back with a vengeance
On forum: 07/31/2003
Message edited by:
April 4th, 2011
Yephikodov is dead. Very clear—it is. How can I tell? Need I explain? Five 5.56mm rounds had perforated the poor man’s legs and torso in a most gruesome fashion, two of the wounds like hollowed out grapefruit: a bitter, sour creation. Why would such a food exist? So vile: so unappetizing. So much like now. What acrid weather, those black fortresses slowly gathering, waiting for us to drop guard. Then! Then all their hosts would charge out, so quickly, too quickly…ah…but I digress.
Yephikodov is dead, without a doubt. The dead stink. The dead do not move. The dead are ugly. Yephikodov stinks. Yephikodov sits besides me, still beside me, not bothering to bat away the bug that made home in his half-open mouth. How hideous. The urge to cover the floor with milk white substance almost overcomes me. But I cannot pry my eyes away from Yephikodov. Yes, the poor man is dead. And I did not know his first name: Asher did not even know.
No, nothing pries my eyes away from Yephikodov, save the guttural snarls off in the distance, in that far-off silo Asher deemed possessed by the dybbuk. Asher is insane. All of us are: all except Yephikodov and the Boy. That is exactly why Yephikodov and the Boy are dead. Oh, Yephikodov was insane for a while. Then he became sane again. I think it was because of Luciana. Asher said, “No, no it could not be Luciana,” for they had already known each other for some time, and Yephikodov was crazy then. I think it was because of Luciana. It did not matter. Yephikodov is dead.
The Boy is dead too. He had to be dead. He fell behind. He had to be dead—the idiotic child. I saw his hand explode in a flash of red and red-white as he stood his ground, emptying out that AR-15. Did he expect us to stay and fight head-on with the Hellion Knives? The Hellion Knives? I saw their insignia. That grinning, fleshless head, it looked at me, yes it did. It wanted my flesh, my blood. It would receive none. Our insignia was so much better. Nothing.
Yes, they are dead, Yephikodov and the Boy. It is just Asher Bilak, Engelbert Kneib, Brother Kavanagh, and I left. And Yephikodov. He is beside me; his eyes glazed and accusing. I want to shoot him dead once more. But I cannot; I have need of the ammo. Why Yephikodov? I had tried to help you though. The others said, “No.” Was it fault of mine that I could not stop the Hellion Knives from firing? No, too many there were. I could only carry you. I may have died as well if I did not take that course of action. After all, you did take several rounds in the back for me. I thank you.
Yes, we ran; and ran far. In fact, we ran so far we reached our hidden UAZ rather quickly and immediately drove off. A shame the Knives placed a well-shot bullet in the back left wheel. Asher immediately placed his own well-shot bullet in that Stalker’s head. Asher was always a good shot. Then another Knife opened fire. Then another. I felt blood splatter on my skin. Asher, could you be dead? So I thought. But he was not the slightest wounded, instead shrieking joyously as bullets flew about. Was it I who had been shot? No, the blood was not my blood. It was Brother’s. He was not dead, luckily, for he was our driver. Just a wound in the shoulder, that was all. I do not know his first name as well. Actually I do. But it is by far the most complicated name to pronounce. Only Asher can say it, but he never does.
Brother Kavanagh was Catholic, up until the point when his mother and sister were raped and shot in their house. When Brother found out, he declared there was no God. He also hunted down the perpetrators and castrated them both. And hung them on a tree next to the elementary school. That is all I know of his little story. How and why he became a Stalker I do not know. I believe Engelbert does, but he says little.
Of the six of us gathered for the ‘milk run’, I like Engelbert Kneib the most. He is quiet. He is submissive. He is adept in combat. He can hold his own. What I do not like is the fact that he is an utter mystery to me. I had only worked with him once before, unlike Asher, whom I have had the pleasure to work with so many times I have lost count. The same held true for Yephikodov, dead Yephikodov. Brother I have dealt with only thrice, but it was enough. The Boy? The first and final.
Brother continued driving to the best of his abilities and the abilities of the UAZ, swerving side to side. And then the back right wheel gave out as a bullet ended its life. It sounded like a M76. After all, a good portion of the Hellion Knives were Yugoslavian, would it not be normal to use Yugoslavian rifles? No matter, Brother could no longer drive with both rear wheels gone and the enemy UAZ’s at our back. He did what any of us would have done—drove off the path and down, down off the edge, straight into a ruined farm. Brother was such a good driver. None of us were wounded, merely shaken.
