Trekking through muddy ditches and over tangles of sharp metal wire, with screaming artillery passing overhead and bullets whizzing so closely by, he went.
Though many knew of the creature that could cast a shadow in the darkness, no sane man had seen it for himself. There were stories that passed ear to ear through the trenches, spoken softly beneath both moon and candlelight in dugouts, by not only the British but the French and German soldiers too. The stories varied but most told of the shadow of a man that stalked those who were unfortunate enough to venture above the trenches, or those who had long lost limb to gangrene, or those who aimed a shot at the most unfortunate time, taking one in return. You see, the list will go forever on. Men were to die every day, for millennia to come - but for him, this was the most lucrative place to complete his role.
Men who described the figure in the darkness - who had seen their friends and sometimes family die (and those who had not already been deemed clinically insane) - said how they had caught a brief glimpse of a man taller than most, cloaked from head to toe in tattered faded fabric, returning to the darkness - or seemingly disappearing altogether. They said how the figure hauled a leather sack over his shoulder, with the screams of their friends who had been beside them only moments before, echoing from it.
Possibly the most distressing report came from the early days of the war. The report came from a matron working on the western front describing one specific night where the wind was billowing against the dull canvas of her field hospital howling through the gaps and carrying the sounds of gunfire in the distance and rain pounding on the roof and leaving large puddles along the walkway. The matron reported the cloaked man emerging from the storm, tearing in to the tent with the wind whipping around his far too thin legs. She described the sudden awakening shouts of terror followed by the swift silencing hand of his skeletal figure, clawing at the air in front of each man, with the glint of life disappearing from their now empty eyes as they collapsed backwards into their individual cots.
It was not her story that stood out to me - as frightful as it is, it is one of hundreds of similar reports. A small news clipping from a few days later is what made the story from the matron stand out. The news clipping read as follows:
"Saddened by events following last evening, Saturday the third of April, her family regretfully announce the death of Nurse E. Fennel, sadly taking her own life following events unknown."
And so, her voice joined the thousands of others that echoed from the leather sack carried by the cloaked figure, as he returned to the darkness.