After we pull the paper doll into pieces, we ready ourselves for the incoming earthquake.
It hits a few seconds later.
At first it was a slight shaking sensation coming from the ground, but as the seconds pass the tremor becomes stronger and stronger. And then a few meters from us, the ground starts falling away into a chasm.
A second passes.
I start to move towards the widening chasm.
Javin suddenly runs past me, with paper turned pill in his mouth and rifle in hand.
As he reaches the edge, he shouts out "Har Har Mahadeo!" in a shrill tone and jumps into it.
The next one to jump in is Connla, dragging Annan by hand and yelling “Veneti and Annan!”
Annan screams “Shut up!” with a blushing face before they both jump in.
By the time I reach the edge a few seconds later, I see Yung Ho and Thuc, who also reached it at the same time as me, looking in amazement.
“That's less hesitation than they showed before.” Yung Ho comments.
“Forget it. Jump on three.” I say, looking down at the chasm.
“Three!” Thuc surprises my by suddenly yelling, at the same time jumping in.
I don’t know about Yung Ho, but I immediately jump in a second later on impulse and close my eyes.
“Son of a gun, that hurts.” I moan, holding my nose in pain.
How did that happen?! I was falling down feet first! So why did I belly flop onto the floor, and smash something (which I presume to be made of wood) in half with my face?
Herbert? Annie thought to me.
“What?” I growl out as I sit up and look at my right hand.
Dear God there’s blood on it.
I tenderly touched my nose, to find out that thankfully it’s not broken.
There’s a corpse around 5 meters behind you. And the ghost is still in the corpse-IT SAW US!
I whirl around, cocking ‘Annie’ at the same time and bringing it to bear on a…
A glowing deep red colored, basketball sized ball of fire 2 meters away from my face that instantly stopped once I had my gun aimed at it.
Suddenly I get the feeling that the ghost is raising both its arms in surrender, even if all I see is just a glowing ball.
In light of my experiences with magic, I take it as fact and react accordingly, to make the ghost think twice before saying anything funny.
“United States Army! Don’t move or I’ll shoot you dead!”
A few seconds of silence passes. And then the ghost, a female from the sound of it, speaks to me in a disbelieving tone of voice.
“Old man, I am already dead.”
She’s right ‘Annie’ thinks to me.
Well, that’s embarrassing.
“Well then…I’ll make you feel more pain.” I try to recover my dignity.
It is then I remember that the dead here in Tenjin elementary school have been feeling the pain that they felt when they died, all the time.
…won’t that mean they are kind of doped up on pain?
The female ghost laughs hysterically, making me feel even more embarrassed. And then it attacks me.
It screams as I shot it.
Suddenly, the ball changes appearances.
Where there was a ball, there now is a screaming girl, of around 13 years of age and with a red glow around her body, rolling on the wooden floor in pain while clutching one of her breasts, from which a pale yellowish brown light is shining through gaps between the fingers.
…on the other hand, this shows they can be incapacitated by more pain.
What did you do to the poor thing?! ‘Annie asks me in dismay.
‘She was a ball of fire. I can’t see any signs of her body anatomy.’
‘Annie’ has no answer to that, but she still conveyed a strong feeling of disapproval.
…can’t win them all.
I focus my attention back to the female ghost.
By now, she is whimpering and all curled up on herself while tightly clutching the breast I shot with both hands.
I bite my lip.
I look towards the door, and then back at the girl.
I let out my breath.
Why do I feel like a villain?
I pull the arm of my headphone near my mouth and speak into it.
“Annan, you there? Thuc? Yung Ho?...Anyone?”
“I hear you, elder Ward.” Connla says to me through the headphone.
“With Connla. I’m just…doing something right now.” I hear Annan’s sheepish voice.
“I heard your shot with my own ears. I’m currently trying to navigate my way to your part of the school.”
That accounts for Javin.
“I’m here with Victor Charlie, Yankee.” I hear Yung Ho’s voice.
“And I’m here with Kilo Mike.” And that would be Thuc.
…I’m gonna ask them about that later. For now…
“A question. I just shot an insane ghost here, but right now she’s whimpering in pain from the bullet in her chest. Can I restrain her and get that out of her chest?”
Silence greets me.
“Why would you take out the only thing stopping her from going after you again?” Thuc asks me.
“This is a dead 13 year old girl.”
I take off the headphone and aim the mike at the ghost’s direction, where she is still whimpering in pain.
I do so for half a minute, and then I wear them again.
