Infection, 1915

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They vanished.

We were tied in with a French unit when the fog rolled in and sank down into the trenches. A chill came with the mist and bit through our uniforms and smothered what little warmth our fires gave us.

Near midnight, the fog thickened between the French unit and our own.

We sent runners to try and break through, but they always returned, surprised to be back. They had become turned around, and in the morning, we were thankful.

At dawn, the sun burned off the fog and drove it from our trenches and freed us from the chill.

The respite was short-lived.

I was sent out to connect with the French unit.

They were there, at their posts, and dead.

They looked as though they had been dead for some time. Far longer than the hours since we had last seen them.

I made my way through the trench, checked their dugouts and the smaller shelters. Everywhere I looked, I saw dead men.

A cool breeze moved around me, and I smelled sickness. A strange, putrescent odor like nothing I could remember.

It was foul and not of this world.

When I had gone to the end of their sector, I found a soldier from the next unit.

“They’re all dead,” he told me.

I nodded.

“It ain’t right.”

“True,” I agreed, “but little is.”

The soldier snorted and nodded. The man turned his head, spat on the ground and said, “I’ll let them know on my end. You?”

“Same,” I told him.

“What did it?” he asked. “Germans?”

“No,” I answered.

“What then?”

I glanced at the bodies closest to us, the pale faces and the desiccated flesh, and said, “Something bad.”

Without another word, we turned and left the dead for someone else to bury.

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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