about the author

Seth Seppala was born in Texas and raised in Europe. After briefly studying architecture at the University of Florida, he enlisted in the U.S. Marines and served out two combat tours as an infantryman. Switching majors to English, he was graduated from Kansas State University with honors and currently resides in Houston, Texas.

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Out in the Desert

Seth Seppala

When she stopped screaming we kicked the bitch out into the goddamn desert. The winds had picked up, and out there on the plains the temperatures had dropped to an inhospitable level; only those with shelter would avoid perishing.

We took the heavy loads from our shoulders and broke out the gear to demolish the place. Machine-guns up top, so we had to sledge holes in the walls so the weapons could play peekaboo with the fucks out there walking around we’d soon make into corpses. We looted the place and tore it up good. Joe walked around with a hammer smashing television sets and we found their animals and pushed them out into the cold.

Earlier in the day we had come across a stiff in the courtyard of a schoolhouse. We squeezed out cheese onto hard bread and looked at the motherfucker; hard as a board, with manikin eyes.

“How’d he die?” Charley asked Doc.

“See all that blood?” said Doc on back to Charley, “He died over several minutes of bleeding to death.”

“Do you care?” Charley asked Doc, and the kid just shook his head, “I don’t care.”

They went around photographing the faces of the children that were annihilated by the five-hundred pounders for official record. The Hajjis with us cried to Allah and we ate cheese and hard bread and bucked the weight around on our backs.

In the house you could hear the mini-gun sounding off through the sky and the one-o-five boom like it was announcing an entrance to Valhalla. Seventy-six hours without letup and your sight began to get wobbly, like you were drunk, and the weight on your back from all the ammo tilted you around the place like you were on a sailing vessel.

They’d found syringes in the medicine cabinet and loaded the things with whatever liquid they thought was funniest. They caught a bird and held the thing’s wings while it squawked and flitted its eyes around, terrified. “Plunge ‘er in doll,” one said to the other and it was getting to be too much. It was overload the overload with noise and sound and action.

Jimmy had to go to an empty room while the others whooped it up good and put a blanket over his head and it was loud under there too.

They found a dead man far out front through binoculars and named the thing ‘Steve’ and laughed at the dogs that carried pieces of him away.

“What’s the thing lying next to Steve?” Chris asked Rich.

“The thing looks like a dead dog,” said Rich back to Chris.

“Killed walking a dog!” Chris hooted in the air.

“Jesus Goddamn shit--he was killed walking a dog!” Rich verified Chris.

At night they went forward and raided some dump house, armed with knives to keep things nice and quiet. John touched his throat and said, “You get ‘em right here, and there won’t be no sound.”

We were put on reserve and gave the push to someone else so that we could rest up and catch a smoke-break or two. So we back-cleared the houses and ripped them to pieces; we sifted through the slim pickings and ate all the food. Someone was running around with dead chickens tied to his vest, their necks spouting blood and shit trickling out of their assholes.

On the next night we pulled up and shattered a new house. We smashed in all the windows and bunkered the thing up. Matthew found some loco-weed in the back and cut the shit down and hauled it on up to his gun. Bobby watched Matthew smoke, and they looked out over the town. Smoke seeped into the sky from houses on fire, and a line of white flags floated out in the desert.

“If I could just gun ‘em all right now,” Matthew said to Bobby.

“Saddik, saddik,” said the Hajji to Bobby, “—friend, friend.”

But Bobby didn’t care; cause Bobby didn’t have any goddamn friends.

Lee had himself an arm; just playing with an arm.

Doc wanted the shotgun, Doc wanted to breach himself a door. “Watch out for them tricky things,” Ben said to Doc, “Ragheads got spring-loaded explosives rigged up to some of those frames.” Close by, the engineers blew a blast that sent Doc to his knees; and he jittered and held his heart because he thought he’d been killed, and we all laughed and laughed and threw grenades into the place.

A jet-fighter threw a building up into the sky, and some of us peered over the edge to catch the enormous power of the blow.

And we had to go smother the flames on burning dead-men with blankets:

“Peeew, burnt flesh smells like cat-ass bar-b-q,” Fred said to Tim.

“Ain’t no joke, an you seen the way his cock came right off—can see it right through his burnt clothes,” said Tim back to him.

Just some kind of ill zombie that had rented our flesh, we walked around slow and distorted, and had trouble recognizing familiar faces. And it was all spinning so fast that you wanted to grip the earth and make it stop to find relief.

The trucks that hauled us in picked us up and hauled us out. It was so silent back there that you could only hear our gear flutter and thud, and our bobbling heads jerked with the bumps in the road. We looked into some of our eyes, and there wasn’t much worth, well, really anything there anymore.

As we rode out, we passed a wounded goat half torn to pieces by a seven-seven-six burst, still tied up to a post; still hollering in some desperate voice.

And we drove out of the desert.

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