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The Devil's Field

Part 1 of a 2 Part Series

By Oscar TempletonPublished 5 months ago 22 min read
Artwork by Radu Muresan

“Ms. Eddings, once again I am very sorry but we can’t accept these into the historical society. These letters simply have no merit,” the condescending voice explains to me over the phone.

“I assure you they do! Do you know how many hardships my great-grandfather endured to be able to write these letters? They are extremely significant!” I bark back, no longer able to contain myself.

Frustrated, I turn to the pile of ‘Thank you, but…’ letters on my desk, each of them branded with a different organization’s seal.

I have been communicating with the British Historical Society now for quite some time. I’d thought my great-grandfather’s letters would be readily accepted into their collection of World War I artifacts. Initially, they’d even expressed interest. But once they read through the letters, they outright refused them. The flame of hope had been snuffed out.

John “Giddy” Eddings, my great-grandfather, had suffered through unspeakable horrors to return to England after the first World War.

“Ms. Eddings, once again I apologize, we cannot accept these. Thank you and good day.” The man says curtly, hanging up.

I throw my phone on the counter in a fury and look over the letters, splayed out neatly in front of me. The white paper is old now, and cracking. The strong ink is still attempting to withstand the forces of time, but it’s fading. I carefully place the letters back into their plastic sleeves.

I don’t know where else to publish these, except the internet. So, here I am.

But I want to make it clear that the following letters have been transposed faithfully. My great-grandfather wrote them from his own personal experience and what he witnessed while fighting in Belgium. Because, after all this time, I am now inclined to believe that the horrors he described are true.

He not only suffered through the nightmare of World War I, but he endured a violence of another kind entirely. And, judging from these letters, it was something inhuman.

It took me quite some time to accept the following as fact. I won’t try to convince you, dear reader.

I will let you decide.


Edith, my love, I want you to know that I am in a stable condition. I write to you now from a German hospital, where I’m mending, albeit slowly.

It breaks my heart to think of you not knowing what’s become of me. I hope and pray that I shall be released to you soon, my love.

Although I will recover from my physical injuries, I am unsure my mind will ever truly heal.

I witnessed many horrors in the fields of Belgium. Our commanders promised us an adventure of a lifetime, but the reality was so far removed from that.

I still remember the day I told you that I’d enlisted. How your eyes had filled with wild rage! My heart was glad to see it. It was rage, not caused by hatred towards me, but rather towards the possibility of losing me. As I listen to the moans of hundreds of injured men echoing through this hospital, your love is the only thing keeping me sane.

After the frontlines of Belgium, I’ve stopped using the nickname, “Giddy.” Once you’ve witnessed your fellow countrymen being butchered like animals, there was not much left to be giddy about.

Our situation in the trenches was miserable. The constant explosions of earth and debris from the artillery shells made me wonder if I was about to be blown to bits or buried alive at any moment. And the pungent smell of death and rotting bodies in the aftermath… it still lingers in my nostrils, day and night. Yet somehow we grew accustomed to the smell, though many of us fell ill due to the appalling conditions.

The rainfall was constant and reminded me of happier years. Our time spent in India, my love... The water rivaled the monsoons we so heartily endured.

But the rain soon became a menace to us all. Every man in our company was waterlogged and dry socks were a valuable commodity to rival the finest luxuries. I would have sooner had a fresh pair of socks than a tin of sweets!

During one of the drier nights, I became acquainted with a new menace. I awoke to a sharp, frantic pain in my toe one night and I looked down to find a drenched rat had been gnawing away at me! The little vermin could smell the infected flesh. I was merely one of hundreds in the field suffering from what the doctors called trench foot.

There was no escape from the torment. Wet as it was, leaving the trenches meant you’d risk being shot by a German sniper. Private Burton had his head taken clean off just from trying to pull himself out of the mud, God rest his soul.

To live in the trenches was to understand cold and misery in an intimate way. There was no reprieve. I thank God you gave me the pendant of you, my sweet. It brought me much comfort during those dark, damp nights. I cling to it now as I write.

Even now, sitting here, I still feel the percussion of the artillery in my bones and my teeth yet rattle.

