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Don Collier

It was a small room. A single bare bulb with a partial shade hung from the ceiling, it's fixture hidden in the dark. The light illuminated the floor, a dirty mixed tile, and up to the wainscot which needed painting. And me, sitting in a standard issue wooden chair. My boots rested flat on the ground and my hands on my knees. My sidearm was gone as well as my helmet. I faced a single, double panel door, stained brown.

The door opened and bright lights in the room through the door back lit the man who stood there, but I could tell it was an officer by the cut of his uniform and his stance. I rose and snapped to attention.

"At ease, sergeant. Please, sit back down. You've earned it."

I sat back down. The officer entered the room, turning to close the door. I had a glimpse of a corridor, and the door was shut. He turned. A full bird colonel.

"How are you feeling sergeant?"

"A little confused sir. Where am I?"

"Division headquarters. Well, what used to be division headquarters. It's a warehouse now."

Not exactly reassuring.

"Where are we relative to the front?"

"Paris. And there is no longer a front. The war is over."

I leaned back and sighed.

"Did we win?"

"Yes sergeant, we were successful. What do you remember?"

My last memories were of the tank, my battle worn M4A3E8. We had lost a tread and held a strategic crossroads leading to a bridge. There had been an intense battle as we faced off with company strength of Krauts. We killed a lot of Krauts.

"Did Ellison make it?"

"Yes, sergeant, he made it."

I nodded, still confused as to how we had won the war so quickly.

"What now, sir?"

The colonel stepped closer, so that I could see his face more clearly. There was an odd look to the man, as if he glowed, or was lit from a light I could not see. It was unsettling.

"We have another mission for you sergeant. A Special Mission, a secret mission."

I waited for him to continue. After several beats, I raised my eyebrows inquisitively, as if asking for the details. Finally I verbalized what I was thinking, "What is the mission, sir?" I hadn't asked when I was going to go home. It hadn't even occurred to me.

"I'm afraid I cannot divulge the details at this time." He raised a hand as I started to protest, "I know, I know, this is not SOP, but there is a reason. You're discovery of the mission is part of the mission. You'll know soon enough when you figure it out."

I settled back into the chair and nodded once more, "When do I begin, sir?"

He reached forward and grabbed the string hanging from the light switch, "Right now," and he pulled the string. Blackness again descended on me and I instinctively rose to my feet, reaching for the string. The light snapped back on, and I was alone in the room.
June 07, 2019 06:39 am

Don Collier

11 weeks later

62 days, 1448 hours, 89,280 minutes, give or take a few.

No matter how I calculated it, the little mental exercises I did daily to distract myself from when I had last seen her and touched her amounted to one thing.

I missed her.

Having thrown myself into work, following the directives of my superiors (it was hard to call them orders, since I was constantly reminded I was free to do whatever I wished as long as I represented the paramilitary group that called themselves Azhi Dahaka respectfully) made the daylight hours go by, or the evening hours if operations took place after sunset. But it was in the very late or early hours that I felt it the most. Missing her.

She sent me an occasional message that she was okay, just busy at 'The Manse' which is apparently where her communal family lived. But she never would reveal its location, and I respected that privacy she guarded so zealously, even though I had resources at my disposal that could have easily found her and her 'family'.

So I worked and waited.

This morning I had risen, showered and shaved and put on my uniform which had hung in the closet since the last afternoon I had spent with her. Dusting off the boots and I put a quick spit shine on them, giving myself a quick inspection in the full length mirror in our bedroom before departing our apartment. I put on my shoulder holster with my firearm, and then my jacket to conceal it before going out into public. It was time for me to revisit my deeper mission in this strange, modern world that I had been thrust into from a burning World War II tank 75 years ago.

It was a 20 minute walk through the streets in Paris to the US Embassy. I stopped along the way at a bistro to break my fast - croissant and espresso - and arrived at the Embassy precisely at 0900 hours just as the gates were opened. The guards waved me in, and I entered the building, going straight to the stairways that took me to the office of the Regional Security Office. The young secretary smiled as I entered the office, "Please go in Sergeant, the Colonel is expecting you."

Of course he was. There was nothing this less-than-ordinary man seemed to know about me.

He was wearing a blue dress uniform. 11 weeks ago, when I first met him, it had been an olive drab uniform of the US Army. The second meeting had him adorned in the dark blue uniform of a US Navy Captain. I only recognized the uniform branch because of the research I had done with the computer Dita had given me, research to catch up on 75 years of history that had passed me in the blink of an eye.

I stepped up to his desk at attention and saluted him, "Sergeant Collier reporting." I held the salute until he returned it, gesturing me to be at ease and sit down. We had established our routine.

"A US Air Force Colonel now?"

"I see you have been doing your homework, Sergeant. Very good. What else have you learned about besides the separation of the Army Air Corp into its own Branch of the Department of Defense"

I spent the next fifteen minutes giving him my synopsis of the last 75 years, focusing, of course, on history primarily from a military view point.

