"No Man's Land"
W.B. Vogel III
The year was 1917, and the forces of the natural order had gone mad. What hell had been born in the deep-rooted dreams of the politicos and kings only the children of carrion could reckon as wise. From the trembling hands of a fanatic had flown the last caress of a bullet, on the wings of dark angels it had thrown the kiss of oblivion. With that fateful action a man had been slain, and an entropy set into motion. Even before the drums of war had began to beat.
Chaos is born of entropy, as for all things there must at first be a beginning. As a single blade of grass stretches from the wastes towards the burning sun, it is all but one action that sets the machine into that fateful end that awaits it.
Entropy is the natural phenomenon by which order reverts to chaos. There is no more natural and basic form of entropy than that of warfare. When mankind delves into the organized obliteration of itself it elevates the civilized man into that of the purest savage, and turns the most cowardly of creatures into one of God's noblest of beasts. Warfare is entropy in the strictest of sense of the word. And for all things there is a season...
World War I was entropy at its most crude. Trench warfare had been reestablished as a means of survival since the invention of the machine-gun. Gas and bombs turned these trenches into utter death-traps as men were afraid to enter "No Man's Land," the area that lay between the trenches, for fear of being torn to shreds by a spray of machine-gun bullets or a barrage of artillery. It was an endless parade of misery that consisted of excruciatingly long periods of boredom punctuated by sheer moments of howling terror when the onslaughts were in progress.
During the war thousands of miles of trenches had been dug and fortified. Each army had its own trench system, and it was all just a bleak matter of which armies could hold their trenches and take control of the enemies'. Just like in the game of chess it was all about planning one's moves and having the best positioning. But unlike chess there were no clear winners or losers, because someone always has to die.
Michael Johnson was just an average all-American Doughboy who had joined the war effort because he felt that it was his duty as a freeman to trample the roots of tyranny in any form. He had been sent to one of the forward lines as a replacement for soldiers who had fallen. Michael was just a good-hearted kid, barely seventeen, who had no idea what war was like or the preternatural situation fate had placed him in.
Michael had been sent to a fragmented forward position that laid at the northern most edge of the battlefront. The lines protruded like fingers pointing northward with German and Prussian trenches to the east and the west. Supplies and fresh recruits were sent-in from the south as the doughboys had to fight three separate directions to hold the ground that they had taken in the mayhem of combat. As usual tactics and opportunity never matched strategy, so a mixed band of men had been pushed beyond their logistical as well as emotional limits to help advance the conclusion of what seemed like an endless war.
These trenches were just inside German held territory. To one side stood the
ruins of a large German castle, and to the other was a small German town called
Argounsburg. The German trenches started at the edge of Argounsburg while American,
British, and French trenches were dug between the town and the old castle.
The days were silent for the lines around Argounsburg. Little activity was carried-on during the sunlit hours around these primeval fortifications. On Michael's first day he would learn why this was so.
He arrived early in the day on December 3rd. A convoy carrying supplies and new recruits arrived a mere thirty minutes after dawn, and this was the means by which Michael was delivered to his new post. The caravan had to travel during the darkened hours to avoid a barrage by German and Prussian encampments that they would pass far too close to during their cumbersome and weary voyage. Life was never easy on the frontlines.
When Michael arrived at Argounsburg he was the first to jump-down from the back of a large olive-drab truck. All he could see were the trucks and a dismal haze that hung over the trenches like the angel of death. This malevolent fog that drenched the field of battle was composed of smoke from fires and ammunition, and the cool air that rolled-in off of the sea which churned a little more than a brisk walk from the battle lines. This place reeked of an unwholesome dread that seemed to saturate it like blood soaked steel. Michael was immediately dropped into a state of intense melancholy after getting there.
From within the bleak clouds came the mass of soldiers who had spent too long in this persistent realm of depression. They scurried like rodents unloading the trucks, getting their mail, and checking-out the fresh innocents that would soon have their eyes torn wide-open to the harsh reality of their short, and soon regretful, existence.
Michael soon heard a voice that yelled, "Hey, Yank!" in a deep Scottish accent. Then from out of the mist came a short man carrying a bolt-action rifle slung over his shoulder. He thrust his mud-crusted hand out in greetings to the young man and said, "Welcome to Oblivion."
Looking the man over from head to foot, Michael had to strain to keep from laughing. This was a ragged little man that stood before him. His uniform was torn, his boots were cracked, and his gun was covered with mud. He looked like one continuous scar...the kind that was constantly picked-at until it bled. But as he would soon learn there was much more to a good soldier other than appearances, or first impressions.
Michael took his hand and gave him a firm handshake. He then said, "Hello. I'm PFC Michael Johnson."
"There's little need for a rank or such formalities in Hell," the man replied, "I'm Stephen McGregor." His smile was hard and practiced, as if too many days had been spent putting on the best face and taking the abuse for it anyway. He was tired, and Michael could tell that he had seen the thick of it. Shellshock was as clear as day even when hid by the strongest of men. Even bravery had its breaking point.
Stephen led Michael towards the trenches. As they walked he explained some of the facts surrounding combat in the Argounsburg lines. "This dreadful mist will pass when the sun comes out. It comes every night soon after sunset, and then the next morn it is gone. The air is very cold here as you can already tell. This is typical, and as time goes on you will become accustomed to it. It's pretty quiet here during the day. There are only a few guards on duty during then. Most of the action here occurs at night..."
"Why do the Germans wait until dark? Are they trying for a surprise attack?" Michael asked like a curious child. The whole thing seemed very odd by his way of thinking.
"The Germans hardly ever attack, and never at night," he replied with a cold sharpness in tone.
"What!" Michael was definitely confused now. He wondered if he had missed something.
"The Krauts are not stupid," Stephen said, "They wait in their trenches or in the town where it is safe after sundown."
Michael raised his hand as though he was about to ask a question, but Stephen stopped him abruptly by saying, "I'll tell you all the rest later. Get some sleep. I'll report your arrival to the Commandant. Tonight will be very busy, so go right to sleep. I'll come and get you around five o'clock this evening." Then he showed Michael where he was supposed to bunk, and then quickly left.
A few hours passed before Michael was at the point where he could finally sleep. Until then he wrote letters to his family telling them of how exciting, but safe, his new home was. After finishing with that meager chore, he wrote in his journal until the tension had passed-away enough for him to rest.
