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Jungle of the Living Dead

Author since 2024 1Story 1 Follower
Jungle of the Living Dead

A night no longer passes where I do not think of death.

Sitting in the uncomfortable padded chair by the window or propped up in bed and staring vacantly at light night infomercials, my mind wanders to topic like a moth to flame. I’m not a morbid person by nature, but surrounded with death and illness, I can’t help thinking dark thoughts. I will be 98 in June and I’ve spent the last seven years in a state run nursing home where death and dementia are an ever present fact of life. Every couple of days, it seems, someone I play cards or checkers with falls by the way. At night, ghostly moans and mad screaming drift through the long, echoy halls, and if you aren’t careful, it will get to you. Nursing homes are where people come to die and a lot of the patients here don’t waste any time doing it.

I made my peace with death a long time ago and don’t mind dying, but I refuse to turn into a drooling, shitting vegetable like the ones you hear yelling in the night about ghosts, children running around their rooms, and Nazis peering through their windows. I keep my mind sharp by reading and typing on my old typewriter. It rests on a table beneath the window, where I can pause to look out at the parking lot and the grounds beyond. I write mainly letters, journal entries, and the occasional western. The westerns aren’t very good but they give me something to do.

Having accepted the inevitable, I do not dwell on my morality, but lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about it. Not because I fear it, but because of the dreams.

In nightmares, I see the faces of the dead, pale, dirty, and spattered with blood. I see their black, glinting eyes and feel their cold hands closing around my throat. I wake in a state of panic and my heart thunders so hard that I’m sure it will give out on me. One of these days, I expect it to. It may even happen tonight. Or the next night.

Before it does, I want to tell this story, for it’s this event from my life that haunts my sleep. I have never told it to anyone else and all of the other men who were there are dead now and I alone bear its burden. I don’t know if I am a good enough writer to convey the terror of what I saw, but I guess that doesn’t matter.

I just want it off my chest.

It was early 1943. After the Japanese bombed our fleet at Pearl Harbor, thousads of young men across the US heeded Uncle Sam’s call and joined the service. I was one of them. I was eighteen at the end of ‘41 and enlisted in the Marine Corps. I was sent to Parris Island in ‘42 and learned how to shoot, kill, starve, and keep going even when I felt like my body was going to fall apart like an old jalopy. In boot camp, they called me Bugs, after Bugs Bunny, because of my teeth. Our drill sergeant had a nickname for everyone, and mine was one of the milder ones.

When I was trained up. I shipped out to the Pacific in the summer of ‘42. The Japanese s at the time had overspread much of the region with little resistance and set up shop on many of the little islands in that big ocean. Now, when I say ‘Japanese ’ I’m not picking on them, it’s just shorthand. Before I met my first Japanese , I feared them, but after, I respected them. They were the toughest sons of bitches you ever wanted to meet. They were brave, loyal, and committed to their cause. You never, ever, saw a Japanese  desert or cower in the face of battle. Of course, we didn’t know that as we plowed through the Pacific on our way to fight them. We were young and full of piss and vinegar, we thought we’ mop them up in a week. They were weak, we thought, tiny, real jerks.

We quickly learned we were wrong.

Two weeks after departing Los Angeles, the last great outpost before the vast ocean, we landed on an island called Mukiko. It was a rocky hump of jungle where the Japanese s had set up an airbase and a radar station that tracked incoming planes. I first spotted it from a distance, and backlit against the piercing blue ocean and dusty sky, it looked like a nice place to vacation.

Til we started bombing it.

For almost twelve hours, a dozen ships hammered the island, the big guns booming and spitting firing hard enough to knock you off your feet. Our planes hit it from the air, and early in the afternoon, some 1,400 men climbed over the side, down big rope nets, and piled into landing crafts. Clutching my rifle to my chest and watching that little strip of land getting closer and closer, all the bragging I did on the ship came back to bite me. At least the others felt that way too. We were grimly silent as the little boats puttered toward the shore, no one speaking, everyone staring fixedly ahead, wondering am I going to die today?

