INSIDE THE WILDERNESS: Prologue, Chapter 1 & 2
Prologue: A History of War
In 2002, the great war of the century was upon the world and it was impossible for the world to know it. The defining event would happen to have been an accident that occurred in a tiny desert oasis. A young man would watch from a high sand dune as tanks would fire upon his home killing his mother, father, two sister and one year old bother. It turned out to be the product of poor military intelligence that would bring the western forces to his doorstep. It would not have been the first time for the young man or his family to experience this.
When he was a child they were exiled from their home and forced out into the desert. His entire family and thousands of other families were targeted as political subversives during a civil war. These families had a choice of leaving or being executed if you tried to stay and fight. The young mans family were the last of their family and now he must take on the task of burying their charred and broken bodies. He was only fourteen when this happened and it was a pain that would stay with him his entire life.
After he covered the final grave the gears began to turn and in few years he would begin his revenge on the people that perpetrated this injustice against him. He would end up taking advantage of a struggling world during an economic depression and region in civil war. Years later, after he unveiled his plans to his closest generals, he was told that the rest of the world would see these future actions as unjust. He answered, “Unjust is killing a young man’s family and leaving him alone in the desert to bury them, after he had done nothing to them.”
In 2007, this man came into power of some former Soviet Union state of Uzbekistan. It was a country that most considered a third world country, but no one expected, this man that took hold of power, would easily exploit the resources that sat in the ground. In the matter a few years the country became a powerful force in region, forging trade alliances with China and Russia. Their resources became indispensable to them.
In 2013, conflict arose within Korea. The North declared that they had operable nuclear weapons and clear intentions of reuniting the Korean peninsula. When the United Nations threatened military action, China came to their side treating retaliation on any aggressor. South Korea prepared for the inevitable war which would come in the following year. North Korea assimilated and made the country whole again.
During this time, Russia’s economy and government collapsed as civil war gripped the country due to a corrupt government. The rebellion was helped by the Chinese and led by the Uzbekistan. When the Civil War was over in 2015, Russia was reborn with the leadership of Uzbekistan in power. During the brief peacetime that followed, the military of new Russia became one of the most sophisticated fighting forces in the world.
From 2013 till 2017 China absorbed Vietnam, Mongolia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Iran and Pakistan forged and alliance with China after continued conflicts with the United States. After the taking of Sri Lanka, India was surrounded and pressured to join the alliance, Japan soon followed with no other choice. Together, they prepared for war with Russia having it’s eyes set on North America. They had a fighting force of a combined 1.3 billion, the largest army ever.
By 2017, the continent of Asia had been assimilated together, for a war against the western world. One day prior to the Americas being invaded, the young man in the desert’s war had claimed nearly one hundred million lives. One unjust accidental act turned the world on its head with every single person in the world with great pain and suffering. By the time the war was over, a little more than two hundred million people would be dead.
Des Moines, Iowa September, 2019
Chapter 1: Old Soldier
I thought it was all a dream, for a moment. The explosions. The falling debris. The bullets passing nearby my head. The painful screaming in all directions. The dead bodies on the ground. The terror.
I was running, between mounds of blasted brick and mortar. The crackled voice of someone in my earpiece making a count down, “Ten.”
I dart left, then right around a Humvee, and hurdle over a dead body.
A few tracer strafe past from the enemy behind me. They were close enough to feel the heat off of them.
A mortar goes off just a few feet from knocking me to the pavement face first.
Chunks of debris rain down on me. I feel sharp pain in my jaw and mouth.
I curse under my breath, jump up to my feet and start out running again. As I run I touch my mouth with my gloved hand and see blood. I must of bit down on my lip. As count down in my ear continues in quick succession, I notice just fifteen feet ahead a partially blown out building. If I make it, it may be shelter enough. The noise of explosions and gunfire, I sprint for the building.
“Five. Four. Three. Two.”
The sound of several jet planes rumble over the other sound. I’m almost threw. I lunge up into the air and through a blown out hole in the brick wall of the building, as the voice said, “One.”
