War: 8.13.1930

I’ve grown to hate the sound of machinery in the Hollow.

It does not bode well.

With the memory of the tank still fresh, I listened to the rumbling of a diesel engine with some concern. When I discovered the sound was remaining in one place, I ventured forth, my BAR ready.

As the engine rattled and clanked, while noxious fumes settled over the forest, I discovered I was walking through snow, though there had been nothing of the sort when I broke camp.

Men called out to one another in a language with which I was unfamiliar. Their tones were amiable, and the words were punctuated by a burst of genial laughter on occasion.

For a short time, I held onto the thin hope that perhaps I might not need to kill whoever I met in this Godforsaken place.

It was vanity to entertain such thoughts.

I reached a clearing and saw a piece of forestry equipment set atop a pair of rough-cut runners. Cables ran and hummed, and finally, as I watched, they went taut. I followed the lines with my eyes and saw they were connected to large hooks, buried into the flesh of a giant.

They had killed him, though I know not how.

He was stripped down, though, and a platoon of butchers was walking around him, marking off sections with blue chalk as the winches pulled the dead giant out of the hole he had tried to dig for himself. The wind shifted, and I heard blades being sharpened. With the wind came the smell of fire, and I knew what would occur.

They would butcher him. They would render his fat and break his bones to scrape out the marrow. This creature would go to feed some soldiers, who, in turn, would go on to fight, and thus demand that the butchers find another giant to slay.

Whether this giant was good or evil, whether he did or did not do something to warrant such an end to his existence, I neither knew nor did I care.

There are only so many abominations in the Hollow that I can accept.

This was unacceptable.

I brought the BAR up to my shoulder and began to fire.

None of the butchers made it out alive, and I made it a point to spoil the meat.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

War: 8.12.1930

The fog cleared, and the monster crawled toward me.

I had seen tanks during the Great War, but those had been operated by men. The monster crossing the scarred battlefield toward me bellowed and cursed at me with a deep, mechanical voice.

“Blood!” it screamed, and the machineguns opened fire, forcing me to take cover in a trench which contained the remains of its previous residents. Crawling out of the rotting flesh I had landed in, I made my way forward.

The monster kept up a steady rate of fire with foul epithets intertwined. Unsurprisingly, the beast knew a considerable amount about my past, though there were some parts of it that I could not lay claim to.

I reached a collapsed wall and saw I would have to be exposed to the monster’s weapons.

It was an unpleasant thought, and I hastened over the debris.

“Look what they’ve done to us, Blood!” the monster howled, and the machinegun rounds kicked up dirt only inches from me as I hurtled once more into the trench. The beast’s main cannon fired and destroyed the blockage and sent wreckage hurtling past me.

The treads crushed the earth, and it seemed as though the ground would break apart. Bits of the trench’s edge did just that as the tank trundled along.

I came to a stop and waited. It was all I could do. None of my weapons were strong enough to penetrate the thick armor of the tank, and I doubted if I would be able to pry open the hatches. Even if I could, what would I accomplish?

All I could do was wait.

“Are you alive, Blood?” the monster demanded, its voice sending shockwaves through my body.

“You must be,” it snarled. “We can never die. Not even when we wish to. Look what they did to me. They caught me napping outside the blacksmith, and they put me in this. This is your fate, too, should they catch you. Or perhaps worse. I know not. I care not. I only want to kill myself, Duncan Blood, and since I cannot do that, I will do the next best thing. I will kill every Duncan I find.”

It rambled on for several more minutes before turning away.

I reflected on what it had said and decided not to let the monster find me.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

War: 8.11.1930

It is not unusual for Death to have a pretty face.

Nor is it unusual for most to be lulled into a sense of false security by such a face.

There are times when Death and I have walked shoulder to shoulder along a bright and well-lit road or crawled through darkness to slit some fool’s throat.

I am still not certain whether this woman was a Reaper or some other creature for whom I lack a name.

I know she was pretty, and that she called to all who passed by the small house she occupied. The fact that the house was still standing, unmarked by the war around it, should have been warning enough. The sight of the house caused my hackles to rise and for my hand to reach for my Bowie knife and not any of my firearms.

My instinct was that the creature within would not be harmed by something as mundane as a bullet.

No, the thing within would need cold steel, if anything, and not hot lead.

As I came close to the door, I considered whether or not I should pass the house by. If I should not leave the creature within alone.

And then, I thought of the creature coming into Cross, and I entered the home.

