Chapter 3: Stuck In The Mud
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"We've been driving for about an hour. Any clue on what we're really supposed to be looking for?" Flint asked.

 

Hezekiah shrugged, his butt hurt, his legs were close to cramping and a massive headache had fogged his thoughts, "We aren't looking for anything specific, Flint! How many times do I have to say this!" Hezekiah said, pinching the bridge of his nose.

 

"This is the first time I'm asking-"

 

"Well, this is like the fiftieth time I'm telling you this, man. We aren't looking for anything, we just have to scout out the area and report back to base! Got it?"

 

Flint was a bit silent, so Hezekiah asked again to reinforce his point, "You got it, Corporal?"

 

"Yes sir," Flint said.

 

"Thank you." Hezekiah didn't like to bark so harshly at his squad. Hell, not at anyone in fact. Hezekiah always tried to be as polite as possible. But this soaring headache made him easily irritated. And it seemed to only get worse as they continued. Going from mild brain fog to hammers banging in the front lobe of his head.

 

Lafayette took a quick glance at Hezekiah, and then back at the road, "You feeling alright, Sergeant?" He asked.

 

Hezekiah was shielding his weary eyes with his hand, he just grumbled a "yeah" to the Corporal.

 

"If you are having a headache, Brian has pain killers," Lafayette told him.

 

"I do?" Brian asked.

 

"Duh, you're the squad medic, right?"

 

"Ooooh yeah!"

 

"Imbecile," Lafayette spit.

 

"Thanks but, no thanks. Brian, hold them for later. It's just migraine," Hezekiah said putting on a fake- though painful- smile, "It'll pass."

 

"You aren't good for Roadtrips, huh?" Brian asked him.

 

Hezekiah wasn't good for talking right now, but that was beside the point, he still needed to converse with his crew whether it pained him or not, "Yeah, something like that. Maybe I'm just dehydrated," Hezekiah said, taking a sip from his water canteen for the millionth time. Clearly, that wasn't it.

 

Flint was acting as the Radioman for their journey today, occasionally trying to use the radio whenever he could to update High Command on their position. But the trees blocked everything, and their signal had become completely dead.

 

[Flint] "This is Unity 5 here, to Echo One. Can you read? Over!"

 

[Command] "-------*Static*--------"

 

"Dammit!" Flint shook his head, "Nothing still."

 

Brian tapped Flint on the shoulder, "Hey, you think we'll find alien life out here? Like... actual intelligent type? I mean we don't have any evidence to think they are out there."

 

Flint thought about it for a while, rubbing his face while doing so, "Maybe. Absence of evidence isn't always evidence of absence, know what I mean?"

 

"Yeah! Yeah, I was thinking that too kinda, what do you think the aliens here would look like?"

 

Again Flint scratched his chin, "No clue what they would look like, but I can tell you what I hope they look like. Hot girls, the Captain Kirk type."

 

"Oh"

 

"I could enjoy being here if the aliens were anything like that. Shit, I could get used to that!" Flint leaned back, daydreaming.

 

"A guy could dream..."

 

"Speaking of dream, I dunno about y'all, but I gotta take a piss!" Quinn said from his position on the turret of the JLTV.

 

"I could go for that too," Flint affirmed.

 

Hezekiah looked at Lafayette, "Mind pulling over for a sec?"

 

"Sure. I've been itching to stretch my legs anyway," he said as he lowered his foot off of the gas and came to a stop.

 

Immediately all of Unity hopped out. Hezekiah himself thought it was a great time to finally get rid of that headache. As soon as he took a step into the dirt that covered the floor, and into nature, he could feel it subside a little. Taking a deep breath into the forest around him. The trees here were like the trees back home. In the forest bordering his yard as a kid, he'd often go down by the river as a kid, watching the little tiny fish in the water swim over the rocks. He'd watch as the trees around him stretched up to the sky like brown swords pointed to a distant star far far away. He'd lie on the moss growing against the rocks like they were a makeshift cot, watching the squirrels jump from tree to tree.

