Authors: Jeffrey Wilson
© 2013 by Jeffrey Wilson
rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means,
graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping
or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission
of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical
articles and reviews.
is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations,
and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination
or are used fictitiously.
books may be ordered through booksellers or by contacting:
views expressed in this work are solely those of the authors and do not
necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby
disclaims any responsibility for them.
ISBN: 978-1-936564-92-7 (ebook)
of Congress Control Number: 2013935629
in the United States of America
rev. date: June 14, 2013
Design: Denise Daniel
Art: M. Wayne Miller
by: Elizabeth Reuter
For Wendy, Connor, Jack and
When you first start to write, you
have no idea how much work other people will have to put into your work for you
to succeed. These last few years have shown me that more than anything. Chris
Payne and his staff at JournalStone Publishing are an amazing group of professionals
who are totally committed to their side of the craft. Chris is more than a
publisher and editor—he is a true friend that Wendy and I will always cherish.
Thanks to the team at JournalStone for
again taking my roughly edited words and polishing my story into a novel.
Special thanks to Elizabeth Reuter for the incredible patience and perseverance
it takes to edit my work and to M. Wayne Miller for capturing my words as art.
For this book especially, I want to
thank all of the men and women of our armed forces and the families who wait
patiently at home. Thank you for your service and sacrifice. I pray for you all
a safe return.
brilliant combination of war novel and supernatural thriller. This book could
only have been written by an author who knows firsthand the blood, sweat, dust,
and terror of combat." - Tom Young, author of
The Mullah's Storm
"Wilson just keeps getting better
Fade to Black
is a death-limbo drama that plays masterfully
with melancholy notes of heartbreak backed by the roaring horrors of
modern warfare. In the last fifty pages, you'll bite off every fingernail waiting
to see the final outcome!" - Benjamin Kane Ethridge, Bram Stoker Award
winning author of
Black & Orange
weaves terror and tenderness into this harrowing, supernatural tale of one
man's perfect life turned upside-down by the horrors and sacrifices of military
combat." - Brian Andrews — Author of
The Calypso Directive
2012 USA BEST
BOOK Awards Finalist
Casey didn’t hear the bullet
until it whistled through what was left of the wall and chunks of rock rained
down on his helmet. He unconsciously pulled his head down and raised his
shoulders as if that would keep the high‐velocity round from the enemy AK-47
from spattering his brains all over the ground. Casey’s heart pounded in his
chest, but he embraced the feeling of terror and let the power of it energize
him. Over the last few weeks the jacked up feeling had become like a drug to
Casey and his friends. He had learned quickly to embrace and channel it into
energy and sharpness—especially in the last few hours. Casey took a few slow
breaths to dampen his tremors, but felt the fear clear his mind and sharpen his
He knew the
younger boys hunkered down beside him needed their sergeant—an old man at
twenty-six—to stay iced.
his regulation Kevlar helmet back against the sandy wall as more chunks of
brown cement broke loose and joined the dust and sweat in the collar of his
body armor. He barely noticed. His mind focused instead on the frequent sharp
pops of rifle fire from the dusty street on the other side of their fragile
We’re in the goddamn
his eyes shut to clear away the sweat that burned behind his Marine Corps
issued Wiley-X ballistic sunglasses. For all their expensive, high-tech gear,
they were sure as shit taking a pounding from the robed, and mostly barefoot,
men shooting at them from the blown out doorways and rooftops on the other side
of the wall.
blowing dust burned his throat, and he continually spit to clear the grit from
his mouth and teeth. Casey gripped his rifle firmly in his gloved right hand as
he listened to more pops of small arms fire around him. A whistle of rounds
passed over the short wall, and he turned and looked at the men beside him, all
pressed awkwardly against the sand and stone barricade that kept them from
view. Some were shaking, but all were ready. They were Marines.
they were not the same men who had stormed into the Jolan neighborhood of
Fallujah thirty-six hours ago. The grab-assing teenagers were now blooded Marines.
They were more than warriors—they were his other family.
He ducked as
another high-velocity round exploded the top of the wall just inches from his
on the other side of the makeshift barrier were holding true to their vow to
fight to the last breath of the last man. The fighting had been bloody and
continuous, and he and his men were tired. Maybe too tired. The ambush had
separated the six of them from the rest of the platoon, and one of his boys,
Kindrich, from somewhere in Tennessee, lay in the street on the other side of
the wall. He was badly hit, probably dead. Casey had seen him take a round in
the head, and he had grabbed for him before machine gun fire had forced him over
the wall screaming to his men.
“Take cover! Take
Now they were
pinned down, enemy fire eating away at the concrete above their heads, sending more
sand and dust down on them. This was the real shit, and Casey shifted his
limited options through his mind. He knew the only real plan available. Time to
the flashing images of little baby Claire from his mind. He missed her more
than he could ever have imagined, and for the first time in his career in the
Corps, he considered that he might not see her or Pam again. But right now he
had work to do, and his best chance of getting home to them was to push their
images from his mind and concentrate on the job.
He looked at
his men and pointed with one finger to himself and two other Marines—Simmons
from Albany and McIver from Northern Virginia. He then made a walking stick
figure gesture and pointed to the end of the wall, fifteen feet away. He
pointed the same two fingers to his own eyes. In silence he told his men,
three of us will move to the end of the wall and take a look.
