Haunted Soldier

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Bad Story

I Need...

...to talk to somebody.

Just talk. But they make it so hard.

Some asshole puts his hand on me to stop me, so I reach up under his ribcage for a good grip and bring him to me, and then take my other forearm, hard across his throat, and bend him like a wet paper cup down, and the chrome pole holding up the velvet rope crunches into the base of his skull, and beyond.

He slides over, laying back on his own calves, dying.

Fuck.

A whole line full of hopefuls gives me cow eyes...most of them have phones with cameras. Wrong place, wrong time, motherfuckers...

I let rip down the line with the mini-Uzi, and they scatter like quail, and shriek like Japanese schoolgirls at a Godzilla sighting. The rest of the clip goes into the other doorman, goggling like a tourist. He drops like a wet sack of shit and I toss the gun aside, and bring up the shotgun from under my coat. Crowd control, dontcha know...I jerk it, and the shoulder strap comes loose, and I hold it high, letting the crowd take in it's shiny chrome, the disco lights splattering off it, making it look like Thor's hammer, and the crowd parts like the Red Sea, scattering like a herd of sheep.

Some stand. They die. They protect who I want to see, and I blow them open like meat piñatas.

I thumb fresh rounds into the tube as the barrel begins to steam and smoke, the heat shield working overtime, the gun smelling like a new barbecue...
mixed with the burnt meat and fresh shit from torn guts, my own stomach begins to rumble a bit. I haven't eaten since yesterday. Forgot.

He's upstairs. Of course he's upstairs. Assholes like him always take the high ground.

Grunts like me, always have to assault upwards.

Oh, well.

I have a five shot bandolier filled with 12 gauge sabot attached to my belt, and I've been counting. I thumb them danger quick into an empty tube, and slam them up through his floor into his office. I see shit fly everywhere through the window, and the lights in the office blow out and somebody is screaming up there like a slaughtered lamb and I turn hard to my right and slam the red hot sawed off into some heroes guts and he screams and screams as his shirt and jacket burst into flames...

...and I reach into the small of my back and grab the pistol grip of my compact AK and yank it out and take the stairs by threes. Two bullets hit me in the back, slamming into the kick plate of my vest, and propelling me to the last step...thanks, asshole...I spin, and open up some Guido like a can of beans, and

explode! through the door and skid flat into the room killing anyone I don't recognize and I see him, there, in a ball, in the corner, behind a bookcase. Unscathed. Good.

I rise, and his head snaps around, and I look into his blood red eyes, fangs rampant.

I cut his legs off at the thighs with a long burst, and I only have to change mags once.

I step towards him, where he writhes and spurts, and hisses, and tears great gouts of wood from the floor with his impotent claws.

I smile, straight into his face, with genuine joy. I cannot remember when I have enjoyed myself so much, without a woman's sweetness surrounding my member.

"Hi, fuckface...let's talk..."


So, We Have Our Little Chat…

I raise my eyebrow, and he grins and rubs his stomach. Yum yum.

The client is going to be pissed…too bad, his daughter is bat shit. Literally. Shouldn’t have gone goth, numb little cunt.

So I pulp his brain with a quick burst, kick him over, and take off his head with my Bowie. Gotta leave the knife. No time to clean the blade, company’s coming, and I don’t want any of his goo on any part of me. Contagious-ass shit.

I punch the blade down through the top of his skull, and the blade squeaks on bone, his teeth still snap at me. I lift Snappy up by the knife handle and put his head on his chest. He glares at me. Fuck but they start to heal quick.

“What you lookin at, leech?” I grab a full bottle of good scotch from the desk, and smash it into his ugly puss. I stomp it and the glass bursts all the way. Step back, flick a wooden match with my thumbnail, and drop it into the shithead cocktail I just made…FOOOMP! His teeth gnash for a few seconds, and then his brain starts to boil.

I pull a Hot Stick out of my vest, snap the cap, and toss it on the body to help out the burning scotch. I close my eyes against the expected phosphor flash, and I can still see it through my eyelids. So can everybody who looked up here by accident, and I yank a grenade off its pin clipped to my vest, let the spoon fly, count to five, and toss it underhanded through the window, where a heartbeat later another flash and boom sends shrapnel into upturned faces. I hear the music of screams

and I jump out of the window through the black smoke of exploded TNT, into them; I hit hard into a crouch and empty a magazine in a blazing arc and snap in another one and fire one handed as I flip another grenade towards the rear entrance, because I can hear sirens through my earplugs, now, approaching the front

and I see a pretty little girl, maybe eighteen, in an electric blue mini dress, laying on the floor in front of me, her titties popped out the top, half her skull gone, brains lead a trail away…there’s a very clear shoe print in the puddle, beginning to fill in with blood.

Too fucking bad…children shouldn’t play with dead things.

As I head for the rear exit, my bullets precede me, and anything that is not trying its damndest to seep into the floor gets cut to pieces. At the door, I turn and flip another grenade behind the bar…fire is good. Cleansing.

Besides, I am pissed. Likely the little bitch I came here to gets Daddy will try to stiff me on my fee.

He’d better not.




The alley stinks of piss and vomit and reefer and fear. I step over bodies in the doorway, and on one that lets out a groan. Time to shag it the fuck out of here. A few of the lucky ones are nearly to the street, where they will wave down the first cop they see. I've killed a few cops, but they always make more.

I hear a helicopter. Fuck.

I sling the AK under the coat on the shoulder strap where I'd had the shotgun, and palm a compact .45 auto from one of my pouches. As I run down the alley, I see white light begin to crawl up the street in front of me...in about five seconds, this alley is going to be lit up like Oscar Night...top o' the world, ma!

Bullshit.

