Author : John Newman

“Marcie just radioed in,” Brenda says as she slams another magazine into her M4. She has to scream over the popping gunfire, punctuated by the occasional boom of a grenade. “They can’t hold out any longer. Everything’s fucked.”

“Shit,” I mutter. Working the bolt on my Ishapore, I pop up and steady it on the pile of sandbags in front of me. When I speak again, it’s a shout over the chaos around us. “They’re falling back?”

“Can’t very well surrender, can they?” She pulls a grenade out of her kit bag, pulls the pin, lofts it over the sandbags. “Said something weird before she went off the air. I dunno, probably a Bible verse, or… shit!”

I follow her gaze down the hill, to the plain below. It’s all shadows, bumps in the darkness standing in for trees and an abandoned farmhouse. The only light comes from muzzle flashes and tracers arcing through the autumn air. But near the farmhouse, there’s a flicker of light. It glows and spreads, like a prairie fire. As my eyes focus, my heart sinks. The flames dance and coalesce into a giant pentagram.

“Summoner!” Brenda screams into the radio. “Summoner! Base, we need armor up here, now! Now! Now!”

Her voice is drowned in an otherworldly din from the plain below us, a thousand tigers roaring in enraged unison. The flaming pentagram has dulled to a glow in the grass now, and slowly the ground beneath it rises. It’s like watching a hill grow out of the prairie; then the soil falls away, and a pair of huge, bat-like wings rise up from the earth. As the muscled, red body emerges, I shake my head.

“Hold the line!” I scream over the din. “Hold, Goddamn you!”

But they’re not holding. Some still have their rifles resting on the sandbags, blasting away at the darkness below. Most are hunkered down, tears in their eyes, praying, crossing themselves. Six years of this crazy shit, and they still can‘t handle it.

Suddenly, the gunfire from below picks up. The demon is on its cloven feet now, wings spread wide as a football field, its shaggy, horned head towering over the farmhouse. As it advances, the cultists swarm around its feet. This is it, their big push.

“We gotta get out of here!” somebody screams. “Come on, man, we gotta get the fuck out of here!”

I close my eyes. Inhale. Exhale. Then, working the bolt on the Ishapore, I rise to my feet.

“Frank?” Brenda looks up from the radio. “Frank, what’re you doing?”

Standing ram-rod straight, I raise the rifle to my shoulder. Bullets whiz past me, but I notice them only distantly, like wasps flitting against a closed window. I can’t take this insanity anymore. A fatal wound would be like a winning lottery ticket.

I stare down the sights. Inhale. Hold it. Exhale. Squeeze.

The rifle roars, and I see it all in slow motion – the orange fireball at the end of the muzzle. The bullet exiting the barrel. How it sails over the field. How it catches the demon right between the eyes.

The thing stops, the wind suddenly knocked out of it. With a roar, it stumbles to the right. Then down it goes, all at once, face-first into the prairie, the impact shaking the Earth.

“Hell yeah!” screams somebody to my right. “Hell yeah!” Everyone’s on their feet now, rifles cracking up and down the makeshift breastworks.

I sink behind the sandbags and take a deep breath. Maybe they’re aliens. Inter-dimensional invaders. Whatever. This doesn’t prove shit.

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