17-MAY-2008 Fort Huachuca, Arizona
Just like the old marching cadence, it’s the“Same old shit again” indeed. And now here I am marching my own Soldiers off to one of several pre-deployment briefings being held today. Most of it’s just the usual mandatory stuff, what to do in combat situations we might not actually get to see, thank God. Our unit is comprised of mostly Signal geeks and I.T guys, at least a third of them are fresh out of A.I.T and they’re pretty easy to pick out of the crowd: They all have this terrified look on their face like they think they’re about to die as soon as they get off the plane, and I have to laugh because that’s exactly how I felt right before my first deployment to Iraq. I feel bad for most of them, T.R.A.D.O.C fills their heads with all kinds of bullshit about kicking down doors and pretty much duct-taping their buddies back together while they’re screaming for Mommy. It’s mostly intended to remind them that while they’re being trained in a technical capacity, they’re still Soldiers in the United States Army and very well may wind up in combat nevertheless. I understand why they do it, but they rattle off about it so much to these kids that it almost becomes counter-productive: Instead of learning how to just do their damn jobs, they lose sleep over nightmares about explosions and gore.
I remember being that scared before my first trip to the Sand-Box, now as an NCO myself it’s my job to set them straight well before this one officially kicks off. This will be my second trip to Iraq, for most of these guys it’ll be their first. Hell, for a few of the senior members of leadership and Command, this will be their second or third. Serves ‘em right for voting Republican, but of course, it’s not like I’m going to be caught saying that out loud. These scared kids are having a Hell of a time with a very simple cadence that they should damn well know from day one, a few of them are too scared to even open their mouths. They just march, lost in their own minds. And I’m fine with this, so long as they hear me order Mark-Time and Halt when we arrive.
I’ve got my own shit to do, I’m only leading these guys to their briefings because I had to fill in for Sergeant First Class Parvis when he showed up drunk again. This isn’t anything new for him, sadly. If he weren’t such a sadistic, sexist piece of shit I just might consider feeling bad for the guy because he has such severe PTSD, but after the last time he staggered past me and asked if my “carpet matched the drapes,” he’s damn lucky I left the building when I did. Parvis is one of those senior NCOs who really shouldn’t be wearing the uniform anymore. Sure, I made my complaints and reports, just like policy tells us to, but it almost never amounts to anything. The best I can really do is try to stay the Hell away from him.
He made a complete inebriated ass of himself in from of the entire Company this morning though, and this was a rare performance indeed coming from him: Instead of the usual nasty remarks and barely intelligible swearing, I could swear I heard him choke on a string of desperate apologizing and frantic groveling for forgiveness from every Soldier standing in formation. There were a few audible snickers, I tried not to laugh at him myself, Parvis is known within the whole unit for his completely non-sober tirades about this-that-and-everything. They almost always end with the usual screaming at all of us over one person’s mistake, his way of mass punishment over trivial stuff as a way of asserting power over the rest of us knowing full well he barely had any real power of his own. Gee, I wonder why… This time was a bit of a spectacle, sure. I grew up with alcoholic relatives, the public sobbing and endless train of “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I swear I’ll change blah blah blah” has long since lost it’s effect on me, but now I can only stand by and watch.
This is the end for SFC Parvis, finally. Command can’t cover for him anymore after this and they know it, at least I hope so. He did his time in Iraq just like I did, and it broke him. It happens, that’s what war does to people. The ones with any brain cells in their skulls go talk to a shrink or a chaplain, Parvis came home and went balls-deep into a bottle. No more family, no more friends, just drinking buddies and an undeserved rank-patch that’s been begging to be torn off his faded uniform ever since. Eventually, two other NCOs “escorted” him behind the back parking lot to our Commanding Officer, there were a few awkward murmurs from the Company but nothing out of control. Parvis was still losing his shit, all I could make out was some frightened gibberish over finding a weird little photo inside his truck after the Flag went down yesterday.
He was crying so hard about this stupid picture he was hysterical. Eventually the MPs had to get him, hopefully dragging his ass to therapy this time. The rest of the senior NCOs put me in charge of my platoon for a day, I bet nothing would have pissed Parvis off more than seeing a female NCO taking charge. Not long after the morning melt-down, we were given marching orders to attend our required briefings.
Something tells me “Pervy-Parvis” won’t be joining us on our little vacation this time around, or ever again, for that matter.
This can only be a good thing for the rest of us.
2-JULY-2008 Joint Base Balad, Iraq
See, guys? It may be hotter than the Devil’s undying cunt in the shade out here, but it’s not really so bad, is it? Compared to other bases and F.O.Bs here in Iraq, J.B.B is practically a country-club. A giant Post Exchange complex, at least two DFACs, there’s even a movie theater.
The last time I was out here, I could barely walk fifteen feet on the sidewalk before alarms went off left-and-right over incoming mortars and rockets. One time I had to take a roaring piss inside the very concrete bunker I had been stuck in for 2 or 3 hours, I wasn’t permitted to leave until we finally stopped taking fire from whatever the Iraqis decided to throw at us for the time being. That’s kinda their thing, aside from road-side bombs: They launch things over the fence at seemingly random times for indeterminate amounts of time. Sometimes it’s just one rocket landing in a ditch and then we resume business as usual, sometimes it’s two or three days before we get to see our beds because it’s just non-stop.
Things seem to be winding down this trip, supposedly there’s a big exit strategy in play and this sad chapter of American military history is going to actually end soon, but this won’t exactly happen overnight. Things have to be repaired, restored, reclaimed or straight-up handed back to the people of Iraq with a great big smile on our faces. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I may be a card-carrying Democrat but I fucking get it, okay? Arguably, we probably never should have come here, but it’s not as easy as just packing up and leaving immediately.
A few of the new kids seem to be getting used to this kind of life, none of them have been called on to go kick down any doors or dismantle any bombs like their well-meaning Drill Sergeants warned them about.
We got word from back home that SFC Parvis has been in the hospital ever since we left the States. It could have been the daily intake of gin and tonic taking it’s toll on his already war-ravaged brain, but it looks like the poor bastard finally lost his fucking mind and won’t be “Being All that He Can’t Be” anymore. He’s in a heavy lock-up because supposedly, after two doctors came into his room to try and treat him, one male and one female, he attacked them both at once. Funny, whatever stupid prank picture that someone put in his car that day, it really set him off this time.
True, he should have just hung up that uniform the first time he came home instead of being such a relentless dick for the rest of his career, but goddamn… Now I really do feel bad for him, a little. I never liked him, not from the start, but he’s still just a person in the end.
A couple of us were chatting about it on a smoke-break outside, a couple of the other guys that knew him were having a bit of a laugh about it. I casually asked if the picture he was so worked up about was one of them fucking his ex-wife or something, received with the usual sarcastic laughter, except for two of them. Not one blink, not one word, not one single peep.
“Yeesh, guys, what’s YOUR problem? Parvis was an asshole, whoever set him off was doing the entire Army a favor.” One of the other guys barked.
One dude just kinda took a nervous breath and shrugged, then another drag from a cigarette. The other kid was much younger than that dude, a Private Gerard according to his name-patch, he threw his to the ground and walked off.
What the fuck?
I’ve seen young Soldiers behave oddly under stress before, usually much worse than a quiet little tantrum like this, but something about this guy and his tense demeanor caught me a bit off guard. Maybe he doesn’t like other military women very much, which is entirely his fucking problem and VERY MUCH not mine, but those guys I can usually tell right away. Misogynistic little shits usually won’t even look me in they eye when I’m talking to them. But THIS kid… the look he gave me before he took off behind the concrete t-wall… made my heart stop. It’s the middle of summer out here in Iraq, suddenly it feels like February in Maine.
I have been shot at, multiple times on many occasions. I have seen combat, in all it’s horrible glory, up close and personal.
But THIS genuinely scared me.
23-SEPTEMBER-2008 Joint Base Balad, Iraq
Our Commanding Officer is dead!
