This is Hell. Those three words I used quite often to describe any situation or area I was in that was undesirable. Now, I could really say, without a hint of sarcasm in my voice, This-is-Hell. I had watched as the ground had broken from massive earthquakes, the waves that came from the California coast crashing along the borders of Missouri and washing away land along with citizens, the pillars of fire that launched themselves hundreds of feet into the air and rained down upon our heads as if the God’s themselves were flinging fiery spires down onto our homes; I had watched Armageddon through satellite imagery from the safety of a bunker I had, through the grace of God, been guided too. My team and I watched as creatures crawled from the broken ground, these unholy walking dead that coupled with what appeared to be demons preyed upon any human being that they could find. Humans that were our families, our friends, our neighbors: everything that we once loved, everyone we once knew were now living in a land of nightmares that they would never awaken from. The sight twisted my stomach into knots that felt like snakes swirling in a dance of death. Our mission would be a simple one: protect those that were still alive out there and to reestablish any kind of order and security so that U.S. forces could mount some sort of counter attack on our invaders.
We were more or less walking in a daze; we were less than prepared for the sight that was playing on the computer monitors. We were angry, confused, and anxious, every emotion a soldier feels before a combat mission, but we were facing an enemy that no modern man had faced. There were only four of us, preparing to face a horde of evil that we had only witnessed on late night horror movie marathons. We weren’t even sure that our weapons would faze these creatures. We would soon find out, the four of us, my team of National Guardsman that under normal circumstances wouldn’t qualify as a Special Forces crew, but today they were all we had to fight with. A cook, military policeman, an aviation mechanic, and myself, a National Guard Combat Engineer who knew everything there was to fight in the desert and mountainous terrains of past wars, and nothing of the godless heathens that were now crowding my homeland. We were once the homeland hero’s from our respected states, now we were The Guardians.
The team and I listened to the beeps of the elevator as it lifted us to the hellish surface. Our briefing from Colonel Banks was a short one: upon reaching the surface, survey the land and make our way to the small town of Fredericksville, Missouri roughly a mile and a half from where we would be surfacing. We were to gather as much intelligence as we could of the enemy and help out civilians as the situation allowed without compromising ourselves or the entrance to the small bunker. The plan seemed simple enough, but from the view we had gotten from the satellite imagery, this was going to be anything but simple.
As we stood silently in our cubicle, I went over each of my men’s gear; weapon, ammo, hand grenades, smoke grenades, night vision goggles, body armor, flashlight, and checked to make sure their hydration bladders were full. Everything was good. I then checked myself, running over the list in my head, quickly touching each item and then checking it again. I powered up my satellite phone and checked the battery life; it held a full charge. Col. Banks had handed the phone to me as we had stepped into the elevator; it had texting capabilities which would be my way to talk with those staying behind in the bunker. Radio signals had not been working in the first moments of Armageddon; I could only hope that the satellites would allow me to talk with my only link with some type of order left in this part of the world.
“This is the first time I wished for elevator music.” Private First Class Waters said with a crooked smile. Waters was a tall skinny kid who had spent his early years in life dreaming of becoming a combat soldier. When he finally came of age to join the military he found that he didn’t very great of hearing. It was good enough for him to enlist, just not good enough for a combat military specialty. So, he became a cook and found that he really loved the job. Now, the world had gone to hell, literally, and he was finally going to get his chance at some combat. The other two members of our team were quiet, staring intently at the red boxy numbers telling us that we were only twenty feet from the surface.
“You think we will do any good Sarge?” Waters asked, saying the word Sarge with a bit of sarcasm in his voice. I was a specialist when I went into that bunker and was coming out a Sergeant thanks to the colonel. He had told me that it was a battle field promotion but don’t fret if I didn’t see the pay coming in right away. With as much destruction that was going on topside, money was the last of my worries.
“Nope. I think this is a waste of time. We might as well put a bullet in our brain housing units now and save ourselves the agony of being eaten alive.” Everyone chuckled at that comment and they seemed to loosen up a bit. That was good; I didn’t want them too wound tight when that door opened. The counter was at ten; I pulled the charging handle on my rifle, listened to the beautiful sound of the well-oiled bolt slide a single round into the chamber and then positioned myself in front of the door. My team did the same.
PFC Raymond Spunkmeyer stood behind me, our aviation mechanic, breathing heavily over my shoulder. “If you get any closer I will have to ask you to buy me dinner before we go too far in our relationship big guy.” Ray smiled and tapped the barrel of his rifle against my rear. “Sorry sarge, but you’re not my type. I like the tall skinny ones.”
“Hey don’t look at me Gigantor, I bite. Remember that.” Waters said, snapping his teeth together.
The elevator buzzed letting us know that we were at our destination. My heart rate rose, my breathing became rapid, and my ears buzzed; bring on dead.
