Through the vomit and bile, he still tasted blood.
Beside the street, the blue-eyed husky crouched nose-down on hands and knees, shaking. He wore a green steel helmet that curved about the ear, green fatigues, pants tucked inside black combat boots; canteen, pistol, empty grenade straps at his waist. Name? Rank? His comrades call him 'Ice'. It'll do.
His rifle lay beside him, rainwater cascading around it. Normally, that would concern him.
There was blood on his muzzle. On his lips. In his throat.
Blood on his paws.
Fatigue pounded behind his eyes; exhaustion(would it's learning have no end?)pulled him. His body ached for rest, for sleep-
One more ghost to haunt the darkness now.
His stomach lurched again. Nothing came up.
Chill rain still fell, light and relentless. In time he rose, to look up numbly at what was once a city, now a shattered, ruined land of concrete, thunder, and blood. The crack of rifle fire and rattle of machine gun was near-constant, reverberating echoes washing everything together into one undulating, omnipotent roar. 'Should get out of the open.' he thought, reaching for the rifle. The thought was an act of will. Turning as he gained his feet, his gaze rested on the building he just left
The lone survivor. His squad - his mates - were dead.
He didn't know exactly how he made it out himself;Moments blurred together and washed out, a clash of images and sound cut in knife-sharp relief through adrennaline-fuelled terror. He'd been by the doorwoay, taken the first man with a pistol-shot before he steadied from the kick. He'd been struggling face-up on the floor, naked neck above and without a thought he'd-
Survived. Used the weapons he had to stay alive.
'Snap'. Like a hand from a hot stove -
Without a fucking thought....
He bent over, elbows-to-knees, as nausea washed over him again;not as bad now, at least.
He still shook.
He fealt the stickiness on his muzzle;crouched rifle on knees at a large puddle to splash himself. Wiped with his hands. Again. And again. Over and over and over, harder now, digging in, breaths coming fast and heavy as his pulse races, clawing desperately, frantically, dimly aware of the stinging, of a strangled howl, of hands on his wrists, an impact that knocks the breath from him. A weight on his chest, pinning him to the ground with arms held fast. "Iceman!" He snapped out; a jerk on his arms shook him. "Goddamnit Ice, snap out of it!"
"Ghost?" Gradually, he came back down; his breathing less frantic, pulse merely fast instead of pounding. He was looking up into the golden eyes and half-bared fangs of a panther.
Warily, the jet-black felid - dressed same as him - relaxed and moved off to let him sit up. Ice stared dumbly up at the cat in shock, slinging the rifle - his arm was hooked through the strap - over his shoulder to grip the offered paw, pull in as he rose to embrace him tightly with the other arm, laughing in disbelief.
"Ha-haaaaaa! How many lives you got, cat?" He asked, stepping back. "I thought-"
"Blast knocked me out the window. Lucky me wasn't much left of it - or maybe it blew out behind me; can't remember." He rubbed the base of his neck. "Think I hit a wall on the way down, too;Twelve feet and not a goddamn scratch!" He shook his head, then gave Ice a sideways look. "And you...you alright?"
All right now?
"What about the others? Did-"
"I'm CERTAIN, Ice." They locked eyes.
Neither said anything.
A crack split the air, ground shaking under their feet. Almost leaping, they crouched against the nearest wall, all that remained of a two-story house.
"That one was close."
The panther nodded absently.
"Ours or theirs?"
"Howdafuk I know?"
Leaning his now-unslung rifle against the wall to reach into his pocket, he drew a pack of cigarettes, knocked one out for himself, another halfway to offer Ice.
"Something to cover the smell." He said, grinning as he reached for his lighter.
Of damp fur. 'And taste of other things.' Ice thought, taking it. "Thanks."
The cat lit his own, eyes flaring briefly in the flame-light, and leaned forward to touch ends with his.
They waited, the sounds of war still echoing around them, but nothing followed the initial blast.
"Almost to the bastard." said the cat.
"Almost smell him." he concurred. The blond-haired, blue-eyed simmie sonofabitch human that set the world on fire; The reason he was out here in the middle of this shit. Almost over....
The panther retrieved his rifle and stood;ice followed. They started walking. Pretty simple what to do now; link up, and don't get killed. "Ain't it nice" he said "to think about, to imagine being one of the ones that take him. Or maybe alone in a room with 'im. I mean, fuck the firing squad, right;hows about using these 'brute' claws to peel off his skin one piece at a time? Or sink these fangs into that damn-"
He broke off suddenly;met Ice's eyes. Again, there was nothing to say.
The husky looked away. "Yeah. It is."
"Just remember...every man-and-child he makes us mow through to get there is one step closer to him."
One body closer. Christ -.
But it was something -anything - to hang on. And reaching, grasping inside, he found a grip....
A short time later, they passed a window with a poster of the man inside it. The window was criss-crossed with cracks, giving back a doubled, fragmented picture of him. A shot could shatter it, he thought.
He stopped. "Hold up a second." He looked to the window, reaching to his hip. . Slinging the rifle on his left shoulder he drew the pistol.
He still tasted traces of blood, still smelled it in his nose. If there was a next time.... He focussed in, carefully savored the sweet-salty taste.
He lowered the pistol and took aim;steady hand, steady gaze. Let it come again he thought, with a bloody grin.
'Next time's for fun, asshole.'
"War changes us...changes us into beasts."
Well, there ya go;my first completed story. Whoo-hoo! :-)
So, glad to be here and look forward to hearing how I can make this mess posted above - err, slightly less bad, at least. :P (Already suspect it could perhaps do with a bit more fleshing out.)
First, anybody out there advise me on html and formatting? The how-to post mentions tags at the bottom and a link with further instructions, but I see neither.(?)
Second, any other writers here ever find yourselves writing material that you yourself wouldn't normally enjoy reading? I.E. I usually don't enjoy material that's too, too heavily dark and/or ambivalent, such as the story above, but certain images and ideas just begged to be put down on paper(err, in pixels? :P ). Strange. D'you suppose it could negatively the quality of the writing?
Anyways, glad to be here, again. Hope to hear some feedback. Like I said, first completed story, so be kind. :-/ But in any case, lemme know whatcha think! :-)