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The Devil's Field

Part 2 of a 2 Part Series

By Oscar TempletonPublished 3 months ago 14 min read
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III

I frantically searched my person for any remaining weaponry and felt my Webley tucked into my sack. I weakly pointed it at the man.

He didn’t budge.

He simply sat there. He was blonde, about my age, but his blue eyes looked much older and so very weary.

I lowered my weapon.

We didn’t say a word to each other and I had no idea if he even spoke English. But, even without language, we both knew the situation we were in.

Splatters of blood caked his face and, from the looks of his uniform, the blood did not belong to him. He then pressed his hand to his chest and said in a hushed thick German accent:

“Kirchener.”

“Eddings,” I replied. “English?”

Ja… yes, English.” He paused. “What about you, Tommy? Did they teach you German in school?”

“Nein,” I replied, shaking my head.

“Of course not, they don’t teach the English how to cook either.” He chuckled.

We heard howling again. Kirchener’s eyes widened at the sound.

“What are they?” I whispered.

He shrugged and shook his head, “We went to investigate, but now there's just me.”

It took me a few seconds to gather what Kirchener was saying behind his thick accent. He continued.

“All I know is that they are very strong, very fast, and they can hear like cats. If we want to live, we need to find the German frontline. We are closer to the Kaiser’s territory.”

“I’ll tell you what, Fritz. I’m not too keen on going to your side. But at this point, I’d prefer being a prisoner of war than a meal for Satan’s dogs.”

He held up his hand again, “No. I will explain-”

“They won’t believe us,” I interjected.

He paused with a reluctant realization, and the howls grew closer.

Kirchener motioned for me to join him by the crater’s brim. I noticed that he, thankfully, was still armed.

“I was hiding from them until you crashed into my area, mein freund, Now I’m afraid we must make our way to the barbed wire, as they have certainly heard you.” Kirchener motioned over to what I assumed was the German trench.

About sixty meters from our position was the German entrenchment and, as I squinted to focus in on it, I saw a small lamplight shining through the darkness.

We were on the cusp of our deliverance from evil, but before us lay many an obstacle: artillery craters, mud, corpses, wreckage of equipment and tanks, more mud and, most loathsome of all, barbed wire.

“Be quick and silent,” he whispered to me as we moved through the darkness.

The devils were so close now that I could hear them stomping into the crater we had only just vacated. Kirchener, although worn down, kept a steady pace ahead of me, leading me to a curious rapture.

I carried myself as lightly as I could, the sound of every wet footstep echoing through the night. The distant sounds of artillery and gunfire only barely covered the sounds of our flight. And, all the while, I could hear those devils at our heels.

I sensed they had our scent now and were beginning to track us like a pack of foxhounds. More sounds of shambling and clicking testified to the fact that the pack behind us was growing. And yet, for how many of them there were, they still were impossibly quiet. Had I not been purposefully keeping an ear towards them, I would have never heard a thing.

It was no wonder that they claimed so much prey.

At last, we came upon the barbed wire before the German line. Kirchener crouched down and produced a pair of wire cutters, slicing back the barbs like a gardener with blackberry vines. The chap was remarkably well-equipped and I surmised that his position was that of a sapper.

The noise of distant fighting had died off by now and Kirchener’s work sounded through the night, far too loud for my nerves.

I put my hand on his shoulder, “Hang on, old boy.”

He looked up at me and I could see, in the moonlight that streams of sweat had cut clean lines through the dirt on his tired face. I looked at the tangled mess of his work. He was about two-thirds of the way through the wire.

Kirchener’s eyes then shot wide open as he picked up his rifle and pointed it behind me. He whispered frantically to me, “Get down!” and I felt droplets of his saliva hitting my face.

Following his eyes, I saw the tops of the devil’s ghoulish heads. Their empty eyes glaring around in search of new prey. Some sniffed the air for our scent.

“Give me your rifle and keep cutting, lad!” I pleaded.

Kirchener hesitated only momentarily and obeyed.

I gripped the Geweher 98 familiarly and stashed my pistol behind me in case the situation grew dire.

Kirchener began cutting ever more frantically.

The moment grew more dire as the devils now knew of our intent. A large creature, I think the largest I had seen, mounted the wreckage of another fallen tank and clicked to the pack. A number of creatures clicked back in acknowledgement.

The bastards had found us.