The morning sunlight was warm on our faces as the elevator doors parted revealing to us a set of ten stairs leading up. It looked like an old cellar entrance, complete with the earthy smell of potatoes. Stepping through the threshold we began our journey into the unknown, four National Guardsmen playing special ops in a wasteland, a situation none of us would have ever dreamed of being in. Our boots scrapped on the stone steps as we rose to view our surroundings. The sun shone lazily through the morning fog that hung low to the cornfield around us. Directly to our front, east into the rising sun, several columns of dark black smoke rose to the sky revealing to us the small town we were directed to recon. Without saying a word, we walked in a file, scanning our surroundings, and looking for any dangers seeking to eat us alive.
Crouching in the tree line on the west side of Fredericksville, my team of Guardians took in the carnage in front of us. The cars that lined the streets were burning, their tires melting to the cracked pavement surrounding them. Many of the suburban homes were also burning, the windows smashed out and doors standing wide open. Sporadic gunfire crackled from the center of the town along with the high pitched wails of police sirens. The scene was a lot for our senses to take in; I took the time to look at the facial expressions on each one of my team members and they were all the same; shock.
I tapped Specialist Williams, our Military Policeman, on the leg and trotted across the small two lane street, my weapon at the ready, and the team following spaced out evenly behind me. The first home in my path was empty, or appeared to be after my quick glanced through the broken windows, so we continued our push into the towns’ center. We crossed the street and positioned ourselves under a porch facing the center of the town, giving us about three feet of head room. The defensive position gave my team a nice over watch of the center of town where the majority of the action seemed to be taking place.
That is when we seen them. Stumbling from around a burning white home directly in front of us was the dead. Hundreds of dead shambling minions of a much larger evil than we had ever seen were marching in shaking lines towards our hide out. Waters whispered in my ear, “Hey, boss? I am getting the feeling we are being watch.” A thud of something hard hitting the wooden porch above us made us jump and look up. We had been spotted, the dead man above us started slamming his booted foot down onto the porch trying desperately to break through to get to our tender flesh.
We crawled from under the porch and bolted across the yard; I raised my rifle and shot into the crowd of dead as they shambled towards us. Their arms outstretched in our direction, wide open, accepting the hot lead that I delivered to them to rid them of their existence. The rounds impacted in spectacular bursts of red, sending blood, bone, and fabric in all directions but did nothing to stop their advance. Waters turned toward our attacker on the porch and fired two 5.56mm rounds directly into its face and watched it crumble to the wooden slats.
“Aim for their domes! It’s like the movies man, shoot them in their faces!”
We knelt in the yard, our four backs touching like a cuvee of quail on a night watch, taking precision shots into our attackers. Zombies were now coming from every direction, shuffling between the houses, all heading directly to our position. They were slow which would normally make for easy targets but our enemy was looking at us with crazed eyes and had an intent to eat us alive which tends to make the body shake with adrenaline and fear causing a few of our shots to fly wildly over the walking dead.
“Take a breath guys, aim and fire. We can’t afford to waste ammo missing these guys!” I shouted over the gun fire.
“What is th…” was all that Williams, the MP, could get out of his mouth before the ground around us exploded. Not from a blast, but as if a submarine had broke the surface in the yard was making its presence known. I flew through the air, losing my grip on my rifle and fell face first into the neighboring yard. Dirt and grass continued to fall around me as I tried to regain my composer and decipher what had just happened to us. I picked my rifle up and looked back in the direction that myself and team had just been. Thirty feet above me a pinching, slashing head of a large centipede shrieked a war cry and brought its many legs down in my direction, trying to snatch me up.
Narrowly escaping its deadly grip, I rolled to the side, raised my rifle and started firing round after round into the side of the centipedes head. It swung the battered head towards me, the great mass of its body slammed into my chest with a force that ripped my helmet from my head and sent me sailing once again through the air and sliding across the pavement on the street. Hands were grabbing at my arms and through my dazed eyes I could see that there were two individuals over me. Fear gripped me as the thought of having these two zombies eat me alive filtered through my brain, I tried to raise my rifle but my arms were forced back down to my sides.
“Rose! Hey man it’s us. Quite fighting us, we are trying to help you up.” It was Waters and Spunkmeyer. Thank God.
The two helped me to my feet and we ran towards a large home at the end of the street. Waters said he wasn’t sure where Williams was, after the centipede had made its entrance into the world, my team had been split up and was fighting on their own to survive and Williams had vanished. “Let’s just get to that house so we can try to get us some help up here. There is no way that four; well three of us can handle all this on our own.”
Spunkmeyer slammed his shoulder into the door without breaking stride, knocking it wide open. We rushed into the living room as Spunkmeyer slammed the door behind us and went to work making a barricade to give us some relative security for the time being. Through the broken window I surveyed the battlefield and my heart sank. Thousands of walkers were in the street, arms still outstretched, making their way toward us. The centipede that I had shot in the head was lying motionless in the yard, half its body still in its hole, but two more had broken through the yard across the street, their antennas swaying back and forth most likely searching for our scent.
“So what do you think we should do now bud?” Waters said looking at the same situation I was.
“I am starting to think the bullet in the brain was our best option.” I said, half believing myself.