All hell breaks loose. The ground shakes as if there is earthquake and the sound is deafening. The ceiling above me falls. Darkness comes over me, all is quiet, and I feel sharp pains all over my body till they slowly dull away to nothing.
It all must be dream. When I open my eyes and turn to my left, she will be there, her head lying on the pillow next to me asleep. I would stare lovingly at the soft features on her young beautiful face and brown hair. I would wait anxiously for her wake up and show me bright blue eyes. She would then slowly move toward me, kiss me lovingly, tell me that she loves me, and then I would tell her I love her.
It’s been so long since I’ve been able to do that. Every night, I prayed that I would be able, too.
Bright light overcomes me. All sound is muted. I stare straight up at the sky. Four dark objects, the outlines of men walk up on either side of me. I try saying something to them. I feel my voice box vibrated, but I can’t hear my own words. One of the men kneels down next to me, but I still can only see his outline.
My eyes slowly adjust to the light, and the scenery around becomes a pale gray. I feel broken pieces of bricks and plaster around my head. I try to focus on the man kneeling next to me, but his figure is too, blurred to see. I try saying something again and the man comes closer. He has a weathered face and a beard.
He is just inches from my face. I see his lips move as he speaks to me, showing his yellowed teeth. I don’t hear a word he says. I look up toward his tired brown eye.
I then notice he is holding an AK-47 in one of his hands. SHIT, I think as looks up and begins talking another one of the other soldiers that surrounds me. I then strain my eyes to the right toward his other arm that is at eye level and see a Russian flag on it.
SHIT. THEY’RE GONNA KILL ME.
Terrible thoughts cross my mind. At any moment, this man is going to stand, press the barrel his AK to my forehead and pull the trigger. I’ve come this far. Two years of fighting and it’s come to this. Some filthy bastard is going to kill me in cold blood. It’s all over, now.
When I came too, my head pounded like a jackhammer, but my hearing must be back, I hear a man humming. I slowly opened my eyes and see that the source of the humming. The man sits in a chair reading a newspaper just a few feet from me. The newspaper obscures his face. The paper is an American newspaper, which has the usual news reports about the war on it.
I’m in small and dark room with no windows. By the door sits an AK-47 leaning up against the wall. All of my gear has been taken off of me and I am tied to a cot. I try to move my body, but I’m struck with horrible pain. I fight the urge to scream in pain, but grunt loudly. The man lowers the newspaper, it’s the Russian soldier from before. He’s much older than I ought when I first saw him, maybe in his late fifty’s. His hair is graying on the side and his clothes are covered in mud stains.
With a thick accent, but good English he speaks, “Slow down there.”
I look up at him and he sets the newspaper on the ground next to him and leans back into his chair. I stare at him for a moment, sizing him up, I finally say, “I thought you guy’s don’t take prisoners?”
“Most don’t. I guess fortunately for you we do,” he said coldly. “Try not to move very much. My medic would have preferred to have, put a neck brace on you, but we’re out of them.” He quickly pulls from his pocket, my dog tags which also has a key hanging from them, and looks my name, “Your, name is Brian P. Tyler. Thirty-one years old.”
“Yes,” I answered while I thought, this is bad. I’ve heard stories, about guys being tortured. You’d hear stores such as, the breaking of bones, pulling of nails, and red-hot pokers being pressed into the soft tissue of bodies. For me it wouldn’t take much, from what I can tell I’m hurt really bad. I probably have a few broken bones, bad cuts, and bruises. A good chunk of that building probably fell on me.
“Who is April?” He asked.
“You mumbled April, a few times when we found you.”
“My wife,” I swallowed hard. “What’s it to you?”
“Just making conversation.” He reaches into his breast pocket and pulls out a pack of cigarettes and piece of paper. He pulls out a cigarette and a lighter that is inside the pack and lights the cigarette. He takes a long drag on it appearing to savor it.
