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No Man's Neverland

Kim Ball Smith is a freelance copy editor in Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband and two children.
The rumors spread through the German trenches: the British had deployed a new weapon after the losses in Arras. Survivors of each attack were counted in the single digits, boys who had been drafted despite not being of legal age. Most were incoherent. They spoke of a battalion of criminals bearing patches over eyes and hooks for hands. Others reported a squadron of natives from the Americas, a troop of child soldiers, or half-nude women with sharp teeth who smelled of the sea. The higher-ups suspected a new neurological agent.
One young soldier, the youngest of them all, spoke fervently of a woman dressed in a flowing nightgown spattered with blood. She called a demon, he said, a boy with flame-red hair who cast no shadow. He bore an old-fashioned cutlass, and he flew as he cut through the ranks, crowing and laughing and calling, "Look! Do you see? Look at me!" as if it were all make-believe, as if it were all a game.
The woman had not laughed. She had knelt before the trembling soldier and laid a red-stained hand upon his shoulder.
"This is for John," she had said. "This is for Michael."
She had lifted the soldier's chin and gazed into his eyes.
"You're lost," she had said. "Go home. Go home to your mother."
Clearly the effects of nerve gas, the higher-ups said, despite the fact that many of the victims had been wearing their masks.
She's the one to fear, those in the trenches said. She's the one in charge.
Beware the woman in the nightgown.
Beware the one they call Darling.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, November 5th, 2020


Kim Ball Smith is a freelance copy editor in Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband and two children.

- Kim Ball Smith
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