The landing went smoothly enough. The boats reached the coastline, the doors dropped open, and we stormed up the sandy beach. There were machine gun nests just inside the jungle, and they came to life, chopping foliage like salad. We threw ourselves to the sand and fired back. I caught a glimpse of a couple Japanese s in their tan uniforms, and it was the most surreal sight I ever saw. We had heard so much about them and had talked them up among ourselves, until they weren’t men anymore but mythical creatures. It was like seeing Bigfoot or a pack of unicorns.

After the fighting on the beach, we tramped into the foreboding jungle. We met some resistance, but made it to the airfield without much trouble. It was laid out in a little grassy valley. The buildings were abandoned, rice still warm on stoves. We took down the Imperial flag and ran up the stars and stripes, everyone cheering. We lost twenty-five men that day and thought the battle was over.

We were wrong.

The seabees came in the next day and rebuilt the runway and the earthworks that had been destroyed in the bombing. The radar station fell that day after a hell of a fight and they started working on that too. We thought we’d flushed the Japanese s out entirely, but they kept popping up. They’d attack with rifles and grenades, then fade back into the jungle like they’d never been there at all. We sent out patrols and they kept getting ambushed; a few of our boys even stepped in punki pits, big holes drug in the ground, filled with sharpened sticks, and covered by foliage. You wouldn’t notice it until one of those spikes drove through your foot. The Japanese s even smeared shit on the tips so you’d get infected.

We heard from somewhere – high command, most likely – that there was a Japanese  unit dug in somewhere on the island. I can’t remember exactly where that came from, it was almost eighty years ago, but by our second week on the island, we were carrying out daily searches for the stronghold. We knew it was somewhere, but it was so well hidden that we couldn’t find it.

For that first week, there was a lot of activity around the island. Japanese  planes and ships came out of the wild blue, and heavy fighting between our fleet and theirs raged for days on end. The planes never dropped bombs, only boxes.

Resupplying the phantom unit.

We managed to cut them off and the supplies stopped coming. The hit and run attacks continued, however, so we knew that the Japanese  soldiers hadn’t been evacuated. We didn’t know how many there were, but there couldn’t have been many of them, as their hideout was so well concealed that it had to be small.

Slowly, the attacks dwindled and a sense of restlessness came over the camp. We played cards and listened to the radio between patrols. We played baseball, tacked pictures of Mae West and Betty Grable to our walls, and talked about home. I got to know some of the men pretty well during this time. There was Stevens, from Louisiana, a tall, muscular roughneck with leading man good looks; Curly, a short and bespectacled guy from Brooklyn who sounded just like Curly from the 3 Stooges shorts (I think his real name was Sam); and Washington, one of only two black men on the island. Stevens was a card shark and was always scratching up games on crates that served as tables, shirtless and chewing a Lucky Strike. He’d take us for all our rations and care packages if we let him, Of all the men in our unit, he was the loudest in his dislike of Washington. He’d let the black man play cards but he’d pick on him the whole time. “That’s your hand, Neighbor?” he’d ask patronizingly during games. He didn’t say Neighbor, though, he said another word that started with N, a word I never much cared to hear and won’t repeat. “Well, take a look at this hand.” He’d slap down a flush and laugh around his cigarette. “This can buy a whole lot of watermelon.”

Washington took it in stride for the most part. He told me once that if he reacted, Stevens would never let him alone, and I believed it. I’ve known many men like Stevens. Once they know they’re getting to you, they push harder.

The days turned into weeks, and the weeks into a month. Every day we searched for the hideout and patrolled the parameters of our holdings. I remember it being well known that the men we were looking for had to be running out of supplies, but I don’t remember getting a signed letter from the Navy telling us this, so I can’t recall where it came from. Our mission became to wait them out.

