The Devil and Lieutenant Adana Sample

The Devil and Lieutenant Adana

               They were crowded several deep into the small space, backs pressed against the metal walls. But it was just as well; the air past the door was bitter, and before they had all arrived, it had been similarly so inside.

Large spotlights were positioned every so often, granting some illumination to an otherwise coal-colored night. Their generators wheezed and whirled, giving background noise throughout the area. Inside, though, they couldn’t be heard over the slight cacophony. The wired bulbs overhead lit the place, although they were destined to be doused. At the sudden, sharp, short burst of a whistle, they were.

A hush fell over the clustered people. Their boots were primarily stacked by the door, a concession to the inhabitants of the temporary home. Someone checked their watch, briefly, giving off a faint blue glow in what was otherwise dark. From the back of the shipping container-cum-living space, the direction in which the people faced, a flashlight was flicked on.

A woman in a military physical fitness uniform stood there, ensconced in a worn looking bed-sheet, her eyes partly hooded. Her clothing was only clear from the sleeves which extended past the sheet, and the black pants which appeared where her wrapping fell too short. She was barefoot.

She held the flashlight so that it illuminated her face partially, the LED bulb giving a weird contrast between what was lit and what was in shadow. She’d tested it herself, against the older, incandescent flashlight she had brought along as well, but found that this granted the eerier atmosphere; the proper choice for ghost stories, or something of that sort.

Her audience had settled down as she’d contemplated their awkward forms in the dimness. She looked at them quietly, and then began, “Once upon a time, there was a lieutenant, a young man named Lieutenant Adana. He was a fairly bright boy, but maybe a bit too naïve, innocent, even. He had commissioned from ROTC, and, so, he was very young. But in his youth he was given command of an Infantry platoon. So it goes.”

“When Lieutenant Adana was still very green, his commander called for him. ‘You are deploying,’ He was told, ‘your entire platoon. You leave in six months.’”

“It was what Lieutenant Adana had been hoping for, and many of his men, as well. So the preparation began, and accelerated, and, when the months had passed, they left for overseas.”

“Overseas, the lieutenant and his platoon found themselves on patrol duty, as had been expected. They were sent out far, into the harshness of the mountains, where gunfire and mountain goats were the only thing they had for company. They came across villages sometimes, and sometimes these villages were so remote, they didn’t even know who these soldiers were, where they’d come from, why they were there. And sometimes they didn’t even find villages, just a compound with all the branches of a family on could imagine, eking out a living from the stony ground.”

“Sometimes these people were friendly, bound by the duty of hospitality. But it was always clear that this friendliness extended only so long as they knew the soldiers were destined to move on. And sometimes these people were not friendly, weary of marauders. And sometimes these people were downright hostile; they knew who these soldiers were, and did not agree with their presence. So, they shot.”

“In the night, they camped further up into the peaks, for the high ground and the weather protected them. Up here, the winds howled more strongly, and the meager tents that were pitched rattled ceaselessly. They could not have lit a fire even if they had wanted to, as it would’ve winked out before it had even begun.”

“It was on one of these nights that Lieutenant Adana sat in conference with his First Sergeant, the interior of the tent lit only by the red glow of a flashlight. It was not an uncommon occurrence for the two to meet like this at the end of the day; in fact, it happened every night, every morning, too. As well it should.”

“The First Sergeant, satisfied with their discussion, with his understanding of what the Lieutenant wanted for to-morrow, left. He was going to check on the folks on fire watch, before he himself would return for a few hours of sleep. After he left, the lieutenant examined the map again; maps were an area of weakness for him. He had worked hard to overcome this in his time in the military, but even still he felt a need to pore over them more closely than many of his peers would.”

“As he sat, red light on the map as he tried to pick out the nearly invisible contour lines, he felt a sudden blast of wind, strangely hot. He looked up, expecting the first sergeant. But he was not there, coming though the flap, and Lieutenant Adana belatedly realized that the wind had been so warm, not freezing as it should’ve been. He frowned, puzzled, wary, his senses heightened.”

“He turned abruptly; there was something behind him, he could just feel it, the hair on his neck rising slightly. He brought the flashlight up quickly, other hand already grasping his side-arm. A man sat there, in civilian attire, an amused look upon his face.”

“It was a moment before the lieutenant realized that the stranger’s eyes seemed to be glowing slightly. He let the beam fall an inch or two; it wasn’t light being reflected back. The man’s eyes were truly glowing.”

