Wolfsangel

My Grandfather has never once spoken about the war. Not to me, my father, or anyone else for that matter. All my life I’ve been curious about it. What unit did he belong to? Which battles was he involved in? Who were men he served with, and what happened to them? I know some veterans keep in contact with their old war buddies and revel in telling tales of combat over beers at the VFW; but not my Gramps. He preferred to pretend the war never happened. In fact he hardly spoke at all, and even when he did say something it was usually of the “pass the salt” variety.

Last night he finally broke his silence.

At my nephew’s third birthday party, after the cake had been eaten and the presents opened and the party was winding down, my Gramps called me out to the front porch. We settled into rocking chairs and he pulled out an ancient bottle of Jaegermeister which he had “liberated” from the Germans and brought back after the war. He said he’d been saving it for the right occasion. Gramps cracked the bottle and we downed a few glasses; even at the age of 91 he can still drink like a champ. We sipped in silence for about fifteen minutes. Then, after all these years, he finally told me a war story.

It was not what I expected.

This is his story:

In October of 1943 I turned eighteen and volunteered for the army. I was assigned to the Military Police Platoon of the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division: The Big Red One. I stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. I’ll never forget the water and sand, the dead bodies, the blood, the air filled with the sounds of machine gun fire and the screams of dying men. I pursued the Nazis across France, fighting and taking prisoners the entire way. I suffered through the cold and the snow in the Ardennes forest during the Battle of the Bulge, shivering in my foxhole while the trees exploded into splinters from German artillery shells. It was hell on earth, and I pray you’ll never have to experience anything like it. But as terrible as that all was, there is one event that stands out from the rest. Names and faces fade with time, but I cannot forget this night no matter how hard I try. It is seared into my memory for one simple reason: it was the most terrible, horrifying, and *unexplainable* thing I’ve ever experienced. Even now after all these years, it haunts my nightmares and keeps me awake night after night.

It happened one night in early March of 1945 during Operation Lumberjack. While most of the 1st Infantry Division was pushing east towards the Remagen bridgehead, my unit was left behind to hold Bedburg – a small village near the Rhine river in western Germany. The village was left mostly undamaged by the war and had become a major crossroads for thousands of shell shocked civilian refugees fleeing the fighting. As a Military Policeman it was my job to secure and stabilize the town, keep the peace, and prevent our soldiers from abusing the population. We complained to each other about being stuck in rear while other units pushed the invasion forward, but if I’m being completely honest I think we were all secretly relieved.  We’d fought across the continent all the way from France, and now our thoughts had turned towards home; no one wanted to get killed right at the end of this war by some Nazi fanatic unwilling to see the writing on the wall.

At this point, with the Americans and British advancing from the west and the Soviets closing in from the east, it was obvious to just about everyone that Germany would lose this war. While we weren’t quite showered with chocolate and kisses as liberating heroes like we were in France, the Germans seemed friendly enough and we were treated with deference by the town’s war weary citizens, most of whom were women, children, and old men. For the most part, they just seemed relieved that it was us and not the Soviets who had taken their village. The Russians had gained a nasty reputation for rape and murder in the cities they occupied in the east. Compared to that, we must have seemed like angels sent from heaven.

That’s not to say I had any sort of love for the Germans. I’d been fighting Nazis for months now, seen them kill my buddies, seen what they did to Jews and Gypsies and other “undesirables”; I was under no illusions as to what they were capable of. Armed Forces Radio was always blaring, constantly reminding us that “Every friendly German civilian is a disguised soldier of hate. Armed with the inner conviction that the Germans are superior, they believe that one day it will be their destiny to destroy you. Their hatred and their anger are deeply buried in their blood. A smile is their weapon by which to disarm you. In heart, body and spirit every German is Hitler.” I was keenly aware of the fact that I was a foreign invader in the enemy homeland.

On top of all that, rumors were flying amongst the ranks about “Operation Werwolf”. This was supposedly an elite troop of SS and Hitler Youth operatives who had been trained as commandos to stay behind amongst the population and engage in secret operations – sabotage, assassinations, guerrilla warfare – behind enemy lines. Though we later found out that this was mostly propaganda designed to slow the allied advance, at the time we thought it a real threat and acted accordingly; constantly on high alert, constantly on edge, looking out for these “werwolves”, and suspicious of every German we came across. So you can imagine how frayed my nerves were when I got the call to saddle up for a night time patrol of an abandoned manor on the edge of town.