Then he swept
his hand over the other two and raised a closed fist.
You guys stay here.
Casey and his
two young colleagues crawled on their bellies, tight against the wall, rifles
cradled in their arms, as they had trained to do a thousand times. They reached
the end of the wall in seconds and Casey raised a closed fist. The three
stopped and readied their rifles. Then he waved his hand and looked over his
shoulder to get the attention of his other two men. Once sure he had their
eyes, he made another signal.
behind him rose up simultaneously, each on one knee, and swung their rifles
over the wall, firing blindly into the street. As they did, Casey peered around
the corner, dropping his helmet in the dirt, and looked out into the kill zone.
flashes lit up from almost every window he could see on the right side of the
dirty road, and several from the rooftop. A piercing scream from behind him
ran up his spine like someone had thrown a toaster in his tub, and he pulled
his head back, hollering as he turned.
Behind him one
of his waiting two men slumped on his side against the wall, motionless. Dark
blood poured out from his head and face onto the dirt. Bennet from San Antonio.
Fancied himself a guitar player and sucked at basketball.
Marine hunched over his buddy and packed a field dressing onto his face. Then
he looked up and shook his head.
Son of a bitch!
reeled. The rest of their platoon had taken cover around the left side of the
block and should have been working their way around to the far left corner.
Casey decided they would have to make it from their wall to the far right
corner. Then they would try and make contact with the rest of the platoon to
converge from two corners, attacking the right side positions.
They sure as
shit couldn’t stay where they were.
again at Bennet’s crumpled body and the black blood pool that grew rapidly in
the sand, encircling his head like a strange cloud.
gestured for his remaining men to join them at the corner of the wall. They
would make a dash across the intersection, down the right cross street. He had
seen no shots from the left, so hopefully they would not be in a cross fire. As
they moved across the intersection they should progressively lose a line of
fire from the farther positions as the angles changed. They had no other
choice. No rescue party was coming—the big, armored LAVs weren’t close enough
to get to them in time, and he couldn’t wait for air support from the Cobra
helicopter gunships that orbited just outside the city. The enemy had a bead
on them and soon the rocket‐propelled grenades would come, and their flimsy
wall would be gone.
Once his men
crunched in beside him, they huddled together, helmets touching like a football
team, and Casey whispered out his plan. They would sprint one at a time, under
covering fire, and then each would try to set up a new covering fire position as
they arrived at the corner. As he finished an explosion from behind drove them
down onto their faces. When Casey looked again a huge hole gaped in the wall at
their previous position and Bennet’s body had disappeared beneath a heap of
Time to go.
at his young men. Simmons shook badly.
“You with me,
The boy looked
up at him. His lip quivered, but he nodded. Casey pulled the young man’s helmet
against his own, his hand firm on the back of his friend’s sweaty neck, and
looked into his wet eyes. “We’re gonna be ok, Simmons. Just stay with me and
stay tough. Hoorah, Marine?”
squeezed his eyes tight and leaned into his sergeant, then opened them and set
Sar’n,” he said, then nodded his head and added “Hoorah!”
Casey spun a
finger over his head twice and then pointed his hand to the corner that was
Casey leapt to
his feet, fired his rifle from a raised and aimed position at the nearest
window, and kicked off his sprint. Immediately the air around him came alive
with whistling rounds and bright tracers. As his second boot hit the sand, a
tremendous impact in the center of his chest knocked him backwards off his
feet. His helmeted head smacked the corner of the wall hard enough to set off
white explosions of light in his eyes. Then he thumped hard on his back in the
Dazed and deaf
to the gunfire around him, Casey lifted his head and looked down in horror at
the center of his chest, where a charred hole smoked eerily in the brown canvas
of his body armor. He probed the hole with a shaking left index finger and felt
a hot piece of metal burn his fingertip. The round had not penetrated! Hands
grabbed at him from behind the wall, and dirt kicked up in his face as the
enemy adjusted fire. With a burst of strength from some unknown source he
pushed away the hands clawing at his load-bearing vest. He pushed himself up to
a squat, intent on restarting his sprint. When he made it to a low crouch he
felt a violent, burning pain explode low in his throat and again he was driven
backwards into the dirt.
hear nothing, but felt hands again on his vest and arms. He was dragged roughly
back behind the wall, his eyes staring up, terrified, at a hazy blue sky. He
became aware that the rough hands on his throat were his own, and that they
were hot and wet. His view of the sky was suddenly blocked by dark shapes that
slowly took on the images of his friends’ faces. What were their names?
Stillman! Sergeant Stillman!”
can you hear me?”
were like an old recording playing way too slow in another room. He tried to
speak, but instead coughed and felt warm stickiness flow down both his cheeks.
Then the faces were gone for a moment and a tremendously large shadow blocked
out the low sun. A helicopter? The world was getting dark and he closed his
eyes. He saw his wife’s face, smiling at him, and Claire, little feet kicking
as she smiled up from her crib at Daddy.
My girls. I
have to get to my girls.
He should be
going home. Where was the dusty tornado to bring him home? He didn’t know what
that thought meant, but it somehow made sense to him.
everything went black.