I slam my shoulder into a steel door to my left, and the bolt gives and rings down the hallway dingle dingle dingle, me after it, keeping my boots as quiet as I can. I know there are stairs, going down, and passages, and tunnels, all under this part of the city. I do my homework.

The stairs are pretty much right where the old plans showed them to be, and within five minutes, I am four blocks away, climbing the stairs of an apartment building that I had paid $500 for a key to the front door of three months ago.

For $6,000, the denizen of apartment 6A was keeping a package safe for me. I'd chosen him because he wasn't a doper, and wouldn't be tempted to look inside to see what he could shoot up or sell.

No, our hero was a baby-fucker, a regular registered sex offender, and was more than happy to make a little coin from a 'fellow pervert' he had met in a chat room, and then emailed with privately. I had told him that what was in the box was a pile of primo kid vids and photos, that I would cut him in for a share of when I sold them to the right buyer. Plus, I would let him keep copies of anything that he liked.

He opened the door immediately after my knock, and my recitation of the code word we'd settled on. He looked up at me and sighed, and his eyes swam with lust. "Oh my, you're a big one, and sooo butch!" he said, and I slapped him hard on the side of his head as he melted into me.

He slumped, unconscious, and I held him out in front of me so he wouldn't thud to the floor and make noise, or touch me with his loathsome homo fat-body. I chucked him onto the couch, and went back and shut the door quietly. His curtains were already shut, so I just zip-tied his hands and feet, taped his mouth, and then went through his closets until I found my foot locker.

I carried it back into the living room, where he lay, still, his eyes open, watching me. I set the box down, took one knee, and twisted the lock and hasp out of the wood with my hand. Who knew where the fucking key was by now. I threw back the lid, and the sight of all of the guns and ammo in there made his eyes bug.

I shrug out of my leather trench, and grimace at the two holes in the back. I had patches for them. The coat was patched in other spots, but it had been a gift, and I regretted that I would have to get rid of it soon. I set it aside. I shed the rig that only had one grenade left. Man, I hate to get that low. The vest pockets hang, most unsnapped and empty. Shudder. I slide the AK off, and his eyes bug even more. I pull off the T-shirt, and then reach for the clasps of my vest. I turn to him.

"If I see a boner, I'm going to cut it off, and cauterize it with a hot knife, and leave you alive, comprende?" He nodded frantically. I slipped the heavy clamshell up and off and was left in the black silk teddy I wear underneath so it doesn't chafe. I was sweaty like a fucking pig, and the air against me made me feel good and clear for the first time tonight. I looked down, and my nipples had hardened. I pinched each one between thumb and forefinger, and rolled them around, and moaned a little. I looked over at him, and his eyes were squinched tightly shut, like two little oysters. He was shaking like a dog shitting peach pits. I quietly slid one of my knives out, and poked him lightly in the dong.

Behind his tape, he screamed like a damned thing. Good. He was.

I laughed, slid a .45 into the back of my pants, and headed off to the kitchen to get a beer. I knew he would have a case of my brand in there. I had told him to.

It would be about three days, to be safe, before they cleared the crime scene and it would be safe for me to venture out again. My pervert had some information I wanted, and I had three leisurely days to get it, if he didn't die, first.

I open the fridge. Ahhh, Miller.

When it's time to relax...


Chapter Two…

With two bottles between the fingers of one hand, and one of his kitchen chairs in the other, I return to the living room and sit beside my box, just in front of him. I uncap one bottle, and drain it in one long gulp, and drop it on the floor as I uncap the other. His eyes look at the bottle on the floor with disapproval. I kick the heel of my boot into his forehead, leaving a nice print, which begins to well with blood. He closes his eyes and whimpers.

From the top tray of the box, I fish out a jar of Skippy, and a box of crackers, and begin to feast. I am starved, and I bless George Washington Carver with every bite.

As I drink beer and gobble, I fish around in a small white box with a red cross on it. I don’t seem to need any of the bandages, but I fish out a syrette of morphine, and pop it into his neck. His face relaxes, and he turns into a flaccid puddle of fag meat on the couch. I yank off the tape and replace it with a ball gag I’d brought, one with a breathing hole in it. I’m going to be pissed if this fucker dies on his own.

I pull out the top tray, and underneath are rows of packages of what looks like green sticks of butter, several green canisters, and oval plastic things that look like smoke detectors. I begin to peel the tape on the adhesive from my mines, and to stick them around the apartment. One goes on the front door, and one on the floor in front of the only window. I flip their switches as I set them, and they grow tiny red eyes, that blink. I set these to the same frequency, and clip the radio detonator to my belt.

I place a few more on walls that will blow out into the hall, or into adjacent rooms, and give them their own group of frequencies.

I pull a long coil of yellow cord out, and make three circles at various places on the floor of the apartment, big enough for me to drop through when I blow the Det Cord, and then staple two more onto the ceiling, and position chairs underneath them. If I have to go up, for some reason, I ain’t fucking Superman, and I’ll be burdened with gear. If I’m lucky.



Mans Voice: all I hear is him walking around…

Mans Voice: I heard some kind of clacking sound…

[sound of van door sliding open]

Mans Voice: hurry up and get off the street motherfucker…

Mans Voice: blow me, cocksucker…

Mans Voice: if you ghost me, I’ll bleed you…slow…

[General Laughter]

Mans Voice: MOTHERFUCK! I said sugar, no cream!

Mans Voice: that’s not cream, I jerked off in it…

Mans Voice: you faggot…

Mans Voice: no, that would be him up there…

Mans Voice: cocksucker’s asleep, I think…

[Sound of chair springs squeaking]

Mans Voice: let me turn up the gain…there…no, I hear footsteps…fuck, he just opened a beer bottle…

Mans Voice: since when did that little pansy start drinking beer?