Reports from villagers had been trickling in all day about the sound of screams and gunfire coming from the estate the previous night; but when a passing infantry unit confirmed those reports later in the evening, my squad was tasked with investigating the source and reporting our findings. It was 23:00 by the time we got together and organized, and we set off under cloudy skies with a full moon occasionally peeking through to provide us with light.

The village slept around us as we made our way through her cobblestone streets and out towards the manor. It was a cold March night, the snow having just melted away a few days ago, and the wind whipped and moaned through the branches of the dark evergreen trees that circled the town.

The estate sat in a clearing in the trees out on the far western edge of town, and it was unlike anything I had ever seen. We didn’t see it at first and almost walked right past it, but then a hole in the clouds passed overhead and the light of the full moon lit the manor house up like a spot light. It was a majestic structure in the gothic style, the first two floors built of large slabs of stone, and third and fourth stories of timber-framed construction with an ornate criss-cross style face. On the far western and eastern corners of the building large rounded turrets stood out, looming above the structure. The villagers may have called it a manor house, but to me it looked exactly like a castle from a story book.

My unit entered and cleared the structure, but found no one home. The really strange part was, it looked like no one had been in this house for a long time, and nothing had been looted or vandalized. Expensive silver candlesticks still stood on the tables, gold and jewelry were found in some of the bureaus upstairs, and pricey looking rugs lined the floor; but nothing was taken. Nazi propaganda photos of smiling Aryan families were everywhere, and a solemn portrait of Adolf Hitler sat on the wall above the fireplace in the gloomy great room, dominating the space. The place gave me the willies. No one had dared to enter this place, and I remember thinking that maybe I shouldn’t be there either.

Mercifully, a call for backup rang out from the yard and I was more than happy to volunteer to go and check it out. Once outside I found the rest of my unit gathered around an ancient-looking stone barn, two stories high and covered in thick moss. Sgt. Bard informed me that groans had been heard coming from inside and ordered us to search it. When we opened her up we found something very strange; the barn was almost completely full of hay. In every other barn we had found, the hay had either been carried away by retreating German troops, or burnt up to prevent us from using it. This stockpile smelled sweet, looked fresh, and was completely untouched.

Sgt. Bard called out a warning and then ordered us to fix bayonets and search the hay piles for hidden enemies. I remember methodically plodding along, stopping every few steps to poke my bayonet down through the hay and into the hard dirt floor below, each thrust making a low thumping sound. After a few minutes my bayonet hit something different; it made a sharp hollow sound like a dart hitting a dartboard, and my bayonet remained stuck in the floor. I called the rest of my unit over and we set about clearing the hay, revealing a wooden trap door in the floor of the barn. My unit silently surrounded the door, training their M1 Garand rifles on it, and Sgt. Bard signaled for me to open the hatch. It was the last thing I wanted to do, but as happens so often in the army: I had no choice. I took a deep breath, bent down, then flung the door open and jumped back in one fluid motion to avoid any gunfire.

Nothing but silence came up from the hole in the floor. I crept forward and peered down over the edge, but could see nothing except an old wooden ladder leading down into the darkness. Someone produced a flashlight and now we could see a stone floor at the bottom of the shaft, about twenty feet below. We began to argue amongst ourselves over who would be first down the hole, but Sgt. Bard cut us off with a hand signal, ordering us to shut up and listen. From somewhere in the darkness below came a weak, ghostly groan. I stepped back in fear and met the gaze of the soldier across from me, his eyes were wide and the color had drained from his face.

We turned to the Sergeant and I tried not to meet his eyes, terrified he might select me to go down first. Sgt. Bard gave a grim smile and said that since he was the only one with a Thompson submachine gun, and on account of all the rest of us being worthless chicken shits, he’d go first. I could have kissed him for that. We all waited, tightly gripping our rifles and holding our breaths, while he clambered down the ladder and disappeared out of sight into the darkness beyond. Thirty terrifying seconds went by, then a minute, and still we heard nothing from him. We stood looking at each other, no one wanting to be the first to break the silence and admit that something had gone wrong.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, we heard his voice echoing back up from the end of a long hallway. He yelled for us to get our asses down there, and to send a runner for the medic.

We climbed down the ladder one by one and found ourselves in a long stone hallway which seemed to head in the direction of the house. At the end of that cold, damp passageway I could see the light from Sgt. Bard’s flashlight and we made our way towards it. We arrived to find the source of the groans we had heard; a dying German lay supine on the ground, bathed in the light from Sgt. Bard’s flashlight. Eight rifles were immediately leveled at the wounded man, but he seemed not to notice. His eyes were wide and white and he seemed to look right through us as he muttered something quietly to himself over and over.

