Elsewhere

       The whiter-than-white crystalline sands threw every color of the world at his feet like waves from distant shores. Their brightness was blinding. Within the boundless sky held in suspension below the acetylene eye above the high desert, fighter jets in spurts cracked the air. But, he could not see that air, nor hear the sonic boom the planes’ mach speed made in protest against its resistance. It was the shakes from the impact that reaffirmed the man’s aliveness. It was a harsh reminder.

       From where the man claimed standing space, tract houses in varied states of development filled his dry and scratchy eyes. Some exposed themselves to his viewing, their viscera of wires and tubes inoperative yet, while others further down from the sandy worksite with new newly tarred roads showed the finished product. Few in the completed phase were occupied. All were engulfed by the dead brown hills around them. The terrible heat in which Scott worked was where the deadly temperatures settled, the lowest elevation. This was contrary to the laws of physics where heat rose up.

       There was no escaping the invading army of illegals on the dusty trampled plain, and no shelter for Scott Warren as he stood hunched over the gigantic jackhammer when he chiseled ‘slag’ off slabs most every day. It was what he did for a living, cleaning the foundations poured into the ground, these graven monuments like gravestones that supported dwellings that families would multiply from, that and applying moisture shielding around the sides below ground level. He removed his protective mask and ingested the oven’s air. The thick dust and smog made it hard for him to breathe. The hills visibly gleamed with ozone. It was terrible air loaded with crystalline silica, alkali air not fit for his renewal. The noise around him was deafening, but when he pulled off both his padded earmuffs and the greasy insert plugs he palmed in his calloused hand, it was relatively quiet to him. The chronic oversaturation of the clamor left him numb and swaddled in recall of the oblivion of Elsewhere. When he briefly closed his eyes, the memory of that place provided him with a cool respite against the burning orb. It was like a return to his place of birth.

       Elsewhere was overseas. It was a place where atrocity was not hidden behind closed doors, where there were no gated communities with subdivisions. There were no gates in hell. All were freely admitted. The alacrity of violent images are what made Scott pause from pressing hard on the jackhammer’s trigger mechanism and bearing down his considerable weight on the resistance. The fierce eye above him broiled his brain crammed into its polycarbonate shell. It was hot enough on its blue surface to fry an egg upon had the egg not slid off its curvature. Contrary to safety regulations, he took it off, just for a minute, his mid-length sandy blonde hair matted by sweat into clumps, and took a deep breath of the dirty air. It made him hack. He managed to raise up some saliva from a hidden reserve, and cleared his mouth of the poisonous particles that filled it. Several jets shaded him as they passed between the same tormentor as the one on the other side of the globe and the airspace above him. They were like clouds to him. They vanished quickly. He barely heard them. He felt isolated and surrounded by the insect invaders, locked into a combative ring, a cycle of struggling to survive. So hot, it was unbearable. Rumbling earth movers crisscrossed close to him. One had to remain aware of the real and present danger they represented like military tanks of Elsewhere.

       Two tours of duty in the past, the first in Somalia and the last one in the Middle East, and Corporal Warren was fighting the same battle against the elements, this one much like the last with same cast of opponents, helmeted dark squat men with flaps of dirty white cloth like beagle ears projected from metal domes searing in the sun. The insect men were strapped into heavy and cumbersome belts equipped with tools or weapons, your choice of designation. Whatever it was that they carried, it was destructive, nonetheless.

       A convectional dust devil ricocheted across the barren valley plain like a waterspout dancing over still water. It was a dangerous natural phenomena to come against as it was able to spray jagged debris and blasting sand through the jobsite. Scott was focused on its wild careening in the foreground of the brown hills. There was no discernible pattern to its destructive path. It was much like war itself that way, meaningless in the long run. Earthmovers rumbled the ground with vibration nearer than the swirling funnel. He was immersed in the memory of black smoke plumes, the smell of burning petroleum, screaming, screaming, the burning hot wasteland of Elsewhere.

       “Scott? Earth to Scott. We need to getta move on. We’re behind schedule. The break truck’ll be here soon enuf. C’mon, bud.”

       “Sorry, Jim. My mind was wandering. Do you have any chaw on you? Thanks. Look out concrete, here comes your maker.”

