Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper
Ed. Nancy Kilpatrick
Publisher & Category:
Edge SF & Fantasy
“We isn’t in fuckin’ Kansas no more,” Sergeant First Class Robert “Chief” Nottingham, a half-Cheyenne Indian, chuckled from behind his dark ballistic eyeglasses and a puff of sulfurous smelling cigarette smoke, as Sergeant Caleb Justus staggered up the steep trail. Caleb stopped when he saw the rolling, rocky landscape of a thin forest with broken and splintered trees. Visible beyond the trees was a ruined village nestled below a low gray rise littered with skeletal trees. A chill wind moaned across the rugged, haunting landscape.
Behind them, such a deep contrast to the land before them, the valley they emerged from was a lush garden of green grass, brush, and trees.
“No shit,” Caleb, who usually didn’t swear, gasped as sweat, mingled with the cold thin drizzle that fell from gray clouds, trickled down his face. The platoon spread out and eyed an ancient narrow trail that wound through the trees to a wide, rutted path that led to the village.
As the soldiers slipped through the trees, Caleb thought they resembled unearthly creatures moving through a blighted medieval landscape; each wore a camouflaged Kevlar helmet, Individual Body Armor weighted down with heavy ammunition magazines, first aid kits and combat knives, and grayish-green Army Combat Uniforms with dark elbow and knee pads. Each wore the trademark dark ballistic eyeglasses that hid the eyes and gave the impression of emotionless, less than human faces. They carried M4 Carbines with Close Combat Opticals, M249 Light Machine Guns, and M203s, a 40mm grenade launcher mounted under an M4.
He knew that in their minds, and in reality, they were the meanest SOBs in the valley, or any valley. He felt safe in their presence. It was a much needed feeling after almost being killed by an Improvised Explosive Device three days before.
“Don’t know how much drawing you’ll get done on a shitty day like this,” Chief commented as he ground the cigarette under his boot heel.
“That’s why I brought my Nikon,” Caleb patted a black bag nestled against the side of his IBA and first aid kit. His drawing kit dangled against his right hip, just above his holstered 9mm pistol. “If I have to I’ll take photos, maybe do some color pencil drawings…”
An Appointment in the Village Bazaar