The War Witch (Short Story)

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It was a humid evening amid the pines. What’s worse, the approaching night carried fog in its wake.

Certainly, a wake would soon be needed.

We were in the tall grass. Cradling the cruel black adonized purpose of our automatic rifles as if they were precious children.

“O good,” Craig muttered darkly.

In the thermal glow of our tax-funnel optics, at least a dozen polychromatic blurs leapfrogged through the trees. We were converging, the professional detachment of the rendezvous reminding me of a corporate mixer. Mars was in the market and Abaddon would close.

These wackos had some PMC in their ranks. Where they’d gotten the funding, god only knows. If we weren’t careful those damned mercs would see us as the same colorful blurs that so tantalizingly danced in and out of my sights.

We were on an intercept. They were on an ambush. Theoretically, we had the upper hand.

It was only logical for them to flank the perimeter of the clearing by staying eastward with the trees. Our five men versus what was supposed to be a dozen.

Surprise, silenced NATO rounds piercing the thick veil of night, like overgrown BB’s, finding their ways into the waiting flesh of the baddies. That’s the theory. That’s the dream…

Daly, the recent hire, tripped on a root. The recruitment battalion wasn’t lying. I bit my lip at the urge to kick the dead weight.

‘He must have some merit if he made it this far…’

I heard the distinct ‘thwick’ of a 5.56 round followed by a sharp cry. A cry that was quickly muffled.

“shhhhh...” Lynch hissed with a fierce quiet as he clasped a gloved hand over Daly’s mouth. When the muffled sound of his wounded panting ceased, “Did I give the order to engage?”

Tom Daly, the chubby-cheeked farmboy from Ohio, shook his goggled head, no.

“Then why in the solemn fuck is your safety off?”

Tom just bit his lip even harder.

“Listen, I don’t care if you bleed out, you probably won’t die…dumbass...though…shooting yourself in the foot ….I don’t give too much of a shit if you do. Just stay quiet, till these fucknuggets are neutralized. Copy…?”

Tom nodded.

‘Shit…shit…shit… There was no way they didn’t hear that.’

It was no sooner than that thought crossed my mind that Lynch’s head exploded like gruesome lightning. He landed face down in the cool dirt, emitting a high pitched shrieking gurgling, with a triangular flap of skull hanging off by the merest whim of scalp.

…military intelligence….

‘No possible vantage.’ …. ‘Tell that to the headshot hero.’

I didn’t have much time to curse the donut dippers as Kalashnikov fire erupted like a martial rain. God these guys were amateurs.

I knew that the Redfern boys weren’t gonna like that. I was right.

The barrage ended. I suppressed a chuckle as I watched one colored blur smack another in the head.

Snipers can’t do much through all that noise. We took the chance and serpentined to a new position taking cover behind an old foundation and some ancient tractors.

Then the damndest thing happened.

A voice.

I heard a voice from our former position. But, Lynch was dead and Tom was probably dead too, from embarrassment, if not enemy fire. Besides, it was a little ahead of our current position. Right by the edge of the treeline.

It didn’t sound like anyone on our team.

“Hey! I surrender! They’re all dead….” It sounded pained and genuine.

‘Who the hell….’ I saw every remaining member of the team do a double take to make sure that we were still grouped.

There was no way Redfern or even those hippies would be dumb enough to fall for that. Though…a prisoner was far more valuable to their cause then a pile of corpses.

Though I could no longer see the glowing blurs, I guessed what they were doing. The sniper or snipers were likely sweeping the area, communicating via radio, I hoped that our prone position behind the remains of the old farm wasn’t ‘within vantage.’

They wouldn’t fall for it…there were only two bodies out there…

Then the voice came again. “I’m bleeding! O God help! I’m so thirsty….”

Well, I guess there were three bodies then…which was slightly more plausible.

‘Seriously…who….the….fuck...could that be…who would be this far out in Colorado…who..would…ACTlike that…’

There was no way… My mind raced. There was no way. It didn’t make sense.

I heard the all too familiar ‘thwunk’ of an m203 attachment followed by the hiss of smoke grenades. Jesus, these guys were better equipped than we were.

The fresh hullaballoo gave me the confidence to momentarily peek over the crumbling foundation. I couldn’t see much because there was even more preternaturally tall wheat between us and the enemy. Though every once in a while I glimpsed a glowing blur through the waving stalks.

They were cautiously… tepidly emerging from the tree line in three groups of four men.

“’s all clear…I promise…just help me…”

This emboldened the blurs. The first two groups found Tom and Lynch.

The third group. Which was the last to emerge from the treeline…approached the voice.

A piercing scream rent the night air followed by a cacophony of gunfire.

I dipped back behind cover.

“What in the fuck!” I yelled in a loud whisper.

Everyone was dumbstruck.

Everyone except for that other kid… from Arizona, Diego. He was mumbling something to himself. I lifted my goggles to try and make out his expression. A task that was difficult due to fog.

I did manage it though. And what I read in his eyes was abject fear.

“Brujeria..brujeria….brujeria….” He kept mummbling.

I put a hand on his shoulder.

“Listen, Diego…I don’t speak Spanish…what is it…?”

He just kept repeating, “Brujeria…brujeria…”

The screams were growing more confused as the gunfire grew sparser.

Harrelson leaned in…it was strange to see the big Swede so spooked…

“Brujeria is Spanish for witchcraft.”

Normally, I would have laughed, even taunted my mates but…this wasn’t normally.

I frowned. “Well, the commanding officer is dead. And I am not equipped to deal with witchcraft. Any ideas Diego?”

Diego paused…and looked me in the eyes… “Run.”
“Run, when ‘Brujeria’ has already done three-quarters of the job, and dumbass Daly might still be alive enough for a beer and an asswhoopin?”

Run.” Diego reiterated with added vehemence.

When I didn’t assent. Diego spoke more cooly than I had ever heard him speak before.

“Lieutenant, climb up on that broken step, it’s safe…for now. But do it quick.”

Normally, I would have told him to clarify but something in his voice elicited obedience even though I was his superior.

There were only stray shots now and they were close to the ground.

“What am I looking for, Diego?” I asked…ruefully considering that the sniper might not be as distracted as I hoped.

“Switch to night-vision.”

“But the fo..” I began, stopping myself mid-protest as I realized that it had cleared.

In stark electric shades of black and white, I saw the wheat matted down in a dozen or so places. There was no gunfire now.

‘What the hell could have done this, so quickly….’

I’d only heard one voice. Was it a trap? Was there some second team we hadn’t been warned about….

Then I saw it.

There was a… thing with what looked like a long matted mane, half limping, half crawling, I’ve run out of halves but I swear…half slithering…at a disjointed sprinters speed. I raised my scope for a better look.

Its face…was like a man..but no…more like a serpent…an odd sort of diamond…the eyes large but narrow…the skin of a repellant texture…the mane was thick black hair but…this creature…this reptile shouldn’t have hair…several of its limbs seemed to be broken…and god…was it gutted…

I thought about taking a shot. And right as the thought crossed my mind… the thing trained its cunning snake eyes through my scope and right down my soul.

“Nope.” I said as I lept back down behind cover.

“Uh…Diego…what the fuck is that…?”

“It is yee-nad-loo-shii…”

I can only remember the word as syllables though it still haunts me to this day. Imprinted indelibly on my memory living endlessly in my nightmares.

“The war witch who feasts on the fierce.”


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