Monday, April 8, 2019

Horrors of War #AtoZChallenge


The 26 eclectic-genre short stories for my #AtoZChallenge are excerpts from travelogue notes by
novel character Gahlen, who first appeared in SHARDS OF MEMORY – Oral History in a Heartbeat.

Each A-to-Z daily post is a stand-alone tale - partly true, partly fiction.

Albert Reich [Public domain]–1942)_–_Sanitäter_(WW_I).JPG

Genre: European Conflict
(326 words)

“When Austria decided the June, 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife required political retaliation,” Georg continued, “it opened the gates of hell. By July they had a lengthy list of intentionally unacceptable demands. They presented them on 23rd July and succeeded to provoke war. Countries drew up sides, some decisions based on results of past wars. Along with so many of my countrymen, I was conscripted into the battle at age eighteen.”
He paused a moment before continuing.
“The deaths I witnessed were many. Destruction of property and forests was unimaginable. So many of us were young farm boys suddenly conditioned to become fighting soldiers. Even after lengthy field training, we remained mostly inexperienced. Some considered their new role romantic; others glorified the expected outcome. But none of us were prepared for what came.
“The personal discomfort I experienced occurred when both sides started to use poison gas. Our unit was exposed to the sulfur mustard spray multiple times. It smelled like rancid horseradish but burned like white-hot fire. Those unlucky enough to get caught unaware with their arms and necks exposed immediately showed signs of blistering. Medics were unable to keep up with the injuries, unprepared for the instant devastation, and several men were hospitalized.”
“I managed to stay fairly well covered all the time.” He rolled up one sleeve of his shirt, drawing attention to a faded patch of scaring. “That’s how I avoided the worst effects. My caution only served to keep me on the front lines of the war longer, drawing the poisonous air deep into my lungs.
“Shortness of breath from inhaling the gas became a problem that haunted me later. Eventually, my lungs would not work properly. That is why I could no longer work in the local coal mines. Maybe there was more moisture in the Bavarian salt mines, allowing me to continue working below ground. Mere speculation, and small comfort from the memories of war.”



  1. liked the way your words create impression of the story in mind. I will try to catch up with earlier posts also so that I can keep up the pace.
    Drop by my blog too, I am writing a fiction in flashback.

  2. Thank you for visiting and for your kind words about the story's impression upon you. Yes, I will check out your fiction in flashback today.

  3. Everything I've read about World War I leads me to believe it was a much more brutal conflict than World War II.

    1. Are these some of the reasons, John? Such total disregard for human life; poor/less advanced medical services; much closer hand-to-hand combat for bloodier battles.

  4. As much as I hate war it always seems to make its way into my fiction because it's rare that someone is not affected by it no matter where they're from. Great post! - Dragons & Spaceships

    1. Unfortunately, there has been little time in recorded history when war did not exist somewhere. Research also suggests war was common since the inception of humans. Of course, all of nature fights for what it/they consider their rights, for food, space, mates, etc. Is it that only humans take it to inhumane heights?

  5. Exactly, Donna. As John Holton mentioned above, a brutal conflict.

  6. The entire time I was reading this, I was imagining this as a play, and the speaker telling his tale to the audience. Great work!


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