A wave of pity for the man washed over me and I lowered my rifle, kneeled down next to him, and brought my canteen to his lips. He stopped his mumbling for a moment to take a sip and I finally got a good look at him. He wore the grey-green service uniform of an NCO in the Waffen-SS – an elite force of fanatical soldiers that made up the armed wing of the nazi party, and had pledged their loyalty to Hitler alone – though the cuff bands and shoulder boards displayed strange symbols and insignia I had not seen before, and in place of the *totenkopf* death head was the profile of a snarling wolf with crossed lightning bolts behind it and germanic runes around it. His hands had been reduced to bloody tatters and bright white bony nubs, and his torso was torn open, exposing his entrails which had spilled out onto the ground. It was a miracle he was still alive, though my combat experience told me that he would not be for much longer, even with medical aid.

Behind him stood a large steel double-door, well out of place in this dank, ancient-looking stone passageway. The wounded man’s service rifle was wedged across both doors and held in place by two bar handles, preventing the door from opening from the inside.

Sgt. Bard reminded me that this man was an enemy and still potentially a threat. He ordered me back to my feet and said that by breaking protocol, I had just volunteered to open the door. I stood up, swallowed hard, and approached the door, but as I did the bloody remnants of the wounded German’s hand shot out and wrapped around my ankle. His eyes had cleared and now he was looking at me instead through me; he was absolutely terrified. His voice rose to a yell and words tumbled from his mouth at a breakneck speed, though I understood none of it as we had neglected to bring a translator. Someone poked him in the ribs with a toe and told him to shut up. His hand dropped away but it only seemed to encourage his yelling. He grew louder and louder, and as I turned back towards the door, I could now understand what he was saying. It was one word over and over, one of the few German words I did know:

Nein! Nein! Nein!

No. No. No.

I did my best to ignore him and press on. I reached out for the rifle that was wedged in the door handles, and just as my hand touched it the world suddenly exploded around me into bright flashes and the roar of gunfire. I turned around to find Sgt. Bard standing there looking grim, smoke slowly rising from the barrel of his Thompson. At my feet I saw that the Kraut had pulled a Luger from his belt and spent his last breath trying to stop me. Lucky for me, Bard had my back. He gave me a nod and a half smile and signaled for me to continue. The rest of the squad took defensive positions and prepared to breach the door.

Having seen the German so willing to die, and in such an obviously futile attempt at stopping me from getting to whatever was behind that door, I’d decided I’d better proceed more cautiously. I crouched down and prepared to pull the rifle and immediately jump out of the way of the doors. I had it all played out in my head, but when the time actually came: everything went wrong. The instant the butt of the rifle cleared the handle of the first door, both immediately flew open, the left door slamming into my side. The pain stunned me for a moment, and before I realized what was happening I was falling to the ground under a tide of grey-green uniforms, cold heavy flesh, and the stench of death.

I hit the stone floor hard. The lights went out and I couldn’t move. Something thick, salty and lukewarm dripped steadily from above me onto my mouth and face and I tasted copper. When I tried to lift my hand to wipe my face I found they were both stuck under the weight. I looked up to see the ashen corpse-face of a dead German soldier. A dark grey helmet was still strapped to his head, but his eyes had be torn out of his face, and the bones between his eye sockets had been ripped out, making his upper face look like one giant eye socket. I remember thinking it looked like the skull of a cyclops from one of them Greek myths. In moments like these, I’ve found that time sometimes slows down and you find yourself pondering the strangest things, completely unrelated to horrors going on around you. Maybe that’s a good thing.

After a few moments of knowing what it’s like to lay alive and alone buried in a mass grave, I heard someone yell out “all clear” and my squad finally pulled the corpses off me. There had been four of them piled on. All of em’ must have been pushed up against the door right on top of each other when they died. Trying to get out. They were torn to shreds and full of holes, their internal organs gutted from behind like hollowed out pumpkins made into jack o’ lanterns. Whoever killed these men had done it up close and personal and hadn’t been worried about leaving mess. I’d seen a lot of people turned into corpses since landing in France, but these ones had been done with the most brutality, the most hatred, the bodies left in absolute ruin that was barely recognizable as human. It was the most horrible thing I had seen in the war, up until that point. I’d be seeing a lot worse before the night was through.