The house was well furnished on the inside. The furniture and pictures gave me the feeling that I was standing inside of a Sears catalog. Armageddon was happening right outside the front door of the house made for an advertisement. I smiled. We had done a quick sweep of the upstairs rooms and found that there was no one home. I wouldn’t have stuck around in this situation either if I would have been that family. I could almost picture in my head, the good little husband escorting his cookie cutter wife and small daughter out of the home with a few worldly items, right to their little soccer mom minivan and down to Interstate 60.
“You got a plan for us boss?” Waters asked me again. Always with the questions from this kid.
“Yeah, don’t die. Keep an eye on them centipedes and let me know what is going on. I am going to look out back and see what we have behind us, ok?” Spunkmeyer and Waters shook their heads understanding my orders.
Through the back door a small well-kept lawn sprawled out into the neighboring yard of a house that was burning. It looked like hell in that direction, was going to be farther away from the safety of the bunker, and we were down to half of our ammo. I walked back into the living room. “How many grenades you have left for that launcher Waters?” He counted his pouches and looked in the chamber of his M203 grenade launcher and said he had twelve. That would be plenty for now.
“Alright, out back looks somewhat clear compared to what we have in front of us. Waters, I want you to put two or three of them grenades into the heads of each one of those centipedes, if it don’t kill them, then hopefully it will get them squirming enough that they knock around some of them zombie things so we don’t have to deal with them. Spunkmeyer, you throw smoke after he has fired his rounds, maybe we will cause enough havoc on them that we can get a head start out running these things without them seeing where we are going. Ok?” They both nodded as I walked to the back door again.
A single walker was bumping around in the burning home, his clothes smoldering around his grotesque body as he ineptly tried to find an escape from the urban home. I yelled for Waters to fire, and then ran back into the living room. Waters first round fell short of the closest centipede causing the beast to rear its head and shriek. The next one struck it just under its pinchers, exploding the head in half, sending bits of insectoid blood and bits in every direction. Like I had planned, the beast began thrashing back and forth, its solid body slamming into the walkers sending them flying into the walls of the surrounding homes. Without hesitation, he took aim at the second centipede that had already seen the demise of his partner. The centipede slammed its head down to the earth, its many arms flinging dirt into the air, and all forty feet of the monster disappeared much more quickly than we could have anticipated the large beast to move.
Spunkmeyer threw his smoke canister through the smashed window and into the front yard. The three of us turned and rushed to the back door, bursting into the yard and trotted past the home of the lost burning walker. In front of us was the opposite side of town and another row of oak trees and bushes. What was left of my team did not need to be told what to do; we ran into the tree line and spun around, and layed on our bellies to face back into the town. While the two remaining members of my team squared their bodies and waited to fire into the town at our aggressors, I pulled the satellite phone from the pouch on my chest. It was busted. The strike that I had taken from the centipede must have broken it.
“Well, we are on our own my friends.” I said holding up the broken phone.
“Craaaap. What now? Sure wish we could just hit the reset button.” Spunkmeyer said.
“I am sure they still have an imagery feed so they have to know we are alive. If we can find a good defensive position that we can hold out for a while and wait for them to send the calvary we should be fine.”
The words were leaving my lips but I didn’t believe them. They were just comforting words to help my team make it through the next couple of hours. In all honesty, I knew we were screwed. There would be no calvary to come and save us. If there was a rescue force like that, they would have been sent to do this job, not four random National Guardsmen from Missouri that just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. I put the broken phone back in my pouch and stared out into the town. We had to get to the bunker, but not back the way we had come; that would be suicide and I wasn’t ready to die in this hell-hole.
“Do you hear that?” Spunkmeyer asked.
I did hear it. It was a chirp above our heads, like a single bird looking for its partner. We raised ourselves up onto our elbows and began scanning the branches of the white oaks that surrounded us. Leaves gently swayed in the mid-morning breeze, some losing their death grip on the branches and tumbling down to our position like falling helicopters. “I can’t see anything up there.” Waters said only to be shushed by Spunkmeyer. I had seen it too; several dark figures in the very tops of the trees, slowly crawling around the branches and holding tightly to the trunk of the tree, crawling directly down to us. “What are they?” Spunkmeyer asked.
“From what I have seen so far today I would say they are not friendly.”
I raised my rifle and fired into the group directly over me and heard them scream. A God awful scream of pain and anger. The demon-like creatures launched themselves from the trees and began landing around us, four foot humanoids with glowing blue eyes and black claws crouched and then jumped at us. As fast as we could shoot, the demons tumbled from their flight at us and back to the ground. They were intimidating to look at but their bodies were soft and easy to kill.
The more we shot, the more demons fell from the trees, landing amongst us and leaping at our small perimeter. Just like their brothers, we used 5.56mm American made ammunition to send them back to the hole they had crawled from. For a moment I felt invincible, indestructible, like an action figure in an 80’s movie dishing out cheesy lines as he slaughter a weaker enemy. “You want some too!” I shouted to another demon as he charged; quickly noticing how close he was to me, I swung my rifle like a baseball bat, and connected solidly to the side of my attackers head. The strike hit the demon with such force that its head was removed from its shoulders and sailed over a near bush. “And the crowd goes wild!” I yelled.
