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North East Lincolnshire
August 9th, 1943

Howard Millpond, head driver of the 592nd Tunneling Company, looked along the road and contained a whimper in the back of his throat. All along the roadside were bits of shrapnel and viscera, most likely from poor animals that mistook the cylindrical apparatus for something they could touch without punishment. Instead, their last moments were filled with a blinding pain, and then darkness.

Douglass, the man in the front seat with Millpond, looked down the road. They were slowly approaching Adamsborough, a small town that had been hit by several devil's eggs dropped by Jerry on their way back to Germany from bombarding Cleethropes. The munitions dropped were the size of tin cans, and had fuses that would go off when moved following their arming. They had the potential to decimate entire towns, and they were small enough to fit through the windows of a house if wind took them in an unfortunate direction.

Douglass lit up a Michelson and let it waft through the cabin of their vehicle. "I hope they hang whoever designed these blasted things, and throw his corpse to the dogs."

"It's inhumane," Howard agreed, looking approaching a fork in the road. "Which way?"

"To the right," Douglass pointed. The road around them had begun to grow foggy; it was six in the evening. By all accounts, in the middle of summer, the fog was far too dense. "This weather is peculiar."

"Y-yes," Howard nodded. "It's far too warm out for fog. I t-think something's wrong."

"It's just fog, Millpond. There was rain around here after the bombing; I think that the heat's just evaporating the water—"

A blast tore through their conversation, and the rear tyres of their car. "Jesus CHRIST!" Douglass blasphemed, his cigarette flying out of his mouth and striking Howard in the face.

Howard forced the wheel to steer off into the side of the road, where it came to a stop in front of a small boulder. The poor driver looked in the back of the transport, where two other members of his company were seated. "Report!"

"Singh's been hit!" yelled Jameson, their sergeant. Poor Singh was the newest member of the company, a sapper transferred over from elsewhere, Indian in descent. His head was bleeding, and his eyes shut. Not even a groan escaped from his lips. "He's out cold!"

"What the devil happened?" Douglass barked.

"Watch your tone!" Jameson snapped. "We must have driven over unexploded ordinance. Damn ill luck. Fetch the first aid kit from the other truck."

"Yes sir!" Howard exclaimed. He turned off the car and exiting the cabin, making his way to the other truck, his pupils turned to pinpoints, and a soft gasp escaped his lips. "…I'm afraid I can't comply, sir."

"That was an order, Corporal."

"Sir, the other transport…" he looked at the other vehicle. It had flipped onto the roof of its chassis, and an arm was sticking out of the cabin. The engine had caught fire, and there was a gaping hole in the underside. "We drove past it. They drove over it."

"Poor fools," Jameson sighed. "Douglass, help me carry Singh. We're going to have to walk the rest of the way and phone for help in the village."

"Yes sir." Douglass exited the cabin, a soft whistle from his nose lamenting the loss of both of the transports. He made his way towards the sergeant, and lifted up the poor sapper's arms. "Millpond, you have the map. How far until Adamsborough?"

"…seven klicks this way," Millpond pointed, ignoring the tingling in his ears. "I'll help carry Singh—."

"Don't." Jameson hefted Singh's arm onto his shoulders, sharing the burden with Douglass. "You're the best navigator we have. Do your job."

"Yes, sir." As they walked, they swore they heard the sound of feet following them, but whenever Howard turned to look, he was met with nothing but fog.

August 8th

Captain Edgar York lit a Michelson, and overlooked the scene before him.

The entirety of Adamsborough was silent, from the main thoroughfare to the great cathedral that stood overhead. He wiped tobacco off of his moustache and looked at the damaged ambulance that had crashed into a tree off the main road. In its back was a man with a face like sandwich meat, his work shirt stained with blood. There was still soil underneath his fingernails; perhaps he had been a gardener, blown up by a munition. It was one of the only bodies they had found so far.

Adamsborough was far from bustling, but it had a population of five-hundred and forty-nine; barely a fifth of that had been found by the Foundation in their sweep.