 

The forest reminded him, of all things, home. He remembered how the forest spoke to him back then, with the wind whispering into his ear and caressing his cold cheeks. The sound of birds chirping surrounded him in a symphonic orchestra of beautiful and natural sounds. To recreate the experience at a concert, he'd pay actual money, but here it was free. As was all things. The natural world was free to move and to sing, free to be enjoyed by anyone who wished to stop for a moment to just enjoy the surroundings. To enjoy the day-long show performed for them, just them.

 

Hezekiah's ears picked up the sound of those birds… though they sounded different. They croaked, sang, gossiped in the trees. They were different than the ones back home. Singing a different song, their notes went from high to low. In unison. As if they were singing some sort of sad melody, the songs had a slow musical rhythm that Hezekiah thought was only possible in his musical playlists. But his ideas of what was and wasn't possible were already tested to their extent earlier today, and this was nothing out of the ordinary for today's order.

 

But it wasn't just the birds… the entire forest was alive. Alive with song. The bare tree branches rubbing against the other provided the perfect background noise to listen to. But above all else was a certain, distinct rhythm that Hezekiah knew that he heard. It was real, it wasn't generated by the birds, or by the wind, or the trees. It was unnatural…

 

"Thud… thud… thud…"

 

Hezekiah raised his head and took a few steps towards the direction of the noise, "You guys hear that?" he called out.

 

"Hear what?" He heard Flint's voice not too far away.

 

"That low, grainy kinda sound."

 

"You mean my piss?" Flint asked.

 

"What? No! No! That deeper sound…"

 

"Thud! Thud! Thud!"

 

"Oh yeah, I see what you mean," Said Flint with thought, "Maybe some thunder? Thought it might rain."

 

Hezekiah thought it was possible, but it didn't sound familiar at all, "Uh… I dunno Flint. I've never heard Thunder like that before."

 

All of the sudden, a sharp piercing cry came from the forests behind them. Further downhill. It was a human cry, not the cry of an eagle or some animal. It was from… Lafayette?

 

Hezekiah found Flint's eyes, both of them thought the same thing. Quickly they dropped what they were doing, and ran towards the truck. Their rifles were inside. Hezekiah grabbed his M27 Rifle from inside the truck, slinging it around his shoulder, and continuing his run towards Lafayette. Quinn, who had been lounging near the truck, also joined them in their sprint to ensure the safety of their squadmate. All the while the noise was getting louder, and louder.

 

"THUD! THUD!" The noise soon began to shake the very Earth they sprinted on, Hezekiah made sure to dodge trees and fall branches as he made his way through the branches.

 

"Lafayette! Don't worry we're coming bud! We're getting to you!" Hezekiah called out.

 

"Jesus, what the fuck is that sound?" Quinn yelled out as he ran.

 

"Earthquake?"

 

"Earthquakes don't sound like that, Flint! This is something else!" Quinn told him.

 

"Lafayette!" Hezekiah called out.

 

"Over here!" The sound of Brian's voice echoed from a break in the treelines, a ridge just overlooking the valley upstream. The three Marines burst out of the valley, expecting the worst, expecting to see their two squadmates in trouble…

 

But they were just standing there.

 

"What the hell is going on here?" Hezekiah demanded from the two.

 

"Is anyone hurt?" Quinn asked in succession, out of breath.

 

Lafayette looked at the two, a look of pure amazement on his face, "That wasn't a scream of pain, sir! Look over there…"

 

The Three men followed where Lafayette was pointing. Above the treelines, soaring above the ground beneath it, was a giant figure…

 

And it was moving.

 

"Is that a…" Flint squinted his eyes.

 

"It's impossible," Quinn said. His voice was shallow, and his jaw hung open as he just stared at it.

 

Hezekiah couldn't believe what he was seeing. It couldn't be real. He had to be dreaming. These things don't exist! They couldn't! It didn't make any sense to him, he was still in Afghanistan having the most bizarre dream of his life! That was the only possible explanation!