“Who’s this?” He shows me the piece of paper, which turns out to be a photo that I carried in my jacket pocket. It’s of my young son, Jeremy. He was just four in the picture, dirty blond hair like mine and face like my wife. I remember lazy fall Sunday afternoons watching football all day. During the commercials he would pretend he was a running back, darting from side-to-side in the room and spiking the ball whenever he would make a touchdown. April hated that, because at least once every Sunday, he would spike that ball and is would knock something valuable to the ground.
“My son,” I answered being cold back at him, waiting for him, at any second to press down on one wounds.
He puts his cigarettes back into his pocket and then pulls out a picture of his own, and shows me. It’s of eight-year-old boy. “That’s my boy,” he said with a smile as I look back at him coldly.
“What’s going to happen to me?” I asked.
“I don’t know yet. But I think you should be more concerned with your injuries. You have at least three broken ribs, a broken right leg and foot, a very bad cut on forehead and a sever concussion. There’s a possibility one of those rib has punctured your lung. I’m sorry, but this isn’t a hospital. We can only give you so much care.” He takes another drag off of his cigarette. “When was that last time you saw your boy?”
I sigh loudly annoyed at the questions, “two years.”
“Three for me. You know what the governments, yours and mine included forget about war?”
“No matter who you are, there is another man just like me,” he points directly at me and takes puff off of his cigarette. “On the other side of line. That has no interest in their war. That have no interest in killing another man, but yet he’s forced to be here. Given a loaded gun and forced to dive into battle and kill another man. They’re blind to the to the fact that there so many better things we could be doing. I could be at home playing with my son, turning him into a man, a better man than me. For what?”
He pauses, apparently waiting for an answer from me. “I really don’t know,” I answered. “I’m a career soldier. I think war was kind of in my job description.”
He laughs slightly, “So am I. Ironic, isn’t it? Since, I’m sitting here bitching.” He looks away from me and at his cigarette, which he rolls back and forth between his fingers looking at the burning ambers on the tip. “My point is, governments or a group people like to make war. They almost enjoy it. But if you ask just one person at random, they’ll tell you they dislike war and want nothing to do with it and would in fact do everything in their power to stop it. Then you combine those same type of people together, they find a way to justify it. Odd, isn’t it?” He shakes his head back and forth in disappointment as he takes a drag off the cigarette. As he exhales the smoke he continued, “It takes one war mongered to lead a group of pacifists clamor for it.” He sits in silence for moment, shuffling in his seat and said, “Maybe, I’m just an old soldier thousand’s of miles from home, longing for something I’ll never see again.”
“I am home.”
“You live near here?” I shake my head yes, “I fear that before this war is over, my home will look just like here. So, what did we solve?” He stares long and hard at me, with an angry look before he answered his own question, “Shit. We didn’t solve shit, just caused worse problems.”
We stare at one another, as I look at his sincere look on this face. He seams tired of war and has been at it a longer than I have. I hope I don’t end up like him, fifty and supposed to be thinking about what I should do be doing with my remaining years, since my life is a little over half done. Instead this man is stuck here, playing a younger mans game. I looked up to his eyes and noticed he has a kindness in his eyes that has finally shown through his gruff and dirty appearance. Unfortunately, I can’t trust that kindness. It could turn on me at moment and the interrogation will begin.
Chapter 2: Two Hours Earlier
The grey skies above mute out my surroundings and it’s devoid of life. The curb of this once sleepy suburb, shells of blown out cars, trees ripped in two, homes reduced rubble, and yards pot marked with mortar craters. Not too far away the intense fighting wages on and not too long ago I was separated from my unit. It’s just few blocks to my north the rapid fire of AK-47’s and return fire of M-16’s crack through the air. There is a sudden grenade blast, all of these sounds signal our struggled resistance and our eventual retreat. I crane my neck to look high up into the sky and I can see a small speck of a bomber flying toward the city deliver its payload in an attempt to sever supply lines. Ten minutes ago, I was sitting inside a Humvee, in a column of ten vehicles working its way forward to secure a large park, in order to create a landing zone for a planed push. We were steered away from our planed route due to shells that had dropped on the road and destroyed it.
