Saturday, February 18, 2017

"I AM NO MAN" - Ending


Part V - Ending

[WARNING - Offensive language and violence]

The Marauders awoke before dawn and moved toward the arroyo. They moved in a practiced Diamond formation, a Point Man, Flankers, and a Rear Guard. Once in the arroyo, the formation went to crap, hindered by thick brush and a tangle of dead trees. It didn't matter; within an hour they realized their quarry had given them the slip and moved out sometime during the night. Another half an hour of tracking and the Scout had established where the Crow had exited the arroyo and a direction, which led them to the Highway. He grunted, then spoke, mostly to himself. "South again. Well, he's consistent..." They started out, moving fast to make time.

About mid-morning, The Crow had stopped to rest. He had made 10 or 15 miles....? He couldn't be sure how far...and was utterly played out. Taking care to not leave a clear track, he had left the road and wandered out into the chaparral. There he found a depression and spread his tarp and blanket and rolled up in them. He was almost immediately asleep. He woke with a start. Judging by the dim glow of the sun, he estimated he had slept a couple of hours, maybe even 3 or 4. He rolled his bedroll, tied it to his pack and then spent another 15 minutes glassing the area and slowly working his way to the road.  Judging it safe, he left cover and re-commenced his march south. Periodically he would move into the brush, take a knee and glass the area thoroughly, but he saw no signs he was being followed. Still, he knew...felt it more than anything...that they were back there, somewhere, coming for him. He made a few miles more and then picked a hide for the evening. With the marauders so close, he decided on a cold camp. He ate the last of his jerked venison and washed it down with a few swallows of water, of which there was precious little left. In spite of it, he was still hungry, dehydrated, and exhausted.

For the first time, he began to doubt he would succeed making it to the redoubt.

4 miles away, the marauders were encamped, equally exhausted, starved, and dehydrated...even more so than The Crow. Fatso had recovered from his bout with diarrhea, but he was substantially weakened. Rodriguez and The Nazi had started to whine and begun to hint they wanted to quit and return to the crew. The Scout reminded them this job was ordered by Brock...and no one went against Brock and lived to tell it.  They closed their mouths, remembering some of their comrades that had "crossed the line" and paid with their lives.

The following morning, The Crow broke camp and had barely traveled 2 miles when he felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up. He'd learned long ago to respect the sensation, and immediately moved into cover. He focused his field glasses and almost immediately picked up the marauders coming up, perhaps a mile behind him, picking their way along the Highway. He watched them closely and evaluated them. The obese man was walking poorly, obviously weak, perhaps even ill. The other three men moved better, but were clearly tired. The Scout had his shotgun, the fat man an AR, and the other 2 men scoped hunting rifles. They would be on him very soon and he didn't like the odds. He needed an advantage. Looking to his left, he studied the craggy ridge to the east of the highway. Maybe 4 miles away, it appeared perhaps 1300'-1500' elevation, and fissured and strewn with boulders. "Just maybe...", he thought. The Crow started moving in a low crouch through the chaparral toward the ridge. He had perhaps covered a mile toward the ridge when he heard a round go past his head, followed by a distant report. They were on him and had the range. The Crow proned out, pulling a large stone over to him to use as an improvised rest. He looked through the scope, but saw nothing. A few minutes later he caught some movement, maybe a quarter mile out. He adjusted for 400 yards and focused on what was nothing more than a hazy shadow in the sagebrush. He exhaled and slowly squeezed the trigger. The shot broke and he didn't even wait to see if there was an effect...he just rolled off to the side and low crawled to another position.

The NAZI screamed as the bullet tore through his left upper arm. "MOTHERFUCKER, I'M HIT!!!!" he screamed, dropping his rifle and grabbing his shoulder. Blood streamed through his fingers. Rodriguez pulled a dirty bandanna from his pocket and pressed it against The Nazi's shoulder in an attempt to staunch the flow of blood. The Nazi blacked out and fell over backwards. The Scout and Rodriguez dragged him back into a low spot in the brush and examined the wound. It was a flesh wound, the bullet having gone through the fleshy part of the arm. They dressed the Nazi's left shoulder as best they could. It was 20 minutes before he came around, and light was failing fast, so they opted to just make camp and call it a day. The Scout was starting to have his own doubts as to the value of this mission. Simple revenge seemed a stupid reason to expend so much time and effort, especially for a piece of shit such as had been Denver. Brock had never communicated it, but The Scout was pretty sure that Brock harbored no particular love, and certainly no respect, for his shithead brother.