"How can an entire village vanish?" He looked up into the still-high sun, thankful for the days post-midsummer still being long enough to see at six in the evening. "None of this makes sense. None of it."

He searched the man's pockets, finding a wallet; inside was a card with the words 'If found, kindly return to 19 Wensley Way, Adamsborough, North East Lincolnshire'. No postal code. He doubted that it was necessary, with how little this man must have left the town. He pocketed it, and started making his way to the man's house.

He did not find it vacant.

It took far too long for the company to see any sign of civilization.

The first sign of life they were greeted with along the road were lights coming from windows, high above the ground, barely visible in the fog. Howard walked towards it, while Douglass and Jameson dragged Singh with them. The man had uttered a few groans on the walk over, and had even managed to stride for half a kilometer, before falling again. Now, he was limp.

The fog gave way to a church, ancient, with brown stone and and a set of oaken double-doors leading into the building. The most prominent feature — and where the lights originated from — was a tower at least three stories tall, with a stained glass image of Mother Mary depicted on it. A cross topped the spire of the tower.

"Maybe they have a phone," Jameson said, hope in his voice. "Knock on the door, Millpond."

Howard nodded, and approached the door, banging on it. "Hello! We have wounded out here! Is anyone inside?"

There was no reply; Douglass frowned. "That's queer, the lights are on, but nobody's in?"

"Maybe they're having a service?" Howard asked.

"It's Thursday, Millpond. Who has services on a Thursday?"

Millpond pushed the door ajar. "It's open. Let's get Singh on some ground somewhere."

"Hullo?" Douglass called out. "We're with the 592nd Tunneling Company. Is anyone in h—"

"Quiet!," a hushed voice called. "Come to the sanctuary, you daft fools."

Howard went onward, while Douglass, Singh and Jameson hobbled in after him. The sanctuary was considerably brighter than its surroundings, illuminated by candles and what little sunlight came in through the misty windows. The pews within had been moved out of the way to make room for two dozen mats of cloth, all with at least one person on them, groaning in pain. Several of them were maimed, but the wounds did not look explosive in nature. They were being overseen by men with white armbands and a red cross, clad in the uniform of the British army. These armbands seemed to be concealing another symbol beneath, but perhaps Howard was imagining things in the candlelight.

Suddenly, they were approached by a man holding a shotgun in their face, wearing the garb of a soldier that should have been on the German front. "State your name and business," he growled.

"Jesus Christ!" Howard said, holding up his hands.

"Doubtful," the man retorted. "Tunneling company, you said? Where are your orders?"

"I have them," Sargent Jameson said, looking at Singh. "Please, let me put him down, they're in my pocket."

The man with the shotgun nodded, and they laid Singh down on one of the vacant cots, before Jameson took a set of papers out of his shirt pocket and handed them to the man. "…Sergeant Jameson, then?"

"Yes, sir."

"Says here there are eight on this mission. I see four."

"…we r-r-ran over unexploded munition," Howard swallowed. "The other transport was decimated, and our car is wrecked. We're trying to walk to Adamsborough for help—"

"Adamsborough is lost," the man said, letting his shotgun hang at his side, his other hand extending to Jameson. "Captain York, 9th Containment Corps."

"Never heard of you," Jameson said, shaking his hand. "But, if you're a captain, I suppose I'm your subordinate."

"Hmm," the man said, looking out the windows, into the mist. "Good thing you came in from the fog. Something tore Adamsborough to bits, and it may still be out there."

"The butterfly munitions?" hazarded Douglass.

"Yes," York lied. "But there's something else out there; Something that can kill a man in an instant, but leaves buildings completely intact." He shook his head.

"Is it a gas?" Howard swallowed, looking at the fog outside.

"No. Hounds." York growled. When he saw the company flinch, he shook his head. "Not bad enough that Jerry's dropping bombs on us now, they started parachuting dogs in, too. Curs ate half the village."