Waters and Spunkmeyer were feeling the same as me. We were fighting off a much larger force, but by far they were extremely weak, falling after each gunshot and bursting into small fires around us. “Changing mags!” Waters yelled. “It’s my last one!” We no longer felt indestructible. We could hold our own with our rifles, but hand to hand we would soon be over powered and would not live to fight another day. We had grenades but the enemy was too close for them to be affective, we would just end up hurting ourselves and making it easier for them to get us. Once again, we were screwed.
Large caliber rounds began impacting around our position. The sound was deafening, trees disintegrated around us along with our attackers. Pieces of bark and demons slammed into us with such force I thought that I had been shot and fell to the ground. Leaves began to swirl around us, a whirlwind of activity as leaves, sticks, dirt, and demon pieces spun into our faces and back out into the woods. I looked up just as the attack helicopters came back for their second pass to help defend us. My heart soared. There was someone else out here besides us. We would live to fight again; as long as our new found friends stayed with us.
Cool air drummed past us as the Blackhawk helicopter swept us away from the forgotten town of Fredericksville. We were being escorted by the attack helicopters that had saved us just minutes prior. As we circled back over the town I could see that our situation was much more dire than I had expected. I counted at least seven more centipedes churning themselves from the scorched earth and crashing into the homes sending wood and glass flying. They looked like small children smashing ant hills. My mind instantly shifted to the thought of Williams, our lost MP. I prayed that he had died in that attack and was not alive with those creatures. Waters must have been thinking the same thing because he leaned over, patted me on the shoulder and yelled above the choppers noise, “There was nothing we could do! He would have wanted us to get out of there. No sense in stumbling around blindly without the ammo to sustain ourselves.”
He was right, when we got to wherever we were headed, maybe we could refit and then go back for our lost comrade. The helicopter banked hard to the north and the crew chief gave me a hand signal letting me know we were going to be landing. I was hoping that we would stay in the air a bit longer before having to return to the ground where those monsters were. I looked out at the surrounding landscape and did not see a base, just an open field with a few lights and vehicles set up in somewhat of a perimeter defense. My joyful feelings of a force out here that could help us was slowly leaving my system.
We were greeted by a bald, muscular man in a black T-shirt and khaki pants who introduced himself as Mr. Alan Crow of Homeland Security. He looked like he was a super hero cut straight from the pages of a comic book. He escorted us away from the Blackhawk and to a white pick-up positioned in the center of the perimeter.
“How’s it going guys?” He asked with a grin. “Bet you never thought you would be battling with giant bugs and zombies did you?” In another place in time I would have at least smiled at this attempt at a joke but I was already exhausted and it wasn’t even noon yet.
“As you gentleman have seen, our enemy is pretty freakin’ extreme. Our weapon systems do seem to work against them though and that is a plus. The town that you guys just came from seems to be their main entrance in this region for their activities.”
“This region?” Spunkmeyer asked.
“Yeah, I guess you guys don’t know what is happening elsewhere?”
All of us shook our heads. The best that we could assume is that at worst, the United States was under attack from whatever evil this was. But the thought of it happening elsewhere had not crossed my mind.
“Well, it seems to be a worldwide epidemic. Holes like the one in Fredericksville have formed all across the Americas’ as well as parts of Europe, across Asia, and Africa. Actually the only place that isn’t affected right now is places with yearlong winters. This maybe because of the cold weather or it is because of the low populations and this is a strategic move, a sort of blitzkrieg to quickly over power the human race. We do not know their intentions other than they are hostile and we have to do something fast or lose. Plain and simple.”
He paused to let this information sink in.
“How many of these holes are in the states?” I asked
“Twelve. The largest one is on the east coast where South Carolina used to be.”
“Used to be?” We almost said in unison.
“Yeah, be glad you are not fighting that side of the war. You thought the centipedes were bad, try fighting fire spitting squids with hundred and fifty foot tentacles dragging you under the earth. Now, back to our situation. Like I said, this small town is our ground zero. As you have seen we are dealing with a bit of the undead, some demon looking creatures, and centipedes. We fear, like the squids on the east coast, that there is something larger yet to come. It is just a hunch but that seems to be how they operate. Send in their smaller forces, and then bring out the big guns.”
This information was making me nauseated. Anything larger than those centipedes was just insane to think about. The thought of facing them again was making my body tremble with adrenaline and fear, throw in the factor that there was a much bigger evil for use to fight was not making my body feel any better. Waters started laughing and said, “I hope it’s Godzilla. I have always wanted to do like those Asian dudes do when they run and yell, ‘Gawdzirra!’ and shuffle away. You know? You remember those movies?” He said looking at me.
“You’re an idiot. Anyway, like you were saying Mr. Crow.”
“Yeah, uh, well like I said we don’t know what they have in store for us, but we want to find out. There is a platoon of infantrymen, some tanks, and aircraft on their way here. They should be arriving by morning but we will see what snags they hit on the way. You three will be attached to them for the time being because we could use every man we can get our hands on to go down in that hole.”
