rings of nibelung

by eamon byrne

The war, or to put it more precisely the slaughter, had been brewing for some time. Yet there was something very strange about this war, despite what many people were saying. The yellow press was calling it a war between civilisations; a few so-called serious academics had it pegged as a war between the first and third worlds.  I myself couldn't help feeling there was  something odd about this war. I couldn't quite put my finger on this war. Mischief makers sniffing around this war. (For there was no doubt it was this war and no other.) Too many dead men  dragged up from archives of the glorious past to act as  impartial referees. And the technologically so-called superior side relying so much on software, unlike their adversaries who toted up their casualties on an old  adding machine. A real God, the Pres a true believer, the purpose a moral purpose: that trifecta would have to be paying 246 fifty. It didn't add up. My feelings proved uncannily prescient as at the last minute the allies' battle plan went awry when convoy hackers infiltrated through a window and embedded a bug in an operating system loop. Instead of while (;;) some joker planted a zero inside the braces, and before you could say run time error Centcom's latrine module had come down, causing a shit spillover. And this at the very time Allah's forces were massing on the border.

The allied commander convened a hastily prepared meeting. "Look, if they come they probably have to come along this corridor. So we seal off everything from the greenhouse to the mess. We'll rig up wires across here, hit them with flamethrowers. Let's hope the generators hold out."

Sirens erupted through the dugouts and latrines and across the allied networks  green messages  spilled and trickled down screens.

What's up, mother. Allah.

As in some lurid  tale writ for some website devoted to fanciful literature, the first Jihad squadron skiied down the sand dunes, a suicide platoon unleashing laser guided chemical bombs guaranteeing swift access to heaven. From the trenches the defenders were holding up crosses, making with the high pressure holy water. It was Godzilla's front line troops, ululating, ranting, babbling and urinating.  Right thinking all, patriots from childhood.  As straight a crew as you could find.  The spit hanging from their chins and  pissing in their pants. But thank god bolstered by privateers and security professionals of an agnostic and atheistic tendency. Grunts with hard noses and short stubble. Auburn haired blue eyed hunks from the okies and negroid types with eyes glowering and their shirts rolled up with the company logo tattood on their biceps, their fingers itching on the triggers and the jaws working the gum in silent insolence.  As the first armoured car burst into flames the sarge whirled, machine gun stuttering. For you the war is over, clunkhead! Then the next you saw he was wearing his brain on his face because his head'd been blown off right in front of the men. A ripple of fear ran along the wall. Gunsmoke wafted through the trenches carrying with it a smell of urine. On the left flank the hymies were holding out. On the right baptists and adventists going eye for eye and tooth for tooth. Catholics to the rear making up the reserves. In the centre godless sons of Cain laying out the sons of bitches and wasting the motherfuckers rolling in beneath a withering fire of morter and machine guns. Great Caesar's ghost, now there were two super forces on the field!, one good and the other evil. In danger of being overrun, the engineers had set up bulwarks on the parapet. They strapped their tape-loaded effigy of Christ to a cross and propped him up as the enemy swarmed up the ladders hacking and stabbing. It was pure opera. Mohammed's turbaned operatives driving the footsoldiers forward with cries of Jihad while against the incoming tide the  stuffed messiah thundered invective. Yee hah. Then from beneath his robes a mufti unleashed his terrible sword. His arm made thrice a grave circle through the air, gaining acceleration and finishing with a vicious wrist snap. Back foot up technique. The messiah's still-jabbering head was knocked clean off and bounced back into the trenches in a comical tumbling motion, unspooling its tape. The centre couldn't hold. The first line was overrun as the grunts pulled back to regroup behind the reserves rushing up. From above millions of leaflets proclaiming liberation were spiralling down under a blood red sky.

"The Islams are coming! The Islams are coming!"

The commander screamed into his intercom for reinforcements. "Send in talk back hosts, Christian fundaments, anything!" The fundaments climbed up in solemn lines and advanced in groups of two, wooden legged towards the enemy, several of whom now gasped and turned chlorophyll with fright.

"Aaargh! The witnesses!"

Chanting dervishes, running their tongues along the sharpened blades of their swords, charged en masse and there were bursts of flame and smoke as coloured trace fire arced in a silver dawn, unleashed by a thunderous wave of US missiles. The enemy gunners had fired first, a preemptive strike, letting off an awesome artillary barrage that shook the ground and lit up the morning sky with orange flashes. Up yours, yankee satan! Dead bodies piled up. The marines and their 155mm howitzers pulled up at the border. They opened up with a deafening barrage in panavision and stereo. The trenches, a moment before alive in a stench of blood and shit, went up in a huge fireball and the observation post was blown up. "I pity anybody who's in there," the captain spoke up. "We told them to give up." You could see that even many of the hardened marines were throwing up, and indeed you would have had to be not human to be not afraid. Then in a sudden counter attack a wave of orange-cornered taxis and double-decker buses got up in red bunting broke through the banks of smoke and rammed into the allied positions creating panic and mayhem in the ranks. My God, talk about putting up and shutting up! They were breaking up every rule of symmetrical warfare, civilian types running around waving white flags and flaunting their fingers up the Geneva convention by jumping into our trenches and crawling up our legs even while we clubbed them away.  Down! Down! screamed a lieutenant fresh up from West Point just as he was skewered.   What a stunt, blowing themselves up and just throwing themselves at our barricades like seagulls smashing into a telephone booth. Totally unscrupulous the devious bastards were playing by no rules but their own. Time to send in some cobra helicopter gunships firing Hellfire missiles  ... sweep in low from the south, dropping explosives, napalm. Show them a little shock and awe. Know what they'll say then. Fuck Saddam. Give peace a chance, Johnny. Got cigarette?