Author:William L.J Galaini
Publication Date:November 22nd 2012
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There was a serenity to the wilderness around him that was betrayed the moment he looked at the surrounding carnage.
Wyatt’s feet were silent, even to the birds and insects about, and he softly toed his way among the spent shell casings and strewn viscera toward the table at the center of the abandoned rebel camp. Not a soul breathed except Wyatt and his partner, Rupert.
“We’re clear,” Wyatt said after clicking his com on with his tongue. Despite Rupert being a mere twenty feet away, it was the only way for them to verbally communicate. “I’m not seeing anything breathing within sixty yards of camp. What have you got there?”
With the hints of a crisp West Indies accent, Rupert responded. “I have a trophy table. I count twelve among the dead, but there are more trophies here than that number…so I suspect either prisoners were taken post-amputation or we’re missing a stash of bodies…”
“There are tracks leading out of camp in several directions with blood and tar on the leaves. Maybe the assailants diced them and then dipped the wounds in one of the tar buckets and sent them on their way. Old Navy trick.”
“Maybe …” Rupert replied skeptically. Wyatt looked about some more. Several of the shelters were built into half-dug mounds for keeping them temperate as well as disguised from the air, so he decided to explore one of those. Careful not to slip in the blood pools on the dirt-ramp that led down, Wyatt disappeared into darkness. “Looks like a makeshift armory,” he said, as much for Rupert’s ear buds as Wyatt’s own records. “The usual. Some surface-to-air, AK’s, kids’ versions of AK’s, mines, a lot of Russian made ordnance, but hardly from Russia … most likely diamond-bought from neighbors who in turn got them from the Ukraine…” Wyatt put his face as close as he could without touching the leaning rifle in order to try to read the serial number. “Yep, Ukraine. Made post-bloc and second or third hand.”
Looking further, Wyatt found maps of the region on the wall as well as photos of various local women being gang-raped or beaten to death. A few pictures were of both at once. “These guys were RUF.” Wyatt added finally.
“Clearly, given the year,” Rupert said. “Check out the tent next to that building you’re in and tell me what you think. After that, you’ll really want to see what is on this table I’m looking at…”
“Wilco,” Wyatt said, not unhappy about leaving the armory and its garish photography. Stepping back into the shafted sunlight, he could stand his full height, and spent a moment taking in the camp, as a whole, before moving on.
There were bodies everywhere. The black skin of the Sierra Leone rebels, in some ways, hid how much blood there really was. Blackened and baked, the bodily fluids had soaked into the ground and saturated the torn uniforms and casual clothes the RUF had worn. Some of the dead had their heads literally crushed into the dirt, collapsed with eyes bulging and tongues bitten off into the dust. Others had crumpled sternums, ribs crackled into spider-leg compound fractures jutting up from their chests toward the peeking sun. One man had his pants around his ankles with his genitals torn off and shoved into his mouth. It was clear that while under attack, they were in various stages of dress and preparedness. They had been taken completely off guard.
Wyatt was a veteran of many military and government sanctioned conflicts. Some of those conflicts never even had names. He had seen enough bloodshed and violence that he stopped wondering where his tolerance for it would stop. What he witnessed here was something entirely new. Trying to form the words to explain how astounded he was, Wyatt found that adjectives failed him. So he moved on to the tent that Rupert had indicated prior.
Instantly it was clear what the tent was. In the far back, at the center, was a small television. There were two rows of twig and straw beddings that lined the whole tent and all about were pornographic magazines, board games, empty wine bottles, and drug paraphernalia. Toeing around the bedding, tossed clothes, and bottles, Wyatt made his way to the TV and looked at the VHS cassette tapes. Rambo 2, various Jason and Freddy horror movies, and a few unlabeled tapes were present.
It was clearly a tent for training child soldiers, and at the center of it was a body crushed to the limit of human recognition, its spine bent almost ninety degrees.
Wyatt was familiar with the ‘recruitment’ process of snatching up refugee children, making them think their families rejected them, and desensitizing them through drugs, porn, violence, and cruelty. “Okay, but there are no bodies of kids anywhere.” Wyatt walked through the back of the tent nearest the jungle’s brush line and found a whole row of tiny tracks leading into the darkened depths of the distance. He was about to comment on how they clearly weren’t running given the length between each footprint when he saw a new pair of footprints. They weren’t boots. They looked more like bare feet. And the distinct prints were massive and deep compared to the small march of children’s tracks. All led to the jungle.
Wyatt crouched down at the large prints to make sure his recording devices would pick up everything possible. He switched his HUD to heat vision, cycled through electromagnetic fields, and took a near-silent sonic ‘ping’ that would map out the dimensions of the print. The on-board computer displayed across his vision that the footprint had been pressed into the ground by over three hundred pounds of pressure at a whopping shoe size of eighteen or beyond.
Wyatt gazed out into the jungle, to wherever the large-footed person had guided those children, and wondered where and if he could see someone looking back. He allowed himself a moment.
“Okay, let me see this trophy table.” Wyatt walked around the tent, always cautious of where he was stepping and how hard. To disturb anything whatsoever was a major concern. On his way, Wyatt found another print … large, perfect, and deeper in the front – as if the owner had stomped on the ball of their foot and pivoted… but there were no accompanying prints near it.
Mind still aflutter with the mental sketch of these large assailants, he wasn’t quite ready for what Rupert had to show him. He stood across the table from Rupert, looking down at the large arranged pile of collected hands on top of it. Rupert was constantly tilting his head to allow his eye pieces to take detailed measurements and readings. Some fingers were broken and twisted, but nearly every hand was cleanly severed, some prior to death and some after. Wyatt sighed.
“This is the single largest act of anger I have ever seen. It’s a bloody marvel.”
He had finally found the words he had been looking for.
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