A March To The Sea
(© Henry Naughton)
The lights flicker in the distance, the grid is falling apart faster in some parts. The fires that dot the field of view add to the image of hell, and he thinks of Baghdad, Kabul, Kuwait City, and a thousand war torn villages and towns he has passed through, in the last 25 plus years. .Smoke fills the air, and he knows if he could open the triple pane glass in front of him he would hear gunshots, screams, and sirens, the sound track of battle, the sounds of his profession, that thing he loves but cannot admit it not even to his wife, his dear wife.
“I wonder if she is still alive.”
The voice startles him, his own voice. He’s losing it as surely as he is losing the battle for this city. Has it really only been two weeks? Colonel, Maxwell O’Malley turned from the window and walked out of the Casino manager’s office he had commandeered and turning walked into the hallway that ran along the center of the casino management area. Past a cafeteria where several solders where sleeping or cleaning their weapons
Grim, tired, shell shocked, that’s how they looked, 18 and 19 years young, old men, they have seen and done too much. A staff sergeant not much older then circulates among them, whispering encouragement or pointing out defects in their weapon maintenance. O’Malley has long held that it is the Sergeants that keep any army running, and thinks about his first Platoon Sergeant all those years ago, a worldly man of 30 who showed a young 22 year old 2nd Lieutenant how to be a leader of men, in a way that no book ever could. “Bet he’s on his front porch now, with a bottle of JD and a shotgun blasting and cursing the dead!” “Excuse me sir?” a young Spec 4 asks. “Nothing son, just an old man’s mutterings. Is there anything you need?” “I’d like to call home”, so would I son, so would I! Walk with me.”
They walk , down hallways covered in the refuse of war, open MRE containers, open ammo crates, the scattered affects of the thousand plus souls that have been in and out of this Casino/Fire base since the dead rose 2 weeks ago, and the 2nd Battalion of the 10 mountain Division was inserted into Scranton Pa to help maintain order. They walk past offices converted into comm. stations, briefing rooms, armories, Barracks, and a chaplain’s station. The thing missing that stands out is that there is no aid station….the nature of this enemy, means that your buddies, they take care of you in the field one way or the other.
The colonel knows he has failed; the Battalion is at 40% effective. In a normal combat situation they would have been pulled from the line long ago. But when the dead walk, all rules are off. He has called for reinforcements, he has called for extraction. He has screamed and kicked and threatened. He has failed. He will die in Scranton Pa. It is the very least he can do, come home with your shield or on it, as the Spartans once said. The soldiers around him spread like water before Moses, he searches their eyes for hate and sees none, fear yes, determination yes, but not hate, and He wonders why. The young spec 4 next to him says nothing just walks with his head down.
“What’s your name son?”
“Specialist Kennedy, Sir”
“Where’s home Specialist Kennedy?”
“Wilmington Delaware. Sir”
“Not too far from here, when was the last time you spoke to anyone from home?”
Spec Kennedy is silent for a second, “I snuck a call last week sir, on a cell I found. My mom answered, said they had been ordered to evacuate, but my younger brother hadn’t come home yet, she said he had gone out in the middle of the night with out telling anyone, she was scared, I think he may have tried to enlist. I know that sounds dumb, sir, but my kid brother, all he ever talked about was joining up, ever since I did. I the grid is out, that’s what a guy from my squad said yesterday, right before, we went into the wind farm sweep, I don’t know how he knew that about the grid in Wilmington I mean, and he didn’t make it out of the sweep, neither did anyone else from my squad except Sgt Anderson.”
O’Malley walks in silence, that sweep should have been easy, a platoon of men, well armed well led…now 90% of them were meat or worse. A swarm of dead had walked out of the tree line behind a rally point, and all hell had broken lose. The Military was not equipped to handle this; you cannot break the spirit of an enemy that has none. Shock and awe was in the hands of the dead. Air superiority is bullshit, artillery was crap, friendly fir accidents waiting to happen and add to the ranks of the enemy, and who is the enemy? Us.
[ Continue to page 2 ]