Michael was awakened by the cold touch of a rifle butt being pressed against his chest. He jumped with sudden a fright. "It's time to rise and embrace the cruel world, my friend," Stephen said with a sardonic chuckle. One thing that could never be said about Stephen was that he didn't keep his sense of humor. At times he could be extremely grim, but he was the type of man that would be laughing on Judgment Day. Irony had a way of doing that.
The PFC rubbed his eyes, and then slowly crawled out of his bed. He grabbed his rifle and then followed Stephen out into the trench. The sun still shown quite brightly overhead, it would be a few hours yet until it set. Even though it was late afternoon the wind still carried a bitter chill. It was a zephyr of what was to come.
Within a few minutes they had reached their assigned position along the wall of the enormous trench. After a time, Stephen started talking again. He discussed how he was an immigrant from Scotland who had come to the United States in hopes of fulfilling his dreams. Instead he had joined the army and learned that the only true path to success came from within, not what land he lived at or whom he knew.
Michael stared off into the distance. Soon his wandering eyes fell upon the walls of an ancient ruined castle that lay but some few miles away. It stood on the top of a stony peak that was surrounded by a dense and dreadful forest. The mere look of it gave him the chills.
"What is that place?" he asked as his voice crackled with hidden fear.
"Oh, you mean Dunnottar Keep. Well actually, that isn't its name. That's just what I call it. It reminds me of an old necropolis that stands just a few miles from my family home in Stonehaven. That place used to give me the shivers just as this castle does. It is just as evil..." Stephen also stared deeply into the darkness that surrounded the old citadel. Then he spoke again saying, "It reminds me of something out of an Edgar Allen Poe story. That's a place of the blackest dread. Not even Old Scratch would walk those halls."
"Jeez," Michael replied. He thought Stephen was joking, and he started to laugh.
"Laugh if you will, but there are things that I have seen that would take the cackle off a madman. Mark my words... The night hasn't come yet, and you haven't walked the lines after dark. Wait till nightfall, then you'll know. Then you will see," Stephen pronounced in a somber yet angered tone. It was clear that he was deadly serious about this issue. Michael snapped to almost immediately.
"If you want to live through this you'll heed what I say. You must take it to heart as though it were the word of God handed down from on high," he said. The point had been driven home.
Within an hour the sun was starting to descend below the distant horizon. It seemed as though Stephen had had enough time to cool down, so Michael decided to ask him a few more questions. Michael found him standing vigil along the lines. His eyes stared blankly into the twilight, as if searching for some warning sign. For what danger would the klaxon call? The dusk only knew.
Michael settled in beside him, joining the watch. His gaze saw nothing except red bleeding into the blue. The cerulean sky was soon to be painted black. Then there would be only the fateful darkness, and what dim future that it held.
He waited a minute, and then he asked Stephen, "Why are a majority of our lines facing away from the Kraut lines?"
"Because that is where the threat is at," Stephen answered in a calm, almost placid, tone of voice.
This puzzled the PFC. "Why do we have our backs turned to our enemies?" he thought to himself. This paradox eluded all reasoning. Then the nightly mist began to roll-in from the sea. Soon all of his questions would be answered.
A few minutes later shots were heard in the distance. Then came the horrific screams of men who were dying in pain. It was the sound of pure insanity. It was the sound of Hell unleashed.
"It's the frogs," Stephen said with almost a sound of relief, "Those poor French bastards. God have mercy on their souls."
Stephen said nothing. He just stared into the darkness silently and waited. No stirring of the heart or even a meager breath seemed to cause a motion. It was as if he were cut from stone. He barely seemed alive at all.
An hour of this discord passed, and then like a roaring fire that burns itself out there was nothing. All was quiet and calm. It was as though nothing had ever happened. The silence was so powerful that it almost was deafening. The stillness caused more alarm within the trenches than the screams of anguish and the roar of gunfire. The air hung in quiet mournfulness.
Soon, in the distance, the shadow of a stumbling man could be seen. He could barely be made-out through the fog. Someone yelled, "Don't fire! It's a Frenchie!"
The man was obviously in great pain as he could hardly walk. Stumbling, he made it to the edge of the trench and just fell in. He was covered with blood. His arms began to flail about furiously, and then he screamed "Sang! Sang." His last words were "Chien D'enfer." Then he gasped loudly, and died.
"What did he say?" one soldier asked. Few of the recruits had ever seen a Frenchman before, let alone speak his language.
Then Stephen said, "At first he was screaming about all of the blood. Then he just died."
"What was that last thing that he muttered?" Michael asked with what seemed like a great note of concern. He didn't know exactly what had been said, but he could tell that it was of a crucial extent. Like listening to a song in a different language, what was not directly conferred through words had been imposed by the intensity of the tone.
"You mean the 'Chien D'enfer?'" Stephen asked.
"It means 'The Hounds Of Hell,' more or less," Stephen clarified as his hand gently passed-over the dead French soldier's eyes as they were closed for infinity. He then laid a small handkerchief over his face. There was little else that could be done at this point in time. At last his war was over.
Little else was said for several hours. The soldiers wondered if their fate would be the same, and how long it would be before the Reaper would end their chase as well. For the new soldiers it was a matter of confronting something that they had tried to place out of their minds since childhood. Yet the fears of their youth began to grow and fester within their hearts like a smoldering ember that would soon catch blaze, and when it did there would be little left but ruins.
When the sun finally arose over the distant horizon there an evident sense of relief that possessed the soldiers. It was as if God's hand had passed over their hearts and carried all of their troubles away. But even with that there were questions that needed to be answered. These questions weighed heavily on Michael's mind.
"I want the whole story, and I want it now!" Michael barked at Stephen. Even though Stephen easily outranked Michael, it was clear that the PFC had taken just about all that he could without a reason. The answers that were to come would ease Michael's sorrow little, if they did not make it worse. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
Stephen waited for a moment as if to collect his wits and place them all into a nicely organized military formation. This would do little good, because when he finally began to speak it flooded forth like an uncontrollable torrent. "Do you remember when I told you that this is Hell? You thought that I was kidding around. Well you were wrong. When our forces and allies took these trenches we didn't understand why the Krauts gave them up so easily. The fact is that they were glad to be rid of them. They knew the price that had to be paid to keep these trenches was far too high. The earth cries-out for blood."
"I don't understand," Michael said. These comments had only obscured the issue further. "Tell me more," he demanded.
"This place is cursed. The hand of the Angel of Death shadows the whole area. Their hunger is never satisfied...it only grows," Stephen said.
Michael shook his head. "You stupid Scottish bastard! Try to make some damned sense," Michael said as he grabbed Stephen's arms, and then he shook him vigorously. "Whose hunger is never satisfied!" he screamed with exasperation.