We only drove down to the next block and continued on in the same direction when the explosion rocked the cabin. We were on the west side of the city. The only thing that was on my mind, was when I looked out the window I recognized some of the houses we were driving past. This was the neighborhood I was living in just two years before. The last time I saw these streets it was a warm sunny day, now its dark and gray, and in shambles from thirty day’s of battle.
As I look at the houses as they passed, I saw a sudden trail of smoke coming from between two houses. An RPG explodes just underneath Humvee. We drove right into a trap. The truck shakes. Glass shatters. The driver’s door is ripped off. Dirt and gravel are thrown up in the air as well as a fireball. We’re launched up into the air barrel rolling. The driver is launched from vehicle as it rolls. We crash to ground violently and upside down. Briefly everything goes black.
I was only out for a few seconds. When I open my eyes, I can feel the warm blood on the right side of my face. I’m on my side lying on the ceiling of the cabin. I react with the prowess of a hangover from a two-day drinking binge. My ears ring and I can feel low vibrations through the wreckage. My sight is blurry and bright. I feel around and feel warm liquid mixed in dirt. As my sight is regained, I realize that there are four broken and dead bodies around me. Outside I can see shadows of running marines and soldiers, the vibrations I feel are probably grenade blasts. The ringing subsides slowly, being replaced by rapid gunfire and yelling. Some of the yelling is coming from my fellow soldiers, but most come in foreign language.
I grab hold of nearby M-16 that is covered in blood. I look up see a fellow soldier that runs up and takes cover in behind the wreck of another Humvee. After second he stands and squeezes off a few rounds and takes cover as a barrage of return fire. The return bullets snap through the air some ping loudly as they strike the armored shell of the Humvee. He stands again to return. He get’s one shot off as a loud crack breaks the air and he falls to the ground dead. Dark red blood flows from a bullet hole in his head.
I curse under my breath as I check the magazine on my M-16 to make sure it’s fully loaded. I close my eyes. Take a deep breath. Now, to go into hell, possibly to me my maker in pain with my guts spilled on the ground. I open my eyes and start to crawl out of the broken window next to the seat I was in, away from the dead soldier. The dead soldier is in killing field. On my stomach I crawl mortars falling around me blowing dark damp. Screams of erupt about fifty feet, behind me along. I look back seeing behind another wrecked and blown apart Humvee figures of my fellow soldiers being shot up by rapid machine gun fire. Suddenly a stream of smoke, probably from a bazooka flies into the area with a high-pitched whistle. In eruption of fire dirt debris and part of human beings are thrown high up into the, some of which heads toward me. I shield my head as it hits.
After a second as the dirt debris is beginning the settle I find myself face to face another soldier, only it just the top half of his torso, he is missing an arm, and has a bullet hole in his head. Over kill. These guys are ordered to take no prisoners; they’re a murder squad. By the end of the day we are going pushed out of the city limits. Shit, by the end of the week we might be pushed out of the state.
Another, mortar explodes near my head. Dirt and rocks fall on my head.
I look for the panicked voice calling for me. I see nothing but ground, mangled bushes and blown apart houses. Stray bullets strafe the ground and sides of houses.
“Gunny,” I fined the voice, it’s corporal Richmond. With a few surviving marines around him. “Gunny Tyler. Over here,” he screams in a panic, still unsure if he’s gotten my attention. I begin crawling again, but faster. I hit my knee hard on exposed rock. The mortar begins falling with more frequency around me. The blasts are deafening, my ears ring. I break my left middle finger in a small mortar hole. The pain is nothing, getting over to my fellow Marines is everything. I hear yelling in the same foreign language far be hind me. I know the language; I know exactly what they are saying and what its means.
