The Cathedral
  

 

Winter winds howled through the small German village.  Dark clouds covered the sky, sending snow in thick sheets to the ground.  Lieutenant Dan Callon shivered again as he cautiously peered out the window of the abandoned home.  The frigid breeze took the snow and twisted it, thus appearing as haunted specters moving up and down the empty village streets.  His team just arrived at the town shortly after noon.  His orders were simple, secure the church, eliminate all hostiles, and take no prisoners.  And most importantly, bring back any item of uniqueness or value, no questions asked.

Dan was not the one to question orders either.  His squad of ten was hand picked, each a marksmen, seven armed M1903A4 sniper rifles, 45 caliber hand guns, M3 “Grease Gun”, and three held only the Browning Assault Rifle (BAR to the typical soldier), M3s,  and 45 caliber pistols.  An odd team it was, but he was told that his enemies would be difficult.  Head shots were critical.  Callon assumed some new type of German armor.  The German scientists were constantly coming up with new war toys to throw at the Allied Forces.

He pulled out his stopwatch; 4:49 PM was the time.  The skies did not look promising; it was going to be a cold night.  The town was small; the largest feature was the Gothic Cathedral at the west end.  The approach was tricky; a large park lay before the church, and swept around to the north and south.  It was a good hundred foot of clearing, no obstacles.  The western approach held the town’s cemetery; the grave markers would allow a somewhat concealed advance to the rear.  The park on the north and south sides of the house of worship was further bordered by a small forest copse, which also wrapped its way around the graveyard.  This allowed access to the back all the easier.

This of course was all assessed by maps; Dan had yet to see his objective.  They had snuck in at the north central part of town, along the main road way.  He expected some resistance to this point, but something was wrong, there was no one.  Not that there was a lack of soldiers, there was a lack of citizens.  The town held no population, or none that Dan had seen as of yet.  Being it was a small village; Dan was assuming that the Nazi soldiers were holding the villagers at the Cathedral for some reason.

The street being clear, he opened the front door to the empty home, the entered from the rear, off an alley.  He peered east, briefly, only to spy more snowy ghosts dance in the coming darkness.  He then looked west.  He could see the church’s steeple from here.  He could see a sandbag bunker in front of the church, along with the tip of the MG42 machine gun.  He also could ascertain movement, but could not make out the detail.  However, it was indeed a Nazi helmet.   He scanned his binoculars upward, following the steeple.  There too sat an identical MG42, it appeared to be two of them, one pointed west, the other east.

“What do we have, L.T.?” Conrad Sommers asked.

“From here,” Dan answered, “we’ve got three machine gun stations, one at the door, two in the bell tower.”

“Original,” Sergeant Sommers added.  “Any others?”

“Can’t tell,” the Lieutenant said as he came back into the home.  “Simms, I want you to take position at the hotel.  The third floor balcony faces the church door.  When we’re ready, take out the gunners.”

Simms nodded.

“Church,” odd name for a fellow on this mission Dan thought, “Take Owens and Fitz and cover the front.  When the back is hit, charge in.”

James Church slung the BAR over his shoulder, “Done L.T.”

“Sommers, take Harrison and Sutherland and get to the southern corner of the cemetery, I’ll take Erikson and Crowley here and come in from the northern corner.  When you see me advance, begin your run in.  Take it slow and quiet.  We don’t want the Nazi’s killin’ any of the civs, so get as close as we can.  Simms, when you see my light flash, that’s the go signal.”

“Gotcha covered L.T.” Simms responded.

 

An hour later, the sun was gone.  It bitterly cold as Simms knelt behind a shuttered window next to the balcony.  He held the rifle firmly as he looked through the scope.  His right eye focused on the crosshairs, placed gently in the middle of the chest of the German Gunner.  He needed to drop this one first; he did not have a clean headshot - the son of a bitch was standing - and then take out the gunner facing west.  His left eye kept a close watch on the north corner of the cemetery, waiting for that go ahead flash.

This was going to be tricky, even for some one as good as Larry Simms.  It was mere silhouettes he was firing at.  There was no light, he could not understand how the guards expected to see anyone, and the snow, was only adding to the difficulty.  But, Simms was the best, or so he told himself.  Erikson, Sutherland, Callon, Harrison, Owens, and Fitz were good, but he was the best.  This would be one for the history books.  Two targets, two shots, clouded moon, and snowing.  He was not a mathematician so he did not know the odds, but who cared, it was a sure bet with him.

A pale yellow light blinked in his left eye, the L.T. was ready.  His finger was freezing, his body was shivering, but he took two deep breaths and stilled himself.  He blinked his right eye once to focus through the scope.  He held the reticule dead center, what should be the heart of the ghostly figure, and waited.  In a few moments the clouds parted, a sliver of moonlight illuminated the steeple and Simms fired.

