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Historical Fiction Drama Horror

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

June 1918

The Belleau Woods was the last battle of the Great War. American and Allied forces pushed against the German might as the Allies advanced toward Berlin. Both sides were locked in a stalemate, and neither knew that taking the woods would be a game-changer. History says the Marines defeated the Germans in one of the bloodiest and most ferocious battles U.S. forces would fight in the war. What they don't tell you is how.

The German soldiers dug a defensive line between themselves and the Americans deep in the woods. The men waited for their enemy to strike for the next several hours. They and the Americans engaged in brutal close-quarter fighting for several days. Both sides suffered heavy casualties. Something needed to happen to end the stalemate. The German command decided to set up machine-gun posts and artillery to defend against the Americans. As the Germans prepared, many men felt something watching them, not by the Americans, but something else. Everyone settled in the trenches as night approached and hunkered down for the night. The date was June 7th.

Not wanting to take any chances, the commander placed sentries along with the machine gun nest. Brothers Peter and Randolf Ullmer took turns operating the machine gun at one post. Peter was the older brother and had enlisted as soon as Germany declared war. Randolf had recently finished his basic training and requested to join his brother's unit. As they monitored their position, Peter decided to take a smoke break and leave his younger brother in charge.

"How can you smoke at a time like this?" Randolf rested his head against the butt of the gun. "It helps calm my nerves. Everyone is on edge. We haven't seen the Americans for some time now. It's unsettling." Peter lit a cigarette.

"I agree. We've only heard those verdammt (damn) howls these past few nights. I thought there weren't any wolves in these woods." Peter takes another puff of the cigarette before tossing it on the ground.

"Looks like the Americans weren't the only ones with bad intelligence." As they talked amongst themselves, the brothers were unaware. Something was stalking the Germans—something hungry for blood.

Suddenly, Peter heard rustling coming from the bushes. He grabbed his rifle and positioned himself next to his brother. "Did you hear that," said Randolf. His finger was already on the trigger of the machine gun. Peter slowed his breathing and waited again to hear the noise. After a minute goes by, nothing. He couldn't see anything before them because it was so dark. He then began to think that it was his imagination. Then he heard that sound again, this time stronger and louder. Aiming, Peter was about to fire until he listened to the eerie sound of a loud howl. This deep howling caught them off guard, and two glowing eyes emerged from the darkness.

"Peter, what the hell is that?" whispered Randolf. Fear was beginning to take hold of him. Placing a hand on his shoulder, Peter tried to calm his brother.

"I don't know, but we're safe. Whatever that thing is, it has to go through a hail of bullets before it gets to us. Besides, Mom would kill me if something happened to you." Randolf chuckled a bit, still uneasy about the eyes in front of them.

They weren't the only ones who saw red in the night. All along the German line, men began shouting. Some said the eyes were to the east; others claimed they were coming from the west. This constant state of fear began to take hold of them. The night was long, and the torment was beginning.

One soldier climbed up over the trenches to investigate. His friends handed him a dimly lit lantern to see. Walking a few steps forward, his hands began to tremble. His breath becomes erratic. Questions of doubt fill his mind. As he descended further into the darkness, he shined the light into the woods. Seeing nothing, he turned around and began to walk away. Suddenly he smelled a foul order from behind. He turned his head slightly over his right shoulder and felt something breathing down his neck. Petrified, his limbs go numb, and in an instant, he is violently pulled into the darkness, dropping the lantern. From the trenches, the others heard the piercing sounds of a struggle. Just then, a cry of despair filled the night. The sound of tearing flesh, bones breaking, and the wailing of their young comrade echoed through the night. The lingering and nauseating sounds were too much to bear. They all felt helpless. Whatever strength they had, it was taken over by absolute fear. As the cries ceased, an unsettling silence took over the trenches. Everyone held their breath.

"What's that coming from the trees?" Everyone looked ahead and saw a large shadow approaching them. Suddenly, the dark figure emerged. It was taller than a man, covered in matted fur, walked upright, and had a mouth full of fangs, small pointed ears, massive forearms, and bear-like hands and feet with excessively curved claws. The beast's fur was covered in blood, and the soldier's half-eaten head was clutched in its right paw. The creature tosses it back to the German soldiers before giving an evil chuckle as it melts into the night.

