The Horror of ISIS is a short story set in modern Iraq, wrecked and pillaged by terrorists and made askew by the mythology represented in Matthew Sawyer's Pazuzu Trilogy. This is another tale by Mr. Binger that brings the alternate reality into real life. Atheistic in tone, the demons in his rash of stories are only possible because God abandoned the world. Others waited to take His place. Pazuzu awoke in the Middle East.
The Horror of the Islamic State
Captain Mitchell and his squad of ordinary United States Army Reservists remove themselves to Shingal, Iraq. Radical terrorists had recently held the town. The savages had swallowed some eighty thousands Iraqi Kurds into the belly of an over-gorged nation-monster. But as had the children of Chronos, the people in its guts did not perish. They fought back after time. The Yazdani, Christians in their own right, returned and surged again. They had come much like Constantine, under the banner of Christ.
Disguised, the captain and his team of acculturated soldiers today go to the recaptured Shingal and survey the territory. Their first objective was to assess the conditions; take pictures of carnage. Secondly and equally important, they were to locate Professor Christopher Mithrasen. The entire United States military was looking for the man. ISIS claimed they had captured him seven months ago. Any further information was available upon a “need-to-know” basis. Captain Mitchell himself never needed to know much.
The squad debated without input from their superior officer while they came up from Baghdad. Traveling at night, they come through the county-sized oil fields of northern Iraq. Though bombed into oblivion thrice in as many decades, the oil wells are working again. These likely never stopped pumping crude despite any damages. Oil and smoke and fire has forever choked this land.
While driving the armored Humvee everyone rides, Corporeal Ben Dinholme conjectures about their operation and its surroundings. He says, “That Mithrasen… did he find another gospel in a place like this?”
Private First Class Singer states, “I think they were all written here; the originals, that is.”
“Shut up,” Private Scott Kalkoff warranted on faith alone.
Singer comments, “Just so you know, the stories probably come from the Caucasus. Armenia, probably. That's not so far north from here.”
“Snub it,” Sergeant Schindick shouts from the front passenger seat. “I've had enough argument between you two. We are just eyes-on-the-ground, no mouths.”
“It's okay, sergeant,” Private Kalkoff tells his superior. “I am curious what the Yazdani say about Christ, even if it is blasphemy.”
“Hey, now,” Corporeal Dinholme jokes. He bounces in his seat behind the steering wheel, acting as would a child waiting for a favorite movie sequel to start playing.
“I said let's not get them started,” cautions the sergeant.
Scott claims, “No, I'm curious. What do you know about the Yazdani faith, Singer?”
Next to him on the backseat – there with Captain Mitchell furthest right on the passenger side of the vehicle, Private First Class Singer tells Private Kalkoff, “They got a Jesus.”
“Well, that is mandatory,” Scott blurts.
Singer nods and he continues delivering his objective summary, “And they got seven angels who rule this world. There's Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel...”
Kalkoff interjects, “And Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen.”
“Not quite,” Singer retorts. “Anyway, they – your seven holy beings – they do all the legwork for God, like all the little gods of the Hindu pantheon do for Krishna.”
“Krishna is not God,” asserts Scott.
Singer tells him, “You're right about that. He's closer to Jesus.”
“Shut it,” Sergeant Schindick orders. “I've heard this one before.”
“We're coming up on Shingal, sergeant,” Captain Mitchell informs everyone.
Schindick answers “Yes, sir.” And the other conversation ends.
Silence carries the covert team of solders in their marked military vehicle toward the dark and ancient Arabian city. Today, after the terror wrought by ISIS, and at night, the only artifacts that may conceivably remain here are ash and bone. The civilized world hoped these marked the beginning of the end of sedition. Captain Mitchell and his team of soldiers were drawn to the aftermath.
A quarter-mile out from Shingal’s boundary, a living obscenity to God distracts the Humvee driver. Corporeal Dinholme spots a native man he believes commits a sin in the eyes of these people's regional deity, Allah. The Iraqi Kurdish man had taken off his checkered head scarf and now waves it in the air. Well within the range of the truck's headlamps, the Kurd signals as if the American vehicle had finished a race through the desert. This squad of Reservists win automatically, chiefly because they were the only team running.
