Monstrous, 1918

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A low, metallic screaming reverberated across the battlefield.

The Germans had attempted to push forward using captured British tanks, and for a short time, they had succeeded. But after our troops recovered from their initial shock, and with a barrage of heavy artillery fire for support, the German assault was defeated and pushed back.

Bodies littered No-Man’s-Land, as did several of the now-defunct machines.

It was from one of those broken and battered tanks that the screaming came from, and the sound drew me to it.

The noise was disturbing and did not sit well with me. When I reached the tank, I discovered why.

Within the twisted metal were the remains of men.

They were stripped of clothes, and while three of the men had their lips stitched together with steel wire, a fourth man’s lips had torn free, and through his bloody gash of a mouth, he was screaming.

The men were not merely the operators of the machine, they were part of it, and they were still alive, writhing in the confines of their steel tomb.

Wires and pistons, gears and pulleys, all were embedded in the men. Blood seeped from around the wounds and from fresh injuries as well. Their eyes were hidden behind tinted goggles such as an aviator might wear, and I confess I was thankful for it.

The men turned their heads and focused upon me, and the one whose mouth was free in its own hideous way managed to gasp out, “Hilfe.”

“Yes,” I answered in German. “I will help you.”

The men went still, and I drew a Luger I had taken off a corpse earlier in the day.

I crawled to each man and whispered words of comfort as I placed the muzzle at the base of the skull and the back of the neck and then pulled the trigger.

My ears rang, and my head pounded as I left the tank, and for a short time, I contemplated crossing into the German lines to find where the tank had come from.

With a shake of my head, I put away my Luger and made a promise to visit Germany after the war.

I needed to meet whoever had adapted the tank, and that person needed to die.

#horror #fear #paranormal

Spoilt, 1918

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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.

Broken, 1918

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I alone survived.

Coming up through the second line, we were ambushed.

The Germans struck quickly, professionally. There was no hatred in them, only the necessary amount of violence to collapse our front and destroy our rear. They pushed at us from either end, dropped down from the sides, and were – by far – the most skillful adversaries we’d yet faced.

It does not lessen the pain in my heart. Nor will it ever.

I took several blows to the head from a warclub, the steel spikes collapsing my helmet and splitting open my skull. I was aware, vaguely, of the Germans as they made their way among the wounded, administering the coup de grace.

I was proud of the Germans, for the killings were merciful. I was prouder of my boys, for they did not beg.

By the time a French patrol found us, I had managed to peel my helmet off, and my skull was knitting itself back together. The pain was horrific, and I could not resist as a pair of Frenchmen bound my head and lifted me off the ground. The walls of the trench raced past as they gasped with the effort, apologizing all the while.

The Germans had scrambled my brain more than I had thought.

I spent a week in a hospital behind the lines in Oise, and when I was released, I learned my entire battalion had been destroyed. It was, in the parlance of armies, combat ineffective. There were not enough men to form a platoon, let alone a battalion.

I was offered the chance to go to a different Canadian unit, but that would require me to be sent back and await their arrival.

The other offer was to be seconded to a British unit, to be their eyes and ears on the lines.

I chose the latter.

The Germans who had killed my friends were still across the lines at Oise.

I went to the graveyard where my platoon lay buried, and I was pleased to see that they were all together, as they had been in life. There was a sharp agony then, a cleaving of my heart.

I should, by rights, be in the ground with them, but my blood forbids such a thing.

It’s time now for me to slip across No-Man’s-Land and find those who ambushed us. I’ve a debt to pay and a thing or two to teach the Germans about killing.

Unleashed, 1918

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Bombed ruins of a church.

The war has released too many monsters.

Europe is old and full of death.

For four years, I have waged war across France and Belgium. I have slain men and monsters, and I have killed those that needed killing, regardless of where they stood in this conflict.

This morning, emerging from my shelter, I discovered two of our unit were missing. They had gone out wandering, searching for fresh food an hour or so before dawn, and they had not returned since.

It was unlike them.

