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Ghosts of the Past

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God, how long has it been? Forty years? It seems so much longer.

I try not to remember the things I saw in the swamps. Even at my age the haunting memories still plague me. I still have everything too, ya know. My dog tags, my uniform, and I still have Jack's handgun. Maybe I felt it was a memento, something I could use to remember him by. It seems so demented now. Some days I just become lost in it all, and I put it up to my own chin. Something always stops me before I pull the trigger. Maybe it's a ring at the door, the pleasant chirp of a songbird, but mostly it's just the memory of what Jack did in my position. I still see that look in his eye as I remember him, the way he just sorta gave out after the lead escaped his skull. It's so mortifying.

Often I get the nightmares, or I just go into this trance. I recall one that was particularly disturbing. My brother is at the door, or at least someone's door, he's pounding on it and screaming. Suddenly the door swings open and out comes a man brandishing a somewhat familiar looking firearm. I can never see who it is. He shoots him right in the chest, and drags his body in. More often that not, it's just me, alone in the fields, screaming and crying for anyone, sometimes I'm trying to get help, others I'm just trying to find someone. It always ends the same way though, I take that goddamn gun and end it all. Once it's over I'm fine. Once or twice, or so I'm told, I'd have an epileptic fit.

As I said, I try not to remember.

And really, I've been mostly successful. Well, almost.  

I had just received a package. It was really heavy, which was a surprise considering its contents. It was something I hadn't seen in decades, maybe something I had whisked away in my deepest repressed memories. An M1 Helmet, standard issue for Vietnam, packaged by some sort of old, odd-smelling foam, not like the usual bubble wrap or peanuts that came with a delicate package. It had large crosses on it, red tape, the works. This should've sent up so many red flags, but I guess a part of me was just too curious. How could I have known? Inspecting it more, I found the inside had something etched into the rim. I was able to make out a few letters just by the feel, but for safe measure I grabbed a pocket light and shined it on the inscription. It was a name. "Jack J. Dempsy" it read.

I felt like vomiting. My hands couldn't stop trembling. I do recall Jack not wearing headgear when he...oh God. I couldn't do it. Have you ever seen that one moment in a television show where whenever someone really freaked out, everything starts spinning, getting all blurry, doesn't make sense? I always though that was bullshit. I couldn't comprehend anything. Colors morphed together and formed psychedelic masses, an odd whistling took my ears by storm. I felt something itching. Such intense, infuriating itching!

Suddenly a familiar voice seemed to chime in my head,

Time to face your demons.

I fell back.

I awoke what seemed like several hours later to a series of loud clonks. It was pitch black, and I couldn't discern where the noise was coming from. They eventually seemed to drone out as a familiar buzzing noise pricked up my ears. Tinnitus-esque. This whole ordeal was bringing back too many painful memories. Before I could even fathom this couldn't be any more unbearable, I smelled something, sweet and nostalgic, one I hadn't known since...

The mere thought of that retched place was enough to send me into a vomit spewing mental breakdown at this point. I followed my nose until I found a single, illuminated area. I recognized the smell now. Moonshine. Bob's moonshine. As soon as this clicked more of the area suddenly revealed itself. Now I saw a desk, cards sprawled around it, and the quietest chuckle. I knew that chuckle. I blinked hard and there it was. Bob, Mike, Jack, even me, all sitting around the table cards in our hands and laughing hysterically. We were all frozen, but the sound was constant. Seeing them all again brought the strangest feeling, tears nonetheless, but I seemed both relieved and greatly saddened. I had almost forgotten their faces. Still, I couldn't bare the sadness. I just broke down, right there on the table.

Clonk, clonk.

I hear it again.

Clonk, clonk.

There's something in my hand now. I wipe away the tears and stare at it. It's Jack's handgun.

Clonk, clonk.

"Fass yor dimunz"

Some sort of slurred whisper reaches my ears. I can't make it out. It feels warm all of a sudden. The sudden warmth turns into an all-to-familiar burning sensation as a whip around to find the source of the murmur.

"Face your demons."

Clear as day, somehow terrifying, there stood a gook. He looked exactly like the one I...

