A fragment of the forthcoming zine coming out in early November.
The shells exploded over head and his group sat solemnly in the cave as dust fell in strands like filaments of spider’s webs from the ceiling, playing cards, talking in hushed tones about what they imagined was going on their hometowns, about women they had become in tangled with on their latest foray, and more often than most, what they would do when their dirty job was done. It was always the same. The guys in the group would change, but the conversations always remained as the glow of lamps dotted the jagged interior.
It was hot, the air felt stale and stagnant, and Gary, one of the group, had a desire to shed himself of this musty cavern and breathe some fresh air. He was normally a somewhat talkative, affable fellow, but he could not summon the will to join his comrades in their latest recitation. He had been thinking about his own marriage that was crumbling while he sat in the darkness; immobile, inactive, powerless to do anything. Waiting. The minutes marked out by the booming cacophony outside. He desperately longed for this assignment to be over, but it dragged on slower than ever. Time stood still, an infinite hell of it, that he could live out a lifetime of fear and regret over and over again.
Gary, although battle hardened, wasn’t exactly like the other members of his group. He had been on a fair few missions, but he didn’t revel in the bloodlust. He wasn’t mesmerized by the sexual asteria and the sheer carnage that their outings afforded. The macabre landscapes as if orchestrated by Bosch and a crimson tide of death that was left in their wake, but he wasn’t jaded and hollow inside. He held on to his humanity, gripping tightly at the vestiges. The others were all but lost: they saw themselves as the righteous might of God, the horsemen of the apocalypse and all they encountered were subject to their judgment. They drank deep of the cup of wrath; it was an aphrodisiac to them. But to Gary, war was just a job like any other necessary evil in this world, and love was a real and tangible thing.
This was to be his last excursion and it couldn’t end soon enough for him. And then from nowhere Gary’s watch went off like an angel descending from on high; it was time and they were on the move again. They wrapped up their faces and started their trek across the dark terrain. They dared not utter a word, and the night was silent after a few miles except for the dry cursed earth cracking beneath their footsteps and the occasional thunder in the distance from whence they came. It was quiet, but there was no time to think. You were always on your guard, but he couldn’t help thinking that his last paycheck wouldn’t completely finish paying for his kid’s college, but it would come close. He might have lost his wife, but his kid would be well off.
After almost a week of the same, they had found themselves at their destination. They buried their weapons outside of city and made their way through the winding corridors to butcher’s street for a night’s rest, the last night…and a bath. They paired off into rooms to keep a lookout for each other. Gary had never spent so long without a bath in his entire life. A young girl with a long braid of dark hair came to the room with a large copper basin of scented water. From her features, she was barely more than a teenager. Gary started to undress but the girl didn’t leave. Instead, she started helping him to disrobe. She grabbed a small cloth and began bathing him. Her small lathe fingers and delicate features… She was young enough to be his daughter. He tried not to think about it, but it was obvious that she was assuming more was expected of her. He stopped her after a few minutes of “washing” his member when it started to become rigid. He put on a clean kurta and went down to eat, giving his roommate some privacy.
Gary returned to the darkened room some hours later to the sounds of sex. He didn’t try to turn on the lights, but crept over to his bed and slipped under the cover. He didn’t want to see the little girl, but he looked over anyway. He saw her dark tear stained eyes staring at him in the darkness. He had figured that Billy wouldn’t have given up a chance to satisfy his carnal desires. The little girl didn’t move under his rhythmic thrusts. She laid there seemingly petrified with fear. Gary turned away and went to sleep, dreaming about how he would be home sleeping in his own bed by tomorrow night. It was over.
Gary woke early, it was still black outside. He didn’t look toward the bed beside his. He collected the few possessions. He put his watch in his pocket and strapped his knife to his leg before going down for coffee. This would give time for his roommate to say his goodbyes to last night’s company, but upon his return they weren’t roused.
A dim light barely shown over the horizon, and Gary’s insides began to twist. He felt nauseated. His roommate was still asleep, facedown in the pillow. His body was half covering the little girl from last night. She laid there still staring in the direction of my bed, but her eyes weren’t black and tearful. They were grey and lifeless. Gary pulled his knife from its sheath and slid it under the base of Billy’s skull…
(To be continued in LeRoi Gary’s CHANGES #1 out early November.)