martial law fiction ch 10

What If Martial Law Were Declared in America Part 10: The Dark Days

This is part of our free, online and highly-praised survival fiction novel. You can read the rest of the parts here.

The first shot hit Simon in his right shoulder, knocking the wind from his lungs. His knees buckled, and his world closed in.

His vision fogged, squeezed at the edges… several more wild shots struck his body, three caused his body to twist and convulse in a knot. He tried to dive for cover. His instincts took hold. Falling behind the block wall he hid from the gunfire. His mind flashed bright white. The impact of the rounds shocked him.

Steadily a long black corridor lay before him, faintly lit behind a dark universe, wavering, growing brighter and drawing nearer. He witnessed a faint rippling surface in the distance… as shimmering as it spun, giving off infinite sparks, thoughts pressed in on his psyche.

Was he dying?

His body twisted under a magical wash of chemicals. A mixture of endorphins, dopamine and adrenaline gripped him.

A man’s mind will give way to the comfortable embrace of death. An audible sound replaced his pain with a hum that came from that internal peace, when death embraces a man’s world. He huddled in that sheltered space, contained within each of us. As he fell back and retreated to this world, reality threatened with that unfamiliar world. The gunfire grew soft and distant… Just bumps more like heart beats.

He knew he was hit hard. He resisted the notion of death; out of his own preservation, he fought the urge to succumb to it.

Suddenly, an unusual speech rose from his mind, it seemed almost as a voice unknown and foreign to him welling up from within. It began at first muffled and unclear, then squeezed, vibrating low… with a comforting bass note as if from a fond heartbeat, or a warm friendship, perhaps a mother’s breathing.

The voice rose and fell metered with cadence and rhythm, just as water might when splashing against smooth rocks or a solid drubbing made by soft whispers within and without, he could not say.

His mind was filled with a profound sensation that overcame him.

Every utterance fell and echoed with delight… a strange and garbled mystery filled him. A wonderful nonsense… Simon was drunk due to the lack of blood and shock to his body.

Unable to feel anything physical, he slid down the block wall and hit the cement floor with a thud. The sound of the internal voice now hovered near his ear, rising higher, goading him to follow.

His mind swooned under the cascade of the ether. An inky black cloak folded around him. The blood from his wounds smeared the hard block wall as he slid down it. It ran in tiny drops down the chipped and faded paint.

The morning clouds threatened to rain, hanging low and menacing. His body lay quiet and still, and his breathing slowed; short panting as he leaned against the block wall in shock. There was an odd grimace on his face as he looked up at the crushing gray sky above him. Was this how it would end?

Destiny’s dark sky swung ever lower. Each labored breath brought the ceiling lower… reality had been pushed further away. Simon slipped deeper, drowning beneath those sleepy waters. A dullness crept across his vision. An almost insane smile now over took him, and tears of pain ran down his dirty face. The dullness hugged and coddled him like a blanket. It laid on him… comfortably threatening to smoother his existence.

In reality, his life was slipping away, and still Simon fought on.

He sank ever deeper, still watching the shimmering luminescent waters spinning further and further away with every breath.

For no reason that he could wrap his mind around, he envisioned his childhood. He found himself on a sunny day walking in the woods as a small boy with his dog, Bandit, a pet he had as a child. The dog cheerily ran away as if in a dream. The contrary animal ignored Simon as he called to him. Simon too rose and followed the animal as it eagerly ran ahead begging him to follow.

He felt his life slipping from himself, he got further down the trail, further from his body, life slipped away like the disobedient animal. The dog barked and glanced back along the path, it whimpered excitedly as it rounded the bend encouraging Simon to follow. He called to the animal, as Bandit vanished up ahead.

He felt wronged, the story… his story seemed short as his life ebbed away. In his mind, he felt as if things were fading as a small drop of oil might spreading out, forever on calm waters. All his reason suddenly fell away.

Simon’s penance was difficult to accept for him.

He was surely dying, and he knew it. He held fast, and reflected on his lifeless body lying on the cold cement.

His conscientiousness didn’t accepted the question it was as if his soul was tugging at his sleeve for him to stay.

An unusual and distant landscape appeared…  The glorious vastness that lay before him, called to him. It look as if a thin edge at the horizon… a longing. All filled with a resounding with a strange hum. Slowly he rose over the vast vista… lofty and fading.

Soft-ringing music lulled him. He gave way to the barren lands, vast and ominous. Miles upon miles of distant waving grassland, golden color, every blade swayed and shimmered. The prairie went on forever, fuzzy near its edges. The longing overcame him, beckoned. He was in a place he had never seen before, never imagined.

High above it all, Simon let himself move on, releasing his grip on the familiar. He soared on a warm wind. Reality rose and fell below him as undulating ocean waves on a torpid dream. The gunfire in the alley was vague and distant now… countless miles from where he was. He soared on toward that thin edge…

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Bob looked on with horror from the top of the rampart. He saw Simon’s body twist from the impact of the rifle rounds. He watched in horror as Simon crumbled to the ground.

He’d been hit many times. The burst of gunfire from the garage sprayed the ramp near Bob’s feet and struck the concrete door frame near his bloodied body. Many rounds tumbled through the alley, making a horrible screaming noise.

Bob ran to Simon despite the danger, carelessly disregarding the chaos all around.

He blasted wildly into the darkness of the parkade and rushed toward the inanimate body. He shot desperately as he ran, trying to stop the barrage of return fire emanating from within the dark interior of the parkade. Now madly scrambling from the ramp he aimed several more hopeless shots from his hip. Most aimed at nothing, just the muzzle flashes emanating from dark interior.

Bob slid to a stop as a ball player might making his way home.

A sharp shooting pain came from his lower leg, as he hit the platform lacerating his calf on a broken bottle. He ignored his pain. His only focus was on the gunfire from the garage. The gunfire’s ferocity increased as he ran past the open ground.

It now concentrated on the block wall between those inside and the two men. The firing roared throughout the alley. A vengeful storm had befell them. A darkness had coalesced over the men that morning. It came upon them so suddenly, they could not comprehend it.

The angry onslaught could only have come from full auto rifles. Bob was unsure of the number of men they were up against. His mind raced. He tried to keep up with the ambush that morning. The situation that had been thrust upon them needed him to adapt quickly. He formulated a rough plan in his head. He snapped to battle mode despite the hopelessness of the attack.

First, he saw Simon wasn’t dead. His body jolted as his knee struck the leg, and Simon moaned from the impact. Another roar erupted from within the darkness. The errant, and misplaced rounds shattered the edge of the roll doorway. Each spraying lumps of concrete and paint into the early morning air.

And, as if by design, the heavens finally relented, a truer storm opened up in a raucous downpour of unwelcome rain.  It fell in sheets that had been pushed about by the advancing thunder heads creating a down wash in the growing darkness. The dire weather mirrored the day as if it were orchestrating it.

The torrents fell hard, and added to the grief of their situation.

Murphy’s apprehension about the mission proved true once again. He stood beside the Jeep in shock, observing the events as if not a part of them.

Bob bounced up like a Major League ball player, and fell with his back against the block wall next to Simon, the impact nearly knocking the air from his lungs. “I got you buddy,” Bob looked at the back of Simon’s head as it had slumped forward and now rolled over onto the cement. Bob held himself hard against the block wall, shielding himself from the barrage of rifle rounds careening into the alley. He reached forward and grabbed Simon’s belt swinging him prone and pulling him behind the cover of the wall.

The gunfire echoed throughout the alley they could be heard in the distant city beyond, but no one would be coming to help.

Bob looked to Simon, his chest heaved as he gulped air with his useless lung.

He pulled Simon even closer to shield him from further harm, he set to work on him.

First calming himself with a steady pause to catch his breathe he set his weapon down, shouting to Murphy.

Murphy was still frozen in fear standing haplessly in the open. He was agape and exposed, looking catatonic. Bob saw he was in shock, wracked by the sudden fire fight which had made him nearly useless with panic.

