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western front

I love jam

France – 1918

After a couple weeks of working with Doc, Bren started to understand more about the Western Front. Two enormous armies, locked in a life and death struggle, faced off against each other along a narrow band of land called no-man’s-land. It was a kind of thin strip of barbed wire and death that ran, quite literally, for hundreds of miles.

Everything seemed so new and different from what she imagined the future to be. Fantastic flying machines, terrible guns mounted on wagons that moved by themselves, and explosives that did more damage than anything that Bren had ever conceived of, filled this future world. How had humanity come to this?

Sitting in the mess tent, Bren ate something called “corned beef” with a type of hard bread and something she really liked named “jam,” Today, it was quiet on the Western Front as Sundays tended to be. For most soldiers, it was just a day of rest while others attended makeshift churches and worshiped as best they could.

Hey lady!

“Hey Lady!” sounded a cheerful greeting from behind her.

Brenzel wheeled around and, seeing a boyish grin, exclaimed “Sam!”

The young soldier, plopping down across from her said, “I see you’re settling in just fine.”

Bren, furrowing her brow, replied, “I’m making do, and as long as I don’t run out of this jam, I think I will be okay.”

Bren had only seen Sam a few times after he saved her life on the front line. Sam, it turned out, had a knack for stealth, and his commanding officer made use of his talents in capturing enemy soldiers, which they interrogated for vital information. It was risky business, but Sam seemed to enjoy it immensely. He said it got him out of less desirable types of duty and put him in good with his superiors.

“Thank you for saving me, Sam,” Bren said, thinking back to the day they met. “I don’t think I ever had a chance to say that to you.”

“Aw, don’t mention it, ma’am. Odds are you’ll probably do the same for me someday! Besides, I couldn’t stand the thought of the Krauts taking a dish like you prisoner!”

“Dish?” Bren repeated, looking bewildered.

“Where did you grow up?” Sam asked as he enjoyed a biscuit with some of Bren’s jam ration.

Bren, flustered for a moment, replied, “In England.”

“I figured,” said Sam, “your accent is awfully funny. I have trouble understanding you sometimes. Plus the words you use seem a might fancy. ” he added.

40 acres of heaven

Wanting to shift the focus, Bren asked, “Tell me about your home Sam, please.”

Sam shrugged and said, “There ain’t much to say about it, I was raised on 40 acres of heaven. Pa grew corn and we had a big garden for vegetables and the likes. I milked a cow every morning and evening until my little brother, Luke, got big enough to do it himself. ”

“I remember milking our cow when I was young too!” Bren interjected. “Sometimes she’d reach around and lick my face, I hated that, it was so rough and wet,” Bren said as she stuck out her tongue.

“Yeah”, Sam laughed, “I hated that, too”.

“How many brothers and sisters do you have?” Brenzel asked.

“Well, let me see, there is Luke, Jasper, Suzie, Margaret, and little Joe, he’s the baby of the family. Emily, she died of the fever three winters ago. Ma took it powerful hard. She sat on the porch just rocking in her chair all day for weeks after we buried her. Everyone misses her a lot.” Sam finished with a sadness in his voice.

Bren, moved by his loss, told Sam that she was sorry Emily passed away. Thinking back to her own experience of her husband and daughter passing away, she sympathized with his mother grieving for her daughter, too.

A way out

“So, when the war came, I enlisted. Seemed a way to get out and see the world. My parents are proud of me. They’re religious folk and said that God would watch over me. Ma sends me a letter every week saying that she’s praying that my guardian angel will keep me out of trouble. I’ve been in some tight spots, but so far her prayers seem to be workin! What about your parents, ma’am, are they doin’ ok?” Sam inquired.

Brenzel, feeling a twinge of sadness said quietly, as she looked down, “No, Sam, they passed away quite some time ago.”

“Oh, I am sorry to hear that. I know they’d be powerful proud of what you’re doin’ here though.”

“Thanks Sam, I think they would be, too.”

Questions and answers

Sam stood up, thanked Bren for the biscuit and jam, and said he had to report for duty. Brenzel, looking after him, felt that it was time for answers, and she knew just where to find them.

