Just something I wrote for a competition a while back, it’s not perfect, but I did spend quite a bit of time on it. It involves zombies. and nazis. but it has no relation to a certain game about nazi zombies. It has american zombies. And the characters are nazis.
The smell of burning corpses and the iron tang of blood in his mouth.
Hauptmann Hans and Reuben sat together on two ‘liberated’ chairs from a nearby bar, and were busily sharing a bottle of schnapps to ease the pain. They were playing cards, and Reuben, that bastard, was steadily winning most of the meagre pot that they’d been bothered to bet with. “Here’s to the comrades we’ve lost, and the new ones we gained along the way!” Hans and Reuben clinked glasses together, and toasted to the uncertain future. The dusty, cramped room that they shared had not enough room around the sides to swing a Panzerschreck in. The news from Normandy was bad; Hans didn’t think that the Allies would have had the audacity for such a surprise attack, but they had. And now hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers were advancing through Northern France. How could they be stopped?
Hans leaned on his chair, slowly reclining as he relaxed inside the safe environment of his barracks room. Throwing down two kings, Hans managed to reclaim some of his earnings. Grabbing the grubby, scratched glass of wine, Hans tipped back, drinking most of the wineglass in one gulp. His hand patted the area behind him, searching for what he needed. His fingers brushed by a bottle, Perfect! He had found the rest of the champagne bottle, pouring himself and Reuben. The bottle had been looted from the same bar where they had looted the chairs. It was the best vintage that Reuben had found, the bar, long since abandoned at the time of the invasion of France by Germany, still had a few good findings left behind.
“Here’s to not being bombed by our own side, Hans!” Reuben grinned at him; he was his oldest friend since joining the army. Besides, Reuben was one of the few people Hans willingly let call him by his first name. They had stayed together since the advance of Germany’s army through Europe. Those were the days, when Germany’s victorious army blitzed their way through most of Europe. Parades in conquered countries; glory for the victors. It was the good life; of course, things could only go down after that. It had been far too easy steamrolling Belgium, France and the other European countries. Britain, America and the rest of the Allies stood in the way.
All of that changed when Normandy was invaded by the Allies. A combined assault of American and Canadian troops over the Channel, and the weakly defended beaches were invaded. They (the Amis) took heavy losses, but managed to take several locations, which they used to land even more troops. Now the Allies were steadily advancing through France, and Hans felt that even Germany might not be able to stop them.
In the east, stood the great Russian bear. It had taken far too many losses during the start of Operation Barbarossa, when they, the Germans had stormed into Russia and caught them completely by surprise. The Russians bounced back from that, throwing seemingly limitless supplies of men and tanks back at the Germans. They were being held off for now, if only just.
“I’ll drink to that mein freund!” Hans clinked glasses again with Reuben, but it was all too familiar. The calm before the storm, Hans felt as if something bad was going to happen. He simply put it off as the threat of battle loomed over him, not realising that something far more dangerous was about to occur.
Oberleutnant Klaus rose from the grey ruin of the building he had been taking cover in moments before. Blurry and disoriented, Hans could hear shouts, screams, and the sound of gunfire. He checked his surroundings; he was under an overhanging piece of rubble in a building within the tiny, cobblestoned streets of St Germain. There was an overcast sky hanging above his head, and he could feel the patter of rain on his helmet. He briefly remembered the moment that had led to this, leaving the defences of Caen, having been told to retreat before the orders of Supreme High Command. An artillery shell had just hit his position, yet there was no following salvo of shells. Where were the Allied artillery guns that had been firing on them before? The battlefield was silent, were the Americans about to launch an assault?
Taking a few tentative steps towards his destroyed outpost, Klaus marvelled at the fact that he had survived the bombing with little more than a few bruises and cut. The building itself was not so lucky. The entire top floor of the building was utterly obliterated, with only a few walls from the floor underneath still standing. Forlorn remnants, Klaus thought; they would eventually fall down as well.
The building’s windows had all shattered, leaving glass splinters scattered around haphazardly and Klaus saw some blood on a few. Evidently somebody was in for a bad day. In the crater of the explosion, Hans saw nothing but for blackened earth and some rubble sitting in the centre. Walking back he surveyed the mounds of rock left scattered around with surprise, Some of them appeared to be wiggling around, like they were caterpillars hatching out of cocoons. Men were attempting to free themselves from the rubble. Walking to the closest pile Klaus went to assist the others from getting out of what could have been their tombs. There was little time to bury fallen soldiers.
He helped up another soldier in his squad; it was Obergefreiter Juergen, whose face was smeared by dust and ash. Juergen was probably the strongest man in the platoon, a giant amongst them. He was generally the one they looked for when handling heavy weaponry. Mind you, he was the one who made coffee for the squad, which was terrible, since he had almost no experience, but so long as Klaus didn’t have to make it himself he didn’t mind. “Lucky break we caught there, eh Klaus?” Juergen grinned; his mouth was full of yellow, stained teeth. Not a pretty sight for any man, but Klaus was a soldier on the frontlines. He had seen far worse throughout his career.
“You’re right about that Juergen; we’re all lucky.” Klaus smiled an ugly, thin-lipped smile, as crooked as the scars on his face. More survivors unearthed themselves from rubble, preparing for the impending American assault. A smile there, pats on the back over here, it was all necessary as everyone knew how lucky they were to have survived. Anything could happen in war. The friend lying down next to them might die, yet they could be unharmed. Such was the fate of a soldier on the frontlines.
“Breach in the lines! Breach in the lines! The Amis’ have broken through!!!” The miraculously untouched radio squawked loudly on top of a scarred and battered table. Even the furniture bore the scars of war. Everyone jumped at the sudden sound, and Klaus heard the crackle of renewed gunfire in the distance. Shouts pierced the air, and a klaxon had begun wailing. It broke and crackled a little, it was almost as if the general atmosphere was simply … uneasy. But that was impossible. Today was a day like any other day in the miserable Western Front. Just another attack. They would hold out and repulse the attackers; Klaus would taste more bad rations and coffee.
“Enemies have been sighted behind us! They’ve broken through!!!”
“What? How could they have slipped through our defences?” Klaus was scanning the distance, screaming for the rest of the men in his platoon to ready themselves. He heard somebody scream for help. It was short and sharp, and cut off soon enough. He swore he could almost hear the sounds of something far too animalistic to sound like a person, yet it couldn’t have been any animal around these parts. He couldn’t see anything in the smoke, still lingering after the artillery strike from before.
A dark shadow fell across the ground in front of him; Klaus whirled around, grabbing the Luger pistol at his side. It was a man only four metres away from him, silhouetted under the darkness of a doorway. Upon closer examination Klaus saw that the man was dressed in the fatigues of one of the elite American rangers. Klaus quickly pulled off three shots in quick succession, aiming for the upper centre mass of the body, just as how he had been trained to do so.
The body of the soldier recoiled backwards under the staccato hammer blows of the bullets, yet despite the clearly displayed bullet wounds in its torso, the body was still clearly standing up and moving forward, in a curious, shambling gait. “What on earth is going on here?” Klaus gasped, just as he noticed several bites on his body. The soldier then raised its blackened, charred stump of an arm towards him.
Now panicking, Klaus raised his sidearm again, and fired twice towards the soldier’s face in desperation. The first deflected with a Ping! The bullet had bounced off the helmet of the man, but the second took it right in the middle of the nose. This snapped its head back sickeningly; chunks of brain matter and fluid flew out and splattered against the wall. The body fell down, finally dead. But as soon as Klaus had time to understand what he had saw, another body stepped in front to take its place. He rallied the men near him to drive back the creatures by aiming for the head, but it was too late. Half of his men had already died within those few minutes. Perhaps there was a vantage point from where they could hold out? But no, they were surrounded, nothing would help them now. More bloody, slavering creatures approached.
Klaus fired the remaining three shots in his clip. They all missed or hit the thing in the body. It only proceeded to enrage the thing in front of him further; its face was snarling and gnashing its teeth towards Klaus. “No!” As Klaus raised an arm to protect his face, it lunged towards him; its arms outstretched fully and gripping his shoulders in a vice-like grip. Klaus attempted to push it off, but its strength was astounding for something looking so dead. Its face flashed before his eyes, Klaus briefly glimpsed the other soldiers in his platoon, fighting for their lives just as he was. They attempted to fight against the onslaught of dozens more.
The entire defensive line was falling, Klaus realised. What had become of the Americans on the other side of the battlefield? Klaus gave a stinging right hook at the its face, it made it look even uglier, but proceeded to only knock its head backwards. Klaus continued to grapple with the thing, but could feel his strength waning, while his opponent never seemed to get tired.
He saw Juergen trying to hold off several of those things, firing wildly into a mass of snarling, moaning creatures. None of the shots managed to hit them in the head. They seemed to shrug off every other wound in their bodies. No one else had realised that the only way to kill these things was to shoot them in the head. No one else realised that when one or two of the things fell that it had a head wound. Who would notice in the heat of battle? Klaus could only hope that someone else figured it out eventually. Else he doubted the lifespan of anyone here beyond the next hour or so. He thought of that, as he was pushed down onto the floor by shrivelled, clawing hands.
He could see that Juergen was slowly being torn to pieces, having been assaulted from either side by the things. He screamed wildly throughout. He knew there was no escape from them. Nobody ran; they knew the consequences of retreat without a commanding officer ordering them to. A bright flash a few seconds later from the side and the thing’s head exploded in front of Klaus. Blood, gore, and a foetid mess of brains splattered on Klaus’ face.
Reinforcements had arrived! Dark, shrouded shapes in the darkness emerged. It was the SS stormtruppen stationed up closer in the front line! But why were they here? He had heard of no changes in troop movements. But now he saw that the SS men were not arriving in support, they were fleeing along the road, supported by several halftracks.
The crackle of small arms fire and mounted machineguns barked from the guns stationed in the halftrack. More of the things fell down, only to get up again while missing several limbs, or having chunks blown out of their bodies. A halftrack careened out of control, one of the things had climbed onto its front and had been attempting to attack the driver. The halftrack spun, throwing out several of the black-clad SS men, many who were immediately torn to pieces by the horde that had been trailing behind them.
An SS soldier that had been taking cover behind a wall was immediately crushed as several tons of steely metal slammed into him. The halftrack collapsed onto its side, with a screeching, agonising sound, reminiscent of nails on a blackboard. The black-clad occupants of it fled, leaving behind those trapped in the wreckage or dazed to the things that had been advancing steadily.