Murphy swayed as if ready to fall, he staggered a step, and steadied himself to stand against the hail of rain and bullets striking all around him. The dry puffs of dust as rounds struck the concrete near his feet tweaked his attention.  He saw with a dullness of mind, as the white marks of concrete struck near his feet. Slowly realizing the danger he was in, he made his way to the back of the Jeep as if drunk.

Bob yelled once more from the platform, “Murphy… I need cover fire… NOW!”

“Move it soldier.”

Bob saw how his command brought Murphy back to life… it was not as if Murphy ever would be, nor had ever been a soldier, but somehow the commanding tone in Bob’s voice worked. Murphy stood straight. Walked out in the gunfire, and despite the rounds wailing all about him, marched forward.

In Murphy’s psyche, things had vapor locked, he heard Bob’s words, and reacted. His head snapped up to look directly at him.

Easy as a drugged man, he stared down at his hands with disbelief as he saw the Russian Rifle that he held. He raised it slowly, instinctively then flipped the safety off. Rapidly, Murphy began to fire into the void. At nothing at first, or more likely at anything… hoping hope upon hope perhaps to end the nightmare.

He wiped rain from his eyes to clear his vision and knelt for better purchase, firing vigorously at the interior of the garage with a vengeance.

He sprayed the dark void with hatred. His teeth clenched in rage, squeezing the rifle’s trigger as quickly as he could pull it. The rounds must have had the desired effect as the return fire diminished. It halted momentarily. The lull gave Bob time to reposition Simon’s body in a more comfortable spot out of danger. He pulled him away from the doors opening, as Simon moaned in pain.

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His eyes rolled back in his head white. The trauma was more than he could bare.

“Stay calm, hold still Simon…” Bob spoke to him calmly despite the gunfire and the pounding rain. The deluge pelted his lifeless body, washing away any sign of grime and tears. Simon called out faintly though no one could hear.

“Bandit, come here boy.”

He followed the happy hound around the bend…

Murphy’s return fire had some effect, though brief. One man in the garage was wounded by a lucky shot; the others wisely ducked down behind their barricade.

Clearly the men inside were inexperienced. They panicked under the Russian rifles assault. Murphy was epic as he stood toe to toe with those under cover.

Bob worked on Simon, as he yelled at him, “I got you buddy,” and despite the distant gaze he steadied his head in his hands and looked into his dilated eyes. Simon stared back searching for confirmation from Bob.

“Stay with me buddy… You got this, it’s all going to be alright,” he held Simon’s face toward him, and nodded at it knowingly.

Bob shook Simon. He groaned from the touch. “Stay with me Simon,” Bob shook him once more fiercely, “Look at me Simon, you are going to be alright. Can you hear me?”

Simon looked back slowly trying to be hopeful, still desiring salvation.

“Hang on… I got you… you’re doing good… really buddy, you’re doing great… listen to my voice,” Bob’s hands pressed hard on the wound in his chest. The bullet had spun through entering with only a tiny hole. The exit wound gushed red beneath the pressure of his palm.

The unfortunate trait of AK rounds is they tend to yaw when entering a body cavity, rather than going straight through, sometimes tumbling then curve and exit wildly.

The military rounds had done their job as they were designed to. The bullet entered Simon and exited cleanly… spinning away as intended in search of more harm. A full metal jacketed round is design to wound, not necessarily to kill, therefore its intended trajectory is to move on and hit as many targets as possible.

The 7.62 caliber is a lethal design. It was created by cold math. Its ballistics are simple death; aimed at one outcome, maximum carnage. The bullet is designed to create as much determined death as possible. It twists through flesh with mechanical indifference, tearing cold and calculated until it yaws or tumbles opening wounds and striking bone…

The unfeeling piece of metal is mass weapon of war to be sure. It was never intended as a hunting round. Forged from grim scientific principles, ballistic coefficients, historical and time-proven mathematics… the science of war. The knowledge gathered from the fallen of half of a century of war. A malicious science honed to a fine edge using the theater of war as its laboratory.

And, oh what a theater war can be; the bi-product of deadly intent and conquest. Who could have foreseen tribal conflict evolve from sticks and stones, to musket ball to its poetic flight of rifling… Our armaments coming from the punk fuse, the flint, the percussion cap, to the efficiency of death we see nowadays, so well observed in the black arts of nuclear war. What horrific days lay ahead for all of us?

The Gods of war have cursed the warrior. Saddled us all with the ability to kill our fellow man… like no other creature on this planet… We… are truly the chosen ones, the warlords such as Badb of the Morrigan, or Chiyou, or by Anhur or the hundreds of Gods of war and death and entities found within every culture on earth.

We kill so efficiently that it certainly can be argued that it must be in our DNA. Perhaps one day, a single gene will be discovered that is unique to too only humans. This will lead us to a better way of life on this planet…

But at last look no further we are the true, “harbingers of death,” …destinarat purgandis mentibus praepositam mortis.

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Simon wailed once more from the internal conflict he was dealing within. It was as if he were wrestling with some unseen being.

Simon could smell his own blood mixed with the burnt cordite and gunpowder as it permeated the heavy morning air.

The rain pounded relentlessly on the men in the alley. It washed the streets, forming tiny rivulets in the alley that built into streams. The torrents fell angled, pushed along by angry winds swirling beneath a blacken sky. The clouds pressed ever lower in defiance to the very day. They opened up above the burning city quelling the fires that raged.

Steam rose across the early morning scene. The rain brought legions of ghosts from the distant hills the armies marched down the slopes toward the defeated city, engulfing the city in a blanket of gray.

Simon grew calmer, and hopeful, yet a presence unseen stood beside him. It was a dark faceless being which knelt at his side. A malevolent being perhaps? Simon did not know, but dark and menacing as the clouds, and just as silent. Motionless, and watchful, it waited for something. The being lurked unbeknownst to all except Simon, watching each of the men that morning with a grim curiosity…  judging each man on their merit, weighing each in judgment. The dark presence moved from shadow to man to shadow to man.

Simon witnessed its cold indifference, and saw how it observed with curious resolve. Its dark presence effected the men. It suddenly came back to Simon and moved forward.  Simon shook fearfully, a horror as never before, he wept, and shivered. Simon searched for its face, yet saw none. The vacant hole, a void, not a darkness per se, but an un-light. A void that absorbed the very gray light of the day. It held its hood close to Simon’s face. Simon’s chest heaved as if someone had gripped his heart. As the being inhaled Simon’s exhaled breath, he gasped from lack of air.

Bob moved quickly as he saw Simon gasping. He shoved and tossed Simon’s inanimate body back and forth searching for more wounds.

The body lay helpless and staring at the dark one just floating near. Simon could feel its coldness.

He withdrew from its gaze as a rabbit would when crouching near a predator.  The dark one floated above him, it twisted its black hooded head toward Simon’s face like a curious animal wound.

Simon suddenly found himself out of body at that moment, standing beside himself in the rain. He saw Bob roll his body around without sensing his touch. He stood detached and adrift.

He quickly felt alone, his soul left his heart he felt this…

Simon questioned his life. “Why me?” he wondered, praying hopelessly for an answer. The answer to its meaning, the unknown, the enlightenment we are promised by religion.

Who will show us the right path, and will such knowledge ever come to fruition? He wondered why.

The Dark One, the harbinger stood stoic and unflinching watching Simon’s wasted body. The blood pooled beside his frozen bones. The being studied the scene in grim silence.

Simon moved forward, toward his own body’s side. The Dark One hovered nearby.

He felt calm, he made his way back toward the billowing figure. It waved a cloaked arm compelling him to come nearer.

It drained Simon’s lifeless body on the ground. Simon felt lost in time. He dared not approach the being for fear he could not resist its will. It rose upward and hovered near Simon flowing malevolent.