In the meantime, The Crow was wasting no time implementing his plan. Darkness was his friend, and he took a bearing and continued his movement toward the ridge. Sometime in the early morning hours he arrived and made a cold camp in some rocks to await daylight. After napping for an hour or so, it began to become light, and he studied the ridge. Not seeing what he was looking for he continued southerly along the base of the ridge, until he finally found what he was looking for; a long, narrow vertical channel leading towards the top of the ridge. It was lined with huge boulders and paved with loose scree. Near the top was a group of boulders that formed a natural redoubt. Difficult to approach, it would be the perfect defensive position. One of 3 things could happen: He could put up a good fight and dissuade them and they abandon the pursuit; they would foolishly assault the position and he might be able to kill a couple of them; they could succeed and wound or kill him. It was all up for grabs, but he had no other alternatives with them breathing so closely down his neck. He found a couple of sticks to use as trekking poles and began the horrific task of picking his way up the escarpment. It was steep and several times he slipped and slid, more than anything else due to weakness induced by the lack of calories and hydration. This pursuit had pushed him beyond his reserves, and he knew it. He rested frequently, but it did little good. Fighting headspins, he pushed on up the slope. 

The marauders had awoke and The Nazi was spoiling for a fight, livid he'd been winged by The Crow. "I want that motherfucker BAD!" he growled, and rattled off all the ways he planned to mutilate and torture The Crow when he caught him. The Scout led off, picked up the track and began tracking The Crow. By a little after noon they arrived at the spot where The Crow had went up the escarpment. The Scout examined it closely, and immediately saw the folly of pursuing, but said nothing. Rodriguez did too, and said as much, but before they could enter into discussion or crafting a plan, The Nazi had splintered off and begun working his way up. The Scout shook his head, but followed. With The Nazi on point, he could take the first round and maybe they could fix The Crow's position and take him out.

The Crow had reached the redoubt, and it was as he had hoped. Large boulders bunched in a close group that allowed a fighting position with a commanding field of fire. Better still, behind the boulders was a smooth, sheer 30' face that was unassailable; he needn't watch his back. But it was cold...Damned cold. He looked skyward. Dim sunlight filtered through the perpetual swirling ash and dust trapped in the upper atmosphere. The wind shifted and prowled around the rocks like an angry predator searching for prey. High above in the redoubt. he adjusted the shemagh covering his face and peered through the telescopic sight. Four straight days now he'd retreated from this gang of marauders that had been tracking and harassing him. He was tired, cold, and hungry, and absolutely spent, but that would have to wait. The opportunity he'd been waiting for had finally arrived. Some 200 yards below, the group had foolishly entered into the narrow, steep, rocky draw, and were picking their way up, intent on blood. It was the perfect kill zone; barely wide enough in places for one man to negotiate and boulders on either side too large to scramble over. The loose scree was making it especially difficult, and they were slipping and losing their footing as he had.  There was no cover, no concealment...and no chance...somebody was going to die. 

They drew into range and  a grim Wolfish smile spread across his face. They were entering a section which was especially narrow, blocked at the back by two close boulders. He saw his opportunity and  adjusted the focus on the scope. He would now begin the slaughter of his tormentors. As usual, Fatso was bringing up the rear, and was just attempting to squeeze through the crack when The Crow's .308 reached out to greet him. The Crow had started with the rearmost man, sighting on the septum and sailing a 175 grain hollow-point into his brain stem. His body crumpled, completely wedged and effectively blocking the other men from escaping back down the draw. The Nazi had seen the muzzle in the rocks above and sighted on the position. His round ricocheted off the rocks, splintering The Crow's face with sharp shards of granite, but having no appreciable effect. The Scout was focused up on the rocks as well, and was startled when he heard Rodriguez cry out an alarm behind him. Looking back, he saw Rodriguez desperately trying to drag Fatso's corpse from the crack, but he was stuck good. The Scout went to his aid and together they pulled and lifted to free the fat man, but it was to no avail.

