Operation: Mad Arab
A Short Story
by Domenic Migliore
“You speak their language.” The men behind the desk had bragged. “If things go cock-south, that’s what you’ll be there for.”
It was true. Huzefa spoke the enemy’s language. Arabic was all his mother spoke at the breakfast table. It was the reason the men behind the desk were so adamant to get him on this squad. Though he made it a point to mention that being from a generation removed, and living in buttfuck Illinois, relying on him might be as smart as relying on Google Translate. Not that any of that mattered now anyway. Now his squad leader’s severed head was lying on the ground.
Huzefa laughed to himself. A year ago, he was hacking into diesel power chips for rednecks who didn’t want to shill out two-thousand bucks to John Deere to fix their tractors. He couldn’t wait to get out of that sheepfucker town. Now he was face-down in the sand, a knife to his throat...choking off his laughter.
His squad leader had seemed so goddamn sure. Right up to the moment the blade sliced open his jugular. Huzefa wasn’t even able to look around to see who else was still alive, if anyone. One false move and he’d be next. He didn’t even bother to memorize any of their names. A bunch of ignorant hicks. No different from the ones he left back home. He was just a tool to them.
“Why don’t you clean houses, like me?” He mother had said. She was another story. Like he’d be caught dead as a fucking housemaid. As if he didn’t get enough shit already for being haji. But who’s the one laughing now, right?
That was when the man with the knife said something. Amongst all the shock and awe, Huzefa didn’t even realize the fuckers that flanked them hadn’t spoken a word until now. He tried to reign in his thoughts for a moment to hear if he could make it out. The man spoke again. It wasn’t Arabic. It wasn’t even word-like, but noise-like. It was a deep, almost guttural sound. It made Huzefa want to lift his head to try to try to get closer to the speaker, forgetting there was a blade against his neck. He was struck on the cranium from behind. Things went purpley black.
When he awoke, it was night. He peered around. Mostly blackness. A few feet from him he noticed a large stone-like object. He blinked his eyes several times to adjust to the dark. The object came into focus. It was a large pillar. Etched on it were markings. At first he assumed they were Arabic. But no...he couldn’t quite make them out...
He heard a strange bellow. He tried to turn his head to identify the source of the sound, but his neck wouldn’t pivot, like it was fixed in place. He heard footsteps. Three figures emerged from the darkness. All dressed in turbans and long, black robes. Their faces were obscured by masks.
Huzefa struggled to move, but his limbs were completely paralyzed from neck to toe. He could only move his eyes and mouth. So he opened his mouth to scream. He felt his throat ache, yet his cry was completely silent. The pillar before him lit up in flame, revealing three more pillars out of the darkness. On top of them sat the three heads of his fellow squad members. All of them too were silently screaming.
One of the men in turbans walked to the center pillar. With his bare hands he reached into the flame. Huzefa noticed that the man’s hands weren’t brown like the men who had captured them earlier, but pale white and covered with deep wounds. From the fire, the man pulled out a tattered book. It was bound in a thick animal hide. Only when Huzefa saw the stretched-out tattoo across the spine spelling out “U-S-M-C” did he know that it was human flesh. The man opened the book and began to read.
What came out of the man’s mouth caused Huzefa to shut his. The other heads followed suit. What the man spoke was not human. The voices of four hungry breasts fought their way out from inside of the man’s gut. Then Huzefa saw them. They were not mammal nor lizard nor insect nor frog nor fish. Their shape defied any words Huzefa was able to conjure. Huzefa watched as the things descended upon his squad members’ heads and drank each of their brains dry. He thought of his mother back home and realized that all this was only a nightmare. Then the things descended upon him. He smiled. He looked out and saw that his squad members were also smiling.
There was a knock at Huzefa’s mother’s door. She invited the three uniformed soldiers inside. She had fixed them coffee, and a place for them to sit. She lived alone. She couldn’t remember the last time she had spoken with her family. Twenty-five, thirty years? She refused to watch TV. She sold it to a neighbor for fifty dollars after Huzefa moved out. She wanted nothing to do with the walls outside of her house. She had even stopped cleaning other people’s houses. She was running low on grocery money, but she didn’t care. Huzefa was all she had left. Now these men were here to tell her that he was gone.
Of the three soldiers, the sergeant stood and walked over to Huzefa’s mother. He placed a silk-gloved hand on her shoulder to console her. He then signaled to one of the other officers. The officer retrieved a small parcel from his side. From within, he withdrew a neatly folded American Flag. He handed it to the sergeant. The sergeant removed his glove, revealing a pale, scarred hand. He took the flag and presented it to Huzefa’s mother. It was tattered and old. Not only that, but it appeared to move. Like something was wrapped inside. Then she saw what it was. An arm of some kind, hidden underneath the cloth. Before she could say a word, it had her.
With that, the soldiers returned the flag to its parcel. They finished their coffee and were soon gone.