I reach the other Marines and they help me off of the ground into a crouching position. I take moment in the chaos, the yelling, mortar blasts, and the killing gather myself. I check my broken finger; I find it’s not the finger that’s broken, but the knuckle.
“Gunny!” Corporal Richmond said out of breath. “They’re pulling back. They’re pulling back!”
“We’ve got to move,” I said while coughing, clearing the dirt that has lined my throat during the crawl.
“We’re pinned down. We can’t,” another Marine yell’s. A mortar shell goes off nearby and gravel and clumps of dirt fall on us.
“We’re going to have too,” I said. “We’re getting the fuck out of her. Pull back. Join another platoon. We do it now before the air raid comes.”
“Yeah. They’re about to drop hell on us.”
In the distance and getting closer, a jet engine roars. Corporal Richmond and I lean over and look around the edge of the house and see a white jet bearing down on the street. It maneuvers to line up perfectly with the street.
As the twin machine guns light up and begin strafing the street I yell, “Marines! Move out!”
We move as the jet begins releasing bombs from its wings. They spread out in the air to cover a larger area. We move as one along the narrow space between houses the street still being strafed behind them. The sound of second jet echoes out, then a third. More machine guns sound out from jets and then the violent explosions of bombs. Debris flies through the air. Fire erupts toward the grey sky. There is a marine directly in front of me, then a tracer around impacts the ground. A column of dirt and rocks erupt from the ground, like a cloud of ash from a volcano.
After, running through the cloud there is no one in front of me. More bullets. More hot burning fluorescent green tracer rounds. A house a hundred seemingly untouched by the war explodes violently. Wood, metal, furniture, and bathroom fixtures erupt into the sky. The concussion wave hits me and throws me to the ground. My vision is dazed, dirt and smoke hangs thick in the air.
As my vision comes back, I’m looking up toward the sky the clouds break for moment. The blue of the sky shines through the smoke that’s rising.
I look over and see that I’m between two houses. Bullets and tracer round burst through the wall of house. Siding shreds and wood splinter rain down on me. Bullets hammer the ground around men. I curl up trying to make myself small target. The wall comes loose falls on me. Bullets still hammer the wall. Then silence and the sound of the jets disappear in the distance.
It took twenty minutes to get lose from the wall. I found my self amongst smoking ruins on houses, sounds of battles echo in the distance. I am alone.
I walk west with a limp, disconnected from my unit. The wall that fell on me almost broke my left leg. Luckily I have the advantage, this is the street I live on, and my house is just another three blocks down. I take stock of what I have. I have six magazines of ammo for the M16, four for my .45 mm pistol at my side, four grenades, a bayonet, and the switchblade clipped to the inside of my right boot. I’ve tried my radio, but it was destroyed when the RPG hit my Humvee.
Low overhead a grey F-18 Hornet files directly overhead banking to the east, with tracer bullets whipping around it. The plane is moving faster than the speed of sound. Any intact glass in the area shatters. The F-18 is shortly followed by a black MIG-35 guns lit up in a hellish yellow blaze. Before disappearing from view, the MIG fires off a missile. With a hiss and a stream of smoke it flies off after the F-18. As the hiss fades an explosion sounds out in the distance, signifying the end of the F-18’s flight.
I continue on east, just ahead of me are two abandoned cars, on the south side of the road the closest a red car parked by the curb on the left side of the street, and has a neighboring oak tree between the car and the sidewalk. On the opposite side of the street is a white town car parked. I scan the street as I limp along, carefully checking the edges of the houses, for enemy soldiers about to pounce from a trap I am about to walk in. I check the street a head for signs of trip wires attached to mines full of metal shrapnel ready and willing to ripe me to bloody shreds.
Just ahead I hear muffled voices and footsteps. I see no one. I move faster knowing the sound is somewhere ahead of me behind on of the houses. I position myself behind the oak tree next to the red car, peering around the corner of the tree in the direction of the sounds. The sidewalk runs through the front yard of white house. The windows of the house are blown out, the roof missing, pieces of which are scattered in the front lawn. Through the windows I see signs of the inferno that gutted it, burnt walls and furniture.
