The following is an excerpt from my late grandfather's journal. He was a veteran of the Great War. I've learned a lot from the contents of this journal, and I hope you can too.
I know my time will be up soon. I’m an old man, a very old man.
I’ve been around long enough to see the birth of my great-grandchildren. I lost my wife, Elizabeth to a stroke ten years ago. Ever since then I’ve lived my life as a heartbroken man. I’ve lost my best friend, Rainer Bohm, God bless his soul, a year ago. Now life just doesn’t feel the same anymore. Hell, there was a time I couldn’t see both me or Rainer making it to the age of twenty.
Back when we were two young Prussian kids serving the fatherland in the Great War. I have no clue how long I have left to live in this world considering my advanced age. I know one thing, though; Hell won’t be awaiting me on the other side because Hell is at the ruins of Osowiec fortress in Poland.
Osowiec used to be a Russian holdout on the way to Bialystok, we tried to conquer it twice without success before Herr Hindenburg took charge. Paul Von Hindenburg was a great man, but what he had us do on the third offensive on Osowiec was a terrible mistake, one that cost thousands of soldiers their sanity. We eventually won the battle over this outpost, but the cost was too great to bear. We’ve thrown hell at the Russians, and they made us stare its residents straight in the eyes.
On a quiet August day, after a few days of battling to a stalemate, we’ve received orders to wear our gas masks and to load our batteries with gas rounds to go along with the conventional rounds, we did this, because we knew the Russians had no way to defend themselves against an attack of such a kind.
We all knew about the illegality of gas use, but no one cared, all sides were using illegal weaponry. The Great War had no limits to its brutality. Up to this point, I did not know just how diabolical could a gas round be.
Now I do.
I regret ever getting myself stationed in the front line of that charge.
I pray to the lord daily, begging him to relieve me of my nightmares of that cursed day, but has yet to have answered my prayers. Perhaps it’s my punishment for taking part in such barbarity.
I digress, we finished gearing up just before 4 am that day. Rainer even jokingly told me we probably looked like monsters to the Ivans who had no gas masks. I recall the artillerymen being instructed to fire their batteries only when the wind was blowing straight at the fortress. Soon enough, the wind was blowing from our side and a deafening barrage of heavy artillery roared across the battlefield, masking all other sounds.
After the booming sounds died down, I could see a sickly green fog spreading around the fortress. To me, it looked like a biblical plague. Perhaps because of the frenzy of the constant battling, somewhere in my mind, I thought we were doing the Divine’s work. While I never agreed with the Nazi ideology, I believed in my youth that the German folk was superior to others; I believed God has made us his nation, but now I know better. God had abandoned us when Bismarck passed away.
Once the putrid cloud cleared away, we’ve made our way towards the fortress. We were sure that there would be no resistance.
We knew people aren’t supposed to survive a mixture of Chlorine and Bromine.
It was impossible to survive this cocktail of toxins.
This toxic gas destroys the lungs completely, deeming the victim to a fate of drowning in their own blood.
And so, Rainer and I made our way through the field of blackened grass with a force of seven thousand other soldiers all around us, marching on towards what we thought would be an easy victory.
That was the first and only time I’ve ever heard Rainer Bohm curse, it was so shocking that I still remember the way he whispered “My fucking God..." through his gas mask as he stopped dead in his tracks, rifle facing forward, shaking slightly.
I screamed at him to keep on moving as I had yet to have seen what he saw before the fortress.
He didn’t budge, he simply told me to look around carefully; the leaves on top of the trees all around were turned into a disgusting shade of yellow and the copper-based equipment of the Russians was laced with a thin layer of a glowing green topping made of chlorine.
I stared in awe for a moment before I’ve seen it; a shadow moving awkwardly in the distance.
It was staggering forward oddly; it was clearly the shadow of a human. Even though it appeared to be shaking and twitching in its upper half constantly. Then more shadows appeared.
I screamed at the top of my lungs that the enemy was in front of us.