Standing with my companions, my nose wrinkled at a faint, familiar stench, one hidden beneath the chemical and unnatural odors of the battlefield.

I told my friends to stay where they were, and I left them.

I picked up the trail of our missing men easily enough, and soon, I was outside a ruined church. The odor I had smelled earlier was stronger, lingering in the air.

Moving forward, I saw a splash of dark blood, and when I crouched down and touched it, the blood was still damp.

I followed the blood trail into the ruins, down a set of stone stairs, and into a crypt. My friends were hung from their ankles, throats slit and the blood draining into large casks. An old man stood beside them, his red eyes wide with surprise, the long nails on his fingers clicking against one another. His nostrils flared, and he took a step back, exclaiming in French, “You are a Blood!”

“I am,” I said, and I drew my knife. His eyes darted from my face to the blade.

“I was hungry,” he explained. “I have been locked here for centuries.”

I didn’t respond as I advanced upon him.

“I will kill you!” he snarled, his back pressing against the wall.

“You’d have done so.”

He tried to race past me, but his age and his hunger slowed him.

I punched through his breastbone with my knife, driving the weapon to the hilt. Fetid black blood sprayed out of his mouth as I jerked the blade out, took hold of his hair and yanked his head back.

Without a word, I sawed through his neck, the damned bastard writhing and lashing out at me the entire time. Soon enough, I had his head in my hand, and I dropped it to the floor.

With a nod, I raised a boot and stomped his brains out onto the stones.

Off-limits, 1917

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The barbed wire was a warning.

I thought the presence of barbed wire around an unexploded piece of ordnance was fairly self-explanatory.

Some of our higher-ranking officers failed to understand the significance of the barrier.

Either that or they just didn’t care. Regardless of the reason, they approached the barbed wire and the shell with an extreme amount of indifference.

We watched the group of five men, three colonels and a pair of generals walk directly toward the shell. I could see that the men were Americans and that they hailed from a New York national guard unit. Their uniforms were in impeccable shape and appeared to have been tailor-made.

One of my boys called out to the officers and warned them away from the shell, but a general threatened to report his behavior to our commanding officer.

I rolled my eyes at the man’s idiocy, then I led my squad out of the shell’s blast radius, and we settled down to watch the show.

As the officers gathered around the barbed wire, some of my squad began taking bets as to who would set off the bomb and how many would be killed. Money was changing hands when one of the colonels squatted down, reached through the wire and touched the shell.

For a split second, nothing happened, and then it was as though all the sound was stripped from the world. I could not even hear my own breathing.

From where I sat, I saw the expressions of terror flash across the officers’ faces, and then there was a great rumbling as the ground opened up beneath them, and the officers vanished.

Swearing, I got to my feet and brought my rifle to my shoulder. As I nestled the stock into place, the barbed wire was slowly pulled into the ground, leaving the shell exposed.

I adjusted my sights, took a deep breath, and pulled the trigger.

My shot was true, but the shell didn’t explode.

Instead, it shuddered and collapsed upon itself. There was a terrible shriek followed by a sucking sound, and the shell vanished in the morning light.

None of my squad spoke as they stood up and adjusted their equipment. I motioned for them to head back toward our lines, and I glanced once more at where the shell had been.

Finally, I shook my head and followed my boys.

I’d been in France for almost four years, and I was getting damned tired of it.

Cade Mello, 1917

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He didn’t want to stay down.

I’ve buried more than a few friends in this war, and too many men in my unit have died as well.

Cade Mello was one of them.

We were in the process of being relieved, and the Germans had somehow found out about it. They bid us a fond adieu with a barrage from some trench mortars, and several of our squad didn’t make it out of the lines.

Two of the men were killed outright. A third, and Cade too, suffered from mortal wounds. The third man succumbed within moments.

But not Cade.

He held on out of pure spite. His legs had been taken off at the knees, and he sat with his back against the trench wall, glaring at the sky. Some of the medics put tourniquets on his legs, but it was no use, and Cade knew it. I passed him a flask of good whiskey, and he drank his fill. When he finished, I lit him a cigarette, and he smoked it with the calm of a man who believes he has the whole day ahead of him.