“Now you understand?” I ask them.
“…you need to restrain her before trying to do something, just in case…” Yung Ho says through the headphone.
Before I am able to respond, Javin cuts in.
“Do not worry, I think I have some rope that can restrain her. Just wait there until I arrive at your location, Mr. Ward.”
“I’ll be waiting Javin.”
"I will rip your eyes out slowly, and then I will rip your tongue out, and then I will rip your guts out...no, that won't-ouch...that won't do. I will rip out your guts first, and then your wee-wee, and then your tongue, and finally your eyes." The girl angrily curses me from where she is curling on herself.
"And again, without any sarcasm, I apologize for shooting you in self-defense." I boringly say to her while leaning on the doorway, peeking outside every now and then for any sign of Javin.
It has been fifteen minutes or so since I shot the girl. Three minutes after I shot her, she finally got used to the pain the bullet is causing her, and started cursing at me.
Since then, I had to weather the most disturbing vulgarities I ever had the displeasure to encounter in my whole life.
It’s not the vulgarities themselves that are disturbing me. I heard worse in the Army and from the TV. It's the person delivering it, and the voice that is used delivering it changing in tone every few seconds.
One minute she was saying “May you and your whore of a mother be raped by burakumin,” in the tone of voice you use to beg for kindness or mercy, the other she said “I will cut off your wee-wee and stick it in your mouth, and make you chew it,” in the tone Mary used when she is putting Fiona or Arnold to sleep.
And in yet another minute she said she would like to play around with my dismembered limbs as I watch on, bleeding to death, in the same tone of voice as an honors student confidently reciting an answer in class.
All this, from a cute, black haired, 13 year old girl with two shoulder length pigtails done in the style of a girl from the Midwest, and dressed in a school uniform.
And this girl is glaring at me with eyes that belong to a drug addict.
"Javin, I am getting really disturbed here. How long is it going to take you to get here?" I plead into the microphone.
I hear a very quiet noise through the headset, a ‘shush’ sound.
I immediately go silent, hoping that whatever the reason he wants silence, I did not just give away his position.
A few moments later, Javin speaks up in a very soft voice..
“That was a close one.”
“What happened?” I ask, at the same time as the others.
“A ghost just passed the hallway in front of me. Thankfully it didn’t see me.” Javin replies.
“Did you see any others?” I peek out the door and looking left and right for any other ghosts.
“Except for this one, none.”
“That’s strange…” I hear Annan mutter. She then asks him this question.
“What did the ghost look like?”
“It was glowing blue, a child of around ten years of age...and she is missing half of her head from the jawline.”
“…Son of a bitch.” I curse for the first time in quite a while.
I pray to God that I can leave this place untraumatized.
“That girl is Tokiko Tsuji. She kills her victims by beheading them.” Annan reveals to us.
“Shibal.” Yung Ho says out loud.
“Anyways, do you think you can get here any time soon?” I ask him.
“…I don’t think so, Mr. Ward. I know your general direction, that being above of the floor I am on, but I have to navigate around these collapsed wooden floors.”
“Take care.” I lean back on the floor and look back into the classroom I am in, taking a look once again for anything else that is out of the ordinary.
The classroom is divided into two. The rear half is gone, the wooden floor board and everything on it collapsed onto the floor below. The front half is what is left.
The front half contains objects that are always present in a classroom, but presently they can be divided into two: those that do not look safe to use and those that are still sturdy.
Those belonging to the former are all the chairs and tables for the student’s use, the platform that the teacher always stands up on, and the teacher’s chair, which had already collapsed a long time ago.
Those belonging to the latter category are the teacher’s table and the blackboard, on which some Japanese words are written in chalk.
…the Japanese sure know how to make their blackboards. And kudos to the carpenter who made the table. As a fellow carpenter, I could not help but admire his work.
The only thing out of place in the classroom…aside from the collapsed floorboards in the rear, is the corpse of the girl ghost on the other side of the blackboard and platform, laying in the space between the two and the wall.
It was dressed in the same school uniform, and has the same pigtails that ghost has. It has its eyes closed, the mouth open, and the position of the corpse is one of laying on its side, while curling around its stomach, the arms tightly wrapped around the stomach in death.
The cause of death is extremely unlikely to be from violent means, from the lack of any bloodstains around the classroom. I judge it to be starvation, due to the way the skin is tight against the bones and how the corpse is positioned.
…that’s a nasty way to die. Thankfully, I’m not going to go the same route, what with having supplies on me.
