Fog Over Mons
Appears in Wicked Tales: The Journal Of The New England Horror Writers, Vol. 3
Published by New England Horror Writers
Published May, 2015
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Welcome back to another journey through the wonders and terrors of New England. Twenty Wicked Tales of fear, madness and horror from the region’s most prolific writers of dark fiction. Contains stories from Michael J Arruda, Matthew M. Bartlett, E. A. Black, Kristin Dearborn, Peter N. Dudar, Timothy P. Flynn, Sam Gafford, Christopher Golden, John Goodrich, Rick Hautala, Bracken MacLeod, John McIlveen, Paul McMahon, Holly Newstein, David North-Martino, Howard Odentz, Rob Smales, L. L. Soares, Trisha J. Wooldridge, K. H. Vaughan and T. T. Zuma. Introduction by Chet Williamson, and covert art by Ogmios.
I looked skyward. The same sickly maroon permeated the mist. The sun hung inflamed in the sky; the moon hid behind blood red cloud curtains. Warm rain fell, smearing grease and oil on my skin, and soaking my uniform through until it felt as if it weighed twenty pounds. Each movement became more difficult than the last. The noxious scent that overpowered the stink of cordite, shit, and corpses littering our position smelled much worse by now. Hair on the back of my neck stood on end.
We lined up, guns at the ready, prepared to rush over the trench. Most of the men muttered under their breath. Their voices raised in prayer, some in song. All in unison, their voices carried to the heavens.
"Harow! Harow! St. Maurice, succour us."
"Heaven's Knight, aid us!"
"St. Maurice for Merry England!"
A deafening howl filled the air around us as if a host of monstrous beasts had been disturbed from their slumber and shrieked in outrage. The sound of drums beat from far above. Strains of a blasphemous flute sung from angry clouds. I looked over the top of the trench. Lights unlike anything I had ever seen before flashed in the sky. They weren't flashes caused by flares, gunfire, or shells. They seemed to come from the heavens.
The sounds of war were replaced by the guttural screams of German soldiers appearing as a phantasm out of the mist, right in front of our trench. Grotesque shapes appeared further inside the mist amid the lights; dark grey wings beating against the misted sky.
Had the Germans decided to attack us as we were about to attack them? No, they looked disheveled, unprepared; one man still had shaving soap on his face. Had Saint Maurice delivered us from evil after all?
Before I had time to ponder the possibility, they poured into the trench. A dozen men acting as one. I recognized the uniforms. Backpacks. Grey jackets. Pickelhaube helmets.
Without thinking twice, I lifted my rifle, bayonet aimed and ready to stab any Alleyman who came too close to me. All the men in the company lifted rifles and pistols, prepared for the inevitable attack.
The Germans waved their arms about them, shouting words I could not understand except for an endless chorus of "bitte"s and "Hilfe"s. I cornered one against the dripping wall, my bayonet aimed at his throat. He only stared at me, mad and wild-eyed, begging me in foreign words I understood perfectly well to not kill him. He couldn't have been more than 14. How the hell did he end up all the way out here? Didn't anyone notice how young he was?
"Stand down! All of you!" Lt. Ayelotte yelled. "Rigsby, you understand what these Huns are saying?"
"A bit, sir." Rigsby searched the frightened faces until he found their leader. He and the German conversed in staccato tones, and then he turned to the rest of us.
"Sir, they aren't here to attack us. They're fleeing the battlefield. Something about shining lights and something in the fog."
We looked at each other, having seen the same thing, wondering what Saint Maurice had unleashed upon us.
"Deserters?" Lt. Ayelotte asked.
Rigsby shook his head. "I don't think so."
The German in charge spoke again, his voice shrill with terror. He repeatedly looked over his shoulder, beyond the trench, into the heavens. He pointed overhead. Amid his shrieking I heard the word "engel".
A crash resounded over the battlefield. At first, I thought it cannon fire, but it was far too loud and too high overhead. I looked skyward and saw more lights shining through the fog.
"What in Heaven's name is that?" I asked the young soldier at the end of my bayonet. He only shook his head, not understanding what I said. I nodded towards the sky and he repeated what his leader had said.
"We... we are not here to harm you." The German leader's English could have used some improvement, but his message was clear. "We hide. Run." He pointed towards the mist. "Out there. Bad. No go back."
Another crash, louder than the last. Howls of outrage from the heavens. Gunfire ceased immediately. A few shells exploded but all was silent in moments. Even the injured ceased crying out in pain. The battlefield went more silent than the tomb it already was.
Through the fog I saw tentacles far overhead. I squinted my eyes tightly shut and opened them again to make sure I wasn't seeing things in the mist. My sanity strained as my eyes tried to decipher what stalked in front of me. A glimpse of large, luminous bodies broke my mind. Gigantic reptilian wings flapped so hard I felt the air whip against my face. These were unlike any angels I had ever heard of. They flew in the maroon mist, driving back Germans and English alike. Startled, I lowered my bayonet. The German boy in front of me did not run. He sank to the ground and curled into a ball, unwilling to glimpse the evil that filled the heavens.
It was then I understood what the German leader had actually been saying. It was not "engel". It was "Engel des Todes".
Angel of Death.