Thursday, June 30, 2011

Part I "try to look like a Marine and you might just survive"

November 09, 1918

“Old man wants to see you” the runner said as he kicked me awake with his hobnailed shoe “Easy mack, what were ya in civilian life a field goal kicker or something?!” I snapped back trying to shake the images of the dream from my head. I looked around, in the firing bay of the trench, Turner stood watch, his eye glued to the trench periscope peering across the blasted waste of no-mans land as the rest of the squad lay sleeping on the firestep, except Hoyt who was lovingly cleaning the new Browning Automatic Rifle he had been issued, happy to be rid of the French abomination known as the Chauchat that had been trying to kill him since July.

The afternoon Sun tried to fight its way through the gray clouds, I became aware of the distant artillery (the percussive accompaniment of this war) pounding away at some sucker some where, someone not me and god forgive me, I was thankful.

My folks back home in their brownstone would never understand us laying around in the middle of the day, Dad would say we were lazy but the truth is, most of the war, Patrols, Raids, Work parties and the like, all happen at night. During the day you just tried to survive and somehow remember you were human.

“best square your self away Sergeant... Scuttlebutt has it you and he may be taking a hike to Battalion” quipped the runner, a short Irishman named O-something or other. I have to admit, I still thought of myself as the atypical Yankee College kid who had joined the Marines on a lark (alcohol may have been involved), being called “Sergeant” just didnt seem to sit right... but the last 4 months had made allot of opportunities for advancement in the corps.

I pulled on my gear, grabbed my gas mask, helmet and rifle and started out down the trench with the runner in tow. It was a short way to Communication trench that led to the platoon command post, They call the section of trench Kensington Street, apparently the limeys named it, them and the french had been fighting here for 4 years before the Germans knocked them out during their summer pushes and here it was November and we allies were back in them, net zero. We hadnt got around to changing the names and I hoped to god we wouldn't be here long enough to do it.

As we pounded down the duckboards I thought of the Platoon. The platoon, that was a laugh, we had been patched up so many times since june I hardly knew anyone outside my squad. Most of the old Marines had bought a piece or a hospital bed and even the replacements for the replacements had been buried in the big graves around France. The new guys, I have to smile, They stick out like sore thumbs in their Marine uniforms. You see General Pershing hates us, he refuses to ship any new Marine uniforms to france so we have to make do with these brown army suits, they look like crud and are as comfortable as a stone sweater...I’m putt’n a match to these duds the minute they sign my discharge.

There was one thing that made me hate the new guys... and that was there faces, they reminded me of us when we first got here, faces that hadnt seen it...that indescribable horror that was modern war and I hated them for it. Even their fear was born of a naive innocents that had yet to be ripped apart by the Maxium gun or tangled in the barbed wire.

As the runner and I turned down Kensington we passed Doc Marvel doing a boat inspection... inspecting peoples feet for trench foot. Doc was a Navy hospital corpsman that had been with us since forever and because of the nature of his job, we loved him and over looked the fact he was navy. “Hey Doc” I nodded as we shouldered by “better take a look at Myer” I joked, seeing Corporal Meyer sitting shoeless for the examine “I here he is just back from Paris”. The men laughed as Myer fired a back something about my lice raiding a near by farmhouse, “You leave my lice out of it you gob! I’ll not have you tarnish their reputation in mixed company” I returned, pointing at Doc, the soul representative of the Navy, the parent service of the Corps, as we cut the corner to the CP. It was good to here the boys laugh as Doc’s retorted with the age old insult “Tell it to the Marines” as their laughter faded in the distance.

The Platoon CP was a bunker and was unique in that, at one time or another, it had been occupied by the forces of half a dozen nations. The Rats were even said to all be polyglots. Each occupant had left their mark, but it was the Heine’s that had made the most recent improvements with the addition of a deeper sleeping bunker complete with stove, not that we got to see it. The entrance was labeled in French, English, German, and Portuguese, but it was the last entry that had brought a smile to me, it read simply “Paris Island (Annex)” with a well drawn Globe and anchor over it.

As we stopped at the door, the runner shoulder past me, I could hear some chatter inside and then “Get in here College”. Through the blackout curtains I went and down a short staircase into the darkness. As my Eyes adjusted I saw our Platoon officer standing in front of a mirror shaving. It was almost hypnotic, the way he made slow passes with his straight razor scrapping off the days growth but then, in the reflection of the mirror, I saw him turn his face and he began to carefully navigate the hideous scar that ran from the corner of his mouth to the back of his jaw with the razor carefully moving over the raised areas that the sutures had left and through the sunken valleys left by a German trench knife. The scar almost gave the impression of hideous gritted teeth. I thought of my dream.

