“Wormhole“, Lee Swift, 2014.
This is essentially an action horror story that is well done and uses the exotic, to modern eyes, trappings of World War One.
Our hero is German Lance-Corporal Albrecht Trumann. He is convulsing at a hospital when a Colonel shows up, awards him the Bavarian Merit Cross, and insinuates he’s a shirker: “Perhaps you were more comfortable enjoying the heat and light, cavorting with the fräuleins whilst your fellow countrymen do the fighting.”
After replying to the Colonel, that ” … I cannot speak to the presence of fräuleins in the trenches, but you seem to be under the impression that heat and light were absent from the holes in the ground we inhabited. I can assure you, we had both.”
After threatening to flay Albrecht alive for insubordination, the Colonel recruits him for a strange mission: to take a Panzer, a machine designed to burrow underground and take out a similar machine the British are thought to possess. The Germans army has aerial photographs that show:
the undeniable devastation of a German trench system. Cavernous dark holes roughly five yards in diameter dominate the photograph, along with tremendous mounds of mud cast across the floor.
“This was found by a relief battalion last month. No survivors were found. No bodies either. Soldiers followed the tunnels as far as they could, but none had props, and so the tunnels inevitably collapsed.”
The story seems to be set sometime in the first half of 1916. Albrecht is a veteran of Verdun, but the story makes no mention of tanks which made their debut at the Somme on September 15, 1916.
At the British trenches, the Panzer crew of nine discover there is no British version of their machine. A subterranean monster has been feeding on the British troops, but they meet a survivor. The Germans who have survived enemy fire hear the Tommy’s account as to what’s happened:
“It showed up about a month ago and began taking the men. They radioed their command, but were ordered to stay put and deal with it, but how can you deal with something like that? They expected to be relieved from the line, but no reserves arrived and his company’s been isolated from the rest of the line. None of them have dared flee for they could see it, scouring the no man’s land at night for food, feasting on the fallen. He says it’s more active on the eve of attacks . He thinks the shells hitting the earth somehow summon it.”
The survivors join forces to escape the monster. The end of the story makes me think of the famous Christmas Truce of 1914 (by no means widespread on the Western Front) and the live-and-let-live attitude adopted in some sectors, an informal and illegal effort by the troops to lessen the murder in their lives.
As moral men, men who may kill each other in the future, they have something in common:
For all their perceived faults, at least the British and I dare say the French have a moral stature. At least they’re not carnivorous monsters dwelling in abyssal burrows beneath the earth, waiting to feast on the remains of man.
World War One Content
- Living Memory: No.
- On-Stage War: Yes.
- Belligerent Area: Yes.
- Home Front: No.
- Veteran: No.