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A Fate Worse Than Bologna

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Yossarian's breath is ragged as he cowers in the dark. His eyes flick back and forth desperately seeking information as they slowly adjust to the lack of light. He can hear them outside, the steady shuffle of slurred footsteps, edging ever closer to his hiding place. They haven't seen me, they couldn't have seen me.

He had run, of course, run as fast as his cowardly legs could carry him through the corridors of the officers' club until he had reached the supply closet. And now here he waits, though for what he doesn’t know. Fingers reach out and touch his leg and Yossarian screams, long and loud.

***

It had started with Milo, obviously. Milo and his fleet had returned from Prussia where Milo had sold Japanese weaving silk for ten cents less than he had bought it, and with his profits he had picked up a fine brown powder wrapped in tobacco leaves. He was barely off the plane before he had thrust some under Yossarian's nose.

"Try this."

"No, I don't know what it is."

"Does it matter? I don't have to give you things for free, you know."

Milo had huffed off in the direction of the officers’ club and by that evening several of the men were seen with glazed expressions, shuffling happily around the recreation room, examining ping-pong balls as if they had never seen them before in their lives. The next morning they were all running a fever and Yossarian was turned away from the hospital because they didn't have room for him.

That night twelve men died, and as the chaplain prayed over their bodies, eight of them came to life again.

The chaplain was so surprised that he of all people had performed a miracle that he didn't notice the hospital staff fleeing the building. The chaplain was bitten, and infected, and it was only when he turned up at Yossarian's tent and didn't say a word that Yossarian knew something was wrong. At the sight of the chaplain's colorless eyes, Yossarian had run. He felt like he hadn't stopped running since then. Apart from the couple of times the worry and pain in his stomach made him stop to throw up, before panic pushed him on once more.

The squadron was bedlam. Everywhere Yossarian turned another nightmare invaded his vision. He prayed as he ran, prayed for this all to be a horrible imagining and he would wake up safe in hospital, or come to at the controls, even his own tent and that maddening goblin Orr would be better than this. But no relief came. Yossarian found cover in a patch of bushes and watched a creature rip a man apart with one hand, while its other hand clutched a chunk of peanut brittle.

Yossarian jumped as a hand clapped on to his shoulder, and at his surprised shriek, another crammed over his face. He struggled and twisted trying to throw off his assailant, eventually dislodging them with a lucky swing of his arm catching them in the gut.

"Ow! I was only trying to help," Aarfy had fallen back on his ass and was rubbing his stomach tenderly.

"You were suffocating me, you bastard. As if scaring me to death wasn't bad enough," Yossarian turned his back and watched the disaster unfolding again.

"How many are there?" Aarfy asked, not moving from the ground.

"Lots," Yossarian answered, recognising the bloodied and broken body of Colonel Korn stumbling away from the mess hall. "Too many."

"Too many for what?"

"Too many for a barn dance, Aarfy, what do you think? Too many to escape."

"We have planes, don't we?"

A crushing sense of his own stupidity swept over Yossarian. They had planes.

He left Aarfy in the bushes and sprinted towards the airfield, only to find slack lifeless puppet creatures hanging out of the cockpits, jabbing at the controls with stupid fingers. Yet more were on the ground, shuffling from corpse to corpse picking off strips of flesh, apparently under the supervision of two monsters with clipboards.

Out of the chaotic scene staggered a particularly pale apparition. The acidic musty stench of rotting flesh overwhelmed Yossarian as the figure stumbled closer. Its skin was an ashen color and it had a wide laceration across its abdomen. Thick black blood oozed from the wound and Yossarian's eyes were drawn to the looping bundle of entrails that fell from between the folds of dead skin and landed with a wet splat at its feet. Snowden raised his arms and with an expressionless face marched steadily towards Yossarian. Yossarian pleaded with his legs to move, and begged his head to turn away, but he remained frozen to the spot, hypnotized by the looming body coming towards him. Panic shut his body down and Yossarian began to prepare for the worst. He prayed it would be over quickly; that he would die and never come back. He stood paralyzed, until the cold dead tip of Snowden's outstretched finger touched his face, then Yossarian released a blood-curdling scream of terror and ran.

He ran as fast as his lungs and legs would carry him, towards the officers' club. As he leapt over bodies of friends, and dodged the slow-motion attacks of his colleagues, Yossarian's mind raced. He didn't have a plan. He was too busy cursing Colonel Cathcart, wishing this plague upon him, for raising the number of missions and refusing to send Yossarian home. This was all his fault. Yossarian rounded a corner and tripped over the shredded torso of General Peckham. He sent more blasphemies up towards the heavens, and scrambled through the nearest doorway, and into the supply closet.

***

Yossarian looks down, panic flooding his brain. He sees Orr. His over-sized features are sapped of life, just a pathetic pleading need in his eyes. Dark blood runs in a winding trickle down over his cheek. He tugs at Yossarian’s pant leg before his hand falls uselessly to the floor.

“Oh, not you too.”

Yossarian feels all the hope drain from his body as he crouches and scoops Orr into his arms. He sits on the floor of the cramped supply closet as his lunatic friend lets out a final infuriating giggle, and they watch the door shake as the troops close in.