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Pareidolia


                                     (image from https://www.instagram.com/ozotheclown/)
The line of guns went on as far as the eye could see. Their barrels stood in tight rows like the pipes of an organ. Their roar was their song their collective thunder shook the ground all through the night. A cloud of dust and debris engulfed the field where their shells struck the earth. The acrid mist grew and pulsated with every salvo. It swallowed the battlefield, and the wind carried the haze all over the front lines.
 The shock troops were subjected to the thundering fire for longer than their nerves could bare. They watched the encroaching mist with terror. They stared into the swirling clouds and saw the grinning faces of death beaconing them into suffocating fog of pulverized earth. The tempo was slowing, and the roar of the guns began to peter out all along the line. Lavrov's hand's clutched his rifle so tightly his fingers turned red, he clenched his teeth to keep them from chattering, but he couldn't stop his knees from quaking.
 He was grateful his uniform pants were too baggy for anyone to notice.
Lavrov was still a boy. He grew up in the backwaters of Russia. He had never seen this many people or this showing of mechanized force. The rumbling of thousands of diesel engines, as well as the menagerie of people collected from every corner of the Soviet Union, was as overwhelming to him as the prospect of sudden death on the battlefield. And he was under no delusions every moment he spent at war made death that much more likely.
 Very soon the orders would come, and they would charge into the haze.
I see him.” Whispered a soldier in a shaky voice
Lavrov looked at the shaking soldier. “Do you see it?”
He felt Lavrov's gaze. “Do you see him?” He asked on the edge of sobbing.
See who?” Lavrov asked.
The devil's face is in that smoke!” The soldier shrieked.
Look there are his eyes, and there's his grinning mouth!”
Lavrov didn't answer
We can't go in there we're going to die if we go in there!” cried the soldier,  “he's going to eat us help us, God help us, he is going to eat us!”
Lavrov took a step away from the raving soldier.
What's this business about a devil?” Barked Luitenent Malvenski.
Sir..Sir the devil is in there I can see his face in the smoke,” whimpered the soldier hugging his rifle to his chest.  “We're going to die if we go in there!” he cried.
The guns had fallen silent, and more of the men could hear him. They watched quietly as the lieutenant slapped the man across the face.
Are you crazy he hissed?” “Defeatism will get you shot by the politicos!”
If we got in there he will eat our souls”! The soldier said with tears streaming downs his face.
Stop it private they'll hear you!” Malvenski snapped.
We can't go we can't go!” whimpered the soldier.
Malvenski grabbed the crying man and locked eyes with his. “You have to pull it together. They'll shoot you if you keep this up!” he warned.
Who is spreading nonsense about devils?” Boomed the voice of the Commissar.
Word travels fast in a military unit. Lavrov carefully backed away as the Commissar stomped over.
His nerves are just a bit jolted by the artillery. He's fine now.” Malvenski assured him.
The young soldier spoiled his only opportunity to be saved from the wrath of the Commissar.
It's the devil's mouth.” he dropped his weapon and fell to his knees.
Shoot him!” The commissar shouted at Samovosk.
Let me try and reason with him first,” Malvenski answered.
The Commissar glared at him with his beady black eyes.
So this is how you maintain discipline?” He snarled.
Lavrov took a few more small steps away from the Commissar. The Commissar seemed to take notice, and he fixed his eyes directly on Lavrov.
You shoot him!” The Commissar commanded.
Me sir?” replied Lavrov.
Yes, you!” roared the Commissar. “I will see to it this unit deals with traitors the way traitors are supposed to be dealt with!”
Yes, Comrade Commissar!” Lavrov replied clicking his heels.
The soldier was sobbing like a baby now. He pleaded to God. Only God was not the one holding the rifle. God had left this worshiper at the mercy of the Commissar. He held his hands and looked up at Lavrov and pleaded with the young soldier.
Lavrov stared at him a moment and slowly pointed the barrel of his rifle at the man's heart.
In the head! This has to be quick!” Shouted the Commissar.
Lavrov nodded and raised his barrel. He had never shot anyone before. He had shot in the general direction of the Germans but never had he executed someone. His trigger finger went numb, and his hands felt like bricks. The condemned soldier clenched his eyes shut as he waited for the gunshot, the last sound he would ever hear.
Lavrov gripped the rifle tighter to keep it from shaking. “Well go on!”Demanded the Commissar
Lavrov pulled the trigger. Time seemed to skip a beat. The soldier was silent now. Blood poured freely from what was left of the top of his head. Lavrov watched the blood flow and clenched his teeth to keep from crying.
There was little time to grieve, though. The battle was beginning. Besides no one was allowed to shed tears for cowards.  The order came. They're unit was going to charge into the impenetrable dust. There was the boom of searchlights being switched on. Lavrov looked ahead at the waiting maelstrom. The beams of light seemed to break apart against the whirling dirt.
God protect me.” whispered Lavrov
He could see it clearly now. The demonic face in the storm cloud of destruction bearing its fangs. The flood lights illuminating the hollow cavern of its eyes and the jagged range of it's teeth. It smiled odiously as it waited gleefully for the men to charge into it's jaws. Lavrov's comrades pulled him into the torments of the monster's burning belly.

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