At 11:00am (Paris time), on November 11, 1918, the guns fell silent over the battlefields of Western Europe. In a railway carriage parked in a forest located about 40 miles north of Paris, France, the Armistice was signed by representatives from both the Allied Armies as well as those in the enemy forces of Germany.
Students of history will know that this hour and day has now been remembered as the day the war ended. It was the Great War, or the “War to End All Wars.”
What is not well-known is that a peace treaty was not reached immediately. The Armistice went through three revisions until the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. It would be almost six more months until the actual treaty became effective on January 10, 1920.
The Great War took the lives of just shy of 10 million military personnel from both the Allied Powers and the combined enemy forces consisting mainly of the German Empire, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. It is estimated that approximately 7.5 million civilians were also killed.
There are times that the thunderclouds of war obscure the reality of hope and the future. Such was the case even within theological circles. A doctrine, known as postmillennialism, was widely adhered to within mainstream denominationalism. This is simply the teaching that the world will get better and better, and ultimately, it will usher in an age of peace for all of mankind after which Jesus Christ will return.
The events leading up to World War 1, and its eventual aftermath, destroyed the cherished dreams of theologians, politicians, and the general populace. The fragile calm that prevailed during the first decade or so of the 20th century allowed many to think that the rapidly developing world would become a peaceful utopia.
Sadly, the politics of government festered underneath the surface. Previous wars between enemies helped to fuel the fires of discontent, and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in June 1914 simply was the spark that would bring mayhem and destruction to the countries of Europe.
In fact, the unresolved conflicts at the end of World War 1 continued to devolve the relationship between the signatories of the Treaty of Versailles. Hatred, bitter disputes, and the unreasonable restrictions of the peace treaty saw the rise of the Third Reich of Germany and, of course, the bloodbath that became known as World War II.
One little known fact about the end of World War I is that fighting actually continued in the early morning hours of November 11, 1918. Both the Allies and the German forces knew that the Armistice was due to be signed, but the Allies took advantage of the upcoming surrender. They attempted to get the upper hand in the trenches just in case and this resulted in almost 11,000 more casualties. Out of those casualties, almost 3,000 of them died.
One casualty was an American soldier who charged German troops and was shot 60 seconds before the war ended. It is said that this soldier was the last casualty of World War I. Truly, this would have been a tragic way for a soldier’s life to end with only 60 seconds separating him from being able to safely return to his waiting family back in Baltimore, Maryland.
One hundred years later, our small little planet continues to be racked with pain and turmoil. Governments insist on sending troops into battle for the sake of political gain, while troops march bravely thinking it is all about freedom.
Freedom is elusive though and few will recognize that we have less freedom today than were present 100 years ago. Successive wars during this last century have brought us no closer to a peaceful utopia, and peace treaties signed hold no true validity. Hope is vain for those who depend on countries and governments to do what is right.
Remembrance Day 2018 should be a solemn time for us as we dredge the pages of history. We must try to learn from the tragic mistakes of our past and the past of our ancestors. If we do not, then we will fail even more miserably than did the generations of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.
Will their sacrifices be in vain this Remembrance Day? Will more have to die in the elusive search for glory that ultimately only offers the destruction of the souls of men?
Peace cannot be produced by governments who are determined to only look after their own self-interests. If we fail to learn this truth, then they will all have died in vain.
— Originally Written at Warrior Writers on Medium.
Cold tentacles reached up through the gloom and tried to ensnare my legs once again. I screamed but nobody seemed to hear.
Fear crushed my lungs forcing my breath to come in ragged gasps. I could feel them getting closer.
Was there no means of escape?
My body temperature had dropped as I hung on the edge of the cliff. My fingers and arms were burning from the exertion required to keep from falling.
It was not that I was afraid of the fall. My abject horror came because of what reached up to me from the black depths. It was a place where little light could be found.
Just below my line of sight, I felt another tentacle flick across my ankle. It was only a matter of time.
I screamed again, but the cliff tops overlooking the sea remained devoid of human life for as far as the eye could see.
A brief break in the clouds and I thought the sun would make a rare appearance. I wished desperately that it would, for the creatures would then slink back to where they came from. I was sure they lived in lairs and caves that remained hidden from human eyes.
I had always hated the cliffs, but through the blinding pain, I was not able to remember how I had even fallen. I tried to maintain the right path to avoid the danger, but invariably, the cliffs beckoned like the wailing shriek of an ocean siren.
My mind berated me for falling — again! This was not the first time that the cliffs extended a death wish toward me. My fingers had felt the pain of slipping before, but today seemed so different.
Flashed through my mind, the horror of each previous slip danced in slow rhythm to the beat of the deadly rocks below me, while others writhed like a devilish, whirling sand dervish upon the sands of the Sahara. Both were equally dangerous and cared not one whit for me.
