War Criminal

The calm evening teemed with latent purpose. Warm lights glowed in the windows of surrounding suburban homes as families finished their supper and settled down in front of their televisions for the night’s sitcoms and news casts. Nothing moved outside, but the gentle scraping-tumble of fallen leaves along the curb.

Nothing moved, but much was watching. More than a dozen pairs of eyes peered from the shadows of cold cars and unlatched sheds, all focused on the same house.

Inside, a wrinkled man stood under the yellow light of a bathroom sconce. He selected a couple pills from the medicine cabinet and downed them with an oversized swallow of scotch. With a trembling hand, he wiped the overflow from his chin. Deep creases, darkened by time and things that cannot be unseen, underscored his faded blue eyes. Averting his own gaze, he frowned and tossed the glass into the sink. The etched crystal clamored against the porcelain basin. He slipped his arms into a thick fleece robe before walking out of the room and down the unlit hall.

Outside—a few moments later—dormant purpose awakened.

The tranquility of the neighborhood remained intact despite the sudden flurry of activity. Gear strapped men poured from vehicles, storage sheds, and various points of cover like wasps from a disturbed hive. Within seconds, they traversed the property’s uneven walkways, forsaken lawn, and unkempt flower beds, charging toward the old man’s house in utter stealth. Carbine assault rifles led the way as the men gained entry and navigated to the man’s windowless bedroom.

The entire SWAT team converged on their rendezvous point and fell still, weapons trained on the single location. All attention shifted from the unoccupied bed to Captain Sutherland, who wasted only a brief moment to incredulity before throwing hand signals to each group. As the team scattered—skulking room to room, rechecking the entire house in continued silence—he whispered into his shoulder radio.

“Eyes, the Intel is bad. The target may be aware. Any exterior movement?”

The response came with a soft click, “None, Sir.”

“How could—”

“Sir!” The terse whisper came from an officer behind him. The Captain turned to see the man pointing at the floor next to the room’s only nightstand. He moved closer with slow, deliberate steps. At the wall’s base, a faint seam of light pulsed in the darkness.

Sutherland clicked the recall on his radio three times before approaching the area. With the measured precision of a bomb squad technician, he ran his hand up and down the wall, then the legs of the small, adjacent table. His fingers slid along the surfaces with uninterrupted fluidity until he reached the narrow space between the nightstand and the plaster. He signaled to the arriving team with a fist over his head, pointed at the wall, and then depressed the unseen button.

A portion of the wall pivoted open, oozing more light into the bedroom. Sutherland signaled again, this time wordlessly ordering only four of the men to action. One officer approached the flickering light and peered through the gap with a mirrored wand. Then, pushing open the door with the muzzle of his rifle, he entered the space; the exploratory team and their Captain following close behind.

It was a tapered, unfinished hallway that terminated after a few feet. At the end, a rectangular hole in the floor glowed with faint yellow light; a quick, mirrored view revealed a descending staircase. From somewhere below, a muffled voice spoke in hurried tones—muffled, but distinctly German.

The leading officer reached for a stun grenade, but the Captain stopped his hand as a second voice emerged. After listening for a few moments, Sutherland indicated to move onward with artificial eyes. The stairs took them one story below the home’s basement level. At the bottom, heavy curtains shielded their descent, but also the activities and occupants on the other side.

Though still unintelligible to the team, it was clear the two voices were very different in pitch, yet both spoken in similarly swift and harsh demeanors.

Captain Sutherland peeked through the fabric. After a brief view, he stepped back and faced his team.

“It’s bad,” he whispered, shaking his head.

The officers exchanged wide-eyed glances.

“We take Hausser alive—use restraint. Possibly armed.” Sutherland hissed at his men and clicked his shoulder radio three times. “Take him alive.”

Turning back to the curtains, he brought up his Carbine and took a deep breath. He counted down with his fingers, then burst through the hanging cloth.

The scene was fairly static, but the nature of the in-progress events made it feel like chaos to him. Adrenaline prickled along every nerve as his eyes darted around the room—trying to process it all while remaining focused on safety and containment.

His men were shouting.

He was shouting.

SS General Wilhelm Hausser sat at room’s center, kneeling amid an extensive arrangement of half-melted candles, lines of carefully placed sand, shallow bowls of cloudy liquid, and a variety of chalk-drawn symbols that looked to Sutherland like modified pentagrams, stars, and swastikas. A massive stone sarcophagus, draped with fabric, bordered the main wall. Atop the altar was several silver pans bloodied with corporeal offerings and the human remains of what once was a young woman. Nazi banners lined the walls, flanking the altar.

