Emergent from the mind of one of fantasy's newest writers, Fragments showcases Harry Haller's first flash fiction collection. Dissolving the boundary between real and unreal, Haller pens stories about: A soldier suffering the torture of PTSD; A psychotic in a wasteland; A chameleon on AM Talk Radio; and A father who finds his hold on reality decaying. This and more in the fantastic flash fiction collection from the neural network of Harry Haller! From the author: "With flash (fiction), the stories are like bullets fired from the hip, quick things, fast and clean and evocative. They are a microdose of emotion, capturing the immediacy of the created moment, inspiring and despairing."
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Liczba stron: 118
By Harry Haller
Published by Mocha Ink
© 2018 Harry Haller. All Rights Reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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Visit Harry Haller at his blog, www.stopandsmellthefeces.com.
Books by Harry Haller
The Jack Ketch Chronicles:
The Demon Rides Shotgun #1
Table of Contents
The Man on the Street
The Unblinking Eye
A Bad Dream
The Man of the Hour
Three Old Women
Blood red light. The steady roar of a C-130 pounding in my skull. Headache creeping. Like a bomb.
Little brown-skinned boy in rags, extending his hand, opening his toothless mouth. Dirt smudges on his face like makeup. Rip near the collar of his Vodafone shirt. Dirt road. Baghdad.
Transport plane. Blood red cargo bay light soaking everything. Shattered faces surround me. Just got to get back. Back to her. Back to my children. Headache arrives. Crushing. Ears popping. I think I’m going to shit myself. Something is crawling in my belly. I scan the plane, looking for Enemy. Hands clench invisible rifle. Training moves hands towards hidden knife in rucksack.
Ragheads shouting. Chanting. Trying to provoke me. One of them spits and I point my rifle at his chest, wanting to blow him to fucking hell. We’re surrounded by Enemy. A small part of me knows they’re not all Enemy, but they all look the same. Dark skin and furious dark eyes. They hate us. I am hated.
Blood red light. Someone’s moaning. Can’t really make anything out. Don’t give a shit, either. Want to get back to my family. Turbulence makes me flinch. I wipe spittle from the corner of my mouth. Taste of bile.
Ambush. Convoy. Open fire. My gun is ripping through the Enemy. They’re behind a sand berm. I unleash hell on them. I scream. Heads explode. Splash of blood. Warm metal in my hands, fingers burning. I kill six. Wound a couple others. Heart pounding. Remember to breathe. Ease up the grip.
Blood red light. PFC Corell is shifting in his harness. Lots of turbulence. Moaning. Wonder what the fuck is wrong with him. Don’t want to think about it. Want to get home. Back to her.
Little brown-skinned boy in rags, extending his hand, opening his toothless mouth. Dirt smudges on his face like makeup. Rip near the collar of his Vodafone shirt. Dirt Road. Baghdad. He says something in Arabic. I smile and reach into my flak for a candybar.
Sudden explosion. Behind the boy. I hit the ground. My face and arms sliced by metal fragments and glass and the bones and skinsack of the Vodafone boy. Ears ringing. Look up. Scan. Heart pounding. Piss running down my legs. Boy eyes staring at me. Half of him is lying next to me, staring at me. His legs are somewhere else. A raghead rises from a crouch and begins to run away. I pump three bullets into him. He crumples. I still can’t hear anything. The sun is pounding down on me. A car is smoldering. Glass everywhere.
Blood red light. PFC Corell is struggling in his harness. I shout to him. He’s still looking down at his arms. They’re moving furiously. Like he’s sawing at something. I shout again. Sergeant Tomas shouts at him to calm the fuck down. He doesn’t.
Night. Sleeping. Sound of gunfire. Somewhere out there a soldier wants to get home to his family. He’s killing bad guys because they want to kill him. Someone ordered him to come out here and kill. Didn’t say why. Don’t care why. Just do it and get back to the family. Pop a sleeping pill and adjust my dirt pile so I can sleep. Car horn. Screaming. Explosion way off in the distance. Mortar round. Unsure whether I’ll make it through the night.
