Friday, 17 August 2012

A Tentative Title for the Novel.

Another segment of the emerging novel; now, tentatively titled:

Abaddon... A Gem to Die For.

(Taken from the continuing storyline that the gemstone invariably causes the demise of anyone whose hands it passes through.)

Thursday, 21st December, 1950. Chosin Valley; South Hamgyong Province. North Korea.

The malignant Garnet gemstone that Charlotte had been pursuing for the last thirteen years…...
from the frozen wastes of Siberia, through War-torn Europe, and on out to the Far East, was about to be re-discovered and unleashed upon Mankind once again.
Shang Shi... Senior NCO Huang Zheheng of the 89th Division, IX Army Group, Peoples Liberation Army cautiously made his way across the nightmare, frozen landscape of the destroyed US Marine positions on Hill 1403 northwest of Yudam-ni, and west of the Chosin Reservoir. The slaughter around here had been unimaginable. Frozen corpses lay thick upon the ground. Determined to break through the Marine lines at any cost, the Chinese attackers had advanced in waves, with unarmed soldiers in the rear ranks picking up weapons from the dead who had fallen in front of them and the fighting had descended into hand-to-hand savagery.
Casualties on both sides were crippling. The slopes of the hill were covered with the human wreckage; both American and Chinese. It was estimated that the Chinese forces alone, had lost in excess of twenty-five thousand men. As for the Americans; at least nine hundred had perished. Few American bodies remained on the hill and surrounding area. The Americans evacuated their dead and dying, whereas, the Chinese forces had left their dead where they had fallen. The Chinese had not been able to prevent the Americans' withdrawal, as ordered, and the main body of the Marine forces at Yudam-ni had fought their way south and east to Hagaru-ri.

Huang Zheheng was out foraging for American maps and documents... anything that would be of use to Chinese Intelligence who had set up a command post in the evacuated village of Yudam-ni. Moving up the slope of hill 1403, he came across a defensive position where the Marines had dug in and built machine-gun posts out of blocks of snow. A few bodies and parts of bodies remained, frozen solid. Depleted first-aid packs and broken weapons lay scattered about. These Marines had obviously fought hard, judging by the number of Chinese corpses strewn around the ramparts. He checked the scattered American bodies and equipment. There was nothing of any interest remaining in this lower defensive position. A little farther up the slope was what appeared to be a dug-out; perhaps it could be the Command post. Picking his way carefully amongst the debris, he reached the entrance and cautiously peered inside. He reached up and lit a blood-spattered hurricane lamp hanging precariously from the roof. By its flickering red-tinged light he saw that the interior of the bunker resembled a slaughterhouse in which the resident butchers had run amok.
The rough floor was a sticky mass of crushed bone, blood, and shredded flesh. Great patches of blood were splattered across the corrugated iron ceiling, and torn-off limbs, bloody chunks of human flesh, and shattered bodies were scattered everywhere. Huang Zheheng forced back a retch. He had seen this sort of thing before. Last time; it had been the result of a suicide attack by a PLA soldier who had rushed into a similar command post and detonated a satchel charge slung on his chest.
He glanced around. There were no map cases or documents. The place had been thoroughly stripped of all strategic material before it had been abandoned. His eyes fell upon the shattered body of a Marine propped up against the far wall in a large pool of frozen, congealed blood. Most of the man was still intact, except, that where his legs had once been, were no more than a few shards of bone and some long strings of flesh and sinew. Propped against the wall by his side was a Thompson submachine gun. Huang Zheheng smiled. He had always wanted one of those. A few of the higher-echelon ranking officers possessed one that had been captured from the Nationalist Chinese Military; but most line troops… if they had an automatic weapon at all… used the Soviet PPSh-41 submachine gun. The Thompson was favoured over this weapon because of its capability to deliver large quantities of short-range automatic assault fire which had proved very useful in both defence and assault.

Huang Zheheng reached down and checked the dead Marine's pockets and equipment for spare ammunition, although the slopes outside were strewn with discarded ordnance. It was easier to check out the weapon's previous owner than go foraging out on the frozen ground. The corpse had a blood-spattered three-pouch rig for thirty round magazines attached to its webbing, as well as two smaller ammo pouches. Huang Zheheng popped the "Lift-the-Dot" fasteners of the three-pouch rig and withdrew the magazines. All three were fully loaded. He smiled with satisfaction and removed the pouch rig from the Marine's equipment belt suspenders. Then, he turned his attention to the smaller pouches. The first one contained loose, point forty-five rounds. The second contained personal effects… a Zippo lighter, a neat little metal can opener; a small crumpled pack of four "Camel" cigarettes, and two small bars of "Hershey's" sweet chocolate. His fingers touched something smooth at the bottom of the pouch. He pulled it out and his eyes widened in surprise. Resting in his palm was a deep red, pigeon-egg-sized Garnet gemstone.
As he stared; a tiny pinprick of light flickering briefly in the depths of its blood-red heart as it nestled in his hand. It was probably just a reflection from the hurricane lamp, but suddenly, and for no logical reason; Huang Zheheng shivered. Quickly, he pocketed the contents of the small pouch, gathered up the spare magazines and weapon and almost ran out of the dug-out.

Outside in the cold air, he stopped and looked at the gemstone again. It was a beautiful thing, and would most probably be much sought-after back home… if he ever managed to get back home. It would probably fetch enough to provide his family with a new plough. In China they called this gem a "Blood Stone." It was much prized for its magical properties. As well as being used for jewellery, it was used to alternatively cure severe melancholy and depression. Little pieces of Garnet were traditionally given to Chinese pregnant women to help them with their pregnancy. An ancient Chinese legend told that if you tied a piece of Garnet in your front door it would protect your house against thieves.
Huang Zheheng looked around. There was nothing of any strategic use on this forlorn hill that had cost so many lives over the past few days. Shouldering the Thompson, he began the arduous walk back down to Yudam-ni.

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