I took a moment to wipe my face, have a sip of water, and regain my composure; then I followed my squad into the room beyond. It was icy cold and pitch black except for the few spots of light provided by our flashlights. I’d lost mine somewhere in France a few weeks early, so I had to stay close to the guy in front of me and try to get by using his light. Almost immediately I hear guys around me start stumbling and tripping over things in the darkness. Someone in front of me tumbled over, landing with a wet squishing noise followed by a spat of loud cursing. Bard ordered us to halt and sweep the area with our lights, to get an idea of our surroundings.

It was a single large room, about the size of the perimeter of the foundation of the house we now stood beneath. It was cold and clammy, and everything – the walls, floor, and ceiling – was built of stone. To my young American eyes it looked just as I imagined the dungeon of a medieval castle would look. I actually don’t think I was far from the truth on that one. Corpses littered the floor, spread out everywhere, some alone off by themselves, others piled atop one one another or gathered in small groups. There must have been thirty dead men down there at least. Some in the same grey-green uniforms the SS soldier in the hall had worn, others in white labs coast, now stained red. That’s what the men had been tripping over. Some of the corpses were little more than assorted limbs, bones, and piles of offal barely recognizable as human. Others looked like they had been butchered and partially consumed. They must not have been dead for too long, because the stench wasn’t completely overwhelming just yet, though I still had to work hard not to gag from the sight alone.

In a small clearing in the corpses I spotted a group of candles standing on the floor. I pulled out my zippo and started to light them to give us a little extra illumination. I had almost finished lighting them by the time I realized they formed some kind of geometric pattern. In the glow of the candles I could now see the floor of the clearing. Written there on the stones, in what I knew must be blood, was some kind of large circular sigil that look straight out of hell itself. Lines criss-crossed one another throughout the circle, queer and unnatural but also somehow familiar. Words of dead languages, esoteric runes, and other stranger alien symbols were laced in between the lines, all in dark red blood. I stepped back in surprise, and out of fear, but also out of respect. I swear I could feel some kind of power coming from it, like a strange and awesome cloud of dark electricity hovering over the sigil.

Behind it I found a lectern with what I at first thought was an animal on top, but when I got closer realized was an ancient-looking book, laid open and bound with the thick fur of some kind of animal. On one of the open pages was a drawing of the sigil I had just seen on the floor. On the other page was what appeared to be a list or instructions, handwritten in what I was pretty sure wasn’t German, and definitely wasn’t English. I called over a few of the guys to check it out. One of them was Catholic and said he thought the writing was in Latin, though maybe an older version of it because he didn’t hardly recognize any of the words, except for part of the title at the top which read Mutatio Vitae. He wasn’t quite sure what that meant either.

Someone in the far back of the room let out a cry and we cut away from the book and ran back there to see what was going on, hopping over corpses along the way. The back of the room was shaped like a T and to the left, we found a large iron cage against the back wall. Inside were three men, starved and emaciated, their arms pulled up over their heads and chained to rings at the top of the cage. Each had long unkempt hair and beards. They wore nothing but filthy rags around their waists. The one on the left had a large frizzy tangle of hair on his head and a six-digit number tattooed on his arm. The one in the middle had the dark skin and features of the Gypsies and a large scar down his left cheek. The third man was tall with pale skin, dark blond hair, and a straight nose. He had brown eyes, which I knew because he was the only one of the prisoners that was conscious. He began to speak in a foreign language, which I think must have been Russian, his cracking voice so hoarse and low we could barely hear it. Someone tried to hold a canteen to his lips through the bars, but he was just out of reach. Sgt. Bard yelled for everyone to start looking around for keys so we could get him out of that cage, but the the man began to laugh, a sick wheezing sound. He looked up at us,  and began to say over and over again, “Amerikanski, Amerikanski, Amerikanski.

At first we thought he was referring to us, and we reassured him that, yes we were Americans and we’re here to help him. He just laughed his mad laughter, shook his head, repeated “Amerikanski,” and began to lift his leg and point across the room with his foot. We followed his gaze to where he was directing us and found, in the midst of several Germans whose faces were had been torn or chewed off, was a skinny black man, completely naked and lying on his stomach. Blood trickled from at least twenty five bullet holes in his back. I knelt down and carefully rolled him over, revealing many more bullet holes as well as a US Army Air force tattoo of a warplane with its tail painted red and the words “99th Pursuit Squadron” etched above his heart.