We haven’t done anything outside the wire aside from minor equipment maintenance, and he never came with us on a single one of those trips. He never went out and about much, the only times I ever saw him was either at the DFAC or in his office. Nothing like this ever happened the last time I deployed, when guys died it was either because of the local anger catching them in the form of a bomb or an ambush, or just a dumb-ass accident. We’re just Fobbits for fuck’s sake, none of us have seen any actual combat since our boots hit the ground out here!
The morning rotation found him on the floor behind his desk, like he fell out of his chair and just fucking died. No one was allowed near his office while investigators were working, some of them were asking us questions about him and how he got along with us. I barely ever spoke to him, on the few occasions I did it was just business. I knew he was from Indiana, I heard he had a wife and a little girl, but we were always so busy I barely ever saw the guy most of the time. I was on the night crew, my shift ended at 0100 hours and when our relief showed up we always walked back to our rooms as a group: This place is even more dangerous at night because there are almost no outside lights to speak of. Anything can happen out here.
It must have happened after we were relieved, but the graveyard shift swears up and down that they didn’t see or hear anything strange. The floor was sticky outside his door, which was unlocked when his body was found, but that was about it.
Sometimes guys lose their minds out here for seemingly no reason, a Soldier is technically more likely to kill themselves than die in combat. While Officers aren’t completely immune from the seemingly never-ending plague of suicide within the military, it’s very rare that Brass actually end their own lives.
After a few brief questions, I asked a CID guy if I could at least step into the building to go pee, and he let me. I had to hold my breath walking past that office door, dead bodies stink something fierce right from the get-go: Within hours after dying, your muscles release and you shit yourself. It’s not an urban legend, I’ve seen it happen before. After my first deployment, I just kinda learned to… well, “expect” death. It’s a cold, inhuman thing to think and feel, and I know it. I feel horrible about it sometimes, but I accepted it the moment I signed that enlistment contract. There’s nothing I can do now except hold my breath and hope to God I don’t catch a whiff of my C.O’s last “Commanding action.”
But I don’t. I don’t smell… shit.
I skulk past his door on my way to the ladies’ room with my lungs filled and my entire face scrunched up, I’m suddenly slapped upside the nostrils with the stench of burning garbage.
It’s not uncommon here in Iraq, sometimes that’s how the locals dispose of their trash. There’s a burn-pit here on J.B.B, but it’s way the Hell on the other side of the base. And J.B.B is HUGE! It’s practically two separate bases that are bisected by a large collective of air-strips and runways where C-130s and C-17s take-off and land constantly.
It smells like a burn-pit, and… something else.
10-OCTOBER-2008 Joint Base Balad, Iraq
We have a new C.O. on the way, but we don’t know much about him. Supposedly, some green-horned jack-off fresh out of West Point who wants to tell the entire Army what’s up. Yay, I just love barely competent and inexperienced fresh meat telling me how to do my job, but considering the circumstances of how he got the “promotion,” I’m not really in a position to complain.
I had to give the whole lot a sexual harassment briefing in the conference room, again. Sure, put that awkward burden on the only NCO in the building who so happened to have been born with a vagina… I’d like to think that they don’t MEAN to be insulting by appointing me for stuff like this, because these things have to be discussed and I understand why. I just can’t help but get this fucked up feeling that they’re not even taking this seriously at all, even though in the Army a male Soldier is just as likely, if not more-so, as a female, to be assaulted or harassed, none of them give a shit. Neither does the entire Department of Defense, for all anyone can rightly tell. “Same old shit again…” for the most part. I’m starting to think that the only real reason I’m actually subjecting everyone to Death-By-Powerpoint about a subject we all know and love is an attempt to distract everyone from walking in on our old Commander’s still unresolved death.
If that’s the case, then I get it. I could use a distraction, too.
We all could.
Throughout the entire briefing, however, I noticed that Gerard never once glanced up at the Powerpoint slides. He stared off into space like he was high off his ass on something, lost in wherever he happened to be in his own mind. I was nearly done anyway, but that didn’t stop the NCO sitting next to him from giving a swift little kick to his ankle, nothing hard just enough to force him to “wake the fuck up” as that NCO so delicately put it. Gerard jolted in his seat with an embarrassing little squeak of alarm, looked around at the others, then at me.
Poor kid, he belongs in some comic book store playing table-top games with his hygienically-challenged Cheeto-eating friends. Not on the other side of the planet, certainly not like this.
“Fuck it.” I sighed, waved the signature sheet in front of the whole room, and told them to sign it and get the fuck out. The NCO who woke Gerard wanted to take him outside for a little corrective PT, but I told him I can take care of it.
Everyone left the room, probably thinking I was going to do the something mean to Gerard, but really I just wanted to talk to him.
“What’s your problem?” I asked him.
He took breath, hesitated. I was about to ask him again when he cut me off before I could speak, but I don’t think he did it on purpose.
“I didn’t want to believe it,” His voice cracked, he was turning white before my eyes, “I … don’t usually believe in that kind of thing, but I felt like…” His jaw wagged open and closed a few times, like that of a fish, “I just had to try.”
“Try what, Gerard?” Whatever he was afraid of, I could feel it. It was thickening the air all around me and in my own lungs as well. I don’t want to over-do it with this kid, but I’m starting to feel sick inside, “Do we need to have a chat with the First-Sergeant?” He shook his head, with lips flapping side to side from shaking so fervently.
“Are you thinking of hurting yourself?” As an NCO, I have to ask. It’s my job, and if HE DOES hurt himself, it’s my ass.
He shook his head one more time and scrunched up his face, like he was fighting to keep something the Hell out.
Oh, Jesus Christ on crystal meth… He knows something.
“Gerard, please look at me.” I took a deep breath and tried to give him a reassuring nod, he looked like he was about ready to shit himself. He’s probably not used to NCOs actually being somewhat civil with him, which is unfortunately common among lower enlisted.
“Gerard,” I asked calmly, concerned, “Can you tell me what happened?”
His face went from white to red in about two seconds and his eyes widened like he was choking to death, I quickly took a step back because I wasn’t sure if he was about ready to hit me or have a seizure. What the fuck is eating him? No sooner did I yell out for help than Private Gerard hit the floor: Sure enough, he was actually having a fucking seizure.
Two other Soldiers ran into the conference room, tried to stabilize Gerard and stop him from accidentally injuring himself while I ran to Top’s office for the phone to call the Medics. I shoved past his opened door to discover him talking to the CID investigators before they noticed me coming in, just in time to hear one particular word so happen to slip from their mouths.
I can only assume they were following up regarding the Commander’s sudden death, seems a little fast if you ask me. I didn’t mean to interrupt them, I had no idea they were even here, but as soon as I alerted them to the matter of Gerard’s seizure they took off into the conference room for help.
When I reached across First-Sergeant’s desk for the phone, that’s when I saw the crime scene photos underhand. I’m no stranger to death, so the sight of his corpse in the pictures didn’t shock me all that much. There are politicians who think that women can’t handle the rigors and horrors of battle, yet they have no issue with sending us anyway.
There were holes in his uniform when they found him, but nothing to indicate what actually made them. Another photo had a note at the bottom of it, an investigator noticed that there wasn’t a whole lot of blood on the floor around the body. The third photo…
… Fucking Hell, man…
THAT was the photo that burned itself forever into my mind, THAT was when I knew that this wasn’t just someone getting pissed at him and beating him to death, or even having a stupid heart attack… that third photo was just an object found in his desk drawer with an evidence marker next to it.
“Found in victim’s desk: One Tarot card,” the notation read, “The Lovers, a major arcana card not usually interpreted as threatening. Only identifiable set of fingerprints on it belong to the victim.” I flipped the photo over for a second, just long enough to see something else written on the back, but that’s when Top came back into the office with the CID guys.
