by Adam Fenner
My boots left prints of mud and human waste on the clean rug while I moved from the family room into the bedroom. We had the family, a heavyset father and a scared, crying mother secured in the family room. I kept my rifle up while I moved through the home, the muzzle moving with my eyes while I searched. Every room was bright, well lit and inviting. A flame flickered on the mantle of a fireplace that didn’t belong in that part of the house, propped up against the wall was a picture. It wasn’t special, a tree, alone in front of the setting sun, outlined in bright oranges and reds.
But it was special. That exact same picture had hung above my father’s computer in his home office, an office on the other side of the world. It didn’t belong in this Iraqi family’s home.
I stared at it in the same unaffected manner that I approached everything in this house. I felt wholly detached as I discovered more and more relics from my past. I stopped in the last bedroom. My bedroom, the one I had left in my parent’s house when I went to Basic Training. The house they moved out of ten years ago, tearing down the posters and torn pages from magazines that I had hung. Pages that now hung on this wall, in front of my bed.
Then I woke up, in the same unaffected way that I always do when I have dreams like that. I stared at the ceiling, happy that I hadn’t spent the night being chased by zombies or whoever else felt the need to doggedly pursue me. The more I reflected on what I had just dreamt of, the more it unsettled me. That was an Iraqi house; those were relics from my previous homes, an amalgamation of the two. Had Iraq stolen my past from me or had my past invaded Iraq.
It didn’t really matter.
I grabbed my phone and pulled up my brainstorming document. A single document floating in the cloud where I record all my ideas for stories, it locks them up and puts them away until I need them, and lets me get back to sleep. My note was simple, “Soldiers take house, items from their past begin to appear around the house.”
That is where it started. It took some planning, and a lot of research. Maybe it is because I’m lazy, or because I like to draw from what may or may not be reality but if a creature exists, or rules exists I like to follow them. For as much as I enjoy breaking the rules I freely accept them in certain aspects of my writing. So I drew monsters from Islamic mythology, and set the story in a place I knew, a place that I needed to visit again. I chose my old base in Afghanistan, a small outpost twenty-seven miles from any support.
It was a simple premise that is still expanding, a haunted house full of soldiers. Real soldiers, not that garbage I keep seeing in modern media. I wanted to take unextraordinary young men and women and put them into an extraordinary circumstance. I sent them to war. Then I sent them into a haunted house.
“O.P. #7” is my first full-length entry into “The Horrors of War” series. It is my attempt at taking all the elements of war and putting them into a fictional format. Because war isn’t difficult because of the fear of death and the looming enemy, it is the many unknowns that service members face overseas. They face toxic leadership, language barriers, questions of faith, sexual assault, suicide, cultural barriers, bad chow, and a longing for home. Those are what I focused on, and allowed my supernatural antagonists to exploit. Mix in some gore, and see how far I can push my characters before they start to break.
I also needed to finally stop the little Afghan girl from running around my bed while I was trying to sleep. I considered it to be rude, but since my Pashayi is awful I don’t know how to explain to her that she needed to leave me alone. Now I think I have her, but the only way I could do that was to put her on paper and share her with whoever is interested.
The question that I have for my potential readers is are you interested in traveling to the Alishing valley, walking with my soldiers, and facing the demons of Islam, while they face their own?
Award winning author Adam Fenner has served in both the US Marine Corps and the Nevada National Guard. Adam is the author of "On Two Fronts" the Silver Medal winner of the Independent Book Publisher Associations Bill Fisher Award (Nonfiction) and the "Deployment Wisdom" series. He is a student pursuing his Bachelors degree in Accounting at UNLV, and is currently working on a horror series called the "Horror's of War" and a dark fantasy series.