Then grew larger, as it no longer sought the comfort of shadows, it began to form a spinning column of ephemeral light, beginning with a white ash without shape or form, rapidly forming a third person, looking not unlike Simon himself. Something in this person’s eyes made Simon draw toward it. A familiarity, perhaps a person he once knew from long ago.

No words had been spoken between Simon, and the entity or being… only energy, and silence, and a mystic like vibration. This guided Simon. No-longer was the spirit grounded to the dark spaces, it was unshackled free from the shadows. Simon wanted but dared not venture anywhere with the new spirit. He held fast.

Simon tried to cry out… seeing his lifeless body and Bob kneeling in the rain next to his rigid form.

His eyes opened wide yet dead, and not blinking from the heavy rain.

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Bob fought for Simon as best he could. What he did not see was the spirit’s presence that morning.

The fate of Simon had been entirely out of Bob’s hands. The being’s form hung low over the alleyway. It held itself inches from Bob’s face now, almost touching him at times.

Bob felt a cold chill run though his body when the beast was near.

The dark one judged… watching Bob. A sort of grim vigil was waged over all the men that day.

The dark presence sucked the very air from the alley. It was the very rain itself, it was the grayness. It had brought these men together that morning to be sure.

Death holds no true physical form for any of us… choosing what we yearn merely to mesmerize our mortal minds.

We unknowingly long for its presence at times with deep ancient yearnings… longing to be judged as it moves past.

Some succumb to it eagerly. Some relieved of life with just a glance from the dark one, other men stare in awe as if it is a flickering flame. A campfire a candle flame that draws the moth …we cannot look away.

Simon had overcome the dark one’s presence that morning. He fought back, wanting to remain in his world, holding on to the here and now. The bringer of death was curious with Simon’s resolve, it leaned ever closer, prodding, and waiting.

It confirmed Simon’s intent and once more drew his breathe away in jest. Simon instantly pulled back as it leaned in closer. No one could see this battle, except Simon. He fought for his life. A timeless struggle, first hand, it rose up encouraging those strangled heart beats. Simon re-entered his still body, despite the dark ones attempts to covet his soul.

Science claims death throws are from the actions of raw nerves firing randomly upon dying. Or just the uncontrolled firing of neurons in our brains. No dying man has ever revealed the mystery of his rattle. Bob moved quickly to revive Simon. He listened for breathing from his lips.

“What was death like?” Bob wondered.

He couldn’t watch another life disappear, he prayed determined to hold on to Simon’s this time.  He pounded on his chest in an attempt to start the heart again. He wondered what these men saw or felt during these stages of death… Reflecting on his own time of dying knowing it too would come someday.

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Simon had been shot four times, and at least one of the rifle rounds went through his right lung.

Bob did what he could to stop the bleeding … what he was trained to do for these men.

He stopped the flow of Simon’s blood to prevent his inevitable shock. The oxygen rich fluid ran crimson almost black from his chest, pulsing in measured beats.

His blood-soaked shirt ran dark…  and with every pump of his heart, the stain grew across his shirt thinning in the down pour of rain. It pooled on the wet concrete.

Bob knew he needed to buy some time. He grabbed his AR and splashed several wild rounds around the door jamb into the garage… each rashly aimed, and waving his light weight rifle about the interior of the garage he created a wall of lead. The rifle’s sharp muzzle flashes and bucking in his hand briefly lit up the interior of the parkade, revealing four stunned faces.

Bob, hoped only to hold back the approach of the enemy.

The harsh sonic pressure from his rifle rounds burst his right eardrum. His head snapped back as the ear ruptured with an annoying hum. The remaining shots had been replaced with a high-pitched noise.

The rifle’s brass flew in arcs over Bob’s shoulder, and as if in slow motion, it splattered on the rain-soaked cement… each casing bouncing in the rain as it spun in wide arcs, each hitting the cement with no indication of sound to Bobs ringing ears.

And, yet the torrent fell in earnest, a relentless ferocity as if to send a message…

Bob’s mind flashed back… to Iraq. The feeling consumed him. He began looking about the world in the alley with clinical grayness… as before all things were stark without nuance nor feeling as it once was in those days many years ago.

A robotic, or unconscious shift had occurred in Bob. When it first happened years before, he was stunned by it for weeks. A newly arrived Corpsman in country. It was nothing he could ever put his finger on, but he knew when he felt it he would need to ride it out. He often reflected on it over the years but never fully understood the change. It’s when war becomes neutral, natural and everything becomes calculated and clear as each moment grows crisp in his mind. Seared like an eternity… every motion, or emotion and thought seemed singular and all at once normal…

The all-knowing subconscious does bend to the moment, with clarity that overcomes him, and just moments before there had been none. Time slows as chaos becomes the new reality which becomes Bob’s new norm.

The gun smoke wafted about the men in the alley as if the rain had no effect on it. It mixed with the smell of wet pavement and blood. Steam rose from Bob’s barrel as it sizzled off the black finish. He unconsciously saw it, and he sensed he would prevail that day too just as in Iraq.

Adrenaline is a drug familiar to combat soldiers. In war, it allows men to push the unknown as door to door fighting can be the fix for some…

The drug is addicting too many. It can also trigger callous rage along with a stoic resolve. Even giving way to long forgotten instincts given us by those Gods of War.

The business of war, the business of death. Man staggers under the weight of war, that soul-stifling weight, it swoops in as easily as sweeping the stage of the fallen.

Brain opiates have always induced subduing fear, even in lower animal species. We mammals all have it. The chemicals mix well with testosterone, adrenaline and rage. Oh what a neurological cocktail mix!

Making time slow, pain disappear, and self-preservation vanish under the guise of heroism.

The cocktail heightens our senses, causing people to do things they never thought possible. Gulping down moral conflict with heaps of a bile boiler maker.

Fear is a tiny burr under the saddle, a lump that no one can swallow, even with the elixir of war. War is a bitter drink made from this dark cocktail, and for some it is an opiate which hangs on like an unfinished tale. A story with no end. Veterans run from it or accept it as duty.

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Bob dared not expose more than his wrist to the gunfire. He emptied another clip out of the four that he carried on him. He loaded again, and quickly snapped a look around the edge of the wall before sending another barrage down range. Each shot was calculated and sent as a deterrent, all the while hoping to stop the men from making their advancement toward them.

He assumed the men inside were determined to finish their job they started. They had begun this with confidence, hoping to take out the threat quickly while protecting their post. Things were looking differently. Now that they were being met with like force, the fire power of Bob and Murphy had shifted the odds. The men did not seem as confident as before.

Suddenly, a secondary roar of gunfire exploded from within the parkade, as more chunks of wall splattered about the edge of the opening.

It was a thunderous beast clawing at the edge of the wall trying to get to Bob.

An animal-like sound burst forth with hatred. It clawed at the block wall from within, the sound rose and fell. The hounds of hell were barking at those Iron gates. Bob needed Murphy to do his part now more than ever.

The deafening racket had been amplified by the vacant parkade.

The echo reverberated from the interior, shaking the very rain that fell past the mouth of this garage.

Bob steadied himself; he had a plan. Expecting basically to be his own, he checked his magazine. Seeing at least six rounds left in the nearly spent magazine, he pushed it back into the rifle.

Simon lay still, he was quickly losing color.

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Murphy also looked as pale as Simon. Bob called to him, but expected nothing. He was far too inexperienced, and would not be much help unless a miracle occurred.

Bob’s military training had taught him many things, and one was he should never take chances in a fire-fight. He had seen so many men die, merely by exposing themselves for that briefest of moments.

It was a serious game of life or death to all that were forced to participate in it.

Images flooded Bob’s mind. He heard his old drill instructor in his head. The voice boomed next to him helping him sort his predicament.

“KEEP YOUR GOD DAMNED ASS DOWN SOLDIER… YOU KEEP YOUR ASS DOWN AND YOU KEEP YOUR LIFE…  YOU KEEP YOUR ASS DOWN AND SAVE YOUR PATIENT FROM BEING HIT…. NOW, LISTEN UP YOU PANTY WASTE”

His drill instructor was a man of limited vocabulary.