“Can they do that?” Corporeal Dinholme wonders aloud about the native man. “Can they take off their hats like that? Is it against their religion?”
“Stop,” Captain Mitchell commands. “That's Bob.”
Sergeant Schindick echos the order before the vehicle is slowed. His voice rings until the transport stands before the man waving a kaffiyeh. Meanwhile, the Kurd wraps the scarf around his balding scalp once more.
“Bob?” Kalkoff wonders to himself while seated next to the captain.
Captain Mitchell tells everyone, “He's a contact.” The explanation remains brief.
“Bag-pants Bob,” Sergeant Schindick clarifies for the squad. Rumors and recollections betray themselves on the faces of the men.
Corporeal Dinholme comments, “I thought his nickname was Bob Baggins, like the Hobbit.”
Schindick answers, “Well, that's the guy.”
The native informant rushes to the driver's side of the vehicle. Although this summer has been hot, the reservists had come to Shingal with the windows rolled up. They came through haze and incendiary vapors protected inside the Humvee and the men still reek like gasoline.
“Kill the lights,” Captain Mitchell tells Dinholme. The corporeal follows the order and he turns off the truck's headlamps.
“Roll down your window,” the captain then also states from the back seat. Dinholme does so, too. Bag-pants Bob immediately throws his damp head into the vehicle. Sweat had washed his face clean and stained his loose shirt.
Simultaneously, the man exhales. His breath overwhelms the acrid interior aroma with the scent of antiseptic paint thinner. The informer also slurs his broken English sentences. Bob interrogates the badly concealed soldiers.
“Who are you? CIA? Mossad?”
“We're just regular army,” the captain tells him. “United States of America. No SEALs nor Marines, not even Green Berets.”
“You can take him back to America,” Bob slobbers. “Shingal does not worship the devil. Sunni worship the devil.”
“What is he talking about?” Scott quietly worries from the backseat. No one listens to the faithful army reservist. The squad is transfixed by the rambling of the informant.
“Don't believe it… don't believe... anything you see.”
“What are talking about?” insists Captain Mitchell.
“You know,” Bob begs him. “The beheading, the movie studio. It is here.”
“Where they make ISIS videos?” blurts Dinholme.
Sergeant Schindick shouts at him. “Quiet.”
Bob, meantime, nods. The Kurdish man pulls his head from the Humvee and glances about into the dark. “It's okay, now. They are gone,” he says over his shoulders.
The captain seeks affirmation and he asks their contact specifically, “ISIS is gone?”
Bob nods again and never truly stopped doing so once he first started. Captain Mitchell wants confirmation. “We wouldn't be here if the radicals were still around. Did they execute the hostages here? Where is the studio?”
“Yes,” Bob said. The affirmation seems too general. The word becomes more vague after each second. He then says, “Doctor Mithrasen.”
“Professor Mithrasen is here?” Singer asks shocked.
Sergeant Schindick glares at the soldier. On the opposite side the backseat, Captain Mitchell raises his hand. The officer invokes silence with his gesture and he is obeyed.
Captain Mitchell tells the front seat, “Sergeant, get directions to the studio's location.”
Bag-pants Bob speaks over the captain's instruction. “It is an aircraft bunker – no planes. No airfield. No pilots.”
“Yeah,” Private Kalkoff snickers next to Singer. He teases the informant. Their exchange stays unnoticed.
Singer whispers to him, “It's the moonshine.”
The intoxicated informant then spears his hand into the vehicle. He waves an open and empty palm up and down below Dinholme's nose. In response, Captain Mitchell throws loose American dollar bills into the front seat. And coordinated, Sergeant Schindick collects the money and he verbalizes the officer's wishes.
“Pay him,” he tells the corporeal.
Having exchanged his information for cash, Bag-pants Bob abruptly walks away from the army vehicle. Stumbling the length of the Humvee toward the rear, he says again, “Don't believe what you see,”
Hearing him, Corporeal Dinholme steps on the brake. Doing so illuminates the truck's rear red lights. Bob's back is painted with blood.
“Where are you going Bob?” asks the corporeal. The reservist imagined only the desert while he watches the native informant walk the greased way the Army Reservists had driven.