When Klaus withdrew with most of his men, he witnessed more and more creatures coming out. He aimed and sprayed his gun at them. Several hit where the creatures’ heads were, but pinged off, as the bullets bounced off the helmets that they wore. It seemed as though the American soldiers that had been turned into these creatures were slightly faster and stronger than those civilians wearing normal clothing.
Klaus witnessed a grim looking SS officer being shouted at and ordered to do something by another SS man. It was from a distance, so he could not hear over the din of battle. They seemed to be arguing about something. He didn’t like the look on the man’s face as the man shouted to the remaining halftracks. Pivoting around Klaus was forced to blast another creature approaching him from behind. The SS men who were not riding on halftracks leapt on as they then continued driving. Suddenly, the guns pivoted on the machineguns to target Klaus’s men! Wide swathes of machinegun fire cut down men and monster alike.
A fine mist of blood coated the area, creatures stumbled around, wounded, yet not at all fazed by the storm of lead they had just been through. Some of the men in Klaus’ platoon were hit just as they were fighting creatures, or running away. They weren’t here to reinforce them, the damned bastards were gunning all of them down, ensuring there would be no survivors. “What are the SS doing???” Klaus screamed in the radio headset. “We’re not the creatures. What are you doing?” Several more of his own men went down as the SS convoy passed by. Even more of the things were coming out of hiding places, nooks and crannies, buildings and alleyways. There was no hope. Everyone was dying.
Artillery shells rained from the sky, just as the convoy left. A bright blast seared Klaus’s eyeballs, as everywhere St. Germain was pounded by German artillery. It seemed obvious why the SS men had decided to retreat. But why was his platoon targeted as well. It made no sense. It was as if… as if the SS were afraid that Klaus and his men might somehow survive the artillery, though that made no sense to Klaus. He paid no more attention to his thoughts, however.
He felt a strange sensation as he was lifted in the air several metres by an artillery round. As he landed, his body was racked with pain. “I can’t feel my legs!!!” Klaus screamed aloud, to nobody. No one could listen under the scream of artillery rounds and explosions. Looking downwards, Klaus saw that, in actual fact, his legs were lying away from him, five metres away from his body. Klaus lost consciousness, as all around him things were blown apart by the whine of artillery shells. Everybody was dying.
(One Day Later)
Untoten, flesh eating monsters that attacked the living. They felt no pain and needed nearly no organs for them to be able to survive. Only a shot to the head was a reliable way of bringing them down. They had appeared suddenly, striking areas all over Northern France, and it was all that the Reich could do to hold them back.
Riding on a halftrack, Hauptmann Hans felt relatively safe, despite the events that had transpired previously in the war. The smell of machine oil was strong; he and the nine other men sat in the rumbling, bare seats of the halftrack. The halftrack was an open topped business, with a machine gunner mounted on top. So what if there were corpses rising from the dead, and men infected turning into these creatures; so what? As long as there was a gun in his hand, and some good men with him, he felt comforted by the steel of Germany. They’d win in the end, wouldn’t they?
Currently he and the SS Regiment he was part of, “Stahl Wölfe,” were en route to Le Mans, a large town along the same road as St Germain, a recently attacked town. A line was being established to hold the wave of the living dead, but there was some doubt on the ability of Germany’s army to hold back the tide. Hans, while sure in the success of Germany, was unsure of what would happen when the soldiers would first meet the enemy face to face.
The platoon that Hans was leading was an advanced strike force; their duties were simply to recon the area around Le Mans, and then go further beyond that once the area was secured. They weren’t equipped with any heavy ordinance other than the panzerfausts, Hans basically thought of them as miniature disposable rocket launchers. The other weapons his group carried were mainly small arms, which were rifles and the like.
There was however, a fall back plan in case of heavier resistance than expected. In another halftrack was the MG42, in this case a crew operated heavy machinegun that literally spat death with every second. Every minute the machinegun could fire 1200 bullet rounds per minute, as long as the only problems they faced were men. Hans saw no problem in combating such creatures.
Rumbling on in the early morning, the halftrack and it’s several other identical brethren rode along a large, dirt road. They passed a crashed halftrack containing several charred bodies, which Hans reckoned didn’t look too dangerous. The corpses looked old, and he was told that the disease took its course within several hours. Despite that, he ordered for the gunners to spray the bodies anyway with bullets. He knew that, in war, you could never be too sure about things. The gunner, a lowly Oberschütze named Franz, was the kind of soldier Hans didn’t mind: Franz was obedient, disciplined and didn’t appear to have a conscience.
An hour passed and they were nearing the town of Le Mans. Hans muttered to himself, “I can only hope we’re not too late. If something bad happens, idiots that they are, the higher ups shall probably kill me.”
“What was that?” Hauptsturmführer Reuben replied quizzically. His eyebrows shot up, questioning, as if daring Hans to repeat the words. Hans sighed, even though Reuben was a good example of how an SS man should act; sometimes he just wanted to shoot the man. Reuben was one of the few friends he kept.
“Nothing, I was just wonderin—. “ Hans’ sentence was abruptly cut off as suddenly the halftrack was pulling over. With a screech of wheels on metal it skidded across the soft farming land. “What is going on?” Hans shouted to the driver. In the crescendo that ensued, with soldiers panicking and shouting, the driver looked even worse, his hand struggling to control the wheel.
“Nothing much. We just hit something hidden along the road, and now we might die, you know, the usual. I think the wheels crunched up a body too.” The driver grinned, sure in the fact that he would probably die, leaving no one to reprimand him as the halftrack swerved along. They slammed into a nearby barn house; the surrounding field was empty of any real crops, the vegetation beforehand having been crushed long before by tank treads. The house stood lonely, forbidding. It was wooden, flimsy, and Hans swore that he could see a dark patches, possibly blood, on the walls around it.
The halftrack careened and metal buckled as they ploughed through the flimsy wood. As it tipped over sideways Hans fell out, hitting the straw on top of hard wooden floorboards. He lost consciousness soon after the impact.
Waking up, Hans scrabbled along the floorboards. His vision was in a daze; he could only see past a few metres. It was as if his vision was obscured by a foggy mist, though that was probably just his hurting head. His bruised and battered legs scrambled to find purchase on a clump of hay. He tripped over something in his race to find somebody, and landed on something hard. It stank of decay, and the metallic smell of blood. Opening his eyes, Hans came face to face with the visage of the bloodied face of an American soldier. One half of the face had chunks missing from it.
Recoiling from shock, Hans pulled out the pistol at his side, just as the untoten moaned and attempted to pull Hans’ face towards it. Its arms stretched out in a gesture of hunger, just as Hans placed his pistol right under the untoten’s clammy chin. Firing once, twice in a quick succession just to make it right, the top of the head exploded as the loud blast of the pistol resonated throughout the barn.
Now the truly dead and unmoving body collapsed backwards, with a thump. Hans gasped as the fog cleared, as abruptly leaving as it appeared in the first place, as he saw the scene in front of his eyes.
The squad of men that he had been with were now engaging in a life-or-death struggle with a group of shambling untoten. It seemed that unfortunately they had crashed into a small nest of them. While Hans knew the untoten probably didn’t actually have nests, he definitely knew that if he didn’t turn the tide within the next half minute they’d all probably be dead. The untoten seemed to be tireless in death, and Hans could already see that they were outnumbered.
As Hans surveyed the area, one of the men had already leapt up onto his feet; drawing his MP40 submachine gun to bring to bear on the first untoten coming towards him, only five metres away. Hans watched in horror as, suddenly, the gun had jammed, and the soldier frantically tried to unjam his firing mechanism. The action cost him his life.
The untoten, now only a metre away, lunged for the soldier, hands clawing. He unsuccessfully tried to bat the thing away, and was instead pulled in by decaying arms. The untoten got its arms around the screaming, struggling man and took a big chunk from his neck. His screams grew louder, and he used the butt of his MP40 to knock the thing off him.
With a shout of anger Hans fumbled for the rifle slung behind him. He took out the G43 rifle that was one of his side arms, and then quickly snapped off several loud shots at the untoten who were approaching several stunned soldiers. Two of the five shots managed to hit their targets heads; and the rest were only flesh wounds, so they made no effect at all. Hans witnessed the stunned soldiers getting up and starting to fight back, so he jumped and pivoted around on the top of a hay bale.
There were around twelve untoten against the six of his men, and one of them had already been attacked, displaying a rather prominent bite wound. Aiming at a pair grappling Hans looked down the sights of his rifle, knowing that if he missed he could hit his own man. The bullet was slightly off; it might have hit his soldier, if not for the untoten, who then decided to move where the bullet would hit it first.
As he fired he changed targets, shooting more and more untoten, knowing he only had one chance for this. If he failed, he would most likely join the ranks of the living dead himself.
Some of the men managed to extricate themselves from their deadly grapples with the enemy, and picked up their side arms, opening fire as well. Between the crossfire of bullets, Hans and his men, black coated veterans who were from the Eastern Front in Russia; managed to successfully eliminate or cripple the remainder. Hans said to his men, “Finish them off in the head. No mercy. Leave no chance for them to rise,” Hans sneered, though in reality only to show scorn for the untoten, “They show a notorious lack of dying,” Hans explained.
When he turned around the others that were still alive were in the process of exterminating the remainder of the untoten. He congratulated them, and then motioned them over with a wave of a black gloved hand “Get over here, and you, yes you, Scharführer, what is your name?”
The Scharführer staggered over to his commanding officer; while the man didn’t look like he was bitten he had several prominent wounds on him. He had a multitude of bleeding wounds on his face, “The wounds will probably scar over time if he isn’t lucky,” Hans thought, but most of his men knew the risks, and Hans was proud to see that the Scharführer still carried a dignified bearing, despite the limp.
The man managed to salute and click his heels, and reported to him, “Scharführer Wilhelm! Hauptmann!” Wilhelm then said, in hushed tones, “I think we have only a squad of six men left, not including you, sir. Three of us are somewhat wounded, but at the very least can still fire a gun and move.”
“Any bites?” Hans said, with a look of dread. He knew what he must do to those in case of bites. It had been very clearly underlined in the Colonel’s orders.
“One, sir, I didn’t include him in the count; wasn’t sure what to do with him.” Wilhelm knew very well what had to be done with him. Hans had told those in the group he was commanding what was expected of them.
