His sedan cruises along Interstate 10, heading towards Tucson. Somewhere out his driver side window is the Mexico border, while the good old USofA stretches for miles to the north on his passenger side. He’s surrounded by the serene beauty of the New Mexico desert, not a single man made structure in sight save for the hardball road he is on and the occasional exit sign. The tan and burnt orange soil is interspersed by patches of scrub brush and short, prickly bushes. Striking red rock formations sit in the distance backlit by a bright, blue sky. Why is the sky blue? Because God loves the Infantry, that’s why. He sighs. Those days are behind him now, in his rearview, as it were. His branch detail time done, his tracks pinned on, he makes his way towards Fort Huachuca to begin the second leg of his career in military intelligence school.
The scenery really is beautiful. He’s glad he can appreciate it. He never thought he would be able to enjoy a desert after his first deployment, yet here he is finding solace in one, even if it’s happening at eighty miles an hour. The isolation is comforting as well. He checks his mirrors again. Nope, not a single car behind him. None in front of him either. It’s been that way for the better part of an hour. Good, he could use some alone time.
One catch. The problem with isolated serenity is there’s no fucking bathrooms.
The clock under the cage says it’s 2:21 p.m. and the neon orange second hand just keeps winding. Any minute now.
On the schedule practice starts at 2:30, but Coach is always a few minutes early. The damn drill sergeant tries to squeeze every last minute out of the day, even though their practices are already three hours or more. Jesse isn’t feeling it today. As they straighten and bend back down into their stretch, he’s in a sour mood, brought on by soreness, self-imposed starvation, a massive pile of homework, an impossible to satisfy teenage obsession with the opposite sex, the fucking pimple on his forehead, lost matches, overall moodiness and frustration, and the impending onslaught of yet another of Coach Gillette’s infamous practices. Yup, not in the mood at all today.
The stone walls reverberate with the thrum of the crowd just above the gate tunnel he stands in.
They are already in a frenzy with anticipation, the first eleven combatants having been introduced. Up ahead the twelfth and final contestant argues with the tournament organizers, but Artinaz cannot hear what is being said over the roar in the arena. He looks up from his mop, (he always had to come down here to mop up after the participants entered, in case any fluids got left behind on the brick) and steals a glance.
The tall, willowy Spaesalnean gestures with his top arms while his lower arms sit perched on his hips with indignation. The officials in their flowing robes and chest sashes point at their scrolls and tablets, make reference to the thundering walls around them, wave their hands at the closed gate door. None of it seems to make any difference. The Spaesalnean is having none of it. When one of the officials gestures to the nearest arena guard, who dutifully steps next to the official, the tall being cocks an eyebrow. His arms lash out, the suddenness of the move making Artinaz and the officials alike jump in surprise. The bottom hands pin the gate guards’ arms to his torso, while the top left arm seizes control of the guard’s spear. The Spaesalnean draws one of the broad daggers he wears strapped to his leather jerkin and plunges it into the guard’s neck in violent, driving blows that come down in quick succession, one after another. The guard convulses from the piercings, his larynx severed so fast that all he can emit is a faint squeak mixed with the gurgle of his own blood. The four armed attacker keeps up his relentless mutilation even as the man oscillates into death and goes slack. The stabbings send blood spatters onto the walls, the floors, and the officials who recoil in utter disgust and horror. The Spaesalnean continues his butchery as the body slides down to the brick pavers. There he finishes it off with a few more stabs, his pace finally slowing. In grand spectacle the willowy being stands, wiping blood from his face with the back of a hand while returning his broad dagger to its sheath.
The command post is packed with the junior leadership teams from both Bravo companies.
That’s how the higher ups had decided to match them for the duration of the transition period, by their phonetic alphabet designators. So Alpha Company of this battalion matched with Alpha of that battalion, and so on and so forth, until the entire 1st Cavalry Division and 3rd Infantry Division had counterparts with which they would learn from over the next four weeks.
Four weeks. Incredibly close and impossibly far. Now is when the nerves reemerge. He can see it, and if he can’t see it he can sense it amongst his men. His fellow platoon leader’s men. Everyone who had been on Forward Operating Base War Eagle for the last eleven months. Hell, he felt them. Four weeks left until their one year deployment was over. Thirty days and a wake up until they could catch that big, beautiful bitch (also known as a civilian airliner) home to the states. More specifically, home to Texas. The land of Shiner Bock. Twelve hour smoked brisket. All the blonde hair, blue eyed University of Texas coeds one could hope for packed onto a little strip of debauchery known as Austin’s Sixth Street. He can’t wait to get there. He also can’t stand the thought of buying the farm now when they are so close. It keeps him up almost every night, or at least on the nights that sheer exhaustion doesn’t force him to sleep. He lies awake praying, no begging God to let the men of Bandit Company, himself included, get home alive and unharmed. Just four weeks to go.