"Have we really created a US Space Force?"

A small smile rose up on the wrinkled, experienced face, "It is certainly in the works, as it should be. You've done well to catch up to current events, Sergeant Collier. Now, how about you? What have been doing for the last three months? You have a job and a girl now, yes?"

"Yes sir."

He waited for me expand, and when I didn't, he opened a file on the desk before him, a file which appeared to be a little thicker than the last time I sat in the office with him.

"You are now a member of the Sanctuary Azhi Dahaki of Australia, conducting surveillance and reconnaissance operations in continental Europe and occasionally the west coast of the United States. Also some black, highly classified operations in those locations."

An uncomfortable silence. His statements were not accusatory, but a matter of fact. He could have said I was a farmer or mechanic, minding my own business with equal alacrity. None-the-less it made me feel like I had to explain myself.

"To the best of my knowledge, sir, I have not violated my Oath..."

He raised his hand to stop me, "You're not being accused of anything, Sergeant. In fact, you may consider what is in this file as information strictly between you and me, and higher powers than any government or government agency." He looked back down to the file. I fell silent again, but still felt like a schoolboy who had been caught smoking in the restroom.

"Miss Dita Morgenstern," he looked up from the file, "You are cohabitating with her here in Paris?"

I could feel a tinge of color rising to my face. I was sure the scars were reddening, "Yes sir"

"It's alright Sergeant, no one is judging you. Is she a nice girl?"

"Very nice, sir."

"Has she told you anything unusual about herself?"

I paused again, recalling the last conversation we had before she returned to her family. She had told me some extraordinary things, things that might have driven a man to madness. But I had accepted them from her, and assured her it didn't change the way I felt about her, "Yes sir."

"Could you explain in more detail, Sergeant?"

I looked down at the edge of the desk before me, my mind racing to recall everything she had told me in those waning minutes 62 days ago.

"She told me things about her family, and about herself which sounded amazing and even frightening. She was afraid as she told me, afraid I might shun or leave her. But I accepted what she told me, and assured her it didn't matter and changed nothing between us."

"Very good Sergeant. You have fulfilled the first part of your mission."

I broke decorum and looked at him warily, me eyes become slitted to see him more clearly, "And what specifically would that be, sir?"

In the morning light streaming into the windows of his office, he seemed to take on an aura, as if he glowed subtly from within. It was unsettling, but he replied to me in soothing tones, "You have discovered that the world is not what it appears to be, and more importantly, you have accepted this fact."
August 20, 2019 02:56 pm

Don Collier

24 weeks later

My routine was becoming dull, mostly because of the absence of Dita. She was spending a great deal of time with her family, which was hard to me to find fault with. Except they were really more her family. They her coven. A word with a darker and more secretive meaning than family. I had learned where the coven house was in Paris, but could not and would not go there seeking her.

I slept sporadically, usually just a few hours at a time. During the day time I sought knowledge and information on the computer. I had caught up with history, filling in the gaps of the 75 years I had missed when I was transported from a burning Sherman tank in western Germany to an empty warehouse in Paris. There seemed to be many contradicting versions of various events, most of those in the last 50 years. The nexus of those variations seemed to be around the time of the assassination of an American President named Kennedy, whom I was surprised and pleased to discover has been a participant in the Pacific theater of World War II. Murdered in broad daylight, by a man who was murdered a few days later, once again in broad daylight, leaving a mystery as to why this had happened. That's when stranger things started to happen in the world.

There was something called the Dark Web, a portion of the internet purported to be deeply hidden and vastly more extensive than the world wide web. I suspected there were answers there to many of the questions I had, but I was wary to find and explore this virtual world as I had read of many warnings of those who had naively entered the Dark Web and often disappeared. I just didn't know enough about this modern information technology to safely navigate those dark recesses.

During the nights, from twilight to dawn, I would conduct my expected operations. I would receive encrypted messages from an unknown source to reconnoiter a specific location, or a certain individual. I suspected these messages came from my sanctuary, though from whom I did not know. I would conduct the operations as requested.

On this evening I was directed to the 15th arrondissement, southwest of the center of Paris. There is a park just west of the railroad yards, called Parc Georges-Brassens. I was to locate and observe a man there, near the old bell tower and if possible, approach him and question him about disappearances in the park.

It was late evening, prior to midnight when a solitary man made his way to the bell tower. I had been on top of one of wings of the building since dusk, using the vantage point to observe people coming and going. By 9 PM the park was deserted except for the occasional flic or policeman passing through the park. At 11:45 PM my target entered the park from the east. I hid in the shadows of the tower watching him. When he came up to the front of the building, he disappeared from my view. I crept over to peer over the railing, and he was gone. I turned to make my way to the back steps, and he was standing there, glaring at me with red brimmed eyes.

"Who are you and what are you doing here this time of night?"