One day in early September, Stevens, Curly, Washington, and I were on patrol well to the west of the airbase. Being the tropics, it was hot and humid, and within five minutes, our shirts were soaked in sweat. Bugs buzzed around our heads and bright shafts of sunlight filtered through the treetops, dappling the jungle floor with golden coins of brilliance. Stevens was picking on Washington again, and Washington was getting tired of it. “You think the Japanese s like dark meat?” Stevens asked. “If they’re so hungry, why don’t we go feed ‘em?”

Washington turned around and faced him. “Man, will you stop?” he asked tightly. “I’m getting real tired of you.”

Stevens plucked his cigarette from his mouth with a flourish. “I was tired of you the first time I saw you.”

Curly and I had stopped. I started to cal out for them to knock it off when something crashed into me from the side, almost knocking me down. I spun and brought my rifle up. A Japanese  soldier, his tan uniform dirty, wrinkled, and hanging from his thin frame, thrashed in the leaves, trying to get up. “Holy shit,” Curly said. “It’s a Japanese .”

Forgetting their feud, Stevens and Washington hurried over and put their guns on him. The Japanese  struggled to his knees, grabbed my pant leg, and looked up at me.

In all my time before and since, I had never seen such fear in a man’s face. His dark eyes were big and watery and his mouth was twisted in a silent scream. Tears oozed down his hollow cheeks and he shook like a frightened dog. He was barely aware of our guns as he pointed back the way he had come and spilled out a stream of gibberish. I didn’t know what he was saying, but he sounded terrified. “What’s wrong with him?” Curly asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“It’s a trap,” Stevens said. He slung his rifle over his shoulder, pulled his .45 from its holster, and aimed it at the Japanese ’s head. The Japanese  paled and began to sob.

I knocked Stevens’ arm aside. “We’re taking him prisoner,” I said.

Stevens argued as I tied the Japanese ’s hands behind his back, but I ignored him. The sun was starting to set by now and shadows filled the jungle. The Japanese  moaned in fear and a chill went down my spine. I looked around, spooked by his terror, but saw nothing.

We started back up the trail, and a few minutes went by before the snapping of twigs off to our left stopped us. Twilight had come rapidly and it was hard to see through the trees. “What was that?” Washington asked in a whisper.

“I don’t know,” I whispered back. I had been holding the back of the Japanese ‘s shirt with my hand. I let go and brought my rifle up. The Japanese  let out a miserable moan and stomped his feet like a child. He said something to me that I didn’t understand, but his mix of fear and frustration formed a universal language all its own.

More twigs snapped and I looked around.

In my memory, it happened like this.

An errant shaft of moonlight suffused the forest, and as I turned, I caught sight of a terrible face watching me from the bush. Its skin was white and streaked with dirt, its mouth open wide in animal anticipation. Blood ringed its tattered lips and saliva coated its crooked and broken teeth. Though it has to be a trick of memory, I swear its eyes were shining yellow, like a big cat’s, and that the smell of death and decay rose from it in sickly sweet waves.

I gasped, and suddenly they were on top of us, a half dozen ghouls in shredded uniforms, their skeletal hands clutching, their bony ribs leading the way. We all screamed and the Japanese  bolted up the path, his head bent to cut down on wind resistance. One of the things grabbed the front of my shirt and dragged me forward, its mouth opening as if to suck me in. Panicking, I smashed the butt of my rifle into its sunken stomach. Another grabbed me from behind and bit down on my shoulder. Pain shot into the center of my head and blood spurted from the wound. Washington fell back against a three, three ghouls shambling toward him. He brought his rifle up and fired, hitting one in the chest and knocking it down. Stevens gaped in horror, then whipped out his .45 as two more things advanced on him. He shot one and it dropped. The other lunged at him and sank its teeth into his arm. Stevens screamed, then rammed his knee into its chest, unlatching its jaw.

I slammed my elbow back into the ghoul’s stomach and it released me. I shoved him away and threw myself frantically down the path, the others following me. “What the fuck?” Stevens screamed.