Mans Voice: …yeah, I thought he was Master of the Pink Squirrel…maybe it’s a Zima…

Mans Voice: think he’s got company?

Mans Voice: nah, we’d a heard it…

Mans Voice: this shit is good, but it ain’t fool proof, and you ARE a fool…

Mans Voice: suck my fuckin dick…

Mans Voice: I don’t hear any fucking or sucking, but we can’t be sure…protocol says we put a laser on the window to augment the bugs…

Mans Voice: FUCK protocol…

Mans Voice: you are SUCH a lazy prick…okay, I’ll do it…you sit there and drink my cum…

Mans Voice: oh, FUCK you!


Fuck!

Something large and hot punches through the wall and turns the Master of the Pink Squirrel into a bleeding canoe, a blood Canoli...

My feet punch me out and backwards over my chair, as hot things batter and smash their way through the wall and chuck chuck chunk their way in a linear pattern through the wall and after me...

...my box of supplies is hit...explodes in a fury...adds to the list of things that want to hurt me...

I skid into the kitchen, and roll up to the fridge...

I sweep my arm up and behind the back shelf and sweep every shelf and all of their contents out to the kitchen in a mess of fag food and the bullets are stitching their needlepoint around the room and I leap into the fridge and pull the door mostly closed and press ALL on the remote and the apartment explodes...

...and the fridge door slams shut on me and I hear a click and I'm in the dark.

Fuck.

Fucking fag retro bull-shit appliances...



The Sun Also Sets...

Desert sand licks up to the edge of the place like a receding ocean, dust swirling like dead foam.

The setting sun glints painfully off the chrome of crotch rockets, and dully, from the dead eyes of the blacked out windows of several vans, SUV's, and a couple of battered motor homes.

I cut the motor at 500 yards, and coast up to the edge of the parking lot. I get out, and walk like a normal, heavy footed man, across the sand, to the double doors.
They are used to this sound, and it should draw no alarm, just amusement.The constabulary in these parts are either bought and paid for, or...have other reason to, shall we say, be complacent...

I place my hand on the door. Feel. Breathe. An entrance is so important, perhaps even more so than accessorizing.

I pull the pin from one of my accessories, flick it away into the sand, and palm the sphere up the left sleeve of my duster, and push my way in. The dying light glints off of several sets of glinting green eyes, set aside from the chemically red ones who squint, and turn away from the glare.

I'm in the right place.

I stomp, in my boots, towards the bar, waving a sheaf of 20's in my right hand, and, hollering in perfect biker, "Drinks for the house!"

Music to most ears, not to all. Pitchers are grabbed off tables, wasted waitresses are galvanized, and head to the bar, and the Still Ones, in the back, there, eye me balefully.

I have disturbed their feeding ground.

No one lives, tonight, if I can help it, but best to eliminate the A-Team first, so I let the spoon fly out of my sleeve, and as green eyes widen in shock, the door still creaking shut on its rusty springs, I let my greeting bump and thump across the floor into the middle of them...


Judge, Not...

About a half a mile from my destination, at the top of a private drive, sat a sheriff's car, its occupant dozing, as again, I coasted up to him.

It's easy. Just remember, your car pushes a cushion of heat in front of it, so don't aim it at your target, and give yourself thirty feet, or so. Practice gently using the parking brake to stop. It's the least stressed item in your car, and done properly, it is quiet. Leave the car in neutral, shifting into park makes noise.

I'd opened the well-greased door about 500 feet ago, or so, so I slipped out silently, and tread softly, on little cat's feet, towards the cruiser.

I had no need to draw my pistol, a noisy operation at best, as it was already on the car seat beside me. Besides, deploying a .50 Desert Eagle, with attached silencer, is damn near like deploying a crew-served weapon. Silencer, you ask? Well, let's just say, it muzzles the bear. A well made can will tame damn near anything, and the more weight on the front of that fucker, the better.

His hat is down over his eyes, and I reach in and take it, and put it on my own head. He, being a pinhead, makes his lid a tight fit, but all I want is the silhouette, anyway.

He startles...

Staring down the equivalent of a drainage pipe will do that to you, I guess.

"Hi!" I say, cheerily, while motioning to his hands that they should really be on the steering wheel. They comply.

His throat is making a dry clicking sound, like when the battery goes bad on your wall clock. I am taking it all in. The Judge has a cool mailbox. A nearly exact representation of the courthouse downtown, across from the pretty park, with the bandstand in the middle of it, scarred by the Satanic graffiti carved up in its ceiling.

He's got some 'splaining' to do, that Judge...okay, belay that, he just needs to pay for certain, shall we say, misguided decisions? Yes, that'll do.

I open the car door with my left hand, wide, and point to the trunk release. The gun stays steady, centered on his face. He reaches down with his left hand, and pops the release. Gosh, I like working with professionals.

I give him the 'come to me' gesture, and he rises out of the car. His ass fell asleep with the rest of him, so he's a bit creaky. I direct him back towards the trunk, and a teensy flicker of hope dawns in his eyes. I'm five feet away. He can lunge at me, if he wants. He doesn't want. His shoulders drop, and he shuffles back around to stand in front of the open trunk.

There's two rifle cases in there, and all kinds of boxes and cases of this and that. This is like sending a kid to their room. All their stuff is there. The hope glows like a blown-on ember. Am I that stupid? Well, let's just play along and see!

I give him one last chance to die like a man.

I wave the gun out and at him, using it like a pointer, to tell him where I want him, which is in the trunk. He sits on the rubberized edge, and swings his feet up and over and inside, and lowers himself into his coffin.

I sigh.

