The Sap

Fiction by ghill

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The Sap

Postby ghill » Sun Feb 07, 2016 12:20 am

The mud at the bottom of the trench was thick, dark like treacle but smelling like shit; it sucked at the boots of the two men, soldiers of the 2nd Royal Bavarian Division as they squatted at the end of the sap. The man they had escorted through the trenches had told them to wait and so they waited. In the dark to their right close enough to hear, but not close enough to see, a Tommy lay groaning. They'd seen him as they had crept down the trench, a grenade had torn him up and then someone had bayoneted him, not once but several times yet somehow he clung onto life, a reminder of just how vulnerable they all were.

Less than a twenty yards away down the hill were the Tommie's, and they were very much on the alert they would be only too glad to set up home again in this their old trench. The trench had sat abandoned by both sides in the middle of no man's land a lost relic of a front line rearranged over and over again, but a week ago the Tommie's had started to dig a new sap to connect their front line to this old trench, they'd clear it out again, shore up the collapsing walls, dig out the old dugouts and then life for both sides would get even more unpleasant. Finally someone, probably someone who sat at a table to eat warm food, with a clean knife and fork and didn't worry if he lit a cigarette while out in the night air; someone had decided that matter had to be rectified. German honour had to be restored and the trench captured or recaptured or at very least the Tommie's pushed out of it with a bloody nose.

The idea of coming out with Unteroffizier Greer on a fighting patrol had been bad enough but then half an hour before they were due to come out the Hauptfeldwebels had come around with Greer, they knew it was bad when he got out his Gebetbuch and looked at his shitlist. The Hauptfeldwebel's had sent them to see the old man. He'd been waiting outside his dugout with the man. Both men had noticed the stormy look on his face and so no questions were asked when he told them they were to escort the man out into No man's land, and to do as he said without question. So while Greer and the rest of them were about their dirty business they two were to be nursemaids to some ass from headquarters.

The two men thought of the frightful hand-to-hand fighting which had taken place, when their raiding party had entered the Tommie's trench, clearing it had been all grenades and pistols and then knives, axes and clubs, it was close work, dirty and undoubtedly dangerous work which both men were all to familiar with, and which although neither men was a coward they both agreed they were glad they'd been able to sit it out in their own bit of trench until Greer had sent a runner back to tell the three of them to come forward. They'd crept forward through the gap in the wire. The man walked as though on a country walk, picking his way through the wire, careful to avoid falling in the gaping craters as though they were simply large muddy puddles rather than places a man could die sucked down by the mud, or overcome by the remnants of Mustard and Phosgene gas which sat in the still air at the bottom. When they had reached the other trench they had thrown themselves in, while the man had walked along the top of the trench until he found a ladder and climbed down. As he stood at the bottom of the ladder under the light of the Tommie's flares that they had realised that the man was old, not just in his thirties which was old enough for the trenches but fifties or sixties staff officer old and then they knew that nothing but trouble was going to come from this night's work.

All about the trench on the firing steps, on the trench floor, in the doorways to their dugouts lay the bodies of dead Tommie's and not a few dead Bavarian's, although thankfully perhaps less than might be expected so successful had their compatriots been at surprising Tommie's working party. Yet the man had looked at the corpses, with interest, they watched his lips move as he counted the corpses, clearly unhappy he said simply "it will have to do, I suppose" and then stepping over the first body he had walked down the trench towards the sap seemingly as familiar with his surrounding as though in his own home.

At the top of the sap and despite their whispered protests he had left the two men, he needed to be alone to conduct business he said and the two men would simply get in his way had not their Captain told them to obey whatever orders he gave them and his orders were simple stay here and wait his return and if the Tommie's were to come back before he did then they should leave without him, he would he said be safe enough, although this last he said with a smile which said he knew something they did not, then he had drawn his Mauser and walked off alone down the sap tapping the barrel of the pistol against his leg as he went as clearly to some tune which was playing in his head.

As they sat in the dark they had debated going back to the wounded Tommy, but had quickly agreed there was little if nothing they could do for him now, and with the pragmatism of veterans decided to leave him to get on with it. An hour later with the injured man still moaning and the sound of fighting getting closer the two soldiers started to wonder whether now would not be the time to take the old man at his word and head back to their own trench, it was as they argued the virtue of discretion that the old man appeared from the shadows where the sap took its first turn, he was not alone. The man who accompanied him stood head and shoulders taller, clearly an officer if the flapping great coat and peaked cap were anything to go by, The new arrival stopped at the turn, while the older man came on and squatted down beside the two men, clearing away some dirt on the firing step and placing a canvas wrapped package on the step before he sat down beside it.
"I have spoken to my new friends they have given me the information that I needed, but we have had to renegotiate the terms of payment. Unfortunately, the raid has gone so smoothly there were not as many casualties among our own side as I expected and my new friends are if not impartial, keen to see the balance maintained between Germany and her enemies, I presume so this war will go on for as long as possible; your deaths then are an unfortunate consequence".

While the two men still puzzled over his words the pistol which the man had been holding on his lap was up, the muzzle flash extraordinarily bright in the dark confine of the trench and then the words no longer mattered and the two soldiers were down in the stinking mud at the bottom of the trench.

The younger of the two men watched as the old man picked up the package again and stepping carefully over their bodies and made his way back along the trench, presumably back to their own lines. He strained to watch the man as he disappeared around the corner, heard the crack of the pistol as the old man put the wounded Tommy out of his misery and then the effort to much for his he collapsed back into the mud. It was hard to breath, as though a great weight was on his chest which was he assumed because one of the Mauser's bullets must have caught his lungs. He tried to sit up again but couldn't feel his legs he called to his friend but there was no answer apart from rasping breath and after a few minutes even these ceased. Finally, he gave up allowing the stinking mud to cradle his head and looked up into the night sky, the clouds which had concealed the moon and kept it from revealing their presence as they had crept across no mans land was now out in all its glory and so he had no difficulty seeing the new arrivals as they crept along the sap and out of the dugouts. At first he thought they were Tommie's who had hidden at the bottom of their dugouts waiting for a quieter safer moment to reveal themselves.

