Spoilt, 1918


They were dead when I found them.
I spent the better part of a week tracking down the Germans who had ambushed my unit, only to find a trench full of corpses.
The destruction was meant to appear as part of the normal course of war, but a quick examination of the dead told me otherwise.
There were great gouges in their backs, ribs broken, and the marrow sucked out. Bits of men were scattered about, but it was nothing more than camouflage. Eyewash, as it were, to hide the fact that something else had slain these soldiers and feasted upon them.
I’ve no qualms about killing. None at all about revenge. But I do take issue with something hunting men.
I poked around until I found a half-collapsed dugout, one marked with dried blood and a flat, foul-smelling scat. A closer look showed bone fragments in the scat, and I took out my trench knife. It was a cut-down butcher’s bayonet, and it fit my hand nicely.
With a good hold upon it, I entered the dugout and waited for my eyes to adjust to the dim light. As they did so, a whisper caught my ear. I did not recognize the language, but I didn’t need to. There was a darkness to it that I would know anywhere. It was of the Hollow, and I had heard it there before.
From the corner of my eye, I saw them. A trio of tall, lanky creatures who each had an extra arm and small, malicious eyes. Their mouths were too long, the lips cracked and bleeding. None of them were clothed, and I could see their fingers twitching eagerly.
Why they didn’t rush me became apparent a heartbeat later.
There was a fourth creature, and it sprang at me from my right.
I drove my knife into its mouth and out the back of its neck, killing it instantly and causing the creature to sag to the uneven floor. A twist and a pull brought my weapon clear even as the remaining beasts attacked.
The fight was brutal and vicious, and I spared them no mercy.
I unleashed upon the creatures the rage I had kept reserved for those who had killed my friends.
The beasts suffered, for the only one who died quickly was the first.
When I finished, my arms ached, and my blade was dull.

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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