“Wait, in the hole? How are we even going to get close to that freakin’ hole?” Spunkmeyer interrupted. Mr. Crow looked at him with an irritated look for being cut off once again by my team.
“Look princess. This is a matter of life or death for the human race. If you do not have the balls to do what needs to be done to save everyone you know and love then place your mouth around your rifle barrel and save us the trouble of listening to you snivel about your situation in this equation. Whether you want to accept it or not, the earth has opened up and spilled out the contents of hell on our back doorstep. This isn’t something we can just sweep away gentleman. This is the boogeyman that has snuck right up and kicked us in the rear end. Yes, we are going down in that hole. We are going to see what type of enemy we are dealing with and we are going to kill whatever giant bug, squid, or Godzilla himself that is down there to secure the safety and security of America and our way of life.” I had to admit, his speech shook the fear from my body. My nerves were settled and I was rejuvenated. I was ready for combat.
“Let’s do it.” I said.
“I wish I could say that I had a warm bed and a hot meal for you but I don’t. You guys can refit your ammo over by my truck and pick up some toys that were bestowed upon myself before I came down here.”
“Sir, I need to contact Col. Banks. They are in a bunker to the west of Fredericksville. Do you have a SAT phone I can use?”
“Son, that bunker as well as five others in that direction are gone. About an hour ago, Col. Banks called for the birds that came in and helped you guys and then called for attack air to hit their position with napalm because they were being over ran. With all the movement underground, that bunker split wide open and let those nightmares right down their hatch. We burned them all with a couple tons of napalm. I pray they went quickly.” He said the last portion with his head lowered.
“Now, go refit, grab a MRE, and catch a nap. I am sure we are going to see some action before our grunts get here in the AM.”
Waters nudged my arm, leaned close to my ear and whispered.
“Did you hear that? He said Godzilla may be in that hole.”
I had to smile. We walked to the pickup to retrieve our ammo. Several wooden crates lay in the bed of the truck along with a mound covered in a green tarp. Spunkmeyer smiled and pulled the tarp back to reveal the hidden treasure. Four anti-tank rockets.
Waters started clapping and jumping like a kid on Christmas that seen his shiny new bike next to the tree. “Dude, are those AT-4’s?”
“Yes, but you don’t get one.” I said laughing.
“Come on! You heard him. Godzilla could be down in that hole and I will not meet my nemesis without a sweet rocket to shoot him in the face with.”
We all laughed and I handed Waters his Godzilla killing rocket.
As planned, different styles of aircraft cut through the night sky dropping their payloads on the small town of Fredericksville. Missiles and heavy calibered machine gun rounds streaked through the sky and struck the unwanted inhabitants that crowed the small town streets. We could not see the destruction for ourselves; we could only see the mushroom clouds that lit up the midnight sky and the screams of our enemies. It was hard for us to sleep with their screams echoing through the dark. Spunkmeyer was the only team member that seemed to not be bothered by the noise. Each explosion caused me to jump while each scream from the enemy made Waters jerk his head about as if he was going to see an unseen evil sneaking up behind him.
We had gotten word that the platoon of infantry men that were on their way to Fredericksville would be arriving around sunrise. They were meeting no resistance which was good for us. As soon as they arrived we would be able to get to work on clearing the town and seeing what we could do about that hole those hellish creatures were coming from.
“You know, I seen a movie like this one time.” Waters said as he had his head propped against his Kevlar helmet; a pillow only suited for a soldier.
“Which one is that?” I asked.
“Starship Troopers. Was a good flick, poor acting though.”
I started laughing. We were going into a ‘bug fight’ just like those soldiers did in the space movies. I remembered the movie myself, I remembered that the book was better.
“Yeah, those poor dudes got ripped to shreds by those crazy arachnids.” He said arachnids like the fake news caster in the sci-fi picture.
“Yeah, but we ain’t no cheesy actors, we can handle this I think.” I said with a slight grin.
“I think we can too. Sounds like the Air Force is really given them a go with all those air drops. By the time we get to them it is just going to be a bunch of bar-b-qued bug parts and zombies lying around.
“We can only hope. Wish we had those tactical nukes they had in that movie to launch down that hole.”
I laughed, “Come on you filthy apes, you wanna live forever.”
We both laughed. Maybe we were too relaxed but at least tonight our hearts were light and our fears of the boogey man that gawked at us from the dark was nothing more than a movie monster. When the sun rose, we would be ready to face them head on.
The sun rose as it did the day we exited the bunker the day before; the fog hung low on the brittle grass of the field that lay around us and the town of Fredericksville burned sending the ashes of its inhabitants to the heavens. Spunkmeyer and Waters joined me on the short walk to Mr. Crow’s pickup truck. He looked as if he had never missed an hour of sleep, was clean shaven on his face as well as his head. Over his shoulder, about a mile out, the platoon of infantry men were churning up dust on a county road headed towards us. I didn’t wish to jinx us by saying it out loud but I couldn’t believe they had made it the whole way here without even seeing any of these monsters along their way.