There were rifles in the hallway, cast off haversacks on the stairs, helmets piled on the landing of the second floor. I followed a trail of shirts and coats to a door at the far end of the hallway, and there, at the threshold, were piles of suspenders and belts, trousers off to one side.

They had undressed themselves for the creature in the room beyond.

The door was ajar, and I pushed it open with the tip of my knife. The hinges were silent, unlike the woman stretched out on the couch.

A soft, sweet song issued from her painted lips, but I knew she was death.

It took her only a moment to understand that I was not like the others, and in that moment, I crossed the room and took her by the hair. As she barred serrated teeth and clawed at me with talons disguised as fingers, I buried the knife to its hilt in her chest.

She vomited bright blood and died on the blade, the screams of a thousand victims exploding from her chest.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

War: 8.10.1930

They believed me to be easy prey.

They did not know that some days, some days, I am Death incarnate. But they learned.

I could tell by the stench upon them that they were responsible for the mournful village that I had passed through the day before. Their odor – a mixture of garlic and the faint, peculiar scent that belongs only to cordite – had lingered about the town.

These men, gathered as they were, were undeniably artillery spotters, and they were preparing to engage in their particular trade.

I didn’t bother with the BAR.

Instead, I let my hands drop to the Colts, easing the hammers back as I stopped a short distance from the men.

One of them called out to me in German, and so I answered in the same.

“Where are you going, friend?” he asked. His smile was broad, as though he thought I might not see his colleagues easing knives out of sheaths.

“I’m looking for headquarters,” I replied, settling into a shooting stance. “I’d like to have a word or two with whoever is in charge.”

“No one’s in command,” the man replied, laughing. “We are on our own, and we have been for years.”

I heard the lie in his voice, and I smiled.

The men nearest to me charged, evidently mistaking my calm demeanor for that of a fool’s.

They died with looks of dull surprise on their faces.

Their comrades reached for rifles and pistols, knives forgotten.

But my Colts were already drawn, my feet were planted, and I don’t miss.

Not when I am angry.

Eight of the men died in as many seconds. The ninth man, the idiot with whom I had been speaking, he tried to run.

I put a round through his knee and dropped him. He tried to draw his sidearm, but before he could, I was there.

I plucked the weapon from his hand, tossed it aside, and broke each of his fingers. As he lay in the dirt, screaming at me, I reloaded my Colts, holstered them, and sat down beside the man.

He snarled at me, and then I stuck my thumb in the hole in his knee.

His snarl became a shriek, and I withdrew my thumb before he could pass out.

There were questions I needed answered.

He answered as many as he could, though not nearly enough.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

War: 8.9.1930

The town lamented its dead.

Weeping greeted my ears as I broke camp and made my way eastward. It was a rolling, heartbreaking sound, and one with which I was well familiar.

The forest fell away to rent fields, crops churned beneath the plows of war. There would be famine, come the fall and winter, and far worse things if history was any judge of the future.

I found a road of hardpacked earth, and I followed it. The wind pushed at me from behind, and then, as the road curved, the wind shifted and carried with it the carrion stench of the battlefield and murder.

Crows watched me from broken trees, and the occasional raven sat higher up, a sergeant amongst the avian troops. Occasionally, a raven would call out a greeting to me. Though I did not know their names, it was clear that they knew mine. I waved in return, my BAR slung, and my Colts loosened in their holsters.

Dust rose with each footfall, and soon, I caught sight of a town. Yet the closer I drew to it, the louder the weeping became. Soon, my bones vibrated with the lamentations, and I knew it to be the town itself that mourned the dead.

The buildings were shattered. Walls tumbled, and roofs destroyed. Wells were fouled. All that had been good and right in the town was gone.

I saw broken bodies and clouds of black flies hovering above scattered pieces of meat, which had once been part of the townspeople.

Then, ahead of me, I saw a solitary figure.

As I drew nearer to it, I was able to recognize the figure as a child, perhaps no more than twelve or thirteen.

He was clearly dead, though standing upright. His eyes were missing, and his mouth was open. From the open mouth, past the blackened tongue and sunken cheeks, the cries of the town issued forth.

I was silent as I passed the dead mouthpiece.

There was nothing I could do. No words of comfort could I speak to this creature whose Joie de Vivre had been torn from its heart.

All I could do was kill those responsible.

Killing is something I can do.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

War: 8.8.1930

The earth shook beneath the thunder of artillery.