"It happened 200 years ago. This whole kingdom was ruled by a cruel, tyrannical Baron. He slaughtered and tortured his serfs for the pleasure of it. Then one night the villagers finally had enough of it, and they stormed the castle. They cursed the Baron and his entire family. Then they butchered them and fed their remains to the wolves. On that night the moon turned the shade of blood. Ever since that night the wolves storm the village and the surrounding countryside in search of humans to feed upon. That is why the townspeople built the wall around their city. It's to keep out the wolves," Stephen proclaimed.
"Why don't they kill the wolves?" Michael asked.
"There are too many. There must be at least a few hundred wolves in this pack. During the day they sleep in the castle and the caves under it. That whole area is cat combed with tunnels. Some of the townspeople say that there is even a bottomless pit under the castle that goes down to the very center of the world. Some even say that it leads into Hell itself. That is why they refer to them as Hellhounds," he said. "They're strong and vicious, like the furies of Hell."
"And the tunnels?" Michael questioned.
"There are too many to search during the day, and to try at night would most definitely be an act of pure suicide. There's more though..." he replied. A swig of whiskey eased his nerves, as the sweat rolled off of him.
"Alright. Tell me," Michael said. He braced himself for what he was sure was the worse to come.
Stephen continued, "Every fifty years a strange astronomical aberration occurs in this area. The moon turns blood red as it did on the night that the Baron and his family were murdered. On this night the wolves come-out in full force. They surge forth from those darkened woods as if they were the very scourges of God. The casualties will be extreme."
"Okay?" Michael stammered. He wasn't quite sure what the point was yet.
"The next Bloodmoon occurs the night after next," he said.
"You're telling me that in two days that the wolves are going to be moon crazed, and we are the nearest sheep?" Michael groaned.
"Yes," Stephen affirmed.
"Damn! Why don't we just leave?" he said.
"How?" Stephen replied, "And where would we go? We would be listed AWOL, or presumed dead. Besides that, if we left on foot the Germans or the wolves one would kill us. We're better off dead."
"Great! Just what I need. You may be a nihilistic freak, but I am not. We need a strategy," Michael said. But his mind was not the one for such a job.
"You might as well start thinking like your dead. That way it won't be such a shock to you," Stephen said with a sardonic grin that stretched the expanse of his entire face. Even in dread he had an evil wit about him.
"Oh, shut-up," Michael snorted.
"Face it. You're not going to live through this one," he laughed as he stood-up and brushed the dirt from his pants. "Choose your burial place and start digging your grave. You're just too soft," he finished as he walked away.
Michael bent to his knees and began to think. The thoughts and emotions that rose to the top of the froth of chaos that swirled within his mind were disjointed and pointless. "What am I going to do? What, what, WHAT! God help me. I'll run away. That's what I will do. No. I can't. That would gain me nothing. The Krauts would just pick-me-off like a stray dog. At least it would be over..."
Then the thoughts of suicide came. He recklessly played with his pistol as the temptation grew. The truth was that Michael was soft, just as Stephen had said. He had learned little of the sorrows of life. He hadn't truly tasted its misery yet.
He joined the army to become a hero. The possibility of dying had never even crossed his mind. He wanted to be the brave warrior hero who had defeated the wicked Kaiser and helped to preserve European freedom. His greatest ambition was to return home and marry the prom queen, not to return home in a pine box. The only action that he was hoping to see was getting laid by French beauties. Needless to say, he was soft...especially in the head.
The temptation to splatter his brains with a 45 bullet passed eventually. Such thoughts never came to him again. It was as though in those brief moments that had passed he had become a different person. He now realized that it was time for him to be a man. Even if that meant his death, that was what he planned to do. At that moment he truly knew that he was a warrior.
Some of the men in the American trenches had left during late afternoon to search the French area. The French soldiers that hadn't fled the previous day had all been killed by the wolves, or died from the injuries caused during earlier onsets. Scavenging took place, that was an accepted fact, but little of use was found. Bullets and food were the only items of use discovered within this giant grave...
That was how some of the soldiers referred to the trenches. They called them Giant Graves or M.B.U.s (Mass Burial Units). There was no need to die in a charge through No Man's Land when they could die in the comfort of their own graves. It was thought that when the war was over that the commanders would just bring-in bulldozers to cover the top of the M.B.U.s with cold mother earth. They would not only die together, but they would also spend eternity with each other. Such were the fortunes of war. No one would cry for their loss.
Blood begets blood, and Death begets all.
Michael rocked back-and-forth as the Sun slowly melted into the glimmering horizon. His level of tension was no better, but he was calm with the fact that this might be his final night on Earth. The cold earth waited below... At least she would not reject him.
The moon crept higher into the blue, black sky as the mist was invoked from the frigid North Sea. Michael imagined that he saw Valkyries flying in the distance... They waited for the valiant warriors that would fall, and then they would retrieve them from the mayhem and deliver their souls to paradise.
Soon that mayhem would begin, and many of the truly valiant would fall. Their struggle would be futile. The Valkyries would be busy on this desolate eve as valor showed its true color---blood red. The souls would overflow the gates of Asgard.
Stephen walked slowly towards Michael as the day gave way to the night. He sat down beside him. There were no words exchanged between the two until the first screams were heard that evening. Their dead silence built to a chaotic roar, until finally a barrage of gunfire was heard in the distance.
"It's the Brits," Stephen said with an evident note of relief. "Better them as us," he finished. Then he eased back into a state of guiltless relaxation. "I didn't owe those imperialist bastards anything anyway." Relief gives room to a cold heart.
"What the hell is the matter with you!" Michael groaned. "There are men dying over there. It could have just as easily been us. You're a heartless bastard!"
Stephen gave Michael a cold, stiff glare. "Kid, I have no great love for the British. So why should I shed one cursed tear for them. War is about death... The colder my heart is, and the more that my conscious is dead, the less worrisome this whole situation will be. Besides, our time will come soon enough," Stephen replied. "Soon enough for all of us, my friend."
When their time finally came it would be as though chaos itself had been unleashed from one of the Great Seals of Armageddon...
The night slowly passed as the remnants of the British trenches were massacred by the unholy company of wolves. The screams were only muffled by the ululations of the pack and the cacophony of gunfire. Many wolves were slain, but many more waited for their coming time in the darkness of the night and the red glow of the Bloodmoon. Their hunger could not be sated. It would only grow.
Stephen stared into the glow of the far-off flames that surrounded the besieged British trenches. After a few minutes had passed he shook his head and said in a sorrowful tone, "Life is but a dream in God's mind...and he is having one horrendous nightmare." Then he just turned-away from the fray.