“LISTEN UP… “ he yelled as he strutted along the mock battle. “YOU HAVE FAILED THIS MAN IF HE DIES, AND YOU HAVE ALSO FAILED HIM IF YOU DIE… YOU ONLY HAVE ONE JOB TO DO HERE, AND THAT IS GET THIS MAN OUT ALIVE AND TO SAFETY… DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME??”

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Bob considered this, and realized, “Even the dimmest men, under fire, will keep their heads down,”…at least for a moment or two when fired upon. Perhaps long enough for Bob to make a move.

The obvious object to cover fire is subduing the threat for the briefest of moments. Utilizing that pause to make a move.

It is a lethal game of chess, or at the very least, it is a moronic form of checkers.

Either way, all who survive these skirmishes will live to understand the rules of the game, and know that much better the next time. Those who make it through the first battles always become wiser in the next.

Survival is your first prize and you might survive the next battle if you learn the rules of war quickly.

Bob remembered the rules that allowed him to make it back, and unfortunately better than many who didn’t.

First Rule: Conserve your ammo. All battles teach men that several well placed shots down range will duck a man’s head just as assuredly as a dozen wild ones will. The most dangerous periods are moments between your fire and return fire. This is when the enemy is waiting for your movement.

Suddenly, a plan crept into Bob’s adrenaline soaked brain.

He needed to get these men inside the garage, to duck down for just a moment while he created a better firing position. He knew if he position himself low and prone he might be able to end this right here. The barricade did certainly protect the men behind it. But it gave them limited room to move. They were much like a bunch of plastic ducks popping up behind one of those carnival arcades. Taunting Bob to knock them off one by one.

Hoping to conserve his ammo, he gauged his situation.

Counting sixty shots in his spare mags… plus the six in his rifle he adapted.

He grabbed a stack of empty boxes and pushed with his foot a stack of boxes to the edge of the door’s opening. He let lose three more rounds into the garage, then took a quick look to see no heads, only exposing himself for an instance.

He pulled his head back quickly. It was long enough to get a quick look at what he was dealing with. Once again, he attended to Simon’s condition checking his pulse. It was extremely faint and erratic, but he was still alive.

All what was to come next had to be calculated and predetermined between the barrage of gunfire coming from the garage and Bob’s quick aim.

The rain had soaked Simon’s cloths and he shook uncontrollably from the coming shock all due to the lack of blood.

Bob snapped another quick look. Muzzle flashes gave away the shooters positions as the block wall beside his head suddenly erupted once again.

“Damn, that was close.”

Bob yelled to Murphy, “Murphy I need my med-kit from the Jeep?”

“I got it,” Murphy yelled back, and quickly moved to retrieve it.

“And Murphy,” Bob paused waiting for Murphy to look at him.

“Don’t fuck it up…” Murphy knew what he meant. For if he did, Simon would most certainly die. The men required at least this from Murphy with no excuses.

Bob swung his weapon into the garage to cover Murphy as he moved, and let fly another burst. He was judging his aim accordingly… in Bob’s minds-eye he could visualize the enemy behind their barricade for he memorized the scene in that brief moment he looked down range… He envisioned each bullet making its mark. Bob swapped out the magazine for a full one.

He turned toward Simon who was gulping for air like a drowning man. He shouted, “I’m here for yeah Buddy… Hold on.” directly at Simon’s face. Bob then grabbed his friend’s face in his bloodied hands, and spoke softly in his ear, “I got you, Buddy, hang in there.” He took off his jacket and laid it over him.

Bob’s mind wandered as he looked at Simon, and his fight for life. His mind wandered back to that day in the valley at the beaver lodge. He saw Harlan shivering on the ice on that sunny day on the frozen pond.

He shook the image from his mind, not letting it distract him. He wanted to act definitively, and without fear or hesitation. If he did, he could pull this off.

He hoped he would not lose another man like he lost Harlan that day.

Subconsciously, Bob kept a grim tally of every man that he ever lost over the years, though he didn’t realize most days. It certainly affected him; it was not healthy to hold such a list of memories for so long, but it was part of his character. He learned to live with the horrors, and to make friends with them so to speak.

Simon had a relaxed look of death on his face; it was near.  He gasped for more air… then a strange sort of indifference suddenly washed over him. As if a form of acceptance took hold, a look of calm that was mixed with a form of sadness, and confusion. Bob watched the paleness come over his face. He was losing this battle.

“Murphy hurry up…” he shouted up the ramp at Murphy.

Bob knew death was coming for Simon, and soon, slow and steady his fight would end if he couldn’t do some first-aid on him soon.

Only Simon could refuse to give in to death at this point …he would hold on with tight resolve. Simon groaned as Bob pushed on the wound one more time. He convulsed with tremors a shutter ran along his whole length. Bob saw that he was still alive, but barely. This gave him some hope. Simon’s pulse was faint, barely detectable.

Bob had often seen these same faces, of the many lost men from his past, each spiraling up from his subconscious. Usually they visited late at night.

Young men, boys, twisted and pleading… crying back in some disfigured form. Dark images from that mysterious hereafter. All grim and frozen the long dead. The decayed beyond recognition with a twisted scream of terror stretched over bony masks.

All pleading, almost begging for their release.

Bob dreamed many faces recently less and less in the more recent years. He consoled himself that Heaven did exist for all men, and death did come to them in soft whispers, like a kind voice, a very last resolution. Coaxing them toward some proffered shore. Perhaps, a siren’s song, yet hopeful.

Luring them as did those sailors who had been called toward ragged shallow shoals…

And, like the mariners in the scriptures they were laid to rest: “We forever committed their bodies to the corruption of the deep,” bodies no longer needed by their lofty souls…

Bob hoped a grand ship did arrive, shuttling away those heroic men, carrying them toward that distant field of Elysium reserved for the noblest heroes.

This surely is the least that should be offered to those fallen.

These thoughts are Bob’s salvation here on Earth, and these wishes are what help him forget their young faces. Perhaps forget is not the term, but become friends with them.

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Simon gasped as Bob yelled, “What’s taking so long Murphy?”

Simon’s breathing was erratic. He moaned with the pain, as blood gurgled from his chest. An air bubble formed over his wound. He again opened his eyes wide and groaned, and drew silent. Simon lay perfectly still between the labored breaths.

Bob comforted him, and wondered whether he could save him.

He swore under his breath, “Damn you man, stay with me. You can do this Simon…”

Bob was not ready to let Simon go just yet. Not if he could still do something about it. Simon repeatedly slipped in and out of conscientiousness, rolling his eyes in his head.

Bob cradled his head in his lap. Simon did not feel the rain, nor sense Bob’s presence anymore. He was out of body, and still floating in some other place.

Nothing got through to his mind anymore… his thoughts were serene and tranquil.

Still he fought on. He would not be fooled by deaths tricks.

Sharply and suddenly, a harsh voice rang out. It was familiar to Simon, it broke through the veil. As things began come into focus his pain returned in a rush, many emotions over took him he began to return.

Bob pounded again on Simon’s chest, and Simon’s world exploded with a bright flash of white light.

He relented, but received the cold embrace.

Bob saw Simon’s chest rise and fall, he convulsed, and arched his back.

A commanding voice rang out again clearer now, “Simon, you got this buddy… hang in there, that’s right …breath… buddy …breath…” Simon choked blood and emptied his lungs onto the cement.

Suddenly, a looming face, a familiar face formed above Simon. Floating in the sky over his, a vision. The face once more shouted directly at him. … “Simon, hang on buddy, you’re back, you’re here… that’s it, you’ve got this shit my friend.”

Simon felt the rain. His eyes opened wide, he saw the clear pearls slowly falling toward him. The rain hit his face once more as he came back from that other place.

