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Forget the Dead You’ve Left
wwiti4.jpg
The world fell into the inferno. Therein it caught afire and burned down to ashes. Out of this timeless dust rose a new existence, entirely unlike the old one in many ways. Yet, for each of the old world’s evils that were lost in the fire, two new and more horrific demons were born. Eventually, the new existence became so marred by these sinful forces that the people started to die in droves. A wise leader beseeched higher forces for another rebirth of the land, but no reply was heard. All was silence except for the sound of guns in the distance, expelling bullets in a steady mimicry of the beating of the war drums. This is the story of the conflict men said would end all others.

* * * * *​

“There’s some things I’ve got to say: stuff about the war . . .,” mumbles one man to another, his voice gradually gaining strength with each careful word. The pair sits in a darkened room. They are isolated from the bustle of the outside world by heavy drapes and closed doors. The shadowy figure resumes his speech, “I haven’t ever said most of this before, and I don’t know why that is. I just never felt like talking about the entire . . . well, you know . . . But now I want to tell someone about what happened back then. Marcy thinks that if we gab about all of the stuff that went down during the war, then all of this now will be easier for me. I don’t know if that’s true, but I probably owe it to Marcy to try.”

“Okay, Jack. I’m here to listen. Where do you want to start?” asks the other man, a pensive listener in the dark.

“How about joining up with the army? That’s about when everything started to go lopsided."

“Sure. . . When did you enlist?”

“April 5, 1915. It was a beautiful day. I remember cause before I went down to the recruiting station, I went to a picnic at the old park. Marcy was there. . . She told me not to join up; to wait until the army boys came to drag all of us in. I told her it would be easier this way. . . I can’t remember if I really believed that or was just trying to keep her from crying. In any event, I wouldn’t have been able to avoid service much longer.”

“Why?”

“Well, when I joined, the States wasn’t exactly fighting yet; we were trying mighty hard to keep out of the whole mess in Europe. Then, a few weeks after I got my uniform, that big ole ship got sunk and the country got dragged straight into the conflict. The president tried to keep us out, but he just couldn’t.”

“So, you saw combat pretty soon after enlisting?”

“Yeah. . . We got shipped out right soon after war broke out. . . I barely knew how to fire the damn rifle . . . That’s when . . . well, that’s when everything went to hell.”​
(To Be Continued)

Contents
 
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VILenin

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Intriguing beginning. Might we see an early entry by the US into the Great War or does some other source of conflict arise?
 

Herbert West

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Honestly, after your previous AARs:


Subscribed!
 

robou

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VILenin said:
Intriguing beginning. Might we see an early entry by the US into the Great War or does some other source of conflict arise?

Hmm i hand thought that deep into what he had written.....not just an ordinary AAR then ..................... :wacko:
 

VILenin

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robou said:
Hmm i hand thought that deep into what he had written.....not just an ordinary AAR then ..................... :wacko:
Well the character mentions getting put into action not long after enlisting in 1915 where historically the US didn't enter WW1 until 1917 and didn't see any combat on the Western Front for months after that. He could be referring to trouble in Mexico, however.
 

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*Subscribes*
 

stnylan

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A most excellent first post. You do some excellent work Quintillian.
 

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2. Someday Baby​

wilsonye2.jpg

The American President

In the end, it was Wilson’s call to go to war. I heard a lot of talk in the later years, when things got real hard, that the president should’ve listened to his buddies and not gotten into the whole mess. Some of the guys I fought with even took up the habit of substituting Wilson’s name for their more favored curses. But, you know, despite all of that I’ve never really felt – even when the war was so dark I couldn’t hardly imagine the end – that getting into it was a bad choice. We Americans have got honor to defend, and when the Krauts put our people under the waves and didn’t admit the slightest fault, we had to fight. . . It’s their fault, I hope . . .

Anyway, Wilson wanted to fight, or at least couldn’t think of a way to back down without seeming to be a lightweight, and I found out soon after that that I would be shipping out across seas. . . Being in the army hadn’t been so bad up to that point because where we were training was right near my home, and I could sometimes see Marcy and my folks on Sunday. Then the brass decided to send us off, and it all started to sink in. I was going to be gone from the world I had always been in and thrown into another. I was going to be an alien . . . Worst of all, I might just die.

I’m not sure why the prospect of death hadn’t occurred to me before deployment. I mean, for heaven’s sake, part my job’s requisite uniform was a gun. You’d think that contemplation of dying is something that a soldier does naturally, but I – and most of the guys I knew – didn’t let the topic touch our minds if we could help it. In my experience, if you think too much on what it’s going to be like when you eventually get shot, then you go crazy. One fellow even put a bullet in his own head to get the whole ordeal done with on his own terms.

But that was in France, and we didn’t get sent to that hell-hole right away. Nah, the folks in charge thought that the U.S. would be better off sending a couple of units to wage a limited war against German colonial assets while the Brits fought in Europe. I’m not sure if they thought they could actually win this way or were just stalling the inevitable deployment and bloodbath on French soil. In the end, I wasn’t even sure where the place I was heading was: somewhere in Africa was all I could figure.

Leaving home was about as bad as you’d expect it to be. A lot of my pals looked like they was already resigned to death when we got on the bus heading for the coast . . . Marcy was there to see me off, too. She was crying like a storm, and I felt something awful for leaving her there like that, so distraught she seemed to have forgotten just how familiar words – goodbye, love, luck - are supposed to sound. Just as I was going to get into the bus, she asked me if I’d be coming home. All I could say to her, with those deep, brown eyes of hers that seem to probe into the truths you hide as far under the skin as you can, was, “Someday, maybe.” I realize that wasn’t the response she was looking for, but I just couldn’t lie. I’ve never been able to lie to her.​

(Coming Up: The War in Africa)
 

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Thanks for the feed-back, everybody . . . As VILenin deduced correctly, I'm playing a slightly modified version of the Great War. The U.S. has entered the conflict early, but is still hesitant to enter the real fighting in Europe. At this point, I believe people would still be hoping for a quick win by the Europeans against the Europeans, so to speak.