"Do you, remember me?" it bellows. I can't see its face. I'm dead serious now, I try to muster up some words of defense... but all I can do is choke out a trembling, mortified whimper. Finally I mutter something,

"You're not real."

It looks at me, and removes his helmet. There's a large scar on his face, reaching from both ends of his eyes, up his nose, smack dead in the forehead. Just like the knife...

"You're not real." I say, a bit more determined. It chuckles and says, "My dear boy, have you forgotten so easily?"

This time, I'm enraged, I have to get away. I can't stop myself this time, "You're not real. You're not real. You're not FUCKING real!" And with that I take the handgun and fire once. Suddenly the clonking is more rapid, panicked, louder.

"I can assure you boy, this is very real. Face your demons. Claim your retribution."

I just can't calm myself. I run up to this...demon, and I try to tackle him, he just dissipates into mist as my body meets his. Shocked, as I fall to the ground, the surrounding area, this black void, falls away like it was a cheap façade. The ground turns to molten rock and brimstone, fire envelops us both. I don't care, as terrified as I might've been, I stood up and charged him again. This time, I make contact. He steps back a bit, and chuckles again. Suddenly, plop! Down comes a lifeless form and a small weapon. I turn, load the gun again, but he doesn't move. After I lower the gun, he bends down and picks up the lifeless form by the collar of it's shirt. It then picks up the gun and cocks it. Except, he doesn't point it at me, he places it underneath the chin of the thing he grasps.

"Let's get some lights, shall we?" CLICK! A single, bright red light flashes down upon the gook and the thing, and I see it. It's Jack. It's fucking Jack, and he has a gun under his chin just like he had. Jack isn't just a ragdoll though. He looks at me, those innocent bug eyes overwhelmed with worry and sorrow. The gook pulls the pin, and I feel helpless.

"Time to choose. Forgive, forget, or take your vengeance." its voice is deep, gravely, demonic. I do nothing. I'm more focused on my helpless friend. I get more and more angry, I'd never stop. I declared I will never stop, screaming from the top of my lungs. The clonking is pounding now, unforgiving, bulbous pounds. The gook looks at me. He tilts his head, and says,

"Is this really want you want, Johnny?"

I just stand there.

"So be it."

Bang. Total déjà vu. The thunderous bang is muffled by flesh, Jack's head flings back and explodes outward, and his eyes fade out.

It's like I was a kid again, watching helplessly as my best friend helplessly as he took his own life. And for what?

I fall to my knees, cover my face and just scream. I holler, pound the ground and cry. Blood drips down from my lips. There are no words to describe my fury.

I just look up, my face red, my hands clenched so tightly I see the blood seep through my fingers. I grunt, "Damn you!"

The gook just chuckles, and smugly says, "Many have."


Pound. Pound. POUND. POUND! POUND!!

"No," he says, "you did."

That's it, that's enough, I can't take it anymore. I lift Jack's handgun, and I start to charge for the gook.

It just says, "Bring it."Johnny! Answer the door! I heard a thud! I'm coming in!

About a foot or two away from him, I hear someone clearing their throat. I turn, to find on the opposite side of this...hell, there is a bright doorway. In it, Bob, Mike, and Jack are standing there, Bob looking particularly ashamed. I look at Jack. He has a stern look on his face. He shakes his head and holds out his arm. I look at myself. And before I can make my decision...

"Not going to happen." says the gook. He lifts Jack's corpse by the head and starts laughing. And laughing. AND LAUGHING.


I'm back charging like a bull, before I get to the gook a door comes barreling down from the sky and separates us. I fling it open, pull the trigger and...johnny why?

I'm back in my home. The door is flung open, the gun, in my outstretched arm and smoking. The hellish inferno is gone. The pounding has stopped. I blink. I look down to see, in horror, my brother, lying motionless in a pool of blood, a chunk of lead crammed into his chest. His arm is still frozen, outstretched into a fist, as if he was...


I look around, pick my brother's body up, and drag it into my house.

I shut the door.FUCKING COMMENT.

Written by The_Zog.
Content is available under CC BY-SA

This is part of the Củ Chi saga
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