“Everything still going as planned?” I asked Mr. Crow.
“So far. You heard the Air Force last night; they were working overtime dropping bombs on that little town. I heard that they believe they got at least twenty-seven of those centipede looking things and upwards of a thousand of the zombies. They could have been the little demon creatures as well, but it doesn’t matter; they really dealt a heavy blow on them.”
“Any idea of what large creature may be under the ground still waiting on us?”
“No, the local Geological Society picked up a rather large signature of vibrations about 0315 this morning; supposedly pretty deep under Fredericksville. It could be all of these things seeking a way around the town or it could be my mystery creature I expect to be facing. We won’t know until we stick our head into that little rabbit hole and see what is down there.”
With those words, several armored vehicles and tanks arrived around our perimeter; their platoon leader stepped out and began talking to Mr. Crow. “Sounds like we are going to have us one heck of a fight. Let’s get our gear on and bum a ride to the start line.” We gathered up our gear, did our checks, said a few prayers, and crawled into an armored truck.
The sunlight from the morning sky shined over our heads and deep into the tunnels created by the beasts. The walls had been worn slick from their moving in and out causing the sensation of walking on ice. The tunnels were dark, the natural light from above only penetrated so far. The platoon of infantrymen had already pushed into the right and left tunnels, moving by squads with weapons at the ready. Each of their weapons equipped with flashlights near their barrels, allowing them to see what they were aiming at. Mr. Crow had taken our team down the tunnel that was opposite of the two the infantrymen had taken. I had never wanted more to be in a group of people before in my life.
An eerie feeling crept into my body, the feeling a child gets when they hide in a dark closet waiting for their brother or sister to find them. The same closet that the child would suddenly realize was the source of their fear the night before when they believed the boogey man was gazing upon them as the child slept. A creeping fear that grows from the center of their gut and radiates into their limbs causing the involuntary sense that their bladder is full and ready to relieve itself of the torturous pressure.
Spunkmeyer was taking point, while I trailed a few feet behind him; our flashlights cutting through the dark giving us bits of the puzzle in front of us in circles of light. The tunnel seemed to be slowly taking us downward, we assumed that is where we would be heading, and we just didn’t know how far we would be going. Crow touched my shoulder lightly, almost causing me to scream; my focus had been on what was in front of us, his sudden touch against my uniform made my nerves jump to life and scream for release. “Hold up. Going to see if I can raise 2nd platoon on the radio. I doubt that these radios will work with all the rock around us but will give it a shot anyway.” I shook my head and told Spunkmeyer to stop.
Waters was facing to the rear of our direction of travel; ensuring that none of those creatures were sneaking up on us in this black abyss. Static suddenly filled the silent cavern, the sound echoing loudly throughout the tunnel. We all winced, holding our breath, trying to focus our ears on the silence of the tunnels, to pick out any noise that may tell us that the beasts had heard the static and were on their way to investigate what was on their front door step. Crow turned the volume down on the radio and tried to call out once again but did not receive a reply. “Didn’t think it would work, let’s push forward. Go ahead Spunkmeyer.” He looked at me and I nodded to him it was ok. Spunkmeyer took a deep breath and took another step into the tunnel.
The floor around his feet exploded in flying rocks and dust. Spunkmeyer screamed and involuntarily fired his rifle into the tunnels, his rounds bouncing like demented honey bees off the tunnel walls. Hands groped through the dirt of the floor, zombie and demon hands held to his ankles like miniature flesh covered vises. He screamed and twisted trying to free himself from their grip. In his time of panic, he dropped his rifle and chose rather to pry each finger from its grip. I removed the small hatched from my utility belt and went to work methodically hacking wrists in an attempt to free Spunkmeyer from their deadly grip. Gun fire erupted behind me, I turned my head in time to see Crow disappear into a wall; a large creature the size of a grizzly bear had slammed into him as he screamed and pushed him straight through the rock wall into another hellish cavern.
Waters was screaming, his green tracers bouncing through the tunnel to our rear illuminating a wall of zombies charging our position. Suddenly the ground under Spunkmeyer gave way causing him to fall up to his armpits into the rock. “Oh God! Please! Don’t let go! Please!” I held tight to his arms pulling, trying to save him from the horrors that lay under the floor. Spunkmeyer unexpectedly became lighter and slid from the hole, his lifeless eyes locked on to mine. Behind those eyes was a streak of gore that used to be his body; from his ribcage down was now gone, most likely breakfast for the demons under us.
The dead were now closing in on Waters, their twisted faces shining in his flashlight and muzzle flashes. I could hear him screaming, a battle cry that echoed with the sounds of gunfire through the tunnels. I pitched a fragmentation grenade into the hole that contained the remains of Spunkmeyers body and began firing past Waters into the wall of enemy walkers. It was hard to miss; they were pushed together into a rotting sea of humanity. Cloth, body parts, and bone sprayed in all directions as each piece of lead found a mark on each of their bodies. “Changing mags!” Waters screamed. The magazine from his weapon fell to the ground as he effortlessly snatched his next full magazine from his load bearing vest but the situation was too much for his nerves. The enemy was a mere ten feet in front of him, moaning and reaching for him. His hands fumbled, as if the blood flow had refused to reach his fingers causing them to be numb and useless.