I direct him to move where I want, with his head up against the spare tire. I step back several feet, and his eyes begin to widen "I've got a wife and two kids!" he blurts, like I give a shit, and I take careful aim, and squeeze the trigger. The huge bullet phumps into his head and thence into the steel wheel with a 'ptank!' and I am greatly relieved. I bend down and pick up an empty cartridge nearly the size of a lipstick, and drop it into my duster pocket.

Between all of the ammo and flares in there, not to mention the gas tank, I was really worried, because I needed that car...


What Happens Next...

Oh, I'm sorry, I just checked, and my computer is out of ink. I'd go purchase some more, but silly me, my purse is empty of everything but lint!

I know, I know, egg on my face.

Well, too bad. I had such plans. Nope, no car ride. Nice guess, though. I had every intent of shooting a perfectly good dog. And a woman. There may have been torture.

You'd put a quarter in the door if you had to shit, so...


Down The Lane...

The pavement ends after about five hundred yards, and turns into that fine whitish gravel rich people use. I wind through the woods, at the first turn, something in the trunk shifts, and there is a moist thump.

The tires crackle like they're popping a long, continuous sheet of bubble wrap, the tiny stuff, that you use to wrap crystal, and Hummel Figurines, and such. The cruiser's nose finally pokes out of the woods, and I see a small lake, or a large pond, a thing of beauty, green lawn oozing up out of the water at the far side, crawling up a gentle slope to a fine, lemon-yellow house. A manse, really.

I hate yellow.

The brakes squeal slightly as I crunch to a stop, to take it all in. Across the way, at the land-side end of a small dock, I see my target. He sees me, too, and waves. He points down to a gaggle of fish on a stringer in one hand, using the segments of a fishing pole, already disassembled, in his other hand, as a pointer.

I, there, a distant silhouette in my borrowed Smoky Bear hat, raise my left arm out the window, and wave lazily. Sure, welcome me in.

There's a box on the passenger seat, that I brought with me. I flick a switch, and all cell phone and radio traffic for a half mile radius ceases. No matter, I have no one to call.

I nose the cruiser around the pond, the pursuit engine growling like a hunting beast, not caring who holds its leash.

The circular driveway at the front of the house is finished concrete, and I pull to a stop, and kill the engine. The engine clicks and tinks, and air conditioner coolant hisses and spatters on the hot parts, like baby fat, frying.

I step out of the car, and toss the hat back in. The key alarm dings softly, a few times, until I gently shut the door....

A Dog's Life...

He comes running at me, across the yard, his happy tongue flapping about like a pink fish, a handsome Yellow Lab.

I raise the .50, and core him out like an apple, brown and red sauce exploding out of his ass like thrown oatmeal. Dogs will still make noise, even when mortally cored, so I flicker out the Browning .380 and phut two into his skull, and there's nothing left but the twitching.

Chasing rabbits in Hell, I suppose.

I stride purposefully towards the front door, and find it unlocked, as I expected. Just makes it easier.

His wife is crossing the hallway, down near what I'd bet is a kitchen, so I shoot her ankle out from under her, and she flips like a Cirque Soliel acrobat and her skull thocks to the floor like a dropped melon.

I see the judge, out on the back deck, his fish forgotten, looking up and around, like he's sniffing the air, like he suspects something is wrong.

Sheah...ya think?


.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Part One

Chapter One

Every story has a beginning. It is, by default, where you begin to read. Some people start reading at the end, some writers start writing in the middle. I don’t actually know quite where to start, so I’m just going to spin the Rolodex of my life, and poke my finger in. One thing is for sure, it won’t be at the end, because it hasn’t. Maybe somewhere in the middle…

Haunted Houses. I've lived in a few. I've come to believe that there may be something about me that brings out the weird in a place. I may tell you more about some of the doozies later, but I was going through my old military photos yesterday, and a weird one came up from the depths of my memory...one I was more of an observer of, than a participant in.

I joined the Army a little over two decades ago. I was 27 years old, my life had just blown up in my face, and I joined the Infantry because I wanted to. The Recruiter had slammed a large book of computer printouts down on his desk. He'd told me that my ASVAB scores were the highest they'd ever seen in the Tri-State recruiting area of Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas. That the big book was a list of all the jobs the Army had, and that I qualified to go into any one of them. Did I want to become a doctor? A pilot?

I pointed to the Special Forces guy in a poster on the wall, the guy with the camo and the guns, and said "I want that." Oh, no no no I didn't, was the general text of the conversation. I didn't want to be a 'Grunt', I had too much potential.
I finally told him that I could get all of that other fancy training in the real world, but I could only get this stuff in the Army. I told him that this was Friday morning, my divorce had just come final, she wanted money, and I wanted to get away, and if I wasn't on a bus or a plane somewhere by Monday morning, I was going to go get my old job back and forget the whole thing. That was also the last time that I can recall smarting off to an E-7 with a CIB (Combat Infantry Badge) and both shoulder patches. A unit patch on your right shoulder and not just on the left, coupled with a CIB, means you were sent somewhere by Uncle Sam, somewhere people were shooting at each other.

Everything turned into a whirlwind, as he ran me ahead of everybody in every line, and got me physical'd, poked, prodded, coughed with turned head, clouds of paperwork, raise my right hand and repeat after me, orders printed, bus ticket in hand to airport, plane ticket, and be ready to leave early Monday morning, private.
It was just that simple. Nothing left but to party like a wild beast all weekend and fuck all the girls I'd been meaning to get around to fucking.

Early Monday morning, my parents pried me away from some vixen in a leopard print body stocking, and drove my besotted ass to the bus station. I was off to Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was the first part of November. The part where Winter is just beginning to curl up his lip, and show the fine, sharp points of teeth. Cold, white teeth...

