November 11, 1918

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The silence was sudden and painful.

None of my boys knew what to do.

Frankly, neither did I.

For close to five years, the sounds of war had been my constant companion. I slept well when the earth shook with the rumbling of artillery, and I could not imagine a cup of coffee without the occasional louse jumping from my clothing and into the dark, thick brew.

But the war was over, or so they told us.

An armistice had been signed, and at the eleventh hour of this day, the war had ended.

There was no cheering from my boys, though we heard it from others nearby.

We had spent the better part of the night battling a dark shadow without form. It had seeped up through a crack in the trench floor, and it had devoured one of the wounded before we realized what was happening. Two more men died before we discovered that – much like myself – fire was the only way to kill it.

And so, fire was what we had used. Fire and anger.

We were exhausted, and five of my boys went to sleep in the shell crater we had finally slain the creature in. Winthrop smoked his pipe, and Archie sipped at his bourbon.

I sat and hated the stillness.

Soon, I knew I would be sent home to Cross. I have missed it these years, but I will miss these men, my brothers, even more.

There is a bond here that, once forged, cannot be unbroken.

We have seen death and dealt the same together. We have suffered in ways that others of our kind will understand, and no one else can.

I will miss this war and all its horror.

I will miss these men even more.

I leave them to sleep and to smoke and to drink, and I climb up to look across No-Man’s-Land. There, only a few hundred feet away, a German sergeant stands with his hands clasped behind his back. He saw me, began to salute, and then swept his helmet off his head instead and bowed.

I did the same.

Our war was done. No need for salutes.

#horror #fear #paranormal

Published by

Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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