 

"Is that a Giant Crab?" Flint asked, his face twisted in a pure and utter dumbfounding. It appeared that way to Hezekiah. The creature had four long spindly legs carrying a huge flattened oval of a body. The resemblance to a crab was unreal. It had to be at least 50 feet tall if Hezekiah was accounting for its distance away. 100 Feet if Hezekiah was being realistic, but realism had been thrown out the window a long time ago. Right here - right in front of him - was a giant 15-meter tall crab, walking over the treetops downhill.

 

From its extremely large head to its impossibly long feet, it was covered in a hard orange-ish skin. Almost like armor, cladding the entire creature. Only around the joints and the eyes did the armor appear to give way to black skin.

 

The head of the creature had three large oval-shaped features, each the size of two men stacked on top of each other. They radiated a blue light that gave it the appearance of more of a machine than a living creature. Hezekiah somehow managed to conclude that those were its eyes, through which the… thing… surveyed the ground and feeble creatures underneath it. Three long and wispy antennae flowed from the head of the creature, and floated in the sky, blowing back and forth with the wind current.

 

With each step, it shook the ground. It couldn't be that far away from them.

 

"Uhh, guys… what if it sees us?" Brian's voice sounded as if he quickly came to the realization that this thing could very well be hostile. Hezekiah, and the rest of Unity for that matter, came to the same conclusions really quickly.

 

"If it does, what the fuck can we do? Shoot at it? We'd need a fucking tank to bring that down!" Quinn said, his voice still barely higher than a whisper.

 

"We'll have to retreat into the forest then! Where the trees will cover us, and pray it doesn't find us," said Hezekiah. An idea quickly filled his head, "Hey, Brian! You have your phone with you?"

 

Brian nodded, "Y-yeah, I got it right here sir!" His voice held a mix of both fear and astoundment.

 

"I want you to record that thing! High Command has got to see this! They'll lose their shit!" Hezekiah said. Brian unzipped his smartphone from a pocket and held it to record the thing.

 

"I've seen this thing before… War of the Worlds, those fighting machines that had the tentacles and shit! Just like it!" Quinn said, shaking his head in almost complete denial. He took a few steps backward, unsure of whether or not he should run, or if he should try to stay in order to hope that the thing wouldn't notice him.

 

"Are they bad? Like are they mean to people?" Brian asked Quinn, his fear spreading.

 

Quinn looked at Brian with a look of disbelief, "Yeah! Duh! Mothafucka they ate people! It was an alien invasion!"

 

"Oh no…" Brian whimpered.

 

"Look, it doesn't notice we are here. It's probably just walking by," Lafayette said, his smile showed he was oblivious to the fear taking hold in his team, "I bet it'll walk right past us!" He said turning to look at Unity.

 

Just as he said that the "face" of the being turned, slowly, and looked over in their area. Hezekiah's heart sank to his stomach, and his fingertips went stone cold when he realized that it was looking… at them.

 

"Run," Hezekiah said quietly. His squad heard but they didn't move. He didn't move yet either, his brain still couldn't comprehend it, but his primal instincts began to override his rational thought, "Run!" Hezekiah took a step backward. His squad followed, moving back only slightly while keeping their eyes on it. Not quite running in a full retreat.

 

That wasn't until the giant took two steps towards them. With a loud "THUD!" for each one that shook even the skies. It couldn't have been that far away, and even still, it was fast. Hezekiah's eyes bulged as he saw it knock down trees effortlessly.

 

"RUN!" Hezekiah yelled out. Unity instantly broke out into a complete route, even Lafayette who was previously infatuated with the creature. They ran right into the forest cover again, trying to get back uphill into the JLTV.

 

"Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Oh---Shit!" Hezekiah cursed as he ran, hopping over downed tree branches and trying not to trip over rocks. He heard not only the thuds of the creature approaching closer behind him but also the echoing sound of a strong roaring rumble. Coming undoubtedly from the creature.

 

The roar of the beast was like an intensified foghorn, echoing through the skies. The presence of the sound penetrated Hezekiah's mind… it could've been right on top of him for all he knew. It could've been following right on their heels, with its giant blue eyes beaming down on them with the intensity of a massive searchlight. In its sight, was them as a target. As prey. Hezekiah's brain melted at the possibility that such a thing was even possible.

