| "Ils ne passeront pas" |
Set in OTL
|Type of Appearance:||Direct POV|
Pierre Barres was a French machine gunner during World War I. He participated in the Battle of Verdun, where he experienced periods of monotony fighting off rats, poor rations, dysentery and boredom punctuated by violence as he and his comrades fought off the German advance. The horror Barres witnessed left him and his comrades so numb that they did not realize that God's judgment, as prophesied in the Book of Revelation, had very nearly taken place on no-man's-land.
Barres spent a day of grousing with his colleague and loader Jacques Fonsagrive, including eating terrible rations, surviving German snipers, and dealing with dysentery. That night Barres and Fonsagrive heard a trumpet blast. Neither recognized it, and assumed it was the Germans. They prepared for a German attack, but were surprised to hear surprise shouts in the German lines. The Germans began firing, and an aerial bombardment began, one that Barres had never seen before. Barres initially believed that the Germans had found a way to carry flamethrowers on their airplanes. The flames that flew from the heavens were indiscriminate, killing Germans as well as French. After the initial surprise, Barres and Fonsagrive concluded that the bombardment wasn't "so much of a much." Nonetheless, one-third of the nearby Bois des Fosses was on fire.
The trumpet was sounded a second time. Barres and Fonsagrive saw an explosion in the sky that they assumed was a German plane that had exploded. Both commented on how the explosion looked like a great mountain burning with fire. It crashed into the Meuse River, causing the ground to shake.
A third time the trumpet sounded. Barres and Fonsagrive saw a parachute flare fall from the sky. Barres prepared for the Germans to fire, but they did not. The flare seemed to do little as it fell to the ground, but upon reaching the ground, the smell of wormwood filled the French trenches. Because wormwood was an ingredient in absinthe, Barres and Fonsagrive assumed that the Germans had fired a new weapon at them. However, neither could see what the Germans were trying to accomplish, as neither felt any particular ill effect.
Upon the fourth sounding of the trumpet, Barres noted that the crescent moon vanished. To Fonsagrive's panicked explanation, Barres suggested it was the German "absinthe". They expected the sun to come up, but when it didn't Barres decided to sleep. He dozed briefly, but when he awoke, the sun was full in the sky. Fonsagrive, who'd also napped, was surprised to see the sun as well, as were the men all along the French and the German lines.
Then came a fifth sounding of the trumpet. A shell dropped into no-man's land. Barres and Fonsagrive took shelter, expecting a German attack. When it didn't come, they cautiously peered into no-man's land, and saw a large crater. From the crater came monstrous locust creatures. Barres believed he'd been completely addled by the absinthe, and decided he was seeing the German attack. He began firing his machine gun. The hallucinations died, unable to run for cover. Barres was pleased to note that the Germans must also have been addled by the absinthe, for they mowed down their fellows with abandon.
A man also arose from the crater. To Barres, he seemed to change shape, first becoming a man in a German uniform with a red armband on his left arm. Then he appeared to be a pockmarked fellow with iron-gray hair and a large mustache. Both Barres and a German counterpart opened fire, killing the man.
Upon this man's death, cavalry came forward. The horses wore breast-plates. Their heads were those of lions. Their tails were snakes. Again, Barres mowed these men down, believing them to be Germans. The Germans also shot the cavalry down, making Barres' work easier for him. Barres fired until he saw nothing left alive.
Soon it began raining. Seven claps of thunder came with the rain. Then came a seventh trumpet blast. The rain turned to hail and intensified, and then ceased. Both Barres and Fonsagrive said "It is done" in unison, with an unearthly voice.
Then German planes attacked, and the Germans and the French began firing upon each other again. Barres went about his business, glad to be alive.