Level 49.1
rating: +21+x

"Another shell!" shouts the commissioned officer.

"Hurry it up!"

Another shell is fired. Another loud explosion, if you can even call it loud anymore. Maybe you’re just used to it, or maybe your eardrums have finally ruptured. Too much time has passed to even recall. How long has this battle been raging? Months? Years? They have been firing artillery for what feels like an eternity, but fortunately, none of it has come close to hitting you. You’ve carried a cross since the battle started raging, your only blessing in this hell. It is the only thing that has kept you alive for so long.

You still have a few minutes.
You say a brief prayer before taking a look around. Some people look like they're about to break down, while others are content to accept whatever fate hands them. You sense that something is wrong, especially when you look at your comrades. You think you're hallucinating, but for a split second, all you saw were just their skeletal remains. The moment the artillery stops, you simply shrug it off and try to forget this ever happened.
You know what's coming.

The No Man's Land charge.

You're not too unfamiliar with them, but your heart still skips a beat at the sound of the whistle being blown. You've come out unscathed, but you can't say the same for all of your comrades. How often did you witness someone being blown to pieces by a grenade? How often did you witness people being torn apart by machine guns? You cannot even remember. Or maybe you don't want to.

The artillery stops.
Fog obscures the battlefield, nothing out of the ordinary. At least, you think this is how the battlefield has always looked? Since you joined your company, most things—the firearms, grenades, scenery, and even the men—have remained largely unchanged. Some of these men have perished horribly, but didn’t you just see some of them on the battlefield? You quickly dismiss that idea as crazy, but this isn’t the first time, you try not to think.
Suddenly, your heartbeat quickens as you see the commissioned officer grab his whistle.

That dreadful whistle.
You leave the trench by jumping, muddy as it is. You start to wonder how frequently you've done this, witnessed death, or took someone's life. You must focus right now and clear your head. But this time, the bullets whizzing around you, the continual death surrounding you, and the blood-stained ground you're sprinting on don't phase you.
Almost as if you were used to this.

But you aren't.
You've cheated death many times. Every bayonet that hasn't pierced your skin, every bullet that didn't hit you, and every artillery round that nearly hit you. What worries you more now is the anticipation of the upcoming shot or shell.
You're still scared, you're still human, or so you'd like to believe.
You wish you could recall how you got into this scenario but you are unable to. It's quite hazy, but for the time being at least, you're grateful to be alive. As far as you're aware, you fell down a hole somewhere else. You were still doing the same thing then, or so you believe.
You keep on running.

That harrowing image resurfaces.
In a foxhole, you seek refuge from machine gun fire. You are standing next to one of your fellow soldiers. As you wait for the machine gun fire to cease, you give each other a short glance. But in that instant, you could have sworn you were standing next to a skeleton wielding a gun before looking back at the scene of your comrade about to charge again. You're disturbed by this, and wonder whether this is shell shock or not. The enlisted soldiers are yelled at by a non-commissioned officer to continue their attack because there is now a gap in the enemy line.
You carry out the directive and get moving.

You manage to get to the enemy's trench.
You grip your bolt-action rifle firmly. The trench itself is extremely foggy, but what part of this field isn't foggy? You hear gunfire and screams but there is no opponent. You're grateful on the inside. You're compelled to take another life even though you don't want to.
You feel the weight of every step you take. You wouldn't know where a bullet came from if it struck you right now. You wouldn't even be aware that you were gone.
You make an effort not to consider that right now.

But everything goes dark.


You see a different landscape now.

You are aware of what is happening. Seems like your luck ran out.
That was it.
Relief, a feeling you forgot even existed. That is what you're feeling now. You're not fighting against this fate, you don't protest it, you're finally at peace. The horrific dying screams, the constant gunfire and explosions, all reduced to silence. You're thankful that it has ended.
You take a moment to look around, then start walking. Every tombstone has a name. You recognize some, but most are unknown to you. Some look freshly dug, while others look like they've been here for decades. Some have flowers and are well-kept, while others look abandoned. You don't know where you're gonna end. Will you see your friends? Or will this be your final moments of sentience? You're searching for your grave, thinking of what your life has been. You don't feel glory, your hands are bloody. How many will remember you?
As all these thoughts run in your head, you notice a few people around a tombstone. You don't recognize them, yet, they feel… familiar. They don't see you, even if you try to make yourself noticed. This feeling grows, to the point that it gives you a headache. Who are these people? They are all dressed in black clothing and are looking down as if they are mourning. You approach the grave that looks freshly excavated.
It has your name written on it. You can see your rifle, your helmet, and the grave's surrounding flowers. The coffin is exposed and empty as people stand around it.
It's all clear now.
You thought you'd never see them again. This puts your troubled heart at rest. It's been so long since you last felt happiness, you're ready now.
As you slip into the coffin and close your eyes, you declare your acceptance of the fate handed to you.

You wake up on Level 0.

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