       Jim Dolan, Scott’s foreman and friend, smiled. They were all beat from the work and the awful heat the fierce sun pressed down on them as if a jackhammer. Jim Dolan, 15 years Scott’s senior, had been his Marine squadron commander in Elsewhere. It was he who recommended the job to Scott, the very reason they worked together on the parallel plain in the valley of hell. He was concerned by the way in which his helper had been distracted with increasing regularity these last couple of months after a pleasant spring thawed into this cauldron. He took a few seconds to assess whether Scott had gotten back to the chipping. He watched Scott synchronously vibrate with the jackhammer’s pulsations like a rodeo bronco buster. With the Inspector needing to sign off on the work, he had to push both himself and his helper. The machination demanded it, 110 degrees F or not. Scott had a bemused smile on his face as he strained against an almost unbreakable and immobile edge, the private smile a madman had in being privy to realizations that were unbreakable codes for the sane.

       Jim was a local from a ranching family whose livelihood had gone belly-up, and was very familiar with features of the high desert. The spinning dust devil caught his eye as it swept across the plain. It was not an immediate danger. A huge raven glided down within a dozen yards of him, looking for food scraps, burritos and sandwiches to carry off and consume without watchful eyes, its beak weaponry occupied and temporarily disabled. It looked directly at him with challenge, and screeched with a crackling display of hostility. It reminded Jim of Elsewhere, the carrion crows of Iraq that picked off exposed flesh. He knew that the huge black brainy bird with its oversize head was like most corvidae in having regional dialects. He’d lived in the valley most of his life, and still, he was never able to translate a thing that a one of them said. It was nearly mid-day and the sun blazed viciously. It flared. The former squadron leader thought of the ludicrous tales of Carlos Castaneda, the ravens magical in them. This one was malevolent, a vile thing he detested. Jim Dolan briefly wondered why God created these aggressive birds, and why they were black when it only heated them more. It was contrary to intelligent evolution. He spat at it and barked like a dog. It flew elsewhere.

       “Marcie, I don’t know how long I can keep going with this. Jim’s got me under the gun. It’s nobody’s fault.” Scott clutched the anachronistic landline phone with its coiled cord as if a lifeline as he expressed his concerns to his fiancé, still in Milwaukee. Marcie Bowlkers was an uncommunicative gal, a farm girl raised with chickens and pigs in rural Wisconsin, his home state.

       “Stay focused, sweetheart,” she comforted him. “I love you, and we’ll be together soon. I love you, Scott. Goodnight and God bless.”

       He’d fallen asleep on the couch with the TV going at full blast. The Mid-East war raged as entertainment. A crust of sand adhered to his skin because he fell asleep without showering, the perspiration affixing it. His ears hurt as if he had been smacked across the side of his head by a hickory hammer handle. He was cold in his motel lodging, the AC set too high. He was drained of life. People were never intended to live where he was employed, and Scott questioned whether working under these conditions, countermanding nature by building the houses for people he would knowingly never meet was a good idea. Setting the counterbalanced temperature too low was a bad idea because it did not ameliorate the burn his skin felt nor alleviate his exhaustion, one reason his phone call to Marcie arrived past her customary bedtime in the Central Time Zone, two hours later than his time.

       The bad dream Scott woke from stuck to him also. It was like a thistle in his craw. He was with his Marine squadron submerged in a sandstorm while under attack from mortar fire. Shells exploded, and tanks rumbled like thunder, like earth movers. Helmeted dark men with earflaps fired at him and his comrades. Gigantic carrion crows picked carcasses clean, all of them the same, the crows and men from either nation indistinguishably from no particular place. It was impossible to separate the dead from the living because the provoked sand blanketed the men. The only sure-fire way to make the distinction was by examining the combatants’ mouths because only the dead had gaping holes which allowed the sand grains free entrance like empty hour glasses that needed these glass vessels to count off time meant to lose. It was a dream that should have released Scott from the daily struggle, allowing him to retreat into blankness and revitalize. But, the brilliant light he saw in his nightmare scorched his eyes, and did not quell the horror of carnage. It was this that pushed him to call Marcie, the upset from it.