"Oh god." Douglass gaped. "Those poor people…"

"We've not got all of them," York continued. "They're vicious. We're awaiting reinforcements to exterminate the damn things. In the meantime, we've got tea, biscuits, some rations." He shifted aside. "Help yourself."

"Thank you," Howard nodded, taking his canteen off his side and undoing the top, taking a long sip from it. Then, he gasped with pain, and dropped it. His hand burned from cold. Frost had formed on the metal.

The corporal smelled tea deeper in the sanctuary, and departed to find it, to warm his burnt hand. As he left, Captain York confiscated his canteen and took it to someone who was wearing a tweed coat and looking through a microscope.

Captain York stood in the foyer of 19 Wensley Way, looking thoroughly unimpressed as his lieutenant made his way in from the kitchen, stuffing something into his pocket. "Captain," he nodded.

"Lieutenant Catchlove." York sighed. "What are you doing?"

"I'm simply looking around for any cause of the anomaly. We're being very thorough." He pulled his hand from his pocket; it jangled loudly.

"Yes, I can see that." York reached for the man's pocket and tore it off his pants, causing its contents to fall onto the floor; a gold chain, pieces of silverware, a wedding band, and a gold cross deposited themselves onto the floor. "God's sake, Catchlove."

"I'm sending all my money to my sister!" he snapped. "I've got nothing left over. And everyone in the Army's doing it, over on the continent. Not like they'll need it."

"I'll not have any of this looting on my watch. We're the Foundation; we're not some common soldiers who pillage the dead." York scowled at Catchlove.

"You can espouse that to me when the Foundation decides to pay me enough that I can buy new boots." He scooped up cross and stormed towards the door.

It was as he crossed the threshold that the howling started.

Singh was awake, head bandaged, tea in his hand. A boffin had been attending to his wounds for the past half hour, while the members of the Tunneling Corps had been conversing with members of Captain York's squadron. There was an odd hodge-podge of nationalities; the man in the tweed coat was a Pole, someone spoke Czech by the door to the church's foyer. A Frenchman played cards with Douglass, and a pair of Americans was in the back of the room, standing on chairs to look out the high windows in the cathedral. Howard wasn't sure what they would see out there, between the tinted glass and the fog.

Howard had a suspicion that something was wrong, but couldn't figure out what it was. There was a chill in the air that was unnatural for summer, but then again, the weather in the North England was fickle; it could just as easily have been due to a squall in the sea blowing in cold air.

The feeling of wrongness became concrete once he realized he could see his own breath. His eyes went wide, and he looked out the windows, into the fog beyond. It was August; even with squalls blowing in cold wind, he shouldn't be able to see his breath.

A low howl came from outside. Several members of the Containment Corps stopped what they were doing and took up arms, making their way to the cathedral's front entrance. It sounded like dogs were howling, but there was an eerie tone in the bray; something that made the hair on Howard's arms stand on end.

"Don't worry," one of the Americans said as he passed by. "We're just going up front to try to shoot a few of the dogs. Make the reinforcement's jobs easier."

"You have any spare rifles?" Jameson asked. "I'm a fair shot."

"We can take care of this," York assured him, hefting his own rifle and making his way into the cathedral's foyer. He knelt in the back of the cathedral, and signaled for the poor fool who had drawn the short straw to open the door.

When they did, they were met with a loud thunk sound, as a man fell in, a scream frozen on his face, his fingernails bloodied, his pants soiled. His eyes were burnt, blackened by some foul force. York almost dropped his gun.

"Jesus Christ."

"Is it one of ours?" a member of the corps asked.

"I… oh sweet god." York observed a glint of gold in the dead man's hand. "It's Catchlove."

With a loud growl, a cadet was dragged back into the fog by something with far too many teeth to be mortal. A single gunshot was heard from the mist. Not even a scream. Even if there was one, the rest of the corps were too busy running up the hill to the church.

