The news of a war came in June. Kids have
shallow minds to happenings like that, so back then it felt like
nothing more than another turn of the world’s spigot: the same
of the same, nothing a lad of sixteen should concern himself with.
Save it for the riper years. We were far too focused on savoring
every little ray of European sunlight.
The declaration followed a month later, when
Summer achieved her long-awaited apotheosis. I remember how our
parents’ faces shifted furtively from anxious grimaces of
trepidation to inchoate smirks of fabricated serenity as they
swiveled their heads to us while reading the morning papers, taken
off guard by our silent bare feet approaching.
The sky was abundantly blue that day, leering
through the window so picturesque and deceitful. Never before had
it looked so rich. But I didn’t go outside that day; I stayed in
bed and cried noiselessly. I was the older one, but I had always
been more sensitive than Danny. He sat outside and played with
ants till sundown shifted into a splotchy purple dusk. Something
in their stare, in their lie, and in the ethereal blue above sent
something horrible into me. I saw something in their eyes,
and in the ocean floating over our world. I couldn’t understand
what it was then. But I do now… Lord knows I do.
month passed, and dominoes were falling across the land. I knew
it, and my parents didn’t hide it. They just hugged me tighter
each day as if something were pulling them from me, or I from
them. Summer was hot, but every few hours some frore gust snaked
by for a split-second and shot terror up my spine. Danny never
seemed to notice it, though. I could not enjoy the fleeting days
of our splendid isolation, for my soul was preparing for what my
mind could not perceive.
was the day our island empire joined the fray, its spear tip waxed
to thrust into the enemies of our allies with valiance and honor.
I felt patriotism, sure, but mostly I wanted to defend my parents.
Mum was sickly (of mind and body) and dad had lost his legs during
the Boer Wars. Danny, a year younger, was the prideful one. His
resolve stirred my own, and together we enlisted. Were it not for
him, I don’t think I could’ve done it. Danny’s not here
anymore. He was eaten a year into the whole thing...
year was one of sobriety, for all us lads. War was not the
adventure the propaganda vaunted of, but a stark product bought
with blood, a vain testament achieved through mass sacrifice. I
remember the first time witnessing death; I wasn’t shocked.
Sickened, surely, but not surprised. I had expected horror, for
dad never spoke fondly of the conflict he’d partaken in. We
squatted in trenches while the rats picked at our dead. I saw the
world through tinted glass eyes when the whistle blew and the air
around us turned yellow, and I felt tiny fragments of myself wane
with each life I released from its mortal coil.
kept me buoyant, though. It wasn’t a fight for the crown at that
point, or even one for our family. We crusaded for the sake of our
own damned hides, and for that of the bastards beside us. Danny
watched my back, and I his. We made a good team. We felt prepared
for anything. But what came on Christmas day was something no man
could have foreseen.
was no holiday truce that year, no caroling, no soccer match, and
no brief, hollow respite to reconcile on the grounds many of us
would perish upon soon after. For that I was glad. Why would I
want to exchange pleasantries with men who would seek our hearts
when the generals sent the next letter? Danny made a “friend”
of one of the Germans, and I think I shot him a week later. I’ll
never know for sure.
Eve 1915 was bitter and wet. The rats had all been running west
that night. Hundreds, probably thousands, crawled through our
trenches, desperately fleeing from some looming easterly horror.
We all felt it, and I had almost considered following them. Rats
had been wiser than men that night. The next day, an army came to
tangle with us, but they were not Germans. They carried with them
a noxious council of envy clouds that shrieked out space-songs
beyond any sense of rhythm, and they were not of man’s thread.
the mist rolled in, it seemed like a shapeless oculus into the
netherworld. The lumpish shapes that dragged themselves toward us
appeared as silhouettes, phantoms exhorted from muddy unmarked
graves, their keening supported such notions, but the roars,
snarls, cackles, and screams were not of the dead. The dead would
dare not emerge in the wake of what approached. Everyone was
silent in that seemingly infinite moment; everything that was and
ever would be existed solely between our crosshairs. Then the
first of them stepped forth, out of the mist and into limpidity,
and when I saw it, my sad mortal heart sank down to my loins.
twitched before us was a herald of the endtimes, what many would
label a demon. It peered at us with scattered, asymmetric eyes
bloated with pus and it clattered its needled jaws like a
rabies-stricken dog. Its body was green like rotted juniper and
gnarled with tumorous muscle that convulsed with hexed celerity.
Before a trigger could be pulled, before a commander could muster
an order, even before a thought could shoot off in anyone's brain,
a paroxysm exploded, a sort of intangible edict, a thunderclap
heard in the mind, not the ears. Then the horde sprinted forward,
beginning the manic genetic carnival.
ran in gay strides, almost childishly, with warped faces locked in
expressions of rabid hysteria. Their guises were twisted, jagged,
and deformed, and their skin color varied across a squalid palette
of greens, browns, reds, and blacks. No two were identical, but
they all shared the same abominable nature, and they were all
naked, bearing erect phalluses that ached with sadistic desire.
Many of us, including myself, were paralyzed by the sight. This
was the Devil’s army, risen from below to feast on the bounty of
sin, and God had forsaken us all to their merciless advance. I was
wrong about this, for the reality was far more abysmal, but at the
time I thought the Rapture had come and we were all to be left