No footholds could be found for my feet as I kicked savagely trying to find even a single place to support my weight. All of a sudden, a series of tentacles wrapped themselves around my ankles and worked their way up my legs.
I could feel their cold embrace sucking the life out of me, and with no further warning, a jerk from the creatures below dislodged my left arm. I flailed with my free hand as I tried to force the creatures from pulling me into the gloom.
All around me, the darkness rose from the depths of the cliffs and turned the remaining light of day to darkness. Wet, bone-chilling fog settled across the cliffs and down over my body.
Succumbing to the horror that had befallen me, the fingers on my right hand gave way. I screamed again as I began the free fall to what I did not want to face.
Out of nowhere, a voice above me called my name. Hands reached down and wrapped firmly around my body. Calling my name again, light appeared to surround my rescuer as I felt myself lifted back to the safety of the path.
“Anthony, wake up, wake up!”
The gentle voice soothed my fears as it spoke again.
“You were having a nightmare again. But, you are safe in bed and there is nothing to fear.”
Written in response to Warrior Writers Prompt #28
A jack-of-all-trades, but a Master of only one!
That was me and my life.
Blending in had never been a problem for me. Obnoxiously plain, I would never stand out in a crowd and that makes it even harder for others to notice where I fit in the grand scheme of things.
I take great pride that I can be right in front of you, and you would simply look right past me. This is true no matter where you might see me. Some thought they had spotted me in the country, while others insisted that I never left the city. A few tried to find me while thinking that my flashy wardrobe would let the authorities capture me, but they were all wrong.
My prowess at escaping and hiding would have made Frank Abagnale, Jr. jealous. The movie about his life called “Catch Me If You Can” pales in comparison with the life I lead.
Some have tried to find me for years, but I quickly give them the slip. My ability to disappear so easily has frustrated old and young alike, and I am certain that when I pull a Jason Bourne and disappear that not even Sherlock Holmes would be able to locate me.
I have a team of individuals that I work with and they are just as good at their jobs as I am. We used to have a much larger organization, but some of our numbers preferred to live life on the edge. Without one exception, they all got caught. We tried to warn them that living a straight life would make them vulnerable, but they refused to listen.
Tonight was just another job for me, but I knew it required a high degree of stealth. It was probably my most dangerous job that I had ever undertaken. Surrounded by individuals of all shapes and sizes, I found myself staring right into the eyes of an enemy. I was certain that he had not seen me, or that my disguise was just too good. He and his partner looked like rank amateurs and I was shocked that they had been sent to do the job of trying to bring me in. Others far better than they had tried and failed.
As casually as I could, I leaned back further into the dark recess of my hiding place. It was the best I could find for the night yet it seemed that I was totally exposed to the elements. If I could just remain still for a little longer, then I was certain they would forget about me and move on to their next target. Watching their eyes flick back and forth, at times I thought they hovered briefly over me, but there was no recognition. I knew I was at the top of my game.
But I should have known better. One day, I knew my cockiness was going to bring me down, just like James Bond brought down each of his enemies.
However, I was certain that tonight would not be that night. Both of my hunters disappeared and I took the opportunity to slip out of hiding. Staying in the shadows, I carefully chose a path that would allow me to turn the tables on the two amateurs.
Two more blocks and I would be free.
Rage permeated the air as they realized they had been duped. I expected that their bosses would call them on the carpet after letting me disappear, but that was not my problem.
Once again, I had slipped from their grasp like a greased banana in the hand of a monkey. But, wait…
These two would not give up. Spotlights split the night and I knew they were on to me. They had called in reinforcements and exhausted, I could go no further. I tried to pull myself together and gather enough strength for one last-ditch effort to hide, but it was to no avail. The lights methodically covered each strip of land as they narrowed their search and I knew it was only a matter of time.
I slunk down and tried to get as flat as possible. Maybe, I would get lucky tonight.
I never heard the steps that led him to my hiding place as I had been too focused on the lights. My mistake cost me dearly and I felt his cold, sticky hand close around one of my joints. I froze in abject fear as I became stiff as a board.
No amount of struggle made a difference as my captor pulled me into the light. It was over and I had finally lost. With my capture, everything simply fell into place as I became a part of the big picture.
“Hey Mary, look here! I found the last piece of the puzzle that we have been looking for.”
Written in response to Warrior Writers Prompt #26
Blood adorned the warrior as eternity loomed. Life’s final flicker caressed her leaving only a shadow.
Approaching the solitary edge, truth reflected her heart’s whiteness making death’s blackness diminish. No worries caused her lonely steps to sway for none could travel with her. Looking back held no desire, for her work was complete.
The unknown beckoned again. Memories swirled like clouds, but there were no regrets.
Lifting her foot, she needed no encouragement although tears like stars surrounded her.
Beyond, the undying light called.
She closed her tired eyes…
“Nurse, I am pronouncing death at 11:57. Three minutes to midnight.”
In response to Writing Prompt #20 — A story in 100 words.