This story is for the Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge: Smashing Sub-Genres.

From a list of 20 sub-genres we had to randomly select two, then write a story based on them.

A RNG gave me:

13. Lovecraftian
1. Men’s Adventure

“…”

Yeah that was my reaction after getting this… wonderful? (not really) combination. I dug around in my brain, went back and forth a bit and finally got this out. The result basically being a men’s adventure with Lovecraftian elements rather than the opposite, which would probably just be very dry.

I’m pretty happy with it. For once I went quite long on the initial draft (1500 words) and it was also one of those stories that I was much happier with at its initial length. But even chopped down, I think it’s decent.

In any case, here’s the result, of this … strange combination.

July of sixty-eight, we were deep in the stinking jungles of southeast asia. Our squad’s assignment had been simple, to send home a bunch of commies in body bags. The problem was the lieutenant had lost it. One day he was fine and the next his eyes went hot, wild. Tension built after that as our course changed. The knowledge that something was very wrong sawed through frayed nerves like rusty scissors. A week later we were way off our maps for the operation.

And then he disappeared. We were relieved until Sarge told us we had to go after him. I can tell you that didn’t do a hell of a lot to help morale.

A day of brutal marching later we stepped into a small village at twilight. The place was typical, bamboo and old boards, the scent of cook fires in the air. The scent of something else too, blood. I was opening my lips to ask sarge what to do when the familiar CRACK of an M-16 split the air. We all hit the tall grass flat on our bellies. After a few quiet minutes Jenkins crawled over to Sarge to ask for orders. He found a bloody round hole through Sarge’s right cheek instead.

Half the men split right then. Sarge had been the mortar in our cracking bricks, but a few of us — myself, Landon, and Green — held it together and stayed behind. I was going to find out what the hell was going on.

Silently we converged on the center of the village. Something was drawing us to that spot like the itch of a festering blister.

A minute later I stepped out from behind a building and froze.

My skull and my guts went hollow at the same time. The scene before me was unfathomable. There were bodies everywhere. I blinked, it didn’t change. Women, and smaller figures. I barely managed to contain the bile in my throat. Blood ran, pooled, dripped everywhere, from everything. The rank spoiling smell of it, heated all day by the sun, nearly drowned me in its stench. Flies buzzed across the scene. One landed on the lieutenant’s arm.

He was standing in the center of the crimson sea of offal. Blood slid congealing down his arms. clung to his face. Large drops of it plopped slowly from the Ka-Bar in his right hand. His left hand was wrapped in the dark hair of a sobbing woman, the only one I saw alive. His eyes burned, an inferno to the hot sparks I’d seen days before.

“Howdy, Johnson,” he drawled, “Fancy seeing you here.”

I barely heard him. I’d seen horrors before. I’d seen blood and bodies and awful things. But something else was moving behind the lieutenant. Something that couldn’t be.

The air itself was moving, twisting, spiraling behind him. Blood and darkness were in the air. Dark ruby spirals, sucked up from the sopping ground outlining a shape my eyes couldn’t trace, my mind couldn’t comprehend. Limbs in multitude, organs pulsing, vanishing. Eyes, their glow piercing, malevolent. So many eyes…

I tried again to follow the lines. My brain shook in my skull, I felt hot warmth leaking from my ears. I couldn’t look away.

“Lieutenant, let the woman go,” Jenkins from the other side of the square. Level headed even now. I was vaguely aware of him swinging his carbine up.

“No,” the lieutenant said, frowning.

Then he said a word, made a sound, I didn’t know, but the air moved. An iron hard impact crashed through my flak jacket, threw me away like rubbish on the wind. I slammed back into a hut and slumped limp to the ground. My breath was gone, my limbs useless.

I could barely see, my helmet had fallen across one eye, but the exposed eye stared. Terror tore out from my chest and seared through my veins. The only thing left of Jenkins was one boot in the mud and a blood smear running down the wall of a hut. I didn’t know where Green was, I couldn’t turn my head. All I saw was blood and the lieutenant.

“One more,” he said, and raised his knife. The woman was screaming soundlessly, her wide eyes, fixed on the blade

As he stood with arm raised, I finally saw it. I saw the bodies, not strewn randomly, but laid out in some terrible pattern my mind could only comprehend a part of. Some buried primitive part of my psyche picked at the design like tangled yarn. I suddenly knew if the woman fell the pattern would be completed and whatever twisted behind the lieutenant would gain its final form, would gain freedom. Would return.

My right hand started moving again. My rifle was gone, I didn’t know where, but as my hand flopped across my chest, I felt the hard edged shape dangling from my harness. The thin ring attached to the pin.

I had no breath, no strength, but I seized the grenade with everything I had left and pulled. The PING of the grenade coming free was loud in the deadly silence.

The lieutenant turned his head, his eyes went wide and all the eyes behind him with them.

I couldn’t save the woman or myself, but maybe I could save the rest of the wretched world. I drew enough air to scream and hurled the grenade.

The hot blast buried me in cold darkness.

Two days later another patrol came across the village, pulled me from the blood and guts and death and took me home. I don’t remember the trip back, or even the flight home.

Years have passed, and I may have escaped, but I left a piece of my mind behind along with one eye and a lot of good men. I still break into a sweat as the sun sets. That place is thousands of miles away, but every night I still wait to see those eyes in darkness.