None of them had time for throwing blame or on-foot interrogations. They were running from a cloud of death to the one place in the hamlet that might provide sanctuary: the fortified, millennium-old church. They had already set up a temporary headquarters within.

Another soldier fell with a loud scream, begging and sobbing, far less dignified than the one before. They dared not to look back at the advancing fog, ignored the sounds it made.

They came upon the doors. A young man rammed them in with his shoulder, and fell into the flagstones. York helped him to his feet, and guided him into the chapel, ushering in the rest. The mist, mercifully, stayed away from the church's threshold.

York began a headcount once the last soldier was in; his heart sank as he realized that it was not a common soldier who was begging for his life, but Lieutenant Catchlove. He looked out into the mist, and for a split second, saw a hand reaching out from the fog, before being dragged back in.

Were it not for the size, York would have slammed the oaken door. Instead, he shoved it closed, not thinking about his subordinate's fate.

York took too long to respond to Howard's question. "Who's Catchlove?"

"A lieutenant in the company; he was ambushed by dogs on one of the side streets." York made his way over to the man, and extracted the golden cross from his fingers. "Dammit all."

Singh, by this point, had made his way over to the foyer, and was looking outside at the fog. He swallowed. "There are shapes out there."

"Where?" One of the cadets swung his rifle about frantically. "Where do you see 'em?"

"I…" the man's head swam. "I thought you said they were dogs."

"They are," York assured him.

"No." Singh retreated with a whimper. "They're massive. Not dogs."

"I don't see them!" another cadet protested. "Where are they, you daft ass?"

They soon all saw it; as if condensing from mist, a large, black dog with dark, glassy eyes walked through the doors, and looked upon those gathered. They hesitated as the hound growled.

Douglass's eyes went wide. "That's a Grim."

"What?" Jameson asked.

"Church Grim. We had one at my old parish. They…" Douglass swallowed. "They're harmless, unless provoked."

"Well, let's hope they've not provoked it." Howard stared.

The dog came up to Catchlove's corpse and sniffed at it, before, with a loud growl, it opened its mouth. In a clatter of metal, the Grim deposited at least half a dozen butterfly munitions onto the ground.

"That's impossible," Howard gasped. "They should have all detonat—"

"DOWN!" Jameson yelled, tacking Howard to the ground, while Douglass shielded Singh.

The explosion was tremendous. A single butterfly bomb could take off a man's head; the shrapnel from these scattered all over, striking Captain York in his hand, and tearing the face off of the poor soldier who had opened the door in the first place. At the same time, neither the church's stonework, nor the Grim itself, were harmed. The Grim barked, and then lunged at a soldier who had escaped most of the blast.

Howard was thankful the explosion had deafened him; he could not imagine the screams the man must have made. Those who had survived the attack alternatively ran or limped from the church. Howard looked down at Jameson, who had a gash running down his leg, with a piece of bomb sticking out; adrenaline kept him going.

"Where are we going?!" Howard yelled.

He could not hear the reply. He ran, hoping to not get lost in the fog.

Captain York ran into a garden wall after two minutes of fleeing. He hadn't seen it until his nose was pressed against it; the fog had blinded him.

He recoiled from the wall, looking up at it; it was on a corner, with signs pointing down each street. The sign he had run into was for Sherman Street, and the other was obscured by the layer of fog.

The man from the tunneling company had called it a Church Grim. Harmless, he had said, unless provoked. So, what provoked them? They had been what had wiped out the village, that much was certain. But then they took off, until Catchlove had tried to make off with the cross from the house.

York looked down at his hand. He had been clutching the ornament so tightly that it had left impressions in his hand. He sighed, and wrapped it around his wrist. The man in the ambulance was from the house that the cross was from. Perhaps his death had provoked the Grim? Or Grims? He wasn't sure of how many there were.

Feet fell on flagstones behind him, and a shape emerged from the mist. Captain York drew his pistol and fired on the shape in front of him; it ducked down with a loud yelp. "Don't shoot!" they protested.

