We were awoken in the early hours of the morning by the sound of fierce battle raging above us. The cacophony of war had crept closer throughout the day, and we could spot the flashes of dark sorcery on the horizon and the thick columns of smoke that rose high into the sky and spread out like a huge blanket of gray until it blocked out the sunlight. It was only when we began to hear the fell voice in the air that we were finally sent underground. We must take shelter in the caverns beneath the city, we were told – that was the only way we would survive the night.
It gives me great discomfort to sit here and describe those next few hours to you, and I do not think that I will ever be fully able to recount them, though I will do my best. We were sat there in the darkness for what felt like an eternity, sobbing and crying and praying for a quick end. The ear-splitting thump of the artillery grew louder with each passing barrage, and the caverns around us shook violently from side to side like it was built upon the thinnest of foundations. Like a human head being smashed again and again into solid rock, with only a matter of time before the skull is shattered and the rock is victorious, we too knew that it would only be a matter of time before the caverns came down around us and we would suffocate under the rock. Barely an hour had passed before the first person’s spirit broke and she began screaming out for help. I could do naught but roll over and try to fall back to sleep.
I drifted in and out of sleep throughout the morning; I dreamt of my family, of our farmstead back home, and of my wife – most of all I dreamt about my wife, and the last moments that we shared together before we were separated. My dreams were ever changing, shifting effortlessly from one to the next, but the sound of war was constant throughout and I could not escape from it. No matter how lush the fields of our farm looked, no matter how beautiful the face of my wife, the crackle of gunfire and the booming of artillery in the background was a constant reminder of what was waiting for me when I woke once more. I startled awake proper when the messerschmitts began screaming overhead, peppering the city with machine gun fire that crackled and fizzed like dying embers.
“The dark army is here, brother.” A voice called out. “ We will not survive the night.” I could not see his face, and neither could he see mine, but it did not matter. I felt his eyes upon me in the darkness, cold and calculated and unwilling.
“ It matters not, friend. “ I told him, “ We were dead the moment we came down here, perhaps even before that.” My voice was shaky and sounded rough and unfamiliar, I had not spoken aloud in a long time before that moment.
We sat and spoke for some time, sharing stories of back home and passing cheap whiskey back and forth until we were soundly drunk. He told me his name, where he was raised, why he had joined the war. His reasons were the same as everyone else’s; because his country needed him, that the cause was righteous and just. We sat there, awaiting our death, and we laughed at those sentiments – and we cursed the politicians and we cursed the national press and, most of all, we cursed the enemy.
Our cursing and our manic laughter was eventually cut short when we realised that all had gone quiet above. For a few brief seconds we all considered the possibility – that the battle was over, that danger had passed – but those thoughts were soon silenced, snuffed out like a candle leaving nought but darkness in its wake. It was the voice again, a menacing growl that sputtered and rumbled like a dying engine. The dark lord whispered to us all, and try as we might, we could not escape his voice. He offered us no mercy, granted us no surrender.
“Do you think our souls will make it to heaven?” I asked, “With the dark lord walking above us so freely?” I heard him look upwards and grunt.
“No, comrade… the heavens are closed on this night.” He said.