A Bitter Feast, 1916

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They got what they deserved.

We were in Etaples, though for the life of me, I don’t know why. It was one of the great mysteries of life in the army, any army. You go where you are sent. You fight when you are told to fight.

There was a unit of British troops in town ahead of us, and we learned that this wasn’t their first time through. They’d stopped by in 1914 when the war began. They had had, according to those who had survived the subsequent years of fighting, one hell of a good time, although they wouldn’t clarify what that good time was.

The townsfolk were well familiar with the British unit, and they welcome them with open arms. In fact, in one neighborhood, they set out tables for the men, and the natives would not let us partake of the feast.

Well, we were sorely disappointed since the food looked fine, but we weren’t about to force ourselves upon them.

It was with reluctance that we went to our bivouac.

Later that evening, as I was looking for a place to get an egg or two, that I heard muffled screaming.

Concerned, I tracked the sound as best I could, and in a short while, I found the source.

A long, low house near the edge of the neighborhood where the food had been laid out was brightly lit. I approached it cautiously, unsure as to what I might stumble upon. I reached a window and peered in through the dirty glass.

Eleven men stripped naked and hung by their wrists from the ceiling screamed through the gags in their mouths. Eleven women and girls, some as young as twelve, stood before the men with long carving knives. Fresh blood ran down the chests of the men, and I was able to make out the same word carved in their flesh: Le Violateur.

Violator.

At a nod from an older woman standing off to the right, the knife-wielding females stepped forward and castrated the men in front of them.

Other women appeared with irons that glowed orange with heat, and without any pause, they slapped the hot metal to the fresh wounds.

Some of the men would die, and that was fine by me.

I turned away and went back to searching for some eggs.

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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