Hung Up, 1916


The wire rattled and moaned its language of death.

I could see him where I was placed, my hide invisible to those who might approach our lines. My rifle was set back far enough so that the barrel wouldn’t be seen, close enough so that I might still shoot easily through the hide’s aperture.

I don’t know when the German had gotten hung up in the wire. It hadn’t been during the previous day when I manned my hide, and the night crew had not mentioned a failed raid upon the part of the Germans.

How the dead man had managed to get so close without anyone noticing — and the fact that no one could recall recently shooting a man — was an unwelcome mystery.

I like my war straightforward: brutal and honest.

The dead German was giving me brutality, but little else.

I kept a watchful eye on the dead man for several hours, and when the sun was at its apex, when I was waiting for my relief to arrive so I might eat and sleep a bit, the German moved.

The barbed wire rattled and clicked, groaned and sighed, and as I fixed my gaze upon him, the dead man straightened up.

I trained my rifle on the German, certain that he had been unconscious the entire time when I saw his face.

It was not a man’s face. Not a human one, at least.

The creature stretched and yawned, revealing rows of small, sharp black teeth. I counted at least four eyes. Possibly five. The flesh of his neck and face writhed, holes opening and closing, revealing yellow bone and more teeth.

It scratched itself, bent down, and picked up a bit of an arm. The creature brought it up to its mouth, ran a long, thin gray tongue along the meat, and then grunted in disgust before casting it aside.

With a stretch, the creature dropped to all fours and crawled away, humming as it did so.

My relief arrived a moment later, and I took a walk to the main bombproof.

A late breakfast would be waiting, and I was hungry as hell.

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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