 

But then, his brain focused. As he saw the JLTV up ahead. But there was something wrong with it…

 

All covering it was a flock of bright red and fairly large birds. It temporarily distracted Hezekiah, who for a split second wondered what kind of birds they were, but then his mind resumed to absolute panic the second after.

 

'Just shoo them away' Hezekiah thought. Quinn was the first to reach the truck and he had the same idea. The birds squawked at him in acknowledgment, but Quinn used his hand the shoo them off of the vehicle. Some of them flew away, but Quinn managed to hit one with a stray swipe of his hand, and in what must've been the most confusing event Hezekiah saw, Quinn's entire hand exploded into a ball of flames.

 

"AAAAAAAAH!" Quinn screamed out loud, with the bright red bird flying away, still enveloped in a ball of fire, but seemingly fine. Quinn however, was not fine. He waved his arm in the air trying to dissipate the ball of flame enveloping his thick winter uniform clothing, but he couldn't get it off.

 

"HOLY SHIT, QUINN!" Flint yelled out. Hezekiah stopped unsure of what to do. Quinn fell to the floor and rolled around on the dirt, placing extreme emphasis on his arm that was currently ablaze. The orange flames swirled around them, dancing like strings of light serenaded around in a fantastic ball. Though this wasn't a fantastic ball and opera, and the flame was not performing a serenade. Quinn was on fire for fucks sake, and Hezekiah was just standing there.

His squad was in shambles. And he was the only one able to take control. He had to get it together, to keep them all alive…

 

"Help him or else your mission will be a failure." A voice from inside his mind said in a calm and oddly familiar tone. Hezekiah tried to remember from where he heard that exact voice, but couldn't at the moment. It didn't matter either way, as Hezekiah rushed over the Quinn, took out his canteen, and poured it over his arm. He did it all robotically as if he was programmed to. No thought at all. Though the cloth on Quinn's arm was generously damp now, the fire was still burning. He pinned a squirming Quinn down as he looked to the squad medic.

 

"Brian! Give me a towel from your medkit!" Hezekiah said.

 

Brian didn't hesitate as he unzipped the bag with a red cross on it and handed him a towel. Hezekiah quickly took it and smothered the fire out, though the pained cries of Quinn and all. When the fire was out, he pulled him up, Quinn himself limp.

 

"Holy shit! Is-i-is he dead?" Brian's voice wavered as he thought of the worst.

 

"No, he's not dead! He just went into shock! Come on you should know this, you're the Squad Medic!" Lafayette snapped at him.

 

"It was only like a three-hour course!"

 

"ROOOOOAAAAAR!" The roar of the beast was just behind them now.

 

"Fuck, we gotta go! NOW! Flint, you're our gunner now! When you get a clear shot, shoot that fucker!"

 

Flint nodded as he climbed inside of the vehicle and moved up into the covered turret. Hezekiah dragged an unconscious and bleeding Quinn into the back seat of the car, taking extreme care to not jostle him as he wrapped his arm in the towel. He looked Brian straight in the eyes, "Brian! You monitor Quinn! Give him those painkillers from earlier, and disinfect the wound!" Brian nervously nodded as he skittishly ran towards the back seat of the truck next to Quinn.

 

"Lafayette, you're on the wheel! Let's get moving!" Hezekiah barked at him. Lafayette quickly got on the driver's side and revved the engine to life. Hezekiah followed on the passenger side seconds after.

 

Lafayette quickly put the truck into reverse, slamming on the gas, the truck pulled out. Knocking down a few of the thinner trees around it, as it performed a complete U-Turn in a matter of seconds. Lafayette's foot was practically on the floor as the truck dashed forward, downhill away from the stomping creature.

 

Hezekiah tried to keep a lookout in the mirrors to try and spot something, but found nothing, "Flint! You see anything?"

 

Flint looked through the treetops trying to see if he could detect anything, but instead found nothing but a grey sky that was occasionally visible through the treetops, "I lost visual Staff Sergeant!"

