TFF Short Story – In the Mist The fog flowed across the muddy wasteland, seeping into the shell holes that littered the field. White fingers climbed over the bodies and the wire, the soft tendrils of fog drifting listlessly along the battlefield. There is no sound in the morning mist; even the ever-present rumble of another battle had faded away at the arrival of the fog. The only sight from the trenches is made up of ghostly trees and the whiter areas where more mist has accumulated in a bomb crater. The occasional poppy can be seen sheltering beneath the nearby piles of debris, safe from the more recent destruction, and highlighted with the new day's dew. The slow rattle of barbed wire ghosts across the mud as a small fog breeze blows along no-man's land. A sentry – too muddy to distinguish any markings – peers into the deepening fog as his eye is caught by a moving dark spot. Soon he can make out some shapes looming out of the mist. Before he can shout or grab a weapon, a muted crack echoes through the trench, and the man falls dead, joining his brothers in the mud. The other sentries only heard the splitting of a blasted tree. When the sentry's body is found, a bullet wound can be seen gaping it his head. What surprises the officers, however, is the apparent age of the body: it would seem that he had been dead at least a week. [HR][/HR] Tommy could hear the distant rumble of artillery growing nearer as it did every morning. He considered himself lucky, staying in some trenches too far from the main German artillery line to be bombarded at night. In the morning however, as the sun rose behind the clouds and visibility grew, the Germans turned their guns once more to the entirety of the British trenches within their range. The rain that had battered down upon their head all night long could not have woken the soldiers, who could all but sleep through a heavy shelling. The sun was starting to burn through the clouds by now, and would probably come out be early evening. The men expected fog the following morning. Tommy was part of a group that would perform a routine check along their barbed wire, taking weapons and anything else that could be passed along, fixing any breaches and changing the corridors. All though it was routine, the men had to be briefed before leaving, and would be supported by snipers. Tommy was off to the briefing now, thinking only as far as where he had to go. The rest of the trench was waking up all around him. Men were stepping out of dugouts, changing the sentries, chucking out dead rats and absent-mindedly squashing lice. The trench routine was all these men had, it was all Tommy had, and it kept them alive. At least until the Germans made a serious attack. The two other men from Tommy's patrol had gathered outside their lieutenant's dugout, waiting for him to call them in for the briefing. [HR][/HR] The mud was cold beneath their hands as they crawled the last few meters up to the last section of wire. They all had a few cuts, but that was to be expected. They'd found some clean water in a shell hole and had shaved and washed as much as they could. The snipers covering them had only let off a few warning shots at any germans who were only half-heatedly popping up every once in a while for form. Keith had found a body stuck under some wire, a bullet hole in its shoulder. They had quickly taken the boots, which Keith kept for himself, as they were much better quality than the standard-issue British boots. Shiny buttons had disappeared into various pockets and Tommy carried the gun and the wire-cutters. Nearing the final section the trio were surprised by the total silence that greeted them as they climbed the crater. They had expected to hear some wire rattling, but there was nothing, even in the light breeze. Keith motioned for them to stop, getting his shaving mirror out, and slowly lifted it up to the edge. "Run!" he shouted, dropping the mirror and sliding down the hole. "Los los los!" came the calls behind them as German soldiers jumped up from the mud, tearing after the three men. "Drop the cutters Tommy!" screamed Keith at his side, "we have to get out!" "What's he doing?" panted Tommy, motioning at the third man, who was running off at an angle. "Using us as bait I'd bet!" Just then a shot went off behind them and the man went down. He had lost the gone far enough off to the side for a German sniper to pick him off. They kept on running, not daring to look back as they dashed through the corridors they had just made, too frightened to slide the wire back into place. Luckily for them their pursuers had been dropping behind, and could not see the paths too clearly. With every bit of wire they passed they gained a little ground. Their trench was getting closer. They could see some heads sticking up, obviously quite surprised at the sudden rush from the Germans. Puffs of smoke could be seen all along the trench, shortly followed by the sharp crack of a high-powered rifle. Safety was so close. Then they heard shots behind them. Looking back, Tommy saw that some of the germans had stopped and were not crouching behind the wire, firing at them! Keith started running faster than Tommy could keep up with, and he was soon starting to lag behind. He tripped on a broken plank and fell face first into a stagnant pool of water. Quickly dragging himself out, coughing and spluttering, Tommy ran off in the direction to which he thought lay his trench. Sprinting through the mud was not an easy job and he was feeling exhausted. The