It was never hard to tell when he fell asleep because he always ended up back in ‘Nam. The days were different, the ’activities’ were different but it was always ’Nam. This time it was a little spot on the edge of the jungle just a few clicks outside of base camp. Same old, same old, another ambush big surprise. He and the three others with him found themselves trading shots from behind a small mound of ground (the closest thing to cover they could find) with enemies they, at best, saw glimpses of. Of course, none of these little trips back in time would be complete without Reaper.
Vincent wasn’t sure why, but the monster seemed to enjoy invading his dreams although it’s appearance was different. In the dreams Reaper was always smaller, no more than average height for a grown man but on the slim side. It’s edges would sometimes jerk and waver as if looking at a reflection in disturbed water, but always remained human in shape, except for the face. In his dreams Reaper always had that same cartoonishly unreal grin on it’s face, but no eyes. No facial feature aside from that same mocking grin, like all the pain and suffering that his dreams dredged up were nothing more than the punchline of it’s deranged humor. This time it was wearing a standard issue helmet and firing an M16 into the jungle, but not really aiming.
“Ohhhhh Vincent, buddy ol’ pal,” Reaper said amidst cackling laughter, “you always take me to the best places.”
Reaper set it’s rifle down and sprawled against the mound just as Private Jacobs took a bullet in his head, but of course Reaper didn’t care, it just used Jacob’s body to prop it’s feet up.
“See, I just can’t understand why you hate going to sleep,” it continued. “The sun is shining, somewhere past those trees there. Birds are chirping…I think. Pretty sure. Maybe. They’re definitely considering it though. Weather is less miserable than yesterday. Pretty sure this one died mostly instantly” it said while prodding Jacob’s body with it’s foot “day in paradise, amirite?”
Vincent just gritted his teeth and kept firing. Even if it was just a dream he couldn’t bring himself to not fight, as if the act of not fighting would somehow change the past and cost more lives, but just as he was lining his sights on one of the shadows in the jungle Reaper’s face was suddenly in his from over the top of his head.
“Ooh, ooh! I know! Let’s go to THAT ONE!”
Vincent would’ve sworn he felt his blood run cold, he knew which memory Reaper liked to pick on the most.
No more jungle. No more fighting. Just standing at the edge of base camp, watching the looks on the other soldier’s faces as they stood at the gate. He couldn’t hear anything, he never could, but he knew he was shouting at them. Telling them they couldn’t go. That if they tried to help her he’d shoot them in the leg and drag them back himself. Just 30 feet outside was a dead VC, his gun arm draped over a Vietnamese woman. Both bleeding out from the burst of bullets Vincent had put through her to get him. The woman had no known ties to the enemy and had even made several trips inside the camp before and yet he refused aid. The others argued, they called him paranoid and crazy, but Vincent just stared out at the pair on the ground. Watching, waiting, for the slow movement of their breathing to stop. Reaper was hanging from the walls, shaking and shrieking with laughter.
“Stop it…” Vincent barely managed to choke out the words. Reaper fell silent and within a moment suddenly appeared in front of Vincent, leaning in close enough for Vincent to smell it’s breath; like blood and rotting corpses.
“You can’t keep stopping it,” it said all too happily, “pretty soon, you’re gonna go out that gate.” That impossible grin only got wider, the ends literally going off Reaper’s face “I’ll make sure of that. No more high walls to keep you safe. No more barricades to keep the death out. I will—”
Vincent woke so violently he fell off the couch and immediately began emptying what little was in his stomach on the floor. Although this time he only spent a few seconds clawing at his face trying to get rid of whatever was blinding him, but the first feel of fresh blood under his fingers brought back reality all too quickly. The chill and lack of response told him it was night, he must have been out for quite a while. He told himself he really should at least attempt to do something about the mess he had just made all over Dowd’s floor but his arms wouldn’t listen. Instead he just rolled over, sweating and gasping for breath, and waited for the shaking to stop.