by Max Barry

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Link“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.” - Voltaire.

February 21st, 1916.


No feeling was superior to worry that day. It seemed as if even the high command was paranoid. News was transmitted to them only days prior, stating that German troops were advancing into Verdun, and that the approximately seventy-five divisions both near and around the city are to remain on high alert. I, no, no man, hasn't been this paranoid since the start of the war. Verdun was my birthplace, after all.
For a while, it appeared as if the "attack" wasn't going to happen. And for a moment, everything appeared calm.

And then, they came.

I then saw a wave of 600 German soldiers charging towards the trenches. Not only that, but the sound of artillery going off in the distance made it outright impossible to venture into no man's land, as if dealing with a battalion's worth of men charging at you wasn't deadly enough. The trenches were being overrun with Stoßtruppen while French troops charged at them, rifle in hand, ready to sacrifice themselves for the motherland. I then saw a German infantry soldier charging towards me, and so I picked up my rifle and began charging towards his path.

Him and I had fought each other for five minutes, trying to overpower the other with the butts of their rifles. Though in the end, I had come out on top, pushing the soldier to the ground, and shoving my bayonet into his stomach. And again, and again, until he laid there, dead. At first, I didn't feel anything abnormal, though, after a few minutes, I felt sick. Sick at the fact that I had killed a man once again, that I took an innocent life, was to me, irredeemable. I hadn't killed anyone on the battlefield in almost 20 years, and as such, I was uncomfortable with myself having killed a man in cold blood. I vomited on the ground, though I stopped when I felt that the rest of the troops had noticed me.

The thought of killing a man who has done no wrong to me was still something I had considered repulsive at best. The sheer thought of it was still a source of disgust, resentment, a sense of dread enveloping my mind faster than the beasts of the Marne swallowing her sons and would be invaders, without any change of course, even after decades, if not centuries, of combat experience. Peking had certainly not thought me well.

This wasn't a one-time event, as this would occur for well over 200 days. Countless failed pushes, counter-attacks, and trench bombardments became frequent, if not monotonous. It was, evidently, tiring for the troops, and having to deal with near-endless stress had driven some of them insane. 200 days of endless bombardment, increasing casualties, and overall hopelessness had, in other words, led men to suicide.

Some would into the enemy's bayonets. Others would suffocate themselves. While some would simply let the rats eat at whatever was left of them away. Horrific, it was, but it was the only way out to some. C'est la guerre.

"Wir sind verloren, wir sind verloren."

Every night, I would hear chants, cries even, of tired, fatigued soldiers. Some of the happiest, most energetic men in his battalion had been reduced to shaken, almost dead men. They would constantly talk about how they wished to be killed if it meant not being in the front lines anymore, reserve or not. Some would break completely on the spot, while others were fighting an uphill battle to stay sane. It was becoming more and more gruesome by the day. The morale of every battalion present at the battle was declining every single minute, it seemed, and it was inevitable that mutinies would begin occuring. More and more trenches were filled with the bodies of young, otherwise normal, men. Men with a family, parents, and a future ahead of them back at home, lay dead in the mud. As the days passed, the weariness, the paranoia, and the mutinies got worse. In the end, a group of 57 French and German troops congregated to plan out the assassination of both Phillipe Petain and Erich von Falkenhayn, and I was one of them.

OCTOBER 16TH, 1916

"Alright comrades, here we are." I said as I began welcoming the rest of the mutineers into the bunker.

"Now, what's the plan?" Asked a German soldier.

"The plan itself is rather simple," I had responded. "There are about 29 Frenchman and 28 Germans. One of us each go into their living quarters, place grenade with the safety pin still inside, lead them outsid-"

"Seems like a good plan, but how will we get the grenade in there? How will we lead them out? Most importantly, what will happen when the government finds out?" Asked a French soldier.

"Good question. The simplest answer to the first one is that they aren't in their quarters at the moment, meaning that once we return to our positions, then the plan will be executed. Now, troop suicides have been increasing, so we can use that as a diversion to shoot them. And besides, Falkenhayn is extremely unpopular among the German government, and Petain was outed as a spy for the Germans. If the government hunts us, then so be it. We shall not be slaves to them any further." I followed up.

"Fair, yet I must ask, why must we kill our own kin?" Asked another soldier. Then, all the men in the room asked the same question, some more willing to push the bill than others.

"Traitors have no place in a military."

"A traitor is subjective."

"Then the bullet is what defines one, in the end."

"So be it."

"Well then. Good luck comrades, this won't be an easy task. May God be with you all."

They all began leaving the bunker and as soon as they all left, I had felt something...odd. I could have sworn, no, I knew I had seen someone in the corner of the room a few minutes ago, yet they were gone. Then, from the distance, I heard a loud scream. It could be best comparable to that of a dying animal, a pig being culled. It may have been that of a soldier, yet at this point? I didn't know anymore.

Yet the figure reappeared, this time much, much closer than the first time. "Get away from me!" I yelled, yet it wasn't of any use. She was a tall, pale woman, she had her right eye missing, her throat had a large slash running through the middle of it, and her hands, her hands were extremely mangled, as if she was mauled by a bear of some sorts. Though the moment I saw her, she disappeared again.

