This week's Flash Fiction is late. Sorry about that. There are a number of reasons why, and one of them is that this is more than just a stand alone story. This is the prologue to a science fiction project I'm now working on. You're welcome to come along with me every step of the way.
He didn't know who they were. They weren't the Krauts. That was for sure. It hurt to look at them; their strange proportions and shapes made him ill to think about.
He'd seen a lot in his twenty-five years, but nothing like this before. Six weeks ago he'd watched the waters run scarlet at Sword Beach as the invasion finally began into occupied France. Two weeks after that, he'd been part of the breakout. Cobra, they'd called it. He'd heard the plaintive whimpers of German wounded, begging for water, "Wasser. Bitte nur ein kleines wasser."
He'd seen his friends, buddies, brothers, vanish in a spattering eyeblink or sink slowly to the ground, sometimes not even realizing half their head was gone, dreams, hopes and loves vanishing in a pink cloud from a sniper's bullet or piece of shrapnel no bigger than a grain of sand. When the initial breakout had begun with such ease after the botched landings, he'd allowed himself to hope that maybe it would be over soon, maybe he'd make it through after all and see Oregon again.
He'd wanted to be a teacher once, and coach track. If only he could run now, but trophies and medals mean little when you're pinned to cold metal.
The war was over for him. He knew that. His eyes leaked despite being screwed shut until they hurt. One moment he was on patrol, looking for that damn German armor that intelligence swore was there.
The lieutenant had been the first to die. Something awful out of nightmares had reared from the darkness in front of him. While the men stared in horror it had flashed some kind of beam from the end of a misshapen arm and slashed it once across the officer's body. Unable even to scream, the lieutenant had come apart in a grisly flood of blood and worse as the glowing blade sheared through bone, cloth, flesh-- even the steel of his carbine-- without even a hint of resistance.
True to training and experience the squad had spread to combat positions and opened up, peppering the thing with .30 caliber rounds from their Garand rifles. He remembered seeing the bullets spatter, like hose water from a jeep.
Then it was in among them. The giant thing made no sound of its own, but its energy blade hissed as it tore men apart.
He was the only one left. It had stopped in front of him, almost seeming to regard him thoughtfully, and stared down at him from its enormous height. Something like a hand, but with too many fingers, closed around his throat with a precise movement that was almost delicate, and he felt himself rise into the air until his face was mere inches from its staring baleful eye.
As his feet kicked helplessly more than a yard from the ground he realized with revulsion that it wasn't an eye at all. It was some kind of window. Behind it was a face.
He struggled fitfully against the bonds that crucified him to the cold plate. That face had been the last thing he'd remembered before the horror and nausea had dragged him down into darkness.
Mercifully, he'd stayed there until the pain started.
That face was there now, in front of him again, angles and shapes and proportions that made no sense and hurt the eye to look at. It chittered something at him. Speech? Breathing? Was it asking a question? Making a demand? He didn't know if it was a directive or a curse.
"Jaime Tavala, private, United States Marine Corps, 538-03-53--" The rest vanished in a scream. The agony was like a physical blow. He could feel skin charring, knotted muscles searing, bones cracking with the heat even though nothing was touching him. He tried to keep screaming through grinding teeth, but the broken glass in his throat wouldn't let him.
It went on for a long time before the end. Such a very long time.
At one end of the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, where the fallen American soldiers of the Normandy Campaign lie, is a headstone marking the final resting places of those yet unknown. It bears the inscription, "Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God."
In one of those graves sleeps a soldier who was found weeks after the invasion. There was no marking on his body to indicate how he was killed, and he was uninjured except for his broken and worn teeth, as if he'd ground them in fury or agony for many years. The advanced stage of decomposition made identification impossible.
What would he say to us, if we could speak to him? Why was he found so far from the main battlefield and so long after the combat ended and the Germans were pushed back? Where was his weapon? Was he a deserter? Why didn't he have his dog tags, or even a letter home to identify him?
What would he tell us, if only he could speak?
He would give us a warning.
The Talari are coming.
Virgins Slain, Dragons Rescued.
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