“Come with me, Wilhelm.” Hans turned around and walked to a stack of hay, where the man lay with two of his friends standing guard. They had propped him up on a bloodied hay stack, lighting a cigarette for him.
However successful they were in fighting off the attack in the crash itself Hans had lost three of the ten men, and another had been injured by one of the creatures.
He walked over to the man in question. He was a tall, gaunt-looking man, dark haired, but with fair skin. He could have been called handsome were it not for the couple of disfiguring scars on his face. A capable looking man, Hans was sorry for the loss of another veteran in his group; there had been far too many missing spots and fresh faces recently.
A prominent bite featured on his neck, between his chin and the collar of his black coloured greatcoat. His neck was bleeding profusely, held just by a bandage, which was already darkly coloured red. The man would have died anyway without medical support. Of course, with what was happening with the dead, he would have to die anyway.
“What is your name, Scharführer…?”
“Jakob Gerrard, Hauptmann,” Jakob said uncertainly.
Hans raised an eyebrow quizzically; Gerrard wasn’t a German surname that was for sure. “Where do you come from Jakob?”
“From Strasbourg, relatively close to the border. I joined the army to escape the streets, my family needed the money. I wanted them to be proud.” Hans could detect a faint sort of dismayed realisation in Jakob’s eyes; he knew that he would have to die soon, that the information given would have no input. Of course, it would go back to his family back home, but news of deaths travelled slowly, especially now. Who had time to deliver the post these days?
Slowly taking out his Luger pistol from its side holster on his black pants, Hans knew, just as everyone else knew, that Scharführer Jakob Gerrard would have to die very soon from now. “Do you have any last words, Jakob?”
“Well, I’d say my death was for the Fatherland, and for my family. But why the hell would I care now, I’m a dead man, no matter how you look at it.” Jakob grinned, “Do you think we’ll win, sir?”
“Of course Jakob,” Hans said. “Our victory is assured, though we may have to struggle for it.” Hans knew that this very well may not be what would happen, but he knew the difference between the real truth, and the white lies that dying men often wanted to hear.
“Danke schön, this means a lot to me.” Jakob closed his mouth, threw away the cigarette, and then closed his eyes, waiting for death.
Lowering the Luger to Jakob’s forehead, Hans cocked the pistol and, with no hint of trembling fingers, fired into Jakob’s temple, point blank.
The things he had to do.
(Three hours later)
Hans arrived at the gates of the fenced off command outpost. A perimeter was being maintained to hold back the vanguard of the dead, luckily there weren’t many arriving, yet. Though the bulk of the reinforcements to Northern France hadn’t arrived yet, the men were enough to hold back the first wave of stragglers.
The gates were flanked by two watchtowers, which several snipers were stationed in. The surrounding area around the gate was completely bare of trees, and fortifications were everywhere. Two sandbag emplacements were in the front of the entrance, both had mounted MG42 machineguns, as well as having several other men standing at alert.
They left no chances, and every single one of them was in a state of relaxed awareness it seemed. Were they not afraid? Hans, being driven by one of his own men, Scharführer Hasso Heisel, exited out of the staff car.
“Grargh!!!” A half animal, half human snarl came from the leafy confines around the cleared area. Hans deftly pivoted around and pulled out his sidearm, scanning the surroundings. While the soldiers with him were alert, the ones with automatic rifles held their fire, as a single ragged shape stumbled out of the forest.
A man emerged out of the watchtower and took aim; he had a scoped G43 rifle, good for accurate sniper work. The soldiers near him watched with a keen interest, as the sniper, with a forage cap on his head, fired twice in quick succession.
The ragged shape, now emerging to be in the form of a civilian covered in blood staggered back. It fell down hard on the grassy ground; most of its head having just been blown off by the second shot. The soldiers nearby the sniper patted him on the back and congratulated him; a few were sullen as they handed over payment to their grinning comrades. It seemed there was some kind of shooting competition going on with the guards at the gate. Hans chose to ignore the possible transgression; the men needed their entertainment, after all.
Walking along the gravel of the road to the bunker, Hans passed by several other buildings. What looked to be a barracks, mess hall and vehicle depot were present as well. Hans didn’t stop by to chat with the passing soldiers, but noted that many were in a state of readiness, as if knowing some kind of danger was nearby. Everyone had a sidearm nearby for easy access.
Entering the confines of the command bunker, Hans tried to look neat and presentable, as a harassed-looking aide went to open the bunker doors to the underground. Hans went down below, passing by several SS men dressed in black standing guard. The stony faced SS men saluted Hans as he passed, clicking their heels as they said “Heil Hitler!” The corridor was made from the same, grey stone as what bunkers in the frontlines used.
The bunker was not meant for comfort, it was meant for surviving the pounding of artillery shells and bombs. Germany’s war machine was at least, practical.
Each corridor was the same, with little decoration; each door was one where you had to turn a wheel for it to actually open. Passing down through multitudes of corridors and several doors, Hans was relieved when he reached the meeting room.
Opening the steel door, Hans saw a dozen men inside, all sitting down on leather chairs, inside a surprisingly comfortable room. They were conversing quietly around a large wooden oval shaped table. Quietly Hans walked in, taking in the distance with bold strides towards his superiors, his black leather boots making little sound on the floor.
General der Waffen-SS Sigmund Tesch stood up as the others around him took in Hans’s silent entrance into their meeting. Above his head was a portrait of the Führer himself, sitting on a leather chair, inside a richly decorated office. Tesch greeted Hans, walking around the wooden table to shake his hand. “You’re back, Hans! What is the situation in the enemy territories? Is it as we feared?”
Hans opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by Tesch, who shook his head, saying “But of course this can come later. Firstly, take a seat.” He motioned towards an empty seat flanked by two other grim-looking SS officers. They curtly nodded at Hans as he walked towards his designated seat. Hans sat, feeling slightly odd after the exertions he had gone through during the midday.
Tesch’s rather sallow, skinny face became even more grim as Hans relayed his tale of what had happened recently throughout multiple units in Northern France, as well as his own personal experience.
“So, we have several reports of our own SS units turning on their Wehrmacht comrades, all in the name of making sure that they do not come back as the living dead. We will need to take steps to stamp this out, execute the ringleaders, and leave the others alive; we will need all the manpower we can muster.” Tesch paused for effect, observing the faces of his fellow officers. “Hans also told of the nest of untoten inside the farm house. Do not fear, it is not a real instinct for them to band together. Merely they were probably in there because they had food nearby, or none of them had spotted any prey and moaned.
Tesch put his hands on top of the table in front of him and said to them, “Now, what you are about to be told will be a secret known to only those who are in the need to know. You all have been identified as those in the “need to know.” ” The room fell into a silence as people took this in. Tesch, reasonably mollified that everyone was listening, went on with his story.
“Now we received a message prior to the outbreaks of untoten. This was during the Allies invasion of Normandy. It was from Herr Doktor Karl Beckman, one of our foremost researchers in the Reich. Some of you may not have heard of him, however as information of him was suppressed in order to keep his research secret.” Tesch went on, “He transmitted his message via telegraph, which was then passed on to the Reichs headquarters.”
Some people were raising eyebrows when Tesch said, “Yes, that means the Führer himself, Hitler, knows all about this. In fact, he was one of the people who advocated Beckman’s research. He has ordered us to cleanse all traces of the untoten and at the same time see if anything can be retrieved in Beckman’s laboratory. We are hoping also that our American enemies will have been utterly surprised, and thus pushed back. But now, back to Beckman’s telegraph.”
Tesch pulled out a sheet of paper. “Here, Hans, you can have the honour of reading it. After all, you’ll be dealing with these creatures the most.”
Hans gulped, “Me, sir?” He was taken my surprise, Tesch usually wanted to do his own little show by himself.”
Tesch frowned, “Yes, you. Here Otto. Hand it over to the good Hauptmann will you.”
Otto, a large man, with a fleshy, ruddy face, came to Hans and passed the message over.
Hans looked at it, and read.
I apologise for the recent lack of results lately. I have been rather busy, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But I shall recount to you the events prior to my message.
The Awakening project, otherwise known as the Resurrection project, is in disarray. I don’t think we can salvage the situation, and there may not be enough manpower and funding in order to continue the experiment. The serum I have developed, Serum 511, has been tested on dying or dead soldiers. We have only used pure German stock, as requested by Doctor Himmler.
I report that indeed the serum does work, on both the living and the newly dead. We have found that the serum, a manipulated parasite that we discovered and reengineered, can only infect the host body up to four hours of its death, or when it was alive. Any longer and the parasite cannot salvage the host body.
The Awakening of the bodies is successful indeed; perhaps the parasite we found was, too successful. Serum 511 does what it was intended to do. It replaces the fluids through the brain with proteins and nutrients, and the modified parasite will take over the host’s brain. The body’s immune system, if still functioning, seems to be unable to stop the parasite.
For best results the host had to be healthy, in order for the Resurrected to possess most of its motor skills. The parasite, however, is not capable of any higher brain function other than base predatory instinct.
Now, dead corpses can be resurrected, but as I said, only up to a certain limit of around three to four hours. There is a chance that it may not take hold at all. The corpse cannot have any kind of brain damage to itself, as otherwise the parasite will simply destroy what remains of the brain, and in doing so, destroy itself.
The parasite’s fluids spread into the host’s saliva glands, which was not intended in my teams research, but we weren’t bothered, as we thought we could use this to grow our army more easily. This lead to problems when our instructors tried to… , instruct, some of the resurrected. No matter who the instructor or the test subject was, the test subject attempted to spread the parasite via the saliva glands by biting the instructor. The parasite creates an offspring of its own body, and sends it into the saliva, you see.
Things started to be a bit precarious, as of our 24 instructors a full two-thirds of them have been bitten and reanimated by the test subjects. Some of those instructors had not known at the time that they had been infected, and exited out of the testing room, and went to sleep. The infection shows itself as a kind of fever, and the instructors reanimated within three hours, their breathing stopped and started in a period of the last half an hour, the final symptom of the infection. They appeared to have died, with no pulse, but soon their body starts up again.
The infected can only be destroyed via a shot to the brain, as crippling the brain practically dismembers the parasite, killing it almost instantly. Any other way will still leave the parasite alive, and thus the saliva glands active.
And so now, I am sorry to say, but there are to be no more reports. Some of us had managed to round up those infected in a secure room, and were going to kill them soon after, but something happened that ruined that plan. American troops from D-Day, believing us to be killing wounded prisoners, opened fire on us. They had been attacking our defences previously, but those working with us had paid no heed to the bombing and the shooting.