I snatched up the phone and kept slamming the buttons trying desperately to pretend it wasn’t working, but I don’t think they were buying it. They kicked me out of the office and grabbed the phone from me, but thankfully nobody noticed me tuck the photo up into the sleeve of my ACUs, I ran out just in time to catch a glimpse of Gerard. He wasn’t on the floor seizing anymore, but he was still visibly unwell.
He wouldn’t even look at me, but at least the medics were on it and looking after him. I guess someone else called from one of the other offices while I was fumbling through the murder photos of my dead boss, but one less corpse in here nevertheless, though, right?
Most of us were relieved of duty for the rest of the day, they only kept a minimum crew of necessary personnel to continue operations. Top was pissed at me, I could see it in his face. I’m totally going to get an ear-full about it later, but at least Gerard was alive and being taken care of. The whole lot of us walked back toward our rooms quietly, no one really spoke to each other. I stopped at a road-side bunker telling everyone I needed a smoke-break, no one came to smoke with me. I guess this was their way of trying to show their disapproval of the situation, maybe a few of them even blamed me for Gerard’s mishap, but I was actually kinda hoping to have a moment alone.
I pulled out a smoke from my pocket, lit it, breathed it in deep. Goddamn, this is NOT how a deployment is supposed to work, especially not for a Company of tech-geeks with nothing better to do that stare at screens and code things! We’re just here to make sure the shit works, maybe turn it off and on again when it DOESN’T work, that’s it! Soldiers like US are where the term “Fobbit” comes from, we’re so sheltered and non-lethal that we almost never leave the proverbial “Shire” that is the main base. If we ever do wind up in combat, REAL combat, some shit has hit a really big fan! I re-enlisted into the Army Signal Corps because I was sick of being an MP that no one took seriously the first time I was here in 2005, boy was I misled.
Time to find out what is going on here, so I slid the now-bent photo out from inside my sleeve and had another look-over: I’ve seen Tarot cards before, every new age nerd brings a deck to a party to show off or to impress people with them. Some people have Bibles, others have Korans, then there are people with crystals and cards. I think they’re all bullshit, really, but this obviously meant something to SOMEONE, otherwise it wouldn’t have been left behind at the scene. The note was right, The Lovers card doesn’t usually have so-called bad-vibes in it.
There were two sentences on the back, each obviously written by two different people:
The first line read, “Why are their faces burnt out?” And upon re-examining the photo, I saw that there were in fact two neat little blackened circles where their faces were printed, any cigarette could have done this. They burns were precise, intentional, definitely not by accident. Someone MEANT to do this.
I flipped it back over to read the second line.
Upon reading it, though… my brain felt like it caught fire.
“Not this again! Secure the burn-pit site A.S.A.P.”
This has happened BEFORE?
13-OCTOBER-2008, Joint Base Balad, Iraq
Private Gerard is still in the hospital. He’s conscious, but he won’t eat or talk to anyone. CID has their eye on him, if he really does know something I’m pretty sure they’re going to find out about it. There’s talk of sending him back home, supposedly he has epilepsy. I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure that no one up and “catches” epilepsy while being deployed. It’s more likely that he’s always had it, but something probably set it off.
There have been a few intermittent rounds of indirect fire over the last day or so, but so far I don’t think anyone has been killed or injured. Even without the incoming mortars, though, I haven’t exactly been able to sleep very well. I have to force myself to shut my eyes at night, but it doesn’t help. I was never really that much of a drinker, but I could sure go for a beer right about now. No one has been talking to each other outside of duty since the murder, Gerard’s seizure only made things worse.
I can’t stop combing over this photo, either.
“Not this again…”
I’ve been here on J.B.B before, back in 2005. It was an even bigger mess back then, wasn’t fixed up as nicely, comparatively speaking, as it is now. A few things have changed around a bit, some of the buildings have since been destroyed by mortars, on the whole I think I know how to get from one end of J.B.B to the other. I’ve been here long enough already, this is driving me nuts.
My shift always ends at 0100, without a flash-light at night I’m pretty much blind.
I’m required to have at least two 30-round magazines and my M-16 with me at all times, just in case something does happen.
After I’m relieved for the night, tonight I’m doing to “get lost.”
Oh, I’m going to catch SO MUCH SHIT for doing this if I get caught, but I feel like I have to.
I can’t help myself.
15-OCTOBER-2008 Joint Base Balad, Iraq
Apparently, wandering off into the darkness all alone in a war zone wasn’t one of my better ideas. To be fair, there was no way for me to know a sand-storm was coming in the middle of the night because no one could see it until it was right on top of us. A sand-storm whipping up seemingly out of nowhere in Iraq. Gee, who’d have thought…
It was a VERY long hike from the fenced-off housing paddock to the area surrounding the burn pit. I didn’t exactly NEED my flashlight for the rest of the trip, I could smell my way over there in the dark just fine. They don’t really burn stuff at night if they can help it, the light of the fire attracts too much attention from the Iraqis. It was easy to creep behind t-walls and buildings once I was able to get away from the main roads. I snuck a cigarette or two along the way, periodically checking that I had my M-16 and both magazines close at hand, damn I was tense.
I accidentally disturbed a couple making out in a bunker. She looked scared, he looked pissed, I looked pretty stupid right about then and I knew it.
I smiled nervously, “Um… I won’t say anything if you won’t.”
They didn’t say anything at all, just stared at me looking extremely annoyed.
“Okay then, enjoy yourselves.” I left and didn’t look back, hearing only their gasps and groans.
That stuff happens out here all the time, it’s really not a big deal unless the wrong people start to notice it. More often than not, the Soldiers that hook up in a combat theater are actually married, but not to each other. I always found it a little fucked up that we have to have briefings about rape and sexual harassment practically every other week because Soldiers can’t figure out that it’s not okay to hurt one other, but somehow consensual sex between two men in uniform is so taboo that people actually get in trouble over it. And y’know, cheating on your spouse who’s waiting for you back home is perfectly fine too… Bastards.
Welcome to the Army: If it makes sense, it’s probably wrong.
Ultimately, though, that just means I need to be all the more careful out here in where I know I’m not supposed to be. I was an MP long enough to know the difference between someone who was lost and someone who was “lost.” And by lost, I of course mean trespassing. I continued into the void of the night, looking over my shoulder periodically. After a long, flat clearing of rock and gravel that seemed to make an awful lot of noise with every step, I came upon a chain link fence skirted by rusty concertina wire.
Well fuck, there’s only one way over this stuff.
I stripped the patches off my ACU jacket, took it off and threw it over the wire. Without the patches, I can’t be identified as it’s owner if someone finds it, but it also means the jacket itself is ruined. Whatever, Soldier: Stick to the mission. Climbing and hopping the fence, I proceeded exploring the area as quietly as possible until I noticed something odd straight off the bat.
The gravel under my boots didn’t crack as loudly when I stepped on it here and I couldn’t hear the whirring of the generators. I could see headlights of vehicles driving on base in the distance, but I couldn’t hear their engines anymore. Oh this feels SO WRONG right now, my instincts are telling me to go back but I kept telling myself that I had come too far and that I had to at least LOOK for something relevant. I had no idea what, but I’d probably know about it when I saw it.
And then, I did see it: A narrow circle of concrete t-walls, the very tall ones usually reserved for the base exterior walls or dividers meant to protect something from blast debris. The walls are covered in a patchy black coating of something, it could have been accumulating soot from being so close tot he burn-pit, but there’s no logical reason for this structure to be here all by itself in such an obscure location. People take things to the burn-pit to destroy them, not to protect them.
The t-walls were sticky to the touch and arranged very tightly together to form a sort of column, I began walking in a brisk circle around it’s circumference and not seeing any gaps between them. Well, there was one, about large enough to maybe fit my head through and look. I stared into the middle of the enclosure, raised my flashlight above my head and scanned the interior: There was only a pile of burnt garbage in the middle of the enclosure, that was it.
No, hold on, that CAN’T be it.