After my ears stopped ringing, I heard laughter, a snippet of a song, and then a short and brutal scream.

The sound, far more than any other than I have heard in the past eight days, pierced my heart.

Clenching my BAR, I forced myself to approach the source of the noise warily. It would do no good to run into a fight. I long since disabused myself of the belief that it would do any good in battle.

When someone screamed like that, there was no saving them.

I reached the position just as a team of artillerymen was loading their howitzer. A moment later, the lead crewman pulled the firing line, and again the world rumbled. As the piece rolled back, the men burst out laughing again and plucked small creature up from the ground. It was dazed, its eyes rolling around in their sockets, and it took me a moment to realize they were holding a miniature person.

Whether it was male or female, I do not know.

What I could see, however, was the short, brutal thrust of the loader’s arm as he stuffed the person into the still-hot chamber of the howitzer. There was a shriek from within, but it was cut off as the door was slammed shut and locked.

The creature was fired out a moment later.

And even as the piece was recoiling, I was firing the BAR.

I aimed low, taking the men’s legs off at the knees. What few miniature persons remained, scattered, leaving me with the artillerymen and my rage.

I tied off their injuries and staked them down around the howitzer.

The men howled in pain, and several times they attempted to engage me in conversation. I ignored them.

Instead, I concentrated on attempting to find any normal munitions for the howitzer.

Happily, I did.

When I was ready, I tied the lead crewman to the front of the howitzer, the muzzle of it pressed against the small of his back, his arms, and severed legs tied to the wheels. Smoking my pipe, I loaded a shell into the chamber, closed it, and with the others watching, I fired the gun.

I took my time with the other four.

Strange, I was the only one who found it funny.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

War: 8.7.1930

The ringing of a hammer on an anvil sang out through the forest.

I followed the sound of the unknown blacksmith until I came to a wide and well-worn path. I crept along to a large and low smithy, from which the hammering originated. When I came within twenty feet of it, the hammering stopped, and I let my hands rest upon the Colts.

“I smell you, Duncan Blood,” a woman stated in a flat and unimpressed tone. “Will you come in or stay out in the rain with your hands on your metal phalli?”

I chuckled and let my hands fall.

“In,” I answered, and I walked into the smithy, and my eyes took a moment to adjust. What I could see in the dim glow of the forge’s embers were the trappings of a blacksmith, and a woman at her anvil. She glanced at me. “Sit a spell. I imagine you’re wondering how I know you.”

“It had crossed my mind,” I confessed, sitting down and resting the BAR across my knees.

She set her tools aside, put a pot of coffee on the embers, and faced me.

“You’re not the first of your ilk to drift through here,” she informed me. “Although, I’m sure you’re aware of that.”

I nodded. “I came upon a tortured version of myself.”

“Many of you have died here,” she stated. “But we’ve been fighting for years.”

I did not bother to ask what about. It rarely made a difference.

She gestured to a pile of stained and pitted metal off to one side. “I salvage what I can from the dead. Then I bring it here to forge new weapons with which they might kill themselves.”

“Do they pay you?”

Her smile was one of broken, jagged teeth. “Their deaths are payment enough.”

She took the coffee from the embers, not bothering with a cloth or bit of fabric to protect herself against the heat. She poured the dark brew into a steel cup and passed it to me. The coffee was strong, and it had a hint of blood to it.

 “There’s a barrage that’s due,” she told me. “You’d best finish your coffee and be off. I’ll survive, of course. But not you.”

I took her advice, finished the coffee, and sought a safe place to weather the impending storm of steel.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

War: 8.6.1930

He was a photographer, and he wanted to die.

The vehicle was mired in mud a half-day’s walk from the flesh-devouring train I had destroyed. It had been a wet night and the on and off rain that fell told me I was in for another unpleasant evening unless I could find someplace to make my bed that promised to be drier.

When I saw the vehicle, it was from the front. The front wheels were sunk to their wells, and the engine appeared to be dead. There was no stink of death or illness about the place, and that alone was worrisome. Everything in this version of the Hollow reeked of putrescence. Everything except for here.

With the BAR at the ready, I approached the vehicle carefully. A quick look in the cab revealed it to be empty, and so I walked in a wide arc as I made my way to the back. I found the rear doors thrown wide, and a shell-shocked man sitting there amongst the chemicals and gear of a photographer.

I was passing familiar with photography, and more than capable when it came to speaking German, which the soldier in the vehicle appeared to be.

