Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Ambush by Tania Walsh
By Tania Walsh
Danil’s stare fixed on the dusty path where the two roads intersected and no trees grew close enough to cast a heavy shadow. Overgrown grass stalks swayed in his vision and he resisted the urge to flatten them. The sun was suspended at high noon and heated the back of his pants to a sweltering level. He released his hold of the Nikonov assault rifle, shifted the weight of his torso somewhat to the right, then burrowed his hand under his stomach and retrieved a jagged rock. He shoved the stone not far from where he lay.
His gaze slid back to the rifle propped against his other arm. Over three hours had passed since he arrived at the field with Ruslan, his sniper comrade. Danil’s fingers released the pistol grip and wriggled them to release the stiffness in his hand. Sharp edges on the gun snagged at his flesh and blood glided into the creases of his hand. Danil’s mind ignored the crimson and concentrated on the mission at hand – shoot anyone who crossed the junction were the instructions he received. He peered around the perimeter, viewing a tranquil, worn meadow.
Tugging at the front of his helmet, he rubbed his brow. Aside from overheating in summer’s warmth, nothing appeared out of the ordinary.
“The Ghost Field,” was what other soldiers called the countryside. Within the infantry, rumors spread about the government performing unusual experiments. Danil refused to speak to his superior on such matters. Every unit dispatched to the fields was moved to another afterwards. Ruslan’s last words of caution about the place lingered in his mind. Conflicting beliefs strayed within Danil. He refused to accept the military would send out two of their snipers on a suicide assignment. The idea soured his mood.
The hot wind shrilled against his face and with the current came a faint, but distinctive sound of grass crunched underfoot. Danil swiveled his head to the right and glimpsed flashes of Ruslan amongst the high grassland. His companion’s appearance reminded him of his own broad jaw line, thin lips and stubby nose. Too often the men were mistaken for brothers.
Amid the dancing grass he watched as Ruslan gave him twin nods of confirmation that he heard the same noise. He saw the other sniper sweep his outstretched arm, and point toward the road ahead of them.
He grasped the rifle with both hands, pushed the front of his shoulder into the buttstock and lowered his head into position for precise firing. His eyes caught glimpses of an empty road through the gaps of foliage.
Danil heard what sounded like rushed, laboured breathing from behind. His upper body arced round to see a small black wolf, the size of an oversized puppy. With its head bowed, the animal encroached closer through the stems of grass and sniffed the air.
Danil’s panic settled. He jabbed his leg at the canine in hope to scare it away, and turned toward the road. Still clear, he thought.
His head swiveled around to see the brave wolf sitting next to his feet.
“Shhoo,” he whispered and regretted making a sound.
The animal raised its square head. Solid white eyes, unlike any he had seen met his stare. Ears pointed upward, as if it heard a sound. Danil feared the distraction might put their position in jeopardy. He gave another kick, short of striking the creature, and twisted to face the road.
Danil’s concentration faltered. The wolf’s unusual eyes remained on his mind. Again, he curved his head for one more look. Perhaps, the heat was playing tricks on his vision.
The animal remained close and raised its snout into the air like it might gasp for air. He stared at its bony chest just before a brash howl burst from the wolf’s mouth. Without thinking, Danil swung his body at the animal and grabbed it into his arms. His hand clasped around its muzzle. The wolf struggled in his grip, thrusting its legs against him.
The sound of multiple howls surrounded Danil. He froze. All around him, he observed wolves rising from the grass lands, like the dead climbing out of their graves. They staggered upward. Black matted dreadlocks of fur bounced against the animals’ bodies when they stirred. On all fours, they reached at least to Danil’s chest. Frozen white eyes glared at him. They were no ordinary wolves. He dropped the pup to the ground and turned to Ruslan with fear grating along his skin.
Danil’s heart quickened at the sight of two wolves springing from the pits of earth itself. The pair pounced on top of Ruslan and ripped his life away faster than he could yell for help. Danil ignored the blood splattering across his uniform and pieces of flesh thrown into the air like popping corn.
Instead, what concerned Danil were the four giant wolves circling him. His hand scrambled through the grass for the rifle, but instead he found the pebble he drew from beneath him earlier. Scrapping his backside along the ground, he hoped to edge closer to the weapon. The wolf to his left snarled and snapped its jaw in his direction. Slobber sprayed into the wind and washed over his face.
Colorless eyes surveyed Danil, and he knew time was running away. Within the cloud of terror in his mind, the sniper guessed the beasts were the result of a government experiment. Uncertain how the men in charge planned to control such a beast, Danil’s attention altered to the rifle beneath his hand.
The sniper swung the weapon about. Glad the rifle remained in full auto mode, Danil aimed for the wolf straight ahead and pulled the trigger. The bullet hit the animal in the side of the head and threw its body backward into the long grass. The spent case ejected.
Danil rocked his aim to the left just in time for the second bullet, which fired into another wolf’s back leg. The beast slumped over to its side, whimpering.
At least twenty wolves from across the field froze in their position and turned to Danil. He pushed himself upright and pulled the charging handle.
“God damn wolves, I’ll kill every last one of you.”
Danil surveyed the area. Wolves surrounded his position. A single wolf, larger than the rest, moved forward. Refusing to wait, the sniper fired a bullet into its chest. At first the animal staggered, but stood on its legs. He held his aim at the animal for the second bullet and aimed for the head.
The wolf crumbled to the ground and his fall incited the rest of the animals into a frenzy. The commotion of wolves tearing around him and snarling, gave the sniper little advantage. With the ferocity of a vehicle, a wolf smashed into his side and an agonizing pain tore through his waist.
Danil was flung to the floor, before more wolves encroached and gnawed into this body. He lost count of how many animals snapped and tugged at his flesh. The pain soon vanished, replaced by nothingness. Something Danil welcomed, knowing his comrade Ruslan awaited.
1, 187 words
© Copyright 2010 Tania Walsh. All rights reserved.
Tania Walsh has granted Knight Chills, non-exclusive rights to display this work.
Tania Walsh is a new writer from Australia. She is a spinner of spine tingling horror with a supernatural edge. Her dark stories can be read on www.writing.com under the name Taniuska. She also has a website http://www.freewebs.com/taniawalsh/