“There are several enemy encampments: here, here, and here,” Odour noted on the map.
The crumbled paper radiated under their red lens flashlights. The map was barely holding together appearing like a used napkin salvaged from a trash bin.
The cruel heat was now gone along with the sun. In its place was a kiss of coolness that caressed the skin.
“Under the cover of night, we should be able to move undetectable,” Odour stated.
“We got five miles to cover and a lot enemy traffic,” Till added. “So, NVGs (night vision goggles) on and keep noise to a minimal. Odour have your men remain in the rear since none of you will be able to see.”
“I will only bring one of my men, Abasame,” Odour replied, gesturing to the big Somalian from earlier. “The less movement from us, the better.”
“Sounds good,” Till agreed. “Ryder, when we get closer, I want you to try and establish radio contact with Sierra Five team.”
“Tracking, Sergeant,” he replied.
“I don’t wanna sound pessimistic, Sarge,” Tinsley began, “but it’s been four hours since the crash, and we haven’t heard a word from Sierra.”
“And?” Till fired back. “Regardless what we think we’ll find out there, we have a mission to complete. You’re the last person I’d think would back out now.”
“I’m not backing out, Sarge.”
“Okay then, let’s move out. We got brethren out there waiting for us.”
From there, the team made their way out.
With Odour’s guidance, they hugged the tree line of the jungles only entering when applicable. They passed by several areas containing soldier encampment – spotlights from their roadblocks scanned the perimeters about like a prison tower.
When they were about a mile out from the area of the crash site, Ryder attempted to make radio contact.
“Sierra Five, this is Fox Tango, I repeat, this is Fox Tango, how copy?” Ryder relayed.
The radio only returned an eerie streak of static. Ryder attempted the call again with more firmness, but the same results were received.
Regardless, they pressed forward, entering the tree line again. Through their goggles, they kept a sharp eye out for any movement.
After a seemingly endless trek, a faint light began to appear ahead of them. The light was flickering poorly like a weak pulse.
“Sarge, I got eyes on possible crash site,” Ryder said over the comms.
“Copy that, approach with caution,” Till responded. “Maintain concealment until we’re all on line.”
“What is it?” Odour whispered.
“We might be coming up on the crash site,” Till responded.
The men pushed forward until they all came upon the supposed site. Crouching in the trees, their eyes glanced ahead.
Before them, they saw a vast clearing of trees from the aftermath of the helicopter crash. Several trees lay crushed or toppled with a large gaping hole revealing the initial entry point. The bird itself was like a metal carcass, lying in a twisted heap split in three pieces.
The cockpit’s nose was buried deep into the ground where it managed to press a large mound of dirt up against the front windows. The second piece, the cabin, was split from the cockpit, but sat flat directly behind it. The tail had snapped off completely. The remnants of the rotor hung by a thread – the edges appeared charred from where it received fire.
Small fires kindled around the site, providing minimal lighting to the carnage. Several metal cases lay spilled from the helicopter like the torn innards of a feeble prey.
“Good Lord,” Jones managed to say. It was the closest thing anyone had to say at this moment.
“I got no eyes on any of the crew. There’s zero movement,” Snow brought up.
“Eagle Eye, this is Fox Lima,” Till relayed on the comms. “We have reached the objective. No visual on Sierra Team yet, how copy?”
The same deep voice spoke behind the static, “Copy that, Fox Lima. Proceed with caution.”
“Ryder?” Till started.
Ryder nodded and attempted the comms again. “Sierra Five, this is Fox Tango, I repeat, this is Fox Tango, do you copy?”
There was no response, but the static voice of Ryder could be heard echoing near the cabin wreckage.
“There’s a radio in there somewhere,” Till stated. “We need to get a closer look.”
“Those cases?” Odour brought up. “Those must be the weapons, yes? Now is our chance.”
He quickly began to stand, ready to rush the area until he was harshly yanked down by Till.
“What are you doing?” Odour quickly spat.
“You don’t do anything until we’re sure the area is clear, got it?” Till snapped.
Odour returned a glare before looking away in discontent.
“Okay, Snow you’re with me,” Till stated. “Tinsley and Jones keep eyes out. Ryder, you got eyes on Odour. Make sure he keeps his head down.”
Odour flashed another salty glare.
With their weapons ready, Till gave the command and Snow was the first to bound forward. He quickly reached the cabin, posting up in it. After a second, he gave the clear for Till to move next. He immediately assaulted forward, joining Snow near the cabin.
“We’re clear,” Till rendered back to the team. “Snow, what do you got inside? Any signs of the crew?”
“Negative, there’s nothing in here. It’s completely empty.”
Till peeked inside for himself. The scene appeared as Snow relayed. The cabin was empty aside from the clusters of dirt and bits of cracked metal.
“What the hell is going on?” he asked. “Ryder, try the comms for them again.”