       “Scott, C’mon. The Inspector’ll be here by the end of the day. There’s only two more for him to sign off on and clear the board. C’mon. No, that’s OK. Take five, but you’ve gotta get going.”

       Jim Dolan featured in many of Scott’s dreams, a merge of warfare and work beneath empty sky broken by flying objects that screeched and whistled. A large dust devil headed towards the unshielded worksite in the valley of Elsewhere. The nightmares that recurred with increasing regularity to Scott left a toll on him, and his work suffered because of it. Jim made the realization, and did what he could to cover his friend just as he had done Elsewhere. Distinguishing the reality from the dream, memory from existence, was becoming difficult for Scott. The term, ‘industrial-military complex’ took on a special meaning to the ex-Marine Corporal. He lived it daily in the field. He discussed it occasionally with ex-Lieutenant Dolan.

       Scott recollected a nightmare that must have been exactly that. It was a brilliant full moon, the high desert sky laden with stars, constellations he recognized, Cancer the crab, Scorpio the scorpion, Hercules, and Orion, all of them aggressive creatures or warriors. They were uncannily distinct in the dark sky. Mars was brilliant red, glowing like burning coals, like an eye whose afterimage created a watchful set of eyes in the heavens. Jim was with him on the barely illuminated high desert surface. It looked like the dusty floor of the moon. The night air was cool as high desert night air often is. Jim had his protective olive-brown military jumpsuit on, and Scott glanced down at his booted feet to affirm his wearing a similar uniform. He felt out of place. It was only when he looked in a certain direction that he understood why. They were on the moon with earth aglow from the shared sun. The distant planet resembled one of the inner-illuminated replicas that spun on an axis of metal clips into its puncture wounds, the kind seen in classrooms. Nearby was a planted flag on a pole, blowing against all logic in outer space’s vacuum. It was much like the one America’s heroic astronauts planted on the moon to memorialize their triumphant landing, only this one featured vertical tri-colored bands of green, white, and red with the central insignia of an eagle with a writhing fanged serpent locked into its talons and beak while perched upon a flowering segmented cactus. It enraged the former Marine enough to see our nation’s symbol replaced by that of the Mexican invaders to wake him in a cold sweat.

       “Reconquista. What does that mean Jim?” It was the following day. They had just quarreled with the foreman of the concrete crew about slabs Scott chiseled not passing inspection. Jim, having grown up here, was reasonably Spanish fluent. In his defense of the shoddy workmanship on a couple of foundations that did not pass muster, and which required the concrete crew to return to the site to reset a small length of form and touch-up what Scott had damaged with his over-enthusiastic chipping, the Mexican started to spout off racial epithets. Reconquista. The slang term refers to a war fought by illegal immigration and resource depletion fueled by massive breeding of children in the target country, obligating governmental support systems to support the invading force.

       “That sounds about right, Jim. That is exactly what these skunks are up to. Serves them right to have to return. Maybe they’ll return home, Scott muttered, all the while the foreman glared at him arrogantly. “Reconquista. Sons of a bitches. These damn…”

       “Scott, Scott, listen to me, Jim interjected, “We need to keep the peace with them. There’s too many in the trade to make trouble with, so keep your mouth shut and let me handle this. I like it no better than you do. You’ve just gotta roll with the punches, got it?”

       Fighter jets from Nellis AFB cracked the vacant sky, and bulldozers commandeered by dark skinned invading soldiers drew close to them while the three stood in the center of a slab marked with red circles like inverted sprayed graffiti from the Inspector. Scott muttered with resentment under his breath while his foreman and ex-squadron leader kept the peace in the warzone.

       It had been nearing the end of the workday when an unusually large and bold raven alighted within mere feet from the remaining two on the slab. It looked in their eyes defiantly and clicked and cackled before this happened. In the native tongue, not Paiute or Spanish, but in clipped comprehensible English, the bird spoke. “Mine. G’way, G’way. Mine.” several times over, following each command with harsh clicks like the sound of a firearm’s hammer brought into firing position, “Mine. Mine. G’way. G’way. Clik clik clik. waah. clik.” Then, it glared hard before taking flight.

       “That was weird, wuzzinit? Y’heard that too, didn’t you?”

       “Yes, Jim, same as you. You aren’t crazy. It happened. The bird probably came from over the border.”