Bob tells him, “Sinjar.”
Dinholme did not know what Bob could mean. And it was too dark to see. He asks the soldiers inside the Humvee, “Sinjar, that's this province. Right?”
Scott tells him, “He probably going to the mountain.”
“Captain,” Private Singer addresses the officer. “Sir, what was he talking about? What are we not suppose to believe?”
“ISIS was making movies,” replies Captain Mitchell summarily. “And it's not important. The man was drunk.”
The captain tells Sergeant Schindick, “Sergeant let's find that bunker. Professor Mithrasen has become the priority.”
“It doesn't sound far, sir,” the soldier assures his commanding officer. Sergeant Schindick tells Dinholme, “Go,” and he points. “It's right there. I can see it.”
Everyone knows the sergeant can't see squat, but Bob's map was simple and the landscape is flat. An intelligent man could make a reasonable assumption where an aircraft bunker stood on the nearby cusp of the city of Shingal. Confidant in his own assumption, Corporeal Dinholme takes the squad slightly left of where he had been pointed.
Nearer the city, visible yellow candle light plainly flickers in windows. There are instances of electric bulbs lighting outdoor entrances, but the team of reservist are yet too far away. They cannot define what the glowing blue-tinted orbs might be. Closer toward Shingal, the squad finds lights of all sorts are extinguished in an ominous circumference around their target. The concrete aircraft bunker where Bag-pants Bob had sent them is engulfed by the same flat darkness behind them.
“Singer, Kalkoff,” summons the sergeant. “Scout the bunker.”
All wearing woolen coats and vests over their uniforms, and with their ranks and other insignia concealed, Sergeant Schindick and Corporeal Dinholme get out of the Humvee the same time Singer and Kalkoff respond to their command. Captain Mitchell is left alone in the vehicle adjusting a checkered head scarf when the headlamps go extinguished. He watches while his higher-ranked non-commissioned officers ready their M4 carbine rifles and cover the scouts.
Privates Singer and Kalkoff bring their weapons and helmets with them, visually more wary of traps before each footstep than the building ahead of them. Schindick and Dinholme monitor the bunker. They are the 'eyes' in this maneuver. Yet in the dark, Singer, Kalkoff are more practical. And they could be more effective only if their boots were feelers like those of a cockroach.
The Army Reserve had come upon the oblong profile of a solid windowless bunker. There is one steel door that Kalkoff checks then reports, “Locked.” Singer tells the sergeant, “Clear, this side.”
Sergeant Schindick tells Corporeal Dinholme, “Bring the vehicle and the captain. Follow us to the front.”
“I'm behind you,” the sergeant then tells Singer and Kalkoff. “Move to the front of the building.”
The enlisted men do as they have been told and now raise their rifles. They spend equal amounts of time looking ahead of themselves as they do each of their own boots. Meanwhile, the Army vehicle comes swung around on packed ripples of sand and bounces beams of white light against their backs. Sergeant Schindick, too, is caught in the bobbing swaths of illumination.
Once the staggered U.S. team is around the bunker, the sergeant spins and raises a fist. The vehicle stops tens of yards before tall and marginally parted hangar doors. Sergeant Schindick then draws his open palm against his throat and the truck's headlamps are killed. He tells his two advanced scouts, “I got your backs – get in there and check it out.”
Singer and Kalkoff do as they are told. Kalkoff leads them then he stalls inside the concrete structure. He pulls a flashlight from his shoulder suspender. Singer does the same and together they throw sanguine spotlights into the air of a spacious chamber. The filtered beams paint dashing colored ovals across the scaffolds of an arced ceiling.
Once the pair have scanned wreckage thrown about the interior of the bunker, Singer tells Kalkoff, “There's no one here… just video tapes, broken electronics...”
“Anything radical or fundamental is full of Luddites and torture porn,” complains the private first class.
“It was a studio,” comments Kalkoff. The private reservist kicks over a broken camera and finds an M16. “They left their weapons, too.”
Singer teases his compatriot and his use of pronouns. “They?” In his godless perspective, someone like Kalkoff and the terrorists were essentially the same. “Essentially” was the most important operative word in that sentence.
“ISIS,” Kalkoff tells him.
