Smith watched the ridge intently, his eyes scanning the approach in the quickly fading light. The rolling hills were bathed in a crimson glow and a light breeze sighed through the scattered copses of trees, leaves twirling and drifting to the ground. He licked his dry lips, his hands loose on the stock of his Springfield rifle. He knew the Germans would be coming up that road, most likely on foot. From his vantage point in the high grass on hill 45, he had a clear shot once they came around hill 22. The rest of the squad was down a bit, ready to ambush with a few rifles split off to set up crossfire. Absently brushing dust from his cheek, Smith wondered what was taking so long. Jones and Mackenzie had sighted the Germans just a few clicks up the road and there had been no indication that they were setting up for the night. Where the hell were they?
Suddenly his ears picked up on something. An engine. Quickly, he looked over at the squad's position. He could see a few of the guys crouched among the brush, but knew they would be impossible to spot from the road. Hunkering down, he fixed his right eye on the sights of his rifle. Soon, they came into view. A small group of German infantry clad in field grey, a single light truck in escort. There couldn't be more than two dozen greys. Nothing him and the boys (and Wally's BAR) couldn't handle. This would be like shooting fish in a barrel. Peering down his sights, he noticed a cadre of SS nestled among the grey. Perfect targets. Just had to wait a bit longer.
Sighting on the high cap of an officer surrounded by a half dozen black clad Schutzstaffel, Smith exhaled before squeezing the trigger. The crack of the shot sent the officer down in a spray that looked black in the failing light. The Germans scrambled quickly as more shots rang out from the surrounding cover. Smith fired again, dropping a soldier that was limbering a nasty looking machine gun. The Germans struggled to find cover from the ambush that was ripping them to shreds on the open road. Survivors dove for bushes, trees and rocks or back towards the truck. Wally's BAR barked over the din of the rifles as it punched holes in the truck, leaving it smoking and inoperable. The Germans tried to fire back into the now dark brush and trees, but it accomplished little. Smith advanced carefully, watching the Germans. The sun had set and it was getting tough to pick put targets. The firefight had largely subsided with only occasional fire here and there. He moved towards where the SS officer had fallen. Crouching he peered towards the road and was startled. There was no body. Plenty of shiny, black blood in the darkness, but no body. He looked back to see Sergeant Andrews a few yards back and hustled back.
"What'd ya see?" Andrews grunted.
"I'm not sure," Smith answered, "But that SS bastard's body was gone."
"Maybe he crawled off or somebody dragged him away," Jones noted.
"Yeah, that's probably it," Smith conceded half-heartedly. But he wasn't convinced- he had plugged that guy straight on. There was no way he got back up. And he hadn't seen anyone trying to drag the body.
"Okay, everybody be on your toes," Andrew ordered, "We did all right, but we got two injured men and still some of them Krauts in the field out there so..."
"Ssh!" Smith interrupted, prompting a furious scowl from the sarge, "Listen!" Andrews looked like he was about to rip into the wiry marksman when suddenly he cocked his head. He heard it to. It was a low growling noise, guttural and meanacing.
"What the hell is that?" Jones cried pointing towards the treeline. Something big. It was coming at them. And fast. Another shout went up as another one of the shadowy beasts appeared from the left.
"Open fire!" Andrews roared, shouldering his Garand. Cracks rang out as the men fanned out, but the monstrous forms moved with superhuman speed. Smith fell back, looking for a suitable place to set up. Settling for a large rock he turned as he heard a terrified scream. Whipping around he saw one of the beasts had closed the distance. It paused a fraction of a second before clearing the remaining distance with a powerful leap. Time seemed to slow as Smith could make out horrifying details in the pale moonlight. Rough fur erupted from the beasts thick muscles. Huge fangs glistened and yellow, vulpine eyes glistened with rapacious anticipation as its claws reached for its helpless prey.
A shadow passed over the moon and everything was suddenly cloaked in darkness. Men's screams were drowned in gurgles; wet ripping noises and snarls and growls filled the shadows. Smith ran, blind panic filling him with urgency. He felt hot sour breath on his neck and could sense the feral killers in the darkness. His legs pumped endlessly in numbness, not caring about the branches and stones that tore at him. He gasped, the night wind burning his lungs like fire, but on he rand until the shrieks faded into stillness. The moon re-emerged, and Smith finally slowed, collapsing to his knees in the dust. Gasping like a drowning man, his breathing soon turned into sobs. Helplessly, he cried to himself in the darkness, fearing the nightmare monsters that should not be and hating himself for wanting to survive. Crickets and frogs warbled sympathetically to his anguished weeping. Distantly, a lone wolf-like cry keened in victory over the shadowy vales, soon joined by others as if in a chilling chorus to drown out the sobbing man. He knew they would pursue him. He knew they would catch him and kill him, just as they had his compatriots. He knew all of this just as he knew they were neither wolf nor man. For more terrible than the scene of fur, fang and slaughter had been the fact that on the arm of the leaping beast, Smith had seen a tattered armband emblazoned with a swastika.
Sep 21 2006, 9:32 am (Edited on Oct 3 2006, 3:05 pm)