I suddenly hear a shot from my headset. And then another.
And then Yung Ho lets loose several bursts of full auto fire, with occasional shots from the SKS heard in the background.
“What’s happening there people?” I ask in serious concern.
“We just ran into a lot of ghosts here, Yankee!” Thuc yelled into the headset, making me wince in pain.
“Reloading!” Yung Ho yells.
Thuc provides some covering fire while I presume Yung Ho reloads.
The K1 barks with full auto bursts again.
Thuc stops shooting for some rea-
“Fire in the hole!”
I quickly tear the headphone off my ear.
I hear a very muffled explosion through the headphone.
“What’s the matter? Did your friends run into something?” the girl asks me in a happily, malicious tone of voice.
I ignore her and don the headphone on my head as fast as possible.
“They ran away from an ordinary grenade?” Yung Ho comments in amazement.
“Must have been scared by the explosion.” Thuc replies candidly.
“But they were charging two men who are shooting at them.” Yung Ho counters in a tone full of amazement and…and some other emotion I can only guess at.
I offer my input.
“Maybe they thought that the guns are fakes?”
“Fakes? Really Herbert?” Thuc asks me amidst the sound of crying and moaning ghosts from the background.
“It is possible. I highly doubt these kids have even seen a real gun, what with Japan having the strictest laws about gun possession in the world.” Annan says.
“…she IS our expert on modern Japan.” Thuc admits.
“If I may interrupt, gentlemen and your holiness?” Javin asks us.
A moment passes.
“Well, elder?” Connla asks him.
“What are we going to do with the ghosts that were just incapacitated?”
“I do think it would help the others if we just tie up and gag everyone we incapacitate. That way the exorcists and the kami have less ghosts to subdue.”
“An, I think we have more pressing matters to answer than what to do with our enemies.” Connla suddenly says.
“Such as?” she replies.
“What do we do now that we have just gained the attention of everyone in this place?”
Annan ponders upon it, from the sound of it.
A moment passes.
“You have no idea either?” Connla asks.
“I hardly think we have gained the attention of everyone in the place.”
“Are you sure An?”
“Oh for the love of…” I say, looking up above to the ceiling above me-
To see the face of a ghost suddenly pass through the ceiling.
Before ‘Annie’ finishes shouting that to my mind, I already cocked her, and have her aimed at the ghost, all in just one move.
The ghost, that of a boy and glowing blue as opposed to the girl’s red, freezes at the sight of a gun aimed at him. He then suddenly jumps back through the ceiling with a shriek of fear.
I move away from the doorway and put myself in the middle of the classroom’s front half, keeping my distance from all the walls and the girl ghost.
“Annan, just how many ghosts are currently in Tenjin elementary?” I ask candidly.
“As of last count, a total of around 10,400 dead people in here, accumulated through the years when Sachiko started this thing.”
“Can you please repeat that again?” I request in dumbfound disbelief.
“More than 10, 400. As of two days ago.”
“And WHY didn’t you inform us of this before?!” Yung Ho almost, almost shouts at her.
“Because I am confident that our arms and magic can scare the malevolent ghosts off, while we can talk with the sane ghosts.”
“And how many of those ten thousand ghosts are sane?” Connla asks her in a tone that I associate with someone who is face palming.
“I am sure around half are still sane.”
“That still leaves us incredibly outnumbered.” Thuc says.
“We are heavily armed people, with magic of our own. We can take the whole school on if necessary.” She says confidently.
A moment passes.
“Cambodia is a much safer place than this.” Thuc mutters.
I hear the sound of the bullet dropping down onto the plate.
A moment later Javin says “It is done.” in a nasal tone of voice.
I turn around from my vigil near the door, to see Javin sitting on the floor, holding his bloody nose with his right hand and wincing in pain.
Beside him are the tweezers and forceps that he used to take the bullet from the girl’s breast and the metal platter where he dropped the bullet.
And in front of him is the ghost, who is tied up with ropes that are glowing bright blue, and glaring at Javin in a drunk way.
“Javin, can that Soma of yours heal your nose?” I ask him in concern and guilt.
“It will. I just need to wash my nose in it.” He says in a pained tone of voice. He then reaches for his wineskin.
I feel responsible for his nosebleed. How was I supposed to know these ghosts also have psychic powers, especially when the intel source on this place is in contact?
I should have asked before Javin started removing the bullet.
Thankfully, Javin’s Soma suppressed her powers, in addition to the extremely unexpected side effect of rendering her drunk.