The first day Bren translated to WW1, and was pressed into service, Doc’s commanding presence caused everyone around her to hop to it. Bren, at that time still reeling from being dropped in a war zone, didn’t think much about being called Seraph Hunter, yet, as soon as she got her bearings, Bren asked, “How do you know what I am?”

Doc replied, “Because I’m one, too.”

Today, late in the night, Doc sat in the corner of a makeshift bunker, which served as a field hospital. Cramped and dimly lit by a single kerosene lamp, she reclined on a wooden chair, sipping sherry she’d found in a bombed out home. Short black hair, barely below her ears, framed her wide-set eyes that burned with intelligence. Her mouth, set with a sort of permanent, all-knowing half-smirk, sported red lip rouge whenever she could find it. A slight woman, barely five foot four, she usually worked in perpetual motion as she raced to save the lives of as many wounded soldiers as possible.


As Doc sipped her sherry from a tin cup, Bren abruptly entered the bunker. “Tell me why I was chosen to be a Seraph Hunter. Why me?”

Looking down at her liqueur, as if to ask its opinion, Doc asked, “How much do you know?”

Bren, anger rising, said, “Almost nothing except the three rules:

  1. Always wear your hat,
  2. Always place the feather in the hat whenever it appears, and
  3. I can never visit anyone from my past – ever.

Then the man just gave me hat and a feather and was gone!”

Grinning to herself, Doc said, “Good memory! Sounds like him. By the way, his name is Traveler.”

“I think he’s mean,” Bren concluded.

“No, not mean Bren, just really busy,” Doc assured her.

“Tell me why I was chosen,” Brenzel demanded again.

Doc, looking at the insistent woman before her said, “Because you have the gift.”

“What gift?” Bren demanded.

“The gift of grace,” Doc said slowly.

“What does that mean,” and sitting down on a cot, said, “what does any of this mean?” Brenzel pleaded further.

The first connection

Doc half smiled, and leaning forward in her chair, looked directly at Bren with those piercing eyes, saying “There was an original grace that God gave mankind when He created us. It is a direct connection to His essence. The first man and woman had unlimited grace and walked in perfection.”

“Okay,” Bren said hesitantly with a look of disbelief, “and what has that to do with me?”

“You’re a throwback, Bren. You are very much like the first people who walked in God’s presence. You possess unlimited grace. Consequently, our enemy fears you, that is why people tried to have you hung.”

Bren chided, “I suppose you are going to tell me that the devil did it.”

Doc, sitting perfectly still, simply let that realization sink in. Continuing on, Doc explained, “Traveler found you before they killed you and offered you the hat.”

“Do you have one, too?” Bren asked.

“Yes.” Doc replied. And as she touched her head, a hat, similar to Bren’s, appeared.

Bren, amazed, asked breathlessly, “How did you do that?! I can’t see mine, unless it is time to go!”

Tip your hat like this

“You just have to touch where the brim should be and tip it forward, then it will appear,” Doc instructed. “It takes a bit of practice, though.” Doc added as she demonstrated a couple more times.

“You should never do it though unless you need the glasses or it’s time to travel. Don’t allow people to see it unless you’re sure you can trust them. Also,” with an air of unearthly gravity, Doc cautioned her new apprentice, saying, “never take the hat off for any reason, else bad things tend to happen.”

“Like what?” Bren demanded.

“Let’s just say… it’s dangerous to be uncovered.”

“It’s late Bren, and I’m tired, we’ll talk another time.” Doc said as she stood, moving towards the door. Placing her hand on Bren’s shoulder, pausing as she passed, the experienced Hunter said, “I know it’s hard, kid, but this is your true calling and you’re a natural. You’re one of the best I’ve ever seen.”

Afterward, Bren sat up half the night, reaching, concentrating, and ultimately failing to make her hat appear. Finally, giving up in frustration she decided to go to bed. Half-jokingly, Brenzel smiled into a small mirror hung on her tent pole, curtsied, and pretended to tip her hat to Traveler, saying, “Goodnight sir!” when suddenly, to her delight, the hat appeared! “Wow!” she exclaimed, and then, tipping it again, made it vanish. Over and over Bren caused her hat to appear and disappear until a rooster announced a new day had dawned.