's 2013 Horror Write-off:

"Doomsday's Surgeon"

Submitted by C. Lonnquist

     He tended to bullet wounds with precision, his deft hands swooping into carmine and carnation and drawing out the gray. Blood was a usual sight, and he couldn't sleep without the sounds of human suffering like some can't sleep without the sound of rain.

     Swords and axes, guns, mortars; these were standard and accepted. It was the changing that bothered him. Limbs, bones, even cells twisted by the very firmament of chaos. Warped and bent things where humans used to exist. War, they say, is hell, but what is war when you're fighting its very definition?

     They would clutch at him with tentacle hands and demand a return to normalcy. This, more often than not, would be followed by a bullet wound no one had any intention of healing, and a small, silent cross drawn along his chest when the green-coats left him alone in the room with what used to be a man.

     Curatioturge, they called him, and when he stared at the cracked white plaster above him at night, he wondered if it should have been thanaturge instead, were either really words. How could one cure something that is not a disease? How can one mend something that isn't broken, but simplychanged?

     Pits opened and men died. He thought of antlions when he saw them burst through concrete, all jaws and fire and desecration. They kept him from the front when possible, but sometimes he found himself caught between the hiss of machine guns and the dread roar of those things that seemed like giant dogs but were artillery.

     Someone told him the sky had once been blue and sometimes gray. He didn't believe them; it had always been onyx struck with red and orange, a heaving volcano looming down where—he was told—heaven had been. There was no heaven now, and if there ever had been, it had turned itself from men out of disgust and shame.

     He had heard the white-clad stood at the front, though their numbers were smaller. Wings stretched across their feet and faces, and their hands beamed with light that killed men and devils without discretion. A general said they fought for man, and a private had said they fought with man though his meaning did not apply that they stood alongside humanity.

     Too often, his studies had been of black tomes made from skin, etched with fire and malice and filled with words that made more sense as torn bodies were dragged before him. In them, there were counters; shifting symbols that would turn scales to flesh and things back into men. He leafed through them with gloves and goggles, though he knew that the strange glyphs would never leave him.

     He tended to bullet wounds with precision, his one clawed hand replacing his blood-rusted scalpel, and his compound eye seeing far deeper than any microscope. Healing was a usual sight, but he couldn't sleep without the sounds of human suffering like some can't sleep without the sound of rain.