I’d joined the military on a whim…practically press-ganged myself. I had just seen the movie ‘Stripes’, with a friend, and we both decided to join, that very night. Yes, we were drunk. He pussed out, I didn’t. I wanted to kill ragheads. Iran was holding our people hostage, and I was royally pissed off. I was tired of punching out every Arab looking person I ran into, and was ready to go raze some villages. Throw in the aforementioned divorce, add not being allowed by law to see my kids, a few other goodies, and you had…well, me.
I hooked up at the Oklahoma City Airport with another baby private who had signed up for the same special unit as I had. We had each received a $5,000 signing bonus, four years of college, and other incentives. The airline folks knew well how to transform our government food chits into alcohol, and we both kept the Hangover of Doom at bay while we flew our circuitous route to the Anus of Ymir that is Kentucky in winter.

A bunch of us rowdy drunks, all now part of the same family, were herded onto buses at some craphole airport in Kentucky. We were now bonded together for four years. In the end, only about 20 of the 200 would reenlist. Only 150 made it through training. Every one of us had to have at least two years of college. Most of us were white. All of us were astounded when we pulled up to the reception area at Fort Knox. It was the same place that we had seen in the most popular movie in the country that month, ‘Stripes’. Literally. We were in a scene in the movie. The internet did not exist publicly as yet, so I had no idea that the entire movie had been filmed there. As the DI’s yelled us off the bus and into the building, I began to worry that I had fundamentally broken my brain in some deep, serious way. I was SO relieved when Sergeant Hulka did not make an appearance. The real thing was much scarier, and he did not twitch a bit.

We were told we were ‘being given amnesty’, and that if we would just pass behind this curtain and dump any weapons, drugs, sharp implements, into the ‘Amnesty Box’…told that all would be forgiven, that we could move on and have a chance to become real soldiers. They cowed us like rain-soaked poodles, and we formed a line, and passed, one by one, through the partitioned area, past the box. I shit-canned a $20 pair of damn good moustache scissors through the slot. Clink! I began to notice that I was hearing big clunks and thuds from the box, after I passed through. I saw the eyes of the NCOs widen with every clatter and thunk. “What the fuck?” I could hear them thinking…”grenades? Pistols?” I would have dearly loved to have seen the contents of that box, after.

I won’t bore you with the details of our processing, our billeting, our first few frenetic weeks. Go see Full Metal Jacket and Stripes if you want to see that. Stuff ice cubes down your pants while you watch, have someone beat on you with a stick, and do pushups on a sheet of dry ice in your underwear, while the only other items of clothing you are allowed are boots and gloves, so you don’t stick to the ground like your tongue sticks to dry ice, and you’ll get an idea.

I was in Heaven. I loved nearly every minute of my military service. But after those first few weeks in those wooden barracks, the ones just like you see in Stripes (for the scenes were filmed in those very barracks), it seems like, well, that we woke something up. And something that did not have our best interests at heart.
No, not our best interests, at all.

Chapter Two

Whenever I start to write on this, the hairs on my arms bristle from goosebumps. Just a flash, as all of my body hairs give a bit of a shiver, and then the keys take me nearly twenty-five years into the past. Into that cold November winter, where I heard the dead speak.

The first couple of weeks were frantic. All the more so because The Powers That Be had not gotten us our furniture in time, and when it arrived, we had to assemble it all, while maintaining military discipline, under the watchful eyes of tough men who hated us. We were still sick from our shots, and performing a killer schedule of PT (Physical Training…read: ‘torture’), and now we got to assemble our lockers, and our bunks, too. There were so many of us in my platoon that we filled one barracks, and the top floor of its neighbor. The overflows were put on the second floor because heat, if there is any of it, supposedly rises.

The Barracks. Those barracks. As I’ve said, if you’ve seen ‘Stripes’, you’ve seen those barracks. Essentially, two story wooden longhouses, with a stairwell just to the right of an entrance at one end, and nothing but a fire escape on the other end. God help us if any of us ever broke the seal on that fire escape door. Facing you as you entered the main door were the bathrooms, with their disturbing lack of stalls. Welcome to Oz, gentlemen, you get to watch each other shit. Through the bathroom was the laundry room, where we washed the mud and blood from our duds. The long main area to the left of you as you came in was open, until we broke it up into sleeping areas with our bunks and wall lockers. A DI caught one of our guys smoking inside his wall locker upstairs one time. The DI snapped closed the poor bastards lock, pushed the locker to the top of the stairs, and then over the top. Ho ho, I bet that fellow learned his lesson.

Those stairs…as you went down those stairs, you faced a large rectangular area where as time went on, units would paint their unit insignia, hang a flag or a banner, or paint a rousingly militant mural. Both of my platoon’s areas had been painted over white, with thick, military grade white paint.

The first few weeks went as swimmingly as things can go when your mind and your body are being bent and broken, and you are being hammered into a completely different human being than you had imagined in your most feverish imaginings. We had the best Mess Hall in the US Army, too. There was a plaque. It must be true. Thanksgiving dinner was the best I’ve ever had. And there was wine. And enough loneliness to make grown men cry, and we did. Oh, yes we did.

I stood Fire Guard routinely. We all did. Once, sometimes twice a night if you were unlucky (or your squad leader had it in for you) the sleepy bastard who had just had it would wake you up, hand you the flashlight, and you would slide out of the rack, into your boots (yes, you slept in your uniform, if you were smart) and patrol your barracks, inside and out, and then go repeat the process in the other barracks, until your time was up and you could pass on the flashlight and pass back out. This was also the time you could sneak in some letter writing, sneak a smoke outside, and do your laundry.
The nights were bitter cold, and leafless trees jittered dead-black fingers against the blackboard sky. The moon, poor weak thing, shown at random intervals, as if clouds fled from something in the dark. The walk across to the other barracks, once just boring tedium, began to take on a feel of something more. Dread? Yes, that was it. I began to feel as if I was approaching a place where I wasn’t invited.