 

"Fuck!" Hezekiah said under his breath.

 

"Argh! My arm…" Hezekiah turned around when he heard the groaned pain of Quinn himself on the back seat, "My wife is gonna kill me." He said, in a bit of a light-hearted manner.

 

"Your wife isn't ever gonna know, just hold steady while I patch your arm, it'll be fine," Hezekiah noted the remarkable transition between absolute panic and now sudden calm that Brian had once he was focused on his task, "We're gonna get you home in one piece, alright?"

"Heard that…"

 

Lafayette's eyes briefly looked to the side away from the road and then back on it again, "He is going to be alright… right?" Lafayette whispered to Hezekiah.

 

"He's Q. You're damn straight he's gonna be alright," Hezekiah told him.

 

Up ahead, something rustled in the leaves. It was too soon for Lafayette to have noticed to stop. Lafayette quickly swerved to avoid whatever it was, but in doing so, the front right wheel of the truck fell right off of a miniature cliff-face in the exposed rock of the forest floor.

 

"Oh shit! I'm losing her! Hang on!" Lafayette said as the truck swerved into a thicket of bushes, the right side of the truck sunk, and everybody knew what was about to happen.

 

"BRACE YOURSELVES!" Hezekiah yelled out.

 

"OH SHIT-" He couldn't tell who yelled out the expletive, but it was wholly appropriate in the situation. The truck rolled over and fell down the 10-foot slope managing to land on its wheels. However, not before it managed to roll even further downhill and crash right into another rock face with a loud "CRASH!!"


Hezekiah immediately lost consciousness. His world slipping away as he fell into the hole, deeper and deeper away from the confused reality. Perhaps he was returning home? Perhaps he was waking up for the first time? Maybe this confused dream-turned-nightmare would finally be over? Maybe… maybe…

 

He instead wound up back in the void.

 

The Mirrorface had its back turned to him. Hezekiah remembered the calm voice that whispered in his ear from earlier. He immediately made the connection.

 

"Well that was…interesting," said the creature.

 

"You knew?"

 

"I know what I am allowed to, I am but a messenger," The mirrorface said.

 

"Am I dead?" Hezekiah asked it.

 

"No. In fact, you are more alive than ever. You saved your squadmate, united your team, and reacted with leadership in the face of danger. My employers were right in choosing military leaders to come here. They always react with courage, unlike some other people in your society who'd call themselves 'leaders'."

 

"Did I do it? Did I win?"

 

The creature laughed, a great laugh came from its belly as its soundwaves echoes into the air, "Oh, they did warn me of human ignorance though," Said the creature as it walked towards him, facing down upon him now.

 

'Did it grow…taller? Or is it just me?' Hezekiah thought as he looked up at the creature who stood an entire head above him now. Imposing itself onto him, making him feel minuscule, like the monster they had just escaped from. Hezekiah felt the urge to run here too, but his feet wouldn't move. They were glued in their footprints. Instead, he could only look up at the Mirror-faced man with worry, fear, and anticipation.

 

"You have not won -- nor finished-- anything yet. In fact, you have only just begun," the creature brought its mirrored surface close to Hezekiah's face. Looking directly at him. But Hezekiah couldn't see his reflection. Instead, in its face was a dance of light and colors, a ball of stars and the galaxy itself all contained within its mirrored head. It moved and retracted, growing and dying all at the same time, "They will guide your path forward from here on now. This was merely a test to ensure you wouldn't prematurely… expire before we could even get started. I hope you understand."

 

Hezekiah nodded, as it was all he could do.

 

"You have a new temporary objective. Handle it, Sergeant Brooks. And please… I know that human life is as fragile as it is short, but do not have your life end prematurely. That would be a sore failure on your end, and disappointment on my own."