THIS is what needed to be secured “A.S.A.P?” A pile of burnt trash among an even BIGGER pile of burnt trash?
That’s when I noticed two things: Unlike the filth-coated exterior walls, which had already stained parts of my skin and clothes on contact, the inside walls were almost spotless. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear this concrete structure was brand new.
Then the second thing.
The unscathed flash-drive atop the pile.
I couldn’t quite reach it.
I took the magazine out of my M-16 and attempted to knock it toward me with the butt-stock of the weapon. It’s a damn good thing no one can see me doing this, because the muzzle of the weapon is right at the base of my wrist, and it’s heavier than it looks. After two or three bumps without blowing my hand off, it comes tumbling close enough for me to reach down and pick it up, when some of the trash I jostled about fell from the top of the pile…
… to reveal a section of untouched cloth from some discontinued desert-cammo uniforms.
No one, literally NO ONE out here wears these anymore. How long has this pile been here and how come this flash-drive looks undamaged? Something IS fucked up about this place, but now that I got SOMETHING out of this trip I can finally leave now, and the sooner the better.
And no sooner did I stash the drive into the pocket of my ACU cap and re-sling my weapon, when I felt the wall of sand hit my face. It damn near knocked me flat on my ass, I reached for my cap to make sure it stayed on my head, and thankfully it did. I ran into the storm, but not very far before I made out the shape of my ACU jacket fluttering against the fence. I accidentally tore it in a few places trying to get it free, at this point I don’t even care about getting caught anymore. After the unsettling scene at the burn-pit, I just wanted to get back to my room and throw these ruined ACUs away. Getting caught might be a blessing in disguise, given the circumstances. There is no way in Hell I am going to be able to make my way back in this sandstorm alone.
This was a terrible idea.
I stumbled upon the road-side and found a concrete bunker I could duck into, hardly perfect cover but it sure beats being exposed out in the open. Once inside, I took the flash-drive out from my cap and took a quick look at the outer cover: It was sticky, but not like the t-walls. There was at one point a label affixed to one side that had since come off, but despite having sat out there for who knows how many years, the glue was still tacky to the touch. On the other side of the flash-drive, there were two words written hastily with a shaprie:
Sounds Latin, and kinda familiar. I know I’ve heard this phrase somewhere before, but right now it escapes me. I’ll have plenty of time to check out the drive’s contents when I get back to my room, but for now I just need to lie low until this storm passes and hope that no one noticed me. The wind wasn’t beating quite so hard on the inside of the bunker as the outside, I took the opportunity to pull out a smoke and try to light it. I need some good-ol’ “Vitamin N” before I lose my fucking mind.
It took two or three clicks of the lighter before I finally got a workable flame, I was well into getting a well-earned cherry on head of my cigarette … that I noticed the flame had illuminated something in my peripheral vision. Not just on one entrance of the bunker, but from both sides.
It wasn’t the storm playing tricks on my eyes.
I haven’t been drinking, either.
And no, there’s nothing “special” about my favorite brand of smokes.
I don’t care WHAT my personnel file says.
Those discontinued desert-cammo uniforms from the pile…
…were now wearing their discontinued boots.
I don’t remember what was going on or how long I was there, I don’t even remember getting into the back of an MP vehicle. But that’s where I woke up, with plastic zip-ties around my wrists and a huge cigarette burn on my shirt.
20-OCTOBER-2008 Joint Base Balad, Iraq
I’m not allowed to give briefings anymore, not for a while. On his way out of the hospital, Private Gerard sobbingly admitted that he was the one who put the picture in SFC Parvis’s truck. He had stumbled across some online forum, maybe a Facebook page, about bullshit urban legends like Slenderman, something with a really long title about “Normal Porn,” and a story about a psycho kid named Jeff… Come on, no one in their right mind thinks any of that shit is real, right? He said he got the idea from reading some discussions on the page, some of the members claiming to be current and former military obviously told him a screwed up kind of war story and maybe, in his desperation, he thought it was real. Whatever Parvis must have done to this kid, it must have been pretty serious for him to resort to actually trying out something he read about on the Internet somewhere, hoping that it would work.
Maybe in a weird way, it did. But it doesn’t matter for Gerard now, he’s on his way back to Arizona and being chaptered out of the Army for medical reasons. People are pissed off at me over it, even though there was no way for me to know he had this issue. All I did was ask him a question, there was no way for me to know that other NCOs had been pushing him as far as they did. I thought back to the note on the photo, “Not this again…” I guess Gerard isn’t alone in his desperation.
As for me, well, Top was already pretty on-edge about Gerard. So when the MPs carted my happy-ass to his doorstep at 0500 or so… the look on his face was almost kinda funny. I was forbidden from re-entering the office until “the smell was gone,” I assume he meant from my adventure in the burn-pit. I had to throw away that entire uniform ensemble, even my socks. I’ve been showering 3 times a day ever since the MPs released me, I still can’t get the stink of burning garbage out of my hair. I’m giving serious consideration to going all Demi Moore from GI Jane, but it’s technically against the rules for women to shave their heads according to Regulation AR 670-1.
But, y’know, trespassing and possible theft of government property are both fine.
I’m going to be under a very big microscope for the rest of my time in Iraq, I’m probably going to be on the roster for every single “random” piss-test for the rest of my military career after this. Top asked me if being an NCO was getting to me… I know what that means, I’m not stupid. As if by some miracle, there hasn’t been any official paperwork thrown at me, yet. The Army doesn’t exactly WANT female Soldiers, they’ve made that perfectly clear, but deep down they know that they need us. Especially female NCOs, there are too few of us and we’re too far in between. I think that’s the only thing saving me from getting shit-canned right now, and I’m in no position to complain, really.
I haven’t been able to bring myself to examine the contents of the flash-drive, I stashed it in my computer case as soon as I could and I can barely stand the thought of opening it. I stopped keeping the case under my bed and moved in into my locker. I know I’m being ridiculous, but the events of that night have me THAT freaked out about it. I don’t give a shit what that counselor says, bits of old cloth might fly around in a storm but they sure as shit don’t stand upright. ESPECIALLY with boots that no one has worn in-theater almost since the war began in ’03!
I want to let this all go, I really and truly do. I want nothing more than to forget this ever happened, go about the rest of the deployment without fucking up again, and move on with my life. Will that be possible as long as I’m in possession of this flash-drive, though?
1-DECEMBER-2008, F.O.B Warhorse, Iraq
I’ve managed to stay under the radar for a bit, but Top had me transferred to this hole-in-the-fucking-dirt Forward Observing Base. The food isn’t as nice, facilities for females are sketchy to the point of being non-existent, but he hasn’t yanked my rank, soooo… again, I can’t complain. I’m not here by myself, at least. One of the usual smoke-break crew is out here with me, Gerard’s friend, the new guy who didn’t say anything after we all found out about Parvis. He was a little stand-offish at first, but it turns out he’s a decent guy. This is also his second deployment, as well. I’m glad I’m not stuck out here with a bunch of noobs fresh out of A.I.T, the few young Soldiers who came out here with us seem to be adjusting well, for the most part. Sure, things get scary when indirect fire comes in, but they’ve been pretty lucky here in that there hasn’t been a whole lot of serious action at Warhorse.
It may be dull, but it may be just the reprieve I need to figure all of this out.
It took me a fair bit, but I finally worked up the nerve to dig out that flash-drive I found. It’s still sticky on the surface, still smells bad, too. My computer is an old piece-of-shit Compaq laptop, so if a virus fried it, I wouldn’t have been too bummed out about having to replace it like I’ve been meaning to do anyway. Every time I read the lettering on this thing, I swear it feels like it knows I’m holding it.
Fuck it, time to get this over with. What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen? Is a creepy Japanese bitch going to crawl out of my screen and attack me?
I plugged it into my computer, it read the drive just fine.
I ran quick virus-scan on it just to be sure, didn’t find anything.
Hmm, so far so good. No blue-screens or tentacles popping out.