Bob’s voice boomed. It guided Simon… the cold air rushed into his lungs. Bob’s familiar face grew sharp, reality returned. He felt pain again, he recognized the gunfire, and the rain washed blood from his shirt.

“GOD DAMN IT SIMON… YOU’RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE BUDDY.” Bob’s voice cut through once more.

“That’s it buddy, come back to me.” He methodically worked on Simon’s wounds packing what he could around the chest. He knew he might lose him again if he didn’t react quickly… If he could not prevent the shock from setting in, it would be too late for a second go round. Simon would never survive a second death.

He shouted confidently, “God damn it, stay with me. You’re doing great buddy.” he worked with Simon.

Bob truly hated himself for being complacent earlier, letting his guard down. He felt he had failed everyone.

He should have been expecting this ambush. Many of these warehouses were probably occupied with combatants.

“This would never have happened if I had been paying attention.” His head ached from the stress.

“What a fucking fool I am.” He punished himself, and bit his lip. He tasted his own blood but didn’t heed it. He tried to regain composure, and set to working on saving Simon.

“Get your SHIT together,” He cursed the sky for the down pour.

“Better get back in the game or die here with Simon.”

“Murphy, get me that fucking kit bag… Now!” he shouted angrily over his shoulder as Murphy struggled with his fear.

The rounds could be heard buzzing past like angry insects and Murphy worked up enough courage to look over the back of the Jeep for the medical bag.

Bob’s head snapped up roaring at the black sky over his head, and he cursed the Gods once more, “Fuck you, bastards.”

The rain paid little attention and gathered in force, relentlessly pounding down him all the more. It washed dirt from alley, and blood from the landing.

Murphy too glared up at the vengeful sky with blue hate in his eyes. A dark gloom had rolled above the men. It was death determined to reap his due.

The menace moved slowly, unstoppable taunting the mortals. Each one feeling despair, it was certainly a new level of hell unknown to Murphy.

What else could it be? He cursed the day begging for relief for everyone’s sake.

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Murphy, let fly a blast of rounds into the garage in anger. He crouched low behind the Jeep and made his way toward the back of the vehicle.

Knowing exactly where the medical kit was now… After all, he had packed it himself.

He knew he needed to get into the game, “Snap out of it, Murphy” he shouted at himself. Then he turned toward the black opening of the garage. He was horrified about how important this moment was to the group… No, not just Simon but him and Bob and even Marlee and the Granvilles. Murphy began to change at that moment. It was do or die time for him.

A crystal clear yet crazy thought shook Murphy to the marrow. He realized what he needed to do and how to make it happen.

Despite the noise of the raging battle, it was clear Murphy needed to react decisively, fearlessly. He looked at the wet medical bag in his hands, and took a deep breath to fortify himself and pulled himself together…

A new man came forth, a decisive man… steady. Murphy felt that if any of them were to survive this battle, he was the key. He must be resolute, and not worry about his life or the taking of others either …and do it right now before all was irrevocably lost.

He grabbed the canvas bag from the Jeep, remaining low behind the rear. He yanked it free with a hard jerk, and ducked to the pavement.

He slid on his side staying low, and dragged himself up the ramp using his arm to crawl.  As he dragged the bag and his rifle behind him, he paused to gather himself, and with all his might he readied to launch the bag.

“Bob here it comes.” he shouted, and wound back his arm from a near sitting position. The bag was aimed high over the jeep. Murphy started its flight with a short prayer.

“Oh God, Please.” he whispered the words to himself and released the bag with a jerk and a grunt.

It rose high, skyward, aimed at the men on the landing. It climbed as if on a wire, a magnificent arc spiraling through space, with grace… true and a well-claimed flight.

Murphy watched in stunned reverence… Its trajectory climbed upward; it lofted through rain. Bob saw it flying low and slow suspended by some strange magic. It resembled an awkward bird. A canvas creature hung for what seemed forever against the darkened sky, spilling rain drops in flight. Silver pearls spiraled from its path. Murphy willed the bag to its destination.

It landed in the line of fire, bounced thrice, rolled, and skidded just shy of Bob’s feet, stopping next to Simon’s leg.

Bob blinked in wonderment at the bag; he looked up at Murphy and smiled.

There was that momentary, comical when two people realize they had just witnessed something divine. Despite the obvious chaos, Bob and Murphy blinked and nodded in acknowledgment at each other, each giving just one nod… it said it all.

Bob set to work on his friend. He breathed deeply, and pulled the strap of the canvas bag too him, removing a roll of bandages, coagulant, and duct tape, and two ampules of Morphine…

He forcibly opened Simon’s eyes and waved a small flashlight over his pupils. He needed to determine his brain activity and his state of being. The pupils were of equal size and reacted to the lights glare. His pulse was faint but still detectable.

To cut away Simon’s jacket and then his shirt, he turned him on his left side. He reached around to his right shoulder, searching for the bullet’s entry wound. He expected the bullet had gone nearly straight through… it had certainly exited breaking two ribs though. The proof was the bulge and bleeding from the front of his chest.

The round had punctured his right lung from the rear just under his shoulder, missing his shoulder blade. It was sheer luck…

Simon had his arms over his head when it hit, while lifting the jammed door and the shooting started. The first shot had come from behind and, somehow missed his shoulder blade, entering just under it as he raised his arms. The impact could not have been placed in a more benign spot if it had been planned.

Most of his vital organs had been missed leaving him relatively treatable… only the sucking sound from his punctured lung indicated any immediate danger. This was evident by his labored breathing, and gurgling sounds coming from his chest.

Bob next rolled Simon on his right side to access the other wounds. He found no life-threatening injuries. Three near misses, all torn flesh, open but near misses… superficial damage.

He poured saline on a gauze and washed the three wounds to prepare them. Simon winced, but was nearly unresponsive to this treatment.

To save precious time, and this man’s life, he sealed the chest wound from both sides quickly using the gauze and duct tape. First by applying a dusting of Celox, a coagulant used for such wounds. Bob pushed it into the chest wound, forcing some into the wound itself. It would be a temporary and simple trick, then adding the gauze Bob made a pad. All was held on by duct tape to seal it temporarily helping the lung seal. This stops bleeding, but most of all it seals the hole. Stopping the sucking of his lung. This had collapsed now by the impact of the round. The pressure of the impact forced his lung to collapse, blasting any air he had out of his lungs, and the hole prevented it from re-inflating again…

It’s the wonderful waterproof nature of duct tape that is so good at this point. That along with its famous adhesive qualities helps keep the wound from bleeding outside of his chest. It simultaneously stopped the air from leaking too.

As soon as Bob sealed the hole, Simon suddenly gasped for air. He coughed still laboring for breath. The collapsed lung was unable to inflate on its own. The pressure inside his diaphragm was preventing him from inhaling. Blood had also pooled in his diaphragm.

Next, Bob retrieved a large hypodermic needle from his bag. He removed it from its tube and inserted it into his chest below the wound above the diaphragm, but careful not to pierce the lung. This can be used to equalize the pressure around the lung, and drain a buildup of fluids in the cavity, allowing Simon to once again fill his lungs on his own. Simon breathed in the life-giving air, and coughed blood with each breath. This was a good sign to Bob. Now he had a chance to live, not drowning in his own fluids.

Murphy randomly fired at the shadows inside the garage.

Simon gulped at the air and began breathing slowly regaining color in his face.

Bob rolled Simon on his back and checked the other three wounds. Nothing more was needed than a simple dressing to take care of the three minor wounds for now.

Bob felt hopeful by Simon’s growing color.

He could do a much better job later when Simon was stable and they were out of this fire-fight. The roar from in the garage had died off to only occasional blasts. This worried Bob. The men inside were probably moving forward or planning something.

Simon convulsed suddenly on the wet cement, His eyes widened, and his head snapped back in an attempt to get as much air as he possible could to fill his lungs… Gulping and gasping, he panicked and began to go into shock again… His legs rattled as before, and he shook with tremors.

