Copyright 2017/Star born publishing LTD. This is a work of fiction, a product of the author’s imagination and cannot be reproduced without express permission. Any similarity between the created characters and persons now living or deceased is purely coincidental.
(Iraq, near Mosul, 2003, Operation Desert Storm)
Bullet riddled, brittle and broken, he awoke, prone upon a blood-soaked Iraqi dune. Astonished, Dow found a shepherd girls soft, healing hands everywhere upon him, drawing out the pain. Until, he was magically whole again.
Lethargic lids slid open.
From the zenith of a cloudless blue canopy, a merciless sun scorched drowsy eyes. Possessing some strange power, the mysterious girl had seemingly rescued him from death’s fiery darkness.
“Who are you,” Sergeant Dow said. “Where are you from?”
Slowly, she removed the black burqa, serene smile blooming upon angelic features. Dow’s stubble strewn face riddled with wonder. He felt her soft reply flow into the brain like the waters of a trickling brook. And yet, crimson lips made no attempt to form syllables.
“I am Euryale. You shall soon know where to find me. And, I shall be waiting!”
Up over the horizon, Dow heard the whining rotors of a helicopter, and shielding his eyes from the sun, turned to look.
“But how will I…” he said, turning back, anticipating her sweet gaze.
But, Euryale had mysteriously disappeared.
Flown back to the green zone in Mosul, Dow reported to Colonel Stansfield Booth.
Walking through the office door, steely hazel eyes looked right through him.
It was as if the old man, hat decked with ‘scrambled eggs’, and more medals hung on his immaculate uniform than ornaments on the Sergeant’s Christmas tree back home in Omaha, possessed vision boring right through the skin, straight to the soul beneath.
Sitting in front of the colonel’s enormous desk, Dow felt his parched throat gulp. Blood wildly throbbing, he realized this was the moment of truth. His career in the US Marine Corps was on the line. He knew old man Booth, an iron chinned full bird colonel, wasn’t likely to believe the truth. Or, would he? How best explain the unexplainable, about Euryale, the simple shepherd girl brought him miraculously back from death’s inevitable brink?
Sergeant Dow’s pulse raced, skin growing hot as if he were standing in a burning building. His arid throat gulped again. Now, Dow considered, I must tread carefully. The old man might even decide to throw me in the brig. Maybe, even court marshaled.
Outside, the colonel’s spartan office, night blanketed the sun baked terrain of the Iraqi desert wastes.
The old man’s deep baritone ruptured the thick silence like a fog horn.
“Alright, Sergeant,” the old man’s deep baritone rumbled. “Out of nine men sent to find the insurgents outside the Green zone destroyed ammo and weapons dumps last week near Mosul, including your squadron commander, Captain Welsh-only you survived,” the colonel detailed.
Puzzlement etched Dow’s rugged features.
The Colonel seemed almost disappointed.
Dread buzzed in the Sergeant’s brain like angry wasps.
Sweat beaded his darkened brow.
“It was almost like they were waiting for us, Sir,” Dow’s mid-western drawl wobbled. “These insurgents were clever,” he tried to explain, with more urgency. “They had some sniper hiding in the hills. Picked us off one by one. I suggested to Welsh we retreat, and hump it back to recon. Let the helicopter gun-ships turn those hills into a parking lot!”
The Sergeant fidgeted, wanting desperately to tell the old man what most of the squadron had really thought of Captain Welsh, some high-hat Ivy grad just out of officers training-dressed up to play hero in some Marine recruiting video.
“I tried to tell him, sir, once the action started getting too hot, how we should’ve humped it back here double time,” Dow tried to plead. “But, like I said these insurgents were smart. They seemed to know how to hit us and when, like they had a game plan-knocked out our vehicles, our satellite and ground communications destroyed. They were waiting for us!”
The colonel tapped steel boned fingers on the desk.
“Go on Sergeant?”
“It was like they could read our minds, what we were going to do,” Dow replied. “These weren’t, well, I got a good look at them, sir!”
Dow scraped a trembling hand over his sweat slicked pate. Booth poked a button on the desktop red telephone.
“And, what did you observe, Sergeant,” Booth demanded.
Dow sensed the old man already knew the answer.
“These were no regular insurgents, sir,” Dow stammered. “Their weaponry was anything but conventional!”
The poker faced old man merely pursed his stern lips, steel boned chin bobbing once in acknowledgment. The red phone buzzed, and Dow’s trembling hands gripped sweat soaked face.
“Excuse me, Sergeant,” the old man related.
Dow looked up, cruel shadow casting over. Booth’s ursine frame rose out of the chair to full height. Deliberate and heavy steps tapped towards an adjacent black door.
“Colonel,” a civilian bureaucrat greeted Booth as the door thudded shut behind. “As you know, Operation Desert Storm is highly classified. This war on terror is merely a cover for testing these AI ‘super units’ out in the field. Lately, my Pentagon colleagues are not pleased with the less than stellar ‘collateral damage’ statistics. I’m holding you personally responsible for this glaring failure!”
The old Colonel stood at ease, stone faced while the berating bureaucrat sat half-shrouded in darkness.
“Now,” the bureaucrat snapped. “You are dismissed!”
With his ear settled close to the keyhole, Dow scurried for the office door. Somehow, he had to find Euryale. Sprinting towards the collection of Jeeps, he raced off into the night.
His career, life, would never be the same.
Swirls of dust kicked up in the wake of the racing Jeep. Now, well outside the Green Zone, he jammed the breaks and skidded to a stop.
There she was, Euryale, illuminated in the spill of the headlights
“Are you ready to come with me?”
The words floated like butterflies in the mind.
Softly, he took her hand, basking in her angelic smile. Rainbow funnels of light descended from the dark sky, and together, they were swept up.
Stephen Perkins is the author of Raging Falcon and American Siren as well as his latest book Escape To Death. All three books are available on Amazon. You can read more on his blog Newsspellcom.org Watch for his new release coming soon!