I thought for sure he was dead, but when I put my hand in front of his face I felt a weak breath of air. The shiny metal hilt of a knife protruded from the place where his shoulder blade met his neck. It looked to be made of pure silver and was engraved with swastikas and other nazi symbols. The pommel featured a large symbol resembling a long bar with hooks on either end and a shorter horizontal bar in the middle. I recognized it as an old Germanic heraldic charge known as a wolfsangel, which was co-opted by the Nazis. I put my hand around it for a moment, then thought better of it and called for the medic who had just recently arrived down the ladder. He took one look at the man and said that it was an absolute miracle the man was even still alive and, pilot P.O.W. or not, there was nothing that could be done for him.

At that the man began to stir and try to talk. I leaned in close and he whispered in my ear, “outside… take me… outside”. I told the rest of the squad and Sgt. Bard nodded his head and told me to grant his request, while the rest searched for the keys to the cage and any other clues about what this place was. I hoisted the pilot up onto my shoulders and began the long trudge back down the hallway, up the stairs, and out of the barn. It was a struggle to be sure, but I eventually made it, and I laid him down on a patch of soft grass with the his face bathed in pale moonlight. The least I could do was help him die out in the open in the fresh air, instead of down in that crypt. I looked down for a moment at the bullet riddled young man, and I could feel my heart aching in my chest as I watched the life draining from his eyes, his mouth was moving as if he was trying to say something, though no words came out. I tousled his hair like an older brother, then lied and told him everything was going to be ok, silently cursing the Nazis for the millionth time. Then I stood up and shouldered my rifle, to head back down into that dungeon.

For the second time that night, a hand shot out and grabbed be around the ankle. I looked down to find a look of desperation and intense strain on the man’s face. He motioned with two fingers for me to come back, and I bent back down over him like before. He leaned his head up towards mine and, taking the sides of my face in his hands, and whispered: “Please…. Don’t leave. Please. Get it out of me. You have get it out of me.”

I pointed to the to the hilt sticking out out his shoulder, and he nodded weakly and looked relieved. I told him that it might kill him. He said nothing, but his eyes were smiling.  I gripped the silver hilt, counted to three, and tugged on the blade which pulled free from his flesh with a sick sucking sound. Blood began to shoot out in spurts, though it quickly died down and to a trickle. I looked him in the eyes then, knowing I was the last thing he would ever see, and waited for the light of his lifeto flicker out. He was still smiling. It made me glad to see that he would die smiling, I had seen far too many that had gone out screaming in agony. I laid his head back gently in the grass and stood back up, looming over his body for a moment in silent prayer.

I was about to turn and head back, when a flash of movement on his body caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. I examined him closer to find that it had been one the bullets lodged in his body, extricating itself. As I watched, the bullet pushed further and further out of the wound, until it popped out completely and rolled down his chest onto the grass below. Before my eyes, the bullet hole seemed to sew itself back up, the flesh once again becoming whole, the wound disappearing completely.

Then it happened to another of the bullets lodged in his body.

Then another.

And another.

Over and over the slugs fell from his body and the wounds healed themselves. His pale skin seemed to glow bright in the cold moonlight.

In shock I looked down at the knife still in my hand, which was actually more of dagger. It was formed from a single piece of silver, blade hilt and all. Tiny scripts in dozens of languages were inscribed along the length of the blade. I tucked it into my belt and made a dash for the trapdoor in the barn. By the time I got there I was on the verge of panic, and I screamed down the hole for everyone to get up here and see this. A few exasperated groans echoed down the hallway below, but I could hear them coming. Sgt. Bard and a few others came up and I rushed them over to where the Tuskeegee Airman lay.

But when we got there he was gone, his body replaced by a bloody patch staining the bright dewy grass red. The sergeant asked me what was going on, where had the prisoner gone? I began to explain what I had just seen – the bullet wounds healing themselves – but was interrupted by a loud rustling in the bushes in front of us. We had our raised our rifles up, trained them on the bush, and stood silently listening. None of us were prepared for what we were about to see.

Out from the bush stepped the largest, blackest, meanest looking wolf I have ever seen. It was broad shouldered, squat, and muscular – especially on its back legs. It was at least twice the size of a regular wolf, almost like a small horse, and our shoulders stood about at an equal level. Thick fur, black as midnight, surrounded its muscular frame. It snarled, foam dripping from its maw, and stared at me. Its eyes glowed bright red in the darkness.