Before the clouds concealed his vision once more, Larry Simms saw the bullet penetrate the soldier, but the man did not fall.  He placed his hands on the trigger of the gun and knelt.  As he loaded another round, Simms saw two glowing red eyes glare over at him, cutting through the darkness.

“What the fuck,” he said, the machine gun began to roar, bullets slamming into the wall beside him.  Some one from Church’s grouped fired; he ignored it, fixing his sites on the steeple.  Simms fired again, the shot trailing a straight line, separating the two beady red glows.  They grew faint, the gun fell forward.  Shaking his head, a shot from below rang out; Simms grabbed another round and started placing it in the chamber.  Bullets peppered the wall below him as the gunner at the door opened fire on him.

How the fuck could they see him, he thought, but that was last.  The bullets tore through the shutters, tearing off his hand as he loaded the rifle and boring holes through his flesh in his upper shoulder and throat.  For a moment, a brief wonderful moment, he was warm.

 

With Owens and Fitz in the second story windows of the home behind him, James Church leaned against a cold stone wall that was about four feet high and more than likely over a hundred years old.  Corporal Church often felt terrible about the history that this war was destroying, buildings, walls, fortresses, castles, and cathedrals like the one he was watching down the barrel of his Browning.  But fortunately, tonight was like a raid, kill the troopers, free the citizens, and scarf up the secrets, leaving the church intact.  Well, mostly any way, for it was bound to sustain some damage in the assault.

Crack.

The sniper rifle shot echoed down the empty streets.  Here we go, James thought, ready as he could ever be.  But something was wrong, the steeple gunner fired back, so either Simms missed, which was not likely, or the other gunner took over.  He waited; Simms was taking an eternity, why was he not shooting?

At that time, either Owens or Fitz fired, he watched the ground gunner at the door drop, but another soldier stood next to him taking up the machine gun.  Finally Simms returned with his second shot, this one taking the steeple gunner out, his weapon fell to the ground below.  A second M1903A4 shot rang off from above him, to soon to be the same shooter, thus it was the other.  But the gunner still held the weapon as he continued to fire volleys into the hotel.

Church opened fire on the door gunner, who turned the machine gun toward him, with out ceasing his fire.  Twenty .30-06 rounds slammed into the Nazi chest, ripping it open and knocking him backward, but not down.  The bullet hewn dead man staggered back to the machine gun and sent a burst his way.  James ducked behind the wall as he reloaded the magazine.  This was unreal, no one could stand there and take a full magazine in the chest and live.

He saw the flash above him, along with the loud retard of the rifle and the repeated twang of metal smashing stone ceased.  Church flung his rifle up and around and again positioned himself along the wall.  The door opened, several humans staggered out, one grabbed the M42 and began firing at the home behind him, above him.  Two shots sounded out as he opened fire.  This magazine nearly ripped one in half, but on the ground the thing still tried to crawl toward them.  As Owens and Fitz would drop one holding the M42, another would continue.  It was non-stop as villagers stammered out of the cathedral, eyes gleaming red.

He heard a thud behind him; he glanced for only a second to see Fitz on the ground, his head nearly blown off.  Another shot from Owens indicated that he was still with him.  James turned around; there were fifteen or so, only sixty or seventy feet away.   He dropped the empty B.A.R. and swung the “Grease Gun” around.  The sub-machine gun let loose a rat-a-tat-tat as he stood and tore the walking townsfolk to pieces.  But they did not stop they kept coming.  Chest tore open, arms shot off; only Owens’s headshots were dropping them.

They were on top of him when the M3 magazine was empty.  He drew his pistol and fired point blank into the fore head of three, the heads exploding on impact.  He swore he was still shooting as his arm was tore away by the undead mob.  Reaching for his bayonet did him no good he felt his chest split.  There was pain, but only briefly.

 

Dan made his way to the graveyard; there was no guards back here, which he felt was odd, only the gunner in the steeple.  He crouched down in the tree line, blew warm breath into his cold hands.  He swung the sniper rifle off his shoulder as Erikson and Crowley knelt next to him.  Both men nodded to him that they were ready.  Callon looked to his left and spied the flash of a lamp at the southern edge of the cemetery.  Sommer’s team was ready.  He nodded to Erikson.

“Ready,” the private said as he flashed the lamp twice to alert Simms.

Dan Callon lifted his rifle to the steeple, placing the crosshairs on the shadow of the soldier that was facing him.  Then he waited until he heard the tell-tale crack from the east side of the church.  The moon crept out, a shot sounded.  Callon fired.  The soldier dropped from the steeple slamming into the snow covered ground.  He glanced left, Sommers was on the move.  He waved Crowley forward.

The skilled soldier ran, and then hit the snow behind a grave stone, quickly placing the sights of his B.A.R. onto the rear door.  He waved to Erikson, who ran down the wood line, north of the church and cemetery.  Dan swung his rifle back over his shoulder, grabbed the M3 sub-machine gun and ran and slid behind a monument.