Michael didn't make any comments. He had none. At this point he was mentally spent. Little could be said, and at this juncture all thoughts would seem pointless to a sheer state of absurdity. He scratched his head furiously to remove the nervous sweat that drenched his scalp. His nerves were a wreck.
By the time the Sun finally rose neither man was ready to talk yet. Michael threw his Doughboy style helmet down on the ground, and kicked it for all it was worth. "I hate those damned things," he said. "If I am going to die, I am at least going to be comfortable," he concluded with a tempered growl.
Stephen laughed, and then followed suit. "That's the first good idea that I have heard all day," he said. Then he ran his arm across his forehead, sopping up the cold sweat that was puddling on his brow. "I was thinking," he said, "...Maybe we should check the other trenches for ammo and weapons. If we can gather enough firepower together maybe, just maybe, we can make it through this night."
"I thought you said that we were pretty much screwed," Michael replied.
"If the legend is right," Stephen continued, "...The Bloodmoon will occur tonight."
"So," Michael interrupted.
Stephen glared at Michael, and said, "If you would let me finish, please. On the night of the Bloodmoon the wolves will storm this whole area in mass force. They will kill everyone they can get to. In one of our pillboxes there is a large store of dynamite and kerosene. We take the dynamite and set large charges around the wall of the village. When these explosives are set-off they will destroy large portions of the wall, leaving the German's underbelly exposed." Then he smiled, "...And after that all we have to do is survive until morning."
"What about the villagers?" Michael asked.
"The only ones that are still in the village are collaborators," Stephen replied, "The women, children, and trouble-makers were sent temporarily to a village 20 kilometers west of here for their safety.
"Or what?" Michael asked impatiently.
"Or they were shot," Stephen finished.
"I don't like the idea of compromising and killing civilians," Michael said.
"If they want to dance with Old Scratch, then let them do it in Hell. I have no sympathy for them," Stephen replied.
"I guess you're right," Michael said. There was an evident note of hesitation in Michael's voice, and Stephen recognized it for what it was. He worried little about it all the same.
"Hell yes, I'm right," he added almost immediately after Michael had finished.
"I still don't like it," Michael commented.
"Your protest has been noted," Stephen said. He cared little about Michael's moral quibblings. He only had one goal, and that was the survival of himself and his comrades. War is chaos, and in chaos there are no laws.
Stephen presented the bulk of his proposal to the rest of the men. Few comments were made, but one question was asked. "What about our commander?" one soldier stammered.
Stephen stopped for one cold, brief second and then said, "When the powers that be dropped us in this God forsaken hellhole they left us here to die. They cared little for the chances of our survival. We were expected to hold this ground at any cost..."
Then he reached back behind his waste and pulled-out his Colt 45 pistol and laid it gently down on his lap.
"Our survival is our problem," he continued in even more intense tone, "Therefore I am willing to do whatever it takes to increase our odds."
"What are you saying?" Michael asked.
Stephen stared chillingly into Michael's eyes and said, "What I am saying is that I will tell the commander our plans. And, then if he disagrees..."
He then picked-up his pistol and slid the safety to the "off" position. As he did so he said, "The commander will meet with an untimely demise from a stray German bullet."
There was only dead silence.
"So it is agreed?" Stephen asked, "Speak now, or forever hold your silence." Not even a murmur was uttered in dissent.
"All right then, I will go and speak to our commander. Divide-up into four groups. The first group will scavenge the French and British trenches for anything useful. Also, I want you to check the German trenches as well. They are in the village where it is safe, but go armed all the same. The Krauts may have left us something useful.
Group two will gather barbed wire and any else that we can use as a defense. We will abandon these trenches before nightfall. So, I want you to build a fortified area approximately 100 meters, I mean yards, west of the village. Don't go any farther than that though. Not far beyond that is a set of woods and a major roadway. We wouldn't want to draw the unwanted attention of a German convoy.
Now, Group three will lay the dynamite charges on the southern wall of the village. There are no towers or walkways along the top of this wall, and the Germans didn't make any modifications. They'll only place two guards at the gate. The guards are outside the gate, but only during the daylight hours. Be careful that they don't see you. If they do, then they will call-out a patrol. The Krauts outnumber us by quite a bit...
If they get wind that we are up to something then there won't even be scraps left for the wolves at moonrise.
Group four's task will probably be the most hectic. You will need to provide cover for Group three, and keep a close eye on the village. The Germans have become less and less active the longer that we have spent time here. Most likely they are already drinking heavily in celebration of today's festival. The villager's celebrate the anniversary of the Baron's massacre every year, and they feel pretty safe behind their strong stonewalls. And needless to say it is better to keep the Krauts drunk and happy as sober and upset.
The villagers will probably not be harvesting today, but keep an eye out anyway. They will alert the Germans of any unusual activity. Also, keep a sharp lookout for landmines. There still may be a few scattered about. Hitting a landmine will not only end your life, but it will also end our plans. So be careful.
Remember, Group four needs to gather all the ammo in our trenches and be ready to distribute it to who needs it. The same goes for spare arms. We need maximum firepower tonight.
Our chances are grim. Those that will survive this night will hit the village in the morning and steal transportation. Wherever you go is your business. In the military's eyes we are already dead."
A voice broke into Stephen's oration. "What of our dead?" a soldier asked.
Stephen looked towards him and said, "Let the dead bury the dead." Then he lowered his head, his eyes returning to an old, tattered map on which he had scrawled a rough diagram of his plans. There was only silence from the men.
"That's it. Godspeed. I'll go and speak to our fearless leader," Stephen finished. All of the men broke-up into volunteer groups, and left to perform their designated duties.
Michael and Stephen left their plotting coconspirators together. It would only take a few minutes to reach the commander's bunker. As they walked, Michael rubbed his face like a pensive child. Stephen sensed his worry, and asked him, "What's the matter now?"
"This bothers me," Michael replied. It wasn't much of an answer, but it was the best that he could muster with such a troubled mind. The worry wore on his face like a corrosive wind.
"Don't worry. Relax, and you'll live longer," Stephen replied. Then after a brief pause he said, "Worry gets you nowhere. And, if you don't live longer, then what have you lost? Things don't always have to be difficult."
Now they were standing outside of the commander's door. Stephen turned his head, and said to Michael, "Stay here. I'll handle this one on my own." He left Michael outside. Stephen wasn't worried that Michael could be a witness...he was worried that he would try to stop him from what he knew that he might have to do.