"It's you," York sighed. "God alive. Thought you were that thing."

"S-sir," Singh stuttered. "I-I got separated. Douglass — from my company — was with me, and he tripped on the way down the hill. I'm not sure if he's alive."

"Damn it all." York shook his head. "I know where we need to go. Just… careful where you step." He looked at the garden wall above him, where a chunk of brickwork was missing, and casings from a butterfly bomb sat on the pavement below. "There are still munitions about."

"You need a tourniquet," Howard said, removing his shirt.

"No," Jameson growled. "I'll not weigh you down. Find a vehicle and get to safety. Failing that, find a phone, and call command, tell them that Adamsborough is lost."

"Sir, I can carry you—"

"I'm not about to have you eaten by a dog that vomits bombs because you can't carry me fast enough."

Despite Jameson's protests, Howard finished tying a tourniquet along his leg, along with a stick as a makeshift splint. "Well, if you feel that way, you can walk with me, sir."

Jameson barely held back a scowl. Couldn't his generation let there be a martyr among them? Why did they insist on saving lives? There was no glory in returning from war, only a hollow hole in your soul. He'd seen it when he was only sixteen, in the Somme. A man laid down in front of a tank. He didn't even scream. At least, if he died, he could inspire others to keep fighting, or to stop.

He took up a tree branch that had fallen on the street, one end bearing burn marks from a bomb, and limped after Millpond. "Where are we going?"

Howard reasoned, "If we can find a house with a car by it, we may be able to find keys. Live another day."

"Abandoning your post?" Jameson shook his head. "In light of what we've seen, I don't blame you." He lurched along on his three legs. "Why did you join a bomb disposal unit?"

"I… I've my mum to support." He sighed. "We lost it all at the start of the Blitz. Our house was one of the first shelled, and it's a miracle we survived. I've got to take care of her, so I volunteered for a tunneling company so that…"

"So that you wouldn't have to write letters?"

Millpond shook his head. "This is a dangerous job. I don't want her to wait six months for me to be home in a casket. At least if I die here, I can get a proper burial."

Jameson sighed. "After what I saw, in the last war. Just thinking of setting foot in France or Germany again…"

Howard nodded. He had been born after the Great War, but he understood the pain it caused. He continued down the street, keeping Jameson in his sight.

There were a pair of gunshots a street away, firing seconds after each other. They looked at each other, uneasy, before moving on. Howard kept turning, delaying them, swearing he heard another set of footsteps behind them, in the fog.

York and Singh stopped. "What the devil was that?"

"Rifle fire." York shook his head. "It won't do them any good. The… entities. They can't be killed, as far as we can tell." They stood before 19 Wensley Way, unaccosted by either dog or munition. He made his way up to the front door; a burn mark was on the handle, from where one of his men had been consumed by the mist. "I've… no idea if this will work."

"From what you told me, it started after Catchlove stole the cross? So bringing it back might…" Singh wrung his hands together. "What if we need the corpse as well?"

"Well, then we're fucked." York spat on the flagstones, and entered the house.

It was every bit as cozy as it would have been before the bombs dropped; the lights were still on, and the scent of tea filled the air. An armchair, which looked like it had been sat over the course of several lifetimes, stood by an empty, cold fireplace. A radio was on the mantle, by a photograph. York recognized that the channel it was tuned to was a BBC station.

One of the front windows was broken. Glass from it had embedded itself in the ceiling. Singh made his way over to it, and looked through the broken window, into the front garden. He could see a large chunk of ground missing, and a finger on the ground, alongside butterfly munition casing. He winced. "Someone died here."

"No," York shook his head. "He died in the ambulance. But why…" He looked down at the cross, and then up at a photograph on the mantle. The photo showed an old man with a smiling face, the cross around his neck, and the chapel behind him. There was something by the church; York strode over and took up the photograph.