The loading of riffles echoed through my ears immediately while a sea of hell spawns formed in front of me.
I couldn’t believe my eyes as the form of stumbling Russian soldiers covered in bloodied rugs crept up in front of me.
I could make out that they were yelling something in Russian between their near constant coughing and wheezing. I had no clue what, but it sounded very angry.
Once they were in my firing range, I could make out the fact that they were covered in their own blood and lung matter, their faces and hands were covered in burns, their bloodied skin was falling off them as they were charging carelessly towards us.
I aimed my rifle and shot.
The bullet missed.
I was shaking.
A gurgling, bloodied, badly burned Russian soldier was on top of me. His bayonet mere inches from my face. I couldn’t even defend myself properly. The sight of these walking corpse like things was too much. I could see the poisonous fumes rising from the Russian’s face as it was trying to create new cavities in my body while barking at me through his blood-smeared white rag like a rabid dog.
Another one of these deathly freaks was about to stab at me when I saw them both crash to the floor as the sounds of gunfire deafened my ears.
Rainer saved my life. He killed the Russian that was on top of me, while another soldier, Hermann Schwarz shot the other one.
With my senses out of balance, I aimed my gun at the horde of these dead defying bastards and gunned a few down.
The officers then ordered us to retreat.
I ran back as fast as I could, I’m not even ashamed to admit it, it terrified me. A scared soldier is a dead soldier they say, but I was as afraid as one could be and that, that’s what saved my life.
Panic struck a massive army of battle-hardened German soldiers, for they have seen what hell looks like, and none of us could handle the sight. That one sight of a field of blackened grass where the mortally wounded have no regard for their fate as long as they get to tear us apart.
Moments after I ran back towards our line, I heard the Russians open fire. I pushed forward even harder but then I saw Rainer drop the ground and cry out in agony. A bullet had pierced his back. I ran back to him and dragged him with me.
Everything seemed lost when I noticed just how panicked our men have been. They were tripping and falling into our very own barbed wire. The images of my fellow soldiers stepping over the trapped bodies of their corpses still haunt me to this day.
The begging and the moaning of German soldiers, the shrieking Russian walking corpses still flood my mind almost every night I go to bed. I can’t look at people wearing a rag over their faces because my mind distorts their features into that of a mutilated soldier covering himself with a bloody rag.
I can’t stand drunken folk; the way they walk and stumble awkwardly reminds me of that terrible day. I once snapped at a drunken man in a bar and almost beat him to death, by smashing his head into a table repeatedly whilst looking away. Hell, I even smashed one of my own mirrors whilst drunk at home because my stumbling made me feel like one of those things, only to them curl up into a sobbing ball when I noticed the blood on my hand.
I have since quit drinking.
I remember little from the rest of that godforsaken August day. All I know is that everything went black after I crossed to our line. The next thing I can recall is me being separated from some blood-covered surgeon at a hospital the following day. I was suffering from what they had called Shell-shock and I was discharged from the military soon after on a basis of mental disability; the trauma they used to call Shell-shock, a development of Hemophobia and my knee jerk reaction to loud sounds.
All of these had prevented me from taking combative action ever again.
In fact, I couldn't even witness the birth of my fucking children; my dear Edmund, Walter, and Emma. They had to watch their old man crumple up like a little child whenever they'd come to me asking me to bandage their cuts.
I just can't!
I-I-I-I’m so sorry…
I’ve been brought to tears again by writing this d-down...
If the Russians at Osowiec pulled themselves from the jaws of death for enough time to terrorize a force outnumbering them seventy to one, I understand why the Austrian Ape could not beat them at Stalingrad.
Now that my story is out there, I can finally let myself pass on, knowing whatever the Lord has in store for me, it won’t be as bad as the devil had put me through in Osowiec, all those years ago.
I hope it’ll come in my sleep, though, because I cannot stand the sight of masked doctors…
they remind me of my demons a little too much.
They remind me of hell, a little too much.
Written by BloodySpghetti