Two days later, the LT woke up in the field hospital. “LT Anderson, you’re awake.” Anderson’s eyes focused on a tall, lean man with broad shoulders decked in scrubs. He guessed it was the doctor on call. “You’re a tough one, I’ll give you that.” Anderson still groggy from the medication tried to form the question in his head. After a bit of mental effort he was able to get out, “What happened?”
“I believe Preston can fill in the details. Don’t move too much, you were really banged up.”
“Sir,” Preston squeaked out as he peeked his head around the shoulder of the doctor. “I’m glad you’re awake. I want to apologize sir. I had started dozing just before the attack. I’m awful sorry. I understand if you bring me up on charges.”
Anderson looked the private over. It looked like he hadn’t slept in days and on top of that someone had kicked his dog. The LT knew that he was just as much to blame for the attack. He’d let his mind wander and was suffering the consequences. They’d sort out the blame later. “One thing at a time. What happened,” he finally said.
“Well, sir. I remember hearing that scream and then getting my arm mauled. Then I heard it scream again as it landed on the ground. I moved to where you were and found you pretty beat up. After we got you to the medics, Sergeant Lee took his squad looking for the enemy. They found the blood pool in the outpost and they trailed it from there. They followed the trail for about a quarter of a mile and then it just disappeared.”
“What do you mean it disappeared? Whatever that was should be dead. My sword went into the hilt.”
“I know sir, but Sergeant Lee has spent the last two days looking for the trail but he can’t find it.”
“Alright, Private. Report back to your squad.” Preston saluted and turned on his heel. His head drooped as he shuffled away. Anderson’s gaze shifted back to the doctor. An ominous expression covered the doctor’s face. “So, Doc. How bad is it,” gritted the lieutenant as he tried to prop himself up. He only made it a few inches before his left arm gave way.
“There was some muscle and nerve damage to your left forearm. I’m unsure how much use you will recover. There was extensive damage to your upper left leg and hip. You’ll probably have a nice limp. And then there’s the laceration to your face. We did the best we could suturing it, but it will likely leave a wicked scar. But look on the bright side. Chicks dig scars.”
The doc let out a nervous laugh. Anderson knew he was doing his best to make a traumatic experience less stressful. “I appreciate the candor, Doc. How long till I can return to my men?”
“Captain Augustus ordered me to keep you here at least a week. He also told me to inform you that he would court-martial you if you went AWOL. So I’d take this chance to rest and heal up. You’ll be back on the line before you know it.”
“Alright, whatever the captain says,” Anderson said dejectedly. A wave of exhaustion washed over him so he just closed his eyes and decided to get some rest.
Sometime later, the LT woke up and found himself back in the trenches. There were no fires or flood lights. He should find the sergeant in charge of support and figure out why there was a blackout. Anderson’s eyes were beginning to adjust to the darkness so he started making his way through the trenches to the support area. Where was his platoon? The LT heard a rumbling coming from behind him. It sounded like a train but he knew the nearest train line was 40 clicks away. The rumble grew louder as he got to the support tent. “Sergeant Johnson? Why are all the flood lights out?” No answer.
Anderson stuck his head in the door of the tent. “Johnson, where are you?” He stepped further into the tent. A strong putrid smell assaulted his nose. A mixture of rotting fruit and rancid meat. The LT tried to put the smell out of his mind. Something made him stop in his tracks. The rumbling had stopped. Actually all noises had ceased. The silence was unnerving. No crickets, no muffled sounds of soldiers talking, no scraping of swords against rocks, no sound of the wind in the trees.
Anderson started moving again. As he moved further into the tent, his leg collided with a table or something. He tried to catch his balance but his arm didn’t respond and he landed hard. The dirt was moist on his face. As he lay there, he felt something breathing on his neck. Just like his dog Jasper used to do. But he knew Jasper wasn’t here. This was starting to get spooky. This eerie silence, no sign of any living person, no light, that horrible smell, and now the breathing.
The LT rolled over and his eyes fixed on two fiery orbs floating in the darkness. A blood curdling scream pierced the silence. Just like the scream he heard the night of the attack. The LT reacted and tried to protect himself but failed. He felt pain course through his veins.
Anderson bolted upright, his sheets and clothing saturated in perspiration. His eyes blinked to the light. Sounds flooded his ears. Voices, groans, the flapping of the tent doors in the wind. Things came into focus. Injured soldiers in their racks, the Doc working on a new arrival, nurses running to help out.
“He’s in V-Tac! I need 1 milligram of Epi! Put pressure on that leg wound! He’s bleeding somewhere else! Find the wound!”
Anderson swung his legs over the side of the bed. He put his feet on the dirt floor and pushed himself up with his one good arm. Wobbly, he stood to his feet. Nausea swept over him and he began to totter.
“LT, you don’t look so good. You better sit down.” Anderson felt an arm under his shoulder. “Let’s get you back in bed.”
“Thanks, soldier. What’s your name,” asked Anderson, unable to see his helper. ”Private Darkon, sir,” came the reply over his shoulder.
“You were in the attack last week. You and Private Occoa. Shame. I remember meeting Occoa a few years ago. Seemed like a nice kid.” Back in bed, Anderson was able to look at Darkon. A bandage covered the stump that was once his right arm. The LT looked the private in the eyes. He was just a kid. Darkon was trying to put on a brave face but it was apparent he was ready to fall apart. “How you holding up,” Anderson asked the private finally.
“Well, they’ve got me on pain killers for my arm. I’m learning how to do things with only my left hand. And I have nightmares every night. They always end with these glowing red eyes staring at me. Then there’s this banshee-like scream and then it attacks me.”
“Yeah, I’ve had similar dreams. It’ll get better.” Anderson wished he could believe that, but part of his job as an officer was to instill confidence in his men. “Just give it some time. I’m feeling really tired. I’m going to cut our conversation short, Darkon, and get some sleep.”