       Despite his colloquialisms, Jim was no illiterate, and had read some of Carlos Castaneda’s folklore some years before. He knew that the author of the metaphysical series was not Mexican, but Peruvian/American and that the central protagonist of his novels, the fictional sorcerer don Juan, was an Indian from south of the border. What they had just witnessed was sorcery, pure and simple. Both tacitly made the realization they’d encountered a brujo’s familiar. It was more troubling than the antagonistic comments from the likely-illegal foreman and malevolent. As it was nearing the end of the day, Jim told Scott, “Let’s leave this shit behind us, Scott. It’s too much to process right now. We’re done for the day. Roll up and take off. We go to Anterra tomorrow. I’ve never been there myself, but I’ve heard about it. We’ll need to take the Jeep to make it in, and it’s a long ride. We may have to camp out overnight to finish up there. I’m not sure what’s ready. I’ll bring all the gear we need. I sure hope they have power hookups, but just in case, I’ll pack the portable generator, the two pneumatics, the hammer drill, too. Never know what’s out there. And plenty of food and water, some beer. There’s room for it all. Rest up, and expect me at 5 sharp. See you then.”

       It might have been better if either of the men could have taken the advice of leaving the mystical incident behind them, but the chips in their concrete reality compelled a return to it. In the haunted dream Jim Dolan had that very night, bordering on nightmare, a gigantic raven crossed over his unconsciousness. The bird was huge, so large that its glossy jet-black body and wings eclipsed the sun above it, slowly spreading total darkness over the land while Jim and his helper stood in the center of a large stone slab. The slab had a mysterious insignia inscribed in its weather-pocked surface, an ancient symbol he could not decipher. While the air around them darkened to impenetrability, Jim sensed dread. It was pitch black when Jim heard Scott’s panicked cry for help. Having witnessed Scott’s bravery in battle many times over, the fearful cry Scott made alarmed him, but he could not see what his helper experienced until the gigantic lunar bird slowly flapped away from the empty air between it and the sun, and when he was finally able to discern anything again, it was no longer daytime, but night with a crescent moon providing scant illumination. He almost tripped over the supine body. Scott was dead, his mouth gaping open in agonized death, with eyes frozen wide from terror. His protective military gear was ripped open and his heart had been wrenched from his chest cavity. Blood flowed in the drainage furrows of the sacrificial altar he recognized as Aztec, Mexican. Jim Dolan woke with a shudder. The harsh fluorescent kitchen lighting blinded him, and half-awake, he never went back to bed, fearful of returning to the immersive horror. It was the middle of the night when he received the call from Scott, a phone call,

       “Jim, I’m really sorry to be calling at this hour, but something weird just happened to me. No, let me tell you first. You had a horrible dream, too? Jesus. In mine, we were together on some kind of altar in total darkness from a giant raven, and when I finally saw you, you were dead with your heart cut out. It was so real, so real. And it was me who was dead in your dream? The same way? My God, O my God.”

       Both shaken men agreed there would be no rest for the weary woken by evil that night, and so, they departed at an ungodly hour to greet the first rays of morning sunlight nearer their destination rather than to dwell on the shared nightmare alone. It was dark still when Jim parked his Jeep in front of a small casino on the outskirts of Boulder City, where gambling is prohibited. They had talked-out the supernatural occurrence while driving there, and ate breakfast in somber silence.

       The project they were headed to bordered Arizona. It was purposely isolated far from any others, purportedly a new type of green community. Somehow, the developer convinced investors to fund a fully self-sufficient community in this inhospitable area with the premise of its serving as a sanctuary for the ultra-wealthy, a safeguard against a doomsday scenario in which the urban populace ran amuck, rioting and killing. Fear provided its appeal. Jim was aware of public statements the Anterra Corp released, and was anxious to see whether any of the wild claims might pan out. There was to be abundant household water supplied by a lengthy pipeline from the depleted Colorado River, and an innovative dynamo fed from its rushing flow would generate electric current adequate enough to augment the juice produced by many solar cells. Other advents the press releases and fancy brochures touted were chilled and heated water reservoirs which in conjunction with elaborate fogging systems would keep the inhospitable climate Mediterranean-comfortable, permitting a profusion of ornamental sub-tropical plants and food crops to thrive, their roots fed by drip irrigation. Replete with envisioned poultry pens and envisioned stockyards, Anterra was a new Eden in a dying world. The promotions went so far as to ascribe a Babylonian theme to the community, a central tower of Babel with hanging gardens for the recreation center and meeting place. The entire scheme was probably a pipe dream that would never get off the ground, both of the concrete chippers agreed, conceivably a scam. It made no difference to them; there was work to be had there.

