The artillery woke them, the living fed them.
We moved forward behind a rolling barrage, the shells keeping the German machine-gunners pinned down, the infantry in their bombproofs.
It did us little good.
The German artillery opened up, churning No-Man’s-Land into a mass grave and exhuming the dead who had lain between the lines since the war of movement had ground to a halt.
My men turned back, fear driving them to our own trenches.
I did not retreat.
I was displeased with the situation.
We’d been pinned down for too long. Too many hours spent in the lines, unable to attack.
I reached the German lines and got a bayonet in the belly for my trouble.
A stomach full of steel is never a good thing, and it did not improve my attitude, far from it. The soldier tried to jerk the weapon free, but I took hold of the rifle’s stock with one hand and choked him to death with the other as dirt rained down upon us.
As the fresh corpse slid to the trench floor, I pulled the bayonet out and made my way to the nearest dugout. Drawing my knife, I slipped in and found it abandoned. Stepping back out into the trench, the bombardment stopped, and I was left alone in a trench full of bodies. My head ached from the stillness I was suddenly thrust into, and my ears strained for the slightest sound.
It came a moment later in the form of nervous laughter.
I followed the noise to its source, and I found a trio of men standing in the doorway of a deep bombproof. On the lintel was written the word, Küche.
As my mind took in and processed the sight before me, something struck.
Thick, dull gray hands reached out from the shadows of the kitchen and took hold of the men, who screamed and struggled against their captors.
There was a series of loud cracks, and the screams stopped.
From where I stood, I could hear the distinct sound of messy chewing.
I slid my knife back into its sheath, and the whistling of incoming shells caught my attention.
Without a glance back, I exited the trench, and beneath the cover of the bombardment, I made my way back.
The Germans could deal with the monsters on their own.