Stephen barged abruptly into the commander's bunker. There was no knock, or even an announcement. It was time to cut to the chase. Time was a luxury that they did not have.
"Officer, what in the hell do you think that you are doing just marching into my office?" the commander barked. The bulb flickered dimly in the raw, sludgy dun of this dugout.
"Sir, I have no time for pomp or protocol. Tonight's situation is grave, and I at least have a plan," Stephen retorted.
"What? You believe all of this Bloodmoon nonsense! This is merely a Gypsy superstition that has become engrained within the local folklore. Go back to your post," the commander replied.
"What about the wolves?" Stephen screamed.
"European wolves are notoriously vicious. Where do you think that the werewolf legends originated? Yes, we have lost some men to wolf attacks. This is not uncommon," the commander said.
"Yeah, not uncommon to this area. But we have definitely lost more than a few men. The entire French and British trenches were devastated over the past two nights," Stephen roared. "The wolves don't attack randomly, they assault our exposed trenches every night. They have been doing this since before we took this damnable place. Why do you think the Krauts so gingerly let us overrun this position? Our men didn't have a chance."
"Hogwash! They were weakened by the German onsets, and then the wolves killed our remaining troops. Only because they were injured, and in such low numbers were, the wolves able to take them," the commander stated.
"The Germans haven't attacked in months. They got smart, and decided to let the wolves from the haunted keep have us. It saves time and ammo," Stephen remarked.
The rage filled the commander's face as the blood flushed it. He then looked-up and said, "I'll hear no more of this. RETURN TO YOUR POST! That is an order."
"You're not even going to listen to my plan?" Stephen asked. He knew now had reached the breaking point. There would be no turning back.
"No. Now go," the commander ordered.
Stephen pulled his pistol from his belt. Gripping the back of the slide, he slid it back and released it with a loud click. Then he lifted it to take aim. "Sir," he said calmly, "I am relieving you of your command."
The commander looked puzzled, and then boiled with rage. He said in an impudent tone, "This is mutiny, soldier. Stand-down, or I will have you court marshaled. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME!"
"Yes, Sir," he replied. Then he fired three rounds into his commander's chest. His death was relatively quick, which eased Stephen's mind somewhat. Then he turned around and left the bunker.
After rejoining Michael, he slid the pistol back into its holster. It was still warm from its decided action. That was a feeling that he could never forget-a cold nothingness. The very thought of it made him nauseous. His guts retched in angst.
Michael took a deep breath, and asked a stupid question. "What happened?"
Stephen looked at him calmly, and said, "I gave him a 45 caliber dose of reality." Then he slowly walked away.
The two men headed for their home within the trench system. A few minutes passed before Michael said anything again. But his curiosity got the better of him. He could resist the temptation no longer. "How did it feel?" he asked Stephen.
"Easy," he replied, "I never liked the arrogant bastard much anyway. Killing Germans, killing Prussians, or killing anyone else it's all the same to me." Such words made him sound hard, but answers like these ended questions. And he wanted to think no more of it, ever.
A heavy heart never loses its way.
Michael shook his head, but said nothing. It was better not to think about such things. In most situations it was better not to think at all. Emotions clouded judgment. During a war was not the time for hesitation or inner contemplation. There would be time enough for that later. If they lived...
Several hours passed. While Stephen and Michael waited, they searched through the weapons that had been gathered by Group one. There was a wide assortment of weapons to choose from. Stephen had picked-up a French machine-gun. It was an ugly little device that had been poorly designed. The large, open sided magazine would get clogged with mud and dirt. Soon after that the gun would cease to function.
"What a piece of CRAP!" Stephen roared, "It's useless. Give me a bolt action Enfield any day. An Enfield is accurate, and it will fire under the worst conditions. This thing wouldn't even be good for a club. Make sure no one uses these things. Snafu."
Time passed slowly for the soldiers. Even though they were busy making their last ditch efforts at remaining another day in this meager world, the worry made even the most dangerous work feel like a mindless tedium. An hour before sundown the group leaders met with Stephen and Michael in the bunker command of the American trench.
Group leader one started his report by saying, "Sir! My name is Miller, and I was in charge of Group One."
Stephen laughed, and then he said, "Miller, take it down a notch. Dispense with the ranks. Just tell us your progress."
Miller continued, "We searched all of the adjoining trenches. Most of the arms were either clogged with mud, or just simply would not work. The British trench had two water-cooled Maxim machine guns. Neither will function without heaving cleaning. Rifles and pistols we already have plenty of, so we left them. Most of their ammo was spent."
"Okay," Stephen replied. "The Maxims would have been nice, but we don't have the time to mess with them. Continue."
"The French trenches were in an equivalent condition," Miller said, "Ammo was nil, but they did have several light machine guns."
"Which won't work worth a damn," Stephen interrupted, "Most of the ones that I tried were already jammed with mud or dirt. They are not reliable. Forget about trying to use them. Was there anything else?"
"No," Miller finished.
"Good work," Stephen commented, "Group Two, you're next."
The next man stepped forward. He said, "I'm Meade. We have setup a concertina barbed-wire perimeter just west of the village. It is a large circle with an opening left on the eastern side. This will be closed as soon as everyone is inside. We used all the wire that we had, and we were able to string a two-strand barrier. After that placed another two-strand barrier. Hopefully it will be random, but dense enough to keep them from crawling through it. Also, we cut limbs from the nearby woods and set a natural wall between the two sets of wire. The wood was harvested mostly from some thorn treed. So if they try to burrow through this it will at least be painful. We're going to pour kerosene on these thorn walls just before sundown, and if they get too close for comfort we can torch the little mongrels."
"Interesting," Michael said, "But I think that we should only light that barrier on fire as a last resort."
Stephen concurred, "Yes, the smoke will cut our visibility for targets. Plus the fumes from the kerosene could make us dizzy. Don't pour the kerosene until we know that we'll need it. Exceptional work though, Meade."
Meade nodded his head and stepped back. He was disappointed, but the good of his comrades had to be considered. This he accepted as an unfading reality.
Stephen looked-up. Then his eyes fell on a familiar face. Just as this happened he smiled and said, "O'Leary, C'mon man. Now is not the time to be getting bashful. Tell us the news." He waved his hand gesturing O'Leary to speak.
"The charges were set in 3 staggered positions, with just enough explosives to breach the walls. The guards weren't to be seen; I guess they had already started the revelry. So we're set there.
When I hammer the switch, the walls of Jericho will fall," O'Leary said with a grin.