No one wanted to go over and get the head as fear took hold of them. So the head just lay there, looking at them with glossy eyes. Eyes full of immense anxiety.

Randolf was beyond scared; he was mortified. Nothing in his basic training had prepared them for this. Peter was also terrified. He had already seen many horrors during his time in the unit. What had just transpired was something else altogether, something unnatural.

"No one goes to sleep," someone shouted in the trenches. "We need to remain vigilant at all times. Check your ammo and fix bayonets. We're in for a fight now, boys." Peter, Randolf, and others fixed bayonets and gathered all the ammo they had left. With every man waiting for the command to attack, Peter knew that this battle would decide the war's fate and theirs.

"Any sign of them?" said Randolf sheepishly. Peter shakes his head. Since the recent sighting, has been almost five hours of torment for the men. No one slept for fear of being dragged away in the night. Peter had gone through all his cigarettes and resorted to chewing on pieces of cigarette cartons to calm himself. It was now early morning, June 8th, and dawn was fast approaching. Peter knew something had to happen. Whatever they saw and heard last night, those creatures would attack soon. However, after getting no sleep, he feels his eyes slowly drooping. Before he drifts off, he hears the snap of a fallen branch a hundred yards away from them. He jerks his head up and looks in the direction of the sound.

At this moment, he sees what has been tormenting him and his men. Across the German line, past a few trees, was the outline of a dark wolf-like creature slowly approaching them. Grabbing his rifle, he nudges his brother.

"Randolf, I see one. Behind the trees, a couple of yards away. Pass the word along." Randolf quietly leaves his machine gun and spreads the word about their position. Slowly placing a round in the chamber, Peter sets his sights on his target. Looking down at the rifle sight, he rests his finger on the trigger, waiting for the right moment. Randolf rushes back to his brother and stations himself on the machine gun.

"Everyone's ready. On your command."

"Good, because they are coming at us head-on as soon as I fire. Once that happens, all the wrath of hell will be upon us."

"Do you have a plan, then?"

"If we get overrun, get out of the trenches and make for the forest's edge behind us."

"Alright then," said Randolf calmly. "On your mark." As the creature moves into Peter's line of sight, he pulls the trigger and fires off a round from his rifle. "Ich habe dich Jetzt Dämon" (I have you now, demon)The bullet zips through the morning air and hits its target dead in the head. It did nothing but cause the beast to YELP and jerk backward a bit. Quickly reloading another round, Peter and others hear a blood-curdling roar echo throughout the forest. Before any have a chance to react, ten black figures burst through the trees and charge them. Blood and fury were in the air.

Without hesitation, Peter and Randolf begin firing their weapons.

“Offenes Feuer!” yelled Peter. Soon everyone was firing off rifles and machine guns, creating a hail of bullets in front of them. Some soldiers even threw a couple of grenades, adding more destruction. As the fury of bullets and grenades barrage the attackers, Randolf notices that some beasts are dying. The young brother believes that they are winning. The other soldiers begin to see this, too, and stop firing. The young soldiers all cheer, with smoke emanating from their guns and the beasts all lying dead. They had defeated their enemies. Randolf joins in the celebration.

However, Peter was not celebrating. Something was not sitting right with the older brother. This victory felt too easy. While everyone was cheering, Peter took his rifle and inspected the area where these creatures were. Kneeling beside the few dead and bullet-riddled carcasses, he notices in the soft soil paw tracks many more going in different directions. "Where are the others?" He follows the roads in the path leading away from their position. The ways were significant. Very big like a bear, but not as deep in the dirt. These creatures are fast and intelligent. It's here that Peter begins to put it all together. They only sent a few to bait them. That means there's still more out there—more watching them.

Suddenly, Peter hears a faint howling in the distance. His eyes widen with shock as the realization dawns on him. “Sie stehen hinter uns!” (They’re behind us). Running back to his men as fast as he can, he prays they are still alive. As he returns to their defensive line, he sees everyone celebrating. Firing his rifle, he shouts at the others, trying to get their attention.