We had probably been told that the defences had been breached, but our radio operator, Franz, had been killed and no one was spared to operate the radio. In the crossfire, I managed to flee the scene as the infected surged to the Americans and my co-workers.
I know some would call me a coward, but listen, everything I have done up to this point has been for the Fatherland. Were it not for the fact that I had escaped, then no one would have known about this, or the weakness that the infected have, of which we can take advantage.
I present to you my last report, as I have my Luger in my hand, though it has only a few bullets, and the infected are beating at the door of my office. I wonder if I should save the bullet for myself, or the infected. Heil Hitler!
“And that’s the end of the report, sir,” Hauptmann Hans reported. “It was, quite a… chilling tale.”
“Yes, and now you all know of the events behind the project. This is not to leave the room without my permission. Any word reaches me and I will order your execution. Is that clear?” Tesch barked.
“Now, men, the situation is worsening. The numbers of untoten are increasing, and we have found that even more of our scouts are disappearing than usual. This is quite disconcerting, as you may imagine.”
A balding, fierce looking SS officer stood up, and asked Tesch, “Sir, where are our tanks? Have they already been destroyed by the Allies prior to the untoten. If so, where are our reserves? Everything must be brought out to meet this new threat!” People around the table were nodding to this, but Tesch’s face remained grave.
“It is not so simple, I am afraid. At the start of the outbreak, the tank battalions that were in any position to help have been crippled. Many of the fuel dumps were hit by the infection, and we often lost all the hands stationed there. Fuel is becoming scarce, and many of the tank crews have died via the infection.
Many soldiers, pilots and tank crewmen have been killed by the infection, and we’ve had to pull back troops to man the lines. As a result, reinforcements from other areas are arriving, but many are still needed for the Eastern Front, where we are still fighting the Soviets.”
Now, Hans stood up and spoke to everyone, “So we have limited resources of manpower, untoten hordes, and to top it off, we’re still fighting a war with the Soviets in Russia and the British in North Africa. Is there any way of stopping this grind?” Hans spoke without reserve; he knew others in the room, including Tesch himself, had this view.
Tesch smiled a smile that Hans did not like at all; it was grim, foreshadowing something that would probably result in Hans being sent to somewhere very dangerous.
“I have a plan to relieve the pressure off our forces for now. If we can pull it off; we could solve this problem of the untoten and the Allies everywhere else.” Tesch paused while talking to the room of grim-looking SS officers. He turned in the general direction of where Hans was sitting and looked directly… at Hans.
“I don’t like this one bit!” Hans thought to himself.
“The plan is dangerous, but I think that you could be the one to pull it off. What do you say, Hans?” Tesch said to him.
“Oh no, no, no, I don’t even know what I’m getting myself into,” Hans thought to himself for the second time.
“Of course, sir. I will do my utmost to serve the Reich,” Hans said to Tesch, nodding slowly.
“This is what will happen. You are to progress through with the rest of our forces in the Western Front. Our forces shall steadily push back the waves of dead, and you will direct a portion of them for a … personal mission of mine.”
“But why select me, sir? I’m merely a Captain… there are others with more experience than I.”
“Oh no, I believe that you have the determination to be able to see this through, and command others. In fact; congratulations on your promotion to Standartenführer, Lieutenant Colonel Hans.”
Hans eyes widened as he realised what had happened. Tesch had given him a field promotion, jumping up two ranks, and instead he was now a Lieutenant Colonel. This meant that Hans could effectively command up to 1000 troops on the field. Of course, this also meant that Hans was going to be doing something dangerous enough to warrant such a sudden jump in his fortunes. Tesch took out a small wooden box that had been presented to him.
“This is your mission Hans. You are to push on, and lead a strike force that will advance at the front with the army, and then break off. This is in order to assault the place where it all started.” Tesch paused, and opened the box, handing me my new lapels for my rank.
They were quite shiny, and caught the eye. He’d have to make sure it didn’t show too much, Hans thought to himself. It wouldn’t do to be targeted by snipers due to such conspicuous signals of rank. Hans felt himself drifting off into what he thought would have to happen next; getting acquainted with his new battalion, and preparing to mobilise within a few days when the push started.
Tesch snapped Hans out of his revelry. “Alright now Hans; the place where it all started, you are to locate any research remaining from the awakening project, perhaps alternative ways of super soldiers, or anything really. Use your judgement in these matters Hans. Victory for the Reich always. Remember that Hans. No doubt the most dangerous of the untoten will be inside the laboratory. Are you ready, Hans?” Tesch said to Hans.
“Ja, of course, General.” Hans felt unprepared. He was about to be sent into a conflict in which he would be at the forefront of the fighting. He would have to undertake a dangerous mission without as many resources as he would have liked. As much as he loved his Fatherland, he didn’t want to die for it like this.
“Remember its name Hans.” Tesch wanted to make sure, Hans supposed.
“Of course I remember it.” Hans wasn’t as stupid as some other blockheads in the SS, he remembered what he read.
“Say it.” Now Tesch was being tedious. Hans supposed that he had best follow orders though, it didn’t do to annoy influential generals.
“Der Wicht,” Hans said, with a certain quality of finality about it.
“Wunderbar, now go.”
Afterwards in his later career Hans would come to tell others about his meeting with the general, labelling it as, “A stroke of great, momentous fortune,” but at the time he simply thought of it as the worst case of bad luck he had ever had. Walking out of the room he strode past the saluting guards, huffed through the various facility staff and ended up outside the squat, stone bunker. The sky was falling rapidly, it being near dusk after all.
The afternoon sky looked quite nice for such a dreadful day for himself. Continuing on the dirt sidewalk, Hans reckoned to himself he knew the best remedy, if a little dubious, for his sorrows. Why of course, the local pub!
To do so he first had to navigate through the streets of the walled in compound. He passed by several soldiers, one of whom he asked for directions to the local staff officers pub.
“A table for myself; I’d like whatever beer you have on stock right now. Anything, as long as it doesn’t taste bad.” Hans felt like drinking until he was ready to fall unconscious would be enough to tide him over until tomorrow. Anything that would take his mind off what he thought as the last episode of his career in the fine SS corps.
Then again, maybe it wasn’t as bad as when he was in basic training. Most things were preferable to that; it certainly hadn’t been helped by the fact that he used to be a slightly overweight, unfit man. But times had changed, friends had died, and Hans was forever different to when he had first joined the army. Probably for the better, Hans wouldn’t have much of a career without the army.
The insides of the bar were luxurious, for wartime; Hans thought it looked remarkably untouched. Comfy wooden chairs and tables that didn’t look like they’d been stolen from the nearest home, grubby tablecloths that still looked a bit white.
This was style. As the barman passed him a foaming glass of beer, Hans tipped back his head, and drank half the glass in one go. He took his hat off and sat it on his lap, finished off the glass, and shouted to the barman; “Pour me some more!” What transpired afterwards Hans would proclaim to have been lost in a haze.
“Sir, Sir? Are you okay sir?” Hans woke up from a dreary sleep. His head pounded and it felt like bombs were being dropped on top of his skull. A shrill droning sound persisted in his ears somehow, and there was a large amount of banging as well. It sounded like, shooting Surprisingly, Hans was lying on top of his bed inside the officer quarters, and he must have managed to make his way there after all the fun he had. His memory contained a few images, getting drunk with a few other officers he had met with, eating and drinking, then finally they carried each other home.
Hans then realised that the drone was the sound of the compound alarm siren, and the banging was the staccato rap of multiple guns firing. “What have I missed?” Hans shook the startled Hauptstürmfuhrer. He asked the first lieutenant, “Who are you?” The man was shockingly blond and blue eyed, his hair was cropped according to military regulations, there was a resemblance to someone else Hans had known, that he couldn’t place.
The Hauptstürmfuhrer said to Hans, speaking as fast as he could, “I’m your second in command sir! I’ve been asked to get you ready for battle as soon as possible! The compound is under attack by a wave of untoten. Defences are holding for now, but a few are streaming through gaps in the defences. We need to figure out a plan for bolstering the rest of the men to hold the defences!” Hans quickly grabbed his side arms, a Luger pistol and a MP44 assault rifle that he kept with him for emergencies. He didn’t need to get dressed with everything else; he had fallen asleep with all of his usual black army dress on.
That was an extremely lucky thing for him and the Hauptstürmfuhrer, because a stray untoten suddenly appeared in the doorway of Hans’ officer quarters. Other officers were just getting ready to run to their stations, but Hans already had been dressed, so he pulled out his Luger. He fired off two shots at the untoten who was attempting to chase a fleeing officer. The first shot thudded into the thing’s torso, which had absolutely no effect, but the second pierced through its head. The brain injured, it fell over, dead.
Hans tried to ignore the pounding of his head, a sure sign of a hangover. He reached out a hand to put against the wall. The effect steadied him, as he felt all too. The sound of more gunfire shook him from his drowsiness, as he and the lieutenant quickly ran outside. The bright glare of sunlight made Hans blink as he saw the scene unfolding around him.
The outpost was in dire straits. The frontal defences must have been overwhelmed at some point beforehand, and then the rest must have been caught off guard. Hans ran on the dirt road. The buildings on each of his sides had mostly been barricaded, their occupants struggling to defend their perimeters and other areas as well. While there was no fire yet, Hans knew that accidents could happen, and that ammunition or fuel supplies could start a fire if touched off.
A ragged line of soldiers had been established in the distance to the right of Hans. Deft, professional sergeants directed the rank and file to hold the positions and to concentrate fire above shoulder height. Individual squads supported each other as more and more dead drifted towards them. They took cover behind anything they could lay their hands on. Soldiers dragged crates in front of them in order to delay attacks, and black and grey clad soldiers supported each other in the face of danger.
(To the left of Hans was a streaming tide of dead, their faces and arms uplifted in unison. They were directed towards the soldiers, who were the biggest group of flesh and noise.) Hans could see many of them having grievous wounds. Some were missing arms, holes had been opened up in them, a few didn’t even have much of their legs left either. Yet they all shuffled, crawled, and hobbled their way on. All of those pale, ragged faces were propelled by the same goal, to feed on the flesh of the living. Hans noted that a group of the foremost untoten, most of them, while displaying a large amount of bullet holes, were slightly less ragged than the ones behind at the back.
