The Armoire Room
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Set in a world where the life you lead may not be everything -- a place where lessons and love come one eternity at a time. Follow Nathan, an American GI stuck in the trenches during WWII, as he discovers death may not be as final as presumed. An eerie theater, a mysterious bar that holds more within itself than first meets the eye, and the most beautiful woman Nathan has ever laid eyes upon, Emma; all bombard him as he struggles to remember who he is. Do memories make the man, or is there something deeper? Something that can be the greatest good -- or the darkest evil? War ripped him apart; now those brutal memories are all that's left. Join Nathan as he struggles to unearth the mystery surrounding the strange world -- The Armoire Room. Will Nathan and Emma be able to save themselves before being overcome by darkness? Only time will tell -- and time can stretch for an eternity in The Armoire Room.
Feb 2 1945
A Trench Outside Normandy, France
Mud caked everything. The stairs were buried in the stuff, and the bottom of the trench ran a murky brown as pooling blood mingled with water, urine and vomit.
Shells exploded overhead in steady cadence, each blast raining shrapnel down onto the trench's occupants. The men living in the trench had built overhead reinforcements to block the shrapnel, but the thin tin they'd scavenged from other destroyed trenches only did so much. The ripping hot shards of metal still found their way through to the floor and into the men beneath.
What the shrapnel failed to accomplish, the rats finished.
Black, mangy rats as big as a man's thigh lived in the always full holes alongside the trenches. You killed one rat and seven others took its place. You plugged a hole and the rats dug a new one. You find one chewing on your nose in the middle of the night, you better bet another dozen are below your sodden cot waiting for their turn at the buffet.
Sergeant Nathaniel Bulyard sat in his position as he had for the past six months. He'd sat through rain, snow and attacks from the Nazi charges on the opposite side of the mine-infested No Man's Land between the two belligerent forces. Other men had come and gone, some taking lead or losing a leg to a mine the day of their arrival – but not Nathan. He persisted as a grim specter of the war, growing numb to the atrocities and daily horrors as men he knew and didn’t know, died.
He'd long since come to the conclusion that hell wasn't all fire and brimstone as the Good Book said.
“Bulyard – any action from across the way?” Captain Culver asked as he slid into the seat beside Nathan. The trench they defended was ten feet deep from the lip above them, before the slick of bloody mud began below. Atop the upper lip of the trench ran a fence of sorts which allowed for good cover from enemy fire and kept men on watch out of the mud below.
The mud would eat your feet if you didn't stay dry.
Gray, cold rain pissed down from the February sky. The tin above Nathan's head did little to stem the flow of water – more concentrating the droplets into streams as each found its way into an old shrapnel wound in the corrugated metal.
“None to note, Cap,” he said just loud enough to be heard. The constant barrage from the German forces made it hard to talk at times, but Nathan had learned over long hours how to make himself heard without shouting. It was quiet now, aside from the rain, but the storm was still loud enough to block out much of the surrounding noise, or quietly spoken words.
Culver nodded absently and scratched at his shorn scalp under his green GI helmet. His captain's bars glittered under the mud caked surface of the helmet. He’d come out a lieutenant, but had put on captain quickly. His predecessor had been shot and the battalion needed a captain.
“They've been awfully quiet out there. You think they're planning something?”
Nathan shifted and brought his M1 Garand rifle to sit between his legs from where it lay on the boards below. He squinted across the rain-blurred battlefield and tried to make out any movement from the enemy. He wouldn't call the environment 'quiet' in any sense, but there hadn't been an attack in days – an oddity as far as Nathan could tell.
“No. I don't think they're planning much of anything other than trying to survive. Can't say we're doing much more here. This rain wears on a guy.”
Culver grunted in agreement and sniffed.
“You have a go home date yet?”
Nathan shrugged. Go home dates were like ghosts. You might catch a glimpse of one on a slip of paper for a minute before it disappeared into some other man's hands who needed it more. A missing leg or catching lead always got men home early. Healthy, hale men were always needed in the trenches.
Nathan wanted to go home. Needed to, but what was he to do? The only way out was in a body bag or seeing the war end. Nathan didn’t want the first scenario and the latter wasn’t realistic. The news from other fronts was alright, but that didn’t help anyone who lived and fought in the trenches along the Western Front of the war.
“Did they announce the war's over?”
Culver laughed and stomped his feet against the boards to force circulation through his feet.
The fighting had been bad when it had started, after Pearl Harbor – but even worse was the waiting. In the waiting lay cold and stagnation, both of which were best avoided if a guy were to keep his feet and toes healthy. The rot set in from the bottom up most times. First the toes, then the feet. Legs followed by hips, by dick, by belly – by that point you were dead or you wanted to be. Gangrene and disease killed almost as many men each day as the Germans did.
“No, I don't think the Krauts are gonna give up yet. They've got a good thing going trying to rebuild the Roman Empire. Would you give up if you were that close to a goal that big?”