Blood red light. PFC Corell standing in front of me. Liquid pouring from his left hand. Knife in right hand. Hunters grip. He’s in kill mode. I struggle with my harness. I shout. Other shouts. He steps over me and stabs Sergeant Tomas in the face. Blood begins squirting everywhere. Shouts. Roar of engine. More turbulence. Can’t get the fucking harness undone. He turns towards me. His legs look shaky, like he’s gonna collapse. I can see his eyes. Blood red.
All hell breaks loose.
“Do you know where you are?”
“You suffered an injury on the plane. You were stabbed in the shoulder.”
“Wha-?” Ache. Burning. Left arm. Useless. Eyes scan.
“There was an incident on the plane. You received a knife wound in your shoulder. Do you understand me?”
Wish white coat and glasses would shut the fuck up.
“Yes, sir. Incident.”
Flash of light in my eyes. Small flashlight. In the light I see that little boy. Sound of explosion.
“We’re going to keep you here for a bit.”
“Where is ‘here’, sir?”
“Fort Riley. Kansas. And my name is Doctor Nidal.”
Eyes focus. Brown-skin under the white coat and glasses. Another raghead. Heart pounds. Shoulder burns. Fingers tense.
“Easy...easy, Steven. You are in a military hospital.” His hands slide behind his back. “Surrounded by friends.”
Gun shots. Screaming. I’m restrained. I begin to struggle. The room is entirely white. Padded.
“I’m going to give you something to help you sleep, Steven.”
His hands return. Dripping syringe. The needle looks like a spear. I struggle furiously. There is a door somewhere behind me. I hear voices behind it. I’m in the center of a white room. Chained to a bed. About to be stuck with a liquid spear. My heart pounds. I hear dying voices. Moaning. Car horns. Twisting metal. My finger nails dig into my palms. White coat and glasses stabs me in my good shoulder. Liquid entry.
I begin to scream.
Field. Grass. A long breeze. Green. The breeze is so quiet that it’s loud. I see my hands. Covered in dirt and blood. The nails are cracked. Left hand over the tip of the grass. Standing in a field. Blue sky above. Quiet. Warmth underneath my eyes. Mouth closed. I blink and the field is still surrounding me. Barefoot. Toes in mud. Crunching grass. I begin to walk. Aimless.
The field of green grass is endless. The sun never moves. Feels like hours pass. Days maybe. I try to get my bearing. Move faster.
Naked. My penis is limp and shriveled. The air is cool. My body is covered in dirt and blood.
I notice a figure in the distance. Body. Small. Almost petite.
I drop to the ground. My heart begins to pound. I reach for my rifle.
Move forward. Faster. I move through the field like a tiger. Hunting. Salivating. Keeping one eye on my prey at all times. No movement.
I cover the distance in seconds. At twenty feet the figure turns.
A boy. Little brown-skinned boy in rags, extending his hand, opening his toothless mouth. Dirt smudges like makeup. Rip near the collar of his Vodafone shirt.
I stop my advance. Rise. Tower over him. He has no eyes. Just empty sockets. The breeze blows across my chest.
He smiles, toothless. Says something to me. Inaudible.
He repeats it. Something in Arabic. A raven drops from the sky, landing in a tree fifteen yards away, to the right. Black. Proud. Staring at me. The raven caws. The boy explodes.
“Did you know the boy, Steven?”
“How did you meet?”
“On patrol in Baghdad. He approached me. Smiling. Dirty, though, like most of them. Looked friendly. Offered him a candybar. He reached for it and an IED detonated in a nearby car.”
“Is that where you received your injuries, Steven?”
“Which injuries, sir?”
“The ones that earned you your purple heart?”
“Which purple heart, sir?”
No longer restrained. Groggy. Feels like I’m high. Must be giving me something to sleep and then giving me something to wake.
“I want to see my wife. Does she know where I am?”
“Dana? Yes, she knows. You will be able to see her soon, Steven. You’re making remarkable progress.”
Different doctor. Guess the raghead had other soldiers to fuck with. Wish I could’ve strangled him as an answer to his fucking questions. Heartbeat quickens. Clench my teeth and I can feel my cheek muscles. Lower jaw. Bone on bone.
“And my children?” It barely comes out.