 

Hezekiah felt himself slip again. Right back to where he started, being dragged out of the dark void that the Mirrorface inhabited and into 'reality. If he could call it that. The honest lines between what was and wasn't real were being blurred to an extent that Hezekiah would soon give up trying. He now suspected that the Mirrorface wasn't a part of his imagination anymore, that it was something all too real. All too tangible. Even outside of his mind. That somewhere, it was a physical being, talking--of all people-- to him! How crazy would that sound? Had he lost his mind in the heat of Afghanistan? It seems as if he never really left his vivid dreams.

 

But if he was dreaming… why was it all so real?


"Hez! Hez! Sergeant Brooks! Come on, stay with me! Please!" He heard the voice of Lafayette over the darkness.

 

Hezekiah's eyes slowly blinked open, he was hoping to wake up in a bed. But of course, he did not. He was exactly where he started. The truck was lopsided to the left, seemingly in a ditch. Hezekiah's blurry eyes finally corrected themselves when he took a look outside. The sky was becoming dark, as late-noon turned into dusk. The dark blue sky was menacing in itself, but even more menacing was the pure darkness of the forest around them.

 

Behind him, he could hear a shaky voice mumbling. Quinn's voice.

 

"…Who art in heaven… hallowed be thy name…thy kingdom come…"

 

Hezekiah never saw Quinn pray before, though they had only known each other for a few weeks, even before all of this. The same went for everyone here, except Flint who he knew for ages. But Quinn… he was scared. There was no other way about it. He was shaken to the core. The tone of his voice was completely aloof. He had been petrified.

 

Hezekiah looked to his immediate left, Lafayette was looking over him, "Are you, alright sergeant?"

 

"Yeah…you?"

 

"Well… I'm alive."

 

"True," They spoke in hushed whispers. Hezekiah could hear his clothes brush against each other and his chair groan in the stillness of the evening dark around them.

 

"Laf, that was some of the finest fucking driving I've ever seen. Right up until the end," Brian told him.

 

"Oh yeah, a real class act!" Flint congratulated him as well from up on the turret. He seemed remarkably unharmed even though his body would be in the danger zone.

 

Lafayette just smiled and leaned back in his chair, "Thank you," he whispered.

 

The darkness invaded the truck, hiding everything, so Hezekiah hit the lights. An orange glow came from the ceiling and the headlights, which somehow still worked, "Shit, it's already dark. We were supposed to head back to camp by now!" Hezekiah said, "Can you get us out of here, Laf?"

 

Lafayette stretched his arms and neck, "Yes sir, I'll try!" He said with a bit of exhaustion, as he grabbed the gear shift and set her in reverse. He stepped on the gas, and back wheels spun to life, "She still works!" he exclaimed in happiness, "Can't kill a buffalo that easy I guess."

 

'Buffalo?' Hezekiah had a quick passing thought at Lafayette's rather peculiar choice of words. But he brushed past it, as soon Lafayette's smile turned into a frown.

 

"Err, we ain't moving Corporal Dupont!" Flint told Lafayette.

 

"Yes, I realize, thank you for stating the obvious," Lafayette snapped at him with a tone just bursting with sarcasm.

 

"Fuck you, man."

 

"We're stuck!" Hezekiah sighed. Today was a bad day for him, "I'll go outside and see what's wrong." He told Lafayette who just nodded.

 

Hezekiah pulled out his M18 handgun to accompany him, as he slipped out into the dusk. The dark forest around him could conceal anything, and Hezekiah wasn't taking any chances. Not after what just happened. He turned on the flashlight on his vest, illuminating the dark forest around them. He could hear crickets… and the sound of some creature in the distance. Though the sound was nothing at all like that of the giant that chased them earlier. More of an echoing call by a lone wolf, or bear. Hezekiah brushed off the idea as the sound was too far away to pose any danger.

 

He checked the back of the truck, which was being held up in the air by a boulder. The wheels were at least five inches off of the ground with absolutely no contact on anything that could give them traction. The front wheels were buried deep in a muddy trench, with the front of the truck pressed up against the rocky slope of a hill. For all intents and purposes, they were stuck. Out here in the forest.

