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The Demon Inside: The Zone War Trilogy, Book 1 by Terry Cloutier
SUMMARY: This is an excerpt from The Demon Inside. Any and all feedback is appreciated. Thank you. Terry
The stench was nearly unbearable. The hungry drone of millions of flies swarming over the dead like a blanket of black decay, a constant reminder of the tumultuous battle that had claimed so many lives here just two days before. Bodies lay contorted and strewn about across a deep, mud covered valley, the corpses now companions in death where once they had been enemies in life. To the east of the valley ran a long winding road that was normally seldom used, but today was packed to overflowing with hundreds of tired and hungry refugees that trudged silently past the carnage in subdued silence. Few, if any, within the procession glanced for long at the gruesome spectacle of twisted bodies, which lay piled one atop the other like blood soaked cords of wood. The horror reflected back to the refugees in those dead staring eyes sent shivers down the spines of even the most hardened of men. Even fewer still chose to speak, preferring to conserve their energy for the long trek to Tetremede, where they hoped to find safety from the marauding Empire forces that seemed to be everywhere these days. Those that did speak kept their words low and to the point, as though to give voice to thought so close to the recent dead might somehow bring unwanted attention back to the living.
The battle that had raged across the valley floor and into the high hills beyond had been hard fought, with neither side willing to give ground to the other. Though outnumbered greatly, the UCA forces had fought bravely and well, their more experienced troops the difference at first, and for a time it had seemed as though they might carry the day. But unfortunately for the UCA, Halandon reinforcements had arrived from the foothills of Garvat's Point just as the original attacking Empire forces were beginning to show signs of crumbling. The reinforcements hit the Alliance rearguard, crashing against them like an unstoppable battering ram and sweeping men aside as though they were paper dolls caught in a hurricane. Before the UCA could swing about and counter the new threat, the reinforcements had punched halfway through their lines, causing widespread confusion and panic from the rear. The UCA might have eventually overcome even this, had their leader, the brilliant General Heery Bander, not fallen in the onslaught. The moment the general's standard fell, the will and determination that had so far carried the Alliance faded, and with it, their willingness to do battle. Within moments after the general's fall, the struggle was at an end, the surviving UCA soldiers breathing heavily with weariness as they dropped their weapons and surrendered. Those few who could still walk unaided were immediately collared and led away, back to the Empire and a life of slavery. Those who could not walk, or refused to surrender, were fallen upon and had their throats cut where they stood, their lifeless bodies tossed aside without a second glance.
While the seemingly never ending line of refugees continued to trudge past the dead, one man near the middle of the line did not look away in horror like the others.