Horror Strange


By Premee Mohamed
Apr 9, 2018 · 1,411 words · 6 minutes


This pamphlet is intended to provide guidance to you, the British armed forces serviceman, as you prepare to enter a German-occupied France. Please study its contents carefully; and remember that your duty is to assist not merely in removing the invaders and any Frenchmen who have succumbed to their rule, but to conduct yourself in a manner appropriate to a British gentleman abroad at any time with or without a world war.


Above all, you must never engage in any black-market purchases. Some trivial item which you have forgotten on your dressing-table in Crockenhill may be the sole comfort left to an elderly Frenchman, and his sale to you may mean the absence of food on his table for a fatal period of time. Supply yourself with nutriment as per your CO’s orders, and stay out of gardens, fields, greenhouses, and markets. You will not have access to tea, milk, or likely - at this stage - coffee, so do not ask for any. Remember that the French people have been undernourished for some time and are in desperate straits. Indeed, you may be able to identify German collaborators by their relatively well-fed appearance, among other traits.


Along with awareness and self-confidence, personal responsibility continues to be your highest duty as a soldier, and this extends to your hygienic practices while you are in France. Communal baths may be available at various locations, although you will almost certainly be tasked with providing your own soap and other ablutionary items (see ‘Appendix of Useful Phrases’ for ‘Where is the bath-house?’). Should you find facilities that still have soap or towels, be sure to compensate them fairly and promptly. Keep your teeth clean with your service-issued tooth paste or powder where possible, or with ashes or bicarbonate tablets otherwise; remember that the enemy almost invariably is missing teeth or has black and green discolouration on their tooth surfaces. Do not give your fellow soldiers or French fellow-fighters a reason to mistakenly shoot you! Eliminate the habit of using a small piece of wood or metal to pick at your gums after meals; at home, this practice is merely a mark of poor manners, whereas abroad it could result in infection. Rinse your mouth and any scrapes or wounds with boiled water or sea-water, whatever is available. Monitor your fellow servicemen for wounds or marks, particularly bite-marks; they may be shy to reveal these, fearing the consequences. Be vigilant!


Refer to the accompanying booklet ‘The History of Martial Activities in France’ for context to some of the attitudes you may encounter. It is important not to disparage the French war effort, the fact that they have been invaded, or to bring up any previous invasions, regardless of their antiquity; a cross-ocean raid of a thousand years ago may feel like a very recent insult. The French are a fiercely and deservingly proud people and we are by no means the ‘saviours’ that we may feel tempted to proclaim ourselves upon arrival. You will find that German collaborators and spies are suspiciously mute on this topic of conversation, as well as all other topics save their diet. It may be possible to draw out such persons simply by engaging them in ‘war talk’ over a glass of Chardonnay (which you are to pay for in full, and ensure it is of relatively recent vintage; under no circumstances are you to consume red wine or any other liquid through which one cannot read a newspaper).


Amongst all invasions in French history, scholars agree that this has been the one most disastrous to the faith; whereas prior invaders might send even faintly devout French people en masse to their local parish for comfort and succor, now you will find that large gatherings are avoided and if any one is left praying for help, they are doing so in their houses, generally in the cellars or attics. Keep a particularly close watch for people kneeling in the street, specifically down narrow alleyways, with which France is rife; should anyone fail to rise to a standard greeting, use your service weapon promptly and remember to aim for the back of the head. More instructions are found in the appendix ‘The Enemy: Differences Between the Great War and The Present Conflict.’ Should you encounter a church filled with silent worshipers at any hour with no candles lit, no curé or vicaire, and no noises - barricade the doors at once and burn the building down. Be aware that this may occasion protests from the more sentimental members of your unit, who may argue for the preservation of historical buildings and their associated contributions to civilized art and culture. However, fire is one of the few certain methods to incapacitate large numbers of German invaders and their affected collaborators, so unless the protestors are willing to enter the building and risk infection whilst dispatching the occupants, they must be silenced. Use any means necessary to ensure a clean burn and to preserve the element of surprise. Under no circumstances is any British serviceman to enter the church before or afterwards in an attempt to preserve paintings, statuary, or precious metals. A large number of soldiers have been caught unawares during such activities and have succumbed to the German cause.


For obvious reasons places of mass entertainment are to be avoided in the same manner as churches, schools, underground stations, and so on. While the French do not have ‘pubs’ in the same manner as you are used to back home, they have a great number of cafes, wine bars, and so forth. These are the only places of entertainment that may be safe to enter, provided that you are aware of all the exits at all times, and consume only, as discussed, colourless liquids; and these never in excess, as you will need to be accurate with your service weapon should any German soldiers or collaborators enter the facility. It is likely that this will not be an issue, due to the wine, at present, being much ‘cut’ with water. Cinemas and theatres are prone to becoming disproportionately filled with enemy persons, who due to limb stiffness become entangled on the stairwells and are unable to exit the building. These are ideal structures to burn in the same manner as churches (see above). Do not delay in order to report the findings to your Unit Security Officer. Burn them.


Based on lessons learned during the Great War, you will find it helpful to befriend French women; they will be vital sources of information, transportation, and support during your stay, as many of the menfolk are either off fighting the German invaders or have been induced to collaborate with them. Do not confuse, or worse, assume friendship to be a substitute or precursor for anything else; women on the Continent, and French women in particular, have suffered a great deal during this conflict, and may give the impression that they wish to be closer than is in fact the case. While presently there are few husbands or fathers to object to your inappropriate actions, please conduct yourself regardless as befits a gentleman at all times, including at whatever licensed ‘brothels’ may remain. At any rate, should you find yourself, smitten, in congress with a pretty girl of any nation, keep your wits about you and remember the German effect, which takes some hours or even days to manifest; as her lips press yours, determine whether they carry the coolness of winter or that of the grave; taste the breath that slips from her mouth for wine or blood; run your ungloved fingers through her hair and see if it comes away in golden strands or in hanks, weighted with slips of scalp; as her back arches, listen for the crack of tendons ripping from decaying flesh; whisper your name against her mouth and see if her lips form an ‘M’ for ‘Mon amour’ or the sinister hiss of 'Cerveauuuuuux,’ and above all, brave serviceman, should you find that her teeth have entered or severed any part of your anatomy, do not hesitate to use your penultimate bullet on her skull before using the ultimate on yourself. This is war, gentlemen. This is war. The creatures do not die and this is war.


This story originally appeared in The Penny Dreadful Issue .