 

When he returned inside the JLTV he could hear Flint desperately calling for help on the radio, but still receiving nothing:

 

[Flint] "Unity Five to Actual, please come in! Our transport is stuck out here in the middle of nowhere, and we have an injured soldier! Please respond!"

 

[Echo 1] "-----*Static*----"

 

[Flint] "I cannot read you Actual! Over!"

The static wasn't even audible now. And Flint shook his head in pure disappointment.

 

"Not a damn thing… im-fucking-possible man," he resigned.

 

Hezekiah pointed to a bag at the back of the truck, close by Brian, "Pass me that bag over there will ya?" Brian handed it to him, and Hezekiah quickly unzipped it. Searching for their emergency supplies as he leaned into the truck through the open door.

 

"What are you looking for, sir?" Lafayette asked him.

 

"Flare gun, I don't know how far exactly we are from Base Camp, or if they'll see it. But the other scouts might if we are lucky that they haven't returned yet," Hezekiah said as he reached for a small bright red pistol in the bag.

 

"Woah, Sarge," Brian slowed him down, "What if it sees us again?"

 

Hezekiah shrugged, "That's a risk we'll just have to take, Brian. Either we try and get some help, and maybe attract that thing back… or we die out here."

 

Brian wasn't too sure but tentatively nodded as Hezekiah pulled it out. Inside the bag were bright yellow visibility vests. Enough for each of the soldiers and one extra. Hezekiah figured that it would help any S&R team locate them from the air if they were flying in with a search helicopter, "Wear these, if they come with searchlights we'll stand out!" Hezekiah told them, and Unity complied. He took the spare vest and draped it over the top of the truck. Just in case.

 

When he was all finished with that he took the flare gun, and loaded the barrel with a round, pulling the hammer back, and pointing the gun into the air. But before firing he decided against it, figuring that it would be best if he maybe fired it a bit further away, just in case that thing came around again. So he took a few paces away from the truck further downhill and fired the flare gun into the sky.

 

A quick pop sent the flare shooting into the air. At a fairly high altitude, it glided in the sky, hovering, a bright red light hanging there. Shining its light on the forest below. Anybody within 50 miles should be able to see it, especially since it was night. Hezekiah knew they were too far away for it to be seen from base, but maybe a late scouting party would pick it up? Until then, the soldiers would have to wait until morning to push the truck out of the ditch, and with Quinn's burned arm, they would be one man short.

 

Hezekiah sighed as he stared at the flare in the sky, "What a fucking day," He quipped. When he finished gazing at the bright burning flare in the sky, he became conscious of how far away he was from the truck. Realizing now that he was surrounded by darkness. He began to make his way back towards the truck when something caught his attention.

 

"Crunch!" Hezekiah jumped and pulled an entire one-eighty in the air. He had his real handgun out, pointed at whatever the hell made that sound. His heartbeat was fast as it dropped into his stomach. His eyes scanned the area for the source of the sound, as he stood still. Frozen like a marble statue.

 

"Crunch!" The sound reverberated around again. He detected the source of the noise as coming from a line of some bushes in front of him. The sound continued, and the bush was shaking.

 

Hezekiah gripped his handgun, whatever it was… no matter what when it came out of the bush, he'd blast it. His finger wrapped around the trigger. Prepared for anything…

 

Slowly, a head peeked out from the bush. Solid black in color, antlers on either side. And its eyes glowed a fiery red. It looked like a mix between a deer and… something that didn’t exist. A yellow band of fur wrapped around its muzzle, and painted its body. The deer-thing seemed docile enough. It even took a passing glance at him and went back to grazing on the floor.

 

Hezekiah's face twisted again, "Is that some kinda pokemon?" He whispered to himself as he slowly put his pistol away.

 

The ears of the creature perked up, and its head jerked up looked at something behind him. It then immediately turned tail and skittered into the bush. Hezekiah put his hand back on the gun, but when he looked behind him, it was already too late…

 

He only caught a quick look at the dark silhouette of a humanoid standing behind him, holding its hand out to him with a blue force radiating from its palm. Hezekiah's body immediately collapsed, and his eyes filled with darkness, plunging him into unconsciousness.

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