No one fired. No one even breathed. We all stood paralyzed, as if collectively hypnotized by this unnatural beast before us. A growl rose in its throat and it took a step forward. I don’t know how or why, but my thoughts turned to the knife in my belt. I drew it out and held it up in the air. It looked cold and deadly there, shining harshly in the moonlight. The wolf’s eyes snapped to blade for a moment. Then it sat back on its haunched, stared up into the sky and let out a bloodcurdling howl; so loud and so terrible that myself and the men around me covered out ears with our hands. I closed my eyes and prayed I’d get out of this somehow.

I don’t know if the wolf-creature was afraid of that silver knife, or if it seeing it there in my hands only reminded it of who I was and what I had done for it. But whatever the reason, when it finished howling the wolf turned and trotted off towards the forest at the edge of the manor property line. It glanced back at us once over its shoulder, and then disappeared into the evergreen trees. It slipped off into the countryside, into a war-torn land of chaos and confusion; the perfect environment for a wolf to hunt, and kill, and thrive.

We sat in stunned silence for a few moments, no one daring to speak or move, no one wanting to accidentally lure that terrible beast back here. Finally, someone asked if that had really just happened. That seemed to break the spell, and we all stood there shaking our heads. Sgt. Bard came up to me, grabbing me by the collar, and demanded to know every single thing that had happened to the black pilot leading up to this point. I recounted my tale of insta-regeneration and wolf transformation to him. He just nodded his head. It didn’t seem like he believed me, and yet, he didn’t have a choice; he had seen it too. He ordered us to form a defensive perimeter and calmly asked the radio man to put in a call to base.

We waited there for several hours as the call went up the chain of command. Finally a black unmarked truck showed up and a group of men in gas masks and body armor hopped out, followed by a full bird Colonel I had never heard of before by the name of Arkwright. He congratulated us on a job well done, said that his unit had been assigned to clean up duty and would take it from here, and told us to head back to camp for chow and hot showers.

We stood there shell shocked as the troops headed into the barn and down into the tunnel. After a few minutes, Sgt. Bard turned and started to walk silently back to town and the rest of us followed. Glancing over my shoulder, the last things I saw were a soldier delicately carrying the fur-covered book I had seen on the lectern, and another two carrying the Russian prisoner out on a stretcher and loading him into the truck. Then a cloud passed over the moon, obscuring the scene from view, and we walked back onto the cobbled streets towards the semblance of civilization.

Though they had been extirpated from Germany for almost fifty years, somewhere out in the night a a lone wolf howled mournfully at the moon.

The next morning we received orders to head east over the Rhine and back into the fight, and by the day’s end we were getting shot at once again. We had no choice but to move on and try to forget about what we had seen. And for awhile, we did. It was necessary in order to survive in battle.

But once the war ended, and I had plenty of time to think. I’ve replayed that night over and over in my head a thousand times. There’s so much I can’t explain. So much I can’t understand. Something horrible happened down in that dungeon. Some wicked satanic ritual or occult experiment. The Nazis created an abomination that wasn’t meant to be, and now I can’t unsee it.

For the next few months we heard whispered rumors from the refugees we passed of serial killers that could turn into wolves by dressing in their fur that were rampaging through the countryside, taking advantage of the chaos of war, terrorizing and feeding upon their victims. Most soldiers laughed these off as the superstitions of terrified peasants; but for my squad, things were different. I have no idea what that thing was, but if I had to guess I’d say it’s damn near immortal, and there’s a good chance it still stalks the woods of Germany today. Looking for victims, hunting for revenge, hoping to wash away the wrongs of the past with torrents of blood. To this day, I say a prayer every evening for anyone unlucky enough to cross its path on a dark night when the moon is full in the sky.

Gramps finished his story and leaned back in his rocking chair, eyes clenched tightly. Finally he let out a sigh, opened his eyes, and turned to me.

“You see Grandson, I believe the actual Operation Werwolf was something very different from what the history books say. I was there. I saw it it with my own eyes. I’m one of the few who knows. Sworn to secrecy after the war, once I’d given them everything I knew about the encounter. That’s all they wanted: information.”

“Now then, Is there anything you want to ask me?”

I didn’t want to ask, didn’t want to insult him, but I had to know. My lips were already forming the question before I could even think to stop them.

“Did it really happen?”

Gramps smiled back at me. He reached down, unsnapped something from his belt, and tossed it to me. It was a scabbard. I drew the knife out, turned it over in my hands, looking at it long and hard. It was one solid piece of silver: blade, hilt, and all. The blade was inscribed with strange symbols and the runic scripts of arcane languages. Swastikas and other Nazi symbols were carved into the hilt, and on the pommel was an ornately decorated symbol of an old Germanic heraldic charge:

A Wolfsangel.

 

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