Cade died with that cigarette between his lips.

We carried our dead back with us, and we put them in their graves.

Over the next few hours, we were deloused, fed, and given fresh uniforms. We were due to have fresh replacements as well as a few who were returning from hospital, and so we spent a fair portion of the night drinking and minding our own business.

It was close to midnight when Cade dragged himself into the tent, and I was the only one still awake.

He was covered in dirt and filth, and he was undeniably dead.

Cade sat down beside me, and I passed him my whiskey. When he finished it, he motioned for a cigarette.

When he finished the smoke, he drained the flask and passed it back to me. He glanced at our sleeping squadmates.

“You won’t tell them I was here?” he asked in a low groan.

“No. Staying longer?”

Cade shook his head. “No. I was told I didn’t have much time. Give us another cigarette, Blood, and I’ll crawl back to my hole.”

I nodded, lit a fresh cigarette and passed it to him. He gave a grunt of thanks, and with the cigarette between his lips, he dragged himself out of the tent.

I was sad to see him go and sadder still that he’d finished my whiskey.

Vermin, 1917

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The ground roiled as if it was boiling.

We were in a rest area, after our refusal to slay the awakened giant, and close to where the French had dug a mass grave for the bodies of a failed German attack.

Someone believed it would be a punishment for us to be so close to death, but whoever it was had never lived in the trenches for weeks at a time. We were now living in tents, and no one was shooting at us.

We could deal with the stench.

This morning, something changed.

The ground over the mass grave rippled, the dirt seething and throbbing in a way holy unnatural and disturbing. Several of the younger men went over to see what might be going on, and one of them stepped a little too close.

The earth gave way beneath him, and he sank up to his knees. His friends laughed at him in the way that soldiers do, but when his curses transformed into screams of pain, they hauled him out of the hole.

There were rats clinging to him, biting at him and gnawing upon his flesh.

Within moments the word was brought to the rest of us, and when we arrived, thousands of rats were pouring out of the mass grave.

They were the largest I had ever seen, their muzzles wet with blood and gore, their eyes maddened. The animals charged at us, unafraid, and we beat them back with our boots and pistols. They were after our wounded comrade, and we would not let them have him.

I sent a pair of men back for kerosene and matches, and soon, they returned.

With some of my squadmates clearing a path for me, I made my way to the hole in the ground and dumped the kerosene in. Rats shrieked as the liquid struck their eyes and mouths, and then they screamed in pain as I set them ablaze.

What else was beneath the ground and mingled with the corpses, I don’t know. Whatever it was, the fire I set spread, and the earth erupted into flames.

Perhaps it was the German dead exacting some revenge on the rats. Perhaps there was a chemical of some sort.

Whatever the reason, the fire burned for days and purged the graves of both rats and flesh.

The smell, my friends discovered, wasn’t unbearable.

Hubris, 1917

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Some things are best left alone.

We were detached from our battalion and raced to the rear of the lines, where we were loaded onto a train that paused only to switch engines. Not once were we allowed to disembark and stretch our legs. Not until we reached the end of the line, which happened to be a small city that looked as though it had been lifted from the front and dropped back several hundred miles.

As far as I knew, though, there hadn’t been any fighting this far back.

We were hurried off the train, issued ammunition for our weapons, and told that we would be hunting a monstrosity. A beast so terrible that few men believed it could even exist.

The men in my unit were hard. Foresters and lumberjacks, stevedores and longshoremen. They had seen a great many things in their lives, and after three years of war, there was little they believed could surprise them.

This town did.

The war had not come to this place, but the French army had attempted to build a weapon here. Or, rather, to awaken a weapon.

They had drawn the creature out of its slumber, and it had not been pleased.

We were told the monster was in the center of the city, sitting in a park and waiting to destroy all who came too close. We were given light machine guns, a few pieces of field artillery, and told to destroy the beast.

There was a good deal of chuckling among my comrades until we came upon the park and found a male giant sitting there. Beside him was a massive pile of bloodied and torn uniforms, all that remained of dozens of French soldiers.