When I asked him his name, he told me he was called Erik. When I asked what he was doing in the vehicle, he replied he was wishing he could die.

We spoke for a few minutes, and I learned of a new horror.

Erik was not only the photographer; he was the camera. Whatever fresh hell he saw on the battlefield, he transferred it onto film in an alchemical process I do not pretend even now to understand.

A lover of art and beauty, Erik had volunteered for the role of photographer, not knowing what it would entail. Not knowing that every image he saw would remain forever fixed in his thoughts, accessible at any time. When he closed his eyes, he saw the horrors replayed.

Again and again and again.

He had not slept for days. And despite his pain and his sorrow, he could not bring himself to commit suicide.

I blew his brains out with the BAR and everything he had seen flooded the forest around me. For a minute, I was awash in death and dismemberment.

Then, it was gone.

I will sleep beneath the vehicle tonight and burn it in the morning.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

War: 8.5.1930

The fetid stink of a charnel house hung in the air.

A heavy mist had settled over the Hollow shortly before dawn, and when I broke camp, I was forced to travel at a slow and miserable pace. I could hear troops around me, though the sounds of combat were distant. Wherever the Hollow had placed me, it was not on the front lines.

As I moved through the mist, the forest fell away, and I soon came to a set of railroad tracks. I left the road behind and stayed with the tracks, hopeful that I might be able to trace them back to some sort of command unit.

Instead, I found a train.

The locomotive was armored, and the cloying stench of death came from its smokestack, and I saw why.

Men were carrying the butchered remnants of the dead into the engine and feeding the train the corpses. Other soldiers stood about, chatting and laughing, their colleagues occasionally throwing a foot or a hand at someone not paying attention. The laughter that followed was full and hearty and sickened me.

I had resolved to pass by this infernal stop when I noticed that the body parts weren’t only those of men. They consisted of the remains of women and children as well.

There was no choice.

Stepping out of the tree-line, I opened fire with the BAR.

What a .30-06 can do to a man is not for the faint of heart, though I will admit it did bring a smile to my face.

The soldiers were taken aback, but even as they struggled to bring their weapons to bear, I was cutting them down. Several attempted to throw grenades, but they were unsuccessful.

The sight of the explosives pleased me, and when I was done killing all who had stood and fought, I hastily gathered up the grenades and brought them to the locomotive’s engine. An iron door was open, and rows of triangular teeth gnashed and snapped, seeking the flesh it had so recently been feasting on.

I tossed the grenades into the monster’s mouth, and I ran.

The earth shook beneath my feet and threw me across a stack of corpses.

As bits of bloody iron clattered to the earth around me, I made my way back into the gloom of the forest.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death

War: 8.4.1930

The screams were some of the worst I have ever heard.

I am no stranger to the sufferings of the wounded. I have heard their cries across centuries, and they are never easy to forget.

The screams which issued forth from the ambulance I came upon, however, were far beyond those of the wounded.

These were the shrieks of the tortured and the damned.

I had every intention of passing the ambulance by, and perhaps I would have done just that, had I not seen the nurse who came stumbling out.

There was no saving her. Blood erupted from between her fingers as she desperately sought to keep the wound in her neck closed. But she only managed a few steps before she sank first to her knees, and then, with her bloodied hands falling to her side, she pitched forward and lay motionless, the last of her life issuing forth with the last few pumps of her heart.

With the BAR slung over my shoulder, I drew both Colts and stepped up to the tent and peered in, prepared to butcher whoever lay on the operating table.

What I saw caused me to pause.

I was on the table.

Or what was left of me.

A pair of surgeons were dragging a gossamer strand out of the gaping hole that had once been my chest. It was, I knew, whatever accounted for a soul. And they were stealing it.

What they intended to do with it, I know not. Nor did I care to ask. I can only assume they wished to use it in some machine of war, to power some device. The fact that it was a version of me on the table made it all the worse.

I fired both Colts.

The doctor on the left lost his lower jaw and his grip upon the soul. The surgeon on the right lost the top of his head. They both died.

The soul hung about the tent for a moment, nothing more than an undulating piece of silk. Then, it spoke, clear, and true in my own voice.

“Kill as many as you can.”

I nodded as the soul slipped through the tent’s canvas.

I reloaded my Colts, walked out of the tent, and kicked the nurse’s corpse for good measure.

#horror #monsters #supernatural #death