As they get louder, it becomes more obvious of where they are coming from. They are in they yard between white house and neighboring house. Shadows appear on the ground as three enemy soldiers appear, their clothes dirty and torn. They talk quietly as they move in the Russian language. I take cover behind the tree, being quiet and getting my gun ready for a possible fight. A few blocks due north a firefight breaks out, and the Russians conversation quicken. From what I can pick out in their conversation, is that they also are separated from their unit. They move across the yard to the street and cross. I crouch down as they stop at the white car.
I move around to the side of the tree and putting the tree between us. I stand, the gunfire to the north continues. I look around the tree and see the soldiers crouched on the ground; one pulls a map out from his jacket and begins looking over it. I hear a jet coming in from the west. I look and see that it is bearing down on the location of the fighting. I take cover, trying to convince myself to wait for them to leave, but they’re to tempting of a target. I pull out a grenade, pull the pin, and hold on to it with an iron grip. I clench my eyes shut and breath slowly. In. Out. Just need to be quick. In. Out. Throw the grenade and fire. I open my eyes as I hear the guns on the jet beginning to fire, the memory of what just happened fresh in my mind. Wait. In. Out.
The jet drops its payload, explosions sound out. I turn and throw the grenade in across the street, seeing the fireballs rising up into the air two blocks north. I pull up my M-16 and fire off five rounds successively at them hitting the Russian with the map. The bullet hits him in the back. Blood explodes from the exit wound in his chest and he falls back to pavement. The other two scamper behind the white car seeing the grenade bouncing on the ground, coming to rest next to the wounded soldier. As I take cover behind the cars fender, I see the wounded soldier groping his bloody wound.
The grenade explodes. I hear the white cars windows shatter, lift slightly off of the ground and land violently. I rise again, letting louse four more rounds at the car. I take cover as the two remaining soldiers fire back at me. Bullets ricochet off of the car. I move closer to the front bumper. I peak around the corner of the bumper keeping my head down, seeing the two standing behind their car. I fire off two rounds hitting one in the head.
I pull another grenade as the last survivor fires at me. I wait a till his AK-47 runs out, I pull the pin and throw. I raise my M-16 and begin firing, very carefully squeezing the trigger, just letting off two to three rounds at a time. The soldier runs seeing the grenade and tries to stay a head of my bullets. I feel the butt of the gun kicking into my shoulder as I continue fire rounds at the Russian. My bullet hit off of the car unleashing sparks and the house that sits behind the. I see the soldier pull the empty mag and quickly change in a full one. He rounds the rear bumper the white car and takes cover, just as the grenade explodes.
He quickly recovers and returns fire. I take cover, seeing him making a dash for cover behind my car. I hear run up and crouch, cursing me in Russian. A shadow quickly passes over us. I look up and see an enemy bomber directly above heading east following the street, with its bomb bay doors open.
“Shit!” I yell. I turn west and see bombs beginning to fall just two blocks down. They explode incinerating houses, trees and cars. High-pitched whistles from high above ignite the adrenaline. In a mad dash I sprint west, next to me is the Russian, getting the idea that this entire area is being carpet bombed. Behind us quickly catching, is a wall of fire, leap fogging toward us.
Just ahead I spot an empty retention pond with a large culvert that runs under the street. I dash for it, leaving the Russian behind. I look back and see a black cylinder slam into the street a half block behind me and explodes. I reach the conduit and leap next to it landing heavily in mud. I crawl into the conduit, splashing five-inch deep water and mud, and take cover as explosions from above ring out. Ahead I see fire and debris in the air, for a second I realize this is what heel looks like. The ground shakes with every bomb that hits the ground. A strong wind shoots through the culvert, pushing a wall of water into my face. I gasp for air. It continues for what seems like forever, but very slowly the explosions subside.
Chapter three and four now available.
© 2015 Austin James Marion