“’Who are you?’ The lieutenant demanded. The man smirked, ‘Is that not a rude way in which to welcome a guest? But I do suppose you’re not natives.’”

“By now, Lieutenant Adana had brought his M9 to bear upon the intruder, ‘I won’t ask you again – who are you?’ The man considered the lieutenant, but it was in a lazy fashion. When he responded, it was clearly on his own terms, ‘Why, good lieutenant, I am that creature of which you have surely heard so much. You have studied literature enough, surely. I am the Devil, although Lucifer may be more to your tastes; it suits me equally fine.’”

“The lieutenant frowned, a hard line, ‘Do you think I’m that stupid? Who are you, really?’”

“The man whom maybe was named Lucifer spoke in turn, easily, ‘Oh, come now, dear lieutenant. I am a man in a black suit of Western-style whose eyes glow red in the darkness and who has appeared suddenly in your tent with no obvious moment of entry. We are perched on a mountain with as many names as there are stars, miles from paved roads, miles from civilization. In so many ways, we may as well not even be upon the Earth itself. My clothing is spotless, my soles clean. Would you really be so incredulous, faithful soldier?’”

“The lieutenant wavered. ‘I’m dreaming…’ He thought, loosely. Where was the first sergeant? Had the fire guard been that far away, was there a problem, should he have gone along? He shut his eyes, turned the flashlight off, opened his eyes, started to turn the device back on again, but was halted by the lit, colored eyes. He could feel the threat of panic in himself, forced it down, thought about other things that were red. Poppies in the fields, the first sergeant’s truck, the brick firehouse he’d dreamt of joining as a child, the light from his flashlight.”

“He turned it back on, let out his breath steadily, ‘Alright. You are the Devil. Why are you here?’”

“’Why am I here? Well, a simple enough question. I am here, truly, on behalf of your men.’”

“The lieutenant’s mouth went dry, “My men? What could…’ His words died.”

“’Yes, your men, good lieutenant. Although it would be misleading of me to allege that they know this directly. They didn’t call for me; their fates did.’”

“’Their fates?’”

“’Yes, their fates.’ The Devil eyed the lieutenant’s still-clutched handgun, ‘You do know that that will do you no good whatsoever, correct?’”

“He wasn’t sure of what the Devil was talking about, ignored the statement, ‘Their fates. What do you mean?’”

“The Devil settled down more, stretched, leaned back, voice low, pleased, ‘You will be ambushed, and you will lose most of your men, to include your adored first sergeant. Your remainder will be pursued as you are forced to give up the ghost, retrace your way. You will be plagued with ailments, doubt, hunger, exhaustion. You,’ He pointed directly now, ‘you will survive. As will a few of your men. But the rest will have departed permanently.’”

“The lieutenant stared. It was too ridiculous; an ambush, that was believable, that was expected, really, on any given day. It had happened before. But ambushed to such destruction? He couldn’t believe it. He look at the Devil with a stony face once more, ‘So, is this a warning? And I really don’t see how that’s all possible; we couldn’t wander like that, we have the radios.’”

“The Devil shrugged, ‘Oh, the radios. They’ve been dead for an hour. They died after that last radio check. Why do you think your first sergeant tarries so long?’”

“Lieutenant Adana’s eyes narrowed, ‘You.’”

“The Devil raised an eyebrow, “Hardly. Do you think I truly would bother with such trifles? I have not rendered harm upon them; it’s just an unfortunate twist of fate.’”

“’Then why are you here? Wouldn’t warning us be a waste of time too? And you’re the Devil, you aren’t known for your kindness. What are you here?’”

“’Oh, that.’ The Devil smiled, like a beast considering its prey, ‘I have a deal to offer to you, a deal that would save your men.’”

“The lieutenant regarded him with suspicion, ‘Oh?’”

“’Yes; are you interested in it, dear lieutenant?’”

“’What are the terms?’ His voice was hard.”

“’They’re fairly straightforward. I will save your men, all of them – and yourself – in exchange for your soul.’”

“’No.’ Lieutenant Adana re-aimed his M9, ‘And I think it’s time for you to leave.’”

“The devil raised his eyebrows slightly, ‘I did tell you before that that toy is of no concern to me; do you recall?’ But the lieutenant didn’t respond, and the Devil sighed slightly, ‘You know, too, that I really had no need to trouble myself with you and the fate of your men? There are many others in this world I could’ve opted to avail of my aid.’”