“I would if it meant I could go home and see my family,” Nathan said.
“I never have asked – you got kids?” Culver withdrew a thick leather wallet from his back pocket and leafed through useless dollar bills and old business cards. He withdrew a single pristine black and white picture and handed it to Nathan who took it gingerly between his index finger and thumb.
Pictures were hard to keep clean in the trenches and the act of sharing one, of exposing the precious object to the elements, dictated a certain amount of care between the participants.
In the picture stood a statuesque woman with six small children scattered around her feet. The tallest neared the bottom of her considerable bust, while the youngest sat swaddled in a crib to the side of the picture.
“Good looking family – you got busy early on.” Nathan said as he handed back the photo.
Culver couldn’t be older than twenty-five. It was hard to imagine he and his wife had had six kids already, but it was true.
Culver nodded and after a longing glance tucked the photo away in his wallet before the rain could get to it.
“Margery is a good woman – one of the best. We grew up together and got married right after high school. Both of us always wanted a big family and, well,” he grinned sheepishly, “it's almost as much fun raising the little bastards as it is making them.”
Nathan cracked a smile and pulled out his own wallet and withdrew a smaller, battered picture. The image had faded from long hours in the sun and rain, but if you were careful and held the photo in the right light you could make out the form of a woman and two small children – a boy and a girl, both wearing grins and their Sunday best. The three peoples' faces were blurred and missing, but the idea of the image was what kept Nathan looking at it.
Culver took the photo with as much reverence as Nathan had taken his. He spent a minute studying the picture, tucking it under his arm as a lone artillery shell went off overhead to protect the image, and then handed it back to Nathan once the danger had passed
“Good looking family. I bet they miss you something fierce.”
“The letters I get keep me going, but I do want to get back.” He looked sidelong at the Captain, probably a year younger than Nathan, maybe less, and continued, “Some days, reading notes from home makes a body want to take a bullet or step on a mine, just for the chance to see their family again.”
Culver nodded, “That it does. It's hard out here.”
“Too hard for some.”
“I can't blame the men who take that road.” Culver said, “Some call them cowards, but I think the men saying those things just don't let themselves feel anything other than hate. It's a way to get through this mess.” He spat into the mud below where a rat swam through the morass with a shred of carrot gripped in its jaws. At least it looked like a carrot.
Culver pointed to the rain shrouded German lines beyond No Man's Land, “You think they feel anything other than hate? Love? Or is it just raw anger that keeps them fighting?”
Nathan shook his head, “I know they don't hate us – not most of them at least. I've talked with a few boys from their side who got stuck over here, wounded, captured or both. I had the chance to kill them, but I didn't have the heart to put them down when they weren't a threat. Medics and guards came and carted them away, but a few spoke decent English. The common men, like us, in the trenches, just want this to be over. The minority, the sycophants, want to keep this going for as long as they can.”
The rain beat down on the tin in a cruel staccato as gunfire erupted south of where the two men sat. Both turned to look down the way. The action they were hearing, like the German line beyond No Man’s Land, was obscured by the rain and existed to them only in sound and in the shocking vibrations as explosions went off and shook the wood bulwark the two men sat on.
They would have gone to help if the fighting had been closer, but as it sat they were out of range to do much other than wait. Even if they rushed there, the chances were that the fighting would be over and all that would be left was mopping up.
“Things were too quiet,” Nathan said, as a loud clatter of gunfire rose above the rest. It sounded like a large caliber machine gun – something from the Allied side, “they were just marshaling a raid. They'll probably try here tomorrow or the next day – this is the closest the two lines come. Last week, their sappers tried to run a gas line over but I took one out before he got halfway through No Man's Land.”
Culver shivered, “They ought to outlaw that stuff. You seen what that gas'll do to a man?”
Nathan nodded, “Yup.”
Culver cleared his throat before looking across the rain drenched minefield as the battle south of them intensified and shook the earth with gargantuan explosions. The rain fell, and the two men waited as the clouds gathered overhead and grew black and heavy with rain and lightning.
Feb 2 1945 - Part 2
Culver lay dead at Nathan's feet. A bullet had taken off half his head, and blood and gray matter mingled with the drying mud underfoot. The rain had stopped for the time being, and in that small window, the Germans had attacked. The bullet had taken Culver in the spot he’d scratched at, not an hour prior. That fact wasn’t lost on Nathan.
The attack to the south had been a distraction and the rest of the line hadn’t been ready. This was the biggest attack that had come across the field in weeks and complacency among the Allies showed in that moment as wave after wave of Germans flooded over the trenches, sacrificing dozens of men as fodder to clear the way of both enemy and friendly mines.
“Get to cover!” Nathan yelled to the yet-living men of his squad. With Culver dead, it fell to him to make sure that the rest of the men in their platoon had a fighting chance.
An explosion went off to Nathan’s right and he felt hot shrapnel and dirt bite into his face.
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