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Pockets of Poison
Hows Pop and the girls?
I know it's ner near harvest so I won’t keep you long.
I got a few things to say you might not like.
I’m not gonna be home for the season’s start.
I know Pops gettin up there and you needed the hands, but I just don’t got enough to come home with just yet.
Don’t you worry though.
We’ll all be together by winters start.
Love you ma
I hope you got my last one.
By the time you’d get this, it’ll be christmas.
It’s hard to keep myself up nowadays.
You still gonna make that pot pie?
Sometimes that’s all I can do not to go crazy is think about it.
I’ll be looking for your next letter.
Love you ma
is everything alright over there?
I haven’t gotten anything from you for a while now.
Did the fields go sour?
I just hope Pop isn’t trying to get back out there.
You know how he gets when the crops go bad.
Ma, if this reaches you, I need you to write something.
If something's wrong, I can send what i’ve made out here to help.
You’ve just gotta give me a sign.
Love you ma,
Hell on earth.
Whoever said that got it wrong.
Hell’s a metal box ripping through a vacuum filled with orbs of fire and rocks hurling into nothingness.
And hell's the only thing that’s making you feel safe right now.
Cold sweat drips from every pore, jumping to the beat that's punching through your chest.
Hands clenching to a bar on the wall to see if it’ll stop the shaking, except now you're everything is shaking.
How many times have you done this?
The only thing you do know is you're not in front.
But the candidates to lead the charge are in good supply.
Lotta newbies in this crowd, looking tough and clutching their rifles like they’ll even get to fire it.
All the vets are hurling left and right.
All they wear are breather masks and tee shirts because they know how much good their gears gonna do them.
The whole lot of them sat in the darkness of the air lock.
Except you, Captains gotta stand.
Captain, what a worthless title.
The only command you got is body count at the end.
So all you need to worry about is getting to that end.
“Zulu, 3 minutes to breach” a voice from your earpiece says.
The whole team tenses up.
You find your way to a small group by three large metal kennels at the other side of the room.
“Find your places” you whisper to them.
One by one, they clamp onto bars on the sides of the kennels.
“Zulu, 2 minutes to breach”
You leave them and get to the front of the room.
Now you’ve got everyone's attention.
The vets look at you like hope, the rookies think your Colonel Carnage.
You try hard not to look any of them in the eyes.
Because pushing their bodies aside will be all the harder if you do.
“Load arms now” you boom.
The sounds of Cartridges slamming quickly dissipates to resume the painful silence.
The room jumps and you feel like you in a car crash
“Zulu, prepare for breach”
Red lights blast into effect like a techno rave.
Everyone scrambles to their feet.
“Toons to the middle!”
Dozens of them run up in columns like wads of body armor.
“Knockers to the front!”
On que, two troops draped in explosives get to the door.
“Units front center!”
Instantly, the columns break to form a path for the three large kennels to be hauled to the front.
“Air lock opening”
The door slides open to reveal a hull of a different ship entirely.
The two by the door start lacing the hull with a glue paste and they begin planting dozens of charges.
The kennels begin to vibrate to life and the troops around it back away.
One of the troops laying charges tosses you a button and gets away from the door.
You glance over to the group around the boxes.
You give one of them a nod and they flip a switch on the kennels.
The sound of air whooshing into them is quickly replaced by massive, bear like growl.
You get to the back of the room, ready to push them all out if you have to but mostly so they won’t see your face.
You take a moment just to look at this serene scene.
So peaceful and full of fear.
Some job this is.
Just kills children trying to feed their mothers.
And this silence is the last one so many children will feel.
“Just get us through!
Get us through and everybody goes home!”
Chunks of the hull blast back at you and the room is engulfed in smoke.
Instantly, the air lock is flooded with bullets and the troops in the front are completely mauled.
The kennel doors rip off as three, cow sized mastiffs hurl into the entrance.
The columns push through their shredded comrades and begin the charge into the smoke.
The hallway is masked in the haze of toxic fumes, lit only by the cannons barraging the troops.
For a moment you hear a dozen whirls and then the chainsaw sound coming from your mens rifles.
All sixty of you sprint as far as you can, blasting whatever lies ahead.
Then, the charge completely clogs and the sounds of confusion and fear ensues.
You try to push them forward but with no use.
You feel the walls closing in on you with all the bodies pushed against them.
If they don’t start moving now, it’s over.
After a few more seconds of agony, the charge picks up speed.
You feel the ground jumping as you all run in unison.
The lines of bullets start to disappear to be replaced by your own fire.
Then they stop completely.
You sprint with the others to the end of the hallway to find three dogs ripped into shreds.
Around their corpses are dozens of armored marines lay gauged in pieces.
Behind them is your target, the prize.
A sealed vault whose contents you’ll never know.
You turn to start moving back to the airlock and the scene unravels before you.
48 ravaged bodies lined the battle.
Among one of the larger concentrations you spot movement.
You rush over to claw out whoever it is.
The armors that of a marine.
It’s not one of yours.
You don’t wait to see what happens next.
You take your rifle and plant it in their chest.
Six shots pound into them.
You toss your gun into the airlock and flip on your com.
“Opcon, This is Zulu. Mission complete.”
Boiling rain beats down on your crown and streaks your neck, cleansing all faults and fears.
Here no one can see you.
Here the stains of regret fade in constant, content streams flowing down your hands.
Here, you are free.
Steam grazes your face like the hot air off an oven.
The pot pies almost ready.
Pops got a brand new bat.
You all pile in the car and head to the diamond to squeeze a game in before dinner.
Don’t let em catch you!”
Your sisters are all faster than you.
You feel something tap your shoulder.
He’s well dressed.
Not from your town.
Got big pockets of promises.
You hate what he wants.
And you can’t refuse.
“Of course you can,” ma says.
“ I’ve seen his type.
Nothing but flashy coats and words of poison.
Don’t worry honey, we’ll get through this.
But he’s not how.”
You love her.
And you know she’s wrong.
You have to go.
“I know son,” Pop tells you.
“You're not doing a noble thing.”
“You're doing the right thing”
“We’re all trying to.”
He knows you.
He is you.
Every single soul on these jobs is ready to die.
To die so their mothers can wake up in the same pile of dust.
But that doesn’t matter now.
Now, dozens of pleads weigh down your hands.
Without a rip.
Just as you made them.
As purposeless as you.
So you give them one.
And as they shrivel into ash, your drive becomes clear.
You're gonna burn their promises.
Their words of poison will fuel your embers.