       Far past the Hoover Dam, an engineering marvel many Great Depression-era workers lost their lives building, subdued earth-tone banded canyons roughly graded for construction equipment acutely wound towards the unmanned gate. Rocky outcrops perched high above the Jeep displayed prehistoric petroglyphs from vanished tribes that should have served as warnings of the impossibility of survival there. The alien strangeness of these wonders only fueled the men’s unease, practically overwhelming them after their shared portent of mere hours earlier. Large rocks jutted up from the road, scraping the vehicle’s chassis. Some hit with force so violently that it nearly overturned. Jim was sleep-deprived, and should not have been behind the wheel, but they were under the gun again. It was fortunate that the weather this late in summer was cooler than expected.

       They were the first subcontractors to deal with the freshly cured slabs of concrete. There were 12 of them to finish up on, wide and thick foundations, one-piece pours inclusive of footers. Three of the foundations had their wooden forms still attached, and the boards and stakes had to be pulled by the two men without compensation as piece-workers unless they wanted to drive this arduous distance again at their own expense to complete the assignment. Discarded empties of Tecate and Modelo cerveza indicated who had poured the slabs and left the extra work for them to deal with.

       “Sons of a bitches, Scott railed. “These lazy pricks want someone else to carry them again. Why can’t they stay where they belong?”

       Jim looked around to see whether there were any invaders to overhear Scott’s valid griping. They were alone in the desolation, and he felt free to voice his agreement. It was nearing noon, and the work would not do itself, so he cut Scott short to concentrate on the task at hand. “Why don’t you put a cork on it so we can get this crap outta the way? Least that way we won’t have it weighing on us. Real pain in the ass, this bullshit. I only wish I knew what crew did it, Scott. Bastards. It coulda been worse. At least all of ‘em are clustered close together on level ground.”

       Some of the rolling hills rimming the open expanse had been graded to form terraces that ascended to the top. In the tradition of social climbing, the highest lots would have the best view and fetch the most money and tax the strongest engines daily to reach them. Dotting these hills with slabs was premature.

       “Hey, Scott, take a look over there. Up there. I’ll bet you’ve never seen nothing like it. Over there, on that dead tree. See it?” A bald eagle perched on white wood with a rattlesnake clenched in its talons and beak. The snake was writhing and the eagle had the good sense to keep it from striking by the way it secured the venomous creature, its beak pinned closely to the serpent’s fanged head. They heard the snake rattle loudly to no avail until the eagle cleanly severed the head and swallowed the wriggling body. It was a sight to see. For Scott it regurgitated the memory of his moon walk.

       “Ancient Aztecs believed wherever they saw an eagle devour a serpent marked their homeland, the reason it’s on their flag. Bet you never saw nothing like it, did you, bud?”

       Scott had never confided his dream to Jim until now because it would have revealed just how much he resented the invading army who stole work from Americans who fought for their country, the % of the illegal army in the trades becoming disproportionately high.

       “Actually, I have seen this before. It might have been better if the snake struck the bird with the way things are going in this country of ours.” Then, he revealed the dream.

       “It’s enough to make you kill someone, isn’t it, Jim?”

       “Hate to admit it, bud, but I’m feeling the same.”