And that is how we remaining four came to this little piece of limbo. We all knew the Hellion Knives would come, all in a matter of time. How many? You see, it is not skill that gives them impunity, oh no. Far too insidious they are, with their ever-multiplying men-at-arms. Some even say they are not human, but the unholy offspring of man and the Zone. Nevertheless, they would surround and flush us out. But we would be waiting. A matter of time. That is all it is.
“Royal fuck up.”
“Hm?” Asher takes his eyes away from the window for a brief moment. “What is a royal fuck up?”
Brother spits. “All of this shit. Milk run was what that damn guy called it. Doctor…Lev…Lebi…”
“Lebedev.” I say. No one hears. Of course they do not. I say it to myself.
“Nikolai. Nikolai Lebedev.” We all hear this stated by Asher.
“Yeah, that was the bastard…that was the bastard…that was the bastard.” Brother continues to mutter Dr. Lebedev’s title over and over and over.
Asher sighs. “Yes, he is a bastard.” Both Engelbert and I nod in solemn agreement.
“Lebedev the bastard!” Brother laughs, not a happy laugh, mind you. A bitter, sour laugh. Like grapefruit. “Yeah, milk run indeed! We go in the Zone, we grab the weird shit from the dead guys and we leave!”
The rest of us do not laugh, because we know what he knows: the ‘milk run’ was warped into pandemonium the second the Hellion Knives zeroed into our position. “We did go in the Zone, we did grab the weird shit, and we did leave.” Asher says monotonously. Only the rush of combat and tales of the supernatural brings him to life. “Truly a vexation that the good Doctor forgot to mention the Hellion Knives were sent in by another.”
“I’m not supposed to die here!” moans Brother, tightening the bandages around his shoulder. “I got too much to do!”
Asher smiles. “I am supposed to die here. They told me so.”
“The Larva?” I raise my head.
“Yes, the Larva.”
“You two are insane.” Brother smirks. “Talking about damn spirits and crap.”
“If you do not believe, why not pay a visit to the silo?” Asher tilts his head. “I’m sure the dybbuk would be glad to have a guest.”
Brother growls and leaves the room at that. We remaining three stand silent. Asher returns to his watch. Engelbert checks his equipment. I sit back down with Yephikodov.
“Ah.” Asher narrows his eyes, extremely interested with something on the mountainside. “Three…four come. I assume the others have taken the eastern path.”
“So…” Engelbert finally speaks. “We do what we can to survive?”
“Yes. We do what we can to survive. There is the barn. I would take stand there. Avoid the silo. Pass that along to Brother.”
“Understood. Asher. Uzziel.” Engelbert nods to us, rises, and heads for the door.
“What about Yephikodov?”
“He is dead.”
“Yes he is. Will you not wish him farewell?”
“Farwell Yephikodov.” And then he was gone. I stand as well. Asher’s normally emotionless face is now grinning ear to ear. Yes, we both know the fight is approaching. I however, unlike Asher, am not praying for it. I want nothing to do with death. Nevertheless, it seems death wants to waltz with me once more. Fine. Fine, we will dance.
Asher and I ascend to the second floor. There we see Brother Kavanagh through a window, outside, inside a door-less automobile. He has his FAMAS ready to rake down the first Hellion he sees.
“Mr. Ludwig, please take position in the east wing.” Asher points to my right. “I will take the north wing.”
“And the west or south?”
“If we are lucky, they would not have taken those paths.”
“If we are lucky.”
“I have attached a flash-bang to the front and back door. Should you hear the flash-bang go off, give a shout to myself and depart out the south window. You will escape because you have the artefact. You are a survivor.”
“I have the artefact?”
Asher places the sphere-shaped object in my hand. “You have the artefact. You are a survivor.”
“I have the artefact. I am a survivor.” And I take up position.
I hold my assault rifle with relaxed hands. All I do is wait. How many are there? Eight? Seven? I suppose about those numbers. There are four coming from the north. That would mean the others would be coming from my end…or would they have gone completely around, attacking the south end? No…it would have taken more time, too much time. If that were true, then they could not have gone to the west end either. Did any of that make sense? Directions and tactics overwhelm my simple mind.