(No doubt the front ones had been the people who were infected first; those who escaped with a bite or wound from the dead, but were not torn apart, hence them being more intact, were it not for all the gunfire ripping them apart now, of course.) A few of them started to peel off the formation; they had spotted Hans and the lieutenant!
Hans then took the time to spray a few rounds at the mass of untoten currently heading in their direction. It wasn’t hard to miss, with such a large target presented to him, but it was difficult to score head shots when the untoten were moving around and so far away. Cursing, Hans stopped firing when he realised the bullets weren’t accurate enough to hit them in the head unless by pure luck.
“Grarrgh!!!” Hans and the lieutenant froze at the sound. It was reputed to be the sound which the untoten made when near its prey. There were a few different kinds of noises which the untoten apparently made, all of them fear-inducing. The snarl was bestial, yet Hans could tell it was from a human throat. The untoten seemed to produce the sound unwillingly, though they possessed little brain power. Its lungs made the noise anyway.
It was from around the corner of the wooden officers building. The lieutenant approached the corner, hugging the wall carefully. (There was little in the way of cover to obscure anything, Hans tagged along behind the lieutenant). Passing around the corner Hans saw a dark shape crouched over a body. He approached closer.
The untoten fed on the man’s still flesh. The man did not move; he must have already been killed. The untoten rose at the sound of footsteps and noticed the newcomers. Hans ended the scene by quickly raising his pistol. The untoten was an officer of some kind. Han’s couldn’t see most of the markings on its uniform, as the aforementioned uniform were covered in blood and gore streaked messily. The face was empty of anything but animal rage. The face was pale, its mouth was bloody, and the eyes were smudged with dark.
Taking aim felt longer than it probably was. Events moved so slowly. He fired. The bullet went through its throat. Again he fired, and missed the head. It didn’t even flinch as it approached, hands grasping… Suddenly a crack of a bullet was heard, and a shot splattered brains on the dirt. The lieutenant had fired when he saw that Hans had missed his first shot.
Something went out of the untoten’s eyes, a kind of malevolent presence that faded when the parasite died along with its host. Hans had never noticed that before, and was unsettled to see the untoten fall dead. Yet its mouth was still open in some sort of snarl.
“Which way sir should we go, sir? I think we should flee to our lines, and then support the fight there.” The lieutenant snapped Hans out of his thoughts.
Hans thought so too. But there was something else he had forgotten, as well as the lieutenant. Hans walked over to the dead soldier that the untoten had fed upon, and put a bullet between his eyes. His business done, Hans strode over to the lieutenant who was waiting.
Sprinting as fast as he could, Hans saw the clouds above. It was a dreary morning in France, made worse by all the dead attacking now, of course. Hans didn’t like seeing an ominous looking cloud formation in the distance. A storm was brewing. A horde of untoten was behind them, and Hans wanted to put as much distance between them and when he and the lieutenant reached the friendly barricades.
As Hans approached, a few of the soldiers drifted their aim to them, and started to fire. Bullets went past Hans and he leapt up and shouted at the terrified soldiers. Some of them were no doubt too scared to rule out the possibility that there could be untoten that could run.
Panicking, Hans said to them, “No, you fools! I command you to stop firing at me. We’re not untoten and neither have we been bitten!” Hans barked at the soldiers and they lowered their guns, apologizing. “Very well then. It’s alright men. You should be applauded for not being complacent at least.”
A pasty looking Feldwebel who was part of the Wehrmacht, as he was dressed in grey, waved Hans over, he was standing under cover of a tarp, surrounded by sandbags. A few other men, privates, mainly, stood by him. He apologized to Hans. “I’m deeply sorry, Lieutenant Colonel. There’s been a lot of panic amongst the men, and some of them are a little jumpy –“
Hans interrupted him, leaping over the sandbag emplacement and moving aside just in time as the lieutenant jumped down as well.
Raising his arms seemingly jovially, Hans then said, “What’s the situation corporal? As you may understand, I’m having a bad day today, and you do not want to see what happens to those who make me angry.”
The Feldwebel nodded in agreement with Hans. He replied, “The camp defences were overwhelmed in the early morning. More men were rushed in order to hold the line and buy some time for reinforcements, but then some of the wounded, who had been overlooked, started up and attacked those nearest to them. They had been bitten and had turned into more of those things. The front was cast into chaos, and soldiers fled from their posts. The untoten followed them, and we’ve been trying to hold them back.”
“But then,” Hans said to him, “why was it that your superiors saw fit not to warn me? I could have been attacked while in my bed.” Hans narrowed his eyes at the man, wanting to know who saw fit to leave him at the mercies of the untoten.
“We- Well the Lieutenant there,” the Feldwebel motioned towards him, “He told us that we needed to flee towards a better location where we could prepare, and to not stop to search the buildings. I didn’t realize that-“he was cut off in mid-sentence by the lieutenant, who said, “What’s done is done Lieutenant Colonel. I came back for you, when I found out were you had been billeted. Now let us go back to the real task at hand, and fight back the untoten that is even now approaching the barricades!”
Hans turned around and saw that the Lieutenant spoke the truth. A big group of untoten was scarcely 20 metres away, and the soldiers stationed between the barricades that blocked the pass had already opened fire.
Hans ran towards the barricade, drawing out his MP44 assault rifle. Laying the stock on his shoulder while lying on a crate, Hans quickly sighted his first targets. Firing a few bursts, he brought down three untoten at the front of the pack. But there were more as Hans fired more bursts, feeling the kick of the gun’s recoil. Some of the other soldiers were not doing so well, one of them had a machine pistol out and was trying to frantically shoot two of the untoten as they slowly drew closer towards him. He appeared to be a terrible shot though, dishing out horrific damage below the shoulders of the untoten, but not actually killing them.
Finally, one of his bullets dropped an untoten, but not before its friend had shambled within reaching distance with its arms. No one was in a position to help him at the time; there were far too many untoten already assaulting them, more than Hans had bullets.
The soldier, in a fit of suicidal rage, then decided to try to attempt to charge the untoten, rather than back off and shoot it. He drew a knife and attempted to stab it in the eye. The untoten snarled another meaningless grunt and bit his hand, hard. The man screamed and fought ferociously as the untoten used its limitless endurance to drag him down.
Hans quickly took his attention off pot shotting the untoten approaching him, and quickly ordered one of the man’s squad mates to put both the man and the thing down. His friend complied, wiping off tears as he knew his friend was too far gone. A burst of rifle fire killed both of the pair, who had continued locked together in their deadly fight.
Hans continued to fight off increasingly more untoten, shooting the heads off many of them. Some of his shots were missing, lodging themselves in chests, necks, arms, which had no effect on the untotens capacity for punishment. Hans dreaded the sound of the click of his gun, signalling that his magazine chamber was empty.
As he then took the clip off, he realised that he had no ammunition left for his gun. A moan took his attention as another creature reached the barricades and attempted to bash through. Hans dropped his weapon, fumbling for the pistol at his side. While he fired and killed the thing, he saw that the soldiers nearby were also crying out for ammunition, as they had either run out or were running out.
There was no ammunition left, and as Hans fired the last bullet in his second last pistol clip, he knew that there was going to be no supplies or help for them unless something changed, and fast. The next wave of untoten approached as Hans took aim, and fired. It missed. So did the next few, and then only one managed to kill an untoten. More untoten piled up on the barricade. A few more of his men died. When he was down to his last bullet, Hans wondered if he should save it for himself.
A man screamed. He had been caught by the hands of some of the untoten and was now being pulled over the crate that he had been taking cover by. Hans shot him out of mercy, as he didn’t want to see the soldier die horribly in that mass of teeth. As the body stopped its struggles the arms pulled him in; Untoten swarmed the dead body of the soldier, feasting on his flesh.
BOOM! A large explosion erupted at the centre of the mass of dead. Heads flew off, and many more were injured by shrapnel. A tank burst through one of the lower stone walls on the side. It was a massive Tiger tank, one of the best tanks in Germany’s arsenal. Trailing behind it were more grey clad soldiers, running and stopping and firing, then repeating that sequence.
The untoten that had been trying to bash through the barricades were shot by infantry. The tank, by itself as it was, pushed straight into a large body of untoten. It crushed them all, leaving a pulpy mass of a dozen dead bodies. Its cannon blasted the untoten to pieces, and though half the time it didn’t actually kill them, it left them easy targets for the advancing infantry.
Hans saluted the column of men. Disconcerting though, was the fact that there were hardly tanks in the column. Many of the soldiers he had fought with fell down and surveyed the carnage, knowing how lucky they were just to be alive after the battle. Of the company Hans had fought with, perhaps half of them had survived the battle of trying to hold the line. Grim numbers, but many more untoten had died.
He did not know how long he had fought. It had become like a kind of monotony with the dead, and there was not the same kind of feeling as when he fought against the British and the Americans. He wondered how they were faring, being unprepared as to the onslaught of the dead, or the knowledge that the head was the target. Hans wondered, and as General Tesch approached, forgot about them entirely, as he walked over and saluted the General.
“I congratulate you, Hans, for holding the line against these things; it is no easy task when faced with a horde of enemies that neither feel pain or tire. But just so, I’m sure you will grow to meet this threat. Germany needs you, Hans. You must go to Der Wicht.”
The next day, preparations were being put in place for the journey ahead. Men were scrambling around; fresh bodies were being continuously moved around the lines. As there were constantly untoten attacking them, a line had to be mounted day and night in order to fight off small groups that were attacking. The job was a dreary one. It was dangerous, and a watchman had to be vigilant in his guarding. Hans himself had visited the troops stationed there once. It was full of men, constantly alert, for they knew a moments rest could mean the death of them from the infected.
In the morning, Hans was woken by his lieutenant, of whose name he had never bothered to learn. He didn’t bother much these days; a lot of the ones he already knew were dead. Their memories still lingered in Hans’ mind. That boy soldier, so innocent and trusting, killed by a bullet, or how about that grim veteran in one of Hans’ squads. What was his name again? Kersten? He was hit by a grenade, leg blown off, and didn’t survive the next hour. It was too late for a medic; Hans had known that the moment that leg came off.
And then there was his brother, Albert Dietrich. He wasn’t his full brother, but he was the youngest, a half-brother. Born with a different dad, Albert nevertheless switched his surname to Hans’ parents when they married. He was the reason why Hans had joined the army. The youngest in the family to join the army, Hans felt as if he had to join as well. There were other brothers and sisters in Hans’ life, but Albert was his favourite, his friend.