       The two survivors of Elsewhere were bleary and weary, but anger wakened them. What follows is an account of the situations that converted Jim’s easy-flowing live-and-let live attitude to his subordinate’s electric temper. When the workers scanned the jobsite for power sources to operate their jackhammers, they saw an industrial generator and a commercial compressor, too. Because there was no construction trailer on the site yet, finding both of them was an unexpected surprise. They were happy to see the large metal box with its gauges, 3 prong outlets, and starter button because it would push their large electric jackhammer and speed up the chipping. In pristine condition, it resembled a mainframe computer. End of story; it was inoperative. The expensive equipment in the graded clearing had been vandalized. Scott was the first to notice the damage on the rear of the large unit, pried open like Jim’s chest cavity in his haunting dream, the diesel fuel, its lifeblood, drained, leaving it dead and devoid of power. The thieves left a rubber hose and funnel in the nearby scrub, that and more empty cans of Mexican beer. As if that wasn’t enough, the battered commercial air compressor on wheels, capable of running the pneumatic jackhammer, had been vandalized also, drained of its diesel fuel, so it too, was a dead issue.

       “Putas. Filthy thieving spics. I hate them. I hate them all. Scott went off on a fusillade fueled by hatred. They hadn’t been able to drain that from him with their larcenous antics, no, and had done the opposite. “Hate them, hate them…”

       With calm demeanor, Jim implored, “Listen, Scott, this’ll give us time to switch off and rest. I brought the Hilti hammer drill and the generator. Yeah, it’ll be slower going, but we’ll get it done with. I wasn’t sure if we’d get outta here in one day, and now I know we’ll be camping out for sure. Yeah, I’m pissed, too, but we can’t prove Mexicans did this damage.”

       To prove his point, Scott shuffled a slimy greasy tortilla corn husk wrapper ablaze with fire ants with his military boot in front of his partner. “I would love to feed this to one of those sons of a bitches. Eat this spicy tidbit, amigos. Bueno.”

       Resuming his role as foreman to focus on the work at hand, Nevadan Scott pointed to the apparent quality of the workmanship the likely vandals left behind them, thinking all the while it was fortunate for whatever builder left the commercial compressor resembling a fuel container on wheels there, that a heavy duty chain anchored it to a concrete block, or it might have been stolen by the crew. He did not voice this observation to Scott, nor did he interrupt Scott’s late-in-coming remark about the professional workmanship, “Yeah, professional thieves who care nothing about demolishing costly equipment to save a few pesos. Sons of a bitches. Sneak back across the frontera, you scumbags.”

       “I’ll try and find out what crew preceded us, and complain,” but both of them knew it was futile because they were only small cogs in the big machine and the invisible forces on top could never be bothered with such trivialities.

       “Sure, Jim. Why don’t we pull these boards and stakes from the three? Then I need to blow off some of this steam. I’ll explore a couple of those offshoot ravines, if you don’t mind. I just need a little time alone, fair enough? Then, you can rest like we agreed. Thanks.”

       Scott wandered into virgin territory, a scenic arroyo shadowed by tremendous tan boulders. Gigantic branched candelabra cacti and fat red- hooked barrel cacti precipitously scattered on the cliffs contributed to the scenic beauty. Swathes of colored sand flowed like streams between the salmon and white banding. A large red-tail hawk circled above him. Scott wished he had brought his cellphone to take pictures to transmit to Marcie in Milwaukee. It was a pristine location, he thought, that was until he saw more evidence of who had been there before him. Ruining the pretty picture were lurid neon-orange and phosphorescent-green gang symbols and perverted images, vile words in the Mexican language, graffiti, slogans and taunting epithets one couldn’t escape from, not even here in Nowhere. They were insults one’s inner thoughts couldn’t avert. They pursued him. Scott ran back at full speed to the reverberated thuk-thuk-thuk of the hammer drill combatting their concrete.

       Jim was too heated up from the physical exertion of chipping combined with his mental exhaustion to listen attentively to Scott’s rantings. The persistence of complaint was becoming irritating to him. He commanded Scott to take the tool so he could rest a while. He’d already had the second foundation half-chipped with the little hand held hammer drill hooked up to his portable generator. The builder wanted the fellows to waterproof the edges with Bituthene 4000, which Scott cleverly re-christened as son-of a-bitchuthene. The product comes as a roll of thick black rubbery membrane with a peel-off adhesive backing, cut to size with a razor knife, a durable material reserved for expensive houses and commercial buildings. Lieutenant Jim started applying the black stuff while Scott prepped, and they persisted for many hours without taking a break, working silently and switching off in their duties. It was because they were beyond tired that they continued unabated, knowing if they had, they would never get started again. It was only the darkening of the sky that indicated time’s passing. They’d made great progress and had only four slabs to finish up with, meaning they were 2/3rds done. When they stopped to look at how little remained, it gave them a sense of accomplishment. Even though the sun was sinking fast, there was time enough to not only set up the tent on scant soft grass, but to cook dinner on the electric double burner, and coffee, too. The thawed chicken breast and potato chunks with onion were delicious. Scott had brought a fine carrot cake he’d said nothing about to Jim. Along with the instant coffee, it was a fine finish for a frustrating day.