I could hear the thundering footsteps of Satan’s dogs then. I heard Kirchener cry out in frustration as his hands, now undoubtedly sore and bleeding, threatened to fail our last attempt to rescue ourselves. He was nearly to the end.

I slid the bolt back in anticipation and, to my luck, I remembered that a hand bomb still resided in my pack. Quickly, I plucked the device out and tossed it behind us.

The bomb exploded directly in front of the lead devil, mud and debris flying in all directions. The bomb barely seemed to do little to damage the creature, but it did buy us some time and sent the rest of the pack backwards in fright. What I now assumed was the pack leader growled in a high-pitched snarl of defiance, angered by our effort to defend ourselves.

“Are you bloody well done yet?!” I screamed back towards Kirchener.

I only took my eyes from the creature for a fraction of a moment, but it seized that opportunity to rush me.

I fired, once, twice, three times in succession!

Two of the three shots plunged into its left shoulder and ricocheted off of the top of the thing’s thick skull.

I pointed the bayonet toward the devil and plunged it directly into its left pectoral. Black ooze dripped from the wound and it howled in agony. Yet, by the grace of sin, it gripped my injured right foot and tried to drag me off balance. I could feel my wound open up again under the force of its brutish grasp, soaking my leg in blood.

It seemed as though nothing could kill this creature.

The devil began dragging me away into the night. I yelled out to Kirchener. Pain shot out higher up my leg as the creature bit into my calf with terrifying force, carrying me out even further from safety.

Then the devil released my leg, mercifully but purposefully. I looked around myself, terror thrumming in my chest, and I saw the horror of each of those monstrous faces. I frantically searched for my pistol, but felt nothing. The creatures surrounded me like the wounded prey I was.

I prayed to God at that moment, my love. I thought how I would never see your face again, how I would suffer the same gruesome fate that belonged to the Private.

The pack leader stared directly into my eyes. I shall never forget those soulless black pits. Green spittle dripped from the monster’s mouth as it showed its fangs to me.

Then a bright light appeared overhead, like an angel sent from Heaven.

Hundreds of glass shards shattered about as the glass bottle smashed against the pack leader’s skull. Then the fire spread out, completely covering the creature and several others nearby.

The pack leader’s hair and head lit up like a torch. It screamed in agony and scurried back in dread.

Kirchener appeared over me now with my lost pistol and torch.

“Verpiss dich zurück zur Hölle!” Kirchener screamed mightily.

The devils shuffled back in fear, following their pack leader. All the while the leader yelped its hideous and unearthly screams.

This German, a man I would be ordered to kill in any other circumstance on this field, had saved my life.

“What took you so long?” I groaned.

He gave me his hand and I stood on my good leg. The muscle had been shredded and I had lost a significant amount of blood. There was no time to bandage me up, and I leaned on Kirchener as we continued through the wire.

We limped through the mounds of mud towards the German trenches. I could now fully see the lights of the occupied barracks. I heard muttering in German from another direction not far from where we were.

As Kirchener and I discussed, we had to enter the trench at an unoccupied zone so as not to alarm the troops and to avoid the searchlights. Any searchlight that spotted my uniform would surely mow us both down to bits.

We would drop in quietly and Kirchener would call his allies for assistance.

I limped with Kirchener as the pain in my leg grew fine and sharp. We had to repeatedly crouch down to avoid the searchlights, which made the pain only worse. I felt a warm, wet stream of blood seep down into my boot. Completely soaking my sock.

“Hey kamerade, hang on. We’re almost there,” Kirchener muttered into my ear.

I was growing more faint by the minute and I feared my resolve was failing me, but Kirchener carried me on.

At last, we made it to the parapet of the German trench. Kirchener motioned me to keep my panting down, but my lungs ached and it was difficult to obey the man.

He mounted the top of the trench and pulled me up along with him.

Suddenly we found ourselves cascading over the edge like sacks of potatoes.

Our combined weight had caused the earth beneath us to give way.

We landed with an almighty thud in the middle of the trench, and twigs and splinters of wood crashed behind us causing the sound of our terrible calamity to echo throughout the area. In that instant, I realized we were laying right on top of an entrance to a bunker. Then I heard the alarmed tone of many voices in German shouting.

One voice shouted to another and then the rest followed in unison.

Alarm! Wer ist da?! Wer geht dahin!?!