“They call them razors” he growled through the undamaged side of his mouth “Thought you college kids knew all about them... best introduce your self to one when we get back” he said turning as he wiped his face clean of the soap “If your going to be my platoon Sergeant”.

I must have looked as stunned as I felt, “Platoon Sergeant? Me?” my head screamed. I had only had a squad for two months. I should never have mentioned I had taken ROTC courses in college. My stomach was gripped by fear, fear of the responsibility. I was soon brought around by the old man talking.

“Sergeant Blevens is down with the Flu” he said as he pulled on his Forest Green tunic “and that left the choice between you and a monkey...” he turned and fixed his Dark emotionless eyes on me. Ice ran down my spine as I thought of my dream and the reflection of the skulls. “...and I seriously considered the monkey”.

The old man had been our Platoon Sergeant, but he was made a officer when he had returned from the hospital. For a week he had soldiered on with his wounds, Doc had stitched his face together under a poncho with a flash light and a needle and the old man hadn't even flinched. But it was his hand that had done him in, doc had tried to clean it and bandage it, he cut the rest of the pinky off but infection had set in and finally the skipper himself had to drag him to the First aide post to be evacuated, 20 days latter he was back and a fresh new 2nd luey with a horrific sneer scared into his face and pinky side of his left hand missing (they had to cut it off on account of the infection). It was a common practice in the Corps, they even had a term for it, “Mustangs”, officers promoted from the NCO ranks.

Since then we had 4 Platoon Sergeants, Gunnery Sergeant Hawks being the longest stint, but he went batty during a barrage and got sent down the line to see if they could put him back together. Now it was me...A two year Marine, before June some fellas had been Privates for 20 years... now I was a Platoon Sargent.

“Best batten the hatch there College” he said indicating my gapping mouth “I didnt make you Emperor of China...” he finished doing his collar dogs, and turned to me and with a slight movement of his dark eyes, down to my neck then back to my face, indicated that I had better do mine “...Kid, you’ll do fine, your smart...” he looked like he needed to qualify that “ arent a idiot at least, you’ve seen the beast...” (the beast being his term for war) “...and you can fight, Just remember, let the Sergeants run the squads, you run the Sergeants, they get out of line, you take them somewhere private and set them straight, with your hooks if you have to, but dont do it in front of the men”. He took a deep breath and for a moment, a brief click of the clock, he looked weary, “Look, I know your turning in your sea legs the minute this dance is over” (he knew I had enlisted for the duration) “but until that time remember you belong to the Corps, your back is stamped “Department of the Navy, Property of” so just Sail straight and keep your lines from fouling and you’ll look great strutting down Broadway with your medals on your chest on decoration day”

He turned and began to, as Shakespeare would have said, gird himself for war. There were no half measures for the old man, no allowance made for the mud of France. His Sam Brown Belt went on first, sort of a joke really, the Brown leather belts with its single shoulder strap were required wear for all officers of all nations in france, the thought being that a ape in the french army may not know what a captains bar looks like but he sure knew only officers wore Sam browns. Then he pulled on his Rig, made of woven canvas (except the holster for his 45) with eyelets, everything he required in war was fastened to it and like the illustration in the manual...he wore it perfectly parallel to the ground riding above the flaps of his lower pockets of his jacket, not slanted downwards like some bizarre gunslinger. Then came, not one, but two respirators in case of gas attack, The british Boxed respirator was secure on his chest while a french mask hung from his side. When he finished with his gear, he smoothed out any creases in is jacket, as i watched him something inside of me said simply “squared away”.

As he reached towards a hook to take his helmet he turned back at me “We’ve been called to Battalion, some sort of stunt for tonight...” He pulled his helmet on a let it tilt slightly down over his eyes like a man looking for a fight “... just stand there and don't say anything and try to look like a Marine and you might just survive”.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Zombie story.....

Taking a page from Aravan's blogook and "Just post it" mentality. I decided to try to write my Zombie story... based on something I wrote way back in the 90's....and for the record, I can't write, I can't spell and Grammar is on my enemies list.


I am falling, sliding uncontrolled down the muddy sides of the shell crater. It is night and the images of a fall come to me in the flashes of lighting and the flickering of flares in the stormy night skies. My hands claw and rake at the sides but I can not stop my descent, mud oozes between my fingers, it is as if the world is made of liquified earth.

There is a splash, the world of noise, machine guns, the screams of men and the Artillery mixing with the thunder, fade to a muffled nothingness as I crash into the muddy pool of battlefield swill at the bottom of the crater. I struggle to stand as I become aware of the bodies that float around me, I begin to panic as my feet try to push against the soft mire below. There is a brief moment of hope as my head brakes the surface but it is cut short by the realization that I can no longer lift my feet, I am sinking.