Next came the men struggling to move the body aside....The Crow sighted on the back of Rodriguez' head and turned it into a sack of pulpy mush as the soft point did it's lethal job. He collapsed at fatso's feet. The wall was building. The Scout cast his shotgun aside and gathered up Rodriguez' scoped rifle. Pressing into a gap between two boulders, he joined The Nazi in returning fire on The Crow's position. A shard of granite lanced The Crows' cheek. Blood flowed, but he ignored it and stayed focused on the task. The Nazi was less fortunate in seeking cover and The Crow popped him in the leg. He fell from his place of concealment and The Crow finished him with a head shot. The final man was in sheer panic mode by now, scrambling up the rocks, desperately trying to seek better  cover, but there was none to be had. The Crow decided to make this one personal and the M700 bucked as he sailed a round into the man's upper chest. The Scout felt the burning, white-hot sensation as the round tunneled through his chest and lungs and exited his back. For a moment, he thought he could keep fighting and worked the bolt, but then he felt himself growing weak and confused as his lungs began to hemorrhage and fill with blood. The rifle grew heavy, too heavy to hold and slipped from his hands. He sank slowly, unable to stand, and slid his back down the rocks to a sitting position. He looked skywards but was unable to focus or see clearly. 

Satisfied the threat had been removed, The Crow topped off his rifle's magazine and then worked his way down to the kill zone. He paused behind a boulder and evaluated the Scout before advancing further. Wounded people sometimes came back, and it was never wise to approach them too quickly, if at all. He slung his rifle and drew the Smith & Wesson and covered the Scout as he advanced on the lung-shot marauder. Bright blood was gurgling from his mouth as he breathed his precious last few agonal breaths on the gray earth. Without turning his head, his eyes turned in jerky movements to view the man, but it was hard to see, and all he could discern was a black clad figure approaching toward him.  He tried to speak but could not form words. Spitting blood, he gasped, "" Kneeling next to The Scout, The Crow pushed him over onto the ground. He drew the BUCK knife from it's sheath and, without responding in the least, finished his deadly business and thrust it through the marauder's eye socket. It crunched against bone as it broke through the rear of the eye orbit and sank into the brain cavity. The Scout went slack and his lungs emptied their last pitiful breath. Looking at the lifeless form, it had only one dead eye staring fixedly at the sky. The Crow remembered a line from the classic novel, THE ODYSSEY. He bent low and whispered into The Scout's ear. "I am No Man..."

The Crow sat down on the rocks and looked out across the desert floor. It had been a long journey to get here. He rested for a few moments, then searched the body's for anything useful. He recovered a few cartridges, but no food or water was to be had...they were completely out of any sustenance. He unlooped the shotgun pistol from Rodriguez' next, checked it over, and then placed it over his own. Looking south, he could just make out what he thought to be the skyline of Phoenix very far in the hazy distance, and he wondered what awaited him there. He rested his rifle against the rocks, stood and returned to the redoubt gather his gear. God he was tired. His legs were weak and shook. Utterly exhausted, he placed the pack on his back, groaning as the weight settled into place. he was so thirsty and his mind cloudy. As he turned to go, he placed his weight on a rock which shifted and gave way.  He tumbled over the sheer drop at the rear of the redoubt. It felt like it was a long fall, though it probably was only 1, maybe 2 seconds. His legs landed first, and thus were driven up into the hip sockets. The crunch was audible as his pelvic bone fractured and he collapsed onto the stony ground. The pain was excruciating and he blacked out.

It was dark when he awoke. He was shivering, and he knew he was hypothermic and in shock. He could only guess that blood was pooling in his abdomen, the result of internal hemorrhage. He tried to raise himself to sit up so he could breath more easily, but could not. Pain like lightning shot through his body with even the slightest movement. He was done, and he knew it. The only question was how would this end? He slid his hand down to his right hip and felt for his revolver. It was there, and he popped the snap and released the retaining strap. He rested the pistol on his chest and thought on it. Maybe if the pain became unbearable, but his preference was to let nature take it's course...

After about an hour, he felt the pain lift and a numbness filling his body. His vision became blurry and his respiration slower and shallower. He had no feeling in his extremities, and even if he wanted to, he could no move his hands to manipulate the revolver. Random thoughts and images began to fire off in his brain, recent events and events long past passed through his thoughts; memories of his wife and daughter among them. He smiled thinking of them. His eyelids became heavy with sleep. He opened his mouth and gasped, shook his head slightly, and tried to fight it off, but it became overwhelming and he drifted off, and then went still. His eyes remained open, fixed on the blackness devoid of a moon or even stars. Just blackness, stirred by the unceasing wind.

In the streets of Phoenix, the wind blew tumbleweeds and bits of trash about. It was empty and silent, save for the wind that blew through the streets. Except for an occasional rat scampering in a gutter, it was completely devoid of life.

T H E   E N D

Copyright © Manny Silva, 2017. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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