Then, in the moonlight, I could see several rifles pointed in my direction. What a bad stroke of luck: we had stumbled into another fortification we assumed to be unoccupied..

The German voices screamed at us as I put my hands up frantically. I had no doubt that these men could see my terrified eyes even in the low light. Kirchener raised his hands too.

Then Kirchener screamed back at them in German, but the shouting devolved into such a ruckus that he might as well have been speaking in tongues.

Wir sind freundlich! Nicht schießen!” Kirchener belted from the top of his lungs.

A German flashlight shown across my face and I squinted in turn.

Englisch! Feuer!

The next thing I knew, I was thrown back into the mud and I felt a sharp pain on my left side: an area on my left wrist and left shoulder. It felt as though I had been caned. Then I felt the blood flow. I had been shot not once, but twice.

I could do nothing but lay back in the mud. We were so close, my Edith. So close.

My tired vision grew hazy. I thought I was done for. I had come so far, only to fail you in the end, my love.

Several German soldiers stood above me. I moaned in agony. Paralyzed with pain. Another German with a stone face began rooting through my pockets. I could not tell what the men were saying about me. Their faces merely looked down upon me and I did not detect any pity in their expressions.

I groaned out in agony as the Germans carelessly picked me up by my arms and hauled me away.

I struggled to look back to see what had befallen my comrade. He was lying motionless in that still and silent position I had seen too many times before.

IV

I write to you now from a camp in Freiburg. The guards were kind enough to allow us the luxury of stationery, therefore I pray this letter finds you well.

My wounds are healing with moderate progress as I recuperate from severe lacerations to my right calf and bullet wounds to my left shoulder and hand. My immune system has also been compromised as I have now caught the flu. This is minor compared to some of the other fellows who have been taken prisoner here in Freiburg. Some have lost entire limbs and suffer unfortunate facial deformities.

The poor souls.

In my heart of hearts I know that I shall see you again, for you are my shining light in a dark storm. My prayers will be carried to you like a dove from heaven, Edith.

This story may seem too fantastic to comprehend, but there are murmurs from others who took up arms in the same area and who witnessed the creatures too. Those ghoulish monstrosities setting upon the dead and dying after we battered each other silly with every new form of weaponry. Letting us do the work for them and then setting upon us like a wounded deer stuck in the huntsman’s trap.

Know that I am in better spirits this day, Edith. I shall see you once the “War to End All Wars” is finished. I pray that it will be soon because I miss you so terribly.

Keep me in your heart, for I shall keep you in mine.

God save the King.

-Giddy

-John

V

My great-grandfather was always kind to me. Unfortunately he passed when I was about eight years old, but enough of his memory exists in my mind to know how kind of a soul he was. Despite the cruelty he endured, he showed only warmth and love towards my siblings and I.

I believe that he saw something during those terrible days in Passchendaele. According to his letter, other soldiers had seen the horrors as well, but none have spoken of it publicly.

Once he’d rejoined the allied forces, John reported to his superiors about the supernatural events that occurred. He was promptly ordered to keep quiet. He was told that he was simply suffering from shellshock and that his hallucinations were a part of the mania that results from close quarters combat.

John, still as defiant as ever, was dishonorably discharged.

He returned to England where he married my great-grandmother and had several children. One of whom, of course, was my grandfather.

As their family grew, they moved to a new neighborhood, and rumors about John’s time in the War followed them. The gossip spread like lice and soon everyone began to ridicule him. My great-grandfather’s stubbornness eventually waned and the family grew more silent over the years. Finally, it was forbidden to speak of John’s “stories” ever again. He didn’t want to pass the embarrassment to his children.

Only once, when my great-grandfather was very drunk, did he tell the story to my grandfather. But, after that, he refused to ever speak of it again and began to bawl if anyone asked him to relive the painful memories.

“Don’t make me tell it again,” he sobbed to his son. Seeing his father’s normally stoic demeanor broken by a powerful memory, frightened my grandfather half to death.

As my grandfather recalled later, the following weeks were marked by John waking up in the middle of the night, screaming in terror. Then he would break down into sobs as Edith calmed him.

According to Edith, John was never really the same after returning from Germany. He was “Giddy” no longer.

A piece of him would remain in the Western front forever.

As time marches on, it is now nearly impossible to verify what actually happened. But I will continue to tell my great-grandfather’s story. It would be insulting not to. I won’t ask you to believe him.

That, dear reader, is up to you.

monster
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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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