The church's doors were open. In the shadows of the foyer, he made out the form of a large black dog. York placed the photograph down with a sigh. "Church Grim." He sucked on his cheek, and placed the cross by the photograph, an unsaid apology along with it.

Now, all he could do was wait, and pray. Singh stepped back from the window, hoping the fog would not penetrate the broken glass.

The sapper was drinking from a cold cup of tea to calm his nerves when he next looked out the window. "It's lifting," Singh said, being able to see the August sun once more. "But not gone. I think I can see the church from here."

York leaned and looked with him. "Aye. There are some of our transports, parked down the hill." He drew his pistol. "I can take you to Cleethropes; we have people there who can get you back down south." He drew his knife and handed it to Singh. "It's not much, but it's protection."

The man nodded in thanks, and took the knife, crouching his way out the door. A howl sounded behind them, and he heard the distinctive crunch of clay roof tile being crushed by an immense weight.

"It's not coming for us," York whispered. "It's just… watching. Just keep walking, and be calm about it."

Singh swallowed, and blinked his eyes; the fog had taken on a more acrid form, almost like smoke. He put his shirt collar over his nose, but it still stung his eyes. He looked up and behind him, and saw the great, black form walking on the roofs of the houses, the tiles shattering under its paws. Its presence filled Singh with a single, primal urge to leave, through any means possible.

He turned away. "I thought it'd be more docile once we returned the cross."

"We've done enough damage already," York spoke, muffled through a kerchief. "It just wants us to leave. Walk faster."

"Yes, sir." Singh picked up his stride, which slowed once more when he reached the base of the hill which held the church. "…Howard. The others…"

"I'm sorry, son." York patted the younger man on the shoulder, and started the slog up the hill.

Douglass suppressed a cough as he shut the eyes of the second man. The Americans from the containment corps had shot each other. There was surprise on their faces, no malice in either of them. In the fog, they were confused. Maybe they saw each other as Grims. Senseless, in any case.

Heavy footsteps came from ahead; two pairs of feet. A shape was distant in the fog; just a blackness that he couldn't make out. Douglass drew his pistol, and made his way towards the shape. It was walking unevenly; was it wounded? Was it dying? And the sound it was making; unnatural, unnerving wheezing, like a cur with cancer. Maybe it had stepped on a munition, and perforated a lung.

Douglass's finger was on the trigger before he realized that the footsteps were not caused by massive paws; rather, two pairs of boots against flagstones. "H-hallo?" he asked.

"D-Douglass?" A familiar stutter replied. From out of the fog came the face of Howard Millpond, supporting Jameson. "Good god, man. W-w-we thought…"

"I was lucky. I tripped, and I supposed it mistook me for dead. Singh's gone." He rubbed his face. "Damn it all. What's going to be said in our report?"

Jameson laughed. "That's what's on your mind?" He looked around. "Should we be… moving?"

Douglass nodded, looking back down the street eastward. The fog, though acrid, was starting to lift. He could see the great black dog on a rooftop adjacent to them, but at the same time, it wasn't doing anything apart from watching. Douglas gave it a respectful nod, seeing people moving up the hill, towards the church. The sound of a car starting echoed through the village.

"Here!" Howard called. "We're down here! We have wounded!" The fog absorbed his voice.

"Over here!" Douglass stood as tall as he could and waved his arms, while waking forward. "Please! We're down here!"

Whether it was distance, the fog, or something else, their cries seemed to go ignored. As they walked, Howard swore he saw an Indian face look down the hill and back at them, but it turned away, seemingly ignorant of their presence.

The closer they got to the edge of the hill, the smokier the fog seemed to get. When they emerged from the cloud, they heard a low rumbling at the top of the hill; none of them could distinguish whether it was a car's engine, or the growling of a gigantic dog.

They looked at each other; Howard, the youngest, had uncertainty in his eyes, but also a cautious optimism that was absent from his superiors' gaze. Douglass and Howard wrapped their arms around Jameson and carried up him up the hill, towards the low growling. The fog only grew thicker as they climbed.

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