“They’re waiting for you as well. Everything is going to be fine, Steven. We just need to take precautions. Help you readjust.”
“What’s your name?”
“Doctor Marshall, Steven. Don’t you remember?”
No. I don’t.
“Have you thought about committing suicide?”
New white coat and glasses. Slant. Stinks of sushi and impotence.
“Yes, sir. I tried to several times.”
“Ambush. The rags got the drop on us. In a sweep.”
“What happened, Steven?”
Heart pounding. I wish he would shut the fuck up. Am I dreaming this? Sitting in a chair in an office surrounded by books. I see a platoon of new recruits drilling. No way to prepare. Should have them watch a million horror movies under shock therapy. Make them want to die. Then go to war.
“Sweeping. Searching for some rag that was killing Marines. Got to a door. Routine. Then someone opened up on a roof. Then another. Corporal Brooks got hit in the face. His blood got all over me. I went into a rage. Standard procedure is to return fire. I rushed headlong, began pumping rounds into anything that moved. I wanted to die. Nothing mattered. I just wanted to kill all those fuckers. Rounds hit the ground near me, the wall behind me. I killed three, two of them small boys that opened up on us in the street after the sniper. The kids made weird noises when they died.”
He writes something on the paper in front of him. I keep my eyes locked out the window. I want to go home.
More meds. Antidepressants. Sleeping pills. I wish they would stop asking me the goddamn fucking questions. I don’t want to talk about what I did! I want to go home to my family.
Near as I can tell, I’ve been here about two weeks. Been outside once. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Feels like home. We’re surrounded by fields of green grass, the long kind. Almost like weeds. Bees buzz and birds fly. It’s very calm here.
They’re giving me meds. This is a military base. Top-notch stuff. Very high-tech. A hospital. Saw PFC’s Johnson and Ramirez. They looked good. Said they were being released, flown back home, each to their families. Looked groggy like I feel. Meds too, I imagine. Just want to go home. Kiss Dana. Play with my kids.
Debriefing. Set to leave. Gave me civilian clothes. Don’t know where my uniform is. Don’t think they want me to see it.
“Sergeant North, you are a credit to your country.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Do you remember what happened on the transport home?”
“Our unit was en route to the States. Cargo hold of a C-130. It was the only thing out of Iraq. We had been flying for close to six hours. Non-stop. PFC Correl unfastened his harness. He stood up and walked over me and stabbed Sergeant Tomas in the face. I struggled with my harness. PFC Correl staggered a bit and I noticed he had cut his left wrist. There was blood everywhere. Guys began shouting. PFC Johnson was the first to get out of his harness. He was screaming at PFC Corell. PFC Johnson got to PFC Corell just as he was attempting to stab me. His strike missed my face and went clean into my left shoulder. I screamed. The knife was lodged in the bone. I don’t know who, but other soldiers jumped on PFC Corell. I remember one of them stomping on his head. PFC Ramirez released me from my harness and began to administer aid to me. I remember hearing shouts towards the cockpit and then I blacked out.”
“Is that it, soldier?”
“I’m going to tell you what happened, and then I’m going to tell you what really happened. Do you understand, Sergeant North?”
“PFC Corell snapped. He went apeshit. He couldn’t hold it together. He went psycho. Wanted to kill himself. Couldn’t hold it together. Wanted to take as many of you with him as possible. He was weak and deserved his fate. Good riddance.”
I swallow a lump in my throat. My shoulder burns. The room is cold. Lieutenant Gomes is rigid. ‘Nam-era. Been to war. Dead behind the eyes.
“Now, what really happened is that you hurt yourself on the plane ride home. There was turbulence, and a steel beam was dislodged from its position in the cargo hold. It pierced your shoulder and you blacked out. The beam released several oxygen tanks that caused the deaths of Sergeant Tomas and PFC Corell. Blunt trauma to the head. Do you understand, Sergeant North?”
“Good. I am going to discharge you. You can go back to your family. You will be on the next plane to...where is it again? Texas?” He shuffles some papers in front of him. I think about thanking him. Decide against it. “Thank you for your service, and you’re a damn fine soldier. Dismissed.”
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