His accent was flat, no hint of his origin. He was average in height and physique, but I was none-the-less wary given how quickly and silently he had gone from the front of the tower to the back and up the steps to confront me.

"What business of yours is my business?"

Confrontational? Of course, but I hadn't been sent here on a social call.

He leapt at me with surprising speed and violence. I managed to parry his attack and we both fell to the ground. As I rolled away from him, I drew my .45, but he was back on his feet and kicked it away. I kicked at his standing leg and it was like striking and iron pole. The man bent over, and grabbed my by the lapels of my jacket. He lifted me up and off my feet.

"WHO ARE YOU?"

I managed to draw my K-bar and thrust it upwards at the base of his sternum. The razor sharp blade found purchase and penetrated several inches. He let go of me and I landed clumsily on my feet as he staggered back before I could twist the knife.

Then, he hissed at me, like an animal. The deepness and volume of the sound caught me off guard. I gathered my wits quickly as I anticipated another attack from what I recognized as a vastly stronger opponent. But the man turned and ran, down the steps and into the darkness.

November 16, 2019 10:14 am

Don Collier

By the time I got back to apartment I was limping. Small aches from the brief fight, my wrist where the gun had been kicked away and the arch of my foot where I had kicked my adversary, would be throbbing later and tomorrow. I had never had a fight with someone so incredibly strong and considered myself lucky to have escaped with my life. It had shook the foundations of my reality.

There was a telegram on the floor of the entrance when I finally got home. For some reason, my heart skipped a hopeful beat. I assumed it was from Dita. But upon opening the message, I saw From the Embassy of the United States in the header, and knew it was from the officer.

Report to Embassy 0800 STOP Wear Class A uniform STOP

Class A uniform? All of my dress uniforms were seventy-five years gone, and probably dust. It was after 2:00 A.M and I had to report to the Embassy in less than six hours. I made my way to bedroom. There on the bed, laid out neatly, was a 1944 era U.S. Army dress uniform, proper patches and medals, and an enlisted garrison cap. Before tonight I would have found this very strange, but now, not so much of a surprise. I hung the uniform up, finding highly polished dress shoes in the closet, showered and went to bed. Alone again.

The next morning I rose, dressed in the uniform, and took a cab to the Embassy. I was sore as expected but managed to walk up to the entrance gate with barely a limp through sheer determination. Entering the building, I made my way upstairs, arriving at the office of my mysterious commander precisely at 0800 hours. The same young secretary (I had learned though the internet that in these modern times they preferred the title 'Administrative Assistant') smiled at me, rising from her desk to open the door to, "The Colonel is waiting for you." She pulled the door closed behind me as she left us alone.

Attention and salute held, "Sargent Collier reporting as ordered, sir!"

He rose and formally returned the salute, something I had rarely seen from a superior officer, "At ease, Sargent. Please have a seat" Our routine was familiar and eased my apprehension.

"I see you survived your encounter last night Sargent. Well done."

My inquisitive look encouraged him to continue, "The orders you have been receiving have come from this office. We have also been able to monitor your activities. Last night was..." he paused for a moment, "a final exam, so to speak."

I wasn't surprised.

"Did I pass, sir?"

"Your survival was an indication that you are ready for the next phase of your mission, yes."

I waited for what seemed an eternity as the Colonel turned a page in the file before him and read for what was really just a moment.

"What is your understanding about how to define good and evil, Sargent?"

This was not what I expected. It wasn't exactly a tactical or strategic question, but a question about ethics or philosophy. I answered him as directly as I could.

"Colonel, I fought and killed Nazis 75 years ago. There was no question that they were evil. Not the German people, mind you, just the Nazis. I have since learned that their evil extended into a greater horror than me or the men under my command had imagined."

He nodded, "The Final Solution"

"We had no way of knowing what was happening east of Berlin. Six million people murdered in cold blood. That is an unfathomable evil."

The Colonel folded his hands before him, fingers interlocked, "You are well studied in your history, Sargent. What do you think is defined as evil today?"

My thoughts went to what I had observed about the present world. There were terrorists, serial killers, and pedophiles walking the earth, some out in the open, but some hidden in the masses of humanity, masses that had grown significantly since my last recollections of the world I remembered. But I knew he meant something else. Something darker and more insidious.

"You mean the supernatural beings that live among us."

A pause, and then he replied with another question, "What kind of supernatural beings have you been able to identify, to discern among the people of the earth?"

I thought about the assignments I had been given, mostly reconnaissance type missions to observe and identify. One two creatures that I had encountered had demonstrated a significant difference from humans. The tall man from Dita's family who had assisted them with the apartment, and the creature from the previous night.

"Are there vampires among us, sir? Are they real?"

I thought about the things Dita had told me the last time we had been together, and as I recalled that conversation, the Colonel replied.

"Oh yes, Sargent. They are very real, and they are not alone."
November 22, 2019 04:19 pm
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