Just three folders: Two with people’s names, probably personnel files, and a folder just marked with the Roman numerals signifying the number 6, a big bold VI.
The name on the first folder was Giles. It belonged to a Warrant Officer, an ordinary looking dude from somewhere on the coast of Massachusetts. Impressive record, for the most part: Time in Iraq and Afghanistan, did some consulting in Kuwait not long after 9/11, he had a Master’s degree and a super-ridiculously high security clearance. Should I be reading this or even talking about this guy? Damn, better not show this to CID…
The name on the second folder was Leveau. Another female Soldier, a rank of Specialist. Her record said she was from the outlying areas of New Orleans, but hadn’t lived there since Katrina. Her record mentioned something about her interest in the arts, she had some previous years of college but never finished. Nothing extraordinary or particularly attention-grabbing, and from the look of it not really a trouble-maker either, so what do the two have in common?
Are there some details in the third folder? The one designated VI?
Am I absolutely sure I want to open this?
There was one file in the folder, and ordinary .pdf document. Sure enough, it was an incident report dated from 2003. Apparently, these two were caught together in a rather… shall I just say, embarrassing manner. According to the report, no one is sure how long they were seeing each other, but Officers and Enlisted aren’t supposed to be that involved with each other according to the rules. Sure, this kind of thing happens sometimes, but was this really worth throwing into a pile of trash to be burned? The file said they they were both in the process of being officially legally processed, they were both detained and being held at…
…Joint Base Balad. Wait, what?
The file also said that before official proceedings could begin, they both escaped and committed suicide somewhere in an isolated area of J.B.B… near the burn-pit. The report was signed by Leveau’s Commanding Officer, an man named Major Summerfield.
Okay, THIS is what the fuss was about? A couple of lonely grown adults were caught fucking and killed themselves? The report didn’t explain any details about their alleged escape, nor the method used in their mutual self-termination. I can’t imagine that two people who had just been hailed off to jail would have access to their firearms so easily, so I’m pretty sure they didn’t shoot themselves.
Something’s not right about this, any of it.
As soon as I closed the report, another document emerged. I guess you have to read the first one before the other becomes active, but… that seems really silly. There was no visible icon, just the usual highlighted blue field and the text bearing only it’s name:
The second I saw it’s title, every nerve, muscle and instinct in my body was begging me, almost PLEADING WITH ME not to open it the file. The floor felt like it fell out from under me and I could have fallen into the depths of the Earth itself, and yet here it was plain as day right in front of my face. I became so tense that I was struggling to swallow, and nothing had even happened yet! I swear I could almost hear my brain yelling at me, “Don’t do it, don’t you dare fucking do it!”
Something else, though, despite my own best efforts to fight the urge, was compelling me. I held my breath for a second, closed my eyes and tried to gather myself. Surely, this is no more dangerous than anything else I’ve done out here so far, yes? As long as I’m in my room by myself, not out roaming around in the middle of the night making trouble… What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen? I’ve gone through too much to just give up now.
There’s no sound, just a series of papers falling down flat in front of the camera. Like someone is dropping them within the frame on purpose, maybe someone wants me to read them. They look real enough, the sound of ruffled stacks of paper seemed authentic. The first paper that I could make out clearly read “Autopsy Report” at the top, it bore an Army insignia stamp at the top right-hand side. The smaller text was indecipherable, but the camera crept a bit closer. The next paper, presumably the next page, showed a few marginal comments and notes written on it. I couldn’t make out all of it, but some sections of the report were underlined with a thick pen with a small note next to it on the side, all ending with a giant question mark. The next page, the same thing, more notations and more question marks. The NEXT page, one big note scrawled at the bottom of it, “Suicide?”
The next page had a small photo clipped to it. The resolution on my screen wasn’t so good, but I instantly recognized what it was: Two dead Soldiers, a man and a woman.
Both wearing now out-dated, discontinued desert-cammo.
More papers, more somewhat pixelated images of the scene, the camera creeping ever slowly closer. More notes scrawled on the pages, “This can’t be correct,” more questions in the margins, this time with a red pen. The next page, a photo of the dead man. There’s so much blood soaked in through his shirt-collar I almost couldn’t make out his rank. It was the Warrant Officer, this must be Giles. A note at the bottom, “So, he bashed his OWN skull in?”
Next picture, the woman. She’s lying on her stomach with her head rolled to one side. Her hair is tied back, but very messed up like someone tried to pull it out. Her natural red hair is so matted up from dried blood and sand from the ground, it almost looks like one solid… thing, on her head. I can’t see her face clearly, there’s a huge dried-up stain from her blood soaking into the ground. Another note at the bottom, “Blunt trauma to the head from behind, no weapon found.”
The next photo, the expression on Giles’s face when they found him. Once blue eyes now clouded up to a pale grey, porcelain white skin spotted with his own dried up blood. The inside of his mouth was starting to turn blue, highlighting where a few of his teeth that had been knocked out.
The next photo, Leveau is rolled onto her back exposing the garish abrasion wound on her face: Something hit her so hard, it tore a massive section of skin right off and exposed the pulpy flesh of her entire cheek. I won’t be eating any meat for a while, not after seeing that.
Next photo, Giles’s body is covered in boot-prints, they vary in size.
Next photo, Leveau’s wrist was twisted so hard that it broke, flopped on it’s side like a dead fish.
There’s no way in Hell they did this to themselves.
The photos were coming slightly faster, there were no more notes on them. Just pictures of their battered, violated bodies. Photo after photo, details of horrific injuries and close ups of seemingly random features. Next photo, Giles’s clouded eyes framed by the darkening skin of his eye-lids. Next photo, Leveau’s mouth is propped open slightly to emphasize the extent of the wound on her face. Next photo, dried blood. Next photo, Leveau’s eyes. Next photo, Giles’s hand reaching for Leveau. Next photo…
The second I went to close my lap-top, the next sequence of the video began: A conversation between six men, more Soldiers. All wearing the old desert-cammo. They were gathered around one standing in the center, a middle aged black man wearing an Officer’s rank patch. From his age and the coloration of the insignia, I’m guessing that he’s a Major. Is this Major Summerfield? The other five stood quietly while only one other spoke to him, the conversation was garbled and distorted. I could just make out a few words being said by the Soldiers, intermittent mention of “betrayal,” “Humiliating,” and the one that made my stomach tighten, but I’m all to familiar with, “SLUT!”
But what sickened me even more, was the expression on the Major’s face when that word came out of someone’s mouth. A cocked eyebrow, and then… a nod. The only words out of the Major’s mouth I could make out were “I’ve never liked doing paperwork on people.” He sighed, glancing down at the floor, “Let’s try something a bit more effective.”
I think I just realized something. I think I know what, more appropriately WHO, killed the two.
What am I still doing with this flash-drive? I should bring it to the MPs… wait, and tell them how I came about finding it? But I can’t just do nothing at all, and so I went to pull the drive from my laptop when my computer’s volume skyrocketed with anguished and panicked screaming. My screen went berserk flashing choppy footage of a man being forcibly restrained, getting kicked and stomped on. A woman, also forcibly restrained by two other men, being repeatedly punched in her face and abdomen.
I hit every key I could think of and nothing would happen, their screams were so loud that my laptop actually started to vibrate on my desk, each wet smacking sound actually made it move a little. Holy shit just stop! NO MORE! Jesus, this is fucking awful! I couldn’t power it down, I couldn’t make it stop, it just wouldn’t stop!
It didn’t want to, THEY didn’t want to.
They WANTED ME to see this.
Out of sheer panic, I started smashing my own laptop with the stock of my M-16. A few sparks and shards of plastic, but no more screams. No more fucked up photos of their corpses, no more back-room deals of vigilante violence, no… more…
I have to say something to someone. If I don’t, I’m probably going to lose my mind.
Turns out I didn’t have to, though.
The new guy, the quiet guy, had come to see me and I must not have heard him come in.
