Short stories by a young man

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The flesh of it had been…smeared, somehow, spread like butter over the rough dirt floor.

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Bones, already looking pitted and rotten, stuck out at random angles, like dead trees in a still swamp. The skull rested on one of the highest bunks, facing the doorway, ten gleaming white fingertip bones crammed into the cracked eye sockets. As one man went to examine it, he found the back of the skull had been crushed open, the rotting, sagging sponge of a tongue stuffed into the otherwise dry cavity. More remains were found, each seemingly more unsettling and strange than the last.

A ring of hands in a sandbagged watchpost, ten of them, fingers interlaced like a basket, the wrists ragged and broken. Two men in a tunnel, skin leathery and thin as mummies, eye sockets staring and empty, mouths locked impossibly wide, their clothes mere rags under an oily black scum.

The latrine sent even the hardiest back, gagging and shivering. Overflowing with excrement and offal, gobbets of meat bobbed and oozed in the foul sludge… the whole surface dotted with what looked like thousands of clean, slick eyeballs, nerves and tendons fanning out like goldfish tails.

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Corporal Lawrence was the first to find the hole, the other men loudly debating the better part of valor and their rapid withdrawal from the nightmare trench. It was small, in a section of fresh digging, the start of a new arm of trenches projecting closer to the enemy lines.

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No more than four feet across, it seemed to be the accidental uncovering of a natural chamber, the empty blackness of it defying investigation. Private Dixon, recovered and blessedly numb from his previous ordeals, saw the corporal prod the edge with his boot, then crouch to peer in…then suddenly slide in head-first before the private could so much as utter a shout of question.

The private was a good soldier, and rushed to the perceived distress of his fellow. When questioned later, he could provide little illumination as to what happened over the two minutes Corporal Lawrence spent in the hole. He could see nothing, the light of a torch seemingly gobbled up a few feet into that dense blackness. There were sounds…the rustle of movement over loose stone or rubble. An odd liquid shifting, a dry rustle that made him think of the insect husks he'd used to collect in the summer.

As he shouted for aid, there was a sudden upwelling of a repulsive stench, like a reptile house gone sour and old, and his fellow soldiers found him retching helplessly beside the hole when they came around the turn. It was as they rushed to Private Dixon's aid that the hand emerged from the hole. They stopped and raised rifles as one body, roaring for the owner of that pale, trembling hand to identify himself. As they watched, another hand joined the first, followed by the pale, shivering head of Corporal Lawrence.

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He was streaked and smeared with a tarry black ooze, hacking and coughing thinly as he hauled his body up beside that of the gasping private. As they moved to help the men, the corporal vomited up a heavy stream of the same repulsive slime that coated his body in smears and globs, his curled, shuddering body voiding more of it into his saturated, fouled pants. They were hesitant to touch him, finally doing so after the seemingly endless river of grime stopped pouring from him.

He was insensible, eyes rolling and wide, body as limp as a boned fish. The men quit the trench with all speed. Half-dragging the corporal, they ran with no thought to cover or death, only escape. They crossed in record time, falling into their home trench like so much cordwood, gasping and shivering, one man known to have bludgeoned a German to death with a brick curled on the floor in a sobbing heap.

The commanders moved quickly, isolating the men and trying to calm the most lucid for a report. What spilled out would have been immediately dismissed as lies and hallucination were it not for the earnest, pleading stares of those reporting. Command calmed them with explanations of battle fatigue and strange gas weapon tests…and shared silent, focused stares as the cowed men were ushered out.

Corporal Lawrence had little to report. Of his time in the hole, he could or would say little. He stated that he had slipped, and fallen into what may have been some long-blocked underground pool, or perhaps a buried latrine. Of the sounds and smells reported by the private, he had nothing to say, only that he had struggled a short time, then managed to get back out just as the men arrived.

Truly, he seemed none the worse for wear. In fact, he seemed in better spirits than many had remembered ever seeing him, favoring the commanders with a wide, giddy smile as he was dismissed with a warning not to discuss the events. The corporal proved a changed man over the next few days. He was more talkative, but quickly had men wishing for his old, unsettling silence.