Our collective morale became desperate. Our Indian brothers-in-arms, unaccustomed to the cold, struggled to maintain their optimism.

We were tasked with a simple objective. We were ordered to advance the next morning and retake the German trench ahead of us.

We would put the Germans on the run!

Or so we had thought.

That night, I believe each man under my command felt the same overwhelming sense of foreboding. They knew well enough what the next day would bring. And that some of us wouldn't see the evening.

But that sense of dread was somewhat mitigated by a series of strange rumors circulating through the trenches.

Things some of the men claimed to have seen that stretched the very boundaries of reality itself.

Not a fortnight before there an assault had occurred on that German trench, the very same trench we were tasked with. A platoon of thirty men had charged forward and met the German machine guns head on. However, our men had faltered and the entire platoon was killed.

Thirty casualties were assumed.

But one man managed to survive. The corporal, Cummings.

Cummings made his way back to friendly territory in the middle of the night, three days later. Half starved and half mad, he raved about “lanky, fanged goblins” who had devoured his wounded compatriots. The monsters had nearly done away with him several times too but he’d managed to sneak through the wire and mud back to safety.

Much to the chagrin of the sergeants, the tortured man continued to rave without so much as a pause, until he was sedated and taken to hospital.

But, soon enough, his strange story was on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

Fearing desertion, our commanders threatened that any soldier who was overheard spreading rumors of goblins and other “nonsense” would be court martialed. They said that Cummings had lost his sanity from war-weariness and his already weak constitution. Whatever he had seen had simply been too much for him. Later, I heard whispers that Corporal Cummings had thrown himself from the roof of the hospital. Still ranting about the "Devil’s Field” and the horrible beasts that he could still see in his mind. But of course, that story too was laughed off as mere gossip.

And so our little slice of Hell adopted the unofficial name, the Devil’s Field. After that, it was as if Cummings’ premature death had been the spark to a tinder bundle of mania that caught alight in every man.

Soldiers began hearing howling during the night. A Frenchman from the countryside, who claimed to have heard the howls, exclaimed he had never heard a wolf make a sound like that. And then there were the reports from the scouts. Reports of corpses in the Devil’s Field being posed in odd angles -- arms and legs snapped in queer directions. It made little sense how a body riddled with bullets could end up like that. Some even claimed to have seen inexplicable claw marks, large as a bear’s, raked across some of the corpses . Although bears, and other animals, avoided the place.

A lookout claimed that during the night, when several star shells had illuminated the wasteland, he’d witnessed tall and shadowy figures feasting upon a dead soldier. The man was later arrested for attempting to abandon his post. A soldier under my command, Private Singh, who the rest of the battalion regarded as a mystic, had told me in confidence that the field was cursed.

I brushed the rumors off, in that way of mine you know. I simply assumed the stories came from the overwrought nerves of nearly broken men. But I should’ve listened. There was, after all, so much more to fear than German bullets.


The rumors spread and festered in our minds like mold on old bread. Under the weight of our fears we grew increasingly demoralized, and before we even realized it, the day of the attack was upon us.

Each soldier under my command wore a look of determination -- most of all the Indian compatriots who I would lead into battle.

Smoke from the battlefield crept into our nostrils as we readied ourselves to surge across the field and show Fritz what a terrible fighting force we were. The shelling shook the ground and knocked loose planks of wood off of the embankments. Dirt rained down on our heads in great showers.

A man further down the trench began wailing like a child.

“Shoot the bastard!” another voice howled.

His cries were soon muffled as several men around him snapped him out of it.

We readied ourselves at the ladders and waited until the artillery barrage had stopped. Once the bombardment ceased, we would rush the Germans and plunge our bayonets into the heart of the Hun with all our might!

According to our commanders, this was the “greatest moment” of our lives.

To think that I had once hoped for this false glory. Such a fool I was.

The relentless bombardment continued. I felt the bones in my legs quiver with every strike of a British shell. The waiting was almost worse than the charge itself.

I checked my pocket watch and felt my throat clench.

In my very best Hindi, I roused the column.

“Men! This is our chance for glory! This is our chance to make a difference! We will fulfill our duties and chase Fritz all the way back to Berlin! We will make our mark in History! For King and Country!”