Ryder complied, issuing the same statement from before. From their new angle, they could now hear exactly where the radio signal was being received. The signal was coming from one of the weapon cases next to them. Till slowly reached over to it, unhinging the lock, and raising the lid.
Immediately, a foul smell forced its presence into the air. The putrid odor caught both of the men off guard. With eyes watering, they forced a look inside, viewing a horrendous sight. Inside, they found the mutilated remains of a man. Holes could be seen plastered throughout his body. At first glance, they appeared to be stab wounds. Yet on closer inspection, the small chasms seemed to have a cleaner incision, almost as if they were drilled. It was like finding the f*****g special collection of Jeffrey Dahmer.
The horror did not end there. The man’s genitalia had been removed along with what appeared to be both his hands. His hair had been clean-shaven too, allowing for a clear sight at his twisted face. Even his eyelids were missing, showcasing a disturbing glare to match his wide-open mouth, frozen in a scream of terror.
Shockingly, there was no trace of blood anywhere in the case. With that level of carnage, the damn thing should have been f*****g over-flowing, filled to the brim at the least. Yet, the corpse before them lay empty like a hollow shell.
“What the f**k is this?” Till mouthed, covering his nose with his sleeve.
The voice relay from Ryder continued, revealing the radio mic sitting next to the man’s head.
“Jesus, they’re all like this,” Snow retorted, opening up a second case to the side.
“What’s going on, Sarge?” Jones asked over the comms.
“Yeah, what you see?” Ryder added.
Till was speechless, painfully eyeing the body with horror. His hairs prickled up the more his eyes traced across the mutilated features. Despite the inflictions, they appeared as if they were conducted in some manner of care. The amputation of his hands and even his genitalia did not appear like it was torn by talons or fangs. No, the cuts were clean, almost surgical. This thought sent a subtle shiver through him.
“This isn’t right, Joe,” Snow started. “Someone did this and put these men in here.”
On cue with his words, heavy gunfire suddenly erupted from behind – the tree line directly across from the team. The chopper’s metal hull reverberated from the sparks of white crashing into it. Immediately, Till and Snow took cover behind it. In response, Tinsley and Ryder returned fire to the opposite tree line.
Jones peered through the scope of his rifle to the other side. “Sarge, we’re looking at heavy forces, about ten to twelve! I don’t wanna sound drastic, but y’all need to get your asses out of there ASAP!”
“Thanks, Jones! We’ll try and keep that in mind!” Till yelled out against the metallic composition playing in the background. One shot made a quick ricochet past his head. “Eagle Eye, we have received heavy enemy fire. I repeat we are receiving heavy enemy fire!” he relayed on the comms.
There was no response, only a heavy cry of static.
“Don’t worry, Sarge. We’ll clear you a path in a minute!” Tinsley stated.
The giant crouched high and let his M240B machine gun go wild into the tree line. Several opposing figures dropped instantly after being hit from the barrage of bullets.
Jones caught sight of one of the soldiers hiding, attempting to aim at Tinsley while he was still firing. He made a quick adjustment on the scope of his weapon and eased back on the trigger, dropping the assailant.
“Woo! One down!” he bellowed out. He quickly adjusted for another target and fired. “Down goes another!”
“Almost clear, Sarge!” Tinsley barked, pausing to reload his weapon.
The enemy shots seemed to lighten up. Till took the time to glance back at the enemy tree line to confirm it. He gave a nod at Snow ready to provide cover-fire. Yet, a strange rumbling began to occur.
The ground began to vibrate – it almost felt like the entire floor was going to collapse. The vibration began to escalate, shaking the air around as well. Till felt his entire body quiver as a low hum eased into the air, growing louder with the trembling.
Before he had time to think, a blinding light tore through the sky. The intensity of it forced him to instantly rip his night vision goggles from the blinding blur. From his side, he could tell Snow did the same. At first, he thought it was just a spotlight, a flare maybe. Yet the light was abnormal. It looked different; it felt different.
It gave off a pulse like the steady cadence of a heartbeat. The hum from earlier now had elevated to a sharp whistling noise as if something was spun around with immense swiftness. He held his hand up to the sky, hoping to obscure any of its blinding gaze. It was like trying to stare at the sun completely lighting up the night sky. He tore his hand away to witness the spectacle in its entirety, inviting all consequences – he desired to see it.
When his eyes made contact, he initially thought he was viewing a star. It gave off the same appearance. It was as if one of the many diamonds above had fallen, gracing them with its presence. As his eyes stared into the light, the sonancy of the world slowly drifted into a calm mute. The effervescence of the light grew in sync, greedily swallowing the world. Nothing else mattered but its fluorescent presence.
Now under its radiating spell, Till could see that the source of the light was from a simple orb. The light rendering from the meager ball of energy was dimming in and out in cadence to its pulse.
He was frozen, standing in admiration at the blazing spectacle with a smile forming on his lips. He felt warmness inside, a true feeling of pure euphoria. His arms lightened, allowing his weapon to fall carelessly to the ground.
