Stronghold of the Dead

a story
2018-10-26 13:51:03,
2018-10-26 13:51:08
show more info

Private Torres was the first through the gate. Barely any force was needed as he made his way into the silent compound. Captain Patel was the next one, his eyes scanning the image before him. His revolver scanned the area, finger ready to twitch into action at a moments notice.

The compound was called Dengaluru. It was meant to be the Kantebury Empire's newest colony, on a moving island known as Well Island. Soon after the compound was established it became the site of an awful, all day and all night battle for control. The soldiers positioned could never secure the location enough to send in the settlers. The outermost walls could never be erected before it was burnt or torn down. Even mortar shellings from naval ships couldn't keep back the monsters.

Eventually the horror happened. A storm grounded two of the warships, and the third had already left for reinforcements. It must have sank on the way home, because it took a week for the Empire to realize something was wrong. By the time a new fleet was sent out to get a report, the entire 'colony' was gone. After that, it was deemed too expensive and too dangerous to continue efforts to colonize the small island. 

And that is why they were here.

Captain Patel and his team were sent out to this place, almost 25 years later, to try and determine what exactly went wrong.  Now, after a long journey, his team were creeping onto the grounds of the once bustling compound. Captain Patel eyed his surroundings. A wooden wall with pointed tops surrounded a series of buildings. A Barracks. A few small sheds. A large central building, which most likely held a kitchen and dining hall as well as an armory and meeting room.

"Eyes wide in the courtyard," ordered Captain Patel, "Secure this perimeter!"

Captain Patel moved deeper into the compound, pushing private Torres deeper into the compound. Behind them, Private Ghai entered, quickly to scan the area with his rifle.  Corporal Hathi was next, touting a very large gatling gun in his arms. Reaching back, Corporal Hathi pulled forward a shaking Private Patel, who was sweating under the weight of a pack of ammunition and spare barrels, two additional boxes of ammunition belts, and a belt of gun supplies. Behind them, Private Dhaliwal and Lieutenant Jhefferson bringing up the rear.

"Let's move," shouted Jhefferson, "Set up that gun."

"Which direction?" spat Hathi.

"Out, to the jungle," commanded Captain Patel, "I want that armory secured, let's go! Lieutenant."

Not needing another command, Jhefferson tapped Dhaliwal on the shoulder and whistled to Ghai. They ran to the door of the armory, eagerly peaking inside windows. Jhefferson caught Ghai's attention, nodding into the armory. Ghai stepped away from the wall, before spinning and kicking out with his leg, slamming into the armory's double doors. The rotting wood gave way easily, falling from its hinges. Dhaliwal was the first to rush in, followed by Ghai fumbling with a bayonet. Jhefferson disappeared soon afterward.

Captain Patel found a spot next to a rotting cart. He pointed to it and then out towards the main gates. Hathi went to work immediately. Setting down the large machine gun, he immediately went to work setting up a stand for the gun.

"Little P!" yelled Hathi, "Your place is here!"

Private Patel made his way over, practically dropping his two crates of ammo in each hands and desperately trying to shake his heavy pack.

Private Torres scanned the eerie fort with his rifle.

"Keep it down," he whispered.

"What will hear us?" said Hathi as he finished the tripod behind his rotten barricade, "The dust mites?"

"It is always unwise to presume you are the biggest fish," said Captain Patel, eyeing the jungle ahead, "We have not been the masters here in far too long."

"Were we ever?" whispered Torres.

A heavy clank was heard as Hathi slammed the gatling gun onto the mount, ratcheting it into place. Captain Patel caught Torres' eye and shrugged at him.

"Captain!" came the firm voice of Private Ghai, catching the Captain's attention, "Jhefferson's inside."

Captain Patel knew what he meant, nodding and heading inside, "Stay out here, secure the perimeter with Torres. Eyes open, boys."

Captain Patel went inside, leaving the others to patrol the rest of the compound.  Stepping inside, he was cast into darkness. Just inside, he saw a staircase leading upwards. To his right was only one door, large and heavy. Inside stood Private Dhaliwal, his rifle leaned against a table and he had lit a lone candle. In his hand was another rifle, but it looked old, slightly rusty. Stepping inside, Captain Patel observed the armory.  Still lined with weapons, there was a plentiful amount of rifles and arms. Some swords and spears even lined the walls. Barrels of gunpowder could also be seen. Captain Patel strolled to one of the tables, picking up a bag of shot, rolling the steel balls around in his hand.