We had all of us noticed a weirdness over the last several days, like a tattered black lace shawl, being pulled up over the bony knees of a watchful-eyed, mean old crone. We would leave our warm, toasty barracks, and walk inside the other place, into a wall of cold. We’d check the thermostats, listen at the pipes…hmmmm sounds the same as where we just left. In this other barracks, the downstairs had been left completely empty. We used it for close quarters PT whenever the weather went to shit outside. The streetlights shone in from the windows that wrapped the lengths of both floors. Tonight, there was something new. Tonight, there was something bad.
Tonight, I heard someone crying upstairs. Crying out as if they were about to die.


Chapter Three


In retrospect, I believe it had been feeding on us since we arrived. Gaining strength…power.
As an acutely observant person, I had been noticing seemingly unrelated oddnesses for a couple of weeks, but I had yet to form a picture of the whole. To say that I was a ‘bit distracted’ defines the concept of ‘understatement’. Basic Training grabs you by the face and screams straight into your brain with spittle flecked lips and bulging eyes.

A week or so earlier, as I was at the top of those stairs in the second barracks, wondering at the cold, the edge of my flashlight beam caught something odd on the facing wall in front of me, the large flat part, just before it turned into stairwell ceiling. I put the flashlight beam directly on it, and I noticed pencil markings. Not fresh ones, mind you, but old ones, bleeding through. I thought it odd, but I was ready to be out of there, and unassed the building in a hurry.

I had resolved to go back the next day and look at it in daylight, but it was a few days later, and another stint at fire guard before I got back up those stairs. Someone was muttering in their sleep. “No sergeant…please don’t make me, sergeant…” Spoken low, through a throat taut with tension. I figured Basic Training was a real bitch for him, and moved to check the fire escape down the long row of cots. As I was initialing the check-sheet hanging by the door to prove I’d been there, I heard another sleeper behind me, to the right, cry out softly “No sergeant…please don’t make me, sergeant…” Same voice. Different Private. I turned to leave, and I felt someone behind me, reaching for me and I whipped around and there was nothing. I shrugged under my field jacket, and decided I really didn’t want to be there anymore. I still had to go initial the sheet at the downstairs fire exit. At the top of the stairs, the quavering light of my flashlight shown on the wall in front of me, again. Now, I could clearly make out the outline of a leaping tiger. Enraged, his fangs bared, claws extended, he wanted nothing more than to tear my throat out. Though startled, I was intrigued. I steadied my light and looked closer.
The tiger was bleeding through the plaster, but was still unfinished. There were parts that were still clearly waiting to come through…one eye glared, the other was milky white. Some of the claws weren’t finished. This was a work of art, done by someone with real, raw, natural talent. And how was it bleeding through a quarter inch of Army paint? Behind me, I heard a sleeper say “No sergeant…please don’t make me, sergeant…” and I just knew, suddenly, in my heart of hearts, that someone was directly behind me, sizing me up for a nice push down the stairs. I bolted. I may have touched a step or two on the way down, but I could not swear to that in a court of law. What I could swear to, was that as my new military training told me I better get my ass over to that check-sheet on the downstairs back door, my instincts were screaming at me to run, and not look back.
I shook it off. I wasn’t a damn baby, I told myself. I was a badass, getting badder, and no bullshit heebie-jeebies were gonna keep me from my appointed duties. I walked the length of the building, down a wood floor that had been polished like a mirror by hard-working hands, lit to a gleaming silver by streetlights outside, and there was a darkness at the end of the room that my flashlight couldn’t seem to overcome. Something was piping in horror from outside, into me, into my own personal Public Address System. I’d met Darkness before, and I didn’t appreciate it fucking with me like this. I kept going.

The sheet for the week was blank. No one had initialed it for the last four days. And someone, something, was right there beside me.

When Kerry talks about things ‘burned into his memory’, I know he is full of shit. My story is from the early 80’s. I can remember some events from those weeks like I have a Polaroid in front of me, or as if I am watching a movie. But other bits are just a jumble, and I’m hardly sure where they fit into the whole dark montage.
By now, I was a squad leader, and could proudly wear my little gold chevron on my uniform shirt pocket. It meant very little in the way of power, but one thing it did buy me was an all access pass to our NCOs, and I had begun to feel like it was maybe time for some reinforcements.
After I ran like a little bitch from a clipboard with no signatures, I went and talked to the other squad leaders. As you might imagine from my description of the unit, they were some pretty squared away guys. They had been officers in ROTC, and were gung-ho to the max. Now, they stood in front of me like scared little boys. It was early the next morning, still dark, maybe 2 or 3 am, and I’m pretty sure it was a Saturday.