Also special thanks to Herbert West and stnylan for their very kind words! I hope the future passages are also okay. :)
 

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By the sounds of it things in Africa didn't go too badly, especially not in the light of what sounds like subsequently happened.
 

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Africa without antibiotics could be nasty, though...
 

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Interesting move, American troops getting sent to Africa. While the German colonial forces should be a much weaker opponent I'm betting the climate will prove itself a formidable enemy in its own right. I wouldn't be surprised if US forces get bogged down in the jungles and deserts of the Dark Continent.
 

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Interesting!

And I absolutely love the style.
 

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Excellent start! I also figured on an early US entry into the war from your first post, though attacking German colonies is an interesting strategy.

Like the others, I worry about climate and disease. I don't know how well Vicky simulates that except for population growth, but I think our boys are in for a crash course in just about every disease known to mankind.

I might have not bothered with the opening paragraph - it doesn't take much to convince us readers that a realistically detailed World War I is going to be incredibly ugly - but that's a minor nit. Your story so far is very touching, very human and, though we know he comes out of it okay (again from your opening), I think his tale is going to be very chilling.
 

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3. Well, You Needn’t

germansiz8.jpg


Colonial Soldiers in Africa
I’ve seen a lot of unsettling things in my life: the sort of stuff that makes it feel like your throat is crawling with spiders and your legs have gone and turned into sand. In France, if you don’t believe me, I watched as a friend of mine got torn in half by a machine gun. Clear into two pieces. . . That's not the kind of image you can forget. It gets seared into your mind, and stays there so long as you're still still kicking . . . Why you’ve got to know that now is to understand just what I mean when I say you don’t find anything more disturbing in this world than what lurks in those deep shadows of Africa.

It’s not that we got into tough battles out there. In fact, there weren’t really any proper engagements. You know: the type where you can see where your enemy is at and when it’s going to be time to shoot. It was more like a fox hunt perpetually in flow. During the day, we were the hunters, seeking out dispatches of colonial guerillas led by German officers. . . At night, we became the hunted. Out of the dark came the earth black natives, inspired to fight us by false promises of freedom and food. The way those warriors approached us in the dark and then disappeared again later, you were left with the impression that they had never really existed. You had been attacked by the shadows and the mist.

I remember one night real clear . . . My company was camped out along this crazy long river – the type of deal where it’s hard to tell if it's ever going to end or just flow on straight through the continent. We lower rank guys were hanging around a fire. Joe, a pal of mine since I was barely running, was playing cards with another fellow. Everything was all right, and I kind of felt like I wasn’t in Africa at all. Yeah, it felt like I was camping up in the woods behind the old schoolhouse back home, how we used to do years ago. The fire was warm, and we were all talking it up. Then, out of nowhere, comes this terrible scream. It was the sort of yell that makes your blood freeze or boil.

The natives seemed to rise up out of the very dirt we were lying on. Suddenly, they were all around us, trying to pick off as many as possible before descending back into the dark. I took up a place behind an old tree and starting firing off towards the perimeter of our camp, like Captain Wallace had told us to do. Not sure if I actually shot anyone, which was maybe a good thing thinking back on it now. Anyway, you could never tell at night.

Eventually, the chaos receded and we started to take in our casualties . . . Now, this whole skirmish was damn near the first thing I did as a soldier. To say that I wasn’t scared to the point of pissing my pants would be nothing but a lie. When the solace of dawn came, I was shaking something dreadful from the cold and the fear. Then, lying in the center of our camp with a bunch of guys around him, I saw something that really brought the whole war home to me in a way that you can't understand unless you were there, unless you really felt the blood and the mud under your toes and smelled the dead.

Joe, the guy I’d been hanging with a couple hours ago, was a bloody mess. His face had been bashed in something dreadful, and his body had been cut all over by some kind of knife. I couldn’t look at all the blood and just turned away to vomit. All I could think of was Joe’s family back home. How his mother was a nice of old gal; how his sister has full to popping with a kid; how he had a girl back there waiting for him. I just vomited until it felt like nothing was left inside me.

Then, despite the fact I wanted to sit down and cry for a long time, I had to go get my gun and do the work the United States government was paying me for. . . Later on, I was talking to a buddy and mentioned that I was worried about how Joe’s folks would take the news of his death.

“You needn’t,” he said, looking at me in a delirious sort of way, which I later found out was an early sign of the mosquito flu, “Worry about how your folks will take it and keep alert, damn it.” And even if he was starting to get mushy brained from fever, the man was right, you know. Death was lurking in the undergrowth, in the water, in the air, and in the darkness. I had to stay sharp.​
africain1915mx9.jpg

The Contested Colonies (Summer 1915)
American route marked in blue; German route marked in red
 
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You're all very perceptive. One of the main problems I encountered in Africa was high casualties. It's really very hard to keep up a steady presence so far away from any source of fresh soldiers. The fact I didn't have any other countries' troops to back me up didn't help . . . Anyway, more on that later. :)

That's an interesting comment on the opening paragraph, CatKnight. I was trying to establish the over-all mood of the piece: gloomy. Perhaps, however, the introduction was a bit too telegraphed, and I should have let the narrative talk for itself. . . If you have any more comments on the writing, please share. These AARs are more or less my writing practice.

Thanks for reading and commenting, everyone!