The magazine fell to the rock floor, useless. Waters cursed under his breath and frantically tried to pick the magazine up and place it in his weapon. He could not take his eyes off the enemy that was now just feet from him. He could see the ends of their fingers, the rotting flesh that now was allowing the bones to peek through. My bullets were finding their targets but not nearly fast enough to keep them from reaching our position and allowing them to overpower us. Waters screamed and turned to run, tripped on a rock and fell flatly on the ground. The hammer in my rifle fell with a click on an empty chamber. The click should have been nonexistent to my ears considering the noise that the dead were making in the tunnels, their moans and howls echoing loudly throughout the tunnel. But, that click echoed more loudly, echoed straight through my body and caused my heart to skip and the childlike feeling to creep back into my stomach. I was hiding in the closet with the boogey man, without time to reload, without back up, alone, dreadfully alone.
Tremors shook the tunnel, dust and rocks fell around my head. Waters stood up slowly looking at me and the now stationary zombies in front of us. Whatever had shaken the world around us had gotten their attention too. Waters picked up his magazine, slammed it into his weapon and took aim; I slowly pushed his barrel down towards the ground. “Save your ammo buddy.”
A howl rose throughout the tunnel, something beyond the walkers, something that sounded rather large.
“Please tell me that is not Godzilla.”
The unseen beast howled again, the walls shook again, and I swear, the zombies smiled.
Waters and I stared at the group of zombies in front of us ready to fire our weapons if they continued forward. Their eyes were hungry, mouths drooling, swaying to a song that only they could hear in their rotting brains, but they would not attack. Slowly they all turned and walked back down the tunnels and into the darkness that they had approached from. Waters looked at me a shivered. “I don’t like this. What was that howling?” I shrugged my shoulders and shined my light into the darkness the zombies had vanished into. “You think the other platoon is ok?” Waters asked. “I sure hope so cause I don’t think we can handle what is coming for us.”
The ground vibrated with tremors rolling our direction. Small rocks bounced up and down while little tufts of dirt fell from the ceiling into our faces. We raised our rifles and took aim into the darkness, waiting for the beast to show itself. Closer it came, the ground shaking; we could hear its ragged breath echoing through the tunnels. It howled, the sound shaking our nerves, sending shivers of fear through our bodies. I switched the safety off on my grenade launcher and told Waters to do the same; our first strike needed to be a fast and furious one. Maybe if we caused enough damage to the beast in our first strike it would think twice about attacking us again.
Our flashlights cut through the oily darkness, swaying back and forth searching for our stalking nightmare, and we found it. The sudden sight of the beast’s snout froze our beams in the same spot. The light reflected off its black leathery skin. The head pushed its way into the light, the slatted pupils of its yellow eyes constricted to thin lines and focused on us. It was a giant lizard. Waters had to think it; he had to mention the beast he wanted to fight was Godzilla. Though it walked on four legs rather than two, its black skin and rows of teeth might as well have belonged to the Japan destroying beast. It screamed again and we fired our grenades directly into its face.
In the tight confines of the tunnel, the blast was deafening and caused us both to fall backwards. The brief seconds I was on my back dazed from the blast I felt vulnerable; just for a second, then we were back on our feet and running in the opposite direction. “I think we got him!” I shouted over my ringing ears. I was proven wrong when the beast howled again behind us combined with the sounds of it charging through the tunnels after its attackers.
Our lights snapped from side to side in the dark, matching our running movements as we made our way deeper into the center of the earth. Any minute I knew that we would run into a wall of the dead and this time they would not leave us to the mercy of the beast, they would attack and eat us. The tunnel split in front of us so I took the path to the right. Our legs pumped like steam engines but we were running out of gas. We both slowed and listen for our pursuer. Either the beast had given up the chase or he was waiting for us in the darkness.
“We need to get out of these tunnels man.” Waters said through gasps for air.
I shook my head in agreement. It sounded like a great plan; we just didn’t know which way to go without going back through what we had already lived through. The beast howled behind us again letting us know he was still there. We continued walking away from its voice and I couldn’t help but feel that we were being pushed into an ambush. The floor vibrated again. The beast was charging behind us, our hearts skipped a beat and we ran in panic away from our tormentor. The tunnel forked so again we went to the right and to our relief the tunnel seemed to lead us up though the path in front of us was still as dark as night. Waters stopped running and began adjusting his equipment in the dark.
“What are you doing?” I shouted. “Come on!”
“Man, I am going to shoot that thing in the face with my rocket, help me out here.”
