From the Trenches: Passage From Reality

The Parisian Report (name of French Paper)
From the Trenches (name of Jean Pierre’s Column)
Passage From Reality (article title)
Jean Pierre Valois

Despite the nerve-wracking nature of the last escapade at the Reynard Mansion, I volunteered to go with for the second attempt to set up a field hospital there. Once again I was to ride in the ambulance loaded with medical supplies. I read a few letters from home in the back of the ambulance as Lt. Kemps and Corporal Grim talked amoungst themselves.

I assisted Nurse Alders with the medical supplies. I pocketed a few bandages for later. Somehow I knew they would come in handy. Though she did not speak any French, she managed to flirt and make the task seem less like work. She is a friendly young, British woman and I find myself keeping her company more and more often. I cannot stay with her unit forever though and do not wish to break the young girl’s heart when I leave. It’s best if I keep a little distance between us. I’m sure that there are British soldiers that would be better suited to her attentions.

I wanted to recover my camera. In the commotion of our last visit to the mansion, I had left it in the men’s billet. Using my miming skills, I conveyed to Nurse Alders that I wanted my camera back. At first she thought I was offering to take her picture again, but then she must have realized that I did not have the camera with me. She spoke to Doctor Reed on my behalf and we proceeded into the house.

After retrieving my camera, Nurse Alders motioned that she wanted to go upstairs. Since my curiosity of the house had been unsated during our last visit, I quickly agreed. The strange house captivated me and I wanted to see more of it.

We found a reading room upstairs. There were many old books. Nurse Alders was quickly grabbing books off the shelves and throwing them into a pile. She began to pour Kerosene over them. I believed she wanted to burn them! Many of these books were written in French. The Germans had destroyed much of my people’s cultural heritage. I was determined to save as much of our history as possible. Arguing with the nurse and grabbing the French books from her hands, I set them aside. I was not going to let her burn those books. The others were in written strange languages that I could not read. I hate to see any books burned, but I cared less for those.

Lt. Kemps and Private Olver arrived. They quickly got into a heated argument with the nurse. I assume they meant to stop her from burning the books. Private Olver collected many of the books, wrapping them up in a blanket. Doctor Reed arrived shortly thereafter, to join in the discussion.

During their arguments, I left the room with as many French books as my arms could carry. I quickly headed down to the ambulance to unload the books into the back of the vehicle. I found myself thinking that if I could hurry enough I could make several trips to the ambulance during the course of their argument and save many books.

As I piled the books in the back of the ambulance, I felt something sweep up behind me. I began to laugh uncontrollably as the thing tickled me. I felt my feet lift off the ground just before I blacked out.

I awoke to a strange sensation. I was flying, or falling quickly rather. There was a bright light, a bank of windows before me. There was nothing I could do to stop my momentum. I crashed into the windows, glass fragments scattered everywhere and my body slammed into a hard, wooden floor.

When I came to, the Lieutenant had his gun in my face. He was screaming and incoherent. I could not understand a word he said. My head was spinning. There was blood everywhere. I felt weak as a chill spread over me. There was much commotion across the room but I was fading in and out of consciousness. Nurse Alders leaned over me. I grabbed her hand and shoved it into my pocket. I hoped she would find the bandages there and use them to stop the bleeding.

When Private Olver came to question me about the incident, I tried to convey to him that a monster had attacked me. It made a hissing noise. It flew, but I did not think it was one of the creatures that make the “meep” noise. He seemed to understand most of what I told him.

Doctor Reed seemed alarmed as he hollered across the room to get my attention. He began to mime flight with flapping wings as he made the “meep” noise. I shook my head. No, this was something different!

Nurse Alders helped me to my feet. It seemed that we were leaving the mansion again. As I leaned on Alder’s shoulder for support we made our way down the hall. There was gunfire downstairs. We waited in the hallway, hoping the soldiers would clear the stairs and the foyer.

The smell of burning wood assaulted my nose. The house was on fire! We needed to get out of the mansion quickly. I tried to drag the Nurse with me, but she insisted on going to the stables. She made horse-like noises and pulled me in another direction.