       Far from artificial illumination of civilization, the band of visible sky from the canyon floor looked like phosphorescent algae aglow in a black sea, the ridge tips like protruding fingers. The visible universe seemed like something that could be grabbed, so palpable it could be taken back to the city with them, not stolen, but hoarded in memory. They did not tarnish the view by building a campfire. The nearby howl of coyotes did not bother them, especially since Jim was armed with a hunting rifle. They celebrated their progress and the joy of the wilderness with two beers each, American beers, and talked about their future plans, none of which included invaders or tomorrow’s workload. Knowing they would start at dawn and finish early, Scott suggested they stop at Lake Mead Recreational Center to enjoy the atmosphere. It was Sunday and the place would be teeming with pretty girls and food vendors. Why not? They slept peacefully.

       The next day went as planned. It was uneventful, although Scott was bothered by the influx of Mexicans and their incessant music. He hated the banda music of Sinaloa with its tuba, oom pah pah, oom pah pah like Polish wedding music. Its clumsy simplicity made him laugh with disdain. It wasn’t the music so much that rankled Scott Warren, but the unremitting imposition these foreigners forced upon the Anglo-Saxon culture. Maybe he was right, Jim conceded after defending the Hispanics’ right to keep the torch of their homelands burning, that they should have decency enough to keep the volume down a little. He knew, though, that if there had been fewer gordas and more guapas, happily engaged Scott would have said nada. Nonetheless, the day was a pleasant one with time to recuperate on Monday with nothing scheduled.

       Cooler months elapsed with fewer clashes. A recessive economy was a factor, with the two getting fewer assignments because of that. A bigger problem was the oversaturation by the insurgent army, the dark skinned trabajandieros who brought their underage children onto the sites to work without pay when no construction superintendents were there to stop the illegal activity. It is a difficult undertaking to compete against free labor. It lowered the piece rate to such a degree that the greedy builders contracted the lowest bidders without questioning documentation. Because of this, both Jimmy Dolan and Scott Warren had much time on their hands.

       For Lieutenant Jim, this was a chance to branch out into something new. He studied solar engineering and installed artificial turf where lawns that the illegals maintained for years were mandated to be removed. That was Reconquista American style. Occasionally, he hired his Corporal, but not enough to keep Scott occupied. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, it is said. Perhaps, it is true. Scott sulked and retreated into a fantasy world where he revisited Elsewhere one too many times.

       The brief vacation he took back home in Wisconsin should have been permanent. It was not. Marcie Bowlden saw the change in her Scott. His occasional outburst frightened her. He picked out what she hadn’t noticed before, the illegal army practicing Reconquista, proliferating like scabies, working chicken factories and cutting meat, stealing jobs, establishing bodegas to entice our populace to their way of living, selling-out our culture and our children’s future for their gain. She realized how much her Scott was tortured by his dreams of war, unable to differentiate the battles in the Elsewhere of separate continents. Although Scott was the gentlest man Marcie had ever known, the mention of illegals sent him spiraling into mad rages. He warned her about them incessantly, hated them, hated. It was almost a relief to have him return to the Valley of Elsewhere elsewhere.

       It was a cold day in hell when Scott’s volcano erupted. He and Jim were working in a large development armed by countless dog-eared helmeted invaders. The cold wind blew hard from the snow-capped mountains, crossing the desert and fanning sharp sand piles into their unmasked faces. The sky was filled with gray cumulus clouds armed to erupt. The conditions were especially nasty with the brick-red clay saturated and slimy from recent flooding on the vulnerable ground plain lacking greenery. All on foot had to slog around on elevated areas or through it. Surrounded by the enemy, the two of them felt isolated. The slabs were cold as a mortuary’s. It was the call from home that triggered Scott’s wrath.