He was concerned about the amount of shooting from the front, but he knew his men.  They were the best and this was giving him the perfect opportunity.  He waved to Crowley, who quickly crawled, rolled, and shimmied behind another marker.  He was about to make a run further when screams from the other side of the graveyard sliced through the air.

Sommers and his team seemed to be in hand to hand combat.  Some one was attacking them, and it was close.  Flashes from .45s and M3 were short.  They gave him a chance to see that some one was assaulting them bare handed.  What the hell?  Bare handed?  What kinda craziness was this?

Suddenly Crowley cried out.  Dan turned and looked ahead.  Something was coming out of the ground, tearing at his private.  The soldier was rolling over, pulling the creature with him, out of the grave.  Another clawed it’s way free next to Crowley, he screamed again as he was being tore in half by the two things.  Things, what else could he call them, that was all Dan could think of.  He was in a temporized state; he knew not what to do.  But his delay was only killing Crowley.

Head shot, Command said headshots were imperative.  Those fuckers knew, they knew what was here and did not tell them.  He stood, pissed off at his superiors, pissed off at the loss of his men due to ignorance.  Had he known, this would not have gone down this way.  Had he known would he be here?  Yes, he was a loyal soldier; all he needed was the truth.

The M3 fired; he aimed at the heads of the two that held Crowley, their useless gray matter splattering the gravestones that marked where they crawled from.  “Back to Hell you bastards,” Dan screamed.

He looked down at his friend; Crowley was bleeding from the mouth as he tried to hold his left side on with his dying right.  Dan pulled out his pistol, aimed it at the soldier.  “I’m sorry,” he said as he fired, placing the .45 bullet square in his forehead.

He looked toward the wood line, he saw Erikson standing there, in the dim moonlight.  The soldier was in shock.  Suddenly the private lifted his rifle and fired once.  Dan felt the bullet buzz pass his ear, then heard the thump on the ground behind him.

Dan looked at the glanced to his rear, the zombie, that was now what came to mind, was dressed like a villager, and probably was.  He reloaded his M3 and held it in his left hand, his pistol in his right.  He turned toward the church and charged.

How many he killed, or how many Erikson knocked down he did not know, but both weapons were empty by the time he reached the Cathedral.  He quickly reloaded each and turned toward the rear door.

Kicking it in, he rolled to the floor.  Two Nazi soldiers fired at him from an adjoining room.  He dropped the pistol, pulled a grenade and let if fly.  The explosion sent both flying.  A door beside him was pulled open as a S.S. soldier ran in.  The M3 tore his unsuspecting midsection to shredded meat.  The man dropped to the floor holding his guts.

As far as Dan was concerned, there was no reason to assume the villagers were not all like those that had attacked him and his men, so he freed another grenade from his belt.  He pulled the pin and tossed it into the room the SS trooper emerged.  The boom rang out as did the dying screams of those in the chamber.  He stood, grabbed both guns, and made his way into the smoke.

He found no resistance as he made his way to the sacred altar.  It was now defiled by a priest in black robes, looking up at him.  Dan shook his head, lifted his pistol.

“I’m just an innocent here, hired by the Nazi’s”, the man said raising his hands.

“There are no more innocents here,” Dan returned and fired once, the bullet struck the man in the forehead.  He was taking no chances.

He moved around the altar, looked at an odd metallic piece.  He scanned over a few documents, many were in a language he did not know, and some were in German.  He made out a few words.

The Witch of Endor.

The Witch’s Talisman.

He did not know what it meant, but it was clearly why he was sent.  He pulled it all off the altar into his shoulder bag.  When he was finished, he turned to leave.

He stopped as he looked up to see the rest of the villagers, all dead, standing at the entrance of the Cathedral.  He about cried as he saw Church, Owens, and Simms standing with them, their eyes gleaming red.  He turned to see more soldiers come out from the sacristy.  He stepped back as Erikson, Harrison, and Sommers walked out of the room.

“No,” he yelled as he lifted both weapons and began to fire.

 


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Michael Robinson
Short Story
Super-natural
writing Michael Robinson
"I believe in a world of angels and demons, ghosts and ghouls, zombies and vampires. I love a world of elfs and dragons, heroes and villians. Evil and not so evil. I enjoy walking that line of shadow between evil and good, light and darkness."
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Rating: 10.0/10

Synopsis
What Lt. Dan Callon thought was to be a typical mission on a cold december evening during World War II became a fight for his survival. It was a small German town, occupied by Nazis, and Callon and his men (most of which were sharp shooters) were simply told to liberate it, clear out all enemy presence and acquire important "technical" data. What they encounter at the "Cathedral" was what he consider Hell on Earth.
Published Date
2/12/2008 12:00:00 AM
Published In
Deliver Us From Evil Horror Anthology
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