Despite Hans’ trying to protect Albert, Albert didn’t want to be protected. He was only a corporal at the time, but he didn’t want the benefits of being an officer. He wanted to be part of the Wehrmacht, the forefront and backbone of Germany’s army, the grey greatcoat and the Kar98. He just wanted to be a hero. So despite Hans’ rank, Albert was all too often put out of his reach, and out of the influence that Hans used to protect him.
He cried that night, when he received the letter; his brother had been killed defending the beaches of Normandy. It was Omaha Beach; he had been shot while defending it while on one of the machinegun posts. He received a medal for that defence, but of course he was dead, so why did it matter?
And now Hans had risen higher. He had the influence now to protect Albert, but Albert was gone, he was dead. Hans was now left with this land of the dead, he would succeed; become the hero that Albert would have wanted him to be. He would succeed… at any cost.
France was beautiful, when the weather was right. Hans left the lines with his battalion, which was comprised of a force of 800 fighting-fit solders, engineers, and armoured vehicles. There was a noticeable lack of engineers; only about half of what battalions used to have.
Many trained medics that were dealing with the worst cases had been killed by their wounded patients. People who concealed bites had reanimated into untoten while the medics were working. This led to a very surprised and often dead medic. Hence now the shortage of medics.
Hans had argued for more, but he knew that there wasn’t a big a chance of gunshot wounds, shrapnel and other combat related injuries that the medics could deal with. Now was the far more likely, death by bite. This meant that there wasn’t as a big a use for combat medics, when the wounds would most likely be the bite of an untoten, which was untreatable, fatal, and infectious.
Still, Hans knew that there could be other dangers. Who knew whether or not there were some Americans that were still alive, or if maybe the Resistance still remained? Enemies that were still human and very much able to shoot a gun could still be around somewhere.
Hans sat in the uncomfortable compartment of one of the dozen tanks the battalion had attached to them. This was going to have to be a mechanised operation, as Hans and his men could not afford to be bogged down by the living dead. There were going to be halftracks; armoured cars that his men would be in. Some would still have to walk, but with the support of a good many vehicles.
The tank commander, a man named Kleiner who had introduced himself beforehand, waved at Hans, “We’re approaching the town of La Ville, and we’ll need to proceed on foot after that if you need to go up the mountain to the laboratory. Kleiner was a rugged, big man, who Hans sometimes felt was as big as the vehicle he commanded. A dependable man, Hans decided he would be a suitable commander for the vehicle Hans would take cover in. The tank itself was a Panther, a solid and dependable tank. Better than the Panzer IVs; not as good as a Tiger.
Hans thought that the best vehicle should be unhindered by himself; someone who had little knowledge of how to operate a tank. So he let the more reckless tank crew operate the Tiger. As Hans thought ferocity would be good against a merciless enemy like the untoten.
“Contact has been sighter!” Hans heard one of the men outside the tank scream.
“It’s a horde of untoten!”
“No! There’s too many of them.” That one seemed terrified, Hans thought. He’d need to stop that, and soon. Hans wouldn’t have any sort of terror in the ranks. Fear sharpens the mind, but terror was what kills it.
The sound of gunfire was everywhere outside now. Hans could hear moaning. The tanks were firing, and men were shouting. A grenade burst somewhere, but there were no screams from that. The untoten did not scream when hurt. Only humans did; the untoten were lower than that. Hans decided to open the hatch at the top of the tank’s turret; he would go out to check the situation. When he opened the turret he shouted to the radio operator, “Order all tanks to open fire! Get those remaining soldiers on the ground to get onto a vehicle.” The radio operator nodded.
Outside, the carnage was apparent. Dead bodies lay broken and lifeless. Blood was everywhere. Luckily most of that was from the untoten’s own; Hans’s men had acquitted themselves well, laying on the untoten enough bullets to take most of them out. A circle of men had been drawn behind the vehicles, and in the centre were fresh reserves and supplies. This was to be repeated down the column, with each company forming their own group.
Hans had thought up a strategy with his company leaders. They would station a single line of men first. This would be gradually replaced by fresh new men, who would continue to shoot. Whenever a man fell, the next in line was to finish off the untoten and the man, if bitten. There was to be nothing left to chance. It became methodical, if still rather messy. The untoten were falling everywhere, blood splattered and body parts blew apart.
Since they were in an open field, Hans’ men enjoyed a firing sight unhindered. There were trees to block the view, but only at certain distances. This meant that there would hardly be any untoten that could have been protected by trees or rocks.
The skirmish lasted only twenty minutes, and in that time, Hans had lost 52 men up and down the column. They had been dragged by grey, decaying hands into a mass of untoten, or bitten by bloody teeth. But in the end, their firepower, combined with the tanks, managed to pull them through. Bodies lay strewn everywhere.
The remains of a halftrack lay in a blackened and twisted wreck; a hand and a head laid several metres away. Dozens of untoten had piled on the halftrack and overwhelmed the men inside. They clambered on top of each other to reach the vehicle, and the press of bodies were too much for the driver to drive through. The driver, knowing things were lost, radioed the nearest tank to shoot.
It had complied and the halftrack was reduced to a wreck in the explosion, the untoten were cooked to a crisp were they stood. Some still lived, but were hastily put down when the area was clear of the living dead.
Men remounted on their vehicles, and the column continued again, vehicle engine noises combined with the occasion crack of a rifle continued to keep Hans from falling asleep in the steaming confines of the tank. Men joked and men laughed, and some attempted to play cards while on vehicles. Those who were unlucky enough to have to go on foot with the vehicles at the time (men switched around in a cycle every hour), simply cursed. Soldiers ate while on the vehicles, and napped occasionally as well.
Hans saw Reuben chatting with the men in a halftrack, Hans had requested for Reuben to be transferred as a Captain into his Battalion. Reuben was gracious for the promotion though disliked the posting he had been put in. Reuben was more of a lazy soldier, he didn’t want the dangerous operation that Hans was leading, but at least he put up with it. Giving Reuben a wave, Hans went back into the tank.
When they arrived at the town, it was already late afternoon. Hans got out for a walk, and stretched. La Ville was a rather sleepy looking town. Before the infection it had contained only a few dozen soldiers, as it was deemed to not be strategically important enough to merit better defences. As a result the Allies had bombed very little of it, apart from the smoking crater of an anonymous building where some of the soldiers had made their last stand against the Americans.
Surprisingly there was a lot less untoten in the area, Hans thought to himself that they must have started from the lab, and then migrated past the town in order to search for more victims. Hans could see some of what looked like abandoned US army vehicles, just inside the town. He also saw several more trucks and tanks.
Those vehicles would have been what must have been the force that attacked the laboratory, Hans thought. While defences were light in La Ville, the lab itself would have been heavily defended.
As the column drew closer Hans saw that there was blood on one of the trucks doors, not a pleasant omen, to be sure. It was definitely blood, a lot of it, but no sign of a body. A few shapes staggered through a nearby house, the men watched, weapons at the ready. The shaped staggered through the door one by one and revealed themselves in the fading sunlight. Three guns barked almost simultaneously and splattered their heads on the wall. The column continued, deeper into the silent town.
The road was well made, all asphalt and pavements on either side. Houses loomed over the ground on both sides, forgotten and silent. More stragglers, long forgotten inside those walls, came out. Each of them was met by the bursts of rifles. Much of the town’s now undead population would have also migrated. The ones left here were weak and injured. Hans saw one of them that looked like an American soldier. That one still looked relatively intact, for an untoten at least. He died anyway, a bullet to the skull.
Hans had given orders to shoot on sight, there was some leeway for a soldier to pause before shooting, but that was just for them to get a clear shot. There wasn’t anyone alive in the town that Hans would find important enough to rescue. Thus everything sighted by his soldiers died.
Camp was made in the square in the centre of the town. It was nightfall, and Hans didn’t want to be caught unawares by any surprises. Guards were mounted every few metres and the men slept in watches. The vehicles were kept in the centre while their crewmembers slept or kept watch nearby. Hans settled down on the ground, there were to be little extra comforts for the officers. He had a sleeping bag on the ground, but everyone had that. Well, he didn’t have to go on night watch, which was one thing to be grateful for.
Hans dreamed, but as usual, could barely remember the dream. They were happy dreams for a change, much better than the nightmares he was used to. He knew that there was a general sense of happiness, and remembrance. His brother and all those he had served with were involved. Hans wondered what it all meant, thinking of the things he had been through, when he was suddenly snapped from his nostalgia.
A large explosion quickly brought him out, a tank had exploded! Hans couldn’t see clearly, but since the shape blowing up was the largest one, Hans dreaded the news. The Tiger tank had been destroyed. The turret of the tank lifted a metre in the air, and fell off onto the side. A man flew in the air; he must have been keeping watch when the tank exploded. He was now dead.
There was a lot of shouting in the camp, and Hans heard the familiar sound of small arms fire. But the usual snap of G43s and MP44s was present, but there was something else. He heard M1 Garands and Thompsons, American weapons! The Amis are here! Hans grabbed his assault rifle, feeling the familiar stock and barrel. Loading a clip, Hans felt a hand tap his shoulder. Spinning around and aiming the gun, he was greeted with a voice.
“Hey watch it! Don’t point that at my face! It’s too beautiful for it to be ruined!” It was Reuben. He sighed with relief when the barrel was dropped. “It’s me Hans.”
Hans said, “Yes, I can see that. Your face is as annoying as ever.” Reuben looked worried, as he should be. This was not the night they had been expecting. Untoten was an established threat, Amis weren’t now. They had dropped down the food chain of late. But even prey struck back at times.
“The tank blew up,” Reuben said to Hans, as if he didn’t know it. Stating the obvious, as usual, Reuben was like that.
“I know.” Hans didn’t appreciate being told something he knew. Reuben had a habit of doing that when he felt worried. And for Reuben, that meant something big was happening.
Hans ordered the men near him, “Go men! Take your stations and take the fight back to the enemy!” Hans underlined the point by pulling out his pistol and firing in the air, “FOR THE FATHERLAND!” Men scrambled when they heard his voice, grabbing guns and firing at the dark shapes taking cover.
The Americans had the advantage of cover, they, the Germans, had vehicles. Those vehicles were being systematically destroyed however by bazookas. As Hans shouted orders to his officers, one of the halftracks blew up in a blaze of fire. A wheel rolled past him.