Singer abandons the distraction. “Let's push the doors open, get the truck's lights in here. I still can't see shit.”
“Good idea, for once,” answers Private Kalkoff.
Agreed, the two United States reservists each pick a hanging panel and they press open the aircraft bunker. “Clear,” Singer tells Sergeant Schindick.
“All right,” Schindick grumbles. “What do they got in there?”
“Can we get the truck's lights in here, sergeant?” Private Kalkoff answers.
A brief time passes while Sergeant Schindick goes and consults Captain Mitchell in the back of the Army vehicle. Meantime, Private Kalkoff scans the interior the bunker again. He sweeps a red beam diagonally across the width of the single room. The light touches upon a unique video monitor – special in that it appears undamaged and it still sits elevated upon an upright table.
“They missed a television,” he tells Singer.
“Was that there?” Private Singer responds. His befuddlement is interrupted that moment when the Army Humvee shines its high beams into the unsealed chamber.
Hidden nearby in a ray from the light's source, Sergeant Schindick speaks to his subordinates. “Professor Christopher Mithrasen,” he reminds the soldiers. “Anything?”
Captain Mitchell appears with Sergeant Schindick when the pair step outside the beam of illumination. “We will need to hunt, sergeant. What is on these video tapes?”
“Rehearsals, sir?” Schindick conjectures.
Private Scott Kalkoff is careless and he interrupts the speculation. “Look, the television is still hooked to a camera. I think there's a tape in there.”
Before the sergeant demands respect from his direct reports, Private Singer reminds Kalkoff with an emphasized, “Sir.”
“Sir,” Private Kalkoff tells the captain. “I think they were filming something when a raid, or something happened.”
Sergeant Schindick suggests, “The Kurdish insurgence.”
“Play it,” Captain Mitchell commands. “Can we play the tape? Is there power?”
The Humvee driver, Corporeal Ben Dinholme, joins the squad the same time Private Singer reports, “Fortunately, sir, we're in luck. There is power but everything is busted… everything but this stuff.”
“Convenient,” Corporeal Dinholme personally comments while he makes his own assessment of the scenario.
“Well enough. Play it,” orders the captain.
The sergeant reiterates the command with the phrase, “Let's see what we got.”
Right away, the television is switched on and a video tape is played from an overturned camera on the floor. Nuclear green overwhelms the first scenes until a close-up shot is pulled and Professor Mithrasen's bloated face fills the screen.
Both loud and strangled, the infamous scholar and atheist insists his captives, “Say it. Say there is no god.”
He shouts to militants standing off-camera, "Deny his existence.”
“Deny the existence of god or you welcome chaos and evil into the world."
Young men laugh and a record of their sounds is played on tape. Now in the overturned bunker with stark light against their backs, the squad of American Army reservists stand sharp and silent. They quietly witness what had become of this place.
An unseen terrorist on the tape shouts in Aramaic, which prompts Corporeal Dinholme to wonder aloud, “What did he say?”
Captain Mitchell responds, “They're going to cut off his head.”
“That's what I thought,” adds Sergeant Schindick. “Sir.”
“What did they do to his face, sir?” Corporeal Dinholme asks the captain. “Torture?”
“Maybe,” Captain Mitchell replies. “Watch the tape.”
Hypnotized by the concept of post-production propaganda, Sergeant Schindick this time does not repeat the officer. The video continues to play. And a recorded Professor Mithrasen warns his captors, "Say there is no God or you will hold open the door!"
An accented voice says on the video recording, “Tell your president to take your evil home.”
“No,” Mithrasen shouts. “The US brought it back.”
Amidst indecipherable shouts, the professor is also heard begging. “It belongs here. Or space. Don't wake him.”
Corporeal Dinholme whispers, “What is he talking about?”
Singer speculates. “Is it the gospel he found?”
“Unlikely,” Scott instantly scoffs.
All three enlisted men are hushed once the sergeant glares at them. In the fraction of a second that Schindick wastes turning his head, the playing video tape has progressed straight to decapitation. The scene on the TV portrays callous, tanned hands fondling an Olean, New York KABAR knife. The professor's throat goes sawed with its blade. Mithrasen still speaks at the beginning of his execution, after the knife had cut his flesh and he had yet not bled.
