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Perry can smell a BBQ cooking when Officer Longshaw drops him off at the base of the dirt road. There are lights in the distance. A boom box blares a crescendo of country music and Perry is reminded of the barracks. There is the foreign laughter of females, and then a random gunshot that causes tremors to erupt, starting in Perry’s belly and spreading to his limbs. Longshaw holds him still, while dressing him. Like a baby, Perry lifts his arms and allows Longshaw to slide the vest over him. Then the helmet. A belt is spread around his waist. Better boots have been propped onto each of his feet. The first thing Longshaw asked on the ride over was “Do you want to do this? I can’t promise it will end well.”

Before Perry could respond, Officer Longshaw told him about what happened to Perry’s mother. He said it was no accident she was found dead. He said Frank and some of the other older guys had something to do with it. “Well don’t you wonder who sold it to her?” It’s funny though, standing here and hearing that gunshot, Perry’s forgotten all about the emotion that came and went after hearing that little revelation about his mom. There is only the need to act, and win.

“It’s going to start soon.” There is fear in Longshaw’s voice. In the car ride over here to the enemy’s stronghold, Longshaw mentioned how he served in the military, briefly, “just before the tip of the gulf war.” He never saw active combat.

A pistol is clenched into a holster by Perry’s side. A rifle is pressed into his arms. An M-16, close enough by definition to be like the AR-15. Perry remembers shooting earlier. He remembers, but he doesn’t feel it. That was a nice car he shot up. If only the bad guys woulda stepped into plain sight, like the wars of old. Perry never thought Iraq would be a battle between ghosts and shape shifters, enemies that weren’t your enemy until they erupted right under your nose.

Longshaw gives Perry a reassuring little push toward the dirt driveway that rises up a little hill. Evergreens block the home from the road. “I’m gonna go around back, I’ve got ya bud.” Longshaw says, and his voice is choked up. Perry takes a few steps forwards, not feeling his legs move. There is a strange pop, from up ahead. A shooting star rises into the sky, and then there is the big, almighty blast. A circle of blue fire erupts across the night sky—killing all the pretty stars and their lost wishes—which prompts Perry to start running toward the noise.


The bald fucker was right with his hints and all. The bedpost snapped easily. Emerald was out of the bedroom window faster than she can flick her tongue. She never expected the bear trap. Even on the worst of days, in the worst of light, and in the fever of her cravings and nightmares, she never could’ve expected that wicked, wicked thing.

It wasn’t chained to the ground, and its jaw wasn’t jagged like a shark’s, thank the lord. Rather, it was dull, but the trap itself was strong enough to clench her ankle and shin and if not break, then certainly fracture a little something. Before she could scream louder than the Bob Dylan throwback occurring on the massive speakers set up behind the diving board of the pool, there were hands around her throat and neck. The man with the moon tattoo was instantly all over her. “I was hoping, I was hoping,” he kept saying and he was more wolf than man. Worse than any little dick-having, short-tempered, fist-flying, woman-beating scumbag Emerald’s ever had to deal with, and escape. There was a knife to her throat and she was laughing, hysterically, over just how bad everything turned out to be. Who could’ve thought? A little violence and molestation is the norm, but this? This is some eighties exploitation flick horror movie shit. This is the kind of stuff her mother would warn her about when they’d curl up and watch those kinda movies in the wee hours of a school night.

The wolf taunted her with the knife for who knows how long before the fireworks distracted him. He was off her, hunched low to the ground and running toward the pool and the heart of the party. There was another firework, only there wasn’t any lights in the sky to go with it. It took until the machine guns started firing before Emerald realized she was hearing a gunfight and not a rapid fire rendition of ‘the rockets’ red glare.’ One of the men had fired into the woods a little while ago. This wasn’t lazy and playful like that.

She starts crawling, dragging her wounded leg. It hurt, but it was a focused hurt. She could forget about her damn leg. She could bite it off, if she had to. She crawls away from the side of the house and there’s a fence near the edge of the trees. She has to crawl past the side of the party to escape into the woods. The other girls are screaming and running toward her rendezvous point. A few of the men are running, too. She recognizes two boys, one of them with blonde hair, following the girls screaming into the forest. She rounds the corner of the house and men are exchanging fire with somebody in the driveway.