A muffled squelch sounded from Gesard’s camouflaged fatigues once more, and Teso cursed him even as he heard the others behind him illicit nervous laughter. “Shut it you animal…” he paused for a moment as they shuffled forward. Struggling to breath within an environment which would have been stifling at the best of times he nudged the rump in front of him. “Have you reached the hatch?” Gesard replied in his high-pitched, slightly petulant tone, “yeah Teso, it’s right here.”
“right here, what?” Teso snapped at him.
“Uh yeah, right here.. sir” the camouflaged pants conceded somewhat reluctantly. Boss has told them about how important it was to respect ranks, how they had to follow the plan to the letter. Teso was determined that his lads would look good in their leaders eyes. That one day they would get to join the unit that Yama and some of the other older boys had gone to join, taking part in the really important and heroic jobs. The ones that would help drive the invading bastard scum from their world.
Gesard grunted again as the pushed the hatch forward, accompanied by a rumbling and scraping sound. For a moment Teso feared the sound which meant that the tunnel was about to collapse as dust and debris came spinning out, but it soon stopped. Someone behind him coughed, and Teso blinked as the hard light of the morning sun came spilling into the tunnel. One by one they filed out, and stood around the entrance hatch, gingerly stretching limbs which had been cramped in one position for several hours. After a few moments, and after checking the half dozen of them were present, Teso nodded and spoke to them all; “Ok, let’s do this. Boss told us the plan, we know what we have to do.” He hoped that his own concern at what they were about to wasn’t revealed by a trembling voice or hand, or by dropping eyes. He hoped that the fear that he saw in his friends was not mirrored by himself. There was a murmur of assent from the group as they followed him from behind the refuse pile and narrow alley into which they had emerged. Plucking up a courage that he didn’t know he possessed, Teso turned to them and grinned, “come on this will be fun… just like a game of chase and bag.” Gesard’s squeaky voice replied even as the others looked on, “yeah, but we haven’t ever been chased by a monster before.”
“Ok.. this is it..” Teso lay flat up against the wall, his actions followed by the others further along the alley. He unwrapped the small package he held in his hand, taking out a small autobike mirror contained within, and held it by its bracket. Holding his breath, and with the delicacy of a man putting his hand into a nest of vipers, Teso held out the mirror so that it emerged from around the corner of the building. Blinking the sweat from his eyes, he forced himself to calm although his heart thundered in his chest and the narrow stem of metal in his hand shook and threatened to slip from his sweaty grasp.
Gradually the shaking lessened, and the scene revealed by the mirror came into focus; As expected, the street was largely empty, windows shuttered and doors barred despite the summer heat. A few market stalls stood untended, although an old man sat by the side of the road, a collection of nuts and herbs placed somewhat optimistically in bowls before his hunched form. A stray dog with only 3 legs made its way haphazardly across the road, pausing to sniff at some small animal which had died there. A miniature dust devil whipped up, pushing refuse into the air. But the rest of the street was empty. Teso experienced a moments doubt, where was it? Why wasn’t it here? Maybe the boss or his information had been wrong?Teso was about to turn to Gesard and tell him, when something caught the corner of his eye. His stomach wretched and heaved all at once, and threatened to come rolling up his throat. His mouth hung agape and he swallowed, a mixture of dust and sand making it a sensation like sanding wood. But he didn’t notice the sensation nor the discomfort, for his attention had been drawn inexorably to what he now saw stood in the corner of street.......