laugh, he turned the weapon on himself and blew out his brains.

I stepped out from my hiding place, and the monster turned around.

There were too many eyes and one mouth too many. I counted seven arms and at least a dozen legs. But it was bleeding from the gunshots, and so, I knew it could die.

It came at me, mouths slavering and eyes fixed, arms spread wide and hands grasping.

I stood my ground and met it, and in the confines of the trench, I butchered it.

For half an hour, I fought the thing, jointing it limb by limb.

When I finished, I’d spread it out over the trench, and only the head remained intact.

Sitting down, I held it between my legs, and whistling, I dug out each eye, pried free each tooth.

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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