But these 'survivors' wore hardly a stitch of clothing and moonlight illuminated white hairless creatures with long canine muzzles. They were silent picking their way carefully down the trench towards him, he wanted to shout, he thought perhaps like dogs they might be scared off by a loud noise, but even as he realised what a foolish thought this was, he found his lungs had betrayed him and would allow nothing more than a vague gasp or whisper. Two of the things crept slowly up to his friend one gave his foot a kick with a foot which seemed almost cloven when there was no response he leant forward a clawed hand taking the leg and squeezing until the claws pierced flesh, when there was still no response it crouched beside the corpse and started to undress it.

The two 'things' worked quickly and efficiently sharp claws cutting belts and straps and stripping away buttons they said little occasionally meeping at one another. Then the body was undressed his friend's white pale skin in stark contrast to the blood and mud spattered pile of clothes and possessions beside it the larger of the two picked the body up and slung it over a shoulder then rose to its feet as if unburdened and walked down the sap.

The smaller creature reached over and took his hand in its claws and squeezed, the pain was nothing compared to that of his chest but he grunted just the same, the creature barked something its long jaws snapping closed, snapped out something a curse perhaps at finding him alive. It leant over him put a clawed fist to his throat and started to squeeze. There was a more forceful bark this time from behind him. His throat was released and the creature retreated back up the trench, head and eyes down like a beaten dog. Then he heard the 'officer's' great coat swishing as he walked up to where he lay.

Unlike the other creatures the 'officer' was in uniform although in a mixture of nationalities the baggy red saroual of the French Zouaves trousers, German officer's jacket, and a Tommie's peaked cap. It sat down beside him in the mud, tipped the cap back on its head and then scratched behind a large pointed ear. A clawed hand reached inside the jacket and came out with a cigarette tin, from which it carefully removed two cigarettes. Then being careful to conceal the flame light one then the other. It placed the first gently between the soldiers lips. It took a long draw on the second. Its face wrinkled as though trying to rearrange its face to make speaking easier, then in perfect Hochdeutsch a with what sounded like a quite cultured accent it said "It is not our way to kill our food, it would not be right, you people kill we, simple eat the bounty. We are in no hurry, I shall wait here while you pass."
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Re: The Sap

Postby Tabs » Mon Feb 08, 2016 5:30 pm

So ghouls were feasting on the dead? German commanders were aware, hence the attack--why?
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Re: The Sap

Postby ghill » Wed Feb 10, 2016 10:32 am

Its actually part of a bigger story I'm writing called 'Holden's Story'. The unnamed man while German, isn't actually part of the military. So the German military's motives is entirely legitimate, clear Tommy from the abandoned trenches. The motives of the unnamed man are not so genuine - conduct negotiations with Ghouls for occult artifact.

The first few chapters of the story are all little stories/scenes/vignettes like this. Each set in a different historical period, each typically from the view point of others but which involve this man. He's essentially the maguffin for the main part of the story, set in the modern day and who keeps drawing the main character Holden into trouble.
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Re: The Sap

Postby Tabs » Thu Feb 11, 2016 7:20 pm

You'll have to post another of them.
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Re: The Sap

Postby carnage_lee » Sun Feb 14, 2016 4:48 pm

Thanks Giles, I'd like to read some more as well.
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Re: The Sap

Postby Mr. Handy » Sun Feb 14, 2016 7:47 pm

I enjoyed it too, and I'd also like to read more.
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Re: The Sap

Postby ghill » Sun Feb 14, 2016 10:14 pm

OK if I start to post chapters here how do I organise it?
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Re: The Sap

Postby Mr. Handy » Mon Feb 15, 2016 2:34 am

Each chapter could get its own thread, which would allow people to comment on and discuss each one. However, people wouldn't necessarily know in which order to read them, and they'd be mixed in with other stories. One possibility is to edit the thread title (by editing the first post in the thread) to include the chapter number and overall story name. Also, if you like, I could create a subforum for your story, and all of the chapter threads could be posted there.
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The Shadow Over Dunwich
The Brotherhood of Death
The Horror in the Blackout
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Re: The Sap

Postby carnage_lee » Mon Feb 15, 2016 9:23 am

That's a very good point. I think that for one-off pieces the regular 'forum -- > topic' model is ok but for multiple (linked) pieces it's better to have each 'series' in a sub-forum - then have a separate thread for comments. In fact there's a good case for not allowing comments or replies by anyone but the author in their 'story' threads/topics, this would leave things 'cleaner' comments would then be posted in a separate dedicated place (which would be more conducive for discussion/critique. I think with a bit of planning and forethought we could make this section more prestigious and something that has a more structured and perhaps 'nurturing' nature.
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Re: The Sap

Postby ghill » Mon Feb 15, 2016 12:00 pm

OK. I'll leave it upto you guys as to how you want to structure it. Give me a yell when you have someplace for me to start posting. Meanwhile, I'll start working through what I have.
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Re: The Sap

Postby Mr. Handy » Mon Feb 15, 2016 10:31 pm

I created a subforum called Holden's Story here and made you the moderator. Let me know when you've seen it by replying to this post, and then I'll move this thread into it. I didn't want to move if first, or you might wonder where it went.
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The Brotherhood of Death
The Horror in the Blackout
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Re: The Sap

Postby ghill » Mon Feb 15, 2016 11:04 pm

Cool, seen.
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