Stay Under the Overhang
1981. His Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme backfires as it pulls into the employee lot outside of the Control Building. Upon graduating the academy, he (along with practically every other male graduate) was assigned to the Housing Detention for Men, shortened to HDM by both employees and occupants of the building. Finished in 1933, it is the eldest of the jails on New York City’s own Australia, Riker’s Island. Happy that the car managed to make the journey from his native Massapequa, a sinking feeling now grips his stomach. If it weren’t for the June heat he would have broken out in a cold sweat, of that he is sure, but since his beat up Cutlass wouldn’t survive if he used the A/C, he left if off and the windows down for the drive. Stepping out and reaching behind his seat, he grabs a frameless rucksack, one of his relics from active duty, and then unhooks the garment bag containing his new uniforms. Slinging it over his shoulder and clutching the rucksack, he gives the heavy door a prod with his knee to close it. A few cars over a group of four Corrections Officers stand around an open trunk. He tries to head in but one of them calls out before he can even take two steps towards the building.
“Hey rookie, get over here!” Continue reading
Lazy bastards, every last one of them. Lazy and unseasoned, even though their bluster would have you believe that they are the Aesir themselves, walking in the realm of Midgard.
Fools, young fools full of piss and nothing more. The old man sighs at the younger men’s latest outburst of whining. True, the sun is already beating down on them despite the early morning hour, and the unseasonable heat refuses to abate even though it is late September, but still. He remembers a time when a man’s work was a thing of pride, no matter how menial the chore or task put to him. The men of this younger generation seemed to have lost that premise, or worse, were never taught it in the first place. The old man wipes the sweat off his brow and then readjusts the leather cord holding his hair back. Both hair and beard are wet and clinging, mostly grey and white with only the slightest remnants of his youthful hazel streaked at the tips. He has been growing both for so long that it is hard to tell where his hair ends and his beard begins. Removing his hand axe from its belt loop, he turns the cutting edge skyward and uses the flat back of the head to continue hammering his stake into the ground. A dozen or so feet away one of the younger men works on his part of the palisade, but with obviously less vigor. Behind them both, another three sit on the ground circled around a sparse cook fire, their pittance of a breakfast stew slowly coming to bubble in a small pot.
Snippet – Top 10 Reasons Why I Won’t Miss Commuter Railroad Travel
10. Tone deaf, Sammy Davis impersonating, station performers who can’t carry a tune.
9. Riders who feel that the existence of a quiet car gives them the right to blast their music or talk as loud as they want in other cars, since if you say something to them about their volume, they have an inherent, ironclad defense of, “Whatever man, go to the quiet car then.”
Terse refused his fate.
He refused to believe that he was destined to be the smallest, to never reach above the rest. He felt it in his entire being, his existence was meant for something greater than the culmination of the cycles he had spent on this vast plain up to this point. Terse yearned for answers, for the end of the mystery that lay beyond the great ridge and pit that divided his world from…well from whatever was on the other side of those boundaries. Most of all, he longed for meaning. Was his life’s growth, filled with constant beratement and belittlement at the hands of his Surroundings, all that he would ever achieve? Terse could not accept it, he would not. So on this, the fourth anniversary of his emergence day, Terse communed with the Great One, high upon his mound, untouched since even before their Gathering began. It was said that he alone had witnessed more than any other, and that he alone could answer the mysteries of world.
Elizabeth, Liz to everyone but her Uncle Rodrigo, clutches her father’s hand tightly.
Consumed by boundless curiosity, her eyes dart all around town as they progress through her daddy’s errands. The air is hot, stale, and as always, dusty. There aren’t any paved roads in town, although she has seen a few in her short life further north, when her daddy had to bring the family along for work that lasted a few weeks. Liz hates the dust, orange and encompassing, it gets into every seam, every crevice. There is nothing worse than biting into her dinner, (when there was dinner) and feeling the grating crunch of grains of dirt in her food, between her teeth, up her nose as she sniffles.
A man is on his knees, sitting back on his heels.
Is he even still a man? Somewhere far off he believes he is, once upon a time he knew he was. Now, in this moment, he’s not so sure. There isn’t much to corroborate. It is dark around him, cloudy, with a violent swirling that obscures everything beyond, like being inside a sandstorm. Yet, nothing pelts him, the wind isn’t roaring. There is just silence, strange and disconcerting given what his eyes present. It causes him to cast them down, not for the first time, certainly more so recently, and he knows not for the last.