“For King and Country!” they shouted back while lifting their rifles, their bayonet blades glinting valiantly.

I blew my whistle and the men charged up the ladders and down into chaos. Then came the rattling of German machine guns. “Forward men! Forward!” I shouted again in Hindi.

Bullets whizzed around us like a swarm of angry hornets. I saw the brave men of my company drop like flies against the bright stream of German bullets. A soldier to my left was clipped and fragments of his clothing and viscera splattered the side of my face. Then the barrage of bullets turned in my direction, forcing me to duck under a fallen tree.

A pair of soldiers tried desperately to join me in my cover, but the machine guns were faster and I watched them drop in front of me. Wisps of smoke trailed into the sky from their bullet holes.

The looks on their faces as they lay dying will stay with me for the rest of my life.

The storm of bullets had pinned me in place. From my position, I was forced to witness the men I’d led into battle falling, one by one. It was all too much for me to bear. The howling of the wounded, their screaming and groaning as they lay dying, the sharp whizzing of bullets overhead, the debris stinging my eyes. I shake to even remember it.

Then came the shelling. Great explosions split the ground around us wide open. An artillery shell exploded nearby, coating me in dirt and mud. A shell came down on top of several men seeking cover to the right of me and blew them apart. The roaring from the German machine guns and the artillery shells reached its crescendo and the orchestra of carnage temporarily deafened me.

Overwhelmed, my senses blurred and I observed the grayish sky above and the smoke trails from the artillery. I then came to a terrible realization.

These were our shells.

My men and I were being bombarded by our very own forces and sustaining heavy casualties.

Another shell came down into the same crater where the men had been. I tried to shield my body, pulling myself into the meekest ball I could, but a piece of shrapnel hit me regardless. A sharp aching pain seared through my right leg and I desperately applied a tourniquet to stymy the bleeding. The pain became a fiery agony that sent shockwaves of pain through me, as if a hot iron was being jabbed into my flesh over and over.

My eyes couldn’t focus and I thought this was the end of Corporal John Eddings. And then, before I realized what was happening, I slipped into unconsciousness.

However, it wasn't the end. After what seemed like an eternity, I woke up.

My eyes lazily opened to a landscape torn asunder. The bombs had stopped and the machine guns were silent. In fact, all was quiet. Save for the ambience of simultaneous assaults occurring further along the front and a few soft moans from the dying soldiers around me. It seemed the entire company had been killed in action or lay dying, save me.

No, I was not dead. But I was in Hell.

The sun had set and what little light that remained was now fading fast. This was my opportunity to escape back to refuge! I could now work my way back to friendly territory. Although my retreat would be slow, because of the unremitting snipers.

I crawled through the mud, moving parallel to the German line. The pain in my leg nagged at me, but I pushed the thought away as best as I could.

To my left, piles of debris provided some cover. Beyond that, I spotted the wreckage of a Mark I. I commanded myself to begin crawling towards the fallen behemoth.

I waded through a crater where a shell had dropped, moving slowly through the cool muck on my arms and belly. Then I heard a quiet grunting ahead. The sound penetrated through the bursts of explosions and gunfire kilometers away. I listened for a minute longer, hardly taking notice of the cold water soaking through my uniform.

Following the sounds of the voice, I slowly peered over the edge of the crater. I knew this man! He was one of ours!

A soft-spoken man and one of our best, Private Saini was almost entirely covered in dirt. His ever-determined hard stare pierced into the path ahead of him. He strained and struggled, trying to keep from being engulfed by the mud.

I kept my voice down as I called for him, “Private!”

He whirled around in fear, his rifle drawn in my direction. His hard stare was full of rage and then relaxed as I raised my hands in the universal language of don’t shoot.

“Private! Lower your rifle! I am your friend,” I urged him through a wheezed breath.

The Private relaxed and motioned me forward. I lifted myself over the brim of the crater and slid down to him.

“Orders, Corporal?” the Private asked. I laid my rifle down and reached out my arms to help pull him from the mire.

“We retreat,” I said as I yanked him free. “We retreat back to the redoubt. No sense in the two of us taking Fritz head on.”