My attention snaps back to the present when Javin asks me if I have any plan on what to do next.
I look at him to see his nose is back to normal, and his face is wet.
“I think we should move out. This place is pretty much compromised to anyone around us.”
I then take a look around the room.
…this is no place to fight with anything less than an automatic firearm, which neither of the two of us have.
“Do we leave her?” He asks, making a movement with his head to indicate the girl ghost, while grabbing a handkerchief from his backpack and wiping his face with it.
I think about it for a moment.
“Yes. I think the insane ghosts are…insane enough not to help her out if one did see her.”
My headphone crackles.
“Are you finally done with your humanitarian project?” Yung Ho asks me.
I couldn’t really blame him, this place is like a warzone...will become a warzone with us in it.
If this was a normal one, I would leave the girl to die. But the circumstances as they are demand different actions…thus my act of mercy.
“What did you do with your ghosts?” Javin asks from beside me as we both walk to the door.
“I cast a spell that is supposed to repel ghosts, and put it into physical form, that of a rope.” Yung Ho replies.
“You…tied them up physically with a spell that is supposed to repel ghosts?” Annan asks in a disbelieving tone.
“Your holiness, I did not do that without a good reason.”
“What is the problem here?” I warily ask as I start walking in the hallway.
“A spell that is supposed to repel ghosts…is for a ghost what an electrified fence or barbed wire is for a living human being.” Thuc answers me.
I stop walking and put my left hand on the headphone, trying to hear more clearly.
“Yung Ho tied them up with the ghostly equivalent of electrified wire fences.” Thuc repeats.
“…Yung Ho?” I ask in dismay.
What on Earth is the guy doing?
“A rope blessed with holy water can be cut by a ghost if they use a sharp object. A spell tied around a ghost will not be cut or destroyed if they do not have any magic.”
“So you did that just to make sure?” I look back at the room we just came from, wondering if the girl is trying to cut her ropes right this moment.
“Yes I did…I think so.”
“You…think so?” Javin asks in disbelief.
“To be honest, I have to consider the fact that I do hate Japan, and…maybe deep down I might be liking this…I don’t know.”
Yung Ho finishes his sentence with a sigh.
Well, at least he is honest.
“Careful. You could become an evil spirit Yung Ho.” Thuc warns him.
“I know.” Yung Ho answers back wearily.
“No one is turning into an evil anything on my watch.” I interject.
“What Thuc said is just a small possibility people, Herbert. There is no need to worry.“
“Small possibility he says.” I loudly scoff while looking at Javin and making a gesture towards the room we just came from.
Javin nods and stealthily walks towards the door.
I disguise the sound of his walking by talking loudly into the microphone.
“Whether it be a small possibility or not, I ain’t letting that happen to a friend of mine, especially a fellow Vietnam veteran. We vets stick together! If it means I have to kick you in the balls to bring you back to your senses, then yes, I Will Do So.”
I can feel the wince from all the men in the network.
“Why the testicles?” Connla asks me.
“Why not?” I answer back. “When you say evil spirit, you think of a spirit that is consumed with negative emotions. And it’s common knowledge that pain of some kind is needed to snap some sense back into someone in that situation.”
“Therefore, a kick at my balls?” Yung Ho asks incredulously.
“I think you are referring to drunkards, Herbert.” Thuc says.
“What do you mean?”
“Pain of some kind is needed to snap some sense into a raging, violent drunkard.”
I remain silent for a few moments, wallowing in embarrassment.
What is it with me and embarrassing statements this day?
Quick Herbert, think of something to say. Something…that’s it.
“…evil spirits are drunk on negative emotions.”
A moment later Annan and Connla laugh at my words, while Thuc groans loudly
“I better…I better watch myself before you geld me with that…that kick.” Yung Ho says, the sentence interrupted here and there by his snickers.
Looks like he is back to his normal self.
“TV Tropes, we now have a new entry to “Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!” It’s called the Ward kick!”
Annan breaks down into giggles.
Resist the temptation to ask…oh forget it.
“What is TV Tropes?”
“Maybe it is something on the internet?” Thuc answers.
I shrug. Then upon remembering he can’t see me, I answer.
“Beats me. That’s why I’m asking.”
“I don’t even have an idea what an internet is.” Yung Ho grumbles into the headphone.
“Mr. Ward, it appears Mr. Cha does have a point.” Javin suddenly says.
I look at him.
He is looking at me with a frown on his face.
“The girl is trying to crawl towards the broken wooden boards.”