He startled me a bit, I was about to explain the situation when I noticed the tears in his eyes.
“I knew she didn’t kill herself.” He wept.
Is this shit ever going to stop?
28-DECEMBER-2008 F.O.B Warhorse, Iraq
I had been talking to the new guy, he was never exactly a new guy, he’d been in the Army for a while actually. At his highest rank, he was an E-6: Staff Sergeant. That was back in 2004. He knew SPC Leveau, they were in the same unit but in different Companies. They were classmates in A.I.T, they both arrived at their duty stations at the same time and both deployed to Iraq not long after the invasion.
They were friends.
He didn’t know Chief Giles all that well, he wasn’t officially attached to their mission but rather he would come by as something of a consultant for operations. He had no idea how Giles and Leveau met, but he knew that they were happy. Sure, Officers and Enlisted aren’t supposed to hook up… but who could blame two people for seeking some measure of warmth and comfort, some measure of sanity, in this sometimes Hellish place?
The only reason he knew about them seeing each other was because she confided in him, he said the smile on her face was enormous whenever she talked about him. New guy was married at the time, and thankfully NOT a douchebag, and so he didn’t pursue Leveau for a relationship and seemed genuinely happy that she had found someone.
Then she went off to meet him one night, and never returned.
The day she vanished, other Soldiers were looking mighty smug about something and a few were even giving each other high-fives. Leveau’s roommate, who supposedly was the one who turned them over to Major Summerfield, went on about lust and adultery being dreadful sins and that she needed to be “punished” for it. But according to the files, neither of them were married. Not to each other, not to anyone.
The military is full of Jesus-Freaks, some more zealous than others. I’d like to think that she didn’t know what she had actually done to them. In any case, Jesus doesn’t strike me as the type of guy who’d be down with murdering two people for being in love. Then again, there’s the entire Old Testament to consider…
For the rest of that deployment, Soldiers kept either dying or going nuts.
The first guy who died was ripped apart after a nasty explosion, even though he was the one standing farthest from the hidden road-side bomb when it detonated. The next guy was forcibly pulled out of a port-a-john after he had locked himself inside of it all night, and from the description he was built like Schwarzenegger. It took six MPs to drag him outside, all the while screaming “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Take it, take it YOU CAN HAVE IT!” as he had ripped off chunks of his own skin. Major Summerfield said it was drugs, he spent the rest of his life homeless before he eventually killed himself. The Jesus-Freak roommate was found face down in a pool of her own blood at the doors of the base chapel… figures. Her uniform was full of weird holes that looked like something punctured the fabric, but didn’t break her skin.
When I asked him how many, aside from the roommate, that either died or lost their minds, he hesitated for a moment.
“I think there were five.” He whimpered, “Six if you want to count the roommate, but they each went home either in straight-jackets or body bags.”
“Who was the big dude apologizing to? The one who was dragged out of the toilet?” He shook his head, “I had no idea at the time.”
“Had?” I asked, “Do you have one NOW?”
He nodded, the tears came back.
“Yes, Sergeant, I do.” And he pointed at the fucked up flash-drive. “Leveau had a deck of Tarot cards, I found her deck the day after she went missing. I had to grab something of hers before they guys came by and bagged her stuff up, I knew… I just knew that something awful had happened to her, but no one would say anything to me. It ate me up inside the entire time I was deployed, I eventually, well… gave Major Summerfield a piece of my mind on her disappearance and here I am now just an E-3. My wife left me after my demotion, I guess she loved the pay-grade more than she did me.”
“What did he look like?”
“Oh, black dude in his forties. Not very talkative unless he’s in the center-stage and hates doing paperwork.”
Hates doing paperwork, so it was him in the footage…
“Where is he now?”
He sighed, “Retired as a Colonel, didn’t deserve to. He lives in Florida with his second wife and step kids. After we came home from THAT shit-storm, he was transferred elsewhere. Leveau’s family kept writing him angry letters and e-mails, he never answered a single one.”
I can’t say I’m at all surprised. There are some “leaders” in the Army, Officers or NCOs, that want all of the attention and “respect” but not one ounce of responsibility. I see it every day, assholes like Parvis and probably thousands of others. This was starting to make sense now, everyone who got a card or a picture with a couple’s faces burned out of it were people in positions of authority. Had I known about this earlier in my career, I probably would have saved myself A LOT of trouble. I know, that’s not a nice thing to say, especially right now. I’m starting to not care anymore.
“Why a photo or The Lovers’ card? How did THAT start?” I asked him, hoping he wouldn’t know.
And that’s when he started choking up, his face turned red and his face began to twitch. With a gasp, he tried to regain his composure.
“Because I was the first one who did it.”
Did he really just say this? He started crying even harder.
“What… the fuck are you talking about?”
“I was just… After weeks of not seeing or hearing from Leveau, I got so upset. She loved Giles so much, she hated having to hide it but they didn’t have much of a choice. No one really CHOOSES who they love, so I can see why having to keep it a secret ate her up inside. One day I just kind of ‘accepted’ that I’d never see her again, and after all the horrifying shit I had been hearing about how their bodies were found, of course I was angry! I…”
His eyes went blank and he stared off into space for a second, after a strained gasp he regained his thoughts.
“I took out The Lovers’ card and burned out their faces, I knew they were dead. Nobody would tell me, they didn’t exactly have to at that point. I was angry, it was kinda my own way of expressing my anger about it. At first I blamed them for, well, leaving me. I blame Major Summerfield for ending their lives, ending THEM… and maybe this sounds selfish, but for taking my friend away from ME.” He stared at the floor, tears falling onto it in steady little streams. “Would it have been so hard for him to have just done his fucking job? Suck it up, write out the paperwork and send them both home? Kick them out? No, let’’s murder them instead! THAT’S PERFECTLY FINE!” He was so upset he was shouting, and starting to scare me a little.
“I have to ask,” I sank into my desk-chair a little, I was very scared, “What did you do with the card you burned?”
“Bible-bitch took it from me, snatched it right out of my hands. I told her to leave me the fuck alone, I just wanted to work this all out for myself, but… some nonsense about fortune-tellers and sin. She never gave it back to me, she never had the chance. They found her in a blood-puddle two days later. No witnesses, no fingerprints, no external wounds. Not a thing.”
He stood up, collected himself and made for the door.
“I think I have to go.”
That was the last thing he ever said to me. The last time anyone saw him was a week before Christmas at the post office, said he had a Christmas card he needed to mail out, then after he did so he went back into his room and decided to dine on his M-16.
The card he mailed out went to Major Summerfield.
The only reason we found this out is because his wife found his body in their backyard yesterday, according to an e-mail from Brigade. No strange sounds, no animal bites, no external wounds.
They found him in his favorite deck-chair in the covered porch, lying there in a bathrobe that had a bunch of holes in it, clutching a printed stock photo of a seemingly ordinary couple with both of their faces completely burned out.
7-JANUARY-2009 Camp Liberty, Iraq
Our operations at F.O.B Warhorse have been shut down until further notice, all of our personnel were given orders to leave a few days after the suicide. They rounded us up at this megaplex of a base in Baghdad, we have to report in for formations twice a day and no one is allowed to go anywhere alone. Top has gotten weird about people disappearing ever since our C.O died, but the events at Warhorse didn’t help things.
Presumably, as a gesture of trust, Top put me in charge of a small group of Soldiers and told me to make sure they didn’t go anywhere they weren’t supposed to, “like the burn-pit.”
Yes, he actually said that.
Haha, First Sergeant made a funny joke.
I’ve barely slept a wink ever since I opened that flash-drive, which despite coughing up the money for a brand new laptop, I haven’t been able to re-open since. Every time I plug it in, it just comes up as being empty. I’d have the other I.T geeks take a crack at it, but… not sure if it’s worth torturing them with whatever the fuck this is. Or worse, getting them killed over it.
