The Apache helicopter swayed lightly from the tree tops; the branches creaked and moaned from bearing the weight of the machine that had fallen from the sky into the net of foliage. The chopper was missing pieces. Gone were the canons and one rocket launcher, the other, deflowered of its payload, hung askew, twisted and unusable. Two of the blades were broken, truncated near the center spindle; the others were missing altogether and had sheared off the rotors and tail section in the process.
Oil dribbled from the nose and wisps of smoke swirled upward from the main body of the craft. The odour of jet fuel permeated the cockpit with a thick invading pungency. Although the computer controls flickered with an erratic frequency; trying to wake up from an unexpected nap, the cockpit itself, was still intact from the reinforced exterior armour and Kevlar shielding making the chopper able to withstand the impact of a crash without sustaining damage to the crew.
Rabbit slowly pulled his head up; the harness straps holding him fast to the chair. Below the forest floor gazed up at him from thirty feet away. He hung from an angle and his stomach churned with the pull of gravity like one suspended from the arch of a roller coaster loop suddenly robbed of momentum.
A sharp overwhelming pain stabbed at the boy’s leg in staggered bursts. It was pinned in an awkward angle between the door and the seat. Rabbit let out a yelp when he tried to move it and tears poured from his eyes at the intensity of the hurt. He reached his hand down frantically tugging at the wetness of his pant leg where an obvious wound bled into the fabric. A warmth emanated from his fingers and the pain lessened. Rabbit applied more pressure to the area and the comfort spread quickly through his entire leg relieving all throbbing.
He didn’t know how long he’d been hanging there, minutes, hours, but he had no memory of the crash. In fact, he had no memory of how he got there, or where he was, or why the pain in his leg was suddenly gone from one touch of his hand. Rabbit brought his hand up to his face, wiggling his fingers. He looked at them with great wonder.
Around him the metal groaned and the craft slipped downward in the branches with a sudden jolt. The boy caught his breath waiting for the impact, but the helicopter held fast to thicker, lower limbs.
"I have to get out of here."
Rabbit fumbled with the four-point harness, but the buckle seemed to be jammed, holding him tight to the cradle of the flight chair.
Below him he could now see the forest floor begin to move and realized there were people below; soldiers in camouflage uniforms moving toward his lofty perch. Some took cover from nearby trees with weapons trained on his position, while others tossed ropes to upper branches and started to scale the bark in his direction.
"Why are they pointing guns at me? I didn’t do anything, did I?"
Rabbit felt a sudden attack of panic and fear. He was helplessly trapped with no escape.
Why were they doing this. Why were they after him?
Rabbit felt a rising sensation swell in him. His vision seemed obscured as if the world before him had suddenly been doused in a blue light; a splash on an artist’s canvass who has no other color to choose from. A blue so dense, so intense, it almost seemed black at its essence. It had a life of its own. It changed and moved across his vision like a living entity, cloaking everything in its aura. It spoke to him, telling him wonderful things, incredible things, evil things, opening the vault to the quintessence of all knowledge. The blue void was changing now, becoming an opaque veil of death and destruction. He closed his eyes to try and shut it out, but the signal only increased in its force, its greatness, its passion. Rabbit began to hyperventilate as his muscles when rigid, testing the restraints of his harness. His head shook like that of a rag doll. His body convulsed and seized. The fear was being replaced by an uncontrollable surge of anger swelling from behind. Kill them all! It said.
Rabbit bit down hard and ground his teeth with such force, he cracked the enamel and blood filled his mouth with the coppery taste from split gums. He hissed; spewing saliva and blood over his chin and the cockpit controls.
Below him, the soldiers grabbed at their heads as if struck with an extreme pain, falling to their knees in agony. They grasped blindly at their weapons and began to turn them on each other, or on themselves. The fire-fight was brief, but devastating as brain and blood burst in a red mist from skulls and chest cavities, staining the ground with a black wetness. Explosions erupted on the perimeter as all around as man and machine were caught in the onslaught of this telekinetic attack.
The forest was ablaze with a pyre of unnatural white light and fire, until, as if caught in the suction of a great vacuum, all evidence of devastation and horror was suddenly pulled into a vortex of nothingness. Flesh and bone were pulverized to powder blown like dust to the four winds, metal and steel, into a liquid puddles, leaching into the very soil until all indication of conflict had been erased.
Rabbit’s rapid breathing slowed as the boy began to calm down. His eyes opened to reveal deep dark blue discs, his pupils wide and terrifying. The corners of his mouth curled in a devious smile. His body again arched violently in his seat and the windscreen of the Apache helicopter blew out in a million pieces of shattered glass.
Below the earth began to rumble and shook with hostile vehemence. A crevasse of rock belched upward splitting the earth in two. Still the boy’s smile widened into almost a grin as his body shook from convulsions and the blood from his mouth ran like a river to a pool on his chest. The helicopter tumbled forward, smashing through all obstacles in its downward tumble, falling into the bottomless void...
Sheppard bolted up in his bed; sweat dripping from his brow. He’d had this dream over and over for the last five years. The guilt of not being able to save the boy, of not knowing what had happened, had long ago taken its toll on him.
At first he and Malcolm Buck had tried legal channels to bring the light of truth to what was called the Montana Massacre, and hopefully find Rabbit, but the red tape led to nothing but brick walls and dead ends. Officially, there were no indications of any survivors in the aftermath of what was described as a horrific and cowardly display of terrorism.
Still there was enough of a public outcry to keep a new war on terror from erupting as the powers that be, opted for economic sanctions against the countries believed responsible for the attacks.
The chatter through conspiracy websites were hot and heavy laying bare the red flag operation and destruction of a scientific facility in the heart of Glacier National Park. A facility the government openly admitted was on the cusp of weapons advancement before its destruction. Sheppard had been a key force in tearing off the mask, but news of a boy being found amid the devastation had been faint to nonexistent. Still, there were those who believed that the admission, the government had been working on a new weapon, was a small price to pay to keep more important secrets hidden and dark.
Sheppard had led the crusade until a couple of brushes with near death, he believed were orchestrated, caused him to rethink his strategy. He had fallen off the grid and his part in online chat rooms and blogs ceased.
For the past three years Sheppard had chosen to live simply in a nestled valley of the Rockies, away from the internet tempest and conspiracy Twitter.
Even his contact with his old friend Malcolm Buck was intermittent at best after the big man had been appointed legal guardian of Amber Switley.
Sheppard moved slowly peeling back the covers and placing his feet on the cold cabin floor. The embers still burned from the nearby fireplace and he was quick to add another log to the hearth and poke the ash until flames danced around the wood. The crackling of the fire spoke to him in the growing comfort as it took the chill from the air.
Sheppard found himself at the window looking down into the valley ripe with the decay of another season. Winter was coming and in the distance he could see the brooding darkness of a storm cell moving in.
He swept a hand over his forehead and back to the nape of his neck, past hair a little greyer, past aches more evident from the mileage, over thoughts inescapable and dark. Sheppard pulled the shade down blocking the outside world. He wanted no part of it, but knew regardless, at some point, the storm would come.