His legs found the means to move without his will and began carrying him forward. As they did, he felt a yearning dwelling inside, a yearning to be blessed more from the beaming comfort. He craved to wholly swathe himself in its fervency. He took a step and levels of happiness grew inside him. With another step, the euphoric levels elevated even more.
He anticipated more until he was abruptly tackled to the ground by Snow. Immediately, the harsh tones of the world screamed its way back. Bullets ricocheted off the metal wreckage just moments from where he was standing.
“Joe?! Joe?! Are you alright?!” Snow hollered to Till. His voice gradually fought against the dull ringing in Till’s ears. Eventually, the ringing did fade. “Come on, Joe. Get a hold of yourself!”
Till’s eyes slowly adjusted from with the white blindness. His eyes slowly focused until they met with the ridged edges of Snow’s face. The first thing to catch his sight was the scar on his cheek, teasing him of yet another moment his a*s had been saved.
“I-I’m good,” he managed to squeeze out rubbing his eyes.
“Sarge, you good over there?” Ryder asked over the comms.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he repeated once more.
He glanced over to see his team still holding down cover-fire.
“If you’re up to it, Sarge, we got your back!” Tinsley hollered.
“Or not, it’s your choice,” Jones joked. “Take your time, I’m getting my body count–”
Before he could finish, the orb above shot down a beam of light over Jones. He immediately froze in mid-sentence. The smile from his lips was gone, and his entire face appeared emotionless. Jones stood up calmly. He seemed unaware of anything around him anymore.
A few bullets whizzed dangerously close by him. Yet, he remained frozen in place. Finally, he began walking out, stepping into the open. The entire time his eyes held a glazed look. Tinsley noted this and attempted to reach his location, but the bullet storm increased their presence around him, forcing him to remain behind cover.
“Jones what the hell are you doing?! Get behind cover!” Snow yelled. “Jones?! Jones, Dammit!”
Till had lost his voice and simply watched in horror. He had an idea of the feeling Jones must have been experiencing from that light. Embodying its warm touch was something truly indescribable. It was a feeling only comprehendible if under the same spell. To be detached from it felt in comparison to detaching one’s own arm. It was like parting with energy that made him feel whole.
Jones was now completely in the open. For a second, it appeared to Till as if he had shifted his gaze onto him. It was hard to tell under the brightness but he thought he caught a slight grimace of fear in Jones’ eyes. It was as if he knew his coming fate.
Without warning, there was an ear-deafening screech in the air. Several gaping holes exploded in streaks of light over Jones’ figure completely tearing him to shreds.
“It is them! It is the weapons!” Odour’s voice bellowed, but it was faint up against the screams of this newly introduced menace.
Abasame shook his head in fear in reminisce of his earlier encounter and took off into the darkness. The notion surprised Odour.
“Where are you going?!” he yelled out at the man. “You coward! Get back here, now! Coward!”
Till was still in a daze and lying without strength. He was ready to close his eyes and drift off until he felt his body being torn from the ground.
“Let’s go! Move your a*s, Joe!” Snow barked at him.
Pushing him forward, the two of them scrambled from the wreckage, no longer adhering to the rules of bounding. With these new found weapons, it did not matter anymore. Streaks of screaming light continued to whiz past their heads like the wrath of a cloudburst. Thunderous crashes echoed into the air when the attacks met with trees in a spark of fire.
With the tree line a few feet away, Snow shoved Till forward while leaping into cover. Tinsley managed to run over to the two, dodging two oncoming blasts.
“Sarge, we need to get the hell away from here now!” he barked.
Till was still a bit incoherent. Before words could leave his lips, the beaming orb sent down another ray, this time subjecting Ryder.
“Ryder!” Till yelled out.
Snow and Tinsley spun around from his cries to meet the horror. Ryder stood up in the same manner as Jones, but instead of the blank stare, his face twisted into fear. He began screaming out loud no longer afraid but in horrifying pain.
He threw his head up against a tree, repeating the action over again. Even through the chaos around, they could still make out the sickening cracking being produced. After a moment of shock, Tinsley and Snow rushed in to subdue him, but the light enveloping Ryder was like a hot cloak, burning their skin upon touch.
Ryder continued to bellow out in pain. His vocal chords began to crack from the intensity. Tinsley could not take it anymore and made another attempt to subdue him, embodying the pain of the light. He managed to bear-hug Ryder’s feeble form. His skin began to singe, forming large boils, burning away bits of his flesh. Regardless, Tinsley held on tight. Even so, Ryder fought back with a strength unlike his own in the giant’s arms.
Ryder’s pain-driven cries sounded inhuman. Abruptly, he managed to slip free. Before anyone could react, he reached for his weapon on the ground, aimed it into his mouth and pulled the trigger. A loud pop went off and the lifeless form of Ryder fell to the ground.