Friday, January 6, 2012

"Cannon Fodder: Operation Horse Whisperer" by Marilyn Peake (Short Story)

Genre:  Science Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  The years 2026 – 2027. China is the world’s superpower. Recuperating from a nasty head injury in a military hospital, U.S. Army Private Jack Walker experiences vivid memories of fighting along the Chinese-Mongolian border. The military brass insist he’s been fighting in Ethiopia, Africa; and they have photographs to prove it. Of course, all isn’t what it appears to be. There’s the matter of the luminescent purple liquid in the hypodermic needle and the little purple pill.


February 2027
The sky was deep primary blue, the clouds milk-white cream hastily whipped into the random, shifting shapes of giant frogs, horses, palaces, and guns. The men sat - bundled in heavy coats and wearing large, fur-lined caps and gloves - on top of horses that snorted cloudy mists from their warm nostrils. The dirt and grass were frozen and dusted with a thin sprinkling of snow.

Jack Walker carried a large golden eagle on his arm as he rode into the snow-covered mountains. Many of the Mongolian men supported two eagles. As the horses maneuvered the terrain, the men sang songs.

When the sun dropped from the sky and set like a brilliant red campfire along the mountain ridge, the blue sky darkened, the clouds grayed, and a fox scampered out into the open leaving clear tracks in the frothy snow.

The men fed small chips of ice to their eagles to make them keener and hungrier. Jack studied the fox. Wearing a thick, bushy coat – white, black, gray, and topped with lustrous red fur – the fox pointed its black snout in the direction of something primal, tucked its front legs under him and pounced into the snow to race forward.

The men removed tiny leather hoods from the feathery heads of the golden eagles; then set their trained birds free to track the fox. The eagles soared into the evening sky, solid black against the fire-and-ash color of dusk, on wingspans of seven and eight feet. The men followed their flapping guides on the backs of their horses.

Nergui waved to Jack Walker. “Walker!”

“Mr. Walker! Mr. Walker!”

Jack felt a cuff tighten around his left bicep and heard the rhythmic beeping of the blood pressure machine. He inhaled an uncomfortable mix of cleaning fluids, male body sweat, and a woman’s perfume. He opened his eyes.

The room was dark. Soft golden light spilled onto the wall in the shape of a tall, distorted triangle. In the dimness, Jack made out the small face of Nurse Nancy, the most frequent night shift nurse.

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