Hans ran to the line, where men were moaning and screaming. Someone was screaming for their mother, another simply cried. Medics dragged the wounded and dying men to the centre with stretchers. A few soldiers were taking cover behind a bench, another lay slumped; dead. His helmet lay nearby, soaked with wet blood.
Hans dodged into a piece of wall located nearby. He took cover lying down on his stomach. His assault rifle was out, grenades at hand. Through the crackle of gunfire, Hans heard footsteps running towards him. Boots thudded on the pavement nearby. Quickly rising Hans fired two bursts; it hit the man attempting to charge him with a grenade in hand. The grenade fell down, pin off. The other soldiers with him ran on, not noticing.
Hans ducked behind the wall; he motioned for the soldiers near him to get away. The ones still conscious moved, dragging their wounded friends to another section of cover. The grenade exploded, with a thump as the shrapnel inside the grenade flew out at high speed. Hans heard screams as it exploded, a bloody torn hand hit the ground in front of Hans’ face. Getting back up Hans saw that the enemies nearby had been mostly reduced to a bloody mess.
His men were driving back the Americans, but taking losses along the way. It seemed that the occasional injection of untoten from the surrounding houses complicated things in a three way fight. One of Hans’ soldiers went out of cover, firing in bursts at enemies hidden. The shooting was still heavy, but there seemed to be fewer guns in it this time. The hidden tank killer was still at large in the buildings in front of Hans. They had lost five vehicles already to whoever it was. Hans endeavoured to find out the tank hunter.
Another streak of fire came out of a window that was two windows across to the far left. Hans took his gun out, and watched. The bazooka shot missed, blowing up several tiles on the ground instead. Hans breathed heavily, sighting for any other enemies. There were none where he was, and Hans leapt over, running to the front door. The men with Hans stayed, providing covering fire in case anyone was still there.
Hans ran, his feet landing down hard, arms pumping with assault rifle in hand. Kicking down the door, Hans heard the crump of a tank shot blowing apart the floor above him as he dive rolled onto the ground. Glass shattered and the wall crumbled to pieces, narrowly missing Hans. He heard a gun crack in front of him, so he hid behind the counter. Crouching, legs out, gun at the side, Hans thought of what to do next. He heard a man shout at him. Hans knew English; he studied it for a few years at the local university back at home. The man was cursing.
“It’s time to die, Kraut!” It was somewhat hard to understand, being clouded with a hard to understand, obviously American accent. Whoever it was sounded angry, his senses might be dulled because of it. Hans was pinned though, pinned behind a shopping store counter. A mannequin had fallen down; the glass window that had been encasing it was shattered by bulells. The soldier had a Thompson, and regularly shot a few bullets above Hans’ head. Hans didn’t see a way out of this without more support coming in.
“ARRRGH!!!” The soldier blocking Hans’ way screamed. Sensing his chance, Hans jumped up and leapt over the counter, an American soldier, wearing no helmet on top of his sandy coloured hair, was struggling with a bald, fat man dressed in civilian clothes. The man turned out to be an untoten and was busy trying to sink his teeth into the American for the second time. A bite was displayed on the man’s shoulder, through the torn jacket’s shoulder sleeve.
The back door was open, obviously the untoten must have crept in when it saw the soldier, thought crept, perhaps, wasn’t the right term. Shambled in, hungry for flesh was more like it. The American was screaming, cursing, shouting as he shoved the fat man onto a clothes rack. The fat untoten smashed its face in, with a grunt and a moan, it attempted to get back up again. The American then kicked the untoten, and walked up to his Thompson, which lay across him a metre away.
Hans acted quickly, firing a burst at the man. He had not turned yet, and was not impervious to the damage. Falling down, face first on his gun he died quickly. Hans went up and put a bullet through the back of his head. Hans then went over to the fat untoten, and kicked it down. It had been trying to struggle to get back up; its massive rolls of fat getting in the way. Hans aimed and put another bullet through its head. The burst hurt his ears a little, but Hans paid no attention.
The gunfire continued, both sides had found cover, and were now engaged in a long, drawn out standoff. The battle could turn into a battle of attrition, but not if Hans could help it though. The vehicles the Germans had could turn the tide, but only if they went out to face the enemy. The vehicles had taken out the Americans at the rear of the column, but couldn’t advance because of the tank hunter hiding in the building floor two floors up.
“GRRARGH!!!” Another untoten had found its way in. A thin pale woman in a dress appeared at the back door. Hans went over, viciously kicked the untoten in the stomach, and delivered yet another bullet through the brain. The untoten slouched over, and then fell down backwards. Hans slammed the door shut, dragging a cabinet over for good measure. Then he turned his attention to the staircase next to him. It was closed in by wooden walls. Hans reloaded his gun.
Hans went up, weapon at the ready. The second floor was nothing of consequence. Half the room was outside now, rubble on the ground. The other half was clearly displayed to the outside; wind was blowing in, whistling through his ears. A dead American lay on the floor, clearly dead, he was missing the lower half of his body. His arms were outstretched, mouth slack and eyes closed. It was as if he was sleeping, well, if you looked only at the top half at least. Clothes and hangers lay around haphazardly, tattered and dirty. There was a wounded American lying at the feet of the steps. He held a pistol in his left hand; the other was bleeding, and limp. Hans finished him off with another burst.
Hans again went up another flight of stairs to the third floor, the last floor.
Stealthily moving up, he could hear the crackle of a radio. A man was shouting into a radio headset. Hans saw that near him was another man, lying down on his stomach with a bazooka at the ready. Hans quickly acted. The man with the radio was saying, “This is Golden Eagle here, we have engaged a German battalion, they have more men than us, as well as vehicles attached. While we are still fighting, we have taken heavy casualties, repeat, heavy cas-“He was cut off when Hans fired a burst at him.
The shots took him by surprise, and when he turned his head he was already flying off the chair. The bazooka man, about to fire another shot at the vehicles, turned around, and was met by another burst of bullets. The bullets all hit his chest with full force. The American tank hunter now dead, fell on the wall, back to it, arms and legs all over the place.
Hans fell down on his knees, breathing heavily; his gun now lay on the ground. He could hear the gunfire dying down, shouts of victory in German. They had defeated the Americans! Whatever remained of their forces now fled, firing once or twice to cover their retreat. They left behind wounded and the dying to the mercies of the untoten and Hans’ men.
Hans went down the stairs, and emerged from the building to the undulation of the men. They cheered when they saw him, apparently some of the men Hans had been with saw him clear the building on his own. Hans basked in the congratulations for a moment, then smiled and went over to his men.
Hans had left behind most of his battalion at the foot of the small mountain. He now had to hike up through. He had lost a further hundred men while fighting the Amis, and fifty to the untoten. With about 650 men still left standing, with a quarter of those wounded in one way or another, Hans would go up the mountain with about 40 others who weren’t wounded. Reuben would stay to command in his absence, while the lieutenant would come with Hans.
The remaining men would make camp and hold off any other attacks. They had enough supplies to last them a few weeks if they had to.
Hans walked past a few of his men, who sat down on logs and saluted to Hans. They were eating some army rations, which were supplied by the trucks that had come with them.
Hans went over to Reuben, and clapped his hand on his shoulder. “I know you’ll acquit yourself well.” Even with his failings, Reuben was a good man, and smart, in his own special way.
“Thanks, Hans; I shall try my best to make sure this battalion doesn’t end up dead.” Reuben smiled, and saluted to him. The job seemed easy enough; after all, they had already fought through most of the Americans, and the untoten.
Hans saluted back to him, he then said, “Well, I’m off then, old friend.”
Hans walked up to the group of forty men awaiting him. They wore the camouflaged clothing of the SS mountaineer troops, and so did Hans. This had all been prepared in advance, though a few new people had to be selected due to casualties during the journey. Hans was happy with those who were coming with him; he knew most of them, if not by name then by face.
The men saluted Hans, each and every one of them giving the usual “Heil Hitler”, and then they began their journey upwards. They loaded onto halftracks, and went up the steep road. It was asphalt and used to have been well looked after. Passing the gates the other men in Hans’ platoons waved to their comrades in arms.
“Sir,” Hans turned around to see the lieutenant talking to him, “What do you think we’ll find up there, inside that lab?”
Hans spoke carefully to the lieutenant, “I’m not sure, but what I do know that is that we may find something up there that could change this war. Swing it back to our side.” Hans wasn’t sure what was there, just that there was some sort of Holy Grail that might be there for them to find.
Several hours went by; they stopped to have lunch at a nearby clearing. There was a bunker there; its firing windows were mainly pointed at the road. But the bunker had been cracked open like an egg, and there was nothing else alive nearby. A broken down tank lay nearby, its tracks had come off and there were bullet holes pockmarking it. One of the soldiers opened up the hatch, only to close it when he saw that there were only a few dead bodies inside, cooked by the grenade that must have killed them. Other than that they found more dead bodies. Soldiers who had died fighting each other now lay together in heaps.
The lieutenant spoke to Hans, “The Americans who attacked the lab must have found time to at least pile up most of the bodies before the arrival of the untoten. Hans and the other men averted the sight of the dead bodies, preferring not to look at the decaying bodies. They quickly went back on the halftracks soon after, driving past them quickly.
Soon after Hans arrived at the checkpoint before the laboratory itself, the checkpoint comprised of two bunkers on both sides, with guardhouses and a boom gate that had been barring the way. More dead bodies were there; this time they were simply left lying where they had died. The boom gate was in pieces, something had obviously simply driven through it, though the defenders must have been anticipating that, because the offending vehicle in question had been blown to pieces.
Another tank, this time an American one, had driven onto the mine that had been laid nearby, and its turret and other parts of its body were scattered nearby the blast area.
Hans said to the lieutenant, “Must have been a Teller mine, those things don’t explode unless something as heavy as a vehicle goes on it. Those mines pack a big punch too.”
Reuben simply nodded, dismount with Hans and the rest of the men. The halftracks would have to be left behind, with the remains of the tank blocking the way they couldn’t afford to waste time shifting the wreckage. Hans left behind eight men to look after the four halftracks they were leaving behind.
Descending on foot, Hans trudged on the asphalt road, noting that the guns the combatants had been fighting with had ominously disappeared. They couldn’t have disappeared on their own, could they? Entering the gates, Hans and his men walked up to the solemn stone compound that comprised Der Wicht.
Der Wicht looked like a miniaturized castle made of stone; its walls, glorified fences really, were perhaps five metres high, too tall for any man to go over. The walls weren’t wide enough for a man to walk on, but there were four towers that loomed over the walls. The towers weren’t very wide; at least half of it was probably just the stairs that let you go onto each level. Windows could be seen and the glass had been long gone, despite that, Hans couldn’t see anything through them.