Around me, the eyes of the dead, sickly cloudy orbs, gaze at me in expectation, wordlessly communicating to me that I am soon to join their ranks. I fight and strain as I sink to my chin, “Lord no!!” I scream “Not like this!” as my mouth sinks beneath the surface, I try to will my nose higher as my final moments approach and then... it is there.

It is like he emerged from the greek underworld onto the mortal plane, its dusty, dirty wings tucked behind his huge cloaked visage as his bone hand grasped the sickle he would use to sever the threads of my life, I beheld death himself. It is if the rain fears him as not a drop touches his horrible form. I can not scream, I can not run, I am at the mercy of he who has none.

Slowly his hand pulls back his hood and I stare into the void of his eyes, his skull face tilting from side to side trying to make sense of my predicament. With one sure footed stride after another he begins to descend towards me almost looking as if he were gliding down the slippery slopes.

He does not sink into the water, but crosses it like a man walking across his living room carpet. The nearer he gets the more panicked I become, my hands are thrashing, only my eyes and the top of my helmeted head remain above the surface, I can feel the last grains of sand falling from the hour glass of my life. He bends down towards me...and that is when it happens.

As the light of a flickering flare touches this horrible vision, it transforms...not all of death, just the portions touched by light. Confusion now mixes with my rampant panic as I see him the way he first appeared to me on that night in June in the woods west of Bouresches,as death becomes the form of Gunnery Sargent Owens.

He stood over me like he did that night, His cheek laid open from the corner of his mouth to his infected wisdom tooth ( that, in one of the ironies of war had stopped the progression of the Heine’s trench knife and at the same time removed Owens bothersome tooth) and now the flesh flapped open to reveal his bloody clenched teeth...his Forest green tunic turned brown by the blood that soaked it. His eyes...his dark eyes showing no sign of pain or any other emotion for that matter, seemed to take in the world around him. The world changed

No longer was I in the shell hole but I was once more in the woods, those horrible woods, tangled in the debris of a German Machine gun nest that we had just rushed. Collins was next to me with the Heine Entrenching tool sticking from his head and Rose lay nearby nearly ripped in half by a burst from the gun...and he, Owens, hovered over me, his horrible visage glaring down at me “You ain’t dead yet kid....lets go you ape, your on the clock” he grunted, barely audible, through his clenched teeth. He reach out with his left hand to help me up, and as I grabbed it, I realized that the pinky was dangling from it, blown off by a german luger. I looked up to apologies, it had to hurt, but as I stared into that ripped face....his eyes showed no pain and as the light from a flare caught in his dark eyes... they reflection looked like skulls of light.

Then I wake up... Its always the same, a unchanging nightmare.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Aravan moment... (Spoiler Alert)

It is no secret that I am a super huge “Game of Thrones” fan, both the written and the HBO series. For the most part I have embraced some of the changes they have made to bring it to the TV screen, But last night I had a Aravan moment.

A Friend, Aravan, loves the written word, I believe it is because of the images that it brings to his mind make the work a calibration between the author and him self. He has in the past surprised me with his acceptance of changes but he does have his “Aravan moments” when he simply can not fathom a change or added scene.

Last nights GOT gave me my first true “Aravan Moment”, to level set, I still liked the episode...however... I was livid at what they did to Tyrion last night. For the first time it seems that they put in some stupid slapstick moment that in my opinion severely undermined the fantastic job they were doing with his character. To have him knocked out in such a silly fashion and then miss the entire battle, a battle in which he led his clansmen in the book, was ridicules.

not quite as major for me but a bother none the less was the scene with Drogo, for some reason I envisioned that all happening around dusk and night time with the shadows of the dead dancing showing on the walls of the tent. This could just have been a me moment but it bothered me.

Ned’s execution, so many things right yet the one wrong spoiled it for me, him telling the man from the Night’s Watch “Baelor”. What made that so cool in the book is that he saved her without being asked, despite his pledge to the Wall, he still rescued the girl. Having Ned say that....just marginalized the acted.

I have to say that besides a few scenes, last nights episode had some powerful stuff, I am surprised I have come to like Varys so much more then Book Varys and I was surprised I didnt hate Sir Walter Frey as much as I did in writing.

The one scene I thought was great was the scene between Rob and Aemon, but again the handling of Tyrion this week made me so angry that I couldn't enjoy it. After the credits rolled all I could see was the giant novelty hammer swinging at him.

Next week episode has allot of ground to cover, lets hope they come through.