The blow came from behind Claus, the butt of a rifle cracking sickeningly against the side of the Frenchmen’s head. The soldier fell away from Claus, remaining motionless for only a moment before trying to get up again.
“You have got to be joking” Claus exclaimed as he got to his feet and joining Dieter still holding the rifle, “he can’t still be alive?”
The French soldier climbed clumsily to his feet and turned to face the too young Germans, all colour now flushed from his face. The soldier tried to snarl at them, tried to raise his arms to fight again, but blood loss had finally caught up with him and he fell to the ground.
“What in god’s name was that thing?” Dieter asked
“I have seen a lot of disturbing things in this trench, Dieter, but this, this is beyond man and god.”
Dieter went white at his friend’s words, it was true though that no man could have survived his throat being cut for so long and fought back.
“Perhaps it’s a new gas?” Dieter suggested
“Dieter look at him, just look at his eye. This poor soul was not human anymore, he didn’t feel pain or weakness, he just attacked and attacked.....we must reach the Kommodore.”
“Where is everyone else, have they all fallen back already?”
“I don’t know” Claus answered honestly, “but we cannot give up hope, come.”
The two men left the body where it fell and continued moving along the passages, huddling against the wall every time they heard an explosion. This trench was without a doubt the worst place in the world, there was nothing left but mud and blood and bodies. Sometimes, Dieter wondered who it was who would have to claim them all, all the hundreds of dead on the battle field, men and boy’s fighting for governments who didn’t even know their names.
“Perhaps it was the result of drugs?” Claus thought out loud.
“Drugs, you think drugs are more likely than a gas?” Dieter replied snootily.
“Well, why not, there was talk about scientists working on drugs to make stronger soldiers.”
“Science fiction, Claus, I never would have thought you would believe such rubbish”
“I did not say I believed in it, I am simply saying it would explain a few things, like not feeling pain.”
Claus continued walking for about a minute before he realised that Dieter wasn’t with him, turning, he saw his friend standing still in the open space between trench tunnels, looking up at the burning night sky.
“Dieter, what are you doing, we don’t have time for star gazing, man.”
“Claus, Am I going insane, or is it getting darker?”
Claus looked up too, Dieter had a point, the sky that moments ago had been brilliant orange, was now dulling and darkening even though the battle had not let up and the fires of destruction still burnt bright.
“Dieter we don’t have time for this, we must keep moving.” Claus urged
“What is the noise, Claus do you hear it, it’s horrible?”
Claus could hear it, it was like a million high pitched wisp like screams in the night. Both men had heard all manner of death inside the mass bunker of mud and wood, gunshot’s to shrapnel and infected wounds, even amputation, but nothing like this, this was inhuman.
“Claus my god, what is that?” Dieter was actually shaking from head to toe.
Claus moved towards the trench wall and very slowly and very carefully, climbed the seven foot ladder up the wall and peered over the top, in the darkness. What he saw nearly made Claus fall off the ladder.
“Claus, Claus what’s going on, damn it man, talk to me and tell me?”
Claus was at the bottom of the ladder, white as a sheet and shaking harder than Dieter had been, he seemed to be having difficulty catching his breath.
“Claus please what did you see up there?”
“People....what do you mean people?”
Claus did not answer right away, he was having difficulty focusing on anything but the memory of whatever he had just seen, finally he blinked and regained some of himself, “The entire field is littered with people, French, English..”
“You mean they’re already here?” Dieter interrupted,
“I don’t think so, if you’d let me finish Dieter, there were Germans too.”
“Germans, you mean to say German soldiers were allying with the enemy?”
“No, Dieter, they were like him” and he nodded back the way they had just come, “they were all like him.”
Dieter felt sick at these words, “You are sure? All of them are as he was?”
“Yes, I could see the eyes of many of them, they were blacker than the night and many were wounded in fatal places, I saw one English soldier with a large piece of his torso missing, I am certain, Dieter.”
“What are they doing up there?”
Claus tilted his head took look into his friends eye’s the look he gave sent a shiver up Dieter’s spine, “They are killing survivors, all of them.”
“They are shooting those wounded on the field?”
“No, they don’t seem interested in the rifles, only the knives and bayonets, my god Dieter, the looks on their mad faces. I swear to you, my friend, I have never seen such blood lust in my life.”
“We should get out of here before they find us, yes?”
“Agreed, I don’t think it will be long before the rest of them find the trench like our French friend.” Claus pulled himself away from the wall and the two hurried down the passage.