I wouldn’t have remembered this story if it wasn’t for the curiosity of my younger brother, he told me he was studying World War One in history. This story comes from around 2004, and I was planning on publishing a collection of stories from the Great War and had collected a fair amount of stories to use. They were what you’d expect; loss of friends, tragedy and the brutality of war; however, one of those stories stood out.
The story came from an officer who served during the Great War, his name was Alexander Thomson. He didn’t send me the story; instead he asked me to come and meet him in person. At the time, he was at least 110 years old. He greeted me, as his carer introduced us and proceeded to leave us alone. His friendly demeanour continued even though I could see the sadness in his eyes; he continued to swirl his military canteen that he drunk his whisky out of. I asked about the story he had for me and I noticed he was deeply afraid of that question.
From this point on everything I’m going to tell you is exactly what he told me, word for word.
“I spent most of my time in my trench, we received orders from the commander and we were told that in about a week we would be going over the top. The rest of that day was mundane for us save for a new recruit of course. This new recruit went by the name of James McCollins. He was a good kid, I could tell he trusted me because he continued to try and talk to me. I eventually managed to get some alone time, as we needed to get some sleep. As I slept I found myself in my trench, it was almost completely dark; I saw the entire land was illuminated only by a lunar eclipse, no stars, no other lights of any kind. I headed towards the other side of the trench and heard a strange noise.”
It was at this point that Alexander hesitated to continue, I could see he was holding back tears. I gave him the option to stop; but he informed me that he needed someone to know his story.
“There was only one other soldier in the trench, it was another me; he looked exactly as I did, right down to his uniform. He asked me whether I knew what war will turn humanity into; before I even had a chance to answer its question, large spikes began protruding from its back and its hands morphed into razor sharp claws. Despite those spikes and claws puncturing the flesh of that creature, it gave no indication that it was in pain; most troubling of all, it continued to use my face even though its body had deformed into a severely impaled humanoid figure.”
“I quickly shot awake. McCollins was standing over me; he looked incredibly concerned and asked what was wrong. I told him that he shouldn’t be too worried because it was just a nightmare and there were more important things to be afraid of; it was then that a large explosion sounded just outside our trench. I rushed outside of the sleeping quarters to find that the Germans were shelling our trench again, I shouted for McCollins to keep low and follow me."
“When the shelling stopped, we assessed the damage. Thankfully, there were minimal casualties, but McCollins was still fairly shaken up from the experience; after the seemingly endless bombardment, McCollins pointed out something peculiar. There was a message written in the sandbag, I can’t remember what it said exactly but it was along the lines of this."
He handed me an old, ripped open envelope; written on it were the words, You will know soon enough.
“Now despite how odd it the message seemed, we brushed it off as a joke or as a message intended for somebody else, however we couldn’t shake that uneasy feeling that the message had given so we decided it would be best to try and forget about it. A few days passed and I’d keep seeing that creature in my dreams, it wouldn’t attack me because it wanted to observe me. I eventually started to refer to it as Eclipse. This was due to the fact that in every dream it appeared in, the night sky was lit up by a lunar eclipse.”
“Things changed on the last night before we went over the top, I was standing in an empty white nothingness with Eclipse. it told me that today I would learn what war truly does to a man and that he and I had a deeper connection than I had imagined. When I asked what he meant by this he walked off saying one word. McCollins.”
“The next day we were ordered to go over the top, I charged alongside McCollins to the other trench but the bullets and explosions separated us from the rest of our battalion and found ourselves in the forest; this wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t for the large scratch marks we found in a tree and the unholy sight of Eclipse staring at the two of us. I turned to ask McCollins if he had seen the creature, but instead nobody stood beside me, that faithful boy under my command had seemingly abandoned me. I then heard him calling for me deeper in the woods.”
“I continued searching for McCollins, instead I found only Eclipse. it started to chase me out of the forest. I ran until I was out of breath; I turned to see the creature charging towards me. I raised my rifle and aimed at the creature; as I pulled the trigger I closed my eyes slowly in fear of what was to come, the loud bang of a gunshot, then nothing but silence.”
“As I reopened my eyes I found that Eclipse had vanished and McCollins lay there on the ground. The bullet had punctured his lung and I could tell he was dying, I tried desperately to save him; and I looked at my reflection rather than tending to my wounded friend. It smeared his blood on its face and said with a taunting smirk: My work is done.”
After hearing his story I didn’t know what to say, but it was what Alex said next that disturbed me even more.
“I’ve learned what war does to a man, one day you will too”.
I left his home after hearing his story; I got in my car. I drove home as quickly as possible. When I arrived, I took a moment to contemplate what Alex had told me. I got out of the car and walked over to my house. I noticed something scratched into the side of my car. It sent a chill down my spine.
Scratched into the side of my car was a simple message that I knew was intended for me; that message read:
“I am no dream”.