Earlier this week, Jeremiah Tolbert (@jeremiahtolbert) started a Tumblr called “Write Me a Story About This” wherein he posts images that should provide good seeds for interesting little short stories. I’ve decided to play along; I want to do a flash fiction piece for each image that he posts, and hope that I don’t have too much fun doing it that it distracts me from the novel at which I’m slowly chipping away.
I decided to start this morning with a flash fiction piece for this post:
Devils of the Hindu Kush
They must have descended from bunkers, from caves and other hideouts in the Hindu Kush. They came at night. The camps and bivouacs of the invaders had been laid to waste. When they saw the destruction in the morning, the locals cheered and offerred prayers of thanksgiving. A pair of T-62 tanks burned and gave off an acrid odor. In the ruins of the invaders’ primary base of operations, the armory had been raided; boxes of weapons and ammunition were shattered, and all that remained were splinters and the bloody, tattered clothing of the defenders. The local chieftain found a colonel’s insignia and pinned it to his pakol. For weeks afterward, the invaders seemed on the verge with withdrawal all together, but then they resumed their push into the country.
Another middle-of-the-night attack came. A teenaged boy who had been scouting for the resistance caught a glimpse of the attackers. They had indeed come down from the mountains, but they were not the mujahideen like the ones with which he mingled. From behind his rock outcropping, he watched through his American-made night-vision binoculars as the attackers silently advanced on the camp. They stepped lightly on therapod feet, their jaws quivering with anticipation, their tongues tasting the air. The boy had heard of these devils, had heard that they had blood as cold as a mountain stream. He did not know if the elders meant that literally or as colorful verse. When the attackers finally sprung, they were faster than leopards and the attack was over in moments. Their first wave lashed out with teeth and toe claws, biting and slashing at the sentries. Once the base’s lights came up, the attackers dropped their atavistic pretense and unslung their Kalashnikovs. They were expert shots.
The boy ran back to the hiding place of his mujahideen faction to tell his tale. He told of their stealth and of their speed. He told of their expertise with weapons. He told of their fangs and claws. He called them devils. The leaders of the group listened intently and asked many questions. Did they attack only the invaders? Did they speak to one another? Did they eat the invaders? The boy answered as best he could, and swelled with pride when the leaders demanded that he stay while they debated what came next: did they attempt to enlist them to their cause? Or were these devils even more dangerous than the white-skinned invaders?
They decided to send five men into the Hindu Kush, where the devils were said to make their homes. The five men were trusted and wise soldiers, and they went heavily armed with both weapons and knowledge. As they hiked, they debated the details of the story amongst themselves. Their leader had wanted to recruit these devils to the cause; though the boy had called them devils, they surely must be divine agents. But the men were uneasy. On the third night in the mountains, they awoke at midnight to screaming. When their eyes adjusted to the starlight, they saw one their own horizontal in the air, his legs kicking and his torso twisting in the jaws of one of those devils. They opened fire without taking aim. Could they at least startle the devil away while they re-grouped? No, the devil knew the sound of the cracking bullets and was unperturbed. The devil threw the man to the ground and slashed him open from throat to navel. The screaming intensified. Someone in the group had the presence of mind to toss a grenade. The devil’s own scream was more chilling.
That very night, they followed the tracks made by the devil. They found those huge therapod footprints and followed them up a trail, through a pass in the mountains, and back down a path to the mouth of a cave. The men knew at once what they must do.
They were surprised at their own success. They had not expected to catch the devils off their guard but it was nearly a half-minute before any of the devils so much as fluttered an eyelid. The floor of the cave was slick with devil-blood. But one of them escaped. They saw it skulk along the edge of the cave, surreptitiously gathering belts of ammunition to feed the rifle already slung over its shoulders.
By the time the men noticed that the last devil had escaped, it was already halfway down the mountainside. They ran after it but the devil only turned back and hissed and laid down a blast of suppressive fire to cover its escape, dashing down a switchback toward the capital city.
(This originally appeared on notnonfiction.)