Beyond that, Hans did not know what lay within Der Wicht.
Hans went to the very front of the compound, the men followed him slowly, weapons at the ready. The gate that had once been in front of the miniature castle had been blown straight through. They had been destroyed not by a tank shell, but most probably some dynamite or TNT that an American demolitions team might have carried.
There was blood on the walls, Hans noticed, as he walked past the destroyed gate. Inside was a stone building, it was evidently built in the same style as a bunker, with flat walls and roof, it was arranged in a straight upside down U-shape. The U-shape contained a courtyard, with trees in the centre and around it. The courtyard contained other surprises too…
What looked to be a squad of American soldiers stood at the courtyard, Hans approached them, they were about 15 metres away when Hans saw that they were slouching, being very still. Hans then realised that they were untoten when they then started to stagger towards Hans. The group of them started to moan and snarl, and that was when Hans and his men opened fire on them. Bullets whizzed past Hans as he shot the lead untoten in the face. The lead fell down onto the hard cobblestone courtyard, cracking his head hard. The rest of them slightly quickened their pace, almost pathetically eager to reach Hans. They all died rather quickly, being too far away and too few in number to pose a threat.
Hans and his men continued until they were at the front door, which was slightly ajar. A bloody hand was on the front. Bullet holes were plain to see. When Hans went in he then came into a bright and richly attired front entrance. Plenty of high quality wood, paintings of stern looking men and tapestries and velvet, lots of it. There were two wings, one left and one on the right of Hans. There were staircases in front of Hans, but he knew where he wanted to go. There was a secret entrance at the back of the front room which concealed the underground laboratory.
The front room itself seemed to be worth what Hans’ house would cost. In addition to the expensive furnishings that dotted the area, were several more decaying dead bodies and a dozen snarling untoten feasting on them. Hans and his men quickly disposed of them, firing in swathes of bullets that dropped most of them dead.
Once everything was done, Hans and his men waited, they were seeing for any other signs of enemy contact, though it didn’t seem like there was any more. Hans was rewarded by an untoten bursting through a room in the right wing’s corridor. It died very quickly, as Hans shot it full in the face with his assault rifle.
“You, you, and you,” Hans pointed to three of his men, “Stay behind and guard the entrance.” Hans didn’t want any unpleasant surprises when he left the laboratory. The soldiers complied, doggedly arranging the furnishings in a way that would give them a bit of breathing space if the untoten suddenly attacked. Chairs and tables were uplifted and arranged in vague circular barricades. When Hans was satisfied he then left, going around the staircases to the back part of the room. Bookcases, lamps and more tables were positioned there, as well a wide gap devoid of any furniture in the middle. Hans knew that that was the entrance to the underground, but he didn’t know where the mechanism was to open it.
“What do you think men? This is the secret entrance to the underground, but how do you open it? I’m open to suggestions people, don’t leave me waiting.” Hans said to them. The assembled bunch of men started to argue about possible theories, some of them testing it out themselves. Lamps were pulled, chairs sat on, and bricks tapped, none yield the entrance. Then the Lieutenant spoke up to Hans, “How about moving a book? Just like in some of those mystery novels, where you pull a book and the entrance opens.”
Hans and the rest nodded, agreeing with the Lieutenant, because they couldn’t think of anything else.
One of the soldiers said, “But then which one do we move? There are a lot of books in these bookcases.” Hans thought he had a point there.
The Lieutenant moved to the bookcases and started peering at the one closest to the gap. “How about this one, I’ll try it.” He pulled it and some of the men jumped, as they heard stones shifting and the wall in front of them moving. The wall pushed backwards and to the left, hiding and showing no trace of a wall ever being there in the first place.
Hans asked, “How on earth did you figure that out?”
The Lieutenant harrumphed and smiled, “Why I looked at the books and saw which one looked used most often and sticking out the most. That and the title said “The Secret Entrance,” and I thought that seemed pretty obvious.”
Hans nodded, and then motioned to him, “You can go first then.”
The Lieutenant visibly blanched, and then said, “Very well then, Sir.” He walked towards the entrance, and then switched on a light. The dark corridor was bathed in white light that revealed it to be made out of the same grey stone as the outside of the building was made of. Hans and everyone else continued, pointing their guns this way and that.
The white light reminded Hans of one of those hospitals in the city, sterile white light. It reminded him of dentists, and then trips to the clinic.
Eventually there was a crossroad which Hans came across. Within each of the three corridors he could have gone in were more untoten, some of them looked like the researchers of the lab, dressed in white lab coats, a few looked like soldiers or guards. Hans had more guns then the untoten had bodies, and soon the corridor was filled with shooting, as individual squads broke off into each corridor, filling the air with lead.
Hans said, “Alright men, break off, ten men to each corridor, clear the rooms as you go by, I want these rooms cleared and their contents to be searched. Bring along someone with a radio to each corridor. Go!” Men scrambled to accomplish his orders, and Hans was left with nine men, including the Lieutenant. Hans went along through the central corridor.
Clearing several rooms on either side, which contained never more than two or three untoten, was boring. The offices yielded very little except the occasional research note, which Hans brought along, not really understanding what they meant.
Then there came the place that Hans really wanted to see.
It was the test chambers where the scientists had tested their subjects on. Hans was sure that whatever was most important was located here, where there was most definitely going to be samples of the original parasite that they had produced.
The room was large, the size of a small concert hall. A quarter of it was covered with machines which even now continued to take results that meant nothing, since most of the test subjects were gone already. Standing at the centre though, was the biggest untoten Hans had ever seen. Beyond it was a sheaf of research notes and a tray containing plenty of vials of what Hans assumed were the untainted parasites.
The giant untoten stood at 10 feet tall, three metres high, its head was covered by a large metal helmet, extremely thick and hard to penetrate. Its grey bloody mouth, which was the only part of the face that wasn’t covered by the massive helm, seemed disfigured and very large. Its teeth were big and razor sharp. Half of its body had been covered with the large steel plates, its chest and upper parts of its limbs were covered. Wires crisscrossed its body and there was some sort of large metal pack that seemed welded to the back of its armor. Its muscles were abnormally large and its arms were bigger than its legs.
With it were a dozen moaning untoten. It seemed that the scientists hadn’t been experimenting with just regular human beings…
The reinforced glass windows that had contained the regular living dead had been shattered, probably by the Beast standing before Hans. It roared, through the slits in the helmet where its eyes were Hans could see it fixated on Hans and his group. They all then opened fire on the thing trying to kill it. Hans got the radio operator to call in the rest of his platoon to his location.
The Beast moved quickly for something that looked so dead; while it wasn’t as agile as a human its tall legs made it move faster than any normal untoten. Its footsteps made the ground shudder, it seemed to shrug off the bullets and continue to slowly close the gap between it and Hans.
Hans emptied a clip into the Beast’s head, yet the bullets bounced or simply sank into its armoured head. Its mouth was torn bloody by bullets, but that didn’t affect it that much. Roaring, it tried to bat Hans away, who stood only metres away. Hans leapt to the side, hiding behind a trolley. The man next to him was not so lucky, being hit with the full force of the hand and was flung away, hitting the wall with a crump.
More bullets pinged off or hit its unarmoured areas, yet the Beast did not falter. It shrugged off the impacts in a way its more normal fellows could not. Hans saw it grab another man, roar, and then chomp his head off. The other men in his squad then had to deal with the problem of the regular untoten as well. One of which took them by surprise, latching on one while they was trying to shoot the Beast. The man fell down and more untoten pounced on him.
While the untoten were eventually killed, the Beast was still alive and very mad, roaring with a force that left Hans’ ears ringing. It had killed most of Hans’ men, now only three of them were left alive, including the lieutenant. The rest lay in bloody lumps around the room.
Hans put as much distance between him and the Beast as he could, flinging trolleys and tables in its way. Yet it followed him. The other soldier left standing attempted to block its way, emptying his rifle clip into its face, but it simply ripped his body apart. Soon there was no one left standing between the Beast and him. Hans felt more scared than he had ever felt before, his heart was pumping enough blood that he thought it might burst, and his body was sweating profusely. His time was up. Hans had used up all his ammo previously, now he was backed up against a wall. Helpless.
Just as the Beast loomed over Hans, it was distracted by someone shooting at its back. It turned around, deciding to deal with the biggest annoyance first. Hans saw through its legs that it was the Lieutenant! He was shooting and screaming, and then drew out a pair of grenades, dropping his rifle where he stood. The Lieutenant pulled out the pins.
The Beast stomped towards the Lieutenant, and lifted him up with one giant hand around his neck. The Lieutenant met eyes with Hans, and smiled, as he dropped the grenades down the Beasts roaring mouth, the Beast threw him across the room to which the Lieutenant landed next to Hans, and then it exploded. There was a thump and the Beast blew up… from the inside out. Entrails and blood flew everywhere, and then the Beast seemed to stand up for a moment horrific wounds displayed; but it was simply the weight of all it was wearing. It abruptly fell down face first, dead.
Hans looked over to the Lieutenant laying on the wall only half a metre away. He was still alive! Hans realised with a start, his eyes were moving at least.
“What’s your name, lieutenant?” Hans said to him, solemnly. He would know the name of his saviour, since he hadn’t bothered beforehand.
“Johannes,” The man was pained with each word. “Johannes. Gerrard.”
Hans’ eyes widened, he knew there was some sort of familiarity that he hadn’t known! The man was the brother of Jakob Gerrard, the soldier that had died in the barnhouse in their first encounter with the untoten. “Brother of Jakob?” Hans asked him.
“Yes. He was. My Brother,” As the light from Johannes’ eyes faded, Hans closed his eyes carefully, and rose. Many men had died for him to reach this place, and they would not die in vain. The rest of Hans’ platoon arrived, gasping at the carnage, several minutes too late. Some of them ran to Hans as he walked to where the vials were stored.
Hans picked up the tray, and gave it to the nearest man standing guard next to him. The man saluted and slowly received the tray, full of vials that contained a sickly looking orange-green liquid. In those vials was the resurrection serum that had turned men into beasts. Hans saluted him back, and then he walked out of the room. It didn’t matter to Hans when he died, only that he died doing his duty. They were all dead in the end anyway. War would do that.
By Alan Truong
18,000 words, how about that?