10.3 A Little Bit of Heat and Light

by Matt P.

Somebody had once told William that grenades were nothing to be afraid of. “Just a little bit of heat and light.” He hadn’t been afraid of them—he’d just had a healthy caution born of war movies and the fact that they were literally designed to blow people up. Of course trying to explain that respect to a Marine Drill Instructor was an exercise in futility, so he had overcome it. Because that’s what a Marine does, and what he did. But he disagreed it was just heat and light; he didn’t like fire.

The real nightmare was later, a firefight in Vietnam. A buddy of his threw a grenade too low and it bounced off of a log, right back at them. The buddy didn’t make it out, nor did another friend. He could still feel the scar it had given him when it rained.

The fact that the building was on fire was what made him think of that, he knew. He had to shake it off, the prickling fear that rolled up his neck and tingled on his scalp, before it distracted him too much. He had plenty to be afraid of without the terror of a flashback to something that had happened over 40 years before.

He saw the grenade roll in to the room and immediately recognized it. The U.S. had been using the M67 fragmentation grenade since the 1960s, after all; when you’d used one you tended to recognize it. How a bunch of vampires turned terrorists had ended up with some was a problem for quartermasters. He just had to not get blown up.

He dropped his rifle, grabbed Sergeant Fox and hauled the man ahead of him before he jumped. He felt the grenade go off more than he heard it, the thump and rattle in his body that told him he had probably been a little bit too close. But he also had very little time to worry about that, because he knew they would be following up on the grenade attack. He landed hard on the Sergeant and rolled off, pulling out his sidearm with a groan…

Only for it to be kicked away by a boot, the crunch and sudden pain in his hand telling him that he had probably just broken a finger or two. The man above him was tall, buzz cut, cruel looking. He had a semi-automatic pistol in his hand, and pointed it. It was funny what you noticed when you were about to die.

“I think you’re supposed to say that you’re too old for this shit,” the man offered with a cruel grin.

He thought it was terribly funny that he’d die to some human asshole, not even a vampire, who also happened to be casually racist. Not actually funny, but terribly funny.

“You’re too old for this shit,” a voice came from the side. Then there was a gunshot, and a splatter on the wall, and the man fell off of him. “What a terrible line. Come on, Top, let’s get you out of here before they blow the damn building.” She grunted, and reached down to grab his arm and pull it over her shoulder. It was the woman, Ashland, that Walter hated so much. Right then he would have taken a rescue from the devil himself, so he wasn’t going to complain, especially as he realized he was bleeding fairly intensely from his side and was losing feeling in his legs. “Shit, you’re bleeding out. Taito, get the Sergeant and haul ass!”

He was impressed at the woman’s ability to carry him, but he must have blacked out at some point because the next thing he knew he was outside of the building. And then the building was exploding, a horrifying sound of metal shrieking and brick flying everywhere. His last thought before the darkness came again was that it was just a little bit of heat and light…