The house was burning quickly – there was smoke everywhere. There was general pandemonium as everyone ran off in different directions. Eventually we all met up at the old chapel to spend the night barricaded inside. I was grateful for the chance to rest. I leaned up against the wall, prepared to protect Nurse Alders and the weary soldiers around me if the need should arise.

We slept or sat in silence in the dark. The door was blocked and we were safe, for the most part. It felt as though we were surrounded by evil that night and the walls of the chapel were our only protection.

The night wind carried a desperately sad song to my ears. A young girl was outside. Her voice sang a terribly sad and eerie lament. I could not bear the thought of opening the chapel doors and letting anything else inside. I kept the song a secret and told no one.

In the morning light, we found a managed woman outside of the chapel. I felt horrible for not telling the men about the song that I had heard the previous night. It appeared that something had savagely attacked her right outside the door. The soldiers asked me to take photographs of the body. I did so.

It took several minutes to get the camera ready and take the gruesome photographs. Pangs of guilt swept over me and I could hardly finish the task. Years of taking photographs of men fighting in close melee combat in the trenches or dying as they were shot in foxholes did not prepare me for this. I packed up my camera and boarded the back of the ambulance. I broke down.

Private Grim joined me in the back of the ambulance. I put on a tough exterior for him. He was a gruff sort and would not understand the stresses that I was under. The Nurse and the Doctor sat in the front of the ambulance. The doctor read one of the books from the library. The smell of kerosene filled the ambulance.

Nurse Alders conveyed to me that the Doctor was dangerous. She handed me her gun and mimed for me to watch him as she left to go to the mansion again. I did not see how the Doctor was dangerous. He was just reading a book quietly and keeping to himself. If anything, the Nurse’s strange request made me suspicious of her. He said something to me in English, but I did not understand him. When the Doctor indicated that he did not need to be held at gunpoint, I agreed. I no longer aimed the gun at him. Apparently something was going on between the medical staff that I was not aware of.

When Nurse Alders returned, I believe she asked me to shoot the Doctor! He had not done anything unsettling. I shook my head and gestured towards him questioningly. Apparently I had misunderstood. I returned the gun to Alders.

I asked Grim, Alders and Reed if we could go. There was no reason for us to stay here right now. It was dangerous. I asked me again, more slowly if we could leave but apparently none of them understood my request.

Olver and Kemps soon returned. They conversed with the rest of the group for some minutes. It seemed we were going back into the mansion. I did not want to go back in there, but it seemed that I was overruled.

We entered a round room on the corner of the house. Lt. Kemps opened a secret stairway down. How he knew about the stairway, I may never know. It seemed that there was an argument about going down the stairs. I followed as the group proceeded down into the darkness. The walls were covered in strange symbols and the hallway at the bottom of the stairs felt vile, somehow. Olver and Kemps opened a secret doorway in the hall’s wall. I wondered if they had been here before.

When most of the group went into the small room, I remained in the hallway. Nurse Alders and Kemps got into an argument and it seemed that she was gesturing for me to keep Kemps in my line of sight. I had no reason to think he was a threat, nor any reason to pull my gun on him. Apparently, Alders thought that I was her personal lackey due to her flirtations with me. I did not shoot Kemps or anyone.

As we progressed farther down the hallway, I found the Reynard family crypts. They were clearly marked – the names and dates on the crypts matched the newspaper clippings that my editor had sent me. We were on the right track! It seemed that Ivonne may have been alive a lot longer than anyone thought. I would have to dig around more to confirm my suspicions.

I heard a woman weeping. I knew that the only woman in our unit was here beside me in the hallway. I went to join the men that had gone ahead to investigate one of the crypts. I was not prepared for what I saw in there – the ghost of one of the Reynard women! She warned us to stay away from a “Dream Wall” where her husband, Jean was. She expressed that her husband Jean and her great granddaughter were both dangerous. The suddenly exclaimed, “Oh my!” and vanished. We fled the room.

There was a lot of heated discussion amoungst the group. I believe the ghost had frightened them and their recent disgruntled relations were not helping. When an ambulance arrived with the Major, it seemed apparent that we were not getting any reinforcements. He drove off, leaving us at the mansion for yet another night.