I did not argue with him. The idea seemed suicidal being that we were so closed in by the tunnel; the back blast from the rocket at a minimum was going to blow our ear drums from our head, but I felt it would probably kill us. I helped unsnap the launching tube from his gear and placed it in his hands. “Better not miss!” I shouted over the sounds of the charging beast. Waters knelt in the tunnel while I lay in the prone position under the tube, hopefully giving myself enough room to keep the back blast of the tube from ripping me apart. My light shined through the dark searching frantically for the beast that howled in front of us. Just as I felt he would never get there, the lizard leaped into view showing no signs of slowing down. Waters fired; the rocket streaked from the launching tube with a deafening blast and collided directly between the eyes of the underground dragon.
The flash and concussion of the blast sent Waters flying backwards into the tunnel as well as showering both of us with small rocks and pieces of lizard. I covered my face with my hands trying to breathe through the dust. The rumble from the blast seemed to go on forever, a constant rolling rumble vibrating through the tunnel. It finally ended, the screams from the lizard did not return, so I raised my head to survey our destruction. The ceiling of the tunnel had been ripped open and sunlight from the morning sky filtered in around the clouds of dust rising out of the hole. I was relieved to see that light, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
Behind me Waters was digging himself out of the rubble that had collected upon him. “I just shot a freakin’ 50 foot lizard in the face with a rocket!” He cheered. “Man, can you imagine how many people would sign up for the National Guard if we could put that in the commercial?” I laughed, I had too. My fears and frustrations drained from my body with every cackle that left my mouth. “Get up dummy; let’s climb out of this hole.” Waters smiled and started to walk my way.
The walls around him crumbled an action that happened so fast that neither he nor I could react. Among the falling chunks of dirt dead hands and chomping teeth emerged, engulfing him instantly. Waters screamed and frantically fought off his attackers with his hands and eventually with a combat knife that seemed to appear from midair. “GOOO!” Waters was yelling at me. With each zombie bite, he stabbed another in the head, pushing and kicking trying to get away from their ambush. “Gooo! I will hold them off!” Waters screamed again. I raised my rifle to shoot and found that it had been damaged in the avalanche of dirt and rocks that had flooded the hole. Hundreds of zombies poured through the openings in the walls, more than we could have been able to fight but waters would not quit. He wanted me to live.
I turned and climbed the rubble to pull myself through the opening in the ground. The sun was at its highest point over head and felt good on my cool skin. My feet hit the grass and I never turned to see if the zombies were following me from the hole. I was exhausted, my lungs burned, but I ran anyway, as hard as I could towards the tree line at the edge of the town. Once I was in the safety of the shade trees, I collapsed. Overhead I could hear jets roaring in their circular patterns over the small town; how I wished I was with them and not on the ground with these horrors. The handheld radio tied to my body armor crackled to life, “Hell Raiser 5-6 this is Angel 4 over?” The birds were on my radio frequency! I snatched the radio from my pouch and keyed the mike. “Angel 4 this is Guardian 2-1, I am located east of the town of Fredericksville. I need evac over.”
There was a long pause on the other side of the radio placing a bit of doubt in myself that they had even heard my radio traffic. As I began to key the mike again the radio crackled again. “Last calling station, I copy your position but be advised there is no one in your area of operations that can get you. How copy over?” I laughed. A laugh that would not seize to leave my lips. It continued to rise from my insides, through my throat and out of my mouth. Of course there was no one here. Why would they be? We were just the test dummies to see if we could take that hole, or even worse, we were the force to hold them in one spot while the gears of war turned around us for the big heads to figure out a game plan. “Roger, I copy there are no birds in my AO that can pick me up. I have been cut off from my platoon, my team is dead. These things are going to be swarming out of their holes and back into the town any minute; you think you can give me a hand down here?”
Once again there was a long pause but he answered. “Bud, I would tell you to get as far away from that town as possible, but you are not going to have the time.” I closed my eyes, I knew what was coming. “We are about to drop about 50 kilotons of hell on your position buddy. I am sorry. God speed and forgive us.” I leaned my tired body against the tree I was crouched beside. “No worries. Drop it right on me. See you on the other side, Angel.” I tossed my radio into the brush. My muscles ached and screamed for sleep. Slowly, I unsnapped my clipped helmet and tossed it beside me then removed my body armor and let the cool breeze sweep over my sweat drenched body. The cargo pocket on my trousers held a crushed box of cigarettes but one had survived all the explosions and rolling around I had done.
With the cigarette dangling from my cracked lips, I lit it and took a deep drag while closing my eyes. Howls from other lizard creatures reached my ears but I did not stir. I didn’t care anymore. Taking another drag a thought struck me suddenly that made me laugh again. I had read and watched television shows on “preppers”. The folks that had their own idea of what doomsday we would face and they were revolving their lives around the idea of surviving that scenario. I continued to laugh as I seen the rockets with the nuclear warheads stuck on the ends streaking through the sky, headed straight for the nightmares crawling from the hole I had created in the earth. I wondered if those “preppers” were ready for this; a nuclear wasteland with creatures straight from hell wondering around in it. I laughed harder and thought of place that did not have living nightmares trying to eat me and waited for the warm glow of my new life.