The story so far:
I admit, I really thought when I enlisted that I would be one step ahead of the other boys in my unit because of my expansive gaming experience. After, all I knew the first-person shooters through and through. I had mastered being able to jump around my enemy while holding my crosshairs steady on his forehead, rendering him confused and shooting wildly while I had a one strike kill. I knew the order in which characters spawned after they were killed, so I would run from place to place, killing enraged players before they were able to take one step. Then I’d insultingly type “n00b” and move on to the next victim.
However, when faced with the monster from Company B, I realized that, A, I could not jump around and expect to keep my sights on him, and, B, I would not kill him, let alone stalk a respawning site, let alone respawn myself. There were no extra lives.
The thing seemed to crawl in slow motion with its lanky appendages, legs that were too long for its torso, and its lips curled into a sneer, revealing the blood-stained teeth with strings of flesh flapping like helpless beings each time he exhaled, and they seemed to wave at me to run, a message from Joshua from the grave.
So I obliged.
I ran outside with M-16 in tow and looked behind me and saw the thing was not following me, but had targeted Charlie, who had indeed passed out on the cold, used-to-be-green tiled floor. The thing seemed to savor the taste of Charlie, as it ran its long, fleshy tongue over the fingers of Charlie’s right hand. Charlie’s eyelids began to flutter.
“Charlie!” I screamed, but I found I could not run to him. I was frozen in place, my boots were suddenly too heavy to move, like in a dream when you’re running from a monster but just can’t seem to get away. Hmm, sounds awfully familiar. “Charlie, you need to wake up!” I shouted again.
The thing looked at me and its eyes seemed to inflate and protrude even farther from its flat face. “Coward,” it whispered, “Coward!” it shouted, “We are your humanity, but we are not cowards!” The thing bit into Charlie’s leg, and Charlie opened his mouth and cried with such intensity that I could almost hear his vocal cords begin to snap, and his voice took on an animal rasp. I covered my ears and screamed “no!” The thing looked at me while still gnawing on Charlie’s shin, and said “let’s hear it for the boys from Company B!” and took another bite.
Charlie tried to beat the thing over the head with his fists, but the thing appeared not even to notice. If anything, it jerked the thing’s head deeper into Charlie’s growing wounds. Charlie was clearly panicked and exhausted, as the energy began to deflate from his fists with each pummel.
I started to cry. I did not know what else to do. I cried for Charlie, for Joshua, and for the Medal of Honor. I closed my eyes, and the next thing I knew, I had become the thing. I was the thing that was consuming Charlie’s leg. I felt suddenly strong, and the blood was so delicious…I felt drunk with the thrill of the hunt. And most of all, I felt proud, proud that I had taken down my mate, Charlie.
When my consciousness shifted back to me, I lunged at the thing and bit into its bony fingers. It growled. “I am beginning to find you annoying,” it retorted, but I did not let go. Its bulbous eyes seemed to turn in their sockets from Charlie to me. He screamed in my face again, and I could smell a foreign array of live and dead meat, both distinctively human, and thought it was at once grotesque and beautiful. I jumped onto the beast and kicked it in its “stomach,” or its torso in any case, and began biting into its neck, ripping the bit of flesh in my mouth back and forth like some frantic wolf taking down a buffalo. Finally, the muscle fibers gave way, and I emerged with a chunk of the monster in my mouth.
I woke to the sound of my father calling my name, smoking a cigar, and I could hear my mother in the kitchen frying eggs. “I’m so damn proud of you son, the way you stood up to those damn Brits,” I heard him say. He spat into the trashcan. “They should just stick to their crow-sants and afternoon tea and leave the fighting to the real men.” Suddenly, he punched me in the shoulder. “Andy, Andy, Andy, Andy…”
But it wasn’t my father, it was Charlie. His face was purple, twisted and contorted, and his cheeks were moist from tears. “Andy, please, you gotta wake up.”
As I began to realize what had happened, I first looked down at Charlie’s leg, which was bleeding badly. And then I looked down at myself to find…
Nothing. I was OK. Not a scratch…
“Oh Andy, you’re awake. Listen, I was able to reach my radio and call in, so help should be coming," he was interrupted by the sound of the air raid horns, “it should be coming soon. But God,” and his eyes widened in fear, “I don’t know where you learned that, and I should be grateful that you saved my life, but…I nearly ‘messed me britches,’” he inflected in a British accent, “when you…well, got him.”
I found my mouth too heavy to speak and form words, and wiped my lips with my sleeve, which was smeared with blood. I tried to speak anyway, but it was muffled. “What do you mean, got him?”
“Well, before you passed out you…well, take a look”
I had been all but ignoring the dispatched thing in the corner of the room. His face was now a gaping cavity, his wiry appendages mere bones. I suddenly made the connection – that was my doing.
“Oh Andy, it was awesome!” Charlie said breathlessly, “it was like…like…well, it was awesome!” Charlie’s eyes started to roll inside his head, presumably from blood loss. “Oh geez Andy, I’m not feeling too good…”
At that moment, the building was surrounded by British and French troops. A group of about 3 or 4 barged in wordlessly, handcuffed me, and dragged me out, before I could protest. I saw EMTs enter to evaluate Charlie.
“I…don’t…hurt…me…” I stammered, feeling dizzy and nauseous. The last thing I remember was the muzzle they placed over my face.