Hausser held his blood covered hands in the air, one of them still clutching a dripping, ornate dagger.

“No. No, you don’t understand,” he said, the sleeves of his robe shaking as he yelled back at the officers, “Wait. Ju—just wait.”

“Put down the weapon!”

“Drop it!”

The Captain joined the shouting match, while motioning to his team with an open hand that his query took precedence. “Who else is here? Where are they?”

“Please,” the German replied, rising to his feet, “I must be allowed to finish—it has never been left unfinished.”

“Stop! Drop the knife, now!”

Hausser pivoted, moving forward, pleading with the speaking officer, “You don’t understand. We must—”

Deafening shots echoed through the chamber.

Hausser collapsed.

“No!” Sutherland shouted. “Stop firing!”

He dropped to check the German’s pulse.

Amid a bloody coughing fit, the war criminal forced out his last words, “Must finish. Read book out loud. Do… it. Or… or… he’ll…”

“Fuck! We needed him alive, God damn it!”

“But the knife…” the officer argued. “Sir, he was—”

As if in the throes of an earthquake’s seismic wave, the chamber rumbled. A deep, booming voice intoned in an unknown language, “Hasturyar nglui uh’e tharanak li’hee tharod.”

Cracks split across the walls like lighting. Dust sifted down as the house above them groaned. For the first time in his long career, Sutherland didn’t know how to instruct his men. He saw the wild panic in their faces, and was certain his looked the same. Any blind hope he held in regaining control, in helping the team, fell prey to the unthinkable.

The voice spoke again, but this time it had a source. Knocking the offerings—her own flesh and organs—to the floor, the corpse sat up and stepped down from the altar. “Kn’aoth ee grah’nnyth sgn’wahl!”

Her empty eye sockets glared at the officers. She raised a finger to them and one by one, they suffered. They screamed—a high pitched, unnatural scream beyond the agony he’d heard from any wounded soldier in Vietnam. Blood poured from their eyes, filling their goggles, and by the time they brought their hands up to their faces the blood and viscous fluids rained down from under their helmets.

One after another, his men died; none made it more than a few feet.

The corpse stepped close to the Captain, her empty sockets now aimed at him. He tried to speak, but the air grew dense in his throat, constricting his lungs like icy water. A searing light flashed in his eyes and burned through the synapses of his mind—his brain afire with a torrent of whispering voices and ritual scriptures and symbols.

Sutherland felt something wet running from his ears, from the corners of his eyes, down his throat. He could feel the force and vibration of his own screams, but only heard the painful whirlwind of voices as they converged into one. The booming voice consumed his senses. It spoke in the same archaic language, but now, somehow, he understood.

“Rhagyth ekn—but you, I will keep. Go wreak chaos upon the mortals; announce my arrival. Announce extinction.”

A sudden wave of numbness consumed his head and flowed down throughout his body. The burning pain was gone, but something else took residence in its place. Like an itch, it nagged at him—a prickling thought, that told him to act.

It had to be scratched.

Sutherland lifted his rifle and fired a round into the woman’s skull and her corpse dropped to the floor. The itch cooled for a moment, but came back stronger. It dug at his psyche like a necrotic rash eating away his sanity. It pushed him, urged him to do as commanded, and to start with the rest of his team.

He looked down at the rifle in his hand. “No. I—”

“Go!” The voice shook the room, further cracking the foundation, and exacerbating the urge in his mind.

It had to be scratched.

The Captain raised his rifle under his chin, “Do it yourself!”

He pulled the trigger and crumpled to the floor. Blood and pulp trickled out of his helmet. Dead eyes stared at the wall.

His hand twitched.

Then, he pushed himself up off the floor, grabbed the nearest rifle, and slapped a fresh magazine into place.

“Ph’ngu hlrigh”

        — translation: “My pleasure.”

~ Tyr Kieran

© Copyright 2015 Tyr Kieran. All Rights Reserved.

20 thoughts on “War Criminal

  1. Well told, Tyr! I really enjoyed the twist of the old man not finishing what the ignorant believed to be a reanimation incantation turning out to be (for lack of a better phrase) a containment spell – and the consequences of their interference. Great story, Tyr! 🙂


  2. Awesome story, Tyr! Ancient incantations that aren’t quite what they seem to be…gotta love it!! Much enjoyed! (I’m intrigued by Hausser’s back story as well!) 🙂


    1. Classic horror can’t be beat, but I was looking to put my own spin on the style. It’s always fun to throw the ‘there’s always someone bigger’ problem at villains and watch them squirm! Thanks, Thomas!


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