Hunters, 1916


In the bitter cold of winter, they hunted us.

For three days, we found headless corpses in our trenches. Thirteen by the end of that last day. Thirteen men we had known and broken bread with.

Finally, I was able to convince my Captain to let me speak with the Colonel, and then the Colonel agreed, after I broke some of his fingers, to allow me to speak with the General. I removed the last two teeth in the General’s mouth with a backhand before he relented and did as I asked.

When I returned to my unit, it was with orders for my comrades to withdraw to the next series of trenches. They were to watch all entrances with a dozen men on watch at each point. I was the only one they were to allow exit.

It was a necessary precaution. Whoever I was facing was quite skilled, and I would not risk the safety of my friends any longer.

War is one thing.

Being hunted in our own home by some monstrosity is something else entirely.

I hunkered down in one of the dugouts, lit a small fire, and I smoked my pipe as I waited.

I don’t know who they were, but they moved silently. Their weapons were at the ready as they passed by me.

When the last man was ten or so paces away, I eased out of the dugout and followed them, my pipe clenched between my teeth, a cut-down bayonet in my hand.

By the time I caught up to them, I could see they were dismayed by the lack of prey.

I let them know I was there.

I drove the bayonet into the last man’s ribs, twisted it and broke bone as I tore through his lung. His gasp was loud in the confines of the trench, and it spoke of death.

The others turned around and attempted to press me back. But there was no room for them to maneuver and no fear in me.

It was short, hard work, and when I was done, the last of them lay on his back, gasping for breath.

His life ebbed as I sat down beside him, and he glared at me with abashed hatred.

With a shrug, I leaned forward and dug his eyes out with my thumbs.

I saw no reason for his passing to be easy.

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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