"Excellent work, all of you," Stephen finished. "Arm yourselves, because in under 2 hours we'll hunker down."
The men made themselves ready, and headed for their makeshift palisades. The sun rode heavy in the blistering sky. It was on days like this that men knew that they were meant to die. Even steel must break, and man is far less enduring. How much pressure tempers the soul before it shatters? How much pain can one man bare?
Just before sundown the small pack of men, numbering but a mere 12, silently scrambled for their battlement. Stephen directed them using pre-assigned hand signals until dark, dispatching them to selected positions. Meade and Miller closed the wire. There could be no holes in their defenses, because there was no retreating and there was no surrender.
Stephen McGregor studied the horizon with tired, raw eyes. Every vein was a fraying strand worn thin with ceaseless tension. Those eyes saw nothing but the gathering darkness.
The moon had already risen-full, bright, and ominous. It caste a hallowed dread, even in the daylight it made the heart heavy with anticipation. Like the first step in the execution...the blindfolded man hears the chamber snap as the bullet locks in. What comes next takes no great guess.
All felt lost. The sun tore into the red, as the red jaggedly bled into the blue. Black night was almost upon them. The mist began to mass along the ridge, churning cold until it rolled into the outstretching dusk. There it waited patiently for its ends.
The sweat poured from the men, even as the air grew cooler with the dying day. Nervous twitches and questioning looks spread through the men like a plague. What would come next they would not know, or expect.
Darkness fell. The olden moon rose high upon a graceless sky painted black. Stars pierced the horizon, and randomly punctured the night like a madman's frenzied art. The moon glowed and all was still, and silence ruled.
McGregor pointed into the night towards the castle ruins. Along the edges of the horizon burned small points dimly set aglow. The line broadened, and soon the darkness was lit by this maddening glimmer. A low rumble built into a deafening cacophony as this surging mass growled in ferocious contempt. Blood red eyes set the night on fire...
...And the beast in the Darkness shall reign over all.
So it began, not with a roar but a whisper. The throng charged out of the tenebrous wilderness to ravage what lay before it. The barely perceptible rumble would slowly build, growing ever more feral, with every breath taken and discharged. These rough beasts knew no fear, and they would allow no quarter.
Soft feet strode over limb, rock, and earth with hastening pace. Eyes that once slept now tore through the ebon darkness. No pack had ever been so titanic, or so savage. They could smell the panic coursing through human blood. They yearned for that sanguine sweet fluid. The dreams of blood made them mad.
Distant orbs shined a crimson red, as there numbers changed from scattered scratches to one continuous jagged line like a bloody slash across the edge of the sky. Their eyes shone as bright as the stars. Each pair verged the gulf until all the soldiers could see were waves upon waves of those fearsome things. For every set came a growling heart, and a mouth filled with saliva-poisoned daggers. Such a cruel, efficient beauty they had been given that even man lives in a dreadful awe, he who has dominion over the beasts.
This was madness through nature's eyes. Lunacy from the face of utter darkness came...
These eldritch signs did not bode well. Stephen grabbed his Enfield rifle, clenching it tightly as the sweat bubbled and ran down is skin. He glared angrily at the men and snarled, "Alright, you sons of a bitches do you want to live forever!"
He took aim and fired. The rest followed suit. Every man fired at will, and as rapidly at possible. The bullets could not miss their targets unless they overshot them. Even with that the wave of canine Stormtroopers could not be stopped or substantially lessened. Their count ranged in the hundreds against this small band of soldiers.
This was the fires of Hell, and with this battle would temper the steel of their souls. They would be blackened, if not broken. Where would be the end?
Before the wolves were totally upon them, McGregor gave Miller the go to detonate the explosives. With an earth shaking wallop the wall blew-up, creating 2 large gashes through the wall. The explosion killed several wolves, and showered the men in dust and debris. Their ears were ringing painfully.
One of the charges of dynamite had failed to detonate, but it mattered little. Most of the pack ran into the newly made breaches, and into the town of Argounsburg. Therein waited the easiest kill and the longest denied temptation.
Screams saturated the cold, night air. Shots were heard, as the drunken revelers met their unsuspecting doom. These sounds could barely be heard under the growls of the jubilant pack. How sweet is the blood that has never yet been spilled from the mocking heart?
The few that remained outside of the walled village were easily picked-off with well-placed shots. Stephen pulled is Colt 45 pistol, and then prompted Meade to get the wire-cutters. They would not wait until dawn for their escape. Who knew what the day would bring?
With 2 quick snips the barbed wire was severed and pulled open. They would enter the walls in pairs. What was inside was surely not to be easy, but a means to an end. Hopefully not their end...
The scene was apocalyptic...burning buildings, dismembered dead bodies, and wolves running the streets. The rough beasts had stormed the houses, breaking through glass windows and ransacking flesh. The screams continued as savage teeth bit viciously into the doomed residents.
Michael saw such an attack. A German officer, sprawling on his back as his hands were flailing in defense, was being torn limb from limb. Blood burst from the skin as it dug its fangs in deeply. It sprayed across the wolf's face. Crusted over fur glistened in the moonlight. Ravenous, it licked up the blood with a wicked ecstasy. This hunger would never be sated, but only grow stronger. Such an impetus was ceaseless and as deepening as the ever-flowing stream.
It was every man for himself at this point. The group splintered, some into smaller units and others individually, and went in different directions. Stephen tapped Michael on the chest, his hand then motioning to a large building on the other side of the town. That was where they headed.
What was seen was gruesome display, like a vision from Dante's Inferno. Mangled torsos, smoke, fire, blood, and grizzle were everywhere. The unburied dead were in primitive heaps, rotting and charred in the streets. The gore was horrendous. The pack fed on the corpses as the mist floated lazily through the cool air about them like some musing dark angel.
And Death ruled over all...
The gates of Argounsburg had been thrown open wide, as some within the besieged sanctuary had sought a hasty escape only to walk straight into the jaws of Death itself. Smoke rose to the heavens as the village burned. Under hallowed moon this lunacy raged, and still the night was newly born. The madness seemed to have no end. Could the dawn be so far away? Hell knows no season.
As was with all legends, the Bloodmoon tale was but little more than a half-truth told to scare children. In a tenebrous sky rose no blood red lunar horror, nor had thousands of canids came from the haunting abyss beneath the darkened ruins overlooking the trench works. The wolves had come though, and they were ferocious enough for thousands. Numbers were a mere formality, a statistic meant for generals and politicians. But they weren't fighting this war. They never did, but they started the wars and never even blinked.
