Billy Boy was still struggling to unshoulder his rifle when he saw McGruder grabbing at one of his fallen comrades. And then another, and still another. For one insane moment Billy Boy thought McGruder was trying to get them back up on their feet, as if he was trying to shake the dead out of some deep slumber, trying to shake life back into them. He turned from the odd sight and fired a few rounds blindly up at whoever was attacking them. Then a hand grabbed and pulled him sharply sideways to the ground. He shook the hand from the back of his neck, choking in a sea of dust. Feet and hooves flashed past perilously close while around him lay a tangle of the dead. He was lying sprawled with McGruder behind a small concave wall of corpses. Panic burned fever bright in McGruder’s eyes.
“We have tae get tha fuck outta here. We have tae!” he babbled almost cheerily.
He grabbed Billy Boy by the lapels of his tunic and began shaking him.
“Have tae, have tae, have tae,” he chanted as if Billy Boy didn’t quite understand the urgency of the situation.
Billy Boy knew what you had to do with hysterics but so desperate was their situation and so intense the level of McGruder’s hysteria that he doubted a simple slap across the face would do any good. So he swung his rifle round and clubbed McGruder neatly on the side of the head. Then in a fit of inspiration he swung the rifle round by its strap and knocked himself out.
At first, he thought the buzzing was in his head but as he came to he realized that it was also outside as well. He slit peered a cautious eye and was greeted by the sight of a fly convention, a veritable massed rally of fat, bottle-green flies swarming across the sightless face of one of his comrades.
He closed his eyes and waited. Along with the buzzing he was also heard snoring, the gentle rattle of adenoids, followed by the unmistakable buzzsaw of snoring. These were the only sounds he could hear so he reckoned it might be a safe bet the enemy, whoever they had been, were gone. He opened his eyes. A merciless shaft of superheated light stabbed more pain into his already splitting head. The dead lay all around him, carpeted with flies, and there next to him, snoring as gently as if he was at home wrapped safely in his own bed, was McGruder. He was fast asleep with an idiotic grin of contentment pasted all over his face. He reached over and shook McGruder’s shoulder a few times, eventually rousing him.
“ … we have tae … ”, McGruder burbled, not sounding like he was sure just what it was they had to do.
It took them over an hour to crawl out of the ravine. There was no sign of whoever had attacked. Billy Boy and McGruder were the only survivors of the massacre.
Once clear of the ravine, they made their way shakily back along the trail. They trudged in weary silence, each nursing their separate headache miseries, at once both grateful for their survival, yet somehow shocked by it.
“Look. About back there,” McGruder started.
“It’s okay,” Billy Boy said, “It’s fuckin’ okay, alright?”
His tongue felt like someone’s boot in his mouth.
“Aye,” McGruder muttered, knowing full well that it wasn’t alright at all.
Causes Luke James Supports
Doctors Without Borders