Gas, 1918


There are too many ways for a soldier to die.

Earlier in this war, the Germans introduced gas. I got myself a good taste of it once, and once was more than enough. It laid me low for nearly a day, and had I not been alone, someone might have mistaken me for being dead.

The gas alarm is a terrible sound. All along the front, men will bang metal upon metal, a cacophony that alerts all who can hear about the horror of what is rolling forth with the wind.

There is always a mad scramble for our masks to get them on and sealed. There is always one man who fails, and it is a terrible death to watch.

This morning, gas came rolling across No-Man’s-Land, and the alarm went up.

There was something wrong, though.

Something untoward about this gas.

While the others prepared to repel an attack, I crept up over the wall and out into the desolation which lay between the lines. It took me only a few moments to realize what was wrong.

The gas was moving against the wind.

As it did so, I caught sight of a pair of American soldiers crouched down beside a pair of field telephone lines.

That was wrong.

There were no Americans in our sector. Not anywhere close to it.

The soldiers looked up and stared at me, their eyepieces empty save for swirling gas.

I drew my Luger, and the men got clumsily to their feet. With awkward movements, they tried to escape, and I shot them both in the back.

The bodies sagged, smoke pouring out of the holes left by the passage of the bullets.

A heartbeat later, only a pile of clothing and equipment lay to mark where the creatures had been.

I scanned the area around me, but there was nothing else to see.

What the creatures wanted, and why they were so intent upon the telephone lines, I’ll never know. The gas dissipated, and I ran back to the lines as the first of the German snipers caught sight of me.

I took a bullet through the back of the leg and went tumbling down into a trench, where a group of Highlanders laughed at me and asked if I enjoyed my trip.

I told them all where to put their questions, even as one of them offered up some scotch.

By the time I finished the drink, my leg was healed, and it was time to go.

#horror #fear #paranormal

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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