No QuitClover Autrey / Fantasy / Actions & Adventure
By Clover Autrey
Copyright 2014 Clover Autrey
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Cover art Photos licensed from Dreamstime.
All Rights Reserved
Do Not Resuscitate
First Published 2014
First published in Deep in the Hearts of Texas 2013
First published in Deeper Magic: The First Collection
Edited by Jeremy Whitted
Amberlin Books 2003
Día de los Muertos
An original Cael and Jake story from The Anointed series
New edition 2014
The Eaglekin series
First published 2011
A bit from Clover: The only thing these stories really have in common is that they each feature a soldier/warrior who has no quit in him. Actually this guy does want to quit several times, but his resolve holds out. Do Not Resuscitate is a story that has seen many transformations. This is one of the oldest and one of the ones I like the best. It ultimately became a 60,000 word young adult book titled Extraction about a teenage girl who has her soul stolen, rather than an old WWII veteran as in this original version. But I still like this version and thought it had a place in the universe.
Do Not Resuscitate
When Mike Matthews took the eggs out of the fridge, he had no idea he’d be dead in twenty-three minutes. Or that the biggest adventure of his life was beginning.
Where the hell? Sprawled across cold uneven gravel, he squinted up at orange streaks of tracer bullets, whizzing across a darkening sky. Pounding crumps of distant mortars rattled along his skull. He’d know those sounds anywhere. Flashback? PTSD episode? Hadn’t had one of those in decades.
The last thing he remembered was breaking his morning eggs into the sizzling pan—the same pan he’d been using the past thirty years that Sabrina said should be thrown out—and a terrible pain in his chest.
The pain had subsided, had actually shifted downward. Groggily, he sat up. What in all…?
He wore dark fatigues, steel-toed boots. His shirt was torn and dirty, shredded at the left pocket. Pulling aside the stiffly dried material, he frowned.
Two tiny punctures marked his highest ribs. He’d seen too many bullet holes at Guadalcanal to not know what they were. Dried blood stained his skin in light swirls where someone had attempted to mop it away. He’d been shot in the chest?
No, not his chest. His pulse banged in his ears, drowning out the stuttering of artillery. This was not his chest, not his body. He stared at his shaking hands, blunter, wider and darker than his own. And much younger. No wrinkles sagged vein-edged flesh that molded upon each knob of bone. Some sort of wiry bracelet shone around his wrist, hot. It steamed in the balmy night air. Just a dream then. This was all just some really vivid dream.
Hushed voices called to one another, stilling Mike’s heart. Footfalls scraped over stone and gravel as shapes of men moved toward him from the darkness.
This couldn’t be real, could not be happening. He must be flat on his kitchen floor, suffering from the blasted coronary Doc Burke had been warning him about, and having the mother of all hallucinations. And sure, why wouldn’t he dream up a war zone? Leave it to him to plop himself back to a place he had no unequivocal desire to relive. While he died like a putz in his kitchen.
And who was there to find him? Shawn wouldn’t get worried for days, wouldn’t think to check on old dad for a while. He supposed the eggs would burn and at least send smoke through the house. Funny, he was more worried about how he’d be found than the actual possibility that he was dying.
The shadowed men swarmed around him. Soldiers all, authentic from their dirty helmets, loaded ammo belts and rucksacks to the long rifles palmed in agile and filthy hands.
But that’s where his imagination must have taken a crack in the head.
Mike stared. Sickening dread curled around his gut as long golden eyes peered at him from a lean face streaked with dark grease. Certainly a hallucination. Who had eyes that color? And those thin slashes of skin at either side of his neck, like gills on a fish. He usually dreamed in bold and vivid strokes, but this took on an entirely new clarity. A new intensity.
The soldier spat out a tangle of incomprehensible words and slapped a helmet onto Mike’s head. That felt real enough.
Others crowded around him, patted his leg, inspected the bullet wounds. Each had those same skin flaps at their necks, and eyes of too vibrant shades, violet, silver, seafoam green, that shimmered like jewels beneath the war-lit sky.
In an unaware motion, Mike’s hand drifted to his own neck and found soft folds of skin there as well.
Two more soldiers crouched low over an oblong machine, turning keys and punching buttons as it radiated a low hum that vibrated across his skin. A tool and dye man by trade, Mike’s interest perked up considerably at the sight of the machine, even one dreamed up in his own hallucination.
Even so, he winced when one of the soldiers, frustrated and fuming in garbled tones, slapped the odd contraption. The soldier grinned as the machine blinked off. The man next to him nudged the soldier away and gently slid the thing down into his rucksack.
One of the men closest carefully removed the steaming bracelet from Mike’s wrist and handed it to the soldier in charge of the machine. “You got a name?”
“Uh Mike,” he answered numbly. “Mike Matthews.”
Strange words were barked out, obviously commands, and Mike was hauled to his feet and pointed in the direction they were to take.
So he ran with them, these unearthly soldiers, through concertina wire, and in and out of bomb craters, while the barrage-ravaged skies lightened to day.
While Mike admittedly enjoyed running again with the loose rhythm and almost casual ease of youth, each stride taken also increased a snaking fear that this was a little too real.
He must be in hell. Died on his sticky kitchen floor while his breakfast burned. That was all there was to it.
His mouth went dry as he tried to think his way through this.
“Sietz, sietz!” The soldier in the lead motioned everyone down. They all hunkered close to the ground under whatever cover was available while plumes of dust from what Mike guessed was a motorcade moved down a scraggle of road about one klick off.
Whatever was real, or better yet, whatever wasn’t, the tension streaming off the soldiers surrounding him was an undeniable fact. Heart and mind racing, Mike watched the distant vehicles roll off while he hid behind a hump of soil far too inadequate for cover.
“Hey, you okay?”
Mike nearly jumped out of his skin. Well, it wasn’t his skin at any rate. “Geez, kid, you scared the crap out of me. Wait. You speak English?”
The young soldier scooted next to him, grinned sideways and whispered, “Sure. Yeah, yeah. I’m borrowed from Earth, same as you.”
“Borrowed?” A ton of ore dropped in Mike’s stomach. “What—what’s going on? I don’t understand any of this. You’re saying this is all real?”
The soldier grinned. “Yeah, I know. I thought I’d lost my friggin mind when I ended up here. You died, pal. You’re not on Earth anymore, and the Machts…they snatched your bright sparkling soul right outside the pearly gates. Lucky for you we stole you right out from under them first.”
“Tuan ep,” the obvious commander called out.
“Cap’n wants us to zip it and move out,” the kid said. “Hey, don’t worry ‘bout it, you’re in good hands. I’m Sal. I’ll be right behind you, but don’t call out. We’ve gotta move real close to where a Macht unit dug itself in during the night. We ventured far in behind our lines to retrieve you.”
“You crossed enemy lines to get me?”
“Well, sure.” Sal’s brilliant rose-pink eyes squinted. “That’s our squad’s sole purpose. We resuscitate the dead.”