       He knew immediately, as people often do from a ringtone’s variation, that something was terribly wrong. He wished it wasn’t Marcie, but it was. Scott missed her terribly, although the joy of seeing her number was subsumed with his sense of apprehension. It was hard to make out what his fiancé was saying with howling wind and grumbling trucks hauling heavy water tanks, the sloshing bulldozers, the grind and hiss of power tools, the banda music blaring, and the singular foreign language speakers whooping and shouting around him, so he excused himself to Jim and squirreled himself away in an unfinished house’s closet to hear her message. She sounded strange to him. It wasn’t only the slowness of her words, but a lack of clarity. It was as if she had cotton wadded in her mouth.

       “What? I can’t hear you, Marcie. Speak up, it’s noisy here.”

       “Scott? Scott, Scott.” And she started sobbing, “Sumtin happn to me, bad bad. Scott, o Scott. Dey hirt me, Scott, bad, hirt me. Ga, o Ga, dey hirt me”, before the complete story emerged from her. “I was raped. O Scott, Scott. Dey wer Mexa mexa…” and she sobbed uncontrollably with saddened pain, unable to catch her breath or name the perpetrators’ nationality from shame of her liberalism and the act itself.

       Scott was on full alert, his cylinders firing at full force, his heart racing. He had trouble gathering his scattered thoughts in the narrow confines. His rationality was strewn outside of the filthy unit littered with construction debris and food waste from these invaders. It ran from him. He tried to remain calm. “Tell me what happened, sweetheart. Please. Stop crying. It’s over. You’re safe now. I’m here,” he said, but he knew he wasn’t. He wasn’t there to protect her.

       “Hospbibl, am n hosbibl, Scott. One a dem nocd my teet out n rape me, Scott. Dey wer Meh, meh…Den dey made me, made me, made me… O Scott. Scott. Why? Why? Why? Why, Scott? Why?” before the deepest sobs and gasps from her, like plangent blows of wicked wind violated the Marine’s innerscape, chloroform and formaldehyde which killed his sensitivity of feeling. Marcie had had the most perfect smile, had been a beautiful strawberry blonde before this.

       “He cut me, Scott, wid razr, my face, my fey, my,” and she cried piteously. “Downe leeb me, Scott. Downe leeb me. Plee downe…owwww oww o gaah…Why? Why?”

       Scott was unable to focus from the closed aperture of his pinned pupils and disbelieving ears in the constricting space. Mexicans, Mexicans, invaders, rapist scum sons of a bitch spic sand devil pieces of goddamn shit Iraqi bastard Arab sons of sons sons of of a Aaaaaah! He pictured Marcie, the purest of the pure disfigured, made ugly like the graffiti-desecrated canyon, spic penises choking her mouth filled with blood, terrible scars, her pain, her “AARGH!!!” and Scott bolted from his corner to his beat-up GMC and reached behind the seat and pulled out his AR-15 rifle, already loaded, and started firing. The first helmeted Iraqi on the dozer fell off in front of it somehow, his head splattered by the marksman’s shot. The motion of the bucking machine crushed his body into the oozing slime. Another one of the enemy battalion turned to run, but the deep mud mucked him down and the next volley of rounds square in the center of his back sprawled him into it. Scott high-stepped to his thrashing body and released more bullets to release him from existence. The Superintendent, a gringo, ran out from the command post with a radio in hand to call out reinforcements, his fatal mistake. Crack. One to the head. By now, the Iraqis were in retreat. A dozen more of the invading insect army soldiers bee-lined for shelter, following their leader like flat ducks in a video arcade. A spray from the AR-15 cleared the muddy field of them. Black military jets screamed overhead in the metallic gray. Fire, flares, burn, die, die! Die! A helmeted enemy manning a lumbering tank came at him. The Corporal’s semi-automatic exploded the exposed orb into a bloody pulp. Tubas and military trumpets filled the air that screamed. More rounds decimated a dozen more flak-jacketed enemy soldiers before the ex-Marine’s Commander, Lieutenant Jim, without a verbal command ended the assault. A single rifle shot from his hunting rifle to his squadron member’s head brought lasting peace in the valley for his tormented friend.

 

 

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