Twenty acclaimed authors of fantasy and horror explore fantastic elements of the Second World War.
From "At Angels Sixteen" by Lawrence Santoro in A DARK AND DEADLY VALLEY, Silverthought Press, 2007.
The booze must have been on my tail because it caught up, jumped inside and left me drunk again, but it was all so damned beautiful. There was music, light and singing as wave over wave of air washed out from the bursting bombs like wet wrinkles. I would have stood to conduct if I'd had that talent, but I didn't. So I lay and breathed it in.
When the old guy standing next to me in the dark ditch howled like a steel-cutting saw, I about jumped out of my skin. By bomb's light, he was hairy and a hundred years old. And black. Not like a Negro man, but with lots of colors to him, but the black was like old iron and loamy earth.
I thought he was drunk too, and said something like, "What the...?" to him and he answered in a chirruping cascade. Well, I was just learning the language there in England, and that night's lager had caught up with me following my run. Thing was, I understood. Understood he had come here specially for this. He'd come up here for this. As if he'd been, well, down somewhere. I don't know.
He and his others -- he waved his arm -- were here for this; this special thing! In the white heat of a stick of incendiaries I saw them. On the hillside, all around, was like a stadium filled for homecoming. The old guy and all the rest screamed out like a steel mill chorus at a midnight pouring.
On the Lea, more of him. More and different, their shadows dancing before the flames.
Soc would have loved this. It was like the harvest eve when we'd come up from London. Hundreds of little hairy men running, kicking dirt, leaping with the flames.
A bomb whistled down, close and I looked up. Foolish, I know, but damn me if there wasn't a girl on it. Well not on it. She escorted it, slow dancing down the sky. Which is why I could see it at all, I guess. Behind, a whole rack of Jerry bombs were cavorting in the arms of the prettiest little women. Okay, they were not women. They were the IDEA of women, does that make sense? They did a water ballet with iron bubbles. Something Walt Disney might have
made in that Fantasia.
When the bombs burst, they blossomed red; rose-tinged and yellow-white. Snakes of flame licked the ground and skittered, rolling, growing, growing so fast. The howl of blooming steel washed over us and I know, I know, a dozen, two dozen of the folk were pulverized in the blasts; pulverized and shot aloft, where the spray of parts and pieces rejoined and laughed down as shadows, black shadows, against the heat and shock and thrumming strings.
Then it was over: the bombs, the planes, the ack-ack fire. Just drifting smokes, airtossed muck and showering sparks remained.
A lady-rain came to clean it all, and the rain was part. Air fell like light. As if all the rising flames of guns, the searchlight columns, all the burning planes and men that had fallen, dripping, from the sky in steel and armored drops, in glowing bits of bone and chary rags and spatters of liquid plastic, had been distilled to hazy mist. That all now dropped gently to the earth in cleansing female rain. It was terrific.
My old bloke said something to me and rolled his head back. I thought he was going to laugh. He did and came apart in joy and sank. That was it. He sank into the hillside. The rains, the air, they wrinkled and were gone. All were gone. Waiting for the next part of the...
..."Festival" is what I'd caught from him. This Festival of war we were making just for them.
A moment later, the all clear sounded and I was sober again. I stood. Common mist rolled across Lakenheath Lea. The surviving flames were ordinary fires, dying in the wet. In the light, the carcass of my friend, the cow, lay opened, burning. I didn't see the rabbits.