We spent another night locked in the chapel. Doctor Reed asked me to read one of the French books. It conveyed many ideas about evil monsters. In the end, I concluded that Colonel Nachtmann was a vampire. He matched the books description completely. He would not die – he came back from death many times. The book explained the possibility of immortality as a vampire. The book also explained how to bring others back from the dead.

Apparently all of the books that we were reading were about such evil things.

In the morning, we proceeded back down into the depths under the Reynard Mansion. Apparently the soldiers and Nurse Alders believed the books gave them the information they needed to destroy the evil in the house once and for all. At least I hoped that is what they wanted to do down there.

We entered a side room off the hallway. It was a large cistern with a doorway nearby labeled “Well”. Inside the well-room was a surreal painting of a lake with boats. The boats and the water were actually moving! The entire wall fluttered like fabric.

Lt. Kemps, Doctor Reed, Nurse Alders, Private Olver and Private Grim all discussed the painting. Kemps threw something metallic at the painting. It bounced off it and landed on the floor. Grim and Reed were staring at the painting. A boat seemed to cross a barrier on the far side of the lake. It was gliding on the water towards us. A very ill-humored looking man sat in the boat. Kemps threw a kerosene bomb at the painting. Kemps collapsed as the kerosene hit the painting. Suddenly, his image was in the painting!

Kemps’ body seemed to be alright. He was alive, but unconscious. How was he also inside the painting? Kemps climbed into the boat with the man and they rowed off, disappearing in the distance.

There was again much arguing amoung the group. Grim tried to walk into the painting but bumped into it without much affect. It seemed that everyone was feeling the painting, looking for an opening or a way to get into it. I ran my hand along its fabric and felt my body go limp before I found myself inside the painting, near the lake. Shortly after, Grim was standing at my side.

Grim quickly wanted to get back. He wanted to make sure that we could return. Somehow I understood him perfectly here. This place granted us the ability to communicate freely. I felt as though we were connected on some higher level here. Grim thought that he could break the barrier with his knife or his gun. Neither worked. As we stared at the other side of the painting, the scene on the other side was swept away by a night’s sky instead.

Kemps returned in the boat. He had shot the man in the head. He told Grim and me that the man was Jean. Jean told Kemps that he was going to take him away. Jean told Kemps that he was helping him. Kemps shot the man to save himself.

We stood, the three of us, feeling somewhat exuberant in our open communication. I found that Grim and Kemps were quite likable when we were connected this way. I enjoyed being understood perfectly for a change!

We stared through the barrier at our compatriots. They vanished before our eyes as a night’s sky filled with a myriad of beautiful stars replaced them. We watched this process happen a few times. The room in the Reynard Mansion would come into view briefly and then be replaced with a view of a starry night sky. Grim and Kemps had a theory that if we chose to go through the barrier at the right time, we could pass through. We tried to walk through the painting when the room in the mansion was visible. We had no success.

The three of us approached the painting’s barrier. When the image of our compatriots filled the view again, we waved at them, hoping to get their attention.

I suggested that the boat had been able to pass through another barrier across the lake and perhaps it could pass through this one. We lifted the boat as a group and tried to ram it through the barrier but failed to cross over.

Doctor Reed gestured towards us, indicating that we needed to turn around. Something large, black and horrid was coming our way across the lake. The whole sky went dark with evil creatures. When we turned around the night sky was in view again.

Once we could see room in the mansion, we tried to reach out to Alders, Reed and Olver. They grabbed our hands through the painting’s fabric and pulled us through.

The soldiers quickly set the room on fire and threw grenades at the painting. We ran out of the house as quickly as our legs could carry us. The fire and explosions from under the house caused it to collapse. As we drove away I took a few parting photos of what was left of the Reynard Mansion.

Addendum: I have developed photographic plates from my camera. Enclosed are copies of the photographs. The strangest of the photos are the three that were taken between my visits to the mansion. You will notice the horrible visage of Colonel Nachtmann as he grins at the camera and eats a human corpse in those three photographs.