Wolves randomly traveled the streets and alleys as they made their way from one slaughterhouse to the next. Their hunger had waned but definitely not ceased. The bloodlust had just lessened.
Michael and Stephen made it to the opposite side of town without firing a shot. The large edifice they found was a town hall, long since abandoned as a meeting place for their elder statesmen. It had been converted into a makeshift hospital. Each floor's purpose had been logically decided and implemented by the Krauts on its takeover-the top level was the staff quarters and offices, the first floor was the hospital's working facilities, and the basement was the morgue and crematorium. Even the dead had their place here.
Outside of the hospital were 2 dead guards, torn to shreds and left in gory little heaps of disheveled flesh upon the stairs leading to the entrance. Both had died in shrieking agony, their souls ripped away as their flesh had been. They had gotten off a few shots before they were overwhelmed. The brass shell casings lying erratically scattered around were still warm. They had not been dead very long.
Stephen and Michael made a hasty clip up the stairs. The door was ajar. Glass shards from the broken windowpanes had fallen down to the stone slab beneath the creaking door. They crunched as hard boots walked upon them. The door had been soundly battered. How could an animal do so much damage?
With a sudden motion Stephen blocked Michael's way with his arm, bringing him to a dead stop. Softly he said, "Walk straight down this hall, all the way to the end. Go out the back and find a truck. Wait for me there. If I'm not out in 5 minutes, leave. Understand?"
Johnson nodded his head wearily. "I'm scared," he said. The beat of his heart sounded like an artillery barrage.
"I know," Stephen said. "That's your spirit talking you. It's saying, 'Stay on your toes.' So listen to it. It won't steer you wrong."
Michael was still uneasy. The stress was starting to show. His hands were shaking, and the cold sweat was running off of him in sheets. He was cracking under the pressure.
"Hey, stay sharp," Stephen growled trying to snap Michael to full attention. "I'll get you out of here, kid. I swear it." Fatidic words often are like two-edged swords, cutting both ways at once. These words he would often remember. He was a man of his word.
I swear it. I swear it. I SWEAR IT! The phrase rang in his head like a deafening church bell. Over, and over, and over again they screamed at him like demons. They drove him. They pushed him forward, into the abyssal unknown.
Stephen went through the rooms of the hospital one by one, as he made his way through the ground floor. The beds were a wreck-scattered about here and there, and all in crooked, broken little rows. Blood and gore was everywhere. It was on the walls, floors, and beds. Crumpled, blood crusted sheets were in mangled heaps...trampled, torn, and tainted.
Some of the grizzle had a yellow hue. Bile had mixed with blood, leaving a xanthic color to the surrounding blood splatter. To the eyes it was a sickening cacophony gore. The blood, the madness, the carnage had no reason or logic. This ossuary was the dream lust of the charnel heart of darkness.
Stephen gagged, his hand brushing sweat and vomit from his lips. He had seen these things before, but never so much or so fresh a slaughter en masse. His guts twisted as stomach bile filled his mouth. The degrees to which steel can stand and not break...
There was a loud yawp. A Kraut came running out of a doorway clenching a bayonet. He lunged at Stephen, barely missing as Stephen stepped aside as the blade flew by his chest. Stephen felt the wind from it, as every nerve in his body simultaneously flinched in adrenalin rushed readiness.
The Kraut backhanded him hard, knocking the Colt 45 from Stephen's sweaty grasp. The pistol flew across the room, smacking a bed leg, and finally sliding underneath. A bloody gash rose on his face, the blood trickled down his lips and off his chin. The two wrestled, as the bayonet bore down in Stephen's face. Every moment was a straining endeavor as their muscles worked in fevered opposition. They both were tiring...
This wasn't Stephen's first time to dance.
Three punches hammered the German's ribs. He groaned in pain as the hits drew home. Wrenching slightly, the Kraut's body moved just enough to give Stephen room to work. He had to make haste.
Sliding his hand quickly down his side, he grabbed his trench-knife and pulled it loose. The German was mumbling angrily; his bayonet's tip was scraping against the skin. The blood trickled softly down Stephen's face. It was a grating pain, like raw nerves against cold, dull steel. Now he was really pissed.
Stephen growled fiercely, as his clench around the knife's hilt tightened to a deathlike grasp. He could smell his own rancid sweat. And still all was rage. This was the fuel that gave him motion, this was his strength.
With gritted teeth he moved forward. Three jabs of the blade were thrust between the ribs. Soft tissue embraced rusty steel with hallowed tears. Blood wept from the union. It spilled freely forth in a silent, mournful tide of crimson rivulets.
Stephen grimaced. Blood gushed from the German's mouth, as Stephen gave the knife a final, forceful push. His eyes rolled-up into his skull. Every breath pulled more blood into his lungs, as he slowly drowned. Choking and gagging, soon he was no more.
"Give my regards to the Kaiser, in Hell," Stephen said as he wiped the blood from his knife on his pants' leg. Then he gurgled deeply, digging deep down in his throat, and spit on the Kraut body. "No good bastard." Then he walked away.
His pistol was in sight. He retrieved it, stretching beneath the bed to get it from its resting place. As he dug blindly under it, something brushed his hand. "What the hell?" Even with that little sensation, he had visions of his own death by stupidity...
He jerked back. On his hands and knees he scrambled for the dead German's body, never even looking back. His mind was racing furiously. "Get the Lugar...get the gun," was his only thought.
Stephen yanked the pistol loose. "DAMN IT!" There was no magazine to be seen. It was useless. It was worse than useless. It was a waste of his life.
He spun around violently, brandishing his knife and almost losing his balance. There was nothing. The air was still.
There was only silence.
In front of the bed, and going under it, was a large slick of blood. The stagnant pool had dried somewhat, becoming a crusty crimson sludge. Stephen's eyes studied the grizzle. Tiny footprints started at the edge and went towards the bed. They were neither the tracks of a man or a wolf, but the small steps of a child.
He crouched down slowly to get a better look. If he was wrong there was no need to be in a hurry, there was time plenty enough in the grave. But if it was a child he didn't want to scare him. God only knew what horrors those eyes had seen. He didn't have the heart to cause him any more pain.
Much to his relief, he saw a small boy, clothed in a gown, huddled within the shadows under the bed. The child's body shook, his arms and legs curled around his fragile, little form. Eyes shined brightly from the darkness. Crusted is blood, the boy's face seemed almost inhuman...having an unnatural, charnel quality about it.
But still the fear shined through. Stephen sheathed his knife slowly, keeping his eye locked on the boy. He crawled to him, muttering all the way. "It's okay, little fellow. Nobody's going to hurt you. Come with me, okay?"