A sudden violent cough expelled a clot of blood that spurted forth from his mouth. He then lay mouthing at the air, fighting for life once more.

Bob pushed Simon back down, “Hush, stay still… you’re not out of the woods yet, buddy, hang in there.” He felt his artery and a pulse, “Relax, hang in there.” He grabbed for the ampule of the Morphine. Bob worried the drug might relax his breathing too much. It may stop him from breathing altogether, but he had to do something to settle him, at least until he took care of the men inside.

He stabbed Simon in his thigh to calm him and ease the pain. This should help ward off the inevitable shock overcoming him.

Bob had witnessed men unable to handle the resurfacing from those dark waters that Simon had just come from. He was under for so very long; who knows what damage had been done.

His coming back from so deep will certainly shock any man, killing him instantly. Sometimes, the lack of blood stops their heart, or damaging the kidneys.

Coming back is often followed by cardiac arrest, simply too much for most men. They expire under the simple stress of it, having a heart attack to compound matters.

Bob rolled Simon back onto his side again, to allow his blood to be expelled from his lungs more easily. His wound in his right lung was now filling his left lung. Bob grabbed a garbage bag and emptied its contents using the bag as protection from the pouring rain.

Simon labored for breath. The blood pooled inside the lung. Bob laid him so it could drain into his esophagus. He then cough it out, and as more clots spewed from his mouth, he inhaled again. Each attempt was that much easier than the last. The coagulant was working.

Bob may have to enlarge the tube in the wound eventually to drain the pooling fluids, as it would certainly be building up in his chest cavity. He would need to wait until later when he could get him some where safe and proper help. For now, Simon would be in danger of shock. Bob piled corrugated boxes and debris on his shaking body to hold in his heat and ward off the rain. He grabbed a plastic bottle of saline from the kit, attached a needle, and hung it on the dumpster next to the men. He inserted the needle into Simon’s arm to replace the fluids and help stave off shock.

He then stabbed Simon one more time with another ampule of morphine and grabbed his AR-15. He waved an arm at Murphy to get ready.  Murphy acknowledged Bob’s signal. Bob pointed two fingers at his own eyes, and then motioned toward the garage, it was time to make their move. Murphy readied himself.

Bob grabbed a small mirror from his bag and crawled to the edge of the cement landing. He held the mirror alongside the door jamb, carefully holding it between pinched fingers clear of the line of fire. He watched the interior of the garage using the mirror. He could make out some movement behind the concrete barricade.

The men were holed up well… ducked down behind the barricade near the back of the garage. They certainly were well protected, however Bob saw they foolishly exposed themselves several times as he watched them move about. They obvious felt confident in their inexperience, and periodically revealed a portion of their head or shoulder moving about.

He counted on their inexperience, and immediately used it to his advantage. There appeared to be only three men, each with an AK-47. Bob knew he had no sure way of knowing for certain if more men were beyond the barricades, but if so he would deal with them in good time.

He continued to watch, while formulating a plan.

He slowly shoved some boxes left on the landing with his foot, pushing them besides the door opening and creating a pile; camouflage to hide himself behind. From here he would make his assault. He planned to get a precision shot off without exposing himself for very long. He would need to stay low, showing only his rifle and the top of his head. It was risky, but with only his rifle seen by the men inside. If they were not to notice him or his moving into place, he could certainly hit the top of their head with little to no effort at that distance.

Bob watched the mirror, cautiously waiting for his chance to move into position. When the time came, he ducked low, moving quickly to a crouched prone position. He then moved ever so slowly. Even if the men inside were looking, they would not be able to see his slow advance. It was as if he were molasses. He positioned himself slowly. It took what must have been several minutes. The objective was to set his head behind his propped up rifle without any motion to catch the eye of someone inside.

He lined up the sights and inhaled deeply. His rifle and his head revealed only a dark shadow through the gap between the wall and the box.  He waited for the first man’s forehead too rise above the barricade, and let a shot fly… It was a clean head-shot. The barrel pressure moved the cardboard box, revealing his gun and head to the men inside. The dead man’s head snapped back quickly and slumped out of sight crashing like a demolished building.

Bob knew what would follow. Ignoring his exposure by the boxes movement he waited. Now, cautiously he watched and waited for motion…

Their angry response was certain. Their rage would prove fatal to whomever stuck up his head next.

At such a close range it was a sure kill, and as predicted, they instantly responded. Bob let his next shot fly.

He knew if he kept calm. He could send it quickly enough that he could pick them off one by one… killing them all as they tried to shoot back. He only needed to wait for their movement above the concrete, waiting for each victim to expose itself for the slightest amount above the barricade.

Bob never once broke his gaze; he blinked rain from his eyes between shots and watched the edge of the barricade for the slightest movement. He was coiled, and ready… a steel trap, each muscles tensed, wanting his own revenge that morning… He was controlled, and angry… and ready to take all their lives.

Suddenly, another man exposed his back above the barricade, as he tried to move for better position.

Bob let fly that round sending a blast of white dust ricocheting off the edge of the barricade and red mist coating the wall behind the man.

The glancing round severed his spine. He piled up on top of his friend. He re-acquired his aim and waited, patiently scanning the scene for the next target.

He waited, and watched… the last shooter stood up directly to the right of his companions…  He rose quickly, while foolishly holding his head down aghast at his two fallen comrades. This simple mistake exposed the top of his bare head, and Bob ended him next.

He dispatched each man with one shot. The next was the unexpected fourth man, one to the throat and another to his chest.

That was the last down, Bob readied for another shot, quietly wanting… No movement was seen… he waited in cold silence. The smell of gun powder filled the garage. Only the rain could be heard hitting the ramp.

The rain was beginning to let up, not that Bob notice. He held his aim, and slowed his breath, breathing evenly. He didn’t move for several minutes, and waiting stoical and unflinching…

Suddenly a weak voice cried out, “You son of a bitch. You mother fuckers… I’m going to kill you all for this…” The voice was followed by some faint sobbing. It was a young boy. Apparently he had been the fifth persons behind the barrier and the only remaining combatant.

Bob had considered he was not fighting organized militia here. They were most likely untrained civilians, and possibly a family, or maybe gang members at worst.

This did not persuade Bob to be lenient. He held his aim waiting for the young boy to rise.

It was these men that had likely just ended Simon’s life. He considered killing the young boy immediately. There was no time for sympathy here, as Simon’s life still hung in the balance.

…or should he disarm the young boy instead. “Damn it,” Bob whispered to himself.

“Damn,” He offered the boy a chance, “Throw out your weapons, and come forward …keep your hands above your head were I can see them.”

Bob waited in silence, then repeated his command again, and without hesitation a defiant reply came back, mixed with a torrent of profanity, “FUCK YOU… YOU BASTARDS ARE GOING TO DIE FOR THIS… YOU KILLED THEM… YOU’LL ALL DIE FOR THIS…”

Bob, admired the young man’s tenacity.

But didn’t give him a choice. He continued, “Do as I say, or we will fire on you…”

His words echoed inside the empty garage with an ominous air about them. But once again, Bob heard the young boys sobbing…

He waited as time went by …next the clatter of the first weapon as it hit the cement floor. Then more silence…

“Throw out all the weapons…” Bob insisted angrily.

He certainly didn’t want to be shot by this child, not for being soft.

Four more weapons sailed through the air and were heard hitting the cement floor. Their clanging echoed throughout the dark interior. The sound reverberated off the damp walls of the parkade. The smell of rain and the battle permeated the parkade. The stench of it, mixed with the smell of blood, and fear… Bob suspected these were not all the weapons…

“Okay, now move forward on your knees with your fingers interlaced above your head.”

Slowly the boy stood up. “On your knees,” Bob shouted. Nervous and suspecting to be shot by his captors, the young boy shook with fear.

