The Prisoner, 1918

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They brought them in by the thousands.

I was sitting on the side of the road, watching the German prisoners marching past me. They were in good order, exhausted but not defeated. A dangerous combination. Their exhaustion might keep them controllable for a time, but soon enough – if they were provoked – they might decide they no longer wanted to be prisoners.

I had no desire to see decent fighting men corralled like sheep, and so I stood up and adjusted my rifle. I was still working out the kinks in my muscles and examining the plethora of holes in my uniform when one of the prisoners caught my eye.

One of his own eyes was bandaged, and he looked at me with a deep intelligence that spoke of wisdom well past his years.

I crossed the road, went to the hastily erected barbed-wire barricade, and offered the man a smoke. He took it and thanked me as I lit the cigarette. His nostrils flared for a moment, and then a tired smile spread across his face.

In perfect English, he asked, “You’re a Blood?”

I was taken aback for a moment, but I nodded all the same.

“I can always smell a relation,” he admitted, exhaling through his nose. “I too am a Blood. Frederick Blüt.” In a lower voice, he added, “I am one hundred-ninety-two tomorrow. And you?”

“Closing in on three hundred,” I admitted.

My cousin nodded and straightened up. “Do you heal quickly?”

“Aye.”

“The same. And fire?”

“Hate it,” I told him. “’Bout the only thing I know that can finish us off.”

He snorted. “Yes. That is what I learned as well.”

We were silent for a moment, and then he added, “I would warn your officers to steer clear of the ammo dump beyond the third line. There is something there I could not kill.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“Yes,” Frederick continued, “it took my eye and the lives of eight of my men.” He paused before asking, “Do you do such work?”

“Not that they know of.”

He smiled. “A wise decision. Perhaps after the war, if the war ever ends, I could pay you a visit? There are terribly few of us here.”

“Do you drink?”

“As often as I can.”

I chuckled, gave him my address, the last of my smokes, and told him I’d see him in Cross or in Hell.

Whichever came first.

#horror #fear #paranormal

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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