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Random Fiction #4 – 112818

“Guess that's what we get for missing the drop zone,” Lieutenant Uri Ming said. He held back the rush of vomit snaking its way up his digestive tract. No matter how much he held it in, it was coming out whether he liked it or not.

The putrid stench of dead fish filled the air along the beach. Ming wasn't the only one to lose his lunch at the smell.

“Drop that camera, picture boy,” Ming yelled when he saw the embed raise his lens to capture the moment few back home would believe, a dozen battle-scarred scientists puking their guts out in unison.

“What makes you so special?” Ming asked between rounds of projectile pukes. “Why aren't you showing off Ma's Blue Plate Special like the rest of us.”

Yan Zout chuckled as he adjusted his thick oval tortoiseshell glasses. While his hand was raised, he pointed at his nose. “Can't smell a thing,” he said. “Pisses me off that I'll never know what a batch of fresh hot cinnamon rolls smells like, at least the way everyone else drools over 'em. But at times like this, I'm pretty damn happy not to be able to smell anything.”

Ming hocked a thick one and spat it in the remnants of his turkey sandwich and mashed potatoes. “Remind me not to eat next time,” he said, wiping a batch of spit from around his mouth with an oversized forearm. He glanced at his skull tattoo, now covered in gut water, before wiping it clean on his thigh.

Sergeant Mack Tomlinson shoved Zout forward toward the enormous gray whale carcass taking up most of the beach. “Here, take a picture of this if you're going to shoot anything,” he said. “You'll never see anything like this the rest of your life, if you, or us, are lucky.”

“What the hell caused all this, Mack?” Ming asked.

“Bad vibes, man. Really bad vibes,” Tomlinson replied. “These fish aren't supposed to be anywhere near here. But it's like they were drawn here by a magnet. It ain't right.”

Ming stared up and down the beach. As far as he could see, hundreds, probably thousands, of dead marine life littered the sand. The stench was unbearable, but the sight of it was the stuff of nightmares. Some were fresh, having only beached themselves an hour or so earlier that morning. Others had been there for days, some even for weeks.

The massive gray whale filling the frame on Zout's camera was one of the recent ones, though, and hadn't started decomposing just yet. It was Ming's men's task to get it back out in the water. There was no way to bury it on the beach or airlift it to the lab for study. They had to figure out a way to get the beast back in the water.

Ming stepped in close and laid a heavy hand on the creature's gaping mouth. “Do you want me to say ‘cheese' like the crappy tourists?” he yelled at Zout through gritted teeth. Flecks of puke gleamed between his pearly whites.

“Maybe don't smile,” Zout said, treading carefully for fear of Ming's next outburst. “Either that or swish out your mouth with some water. I don't think you want to be known as Mr. Pukey Teeth for all eternity once these pics hit the lab report and the web log.”

“Cramer, get me a canteen and make it quick,” Ming barked. “I gotta smile purty for this photog.”

Tomlinson intercepted the canteen toss and swished his own mouth first before handing the canteen to Ming. He joined him in the ceremonial picture with the great beast of the ocean, now a rotting heap on the land.

“Poor bastard,” Tomlinson said. “These things live a long time and have few natural predators.”

“Except us,” Ming said. “Man's the fiercest enemy any of 'em have, and we mucked things up pretty good this time.”

“So you're saying this is our fault?” Zout asked as he snapped extras for safety, resisting the urge to chimp between each shot.

“It sure wasn't this tiny squid squished beneath it,” Ming said. He picked up the two remaining legs from the squid's original ten before tossing it aside. “If this place wasn't so contaminated, we could have one hell of a fish fry.”

“I prefer not to glow in the dark after I eat my mahi-mahi,” Tomlinson said. “Though it would make a hell of a shrimp boil, wouldn't it?”

“You guys are sick,” Zout said.

“You ain't been around us long enough, boy,” Ming said. “Give it time. You'll be just as sick and twisted as the rest of us.”

Zout zoomed in for his next shot of the gray whale's marble colored eye. “That's what I'm afraid of,” he whispered under his breath. “That's what I'm afraid of.”

Copyright © 2018 Chad V. Holtkamp.

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Nareeta Martin

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