It is March, 21st, 1918, Picardy Sector, Somme. We have started the bombardment of Allied positions and it is soon time to charge them right in the face. I hope majority of the Tommies will be destroyed since I have seen what their machine-guns can do to our advancing troops... Now I must get some rest.
March, 22nd, 1918
The whistle blew and we started our advance towards the Allied lines. I saw massive craters and shattered barbed wire everywhere along with remains of dead soldiers, or actually I don't even know if you can call pieces like that remains anymore. There was still heavy smoke from the five hour long bombardment, I couldn't see more than 15 meters ahead of me. It was a spooky sight. As we marched we could still hear the distant screams of suffering British and french troops, I almost pitied them.
Finally we managed to reach the trench lines and I almost vomited when I saw the inside of the trenches. Everything around me was shattered and bodies were buried in mud and blood. Random body parts and burnt corpses were lying in all kinds of positions and places. The sight was straight from Hell I tell you. The smell was even worse. However our NCO told us to keep our guard up for remaining Allied troops, I just felt like dropping my rifle and running as far as I can from these war-torn trenches and bodies... We searched the trenches and didn't find any Allied troops alive, but we all still could hear screams and weeping. No one knew where it came from but it covered the trenches like an oppressive blanket of death and sadness.
March, Date unknown, 1918
This was when everything changed, as I woke up under a good amount of rubble I had a horrible headache. It was in pain everywhere on my body, but I felt all of my limbs and breathing was fairly easy. I was extremely confused as I didn't remember anything about rubble collapsing on me... After a while sorting my sanity out I started to make my way out of that pile. As I was fully out and laying on the trench floor half sitting I looked for my comrades but couldn't see any. I carefully stood up and called out for anyone, but no answer. Terror started to creep into me. They must have left the trenches right? But which way? Forwards or backwards? Assuming my comrades had retreated, because of all the fresh damage to the trench and left behind equipment I started searching my body for wound marks but all I found was few grazes and bruises in my hands. I took off my helmet to see what condition it was. Then I saw a big dent in the back of the helmet, I must have passed out because of that. It must have been an artillery hit before any combat because there was no bodies or other wounded men around. After everything seemed reasonable I grabbed one of the rifles laying on the trench floor and started searching for others in the foggy smoke.
I slowly made my way between the rubble and oppressing walls of the ruined trench. Not long after I arrived to a lookout spot, a raised part of the trench where you could see over the trench line to the no man's land. The spot was facing towards our former positions and so I climbed on it. I don't honestly know how to describe what I saw. It was exactly as I had imagined the nether world where demons and the Teufel lives in. The ground was almost black from the ash and trees were scarred and covered with embers. I could not see any flat spots on the terrain, everything was a one big mess of dirt and flames. As I imagined how beautiful and peaceful place this looked before this bloody battle I cried a bit in shame and despair.
I took some time to handle it all and got back on my feet and kept moving. After few minutes I saw a trench bunker, one of those dugouts in the side of the trench. I ran towards the bunker in hopes of any commanders or anyone at all really. As I got closer I felt heat and the sound of flames got louder. The bunker was burning inside... I fell to my knees as I saw a burnt skeleton still wearing a stahlhelm and grabbing a Luger mouth wide open sitting opposite to the bunker. At that point I felt so hopeless and destroyed. Like I was the only living man in the universe. Suddenly I heard a distant scream. Not a scared scream but horrified and long, like someone had just stepped in a bear trap and was at the same time chased by an angry bear. I gathered myself and started running towards it as fast as I could in hopes of saving the man. I scampered through all the rubble and after few turns I arrived to the man who most likely had let the scream. He was a British soldier, lying face down on the trench floor surrounded by ash but he seemed okay. Inside I knew he was dead but I still turned him over to check. I wish I didn't do that. The man's face was from my worst nightmares. His eyeballs were missing and scratch marks all around his eye sockets like he had tried to take his own eyes off. His mouth was sunken and wide open, just like that skeleton I saw before. I almost had a heart attack and jolted away from the corpse. I crawled backwards until my back hit the trench wall and at that point my vision started to fade. I felt a sudden and strong breeze coming from the same way I came. It was very strong, unnaturally strong.
I jumped when I heard someone spluttered in German "Leave this place while you still can," with the mix of coughs and fizzle. I jolted my head to my side and saw a half sitting German soldier in a small passage way I didn't see before. He looked almost as bad as the British one but still had his eyes on, though he also had loads of scratch marks around them and he was bleeding from them. I tried to ask what the hell had happened but he had died already... Terror was taking me over. I had to get out of there.
I stumbled up and started running again to the same way. I smelled something strong. A familiar smell of decay, I halted immediately and didn't know if I wanted to go to the direction of the smell. I definitely wasn't returning to the two corpses either. Climbing out of the trench was not an option because of all the shattered mess of barbed wire on top. Also almost every ladder I had seen was either broken or burnt so badly it would break. I had no idea what to do next. I didn't have my rifle anymore and regular soldiers weren't issued a sidearm. Also there was no left over equipment on the ground like there where I came from. I was absolutely defenseless against whatever killed those two men. And what's worse, it's on no one's side. As I stand there terrified and frozen my vision starts to fade again. Everything is darkening. Suddenly my legs start working on their own and I start walking onward to the direction of smell.
As I take the next turn sanity crumbling. I see a man in the darkness of the smoke and moonlight. He is facing away from me but appears to wear a German uniform and one of those old spiked helmets abandoned long ago from use. He looks like a corpse but is standing up completely normal. I didn't even think about calling him out, it was a kind of accident, automatic reaction. You know how you just answer "yes?" if someone calls your name. That kind of automatic reaction. The man doesn't turn. My vision is getting worse and worse. All I can focus on is the man. After few seconds my vision starts to return and I see soldiers standing beside the walls of the trench, enemy and friendly alike. As long as I can see just two walls of men. They all have the same expression. Empty eyes and mouth wide open. I feel heavy rain falling on me. I start to sob heavily and just want to die already. I fall to my knees and my vision goes completely black for a moment.
Next thing I remember is facing that man in old uniform and spiked helmet. We both are standing on the no man's land surrounded by thick fog. He is far away from me but still it feels like he is right in front of me. His face is same as others' but so much worse, the colors of his uniform and skin is grayer than normal. His head is slightly tilted. We just stand there staring each other. I don't know what he was, but I assume some kind of ghost of war. I have no idea why he didn't kill me like all others. Maybe he tried to teach us some kind of lesson? Suddenly I realize the situation and start sprinting as fast as I can away from him through the war-torn landscape. It is starting to rain again. I felt my legs giving up and I fell over. Laying there facing the sky and rain falling on me. I don't know if I was even breathing. All I felt was extreme sadness and exhaustion.
I think I passed out in the no man's land and got back to our starting trenches because next thing I remember is my comrades trying to calm me down and the rest is just recovery from the battle. I was sent to a field hospital and stated I have a worst case shell-shock. So I was sent back home. Now it is 21st of March, 1938 and how do I know all this is true and not just a dream? My former comrades told the nurses I had came from the no man's land in thick fog and completely dead looking. Clothes torn and covered in mud. I don't know what the hell happened but I received a letter from the front stating the trench we charged was completely empty and abandoned. I was the last man alive who had charged that grid. Even the Allies asked us after the war what the hell happened that day but no one knew.
I don't know how much I have imagined things and if there really was a ghost rambling around those trenches but one thing I am certain of, I will never forget what I saw that day. The french government has closed the area in fear of non-detonated explosives. I think it's best like that.