fog the men had predicted was coming up from the sparkling ground, and Tommy could not see his trench. Hearing the shouts behind him become louder he dashed off in the opposite direction, slipping and sliding his way around shell holes and blasted trees. A smashed wall loomed up before him, making Tommy realise how heavy the fog was getting. A she neared the building he started to walk, leaning on his two rifles. He was surprised at having held on to the German one all through his sudden flight. The tumbledown walls were of brick, rising up into two corners, the rest of the building sinking in the mud. Tommy spat, clearing his mouth of the mud and sweat that had run down from his face whilst he was running. "Find him, we have need of another." Tommy dropped to the ground. He had not expected to have company. Squinting, he picked out ghostly figures gliding through the fog towards the building. The voice sounded odd, as if the man speaking had not let out any air when he did so. Holding his breath? What from? Tommy was getting anxious. He needed to find his way back to his trench and he didn't like it out here in the fog. Moreover, he was sure if he could find it through the white wall that was creeping in around him. "We draw near, I feel his life." The voice came from behind him this time. The shapes in the mist were becoming clearer now. Tommy could just about make out their ragged trench coats and dented helmets. He didn't like voice that had spoken – if it was the same voice – and even less the words. How could someone feel my life? he thought, desperately looking around for a place to run, the fog has distorted the sounds around me, he told himself. But he was mistaken. As Tommy slowly stood up, ready to rush through a gap in the oncoming circle, a firm hand took hold of his shoulder, and slowly turned him about. The hand was neither warm nor cold, but definitely damp. But the hand was not what Tommy was worrying about at that moment. Although the ripped gloves and missing fingers were not something he was ready for, the face came as more of a surprise. Under the broad tin helmet was a face that Tommy recognised with a jolt. His sergeant looked down at him with a haggard expression on his gaunt face. His sergeant who had been dead for a month. Tommy let out a yelp and tried to turn, but the man's grip was strong and something more than physical contact was holding him. The other figures had come closer and Tommy could make out both German and British faces. They were all of the same height – 6 foot 4 – and wearing long trench-coats. Their helmets were dented and had holes of varying sizes in them. They all looked tired, their expressions haunted. Tommy looked about, more terrified than he had ever been, more terrified than he thought possible. Even his bladder was in shock, refusing to play its rightful part in such a situation. They were all staring at him from blank eyes, their mouths shut tight in grim expressions. Tommy could see and feel the mist pouring off them and eddying around them in intangible swirls. The fog was all around them, almost covering the ruins, that were a mere twenty meters away. Slowly the men of the mist opened their mouths, revealing black chasms. Tommy looked all around him, searching for an escape route, in vain. A hollow wailing sound was emanating from the open maws around him –*the men's mouths were too inhuman to be qualified as such. The quiet sounded started to grow stronger, and as Tommy started to make out the individual voices, it was cut off, and he fell. [HR][/HR] Tommy awake with a start and looked about. The fog had cleared and the sun was beginning to set. As he realised what time it was he was surprised at how late the fog had come. As he came more awake he also realised that he was surprised about the wrong thing. The wraiths – for that was how he remembered them as they glided through the heavy mist – had gone, but they had been there. Five bodies littered the ground around him, all of them German. Two had violent gashes in their torso, the others shot through the head. Looking at the two men's lungs, Tommy remembered the pitted bayonets the wraiths had carried, and wretched violently, imagining the felling of one entering his stomach and leaving his throat. He climbed to his feet and looked around. Smoke was rising in the East and he could hear the German cannons thundering as they started their bombardment for the night. Staggering and leaning on his rifles – which he had held onto the entire time – Tommy made his way towards his trench, which he could now see with the lifting of the mist. It wasn't far, but it was distant enough to tire him out as he got near, and he tripped and fell many times. A challenge rose up in the warming air and he answered it, feeling relieved at finally having made it to the trench. Hands came up to grab him as he almost fell down the ladder and put him gently on the ground. Before he passed out he whispered: "They come in the fog". [HR][/HR] Tommy's story became a great success among the men of the front, as both the flight from the Germans and the terror of the wraiths got the adrenaline pumping through their bodies. To many it was but another tale of a dead officer helping his men, but to those that had fought many times in the fog it was a tale that they all knew well. When a man was in trouble and the mist came down, he learned to have no fear and have trust in the fog. But when a body was found after the fog, they knew that justice worked both ways.