Bewildering Stories

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The Horrors of War

by Eric S. Brown

I wake up with Sean standing above me. I look past him to the bright stars above savoring the night though their light nearly blinds me. There is something wet around my head, cold and slimy. Suddenly the peacefulness of the night is shattered by the chatting of automatic rifle fire and screams. I realize what has happened even as Sean jerks me to my feet. I smell blood, smoke, and death on the air. People are running all around us, fleeing the Eastern Axis troops as they make their way deeper into the city. Sean drags me into an alleyway off the main street as I remember now about the war, the fall of the U.S., and the invasion of her soil. I can hear the enemy troops shouting in Arabic as they draw closer. What I can't remember is why we are still here. I told Sean if he awoke first he was to get us out of the city and away from the front as fast as he could.

"Jesus," I mutter. I whirl on him grabbing him and slamming into the alley wall. "What the Hell are you trying to do? Get us killed?"

He breaks my grip and ducks under my arms to run deeper into the alley. "I'm trying to have some fun," he answers from the shadows. "You do remember fun don't you?" Laughing, he tosses me an M-16. I notice for the first time his leather jack and faded jeans that he always wears regardless of how out of style they are, are gone. He's wearing an army uniform, dark green, with the rank marking of a U.S. sergeant on his sleeve. "Come on, man!" He yells and darts out onto the street. "Let's show them what death really is!" He runs through the bodies of the last U.S. soldiers and some civilians that litter the street, their bullet ridden bodies flopping like fish out of water as death comes to claim them.

I snap off the rifle's safety, cursing heavily under my breath and run after him. I know the madness has overtaken him and when he gets like this there is no arguing with him.

Howling at the top of his lungs, Sean charges the Eastern Axis troops. They see him coming and open fire. Blood flies everywhere as a hundred rounds rip and shred his flesh sending him toppling backwards to the pavement.

"Sean!" I yell, popping off a burst at the enemy as I hurl myself behind an abandoned car. Tears of hatred welling up in my eyes as I look at his mangled form laying a few feet away.

He lifts his head with half his face gone and turned into a mass of red pulp. But he still manages to smile. Somehow he pulls himself to his feet. I can hear the enemy's surprise as he charges them again this time with his rifle blazing. He kills a few of them before they come to their senses enough to open up once more. Sean's body is riddled with holes as more bullets plow through him. He tries to laugh through his own blood welling up in his throat before he falls again. The bastard will never learn.

I slip into the shadows, moving too fast for the human eye to see, and I am suddenly behind the Eastern Axis line. They do not see me until I drop from the sky onto them opening up on full auto. It's done in seconds and they lie still in the embrace of death. I have taken a few hits but nothing I can't deal with. Pressing a hand against the hole in the side of my neck until the skin regrows over the bullet hole, I cough and hack up a handful of bullets into my palm. I toss them away and wipe my hand on my pants leg before I go to check on Sean.

I find him squatted over the corpse of an Eastern Axis soldier his face buried in the wounded man's neck.

"Sean?" I ask.

He looks up at me with red smeared lips, his eyes shining a bright yellow. "Man, that was so freakin' fun, wasn't it?"

"I have had enough of your games, Sean. It is time you learned when your elder speaks, that you are to listen."

He sees the threat in my eyes and tries to get to his feet as I break off the wooden butt of the rifle. In a blur of movement I hurl myself at him. We go down a mass of sprawling limbs but my weapon finds its home. I feel his body shaking under mine as I hold the wood buried in his heart until the flames come. His ashes drift away on the breeze as I get to my feet, idly wiping at the stains on my shirt. It is over now. I am alone in the midst of the war-torn city of New York. For a moment I wonder if I am the last of my kind, but then I smile showing my fangs to the stars. If so, I won't be for long. The humans lose track of each other so easily in wars, and the night belongs to me as it always has and always will.

Copyright © 2003 by Eric S. Brown