I had woken the other three squad leaders, and we went down to the laundry room to talk. I had not woken the next fire guard. I wanted to talk to these guys alone. I told them what I had been noticing…things I’d seen, things I’d felt, and their faces were a mix of grim, and scared spitless. Each then told a jumbled story of their own, and our stories all paralleled. They hadn’t noticed the drawing, thinking it was one of the other guys from over there who had been doodling it. They told tales of burned out light bulbs, driers that wouldn’t run, toilets that belched up black nastiness. Stuck doors. And the guys that lived in there were at sick call all the time for this or that ailment, and seemed, well, somehow drained.
I told the squad leaders that I thought they should suit up, and that we needed to go over there. My best buddy Tim, the toughest man physically I have ever known, shook his head and said “No way, man, no fuckin way.” You didn’t tease a guy like him, even if you were friends, and I didn’t have a humorous bone in my body right then. The other two reluctantly shuffled off to get dressed, and I waited for them by our main door. Tim came out of the laundry room, too, and stood at the first window, peering out. “It’s really fucking dark up there, man…” he whispered to me. I looked, and it was as if someone had hung blackout curtains over the upstairs windows. If I hadn’t seen the glow of the streetlights on the other side of the building through the downstairs windows, I would’ve thought they had burned out. The other two came stumbling back down our stairs, and we reluctantly shuffled on over, the single flashlight poor comfort as we walked.
We got to the main entrance, and the screen door was stuck. With effort, we yanked it open. The main door didn’t want to open, either, but it too gave, after a struggle. We got inside, to the base of the stairwell. I heard someone crying upstairs. Crying out as if they were about to die.
“No sergeant…please don’t make me, sergeant!…” Louder, now. As if whoever wasn’t afraid of waking anybody up there at all. Then, from another part of the room came the same voice, again, crying out loudly “No sergeant…please don’t make me, sergeant!…”
We looked at each other and one of the squad leaders shook his head and backed up to the door, to stand in the pool of light from outside. Two of us left. I put my foot on the first step and started up, and I heard him follow. Even now, I do not know exactly how I made it up those stairs. We got to the upstairs landing, and on impulse I turned my flashlight to the picture of the tiger to show the other squad leader, and I had to stifle a scream. It fairly leapt from the wall, dark, bold strokes, eyes burning for our throats. A perfect three dimensional drawing, that followed you with it’s eyes.

It seemed like something’s work here was nearly finished.

Chapter Four

Here begins the jumbled part…things got disorganized and bumply, like a film shot while running through the woods. I remember rushing in to the sleeping area, and the first person my flashlight found was a 6’7” black private that I would one day see firing an M-60 machine-gun one handed while running forward. Now, he was on his back in a jumble of blankets and his sleeping bag, whimpering, comatose, tears streaming down into his ears. We looked around, and in the fell light that seemed to come from the …fog? Something was pouring out of their noses and mouths, straight up for a couple of feet above their faces, and then darkening and coalescing up in the rafters.
I bolted for the light switch panel and flipped them all. There were several pops as bulbs blew, but enough wan light flickered into life that we were able to see well enough to run from cot to cot, rousing them as best we could. It seemed as if we were running in a dream…our buddies began to stir and choke and then cough and some were starting to sit up with dazed looks on their slack faces and…

I remember being back in my own barracks, winded as if I’d just ran five miles, and there was the Senior Drill, E7, angry god of my life, looking like someone had just rousted him out of bed, wondering who he was going to kill first, and yet…yet…he had something more to his anger. Whatever that was permeating the air, our minds, nibbling at the edges of our souls, he felt it too, and it didn’t sit well on that reddened Scots visage. His eyes and the brim of his campaign hat flipped up past me over my shoulder, and I turned to see every man from across the way, bestraggling one by one through our main door, clutching armloads of blankets and gear, and looking for all the world like the GIs you see in photos from WWII, as they retreated from Bastogne. Our Platoon Sergeant stalked up to my big black man and asked, in a quiet tone, loaded with potential doom and destruction, exactly what in the blue virgin mary motherfucking fuck did these privates think they were on about? “We sleepin in heah t’nigh, s’ant fuhst class” was the answer he got, and that is when I stepped in and pulled my teensy weensy rank and asked the Mad Scotsman if he would please go into his office and speak with me. His eyes cut across me like light sabers, and he saw something in my face that said “Hey, Sarge, we are men, here, and you have been straight with me, and you know me well enough to know I’m not some young, dumb, full of cum dipshit like you are used to dealing with…whattaya say you let me save your ass and ours as best I can on this one…”
He jerked his chin towards his office down at the far end, and we hustled down there while the overflow guys, with suspicious lack of comment from the guys in my building, settled down in exhausted slumber, on blankets and air mattresses on the floor next to the other guys bunks. I left the other squad leaders to finish squaring things away as best they could in the middle of a nightmare, and I went in to talk with god.

I am surprised at how badly I want to put this little story down. Back in its rusted box with the other ugly things, and flip the key down a convenient sewer grate. I thank you, dear reader, for helping me carry this baggage for a few blocks.

So, there in the NCO room, alone with my E7, the first promise of dawn graying the windows a bit, and I told him the tale you have read, here. In a slightly more military manner, of course, but the tale spoke for itself. His ruddy face grayed with the dawn a little bit at each new revelation, until finally, he bade me stop with a gesture of his hand, and he began to speak. His eyes focused off somewhere, in his own private nightmare, and from it, he spoke:

“Three cycles before you guys got here, I was an assistant DI, and I worked with a platoon in that building across the way…” his big Adams apple worked as he swallowed some bitter emotion. “There was a young private that just didn’t belong in the Army…I do not have a fucking clue how he got in. He was like Private _____” and he named a private we’d lost because he was such an unbelievable wimp that he couldn’t get a live grenade over the wall, and nearly killed several of us. “This private drew the most amazing picture of a tiger on the wall over there…” Said it almost dreamily, quizzically. He went on… “The Senior Drill, Sergeant First Class ________, really had it in for this kid…went after him hard. It was winter, just like this, and the kid was up on top of the Reaper, at the very top, and he froze…he just couldn’t get over, and everybody else had run on ahead to the next obstacles.”
The Reaper is essentially just a giant ladder made of logs, two or three stories high, the logs worn mostly smooth from the passage of many boots. When you are at the top, it feels like you can see the ocean from there, and breeze and movement make it sway.

