Brodin jerked his wounded hand from the native's bloody mouth. Before the chaplain could turn and rush back to the gate the native again grabbed ahold of Brodin trying to take another bite.
A sharp crack split the air as the native fell backwards. Brodin broke free of the native's grasp and rushed back to the gates only briefly looking over his shoulder to see the man lying dead with a single bullet wound in his forehead. The heavy steel doors slammed shut behind Brodin.
Once behind the security of the fortress' walls Brodin inspected his wounded hand. Other than a hunk of skin being bitten off, the chaplain's left hand was relatively intact. The blood flowing freely from the wound poured down Brodin's green uniform sleeve turning it black.
Corporal Vanders rushed up to the chaplain with his medkit ready. Brodin winced as Vanders cleaned the wound and applied a bandage. The blood oozed through the compress and wrappings the corporal hastily applied.
"You may want to hold your had above your heart to help ease the flow of blood," the corporal offered.
"Thanks," was all the chaplain could say. His legs started to shake as the adrenaline started to wear off.
"Sorry Father," Reynolds called out as he decended the stairs from the wall with smoke still whisping out of muzzle of the M-1 the sergeant borrowed from a nearby soldier. "That man must have been crazy. Do you think he had leprosy?"
"No doubt about it sarge," Vanders replied. "That man stinks like the dead. Must have cooked his brain too -- for him to attack the padre like that."
Brodin sat down upon an empty wooden crate near the gate. He looked down upon his wounded hand. The burning sensation of the antiseptic still pulsated in his hand. Slowly the chaplain started to recover and looked around at the soldiers looking down upon him from the walls of the fortress.
Captain Jennings ran over and put his hand upon the chaplain's shoulder. "Don't blame the sergeant for killing the native. He did so on my orders."
Brodin nodded his head and looked up at the sergeant. "Thanks," was again all the chaplain said. Brodin finally regained his feet and walked over to Reynolds. "You very well may have saved my life. Don't feel bad, mate. It's like the corporal said, the leprosy must have affected his brain."
"Sarge! Cap!," Private Driscoll cried from the wall. "You better get up here!"
Jennings and Reynolds ascended the stone steps to the wall rapidly. They could not but help notice that every soldier on the wall was leaning over its side and pointing out towards the jungle.
Captain Jennings looked out towards where Private Driscoll was indicating. At the base of the hill on the verge of the thick junglescape several human forms appeared out of the foliage. It was obvious to everyone that they were natives and they were all heading towards the fort.
There must have been hundreds of them emerging from the jungle. All walked in a slow stiff shuffle. Some had their arms raised out towards the stone walls of the fort as if they wanted to embrace the German structure.
"They are walking pretty strange, sir," Williams noted. "What do you think is wrong with..."
Before the private could finish his sentence the wind briefly changed, and it blew a foul stench of decay over the fort. It was emanating from the islanders. In that brief moment, several of the raiders again battled with their stomachs to keep its contents in place. A few lost the battle.
Reynolds holding his nose turned towards the captain. "Sir, that is the smell we encountered last night."
Captain Jennings only nodded as he kept his jaws clempt tight in an effort to force the bile raising in his throat back to his stomach.
Again the wind mercifully returned to its original course washing the air clean of the foul odor. Some of the soldiers regained their feet. Holding their noses, others were wiping the remains of vomit off their faces. All were as pale as a newly washed bed sheet.
Lieutenant Brodin still holding his wounded hand stepped up beside the captain looking briefly at the mass of decrepit humanity ascending the hill towards the fortress. The chaplain's face turned a deep red and a vein started to pulsate on his temple.
"They did it!" Brodin yelled losing his temper. "Those yellow bastards did it!"
Captain Jennings spun the chaplain towards him so that they could look at each other face to face.
"What are you talking about?" the captain asked.
Brodin thrust his arm out towards the natives shuffling up the hill. "The Japs must have created a new highly contagious form of leprosy and infected the natives!"
"That doesn't make sense," Captain Jennings said more to himself than to the chaplain.
"Nothing those sadistic bastards from Unit 731 makes sense," the chaplain shot back.
"No, I mean why come up with a new disease when their goal was to develop some kind of super-soldier?" Jennings replied still working out his thought process.
"Cap, what are your orders?" Sergeant Reynolds interrupted.
Jennings looked back down towards the growing crowd of natives making their way towards the fortress. "As long as we are in here they don't pose a threat. We'll try and speak to them when they approach closer. One of them has to be coherant enough to communicate with us."
The sergeant started pulling men from the wall and prodding them back to their duties. Those off duty went back to spend what little leisure time they had remaining before it was their time to relieve those on duty.
Jennings finally calmed the fuming chaplain down. Brodin descended the stairs towards the courtyard rubbing his wounded hand in agitation. The captain just remained on the wall trying to puzzle out why the Japs would infect the island with leprosy. Maybe it was some form of cruel revenge in retaliation for the failure of discovering the Uber-soldat formula the captain reasoned.
After a couple of more minutes of deep thinking Captain Jennings also returned to the courtyard to find the chaplain. He passed a soldier smoking a cigarette and reading a pulp-magazine that the raider brought along to help him relax.
The captain smiled as he glanced at the cover of the magazine. An illustrator had drawn and painted for the cover a ghastly ghoul reaching out towards the reader with the story's title emblazoned in blood underneath the macabre picture.
Jennings was in mid-chuckle when a memory came rushing back. A deep frown of horror struck his face as he started running back towards the manor.
The chaplain felt the captain brush by him in a hurry. "What is it?" Brodin yelled towards the captain's back.
"If I'm right they do not have leprosy!" Jennings yelled over his shoulder before entering the stone manor.Posted by deg at September 24, 2008 7:39 PM