I’m up to a pack and a half a day, no matter what I eat it always tastes disgusting. I even tried going cold turkey for a few days to see if my cigs were messing with my sense of taste, no effect.
We’re not even a third of the way done with this deployment and everyone already seems at their wit’s end. This could very well be wishful thinking on behalf of some of the troops, but there’s talk of sending people home early, notably anyone directly affected by the recent deaths. I’m thinking of volunteering to go, but so far it’s just a rumor.
A few days ago, I went to the shoppette for some snacks and a book, some things to keep myself entertained until this whole thing blows over (assuming it ever will.) Every shoppette has an aisle or a display table full of home decor type stuff, items to give Soldiers a taste of home. This one had a few desk-top photo frames for sale, one model had token pre-printed images of a happy couple that came with them.
There were only three or four of these things left, the others barely look like anyone had touched them at all. I bought one. I haven’t done anything with it just yet, I might not do anything at all.
This may be a foolhardy assumption on my part, but I think that says something about the power of fear in a closed social system like the Army. People who feel crushed by the weight of administrative incompetence or authoritarian abuses that they reach the point of desperation. It makes perfect sense why people resort to destroying some of these top-heavy, brass-grabbing figureheads that they can’t otherwise reason with or work around, usually they wind up doing it Fort Hood style: In a closed society where everyone is presumed guilty of something, I guess the only true crime is being caught.
Just like Giles and Leveau.
I think I’m starting to understand not only why their spirits can’t seem to rest, but why they’ve taken to killing people who misuse their positions, just like Major Summerfield. However, they have to be… I can’t believe I’m about to seriously say this and believe it, but… summoned.
I get it. I understand now. And I don’t think I can blame them.
18-FEBRUARY-2009 Camp Liberty, Iraq
Word from back home is that SFC Parvis finally killed himself: After a few more incidents of attacking his team of doctors, they took to sedating him regularly. After about a week and a half of this, he took his bed-sheet and twisted it around his neck until he basically strangled himself to death. This is going to sound awful, but given my history with him as my supervising NCO, I’m having a difficult time feeling bad for the guy. Still, suicide is an agonizing death any way you slice it.
Which got me thinking, if HE got a photo and that dude who locked himself in the port-a-john… Those two both LIVED, at least for a time, so what did they do differently?
It took me a while, but I think I have an idea:
For the most part, nobody truly WANTS to die. I’ve seen Soldiers under fire ducking behind cars or any kind of cover they can find while pleading someone or something, anything, for forgiveness. About half the time they call out for their mothers, it’s a basic psychology thing. They realize their own mortality, so some of them feel a need to kind of… repent, beg forgiveness for mistakes made. I don’t believe in God, but I have to admit, having seen these two… beings, including what they’re capable of, my mind is open to possibilities.
I still have that cheap little photo frame, but I can’t bring myself to do anything with it.
That flash-drive still won’t work anymore, I don’t know why I bothered keeping it.
My request to be sent home with the other grieving Soldiers was denied. Either they genuinely need the power of my estrogen-infused presence, or they’re punishing me still for Gerard’s mishap and my little adventure at the Balad burn-pit. Whatever, I survived one tour in this shit-hole already, I’ll just have to find a way to survive this trip.
3-APRIL-2009 Camp Liberty, Iraq
Since when are random bands of bored NCOs not worth their rank-patches allowed to barge into random rooms and do health-and-welfare searches?!?! This cock-bite came banging on my door just as I was getting ready to leave for the next formation without saying who he is or who he’s with, then when I answer the door he just pushed right past me like I wasn’t even there! Two of his subordinates tried to grab me, I managed to Sparta-Kick one of them back out the door and then that’s when mr big-stuff FINALLY decided to tell me that my room is being searched for contraband. Hey, I’m a female Soldier with a room entirely to myself and for all I know someone with ulterior motives is trying to break in, what would YOU think?
He was searching my stuff for about an hour, ripped my room the fuck apart, all he found were my smokes and my vibrator. Hey, I’m an adult and I have needs, too… Then he stands at my doorstep looking out at me like he was disappointed that that was all he found. He wanted to confiscate my favorite toy, but I guess he didn’t care for my proposition of letting him borrow it as long as he washed it off before he gave it back.
After he huffed and threw it back into the room, he muttered something about having a talk with my First Sergeant, and walked off smoking MY CIGARETTES with his cronies like he owns the entire damp encampment.
Thanks for making me miss morning formation, ass-bag.
Don’t worry, Sergeant whoever-the-fuck-you-think-you-are…
I’ve SO got you.
I’ll have a little present waiting for you next time, after I finish cleaning this up I’m going to “wrap it for you” and you’d better hope to God I don’t find out where your office is before I leave it in your desk drawer.
I Googled what the phrase Vae Victis means, it is Latin after all. Basically it means “woe upon the vanquished.” Some barbarian conqueror first said it after his troops successfully sacked Rome and some of the aristocrats had the gall to come crying to him about it.
I guess that was his way of saying “Fuck you and your fucking city, you fucking lost so GET OVER IT!”
Well, fuck you, too, buddy.
Vae fucking Victis!
10-APRIL-2009 Camp Liberty, Iraq
Top swears up and down that no one matching the description I gave him came to see him, but that a few other female Soldiers within the Company came to him voicing similar complaints. Unfortunately, none of them thought to get his name. I’m hoping that none of them were injured in the process, guys like that can be… dangerous. Many of the girls have requested new living arrangements because they’re scared, I don’t blame them at all. Top said he’ll look into it, but it might be a while.
I told him I could make room for one in my quarters, he said he’ll think about it.
It’s been a few days and this guy hasn’t come back, which is good because the last thing I need is one more reason to lose precious sleep, which I’m still be rely able to do still. When there aren’t bombs or rockets being thrown over the wire at us, I swear I’m still hearing those sickening screams in my head. Sergeant Douchebag who ransacked my room seemed to have completely missed the flash-drive as well as the then unused photo frame.
So yeah, I took the liberty of modifying the couple’s picture for him as a little “welcome back gift.” Or maybe I can’t just hand it to him, maybe he needs to find it? If so, I need to either find out where his Area of Operation is and make sure he gets it, or just stuff it somewhere in my room until he comes back. IF he comes back.
I feel like I’m sitting right on top of an IED, I still can’t believe I actually MADE ONE OF THESE! What am I supposed to do with it if I never see him again? Should I burn it? Maybe I should just take it outside and burn it right now… or will that just make something else happen? How do I know that they won’t just come after ME? I’m not so sure I want to encounter those two again, even though they didn’t physically hurt me the first time around, or the second, I probably should have thought about that before I burned the faces out of that stock-photo.
I was pretty pissed off when I did it, too. Maybe it needs the rage in order to work, maybe they feed of off it and use it to kill their victims.
I don’t know, I’m not sure that I WANT to know anymore.
I just want to go home.
17-MAY-2009 Camp Buehring, Kuwait
I can’t find it!
A few days after our re-deployment briefing, I was packing up my stuff to make my way out of this awful place. I’m certain that I packed it with my personal stuff, I checked on it daily! I kept it face-down with some of my books, and now I CAN’T FIND IT ANYWHERE!
What if someone else finds it and they die? Will… THEY kill an innocent person? Can they tell the difference between an asshole and an ordinary guy? I already know that they can operate outside of the Middle East when Summerfield got what he had coming, but … can they follow people? If so, I think I’ve drawn their attention plenty already.
Why do I feel like that IED I’ve been sitting on, waiting until that bastard came back, is about to go off?
I’ve been trying to keep myself distracted until it turns up. The others like to go off to the USO to play video games, but I just don’t feel like going anywhere. The last thing I want to do is play Call Of Duty with a bunch of macho meat-heads, for many of them that’s the closest they’ll ever come to seeing actual combat. Psh… then they have the nerve to go on about women not being able to hack it in the Army.