He couldn’t have been more than twelve, and judging by his weight he was malnourished so he may be older. Bob aimed at his chest with his AR-15. The youngster suddenly grew anxious, fearing for his life.

“Relax, I won’t shoot …if you do as I say… but any sudden movement and I will open fire.”

Bob now spoke quietly to the young boy… all the while trying to keep him calm.

“Move towards me,” he demanded.

The waif moved into the gray light. He was dressed in nothing more than rags, frail, looking as lean as a whippet. He swayed from malnutrition. He appeared to not to have enough strength to stand on his own.

His skeletal frame was shocking to behold.

The sight of this person …was enough to bring Bob back to Iraq and the Taliban.

More than once he had witnessed these child-soldiers suddenly at the last moment pull a weapon from their clothing frantically killing one of the men trying to capture them.

Although Bob felt empathy for this boy, he knew from experience not to take chances. He had watched many men shot dead by these same children… some, blown away by others even younger than this one holding grenades, and most in far worse physical condition than this one.

Bob kept a keen eye on the young man’s movements. “Stop… right there.”

“Are there any others in the building?” he asked.

“No, I am the only one left,” the young boy teared up and began to sob again.

Bob watched the boy’s face. Looking for signs of deception, but saw none. The boy suddenly became aware he was all alone… perhaps it was the horror of it all that had just taken place. He broke down and cried uncontrollably.

The young boy struggled to repeat his last words, “I’m the only one,” he now realized his fate. He didn’t want to be shot. His sorrow betrayed what went-on behind his brown eyes, as tears streaked and leaked from them washing his dirty face in tracks.

A pang of regret tugged at Bob’s heart, he realized he had just killed this boys friends or perhaps, even his family members.

Bob forcefully pushed his feelings back down into his chest. Now was not the time to succumb to emotions. There was no reason to believe this child would not kill him if given half a chance…

He convinced himself of the boy’s treachery and moved toward him.

He yelled out, “Murphy,” who was now standing at the far side of the garage door rifle ready. He held his aim fixed on the boys chest.

“Yeah,” he answered low and softly surprising Bob who didn’t realize he had moved in beside him.

Surprised and without looking at Murphy he said, “I want you to make your way into the parkade.” Tipping his head pointedly, “that side there,” he aimed.

He then paused a second emphasizing the words, and nodded his head again toward the far wall, “I’ll cover you.”

Bob did this without taking his eyes off the young boy before him.  Murphy swept his eyes throughout the garage, watching for movement. Bob paused a moment, “and do it carefully Murphy… keep your eyes open for… anything… any movement… okay?” Murphy was way ahead of Bob at this point.

Murphy didn’t answer right away, so Bob got angry. He raised his voice and repeated, “Murphy pay attention,” wanting an answer this time…

“I got it,” Murphy answered back defiantly. Bob added by punctuating the sentence, “and take no chances… If this one moves I’ll shoot him.”

“I got this Bob, no problem,” Murphy retorted.

Bob was surprised by Murphy’s new attitude…

Murphy came up quick, just twenty yards ahead of Bob, then thirty, then forty yards. He scanned the interior for movement. Murphy understood what Bob meant, he had changed he knew what to do now… he advanced with purpose… making his way toward the adjacent block wall. It ran perpendicular to the barricade where the three dead men lay.

Just to the right of the large roller door… he looked down with indifference, he moved forward.

Murphy made his way careful and slowly, holding his rifle to his shoulder, eyes and mind fixed. He appeared to be a seasoned warrior even to Bob.

Holding his own, he moved cautiously sliding along the block wall. He aimed at the far end of the parkade, it was probably fifty yards wid. He followed along the wall quickly swinging his rifle behind the barricade at the three dead men. He moved swiftly, kicking each body hard with his toe, and moving on. He was adept scanning and sweeping his firearm throughout the interior watching for the slightest motion.

He remembered the soldiers from last year when they stormed his neighbor’s home, the Kershaws, recalling their speed and methodology as they left no doubt they were in charge.

He also recalled the scene as the old woman and man were dragged helplessly onto their lawn and bound by the soldiers. It may have been over a year ago to the month… yet he envisioned it exactly as if it were yesterday.

He looked back sorrowfully to when this Martial Law nightmare began. Regretting how naive he was to think it was only temporary. How he failed to realize what the world seemed to him back then, was long gone.

Murphy realized that declaring “Martial Law” was more than merely the trigger to this nightmare… It was more than some precipitous to some Apocalypse. It was the one inevitable sign, or outcome of where the country was headed, as all the hindsight pointed to its coming as destiny.

It made no difference whether by design or by fate, but back then, if anyone had suggested this would have been the outcome, they would have been considered a fanatic. All this happened in only one short year. The madness of it all was overwhelming…

A destiny that pitting neighbor against neighbor, broken government against its own people. Where patriots sided against infiltrators, and social class divided in revolution, now race against race. When would it end if it ever could?

A fragmenting of society as if it were orchestrated that way; creating so many strange new alliances, and so many broken ones. There was the fractured military aspect… not to mention a fractured government. It was a wounded nation. An angry dystopian future lay ahead for all now. We got here by allowing ourselves to be divided by those eager for control.

The sheer carnage sprawled out like broken glass. It seemed hopeless the entire nation was in mourning. And for all Murphy knew it would never heal again. A bleak landscape lay before us all. The generations to come, no matter what your ideology is now… will suffer along with any dying morals you hold dear.

What is the difference between killing a man during peace time and killing a man during war?

These are questions that are never asked by those politicians that start these conflicts.

It is an entire planet in revolt, human kind having a nervous breakdown. The top elites have upended everything. Everything we once held dear now we are left trying to desperately piece back together. A process of re-evaluation just to be sure, do we have it right this time; to make sense of it again… in today’s new world where everything is in doubt.

Reality suddenly crashed in on Murphy in a flash, as if a lightning strike had broken against a black sky. And, right at that moment, Murphy saw the future… it revealed itself as a vision. He had witnessed parts of it a year ago, back in the Longview swamps.

But, now it was raw and real. He felt a lump in his throat rise up. He wanted to look away from the dead bodies, and the young boy but stared into their dirty faces then composed himself.

He couldn’t help but empathize with this young man who stood shaking before him. Although he choked back anything he felt for the boy, and swallowed it hard, maybe for the last time.

He vowed he was never going to connect with those emotions until this nightmare was over.

Vowing this would be the last time he would allow his feelings to get the better of him.

He had mentally changed that day… Murphy was no longer an accountant.

The naive Murphy had died inside that day as a new man rose up in his place, a new warrior, who was hard, and capable. He realized what needed to be done from then on, and simply did whatever it took to survive.

It was evident why he made this decision that day. Clearly it was in spite fear of the future and what it held for him…  He was ready to do what it took to get home safe, wherever the hell that was these days.

He was done negotiating this with himself. He truly believed he would simply change back after this all ended…

Little did he know when that would be…

Perhaps in our minds… if the pain is held in long enough… in a sealed vessel buried deep in the psyche long enough, it can be forgotten… This he told himself …he consoled his old self. He could simply turn it on later when he needed to. Maybe after returning to his old life, switching it back on with a wish. That concept was good enough for now. It would have to do.

Friedrich Nietzsche once said:

“A philosopher is; oh, a being who is frequently running away from himself, frequently afraid of himself, but too curious not to ‘come to‘ again – always back to himself. ~  Beyond Good and Evil

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Murphy leaned hard against the block wall keeping his sights on the boy’s chest.

Murphy called out to Bob, “Clear.”

The command in his voice startled Bob again, forcing him to look over at his friend, just to see if it was really him, Murphy, the quiet neighbor. Even as Bob looked right at him, he could not tell for certain. The change was that pronounced. He appeared physically different.

This new man, stranger, stood before him it was not his old neighbor at all. Oh he looked like Murphy, but he was altogether another person. Bob was certain of that. He recognized this transformation right away. He had seen this before in war.