A moment passes.
“Give me more rope. And some more of that Soma.” I reply.
You do something good and someone inevitably abuses it.
“Well. That’s that.” I say as I walk out of the room.
“That is an excessive amount of rope, Mr. Ward.” Javin comments beside me, while looking back at the girl ghost.
“If it keeps her from moving.” I shrug.
“What did you do Herbert?” Thuc asks.
“Mr. Ward did not simply tie up the girl. He wrapped her in a cocoon of rope.” Javin answers his question.
“Like a caterpillar?”
“Yes.” I answer.
A moment of silence passes.
“If it keeps her incapacitated, why not?” Yung Ho says.
Javin has no reply to that.
“Annan,” I ask into the microphone “what do we do now?”
“For now? Ultimately, we are just supposed to stay alive or sane while the kami pull the school into the real world. But we could also try to save the other people still living inside.” She muses.
“Try? Why only try? Should we not-”
Connla suddenly pauses. A second later he exclaims “What is this room for? It reeks of piss!”
“This is the boy’s lavatory. And we are going to get the help of a very pivotal character here. Everyone, cover your ears because this is going to be loud.”
I quickly detach the headphone from my ear and hold it 10 cm. away from it, to no avail as I wince at the volume of a deep loud voice emanating from the headphone, saying “SHUT THE GODDAMNED DOOR!”
My word. That is loud. ‘Annie’ deigns to speak to me again.
‘Indeed…thank you for talking to me again.’ I think back to her while rubbing my left ear in pain.
I am still not happy with what you did to the girl. But since you did have the bullet extracted…I forgive you in the name of all women everywhere.
In the name of all women everywhere?
I shake my head and focus my attention back to the headphone (by wearing it again) as I hear Annan knocking on the door loudly.
“You bespectacled old ghost! Is that what you say to the people who are helping the Japanese destroy this school’s curse, Shimoda?!”
I hear the noise of a door slamming open, and the man who shouted earlier yelling “What!”
“Allow me to introduce myself. I am Annan, former earth goddess of one of the European countries. I am a friend of Ebisu, who asked me to help the Japanese with this problem.”
After that Annan stops speaking. The only reaction by the ghost Annan called Shimoda is silence.
I stop listening to the ensuing conversation upon following the turn of the hallway to the left, to see a gaping, impassable hole in the hallway’s wooden floor a few meters in front of me.
“Quite shoddy construction the Japanese have here.” Javin comments from beside me upon seeing the floor.
I look back from where we came a while ago.
The floorboards there are as pristine as properly maintained floorboards can be. I contrast that to what is in front of us, floorboards that are extremely weathered by time and rot, with some parts of the floor even collapsed into the story below us.
I look back at the hallway in front of us, wondering if the contractor did something illegal, to see Javin suddenly whirling around with a surprised look in his eyes, and his rifle at the ready.
Look behind you Herbert. ‘Annie’ hurriedly says to me at the same time as I cock her and whirl around, the rifle ready to fire.
Only to see the hallway behind me in the same condition as the one in front of me.
“That wasn’t like that a second ago. What happened?” I ask the two of them, staring in shock.
The hallway changed like switching a TV channel, only it’s too fast for even my sight.
“I just felt something strange suddenly happen.”
I rapidly bring the microphone to my lips and ask away.
“Annan, any idea what just happened?”
“The hallways changed, right?”
“Yes.” I answer while I uncock the rifle.
“The good news is that is supposed to happen. This place is tailored to mess with the minds of those who are trapped here. The bad news is, it is supposed to happen only when you are inside a room, and it is always accompanied by an earthquake.”
“Damn it, your holiness. Are you saying your information is now outdated?” Yung Ho asks in slight anger.
“Wait one moment, I’m asking Shimoda.”
“Can we go outside this room? It reeks.” Connla pleads.
I stop paying attention to my earphone and nudge Javin with my right hand. Upon looking at me, I point to the classroom doorway to our front and left, and at its pair at the other side of the gap in the floor.
He nods, and follows me through the doorway.
We enter a classroom not unlike the one I first came into a while ago.
Unlike the first one, this classroom has a sturdy looking wooden cabinet with dust stained, sliding glass doors and a man sized broken hole in the floorboards in the left center of the room, while the blackboard is decorated with a stick drawing of a big man with scissors chasing three or four smaller figures.
And it’s as cold as winter all of a sudden.
It gives me a bad feeling.
“I don’t think we should proceed any further.” Javin suddenly says.