I’m too tired and too fucked up in the head right now to argue about it, I haven’t slept a wink since we got to Kuwait. It’s probably the sleep-deprivation, but I’m seeing shit out of the corners of my eyes and I swear on my life, it looks like flashes of old desert-cammo.
I’ve been trying to keep my mind occupied by reading books and playing games on my new laptop, I have a SNES emulator and some games that I used to play as a girl. I’m trying to kill the dread that keeps creeping up in my mind with cutesy shit like Mario and crappy Disney games, but it doesn’t seem to work. One minute I’m playing the old Sim City on my computer, the next, I see my old C.O on the screen, being repeatedly assailed by two pale figures, thrusting their hands… right into him. Right THROUGH his uniform… and inside his writhing body.
One time I was checking my e-mail, I was interrupted by two pairs of clouded eyes staring back at me, INTO me… followed by a blue-screen.
I have to find that picture, A.S.A.P.
20-MAY-2009 Camp Buehring, Kuwait
I still can’t find the picture.
I’ve been ordered to go to the clinic on the other side of camp. Apparently, I struck a Soldier who was trying to wake me for PT. I don’t remember doing it, and I apologized to him, he said he thought I was having a nightmare, but… so yeah, they gave me some valium.
I’m still afraid, even though I know I’m going home soon.
Valium doesn’t make you happy or sane, it just makes you not care anymore.
1-JUNE-2009 Camp Buehring, Kuwait
We’re getting on the plane tomorrow, thank God.
I can hear two people walking around the tents at night.
Everything I touch feels sticky.
I’ve gotta find that photo and get the fuck outta here!
2-JUNE-2009 Rammstein Air Force Base, Germany
I brought my assault-pack with me on the plane and took it into the bathroom during our re-fuel stop here in Germany, my pills are in there.
I went into the ladies’ room within the holding area to go take a piss followed by my meds.
You’re never going to believe what I found at the bottom of the main compartment.
Please, please whatever MP or CID guy reading this… don’t open that flash-drive! I don’t care who orders you to do it, don’t… fucking… open it. A Courts-Martial will be nothing compared to what they’ll do
CID Report: 3rd of June, 2009.
Deceased is a 28-year-old Caucasian female, rank of Sergeant (E-5) returning home from a particularly difficult deployment in Iraq. Other Soldiers describe the victim as bull-headed and mischievous, but an otherwise decent NCO who started showing signs of mental distress after the deaths of two people in the Company while deployed. Both deaths were ruled non-combat related, one an alleged homicide with no conclusive evidence as to what happened.
Body was found when a Soldier was sent to retrieve her well after boarding call. No screams were heard, so signs of a struggle have been observed, witnesses don’t recall anyone following her to the restroom. It should also be noted that the entire restroom surfaces, especially around the body, are sticky to the touch and there’s an almost overwhelming odor of burnt trash. Soldier’s supervising NCO told a story of a mishap at a burn-pit site in Iraq.
Victim’s uniform is full of hand-sized puncture-holes but there are no external wounds on the body itself. Bluing of the skin around the abdomen and noticeable amounts of blood emitted from her mouth, nose and ears, indicate massive internal injuries.
Found among the deceased: An assault pack full of books, a computer and some personal hygiene items. A photograph was found face down with the body, a paper image of a man and woman in an embrace, but their faces appear to have been burnt out with a lighter (victim appears to have been a heavy smoker.)
Aside from a hastily written journal entry, which has already been bagged for evidence, only one other object of interest was found among the deceased’s belongings.
A slightly damaged flash-drive with some Latin words written on it in place of a label:
Credit To – Egodram
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17 thoughts on “Vae Victis”
Too long & dragging for my liking. I got bored less than half-way through. I prefer my pastas short ‘n’ snappy. Just my own opinion; this one is not to my taste.
A nice change from the usual pastas, I like that this isn’t just a copy from another storyline. Nice job OP! Keep up the good work.
A good pasta, but a bit too long for my liking
I don’t know what the phrase “Vae Victis” had to do with the story. The phrase was the reason I clicked on the story since I was already familiar with it. I was introduced to the phrase many years ago in the Legacy of Kain video game series, since it was often said by Kain (the protagonist or antagonist depending which game in the series you are playing). Perhaps the author was just fond of the phrase and wanted to use it in a story? Regarding the story, I found it interesting but not particularly scary. It seemed to drag in some parts but I never had to struggle to finish it. I disliked the ending as well. Overall though, well written for the most part.
A few comments. Overall the writing was decent. There were a few errors, but for a story this long the amount was very low, so well done on that. I find it hard to believe that anyone would want someone to die just because they did a H&W inspection of their room. First of all, the military is allowed to do H&W inspections. I’ve had to undergo a few myself. While it does feel like an invasion of privacy, it is also something that you signed up for when you signed your contract. Secondly, I know he wasn’t officially doing it, but she didn’t know that. Right after he left, before she found out that it wasn’t by order of the CO, she was already plotting using the photo. I lost all sympathy for her at that point.
I also felt that the story was too long. It dragged and dragged. Good job developing and unraveling the mystery behind the couple, but it just took too long. Like someone else said, I had to force myself to finish it.
Two final comments. While I disagree with just about every political view expressed by your protag, I’m not so closed-minded that I couldn’t keep reading. Injecting your personal views into your story is fine, but it requires a more subtle approach. Everytime I read one of them I was yanked right out of the story because they were so ham-fistedly dropped in there.
And lastly, if you’re going to use acronyms, make sure you keep your audience in mind. Not everyone is going to know what all of them mean. I’m in the Navy, so I caught the majority of them, but I have no idea what TRADOC is. When I read it I thought to myself, “What is TRADOC?” Again, I was removed from the story, which is not what you want, obviously. Typically what you want to do is introduce the whole phrase first, then use the acronym form that point on. “They went to Advanced Individual Training together. Even at AIT he was a douche.” Something like that.
7/10 for all the reasons mentioned above. Thanks for the story and happy writing!
perbonus (very good in Latin)
A creepy concept. Made a battle break out between my adventurous spirit and my cautious nature. Needless to say, my lighter is staying in my pocket. Great story.
It reminds me of some of the crap that goes on in prisons.Good story-kept me interested.That ass stole her cigarettes, and was gonna take her vibrator too…not cool.
As a female, I picked up some massive sexism. I never had a problem with the males in my unit or in general at all as being hateful towards women soldiers.
Aside from this, I thought the story was amazing. It was well written and detailed everything. My brother was deployed to Balad twice, I think he would get a kick out of this story as well.
Oh good, the ‘it didn’t happen to me so the problem doesn’t exist’ defense. Because your one anecdote really cancels out the experience and statistics for the rest of the world.
And it takes some mental gymnastics to turn a female protagonist dealing with sexism into the STORY ITSELF being sexist. Do you also think people describing when someone’s been racist to them makes THEM racist just for acknowledging it? I mean, what?!
Where in Amanda’s comment did they explicitly say the story was sexist? All I saw was someone sharing their own experience. She didn’t deny it happens, just that she didn’t personally witness the same. Unless there was a reply here before yours, the only jumping-to-conclusions I see is your own.
I’m going to jump in here, given that I had to read/approve this whole comment tree:
“As a female, I picked up some massive sexism.”
I assume this could be taken as calling the story sexist.
I mostly just wanted to reply to you and combo-break anyone who wanted to reply as Not Not Lily, though, because I’m mean.
WAY to long. Not scary. Really had to make myself finish reading it. Just boring really.
Aaaahhhhhh this was so good!!! Also I used to live on fort hood. What a shit hole. Anyway, this was amazing! 10/10!!!
I absolutely adore the few military themed pastas I consume here. Being s diabetic, I was never able to join, though I had wanted to for years. Thank you author, for an amazing read.
Awesome pasta :D Took me a while to read, but it was pretty cool. Not as much scary as creepy, and kind of very sad. In my eye, definately a 10/10. Lots of work was put into this.
Holy shit that’s a long pasta o.o Mr Admin, are you sure you didn’t post a novel?