Private Saini and I moved slowly through lengths of mud, dirt, and the corpses of our Comrades for what felt like hours. All the while, we kept our heads low and our voices lower. The sun gave off the last of its dying light.

The tank was closer now, just a few meters away. Then Private Saini made a fatal mistake.

“Wait!” I shouted.

I heard a sharp CRACK followed by a hiss as a red, wet hole exploded just above the Private’s heart and out his right shoulder. The impact sent his body stumbling forward and he landed, face first, behind the dead behemoth.

Those bloody German snipers! I curse them still! The bastards.

I crawled as quickly as I could and pulled myself behind the tank, all the while that bloody German bastard continued blasting shots at me. Another shot almost did me in --—I could feel the hot air as the bullet whizzed past my forehead and sprayed dirt into my eyes when it hit the dirt an inch away.

“Private!” I shouted again. “Private!” I turned his body over. Private Saini’s mouth was full of blood. Impossibly, he stirred still and attempted to pull himself to his feet.

I forced him back down and inspected the wound. I had seen this injury before. There was still a chance that he would make it, but he needed medical help now. I had to get him to our men. I dressed his wound as properly as I could.

Despite my fumbling hands, the Private hardly made a sound.

We were now at another stark disadvantage. Night had fallen. In my haste to administer aid to Private Saini, the night had crept onto the landscape and encased our surroundings in utter darkness.

Although the Germans could no longer see us, the lack of light meant it would be even harder to find our way back.

I looked down at my Comrade, growing colder by the minute. “Private. We need to get you back to safety. I will carry you, but I need you to hold on for as long as you can.”

The Private nodded weakly. I picked him up and slung his good side over my shoulder, as he let out a painful groan. Then we started to make our way back towards friendly territory, as best as I could judge the direction.

I heard screaming again.

It was coming from another soldier further afield and the pitch was impossible to ignore. The screams weren’t the pained moans of a soldier slowly slipping away. No, they sounded like the quick and panicked yelps of someone being attacked.

My mind raced with possibilities.

Was Fritz coming to finish us off?

I heard another cry, this time it came from someone much closer. So close, in fact, that I could hear his throat filling with blood as he screamed in terror.

This stopped me in my tracks. I set the wounded Private down on a muddy parapet and crawled up to its edge to see what was happening. I expected to see Germans heading in our direction. But as I peeked over the top of the earthen wall, I gazed at a field of utter blackness.

And then I heard a sound that chilled me to my bones.

Several men in the field were moaning, then their moans turned into panicked cries. They cried out like lambs being mauled by a pack of wolves. Then… nothing. This grotesque sequence repeated several times over. Then, a wet squishing noise followed. Frantically, I strained to scour the darkness in front of me for the men. But it was no use. Whatever moon there was had been shrouded in clouds.

The echoing sounds of wet ripping continued for several minutes until a series of booms rang out, nearly making me jump out of my skin.

I could see the tracers trail into the sky and explode in a brilliant ball of light.

Star shells!

Their parachutes slowed their descent and shone light on the twisted landscape before me.

And in that fading light I saw on the field enough to confirm my belief in the existence of Satan and his minions. Those images will stay in the pits of my mind for the rest of my miserable life.

As the star shells illuminated the field, I saw tall, black figures and I assumed they were just large men. But then my mind slowly started to piece their impossible forms together.

At first, I thought they were a group of tall, nude and elderly men. But their stature, even though they were crouched down over the corpses, still suggested that they were abnormally tall. Two meters at the very least.

Their torsos were hideously gaunt and large bones protruded through their skins at sharp angles.

Several of them were hunched over a freshly killed soldier, feasting upon his innards like a pride of lions.

But that wasn’t the worst part.

The field contained multitudes of them. Some of them fighting each other over a corpse, some searching the craters for bodies, some aimlessly shambling about on all fours. They made no noise at all, save for barely audible rasps and clicks.

I gasped. Seeing them, I knew with a suddenness that the soldiers’ rumors about the “beasts” were true.

But my gasp, just the smallest exhalation, was enough to catch the attention of one of the devils.

It pulled its head out of the belly of the man it had been devouring and glared in our direction.