My comrades came to a stop and then fanned out as the giant took notice of us. He sneered, coughed, and then swore in ancient Gaelic. The giant complained of his wounds, which were many, and of the wretched men who had awakened him.

Clearing my throat, I asked in Gaelic if he was going to eat anyone else.

He replied in the negative. He only wanted to go back to bed.

I told my Captain what the giant said, and we were told to lower our weapons.

The ground shook beneath our feet as the giant got to his, and buildings shivered as he left the park.

Sometimes, it’s better not to fight at all.

Gunned Down, 1917

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They took the trench and regretted it.

I’ve neither love nor hate for the enemy. There is no place for either, not in war.

So, this morning, when a group of Sturmtruppen took the trench we had abandoned a month ago, I went to warn them.

I was too late.

I saw a score of them securing the position as I slid down into the trench, my hands raised to show I was unarmed, the creatures attacked.

These creatures wore the uniforms of soldiers in both armies, but their faces were gone. Instead of features, there were pulsating colors – deep blues and purples – mesmerizing many of the Sturmtruppen and allowing the creatures to seize them.

When the monsters did so, they stripped the flesh from the bones, the meat snaking into the empty faces until the men were nothing more than piles of soiled clothing and equipment.

Some of the Germans fought back, but there were too many of the creatures. I snatched up a rifle from a dead man and killed the monster closest to me even as a machine-gunner swung his weapon around and sprayed the trench.

I fired over his shoulder as he attempted to reload, but the machine gun jammed, and he drew his pistol instead as the creatures advanced upon us.

“Come on!” I snarled in German, and the gunner laughed as he shook his head.

“Stormtroopers don’t retreat,” he remarked, firing into the onslaught. “Not even from the likes of these.”

He tossed his pistol aside when he ran out of ammunition, and he drew a long knife. He glanced at me and asked, “Will I see you in Hell?”

I nodded. “More than likely.”

“Then safe travels until we meet again,” he said and raced toward the creatures.

Every man has the right to choose when he dies, and I waited until he had met his fate.

As his remnants collapsed to the trench floor, the creatures hesitated and looked toward me.

“I’ve got all day,” I told them, “and I don’t mind a little more killing.”

They sank back into the shadows and let me be.

I slung the rifle over my shoulder and slipped up and out of the trench.

There was still a war to fight.

A Bitter Feast, 1916

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They got what they deserved.

We were in Etaples, though for the life of me, I don’t know why. It was one of the great mysteries of life in the army, any army. You go where you are sent. You fight when you are told to fight.

There was a unit of British troops in town ahead of us, and we learned that this wasn’t their first time through. They’d stopped by in 1914 when the war began. They had had, according to those who had survived the subsequent years of fighting, one hell of a good time, although they wouldn’t clarify what that good time was.

The townsfolk were well familiar with the British unit, and they welcome them with open arms. In fact, in one neighborhood, they set out tables for the men, and the natives would not let us partake of the feast.

Well, we were sorely disappointed since the food looked fine, but we weren’t about to force ourselves upon them.

It was with reluctance that we went to our bivouac.

Later that evening, as I was looking for a place to get an egg or two, that I heard muffled screaming.

Concerned, I tracked the sound as best I could, and in a short while, I found the source.

A long, low house near the edge of the neighborhood where the food had been laid out was brightly lit. I approached it cautiously, unsure as to what I might stumble upon. I reached a window and peered in through the dirty glass.

Eleven men stripped naked and hung by their wrists from the ceiling screamed through the gags in their mouths. Eleven women and girls, some as young as twelve, stood before the men with long carving knives. Fresh blood ran down the chests of the men, and I was able to make out the same word carved in their flesh: Le Violateur.

Violator.

At a nod from an older woman standing off to the right, the knife-wielding females stepped forward and castrated the men in front of them.

Other women appeared with irons that glowed orange with heat, and without any pause, they slapped the hot metal to the fresh wounds.

Some of the men would die, and that was fine by me.

I turned away and went back to searching for some eggs.