Chapter One - Hell's Season
There was dying that night, after dark, by the side of the road.
A shadow, illuminated briefly by flare light, vanished into the swallowing darkness, dragging the lifeless body of it's prey. I, myself, and what was left of my haggered platoon, sat crouched in a nearby thicket of dense undergrowth, reluctant to move, frightened to breathe, frozen up as stiff as dimestore manequins.
Then we heard it; the very real sound of death. The final, gut-wrenching, blood curdling, piss-your-pants death throes of our fellow comrade in arms, which we'd thought already dead, but had just been playing possum.
But Charlie, also used to the game, had virtually invented it, had figured out our buddy's game plan quickly, sniffing him out like a bloodhound, thus beginning the ancient torture tactics. At first, his body numb from the shock of a mortal spine injury, he'd felt nothing; thinking.....hoping he'd been spared.
But then came the pain - the hideous, lonely darkness - he'd been blinded, his all american baby blues scorched from their sockets with the flaming hot tip of a machete blade.
The.....the real torture had begun.
The next morning, after emerging from the bush, we'd walked on down the carnage strewn road, choking on dark, acrid smoke under an ugly sky, the clouds looming over us like big gray ghosts. A humid, hair-dryer wind had blown in, and with it had come the unmistakeable, sickly-sweet odor of burnt pork.
Although the rest of my rag-tag crew were oblivious to the smell, I was not, having smelled it too many times before not to recognize the odor immediately. The smell of burning flesh swirled around us in the air like a fog.
It was hell's season, and the air reeked of burning GI Joes.