“Pazuzu comes from here,” he tells his killers.
Tufts of threaded black smoke seep from his nose and his mouth. The opaque vapor oozes from the expanding wound across his neck but there is no blood. The professor's head is a quarter-ways sawn off and the man does not bleed. Feces comes out of the opened throat instead. Its appearance is unmistakable. There it was and a smell. The terrorists on the video decry the stench the same time the team of United States Reservists detect a comparable odor now inside the bunker.
Corporeal Dinholme says, “What?”
Professor Christopher Mithrasen's head is severed from his body the same time Private Kalkoff comments, “It suddenly smells like a pig farm in Ohio.”
Overhearing him, Captain Mitchell responds. “Not many farms of any sort left in that state.”
“Yes, sir,” replies the private. “It's either because of global warming or God's judgment, sir.”
In place of suppressing laughing at his teammate, Private Singer shouts, “Whew,” and he waves his unencumbered arm over his head. The other soldiers start holding their noses shut.
“Who is Pazuzu?” Dinholme asks anyone while his nostrils are pinched closed.
Also nasally, Captain Mitchell tells him, “Watch and see.” Terrorists on the video screech over the words.
“Nas-nas,” they squeal. “Nas-nas.”
“What are they talking about,” insists Corporeal Dinholme.
Private Singer tells him, “Nas-nas are djinn, evil spirits. They drink your blood by licking the soles of your feet.”
“Yummy,” Dinholme wisecracks.
Simultaneously occurring on the video tape, a pig's nostril comes regurgitated from the murdered man's severed esophagus. The animal's snout next appears then out comes its head. The creature squeals and squirms inside Professor Mithrasen's prone corpse. Its head substitutes for the man's lost own.
Terrorists shoot the living obscenity but the thing is already dead. Each of the five U.S. Reservists had witnessed what emerged from Mithrasen's stump. They had seen it never lived. The pig's wide eyes had gone flat white. There was no sheen across the ivory orbs. The professor's body then animates. The dead pig inside the corpse squeals and it lifts this part of the late Christopher Mithrasen unto its feet dressed in shit-smeared orange prison garb.
“God,” Scott finally invokes. No one standing around the soldier hears his solicitation.
Corporeal Dinholme says, “I know. The smell, right?”
Reanimated and upright on two legs, the dead pig in possession of the just-as-dead man attacks the terrorists. The evil spirit disappears off-screen followed by screams and wreckage. Bits of electronics fly in and out of the recording as regularly does bloody carnage.
“Holy crap,” Dinholme chants.
Sergeant Schindick corrects him. “You're half right.”
At the center of an omnipresent stench and watching what snippets of slaughter are available on the recording, Private Kalkoff dares hypothesize. “The pig monster looks like Muhammad. Maybe he's come back to do some spankings.”
Singer responds, “Because it can't be Jesus, right?”
Never removing his eyes from the video monitor, Sergeant Schindick tells his pair of privates, “End it. Peace be on his headstone. And that's the only place he'll get any. Right, brothers?"
Private Kalkoff answers, “Praise the Lord.”
Private Singer rolls his eyes. And feeling outnumbered, he shuts his mouth.
Finished presumably eating the terrorists, every piece of each, the bipedal corpse of Professor Mithrasen stumbles back into the view of the camera. The bloodied monstrosity collapses and oinks. All of him remains visible on screen, kicking the ground and beating his arms against the shattered electronics. Quills, long, like those of a porcupine, pierce themselves out of the dead professor's shoulders and his back. These further shred apart his already torn clothes.
The quills come out then the living dead pig wriggles itself free of the human cadaver. It crawls out from the severed neck of the professor. While it does, almost as an anxious newborn might crawl from its dead mother's womb, the animal grunts.
“What was that?” Corporeal Dinholme wonders. “I heard an animal.”
Sergeant Schindick tells him, “It's on the recording, soldier.”
There on the television is a mutant. An impossibly big pig with quills on its shoulders and from its back; tusks project out its nostrils. Seventy-two sagging teats (Dinholme counted them), their purple nipples brush against the ground until the undead monster learns to stand and walk on four split hooves. Its dead breasts fall flat against its bristled and warty hide when the pig lifts itself upright. And its horrible birth was caught on tape.