He rambled about the joys of close spaces, of creation and destruction that seemed to spring up all around them. About human pleasures missed, the dimensions and ages of which made some men threaten Corporal Lawrence with a quiet and ignoble death…which only seemed to stretch the near-constant smile on his face even wider. Private Dixon, one of the corporal's bunkmates, whispered to a friend that he had woken once to find the corporal standing over him in the night, his eyes as bright and flat as silver dollars.

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They found the private the next day snarled in the barbed wire, his intestines spread nearly ten feet around him in every direction. Not one man from that trench survived the Great War, although few died in battle. A wave of sickness took the trench a few days after Private Dixon's death. A strange wasting sickness, it seemed to eat the flesh like acid, men waking to find previously healthy flesh eaten down to the bone, oozing and blackened.

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A sergeant was found in a latrine, beset by a living carpet of rats. They refused to quit the body even when shot, and attacked several men before the body was recovered. Relief finally came, the bulk of the men being sent to various hospitals, many wasting away before they ever reached a bed.

Corporal Lawrence was remanded to a French mental ward, transferred after several complaints from the hospital proper where he was first sent. It seemed his behavior hinted at a growing mental imbalance, culminating with an attempted sexual assault of a nurse, which ended with the loss of three fingers from her right hand, and the vision in her right eye.

The corporal would rant quietly to the other patients, whispers about endless halls, pursuits in the dark, flesh laid out like pages of a book. It was dismissed as so much war fatigue, even as his behavior grew less violent and more unsettling. He vanished several times from the ward, only to appear several hours later, as if nothing had happened.

Others on the ward clamored to be transferred from the whispering madman. A stale, musty foulness seemed to sit in the air wherever he stayed, and incidents of infection and the strange, consuming sickness that had beset his home trench seemed to follow him like a cloud. Numerous attempts were made to transfer the man, only to be met with bureaucratic confusion.

No records were found of the man. No entry papers, commendations or incidents, not even a birth certificate. Through it all he sat, for hours on end, cross-legged on his bed, occasionally humming tunelessly, or rambling off the names of his ward-mates between short, bubbling giggles. Corporal Lawrence and eighteen men vanished one November night, between a five minute nurse rotation at three in the morning. The room reeked of rust, oil, mold, and sweet rot. Thick, black swaths of crumbling ooze coated the beds and several of the walls, wide patches of it smearing and eating into the floor.

Of the men, there was no sign, at first. As they searched, one nurse shifted a bed aside, only to shriek and nearly trip across one of the sunken, reeking depressions on the floor. In a tight, perfect spiral were what appeared to be hundreds of teeth, resting neatly on the floor.

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After counting, they accounted for the total of all the teeth of every living soul in that ward…but one. The corporal was never found, nor were the men.

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The incident was swallowed by the constant barrage of horrors from the front, and forgotten with ease. Stories of a cursed trench wandered across the front lines, often squelched for being bad luck. Still they came…stories of strange deaths, of disappearing men, found days later, alive, but broken and twisted beyond comprehension.

Stories of a strange, dark figure stalking the bomb-riddled towns of Europe. This may be the only known image of Corporal Lawrence ever recorded, taken several days after his return from the hole in the German trench. Create account or Sign in. International SCP Hub. GoI Formats. Explained SCPs. The majority of the guests, among whom were many journalists and intellectual men, disapproved of the death penalty.

They considered that form of punishment out of date, immoral, and unsuitable for Christian States. In the opinion of some of them the death penalty ought to be replaced everywhere by imprisonment for life. Capital punishment kills a man at once, but lifelong imprisonment kills him slowly.

Which executioner is the more humane, he who kills you in a few minutes or he who drags the life out of you in the course of many years? The State is not God. It has not the right to take away what it cannot restore when it wants to. Among the guests was a young lawyer, a young man of five-and-twenty. When he was asked his opinion, he said:. To live anyhow is better than not at all. A lively discussion arose. The banker, who was younger and more nervous in those days, was suddenly carried away by excitement; he struck the table with his fist and shouted at the young man:.