"These guns, they are old," said Private Dhaliwal, "But they are all in such good condition. Except this one."

The Captain's eyes leapt from weapon to weapon. He saw what he said was true, barely any showed signs of their increased age.

"Any that might fit our rifles?"

"Not that I can see," said Dhaliwal, "There's a cabinet over there with some experimental shells that may work, but nothing for our weapons. However, everything might still work, and there's enough ammunition for months."

"Handpick the best ones and ensure they are ready," said the Captain, "These weapons didn't do the colony any good, they won't save us either. Where is the Lieutenant?"

"Upstairs, sir," said Dhaliwal, "He found something in the map room."

Captain Patel left the room, making his way up the stairs. At the top, a single light could be seen in the small hallway. The Lieutenant had lit a single lamp on the wall of the hallway, and he stood with his revolver in his hand. As he approached, he saw what he was staring at.

The door to the map room was, like so many of the doors here, a double door made with strong wood. However, the doors were locked and bolted, from the outside. It looked as if several of the indoor bolts had been removed and replaced on the outside. Chains were strapped all around the door, and two separate locks were locked onto them. All over the door in faded paint were written words of warning. 'Do not open'. 'Leave this island'. 'Only Death Inside'. Captain Patel also recognized some religious symbols painted and carved into the door. Some he had seen on temples to ward off evil.

Lieutenant Jhefferson stared at the door, his revolver raised half heatedly. He wasn't reading, but just staring. Captain Patel looked from him, to the door. Listening, he heard nothing.


Jhefferson nearly jumped out of his skin. He brought his revolver up. Patel caught his arm, keeping the barrel away from his face. Jhefferson looked scared stiff, his eyes wide, he stared at the Captain.

"You planning on shooting me, Lieutenant?" whispered Captain Patel.

"Captain." was all he whispered.

"You tried to enter the room yet?" asked Patel.

"Enter?" asked Jhefferson, his eyes wide.

They stood in silence for a few moments, and Jhefferson began to regain his composure. He looked to the door and back to the Captain.

"It's locked," he whispered, "From the outside."

"They really locked up before they left," said the Captain, matching Jhefferson's whisper, "Thoughtful of them."

"They didn't leave here," whispered Jhefferson, "They wanted to keep something from getting out."

"What's this?"

The Captain gestured behind him. A wooden chair had been modified with a rifle stand pointed right at the door. Two dusty rifles leaned against the walls behind it.

"They guarded it?" whispered Jhefferson.

"You... need to step outside?" asked Patel, "You can send up Ghai or Dhaliwal."

"I'm fine," said Jhefferson, "I'm ok."

"We've seen worse," said Patel, "Paschandali. Hurtown. The Kwazulite border?"

"We've seen worse," whispered Jhefferson, "It's what we don't see that bothers me. This island-"

"Remember this mission," said Patel, putting his hand of Jhefferson's shoulder, "I need to open this door and get in there. Now are you with me-"

"Can you not hear it?" whispered Jhefferson, the wild fear showing back in his eyes.

"Hear what?" asked Patel.

Jhefferson's eyes shot to the door. Patel turned, eyeing the door again. He took two steps toward the door, leaning down and putting out his ear. He listened. He heard silence. The creaking of the building. He heard what sounded like the steps of Private Dhaliwal below. He could hear a small ringing building in his ears. He focused in on the doorknobs, a small amount of dust on it.

"It's like a predator, pacing... waiting for its prey."

Patel noticed the hint of panic in the Lieutenant's voice. However he continued to listen. The ringing in his ears grew. He was focusing too much on the quiet. The ringing was beginning to sound more like whispers. At first he thought it was the men outside. But, no, it was more. Was that a woman? What were they saying?

Patel turned to ask Jhefferson, but stopped. Jhefferson's pistol had been raised once more. The barrel pointed at the Captain's head, but Jhefferson's eyes were wide and elsewhere, as if he was staring into a reality outside of their own.

"Come with me, Lieutenant," said Captain Patel, "We won't open that just yet. Lieutenant, if you can't pull yourself together I'll send you back to the ship and exchange you for that dirty Purdadu. Do not break on me."

"I apologize, my Captain," blinked Jhefferson.

"Go," ordered the Captain, his voice causing the Lieutenant to jump.

They both walked down the hall, and Patel took one last glance back at the door before leaving. He thought he heard the chains rattle, as if something hit the door. Patel watched for a moment, before shaking his head and walking down the stairs.