There. Shots ring out. Not close, not close. It must have been from the Hellion Knives. Bullets against metal. I assume they are targeting Brother. I see no flashes. It comes from the north end. Return fire. Brother’s FAMAS bull-pup barks and spittle flies. I hear Asher’s AK-74M rain hell. His laughter is audible. A XM-134 roars from the northwest end of the farm. Where? In the barn. Yes, Engelbert has picked his targets as well. But what of mine? Through the hole in the wall, I see nothing. No movement, no gunfire. Where could they be? And then the wall explodes.
No, not my wall, but the wall on the west end. I think I hear Asher’s voice over the chaos, but it does not matter. I know what transpired. Now they begin their purgation. Or so I assume. Another explosion. And then the explosions stop. It makes sense. They do not want to destroy the artefact. I crouch near the ruined west wing. My G36C kicks back once, twice, and thrice as I see three of the masked devils dash for the house. One Hellion down. Wait. There, at that bush. A loud, familiar single shot sounds out. There is impact and the bullet goes clean through my leg. Sniper, M76. I also realize no more gunfire is heard from the barn, no XM-134. There’s a noise from downstairs. They have gotten in. Asher steps out of his position and lobs a grenade down the stairs, just in time for me to see his head spray fine red mist. Explosion. I pop out of my corner and fire two shots into the bush. The Hellion’s blood soaks the green. That is all the confirmation I need. I limp to the stairs, only to be greeted with a raised LR-300 to my face. Bang, bang, bang. And the enemy Stalker collapses. Brother hobbles up the stairs; bloody but still as frustrated and angry as ever.
“Bilak’s dead?” Brother grimaces at the Jew as I assist him to the south wing and bolt the door.
“Asher is dead. And Engelbert?”
“How many left?”
Brother reloads the FAMAS. “I didn’t get any of ‘em, ‘cept that one you just saw. I’m pretty sure Kneib took one out before they shot him. We got one dead downstairs from Bilak and he picked another off outside. What about you?”
“Okay, we’re down to two then. Maybe.”
I hear a muffled explosion. The last flash-bang had gone off. “Toss all your frags, they’ve got no other way up here.” Brother stands up, preparing to leave the room. A much louder explosion sounds, one that slams against the door with mighty force. It seems they no longer cared about the artefact. Brother stumbles back to the ground, swearing profusely.
Thump, thump, thump, the noises come up stairs. They arrive. “Stay down.” I command. The mouth of my beast opens, tearing apart the rotting door. Brother adds to that as well, emptying out his new clip. The barrel of a MAG-7 is suddenly thrust through the shattered opening. One blast and Brother’s blood wets the room. But Brother is still alive, if only for a second. The owner of the shotgun also paints the house as Brother fires his last rounds. ‘Seize the initiative,’ was Asher’s father’s saying, one that Asher used often. So I do. The dead Hellion falls through the door and I dive under him. Splinters fly as I shred the remaining half of the door to pieces, striking at the last Stalker’s legs. I hear him scream. No more in the clip. I grab the dead Hellion on top and bring him with me. The Five-seveN is now in my hand. I hear the shots and feel the human shield shudder as it absorbs the rounds. One pierces the flesh and bone, rips through and strikes me. I feel nothing. I toss the dead man aside. I see the remaining Stalker with all clarity. He stares back. He is human. One shot. That is all it takes. One shot in the throat and one to the face for good measure. And the last Hellion dies.
They are all dead. The Boy, Yephikodov, Engelbert, Asher, and Brother. All of them are dead. The Hellion Knives as well; dead in hell. I forget how many of them, six of us. Now none of them, only me.
I take what I can and pile it all in the former Hellion Knives UAZ. As I record this, it no longer seems as black. The dark fortresses have moved on. I am looking to the sky. I notice that it is bleeding. Blood…blood…blood. It is bleeding. I am bleeding. They had bled. I am swiftly overcome with a fit of laughter. Yes, they all bled. I survived. I, Uzziel Müller Ludwig, survived what they all could not! And what was all this for? Trinkets for a great and almighty power?
Great, independant Iraq War journalism: http://michaelyon.blogspot.com/
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