“That fucker tried to bite me,” Washington kept saying over and over again, his tone shocked and offended.

Curly  blubbered like a baby.

We didn’t look back but we knew they were coming after us. We could hear their excited hissing and deathly moans, so much like the moans here at the nursing home. We came across the Japanese  a little while later. He lay on the path, dead, three of those things kneeling over him, their hands shoved into his gaping stomach cavity.

“What the fuck?” Washington asked, disgusted.

The things looked up at us and seemed to delight in our presence. Stevens shot all three of them and we continued running. When we reached the air field, a group of men ran down to meet us, drawn by the screaming and gunfire. We told our commander, Commander Casey, what had happened, and he didn’t believe us. “Monsters?” he asked as though he hadn’t heard right. “Are you boys going soft in the head?”

“No, sir,” Stevens said. He held out his arm. “Look.”

Commander Casey examined the wound.

Just then, an animated chatter went through the crowd. In the moonlight, the things that had chased us stalked from the forest, some of them carrying swords. They were little more than shadows, and the noises they made came straight from the pit of hell.

We save five of them, then ten, then more, all staggering out of the jungle and spreading out like cockroaches. The tower shone a searchlight on them, and they came alive, running at us full speed with their swords. In the light, they were white and red with death and blood, and their bodies were little more than bones held together by sallow skin. The machine guns opened up with a roar, and bullets cut down many in the first rank. Men grabbed their rifles and took up position on the edge of the camp, kneeling and firing as the living dead advanced. More came, throwing themselves mindless at us, with no regard for their own safety. The boys with their rifles broke and ran, scared, and I saw one of the things jam its sword through the belly of an American and rip out his throat with his teeth.

By now, every man had come down to join the fight. One of the things came at me, and I took its head off with a burst of fire. One tackled Washington and scrambled on top of him. Before it could bite him, however, Stevens jammed the barrel of his .45 against his head and pulled the trigger, painting the grass with its blood. Stevens reached out his hand. “Come on, Neighbor, move your ass.”

Washington took his hand and Stevens helped him up.

Soon, the dead stopped coming, and the ground was littered with corpses, some moving and snapping their teeth, others dead.

One of the things was only hit in the legs and our boys took it prisoner. I can’t remember how long it took to find this out, but in my memory, it happened that very same night. Those things… the walking dead… were men. The Japanese hold up in their bunker and cut off from Japan and, with no hope of escape or resupply, had gone mad with hunger. Their bodies wasted slowly away and their minds did too. Days stretched into weeks, and the hunger pangs became too great, consuming their minds, bodies, and souls. Finally, like wild animals, they turned on each other. A few managed to keep their wits about them and escape, but the others killed and ate their fellow soldiers before spreading out into the jungle.

I’ve thought often of those men over the years, the terror and hopelessness, the deep, aching pain of starvation, of their skin shrinking around their bones, of them slowly going mad in a dark, subterranean pit thousands of miles from their homes and their families.

Starving the enemy out that way wasn’t a war crime… but it feels like one, and when I think of dying, I think of that face I glimpsed in the jungle, the one with yellow eyes and ragged lips.

I think of it a lot.

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Cryptids_Roost avatar
1 day ago

The Jungle Of The Living Dead
WWII-Based Military v’s Ghouls Horror Story / Creepypasta

Cryptids_Roost avatar
4 days ago

On the 3rd line, it states “light night infomercials”, but shouldn’t that be “late night infomercials”?

Cryptids_Roost avatar
3 days ago
Reply to  Cryptids_Roost

Btw, there is a mistake in the story; it is punji pits not punki pits.

TheGlawackus avatar
11 days ago

Your story is well-written. I like the idea of ghoulish soldiers. I’m not sure if you meant Makiko or were doing a different take. If you were to revise it, I would recommend elaborating on the interaction with the ghoulish soldiers and sprinkling in some dialogue. It works as it is though.