Murphy’s voice even held a different timber. It had all changed for Murphy in a matter of minutes, and Bob saw it in his eyes as well.

“Okay,” Bob replied. He noticed Murphy’s change.

“Wait a moment, Murphy.”

Bob ran back to check on Simon. When he approached him, his pulse was faint, yet steady. He adjusted his body to make him more comfortable, and rose and entered the parkade again. Murphy and the boy were standing face to face.

Murphy was patting him down with the barrel of his rifle pushed hard into his chest. Bob moved quickly to Murphy’s side… he asked, “You okay, Murphy?”

Murphy replied cold a calculated still frisking the young boy, “Yeah I’m fine, how is Simon?”

Bob blinked, “He’s looking okay but needs surgery, and soon.

He then moved toward the still sobbing boy. Murphy sat him on the cement floor before Bob… his hands still interlaced above his head. “I got him, Murph.” Bob waved him off, he checked the boy for additional weapons too. He pushed him forward, lying flat on the cement floor. He once again scanned the parkade for movement then looked to Murphy, “secure this kid. Bind him with twist ties from my kit bag.”

Murphy swept the interior of the garage as he moved to get the bag outside. When he returned, he dropped the bag on the ground and emptied it on the concrete.

Bob pointed to the zip ties. He kept these in his kit bag for various uses. During wartime he used them usually for simple tourniquets, especially for traumatic field amputations, severed limbs and the like.

“There… tie him up… not too tight or he’ll lose his hands.”

Murphy slung his weapon over his shoulder and grabbed the zip-ties from the bag. He made a quick job tying the young man’s hands behind his back. He then rose and swung the Russian rifle from his shoulder again, and scanned the garage. “What now?” he asked Bob for command.

Bob said, “ just watch him for now, I’ll check the rest of the building.”

“Let’s gag him, and tie him to the rail over there,” Murphy pointed with his rifle to a rail on the wall. He looked at Bob with stoic resolve, “I’ll go with you.” he replied. He seemed determined to be of the best use he could be.

Bob watched Murphy for signs of stress. He seemed so much different, perhaps he was in shock. Bob nodded and agreed. “Okay, fix him to the rail over there.” Bob lifted the boy by one arm, “Help me drag him over.”

Bob was always impressed at Murphy’s knack for the obvious when so many others under stress did miss it. Murphy seems calmer than most to Bob.  He displayed it many times in the past too. Bob knew Murphy was a clever man. He must be… to have dealt with complicated financial figures as he did, the only thing he lacked was the training for combat, not the brains.

Bob considered Murphy with a new eye… he thought that maybe he would have made a fine officer… if need be. Well, if his path had taken him that way, that is.

The two men dragged the boy to the rail, and secured him to the lowest bracket. He was hidden out of sight. Murphy gagged him with some duct tape from the medic bag. They then dragged the other bodies to where they could be hidden in case some more friends came by, then they gathered Simon, to get him to a safe place and comfortable.

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They moved Simon undercover to a utility room near the back of the garage; setting him out on a stack of wood pallets. They covered him with a movers blankets they found piled in the corner of the room. They nodded silently at one another, satisfied with the bed they had made and carefully moved him on to it.

“Let’s clear the building now,” Bob walked off toward the stairwell. He made his way ahead of Murphy, aimed toward the back of the parkade. Both men moved quickly plunging into the dark end of the garage.

Murphy watched Bob’s lead, and swung his rifle back and forth behind them searching for danger, always at the ready.

Bob slowly crept to the top of the first set of stairs. He fell against the wall beside the door, and paused. He took two deep breathes, then nodded at Murphy and indicating to kick the door in, Murphy bursting forward, immediately stepping aside for Bob to enter behind him.

Bob swung in low and quick… swaying his weapon from side to side scanning the perimeter of the upper level. It was gutted and bare of virtually anything useful.

It took only a half hour to secure the top half of the building. The third floor had been destroyed by fire, and was open to the sky.

The men headed back to check on Simon and help stabilize him. He was still, perhaps he was dead. Bob, checked his pulse. Simon groaned when touched. Murphy relieved that he wasn’t dead smiled, “He needs warmth and surgery, Bob.”

Bob touched Simon’s shoulder, “It’s just me buddy stay still, you’re okay,” Bob smiled as he checked his pulse and then checked both his upper and lower limbs. He wanted to make sure he had NOT severed an artery or had any clotting or stroke.

Murphy knelt next to Simon. He appeared indifferent to his condition. As if a veteran who refused to become attached to his fellow soldiers. He had hardened to it. Then he asked Bob as if by demand, “I’ll bring the jeep into the garage, and get it out of sight.”

Bob again noticed the odd change in his friend, Murphy. It was a bit disconcerting but welcome at the moment. He needed a case hardened man now.

Murphy’s demeanor had certainly transformed. Bob worried it was too sudden, to complete it was unnerving to say the least.

During the shootout Murphy was nearly frozen with fear. Now he was radically different. He seemed ready to run headlong into a burning building.

Bob had seen soldiers do similar transformations after combat. It was as if some safety mechanism kicked in. After their first fire-fight, recruits will often do this. It’s like another personality emerges, an alter ego, hardened and hidden under layers of social guises. It suddenly appears to take over the person in times of extreme stress like the stress of war. A super-being that we all suppress, a character, a monster maybe… crouched deep inside. We do not even know about until it reveals itself to us. Dark personalities that certainly reside in all of us.

The new Murphy was a capable, a bit angry and ready for anything soldier, not to be fucked with. Bob did see that in his friend’s eyes.

He knew better than to aggravate the new-Murphy… he was probably getting used to his new persona too; the new skin he found himself in, yesterday a civilian, now a soldier.

Bob had observed corn fed mid-western boys; young boys from good Christian wholesome farming families suddenly turn into killing machines after just one battle. This often happened early in their first conflict.

It still troubled Bob to see such change, even though it would be the one thing that saves most of their lives when overseas. Bob was never sure they transformed back after they got home. He suspected they did not, after all he hadn’t himself had he …Bob reflected on his own life.

He also knew better than to challenge these men after seeing that change. Not while they were in a warrior mode… this sometimes would remain fixed, until heading home. It was obviously just men trying to survive war… as he had himself in those days, obviously did, and as Murphy had now. All warriors and all dangerous. Not to be fucked with.

Bob understood Murphy’s new attitude, so he shook off the idea of his friend’s transformation. He had bigger things to consider right then…

The prime objective was to get Simon well and safe.

Bob was not sure where the local EVAC facilities were, and if they were well equipped. He knew at least parts of the city would be under military control. He suspected the military wasn’t going to send out any services into this zone for just one man. He and Murphy would have to drive Simon to them. This would put them in danger of being incarcerated by the military or thrown into a FEMA camp. That was exactly what the men wanted to avoid. Perhaps they could simply drop off Simon for treatment and leave.

It occurred to Bob to treat Simon on his own he would need sterile conditions anesthesia an IV drip, an assistant, saline, blood and antibiotics, as surely Simon would get an infection from his wounds. It seemed out of the question. Not knowing how long Simon could hang on, he decided to head out during the day to find an EVAC or Emergency facility.

To be continued

Authored by Jack Woods

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About Jack Woods

Jack is an avid outdoorsman who, when he's not at the shooting range, he's most likely in the woods, either hunting or uploading his latest survival article via his satellite connection.

4 comments

  1. I’m glad to see this episode. Its been a long time coming. This has been an exciting story. I can see this happening just like this.

  2. Just about gave up on seeing any more of this great story. Sure do miss the folks back in the valley….life is better there!

  3. Anthony in Oklahoma

    Yay!! Been checking and checking. VERY happy to see another chapter. Can’t wait to sit down tonight and get back into the story. Thank you for keeping it going 🙂

  4. Excellent story. a bit marred by all the spelling errors. really wakes one up to the problem. a bit unrealistic as to where do city people get food after so long. no food deliveries, no way to get to food stores. no money to buy.

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