Sadly it was too late. Emerging from the trees behind them were the remaining beasts. Before they knew it, the monsters were among them. Chaos and destruction envelop them. Fearing for his brother, Peter runs to their foxhole but does not find him. Terror was taking over him as he desperately searched for his brother. From behind, he hears the screams of men being torn to pieces. Making his way to the far end of the trenches, he finds two traumatized, numb souls huddled together between a smoking machine gun and ammo crates. Their faces, pale as bed sheets, gave empty blanket stares.

"Has anyone seen Randolf?" said Peter, trying to catch his breath. One soldier, trying to gather his words, said he saw one of the creatures drag him away, still putting up a fight. Peter's heart sank. He had failed to keep his brother safe.

"What do we do?" whimpered one soldier. Turning around, Peter knew the beasts would return, hungry for survivors. They needed a plan, an escape plan. One of the men stuttered, "The trucks, they're back at the camp. If we can reach them, we can escape."

"How!? We won't make it in time," said the other. Opening a box of Stein Grenades, he clips as many around his belt. As the two looked in confusion, Peter explained his plan to them. "It'll cause a distraction and lead them away from the trenches. Once I'm gone, go and get to the trucks as fast as you can and get out of here."

"What about you?" Peter chambers another round into his rifle. "I'll be fine. Just wait for my signal." Taking a deep breath, he hurls himself over trenches and into the open field. Grabbing two from his waist, he removes the safety pin and throws them in different directions. The explosions grab the beasts' attention. Grinning like a madman, he shouts at them.

Hier drüben seid ihr bastarde!” (Over here, you bastards!). Peter fires off a round into the air. And just as quickly, the beasts all begin to charge toward him. Seeing this as the signal, the remaining soldiers immediately leave the trenches to return to camp. With the others gone, Peter runs deep into the dense forest. Ducking over branches and jumping over fallen trees, he yells at the top of his lungs, keeping the beasts' attention. Throwing the last of his grenades, Peter stumbles over a rock and tumbles down a slight hill. Landing hard on his back, he lifts his head and sees a white star on the door. Scrambling to his feet, he discovers he is in the American encampment. However, something about the camp was bizarre. All the equipment was still there. Guns, tents, medical supplies, everything was still here, except for soldiers. Where were the Americans? As he searches the area, he enters the officer's tent and finds a classified document titled: OPERATION LYCAN. Opening the tan file, he began to read and discovered the horrifying truth. Finding himself invested in the information, he failed to pick up a familiar foul odor.

"Aren't we nosey," said a deep voice. Peter quickly turns around and sees the leader of the beasts with his men behind him. Here, Peter could get a full view of what had been attacking his fellow men. It had a sizeable wolf-like head with small straight ears, a broad chest, massive paws, and a large mouth that exposed huge teeth. Its fur was red and had a white streak down the back. He quickly recognized who it was, the familiar red-stained fur. Peter glares at the monster as it calmly picks bits of flesh from his teeth.

"What the hell are you?" shouts Peter. The beast looks at him, smiles wickedly, and shows a pair of dog tags around his neck. He rips them off and tosses them at the German. Catching them, it read:

ROBERT H. HOMES

AKA, "BIG BAD WOLF"

USMC

"That's impossible," said Peter. He told himself this couldn't be true. But it was. Throwing the tags aside, he looks the wolf directly in the eyes. "So, what happens now?"

"My men have already seen to your friends' demise. You've lost, German." The wolf laughs evilly.

"So this is how it ends?" says Peter.

"For you, that is. We won." Peter shakes his head at the wolf.

"Not yet. I'm still alive. And from what I gather, you seem to be the alpha. I kill you, and your wolves will be leaderless." The mighty wolf chuckled at Peter's threat. As he sets himself on all fours, he remarks to the young soldier.

"Tell me, German, do you even know how to kill us?"

Peter clutches his rifle tightly in his hands, eyes full of rage. Before he charges, he answers the beast's question.

"I'm going to cut your damn head off. See if that works."

After the battle of Belleau Woods, the two survivors escaped the forest and returned to German command. When asked what happened, the young soldiers stuttered out a single phrase.

"Höllenhundes."

HellHounds.

July 12, 2023 21:55

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