“Let’s try the-“
The doors suddenly slamming shut behind us cuts me off in mid-speech. It also cuts off any route out of the classroom other than the gap in the floor.
Which currently has red light shining through it.
“Ambush.” We snarl at the same time, cocking and aiming our guns at the hole.
I hear voices through my headphone but I ignore it, focusing all my attention on the hole in the flooring.
Duck! ‘Annie’ suddenly yells.
I duck just in time, for a red ball whirrs through where my head was a second ago, at a speed that is sure to kill someone regardless of a helmet or not.
I curse and angrily leap to my feet, whirling around and trying to get space between me and the wall so I can start shooting. In the process, I unintentionally smack the face of a ghost kid of elementary age coming out of the wall with the rifle’s forestock. The ghost screams in response, clutching his face like the rifle is a hot iron, and drops on the floor, writhing in pain.
That’s good to kno–
The skin on my back suddenly drags me off the floor, into the air…
I twist my back in pain, feeling chalk dust on my skin.
My skin hurts. My spine hurts. Everything in my back hurts, and the only reason I am not unconscious is because of the helmet I am wearing.
It hurts like nothing since Vietnam.
Something just threw me across the room and into the blackboard, making a hole in it. And from the blackboard I fell down onto the platform, taking the chalk ledge with my butt in the process.
I wait for a few seconds, eyes shut tight in pain and breathing heavily.
In the meantime, I hear an occasional shot, and screams from the other end of the classroom. None of the screams are Javin’s.
I wait a few more moments, and then open my eyes, to see Javin violently thrust his bayonet into a girl’s throat, and then slash it out towards his left and out of the throat, into the eye of another boy. Both of them drop in pain, yelling incoherently and clutching the wounded parts of their body.
I slowly grab the cocked rifle lying in front of me, go into a crouched firing position, and aim at the ghosts still coming from the opposite side of the wall, all the while trying my best to ignore the pain in my back.
The effort to do so makes my eyes water a bit.
I breathe in, breathe out, and then shoot a pitiful ghost kid with no eyes. He falls down clutching his shoulder, crying for his mother.
I quickly re-cock, re-aim, and shoot another ghost , this time a teenager who looks half eaten by someone. He falls down screaming, clutching his stomach and hoarsely screaming “Fuck” over and over again.
Javin steps backwards over his form, withdrawing from a thrust at a girl’s diaphragm.
I cock the gun again–
Two ghostly, red and cold arms suddenly wrap around my neck and violently slams my head into the wall, making me let go of ‘Annie’ and sit against the wall.
And did I mention making me see bright lights?
I try to claw the skin off, but my fingers just go through it like jelly, and scratch my own throat instead.
The knife! Use the knife! ‘Annie’ yells to me.
I quickly grab my bayonet with my left hand and stab one of the arms, eliciting a female cry of pain from the wall itself.
“How do you like this?!”
I cut down the length of the arm, making the ghost scream more.
The ghost finally let me go, to which I respond by rolling away from the wall, over ‘Annie’, and coming up crouched once again, bayonet in my left hand and the cocked back Peacemaker in the right.
More ghosts start jumping out of the blackboard and wall it is on, much like sweat appears on an active person’s skin.
I quickly shoot one teenage girl in the face, and drag ‘Annie’ by her sling away from the blackboard’s side of the wall with my left index finger, pushing chairs and tables out of the way with my rear.
Cock. Aim. Shoot.
An elementary student whose head was smashed open gets another hole in it for his trouble around three and a half meters away from me.
Behind me, shots and screams still ring out, with Javin loudly, fervently chanting a prayer that has a lot of ‘Narasimha’ in it.
Cock. Aim. Shoot.
A half foreign teenage girl with a slit throat gets her chin shot off at three meters from me.
Cock. Aim Shoot.
Another elementary school girl who starved or thirsted to death gets a hole in her diaphragm.
This isn’t working.
This isn’t working! There’s too many of them! No single action firearm is not good enough for this mob!
Javin’s voice is close to my back now, and the sound of it now immediately makes me stop backtracking.
It is no longer fervent. It is both something scary and reassuring. It is both something that gives me the confidence that someone is watching my back and something that urges me to step away from it and into the crowd of ghosts.
My mind tells me that if I take one more step I might, no, I will get stabbed, slashed or shot dead by Javin.
Stick the knife on me and start bayoneting! ‘Annie screams at me.
“There’s no lug on you.” I protest while shooting a girl, dead from a broken neck, in the chest two and a half meters away from me.