The boy did not understand English, but the tone of Stephen's voice and his non-threatening demeanor set the child's heart at ease. Something, deep inside, told him that he would be safe with this man. This instinct would not be wrong.
Gently he pulled him out. Setting him on the bed, he wrapped the boy in a heavy, flannel sheet to keep him warm in the biting night air. He was a small child, not much more than 40 pounds. Dark, hollow eyes stared from inside of him. They had seen much, but would tell nothing.
Stephen grabbed his Colt from the floor. "We'll need this." Then he scooped-up the boy, "C'mon little man, let's get the hell out of here." He was out the door and headed down the long hallway...
Suddenly they heard gunshots. The glass windows in the backdoor flashed like an exploding bulb as a muzzle blasted from the darkness. Screams were muffled as the chaos bled through. Stephen knew what was happening. He could feel it in his bones.
Dropping the boy at the door, he said, "Stay." The door flung open wide as he charged out. Glass shattered and rained down. Jagged, little mirrors bounced, broke, and stabbed the ground with razor-like impunity. Mr. Browning's clever device flashed with an acidic rage.
The wolves scattered severally, all but one. Tearing at Johnson's throat, it had gotten a taste and the bloodlust had exorcised all fear the beast had. Teeth bit voraciously as the vital flood gushed from every fresh trespass. The beast had taken him, and now there was only agony or death.
The decision had already been made. Stephen pulled the trigger, and blew Michael Johnson's brains out. The blood rushed from his skull, along with his life. He was gone in an instant. Cold death embraced his flesh, rippling like a stone in a stream. Now only the hearse would have him.
The blood became cold in a gasp, and the wolf was now fully enraged. It turned from the corse, leaving its dead meat for the scavengers of the pack. Two black eyes locked upon Stephen. He was the one who had spoiled the kill. He was the one spared the bloodbath. Now there was new prey-warm feast for the beast.
The canid was huge, much larger than the other wolves. A mouth stained from feeding opened, showing a fierce array of ravenous teeth ready to tear Stephen apart. One piece at a time he would die, as he watched his own dismemberment. Death would be a tender mercy then. What hell was there in those eyes? A hell and fury suffered by none but the damned.
Not even a dog deserved to die like this.
The rough beast reared on its hind legs, and charged the stairs. There was no time to think, just to act or react. Stephen's mouth snarled; his eyes narrowed in focused anger as the barrel bore down.
In a split second it had all happened. The wolf growled. Stephen fired, slide slammed back as the recoil flared, and he shot again. SNAP! Bullets shattered the monstrosity's skull as lead penetrated bone and soft tissue. Its head whipped back, vertebrae in its neck compacting and twisting as the force made its muscles torque. End-over-end it tumbled down the steps. Stephen's ears were still ringing from sharp shriek of the Colt's cadaverous kiss.
The creature's corpse lay in a disheveled heap below. The mist drew in around it, almost forming about it. Soon it was entirely covered in a thick froth of the lowly vapor. No longer visible, it howled weakly and then became still.
There was a silence upon the face of this deep. The moon hung above like some fateful angel waiting for a sign. What zephyr did it watch for as time journeyed towards its end? Stephen's heart was pounding so hard that he could feel it in his head.
There was a loud scream. A hand shot up through the mist...barren, wet, and clawing at the darkness. It weakly submerged back beneath the creeping fog. All was still again.
The mist slowly parted, as it rolled away and evaporated into nothingness. Where the wolf's body had fallen was the broken vessel of a man. Naked, wet, and dead-he bled black viscous blood from his face and upper skull. A white froth bubbled from his bloody lips.
Soon his body was shaking furiously, as if being seized by Death. The skin liquefied and boiled away, leaving only the bones. Skinless they laid, not the skeleton of a man but the bones of the beast. Within moments this foul creation went from a preternatural existence to the scattered remnants of aeons gone.
"What in the Hell!" Stephen exclaimed in shocked excitement. He ran down the steps to Michael's dead body. Less than 10 yards from where Stephen stood was what he was after...a big truck. He picked up Michael, saying, "I'm keeping my word to you. I'll get you home, even if it is in a box."
He carried him over to the truck, and gently deposited him in the back. Folding over a tarp, he covered him. Glassy eyes stared into the darkness, as the blood flowed over those benighted orbs. "Rest in peace, friend. I will see you again, soon. Soon enough."
Stephen checked the cab. The keys were in the ignition. All that he needed now was the kid, and then he was good to go. He slammed the door, and headed around the truck.
He could hear the wolves howling. Their call was growing louder with every step that Stephen took. The darkness was gathering, and so was the pack.
His hands wrapped around the boy. "Let's go." They were out the door, and at the truck in a flash. Stephen set him in the seat, slamming the door shut. Then he loaded up as well.
The key was old. His fingers slid along its grimy surface as he took hold. Turning it, the engine stuttered and died. He looked up from the dash...
The wolves were all about them. Glowing red eyes and fierce teeth glared from these savage kings of the epochs long ago. They drew in slowly, gathering closer to the truck. Their roar seemed to unify into one cacophony of wild hatred unbound.
"C'mon, you mule! Turnover!" Stephen screamed. He kicked the gas. Nothing happened.
Their eyes were everywhere now. Fire and rage burned within them. The landscape was afire in their shimmering glare. And all was perpetual chaos...
"Turnover, you bastard." The grinding ignition charged, and died with a crash. "C'mon." He cranked it, kicking the gas pedal. This time it took. The engine growled and popped as he gunned it. The truck plowed through the pack.
They snapped, running behind the truck as it accelerated and drove away. It crashed through the gate, shattering what little now remained of the heavy, wooden doors. The small village was gone in a cloud of dust, as the night consumed the rest. Stephen didn't look back, he wouldn't. He no longer had the strength, or the inclination.
He patted the little boy's head. What had led him to search the rooms he did not know. Whether it was fate, luck, or gut instinct would be a mystery until his dying day. Then he smiled. "Don't worry, everything is going to be fine." His eyes returned to the road ahead.
The boy turned, looking out of the window and into the starry night. He had not understood anything that Stephen had said to him, but somehow he knew that he was safe. It was instinct most primal. The moon was full and bright-like the gleaming red eyes that stared up at it. Those were the windows of a soul that mirrored the night, burning red and bright. They were the eyes of a child, and the eyes of the beast that lurked beneath the skin.
Copyright © 2000.
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created by W.B. Vogel.
April 27, 2001 A.D.