The year is still 2003. I’m still living in Tent City in Kuwait. This story takes place about 6 months after the infamous thumbnail incident.
Remember back in 2003 when George W. Bush stood out there by that “Victory” sign and talked about bringing the troops home? That was fun.
You see, we had decided that we had “liberated” Iraq so well that we needed to go there more completely and make sure that they all knew about it… or something…
Anyhow, since we were moving out, Tent City needed to be torn down, and all the human occupants were going to go off in all directions to Bigger and Better Things.
So, the plan was that as people shipped out, we’d tear down a row of tents, until eventually we were the last row (remember how I was in the Nether Regions of Tent City?) and with no one else left, we’d pack up and leave, feeling a sense of fulfillment and closure because the War was finally over.
Nice plan. In theory. I’m talking about the Tents Plan, not the War Plan.
Here’s the problem. The “leadership” forgot to account for the OTHER occupants of Tent City. The… not human things. The not humans weren’t shipping off to Iraq. Instead, as we tore down a row of tents, they’d just move over to the remaining tents. The “leadership” probably forgot to plan for them, because of a certain theory of mine, which I mentioned last time.
Anyhow, eventually, I started noticing that there were way more not humans in my tent than before. I was laying on my cot one night reading, when I looked up to see this:
A mouse. He ran down the ghetto bulb cord, down the string, and then turned around and ran back up again. I guess he was just checking the place out.
Kind of like a scout, for The Others.
Well, see, I was sort of used to noises in the night by this point, because the helicopters would take off right over my tent, and tents flap in wind, and helicopters make some of that stuff. And because of the bombs and whatnot.
But, seriously, the level of scratching, crawling, scampering, squeaking, and Things Fighting noises was really reaching a crescendo. The more tents we tore down, the more the pile of Things snowballed until finally I was in the Last Row left, and the entire Horde was at my door (flap), at deafening levels.
(By the way, if you’ve never read Bram Stoker’s short stories, they are great. There’s a really cool one about this pile of rats bothering a guy at night. It’s either called The Judge’s House or The Burial of the Rats. I think it’s the one about the judge. They’re both in the same book, so just read them all.)
Anyhow, I’m laying there one night (near the “end of the war”, back in 2003) and Something Heavy hops up onto my feet. Not a rat. Way, way bigger than that.
Since my brain has this weird habit of trying to make sense of things, it just gives me a dream: In Germany where my wife and one kid were, we had this HUGE cat. He was really massive. I think they’re called Himalayan Snowshoes or something. And this one was old and fat, even for one of those. He weighed as much as my kid, like 25 pounds or so. He’d lay on my feet at night and I’d have dreams about my legs being stuck in cement and struggling to get out.
So, like all good soldiers do, I start having a dream that I’m back home, in bed with my wife, and the (25-pound) kitty is on my feet. And I’m super happy. For a second.
Then, the “cat” starts to walk up my body more, and I start to wake up more, and then I’m like, “Wait a minute… If I’m back home, why can I still hear The Horde?”
Reacting to the Beast, my super ninja military training kicked in, and I employed the fighting skills developed for exactly this kind of situation: I bicycle-kicked it through my sleeping bag, yelled, and then did a sort of worm thing just to make sure it was off.
The Beast was launched off, banged into my locker knocking it down, and then scratched the ground and grunted, snarled a few words in the unspeakable language of Mordor, and then ran off.
Now, I didn’t get to turn on the light, so I don’t actually know to this day What Was On Me. But, using a highly scientific rendering process (the same one The History Channel uses for their “history” shows), I’ve been able to finally recreate with 99% certainty, the image of the beast:
Then… as all good soldiers do…I rolled over and went back to sleep. Because tomorrow was going to be another busy day, now that The War was “over”. Back in 2003.