Just put it near my muzzle. I will do the rest.
…seems I don’t have a choice here.
I throw the Peacemaker into the crowd of ghosts, based on a suspicion I have from earlier.
Two voices scream in surprised pain, and then an empty space quickly forms in the crowd, centered on where the Peacemaker dropped.
In the time this happened, I grabbed ‘Annie’ with my right hand, and put the bayonet near ‘Annie’s muzzle with my left. And to my great surprise, the bayonet sprung out of my hand and attached itself by the handle to the ramrod, as if there are magnets involved.
But whatever ‘Annie’ did, it is much better than a magnet. The M7 bayonet refuses to move from the ramrod when I try to wiggle it, as if it was forged WITH the ramrod –
Here they come, some of them swinging wooden chairs around.
I rapidly move my body and rifle into the bayonet fighting position simply called the attack position. I barely manage to do so when a teenage boy with smashed skull starts to swing a wooden chair at me over his head, with two others behind him.
I parry it to my left with ‘Annie’s barrel and guide it down to the floor. With the same movement, I turn the parry into a butt stroke to his left temple, pivoting on my left foot and moving the right foot forward at the same time.
The boy goes down without making a word.
I instantly reposition for a long thrust to a surprised boy with a destroyed left eyeball, formerly to the rear left of the first ghost but now in front of me, who still has not even begun to swing his bludgeon.
I thrust the bayonet to the hilt in his neck, and push forward with my left foot to get out of harm’s way from my current rear. To my surprise, the bayonet effortlessly slices upward through the neck, and the jawbone, and the skull, dividing them in half and making the boy scream the weirdest scream I have ever heard.
…magical blades are going to take some time to get used to.
The sound of something swinging through the air, tearing my BDU at my backside, and then smashing into the floor, refocuses my attention.
I swiftly pivot on both heels, and face a girl with a face smashed into her skull, in position for a short thrust to her diaphragm.
I quickly stab her there and withdraw, watching her crumple to the floor.
Right! ‘Annie yells.
I pivot to my right, away from the screaming girl clutching her midsection, and see a chair slowly swinging towards my head.
I do a high block, only for the blow to make me fall onto my rear because I got out of balance.
Suddenly the ghost in front of me, a teenage boy with stab wounds in his stomach, is thrown backwards by a shot in his face.
Immediately after that a screaming, decapitated head of a girl is thrown over me and into the crowd of ghosts that are now looking uncertain.
“Thanks Javin.” I yell raggedly while I stand up from the ground.
Javin just continues chanting, shooting and making ghosts scream in pain.
I then reposition myself into another attack position facing the slightly frightened crowd of insane ghosts, some of them staring back and forth from me and the decapitated screaming head.
I just stand there, breathing heavily, and glaring them into submission…oh God, the PAIN.
Now that I have stopped moving, the pain is hitting my back again, making my body want to twist and do something, anything for the pain to go away.
You alright Herbert? ‘Annie’ asks.
I grit my teeth, willing myself to not let any pain show on my face.
This is because I must look too bas-ass for them to deal with. That will make them think twice, and then see that I am too dangerous to attack.
I must be seen as such, if I am to survive.
How about doing what you did in Cambodia. The gun suddenly suggests.
‘Which one?’ I ask as I growl at an elementary kid whose neck was torn open by a slash and enlarged by bare human hands. The kid steps back fearfully, boosting my confidence.
Chanting ‘Our Father’ and Psalms 23.
I think about it for two seconds.
“Couldn’t hurt to try.”
I clear my mind of all other distractions other than the ghosts in front of me, my rifle, and my own body.
After doing so, I take a deep breath, and then start.
“In the name of the Father,”
Upon uttering the very first syllable, something in the air around me changes.
“and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”
The pain in my back starts…changing. The pain before now was one that hurt me whether or not I moved, but now, it is not.
“Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name,”
It is…I am still experiencing pain but contrary to the definition of pain it does not hurt me. It is…it is… I am sharing in the pain of One who is infinitely greater than me, and by doing so I am participating in his work, leading to me becoming…better than before.
…purified is the closest description I can think of.
“Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done,”
The…purification freed me from the helplessness imposed by pain, and that allows me to start moving normally again. Towards the ghosts that are now unsure, nervous and scared of me.
And this is what I want.
“on Earth as it is in Heaven,”
A few ghosts suddenly have a burst of courage and charge me from the crowd of ghosts, yelling incoherent screams that make me slightly shudder, even in the state of being that I am currently in.
