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Saturday, March 7

No Man's Land: Part 4 – Lest We Forget

The main part of the exhibit was a full-scale, original trench in a reconstructed battlefield. A ramp led down between walls of dirt, giving the impression that the visitor was descending into the ground as you walk along. The display tag at the bottom of the ramp explained that the exhibit was an actual WWII trench, carefully dug up and transported from the fields of France. Hammer understood how Whitcher had managed to create the skeletons: he had plenty of raw material.

The trench’s structure was well supported by sandbags and wooden slats, and great care had been taken to preserve and secure the sod walls with a durable coating. Stepladders were placed every dozen yards or so to allow visitors to peer over the ten-foot high dirt walls.

The ground around the top of the trench was bare of all grass and vegetation, but lengths of barbed wire spiraled across the field. The walls and ceiling were painted to show gray clouds overhead and forests and farmhouses in the distance. Hidden speakers played the sounds of men shouting in German, biplanes passing overhead, intermittent gunfire, and occasionally a mortar explosion.

The atmosphere in the trench was as realistic as the curators could make it, and the whole effect was more than a little bit disturbing.

Above the trench stood a tremendous metal vehicle about eight feet tall, ten feet wide, and fifteen feet long. It was covered with heavy iron plates held in place by bolts at least an inch in diameter. The display tag identified the metal behemoth as a Renault tank with a 37mm cannon. The tank rumbled forward a few feet before the turret whirred towards Jim-Bean.

Of course, thought Hammer. Of course Whitcher had animated a tank crew. He could do nothing but duck down as the tank blasted away at Jim-Bean above him.

Whitcher may have been a Nazi sorcerer but he was still human. The blast caused him to pause as well as dirt rained down all around them.

Hammer squeezed off two shots with his Glock. Whitcher ducked around a curve in the trench and chanted something Hammer couldn’t hear, his ears still ringing from the tank’s attack.

Hammer’s flesh started to feel very, very warm. It was like someone had suddenly pressed his face next to a hot flame and no matter where he turned, he couldn’t escape it.

Gritting his teeth, Hammer advanced on the chanting Whitcher. [MORE]


posted by Michael Tresca at 8:17 AM

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