“’Get out. I have no interest in your bargain. I already know what I need to – we’re going to be ambushed. We’ll be ready; we always are.’”

“The Devil’s face was impassive, his voice even, ‘Knowing of it means nothing, dear lieutenant. Your fate is your fate, and you have not the power to alter it. I, however, do. What say you?’”

“’Good-bye.’”

“The Prince of Flies shrugged his shoulders, ‘The loss is merely yours, lieutenant.’ And then he was gone.”

“The wind howled back, and the lieutenant realized that it had been quiet as he’d sat with the Devil. The tent flap jerked open, and the first sergeant was there, with news of the dead radios. The radio transmission officer was hard at work on them, but hadn’t been able to fix them. He’d keep trying. The first sergeant wanted to know what the lieutenant wanted to do next.”

“Lieutenant Adana frowned, remembering his conversation with the Devil. With a shake of his head, though, he dismissed it from mind; surely he’d been drowsing, that was why he’d heard the gusts again when the Devil had vanished. He took up the map again; they would alter their course slightly, bring themselves closer to one of the outposts in case they couldn’t get the radios to work again. The radio transmission officer would keep working, and the lieutenant and first sergeant would sleep for a bit before morning.”

“The next day was a clear one, the weather icy because of it. The lieutenant had them maintain the high ground, although it slowed them down; dream or not, the warning had stayed in his mind. He hadn’t told the first sergeant about his experience, but instead stated that he had a bad feeling. The other man accepted it without fuss. Amongst themselves, the rest of the soldiers wondered about it, and a few complained, but they went along regardless.”

“That evening, repairs were attempted again to the radios, but they were luckless. The lieutenant changed their route again – they would go to the outpost as directly as they could. He’d given up on repairs being possible. The night passed without any trouble.”

“The following day was largely the same, the night, too, although they began to have difficulty getting the GPS to stay connected. The compasses spun wildly; there was too much iron underfoot. When the GPS disconnected, they would halt, consult the sun, and begin again, slowly, waiting for the GPS to work again. It did, but the effect was unnerving paired with the jinxed compasses. The lieutenant and the first sergeant discussed going down to flatter ground.”

“On the third day, they had moved halfway down to the valley, hoping for better navigational results. The compasses were still useless, but the GPS sputtered less. They still had to pause from time to time; the rough, boulder-strewn ground forced them to keep checking their path. Lieutenant Adana was uneasy, fidgety as they slowed.”

“A couple of mountain goats suddenly darted through their midst, and the platoon snapped to alertness. But they’d focused in the wrong direction, where the goats had come from, and there was the sound of ammunition pelting off of rock in front of them. They were being attacked from behind.”

“’Twelve o’clock, two hundred meters!’ Someone called out, and it was relayed through the platoon, who turned their return fire in that direction. They’d hunkered down behind the rocks for cover, alternating who fired. The lieutenant cursed the lack of radios, and grabbed for the radio transmission officer, asked him to try them again.”

“The soldier had begun to remove the radio from its pouch when he dropped, and the lieutenant knew they’d been surrounded, they had been fooled. Someone had scared the goats, but they’d begun the ambush from behind. How had they managed to miss it completely? There shouldn’t have been enough cover, he couldn’t help but feel.”

“But it didn’t matter, they hadn’t seen any warning signs. The first sergeant was shouting, and looking to him on advice. The lieutenant gestured to the high ground; they would try to gain the advantage.”

“They went up the slope, covering each other’s movements. But a hail of gunfire greeted them, and they were pinned down. The first sergeant had shoved Lieutenant Adana down, and now he lay heavily, unmoving. The lieutenant shouted at him to move, desperately, terrified by the damp warmness that was seeping onto his hand and through his glove. He could hear shouts and howls, a steady clanging of brass. He rolled the first sergeant off of him, saw glassy eyes, ducked down and flattened himself against the dirt and stones. His breath came roughly, uneasily. The other groups of ambushers were on the move. No radios. No radios at all. There could be no back-up.”

“The lieutenant squeezed his eyes shut, thinking of the Devil’s visit, and his offer. A soul for his men. The radios had been broken, they’d been ambushed, a lot of the men had been hit, were dead. The Devil had told the truth. A soul for his men!”

End sample.

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