Gunned Down, 1917


They took the trench and regretted it.

I’ve neither love nor hate for the enemy. There is no place for either, not in war.

So, this morning, when a group of Sturmtruppen took the trench we had abandoned a month ago, I went to warn them.

I was too late.

I saw a score of them securing the position as I slid down into the trench, my hands raised to show I was unarmed, the creatures attacked.

These creatures wore the uniforms of soldiers in both armies, but their faces were gone. Instead of features, there were pulsating colors – deep blues and purples – mesmerizing many of the Sturmtruppen and allowing the creatures to seize them.

When the monsters did so, they stripped the flesh from the bones, the meat snaking into the empty faces until the men were nothing more than piles of soiled clothing and equipment.

Some of the Germans fought back, but there were too many of the creatures. I snatched up a rifle from a dead man and killed the monster closest to me even as a machine-gunner swung his weapon around and sprayed the trench.

I fired over his shoulder as he attempted to reload, but the machine gun jammed, and he drew his pistol instead as the creatures advanced upon us.

“Come on!” I snarled in German, and the gunner laughed as he shook his head.

“Stormtroopers don’t retreat,” he remarked, firing into the onslaught. “Not even from the likes of these.”

He tossed his pistol aside when he ran out of ammunition, and he drew a long knife. He glanced at me and asked, “Will I see you in Hell?”

I nodded. “More than likely.”

“Then safe travels until we meet again,” he said and raced toward the creatures.

Every man has the right to choose when he dies, and I waited until he had met his fate.

As his remnants collapsed to the trench floor, the creatures hesitated and looked toward me.

“I’ve got all day,” I told them, “and I don’t mind a little more killing.”

They sank back into the shadows and let me be.

I slung the rifle over my shoulder and slipped up and out of the trench.

There was still a war to fight.

Published by

Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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