“give us this day our daily bread,”
I quickly shoot from the hip at a teenage girl in midstride, hitting her in her in the middle of her disemboweled stomach, and then slash right at the right arm of a teenage boy with a broken neck who was swinging a chair at me. The slash outright cuts off the arm from the middle of the upper arm downwards, making the boy drop beside the girl howling in pain.
“and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,”
Something suddenly smashes down on my left shoulder, breaking itself into pieces and sending splinters onto my neck. It hurt bad, really bad, but I did not sense anything getting broken in my body. In addition I feel the holiness permeating me increase because of the pain.
Slowly (relatively speaking compared to my movements before) facing towards my left like a slow, dim witted but furious giant, I look down at an astonished kid looking at me with an open mouth, in confused and frightened as to why I did not drop to the floor in pain.
I move my left foot between her two feet, and quickly butt-smash her between her bloody eye sockets, with all the power I can muster in my body.
The girl only has time to let out a squawk before the butt smash drives her head, and by extension her whole body, into the floorboards. And to my great surprise the floor gives in from my action. As a result, the girl falls headfirst through the hole, towards the floor below us.
“and lead us not into temptation,”
Seeing movement from the edge of my eyesight, I move my right foot slightly forward and lunge to my front and right, impaling a boy’s neck to the hilt with a long thrust.
“but deliver us from Evil,”
Feeling more movement from around me, I twist the rifle and slash leftwards, out of the boy’s neck, to instinctively do something I was never taught to do: Swinging a rifle with a bayonet by its small of stock using both my hands, just like Mel Gibson does with a claymore in Braveheart.
And doing so while calmly chanting Our Lord’s prayer.
“For thine is the Kingdom, and the power,”
I feel the bayonet slash through several objects, as evidenced by yelps and screams of pain. But the only one that I actually see is when I slash through the breasts of a teenage girl with no tongue, cutting the two big lumps of flesh into four all the way down to the bone.
“and the glory,”
A boy suddenly goes on a banzai attack, charging straight towards me armed with only his fists.
Something tells me that this is the time to do something outrageous. And it imparts into my mind what I should do.
When the boy is in range, I quickly let go of ‘Annie’s small of stock with my right hand, and suddenly drive my right hand through the the open hole in his skull.
And I squeeze. Hard.
I take one final step forward.
I am now looking down at a pigtailed kid with a severed tongue stub who just comes to around the height of my stomach. To my right is the twitching body of the teenage boy, who is continuosly spasming, gibbering and leaking drool as my right hand is squeezing what stands for his brains.
Moments pass with me standing there, having a staring contest with the kid.
The air around the two of us feels like one that would be around a small pack of hungry rats cornered by a cougar whose cub the rats just killed. The rats can bite back, and if they are desperate enough, they COULD kill the cougar. But the cougar is very, very angry. And maybe a little bit hungry.
“Next.” I hiss at her.
The two of us knows which one of us is the rat and which is the cougar.
The ghosts behind and beside her suddenly move backwards, away from me. Then the rout suddenly starts.
I hear shrieks of fear, multiple voices asking themselves why did they attack us in the first place, and the other noises that are part of the cacophony of a rout. I ignore them all in favor of staring at the girl.
Moments later, all is silent except for the groans of the wounded ghosts.
And now the girl who keeps staring at me is the only remaining ghost standing unhurt in the room.
More moments pass, with me thinking how I should put her down.
…I give up. I can’t hurt this one.
She looks so pitiful. It’s obvious she is scared dumb by me.
I take pity on her and point to the door with my right hand, letting go of the ghost that I abused greatly drop to his side, still convulsing.
The glow around the kid slowly changes colors, from red to blue. When the glow finally turned entirely blue, the girl slowly and shakily nods to me. She turns to her left and marches toward the doors, opens and closes them after her very, very slowly, in the manner of someone doing things in such a way as to not provoke anything.
I take several deep breaths, and look behind me to see Javin looking at me with an impressed look on his face.
“That is a marvelous way to end a fight.” He comments.
I open my mouth to answer with a ‘thank you’. But what comes out is something else.
I squeak, and then faint from all the pain suddenly turning normal back on me, and returning with a vengeance.
Many thanks to all the people who gave me advice.
Thanks to Lady Tevar and maddoctor here on stardestroyer.net
And thanks to Aleph and Thy-Robocop at Spacebattles.com
I could not have done this without any input from you guys.