"What the f*ck was that?" I had thought.

If only I had known.

One of the officers heard the screaming and ran towards the bunker to see what was going on. To my surprise, he found me near the corner on the bottom right of the bunker, shaking intensely.

"Corporal Antonin, are you alright?" Said the soldier in a heavy French accent, yet I couldn't understand what he said. The accent was too thick, even for me.

"Comrade, I am alright. I just tripped, is all." I replied, almost insisting that he leave.

"The battlefield has been tiring, hasn't it?" He asked.

"Why must you ask?"

"You haven't slept in six months."


"I know you haven't slept in months, Antonin. You are getting there."

"What do you mean by 'getting there'?"

"You shall see, amice."

8:17 AM
OCTOBER 17TH, 1916

I had awoken with a cough. "Must just be the wind.", I thought. Regardless, I didn't have enough time to process what happened last night, as a German battalion commander had stood near the doorway.

"They are waiting for you." He said.

"Perfect, is everyone ready?"

"From what I know, everyone is ready, though we haven't picked a sniper yet."

"Ah, so who's the best option at the moment?"

"Rudolf Heinster, 4th Infanterie-Brigade commander in the Heer, he was conscripted as soon as the war broke out. Served under Voorbeck first in Africa, then got sent to the Western Front. We thought he was able to do the job, but...."


"From my knowledge, the French have chosen you."

"How come?"

"Heinster got hit by an artillery shell. It hit his gun, killing him and wounding a comrade. You're our best shot at this moment, so they want you at the trenches immediately."

Confused, I ran towards the trenches to see as to why they didn't pick others, and had settled on me to kill Petain. I was then informed that the majority of the troops did not wish to participate, but rather attempted to convince the mutineers to take Petain hostage instead. In the end, they decided to choose me due to the hesitancy, unwillingness and fatigue of the rest of the troops. As for Falkenheyn? Already gone, as one of his own men stormed into his quarters, and shot him. God is the telegram so useful.

"Comrade, we've found out that Petain is arriving here at any moment. He wants to inspect the lines, as we've been told."

"Alright, so where do I hide?"

"Over there."

The soldier in question was pointing at a foxhole in the ground, meaning that I would have to be quick and steady. It would have been possible to use a tree, yet the majority were charred completely, which would either lead to me getting spotted, or getting shot by some guy with a lack of morale a couple of meters away from me. I grabbed his rifle and began running towards the foxhole. After that, I positioned myself near the hole, hiding behind a supply crate. I then said one more thing before the plan would truly commence.

"Comrades," I had yelled out, "In the event that this fails, remember one thing, that this plan was, simply put, not for our benefit, but for the benefit of Europe. The very fact that we are collaborating with our greatest enemy is a testament to that. Bonne chance camarades, et vive la France!"

As soon as I finished, Petain had arrived. He had appeared weary, tired, and overall, jaded. He knew that his troops needed a dire morale boost, else there would be a mutiny he could not control this time. Yet he was aware of the fact that nearly everyone in the French Army despised him to no end.

"Do not look at the enemy as human," I had remembered that Petain had told the troops: "the enemy shall and will remain an adversary to our survival. Let it be known that the German's attempt to dominate us once more shall not be tolerated. Remember 1871!"

I took aim, and fired my shot.

I was walking among the fires of hell, delighted, beset with intelligence, strength, and bravery.

Those above were engulfed with envy at my discovery, overwhelmed with hatred at the fact that I had striked the iron at the right time, when they were still waiting for the perfect moment. Maybe their envy was in the right place, maybe not. All I knew was that I found meaning in it all. I had survived, I had endured suffering, as delightful as it was horrific at times, no man stood in my way. I beared witness to enough artillery barrages to split the Earth in four, I longed for some, if any, interpersonal connection to ensue, and yet, I did not wait for it all to come to me. I took the opportunity when it ever so slightly presented itself.
Maybe I had engulfed myself far too much in the flames, and yet, for once, obzen had finally been achieved. Salvation, at long last, had been achieved not by failed promises, not by suppressing our internal desires, but by vomit and blood. We had finally achieved what Perun wanted us to do ever so long ago. He had sent the snake to entice us, to show us the path to light, to present to us, unwilling to follow, the instructions to salvation. I had done so. And yet, only a few followed.

Those men have my command, they are my subordinates, they must answer to my greatness. They must be willing to convert, by any means necessary, those who went against my word. We must bring them to our nation, we musn't allow not one of them to reject our word. If they do, we will force them to see our way, the right way.

I am not man's prophet, for I am his savior. I am Perun's Earthly embodiment. I am the all-encompassing God. I am the pure nation, the Ukrainian nation's saviour. I am a provocateur to some, a madman to the infidel, an emboldened ape to all who do not see reason. Yet, their word does not matter.

They are the subordinate, they are the blasphemer, they are the failure. My people have shown excellence, they are God's chosen, they have achieved true peace under my command. They will save this planet, once our heavenly crusade begins.

We are united under the Fasci. Under the Falcon, we are better together. With the cannon, under the rifle's barrel, with the tip of the sword, we are one. I will lead my people to times end.

We are the Übermensch. They are my chosen people. We are the ultimate diplomat. Si vis pacem, para bellum.