I was naked as I clung for life from the body parts on the tunnel wall. By divine grace,
there was adequate ventilation provided by a drafty tunnel shaft above me. Below, I
could see them, smell their stench, hear them. They made that awful sound of wet
rubber when they moved. Around me were my comrades, their spines horribly broken,
twisted. Their mortified stone-like torsos pasted like hideous wallpaper. Their ghastly
faces in grotesque design, distorted by pustulate resin, lined both sides of the
corridors as far as I could see. Beads of sweat and blood streamed into my eyes. Salty
tears trickled out from them but I dared not blink. My fingers were numb. My body
ached and trembled, until at last, it could endure no more. I felt myself falling, thrashing
though the air. The sound of my crashing was horrendous but quickly drowned out by
their vile uproar made over my commotion.
Then, I saw a flash of light. Dear Valkyrja! My Sage! And my Coven! They were not
dead! All were alive . . . and, all were laughing . . . at me! It had all been a bad dream!
And upon hitting the deck, I realized I had fallen out of my bunk! The lights had come on
and everyone was howling at the joke.
“Gets ‘em every time!” Sage shook his head and gave his knee a hardy slap. He was
squatting beside me, wringing a thick rubber hose with his sweaty hands.
“That’s why we put rookies in the top bunk!” Someone yelled. And the laughter rose up
again. My Sage grinned at me. I laughed too, as one of them now. The lights soon went
out again and it grew silent in the still darkness. Alone with my thoughts, I stared up at
the blackness. Tomorrow would begin my true rite-of-passage. It was to be my first
mission down in the hell holes of KHT-21. It was to be Larson’s last.
I remember that first night over two hundred years ago like it was just yesterday. Well,
maybe like it was the day before yesterday. They’re all gone now. Today, my men call
me Sage. I can’t tell you how many rookies I have sent crashing head first to the deck
their first night after my Vexthrax field brief!
“Welcome to the ThraxMasters kid!” I tell them. HA! Amazing, but it works. Gets ‘em
every time, just like my ole Sage said.