“I think it's here,” answers the corporeal. The man already doubts he detected anything.
Free from one mortal coil and under flickering set lighting, the demonic pig walks off-screen. More animal sounds come issued from the recording. Hearing these, Corporeal Dinholme knows he hears others and the noise comes from nearby.
“How about if I secure the Humvee, captain?” he implores the officer.
“Do you think something is here?” Captain Mitchell asks him. “I do too.”
The video ends. The television monitor changes to black and Mitchell says, “And it's not coming back with us.”
“Professor Christopher Mithrasen stays here,” he tells his squad of reservists. “What is inside him, or if he is inside something else, it stays here.”
Private Singer asks him, “Sir, isn't Professor Mithrasen dead?”
“Apparently,” capitulates the captain.
Uncommonly curious, Private Kalkoff asks, “Captain. What was it exactly, sir?”
Captain Mitchell says only, “We do what we're told, that's all I know.”
“Yes, sir,” replies the private.
Despite the recording having reached its end, the team of soldiers still hear a pig. The fetid smell of manure never dissipated. It only becomes worse.
“Let's get the tape and pull back to the vehicle,” Captain Mitchell suggests.
Sergeant Schindick tells Private Singer, “Get the tape.”
He mentions to Private Kalkoff, “Take some pictures.”
Trailing the strategic withdrawal, Private Scott Kalkoff walks backwards with his rifle slung over his shoulder. He kicks debris behind him as he rummages into his utility belt. The Army reservist produces a compact digital camera and he takes flashing snapshots. All the while, snorts and grunts go around outside the aircraft bunker. A thought comes to Scott. He thinks, “How can I even hear anything through concrete walls? Maybe explosions, maybe.”
The reservist is almost outside the long sliding doors and joined with the rest of his team when the animal noises echo inside the structure. And he escapes without ever having his curiosity ignited. Outside and out from the beams of light the military Humvee throws, the soldiers listen to their commanding officer.
Captain Mitchell's voice shakes when tells his squad, “The remains of Professor Mithrasen is one American resource we don't want to fall into enemy hands.”
“What remains, sir?” Sergeant Schindick begs his captain. “Are we going after the pig, sir? Captain, pardon me, sir, but it looks like it ate everything that can't be plugged into a wall socket.”
“It looked like it killed all the terrorists single-handed – captain,” Private Kalkoff reiterates.
“You didn't see anything, Private,” commands the captain. “You heard noises and gunfire on a videotape. None of us saw anything. No one will say anything.”
“Yes, sir,” replies the team. The five soldiers then simultaneously climb into the Humvee. The doors shut and the animal sounds go away.
Everyone agrees for a moment and the engine is started then Singer says, “We'll be asked what happened.”
Dinholme states, “Shit.”
“We saw a pig,” Private Singer specifies. “Wreckage. I have to tell investigators about that. I can't lie.”
“You saw a pig,” hisses Captain Mitchell. “You men saw a pig and you saw all that ridiculous stuff on the videotape. HQ will watch the tape.”
As the team of reservists drive away upon the path they came to Shingal, Sergeant Schindick raises a responsible detail. “Sir, there were those noises, like an animal,” he says then he snorts like a pig.”
“Captain,” finalizes the sergeant.
The team travels back to Baghdad near dawn. On the way, Captain Mitchell confesses. No one is sure the man means to speak aloud. “I heard rumors Professor Mithrasen was working on a secret weapon for the U.S. government. Maybe he was, maybe he was it. I need to give my report to HQ. They might know something. Let them watch the videotape.”
"Holy Mother of God," he mutters. “Whatever he found must stay here.”
Private Kalkoff hands the evidence to his superior officer. And he draws the captain's focus when he asks, “Are you catholic, captain?” The officer does not answer.
Himself suffering post traumatic stress, Sergeant Schindick yells inside the vehicle. His rage goes directed at Private Kalkoff. “Dammit, soldier. Didn't you hear what Professor Mithrasen said? 'Don't believe.' Bag-pants Bob said, 'Don't believe.' Don't.”
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