God in Heaven… its face. Its terrible face, reminiscent of a naked human skull, but with razor sharp teeth covered in dark blood and eyes, utterly devoid of life.

Were they even eyes? Or simply pits of darkness, I’m not sure.

It smelled the air like a wolf that had picked up a scent and then it began crawling slowly in my direction. My skin turned to gooseflesh and I carefully slid down the parapet to avoid further detection.

I quietly tip-toed back toward the Private as he whispered to me, “Sir?”

I raised my finger to my mouth, motioning him to stay silent. He obeyed.

Again, I shouldered my comrade and we limped towards our allies. All the while, I silently prayed to God to deliver us from this Evil.

Soon the pain became too much for Private Saini and he collapsed forward into the mud. Trying desperately to keep as silent as possible, I rushed to hush the wounded man’s pained moans. Prying open his jacket, I saw more red leaking down his body. The poor man was failing and needed help now.

I gathered more bandages from my sack in a desperate attempt to staunch the bleeding. I pulled his fading body up against a small mound to begin my work. Then his hand grabbed mine.

“Sir,” he winced. “It’s okay. Thank you, sir.”

I could only look at him, but we both acknowledged what could not be said.

He met my eyes and his typical hard stare turned into a grateful expression. His face was no longer filled with sorrow, but acceptance.

Then his eyes widened with alarm.

“Behind you!” He screamed, spurting flecks of his blood onto me. I whirled around in horror and, to my shock, there it was.

An absolute abomination, crouched on all fours. The deep, black caverns of its eyes somehow widened and its jaw tensed with anticipation. Then the mouth opened to reveal the terrible fangs that, even now in the moonlight, I could clearly see. The top of the beast’s scalp held a few long straggles of old, gray hair that fell over its face.

Suddenly, the beast galloped toward us instinctively and was upon me before I could even command myself to lift my rifle.

I was knocked to the ground with such a force that I lost consciousness for several seconds. But, when I came to,. the nightmare continued.

The monster’s arms had pinned mine completely and, even if I had all of my strength, I would not have been able to struggle against the monstrosity.

Its breath felt hot on my face and strings of saliva fell on my eyelids. Without thinking I tried to turn away, exposing my neck to the creature’s sharp fangs. I prayed my death would be swift.

Then I heard the most ferocious cry from Private Saini who, with his waning strength, suddenly rushed the beast with his bayonet and plunged the blade into the top of the thing’s right shoulder. The creature screamed as the Private struck its deafening roar echoing about my skull.

The creature was sent reeling onto its back and it frantically reached for the bayonet Private Saini had pierced it with.

I scrambled to my feet as the Private turned toward me.

Then, my love, they struck him down. That’s when they took him. The man who saved me.

To my surprise, another beast had heard the commotion and jumped over the parapet that concealed us, leaping onto the Private. The horrible creature reminded me of the tigers of India with their prey.

I turned back for the Private for a moment, but even in the darkness, I could see the light had gone out of his eyes. There was nothing else I could do.

God forgive me.

I could hear more howling from the rest of the “pack,” followed by the swift galloping sounds as they drew near. Thankfully, the body of the Private distracted the other two with fresh meat and their greedy desires.

I ran then.

I ran until my legs could no longer push forward. I ran through mud and cold water and corpses. I ran and didn’t have the faintest idea which direction I was moving in anymore.

I gasped for air to keep me going, breathing in as much stale, smoke-filled oxygen as I could.

In the distance behind me, I heard howls and that only propelled me further. Until my faltering stride caught a bit of scrap metal and sent me headlong into a crater.

I tumbled over myself, losing my helmet, and finally crashed down into a puddle. Gathering myself, I felt cold water soaking me once more, sending chills throughout my body.

Then I looked up and saw that I was not alone.

Another poor, tired soul met my gaze in the dark. Another man with eyes that had seen too much in this putrid war.

Only this time, he was German.

The rest of this story will be concluded in part 2.


About the Creator

Oscar Templeton

Aspiring writer looking to spread my work to new audiences. As an avid reader of multiple genres, I seek to expand on my creative skills and entertain those looking for new and refreshing content.

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