“Now, Senior Drill was down there at the bottom yelling…no, mostly screaming, and there was Private ______ up there, hanging on like a fucking baby monkey, and crying his eyes out. He was crying out…” and he paused for a beat here… “He was crying out… ‘No sergeant…please don’t make me, sergeant!…’. but the Senior Drill just got madder’n madder, until he was actually pushing on the logs, kicking them even, to make them shake even more than they were…the kid kept hollering ‘No sergeant…please don’t make me, sergeant!…’ and then he actually put one leg up and over, and I thought…I thought he would…and he fell. He just fucking fell.”

My heart felt like a wooden block. Why in the world was he telling me this? Was he drunk? “He bounced off a log once on the way down, and then splatted like a fucking watermelon…died fucking instantly, the medics said.” He looked at me. “I was still just an E-6, then.” Like that was somehow supposed to mean something to me. “They busted the E-7 out on my testimony” he said, and then “You will not speak of this to the men…you will not speak of this to anyone, or I will bust you out like you cannot imagine…” I nodded my head. I couldn’t have spoken if ordered. He snapped his wrist out and looked at his watch. “In thirty minutes, form the men by squads for chow…other than chow, you are all confined to this barracks until further notice, and no one is to approach that other barracks without my explicit order, understood?”
“Yes Sergeant First Class!” Like you could have gotten me over there now at gunpoint.

And then the machinery of government clicked into high gear like I have never seen before, or since. The Assistant DIs showed up, mostly staying in the office with our E-7. During chow, they all three walked over to the other barracks and went in. They didn’t stay long. I saw them leave, because my squad was fresh back from chow. Everybody had crashed back into their racks to take advantage of the lull in training. Usually, on Saturday, we’d be doing PT, running, studying in groups, practicing rifle drill, polishing the floors and toilets and windows, and sleeping on the floor so as to not mess up our bunks for inspection after tiresome inspection. Today, as the squad leaders straggled back from breakfast with their charges, there was an air that we were being forcibly kept next to an unexploded bomb.
Of course, I told the other squad leaders everything he had told me, and watched their faces blanch in turn. I swore them to secrecy as well. This shit could cause a mutiny, especially among the black guys, who were already rolling their eyes like cattle in a thunderstorm. There were white guys doing it, too. But, providentially, everybody was curiously enervated…numb. And there was a pressure in the ears, like just before a thunderstorm.

There began much running to and fro of the higher ups. About two or three in the afternoon, our eyes goggled to the sight of a Major entering our barracks. Someone screamed the building to attention, and he stalked among us, and then went into the NCO office with the sergeants. The highest rank I had seen so far in my short career was a Captain, and then only a few times. The Major left, and came back with a Lt Colonel…then a Full Bird Colonel arrived. We were pretty much in shock by now, wanting nothing more than to sink into the floor. The spookery next door nearly faded in the face of all this brass.

Nearly faded. Night was coming. The shadows were extending their bony fingers, sliding stealthily towards our building, maybe to try to claw their way in. The other officers left, and a jeep pulled up with yet another Colonel. His driver was a Captain, and both of their collars had crosses opposite of their insignia of rank. This was the first and last time in my career that I saw any chaplain with a rank higher than Major.
The chaplain spent awhile talking with the sergeants, and then my E-7 came and got me himself, and took me into the office to retell everything you have read above. As the Colonel listened, he worked. The Captain put a black case on the desk, and the Colonel began to take off his outer uniform and replace it with another one. They were the vestments of a Catholic Priest. The Captain began to put on similar vestments as well, though not as gaudy and purple and tasseled as the ones the Colonel was draped in…purple stoles, weird bibs, all the trappings of…an exorcist.
I was particularly impressed with an assortment of silver tools, tools of the churchman. I had seen these items in Hammer films, but never in person. Devices that sprinkled water, things that were to emit smoke, and be swung from a chain. It was like watching a warrior snap on armor, and prepare weapons for battle. Their faces were grim, and resigned…and somehow, peaceful. They’d been in this place before. Oh, not this geographical point on a map, but they had battled before, come out alive, and were ready to go in again. They left through the fire door just past the NCO office, and made their way across, and entered through the downstairs fire door of the other barracks. I stood at the window and watched, with the other NCOs, and nobody said a word.

Again, with the jumbly bits. Time dilates. Perception dims and pulses. Awareness cannot be trusted. Madness pushes its snarling face through the curtain, the oh so thin curtain that separates the real from the scream…I saw…I saw an invisible hand push every locker and bunk across the way upstairs to the left in one motion…heard it, too, like slamming open a big silverware drawer, kerwhump! A second later, it all slammed back to where it had been, kerwhump! The guys would later tell me that the stuff in their lockers up there was as if the lockers had been picked up and shaken like a child will look for a prize in a box of Cracker Jacks.
Maybe it was just from the move.

For, you see, the next morning, early, we were put on buses and taken far out into the field, where we worked on our woodland skills for several days. We were all also assembled, out in those woods, and counseled that, under penalty of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, we would be prosecuted under the fullest extent of the law if we ever breathed a word of this to anyone, including ourselves, on a deserted desert island, talking in our sleep. When we were finally brought back, it was to new barracks, where our stuff had magically been moved to in our absence. Military life resumed, and we were given a rare ten days of leave to go home for Christmas in the middle of Basic Training. We came back, and finished becoming soldiers.

Sometime in January, on a midnight run about 12 o’clock on a Saturday morning, to get beer and cigarettes, I redirected my four man team of squad leaders. We were near what they called the ‘Triple Nickel’, the parade grounds where you saw Bill Murray and his ill-kempt crew in ‘Stripes’ doing their hippie rifle drill nonsense. I knew we were close to our old barracks, and I suggested we all go look at our old haunting grounds. The other Squad Leaders looked at me like I was crazy, and we ran on towards the beer, and into our future.