Darryl Jaspers longs to serve his country. With an unrivaled determination, he joins The US Marine Corps and begins boot camp at the infamous Parris Island. Nothing is easy. It could at first be blamed by his reaction to stress and the rigors of training, but on a night that changes everything, something unusual happens.
Hearing a platoon practicing drill outside his window in the middle of the night, Jaspers assumes recruit errors were made, and punishment was due. But he never sees a thing. When he begins to discover the origin of these "unseen" marches by exploring the woods beyond the barracks, he soon realizes there is much more to fear than the drill instructors.
The perils of basic training are brutal, but cannot compare to the deadly occurrences that literally shake the grounds and alter reality.
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BEYOND THE BARRACKS
By Nelson Baker
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Nelson Baker
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIn the darkness they walked, rifles in their grasp, fear in their eyes, but ready for anything. Their camouflaged uniforms were ragged, torn, and bloody, like they had been in combat for many hours, but by no means did they give you the impression that they were fatigued. They were as alert and responsive as ever.
Within the rapture of the woods, the two young, soon to be marines, listened to every possible clamor, any hint of an unfamiliar sound coming out from the stillness and the seemingly peacefulness of the night.
The younger looking of the two, with blood covering his entire right arm, led the way through the thick brush. Though recruit Danbury would never say it in words, especially not to his partner in arms, he was hesitant, unsure of himself. Terrified.
Behind him, his comrade recruit Demarco appeared to be about twenty-two, and carried his weight of two hundred and thirty pounds well. He looked like a corrigible, seasoned military man on the hunt for the enemy, only there was an uneasiness in him, in his eyes.
Coming up to an opening in the trees, they stopped in their tracks.
"I don't hear anything." The younger recruit tilted his head to listen more attentively.
"We were just here. Where did everyone go?"
"Oh my God. They can't all be ... can they?" He looked him in the eyes.
The distinct sound of something moving in still water caught their attention. They nodded at each other, agreeing that this was their signal. It was time to move.
Before Danbury knew what was going on, the butt of an M16A2 military-issue rifle rose slowly over the head of his partner, who had been at the rear. The holder of the rifle ascended up from behind him, silent like a ninja, with his chiseled, hardened features, and used both arms to crack it straight down over the top of his head. Demarco fell flat on his face, instantly unconscious, as Danbury turned his head around in disbelief.
This man, wearing a USMC drill instructor cover, lowered his rifle until it was aiming at the back of his head. His uniform was sopping wet from swamp water. "I'd drop that weapon if I were you, kid," he warned, without looking up at him.
He threw down his rifle without hesitation.
"You didn't really think you could stop me now, did you?" he said to Demarco, who was lying on the ground, barely moving.
He pulled the trigger, blasting sound into the quiet of the night. The shot bore into the same place that had already began bleeding from the former blow, only much deeper into his brain. Fluids spat out onto the marines' face, like someone had shot him with a blood-filled Super Soaker squirt gun.
Recruit Danbury took off in the direction of the aperture in the woods.
"Where are you going? Never leave your wounded behind, recruit!" He grabbed the lifeless body of recruit Demarco by the collar of his shirt, dragging him with one hand, and followed after him. "This night has a destiny. Death is your only escape from this place. That's right, join your fellow recruits in the swamps of Parris Island."
He knew, as soon as he saw the murky waters, that his way home was to the right and down the now visible path, leading to serenity.
Another splash in the swamp kept him from leaving. He knew that there must be someone still alive; maybe it was one of his friends. He couldn't just run. He needed a rifle.
Halfway into the mud, inches from the onset of the swamp, he saw one. Knowing that a killer would arrive and claim his next victim at any moment, he dove for it, grabbed it as he hit the ground, and rolled over and onto his feet again.
Standing ten feet from him was the drill instructor turned murderer, his rifle in his left hand pointing downward. Opening his right hand, he released his dead, with a swift thud to the dirt.
"You came to the right place, recruit. This is where it all ends. Are you ready to meet your fate?" he asked with his deep, gritty voice.
The sound of someone trying to come up for air came from behind the recruit, and then more splashing. Frantic cries, gurgling, and choking echoed in the night as a broken melody of agony.
Time was precious. In seconds, those few aspiring marines that were still alive would drown, unless Danbury could find it in himself to fire, killing a man for the first time in his eighteen years. But he knew he had to do it. If ever there was the right time to take another man's life, this was it.
"No sergeant, I think it's your time to die," he said, and pulled the trigger. Empty. The original owner of the rifle must have run out of ammo.
He had no words left to say, with escape no longer being an option.
The drill instructor began walking toward him, slowly raising his weapon. "No, I insist. You first."
33 YEARS LATER
Deep in thought, recruit Darryl Jaspers gazed out the window by his bunk on this seventh day of training for the United States Marine Corps. It was "lights out" for Platoon 3146 in Charlie Company on this fervent, muggy August night, only he couldn't sleep.
Parris Island, South Carolina, a place best known for one thing- some of the toughest military training in the world. Every year, more than fifteen thousand young men and women submit themselves to this grueling, life changing experience. Each one of them hope to achieve one goal of many to follow, which is to graduate and earn the title marine.
Recruit Jaspers wanted this challenge since he was fourteen, just four years prior, when he saw it advertised on television for the first time. It portrayed a small fragment of what basic training was like. Since that day, he knew he would one day be on a bus leading to a place so few have ventured. He wanted to prove that he was something special, someone with a little bit of extra drive and determination. He wanted to show the world that he was anything but ordinary.
Always in top shape, Jaspers hovered at around 190-195 pounds, and stood at a favorable 5'11. His jet black hair could make any girl turn their head, that is, when he had hair.
His opportunity had arrived, and he was ecstatic. Many nights, such as this one, he had so much going on in his head that he deprived himself of hours of sleep, but it had little affect on him. His focus was relentless, and failure was not an option for him.
There was so much to learn, so much to remember. Wanting to be on top of his training at all times, Jaspers would try to replay every significant scenario of the day in his mind, so that the next time he was faced with having to negotiate a particular obstacle or consider the answer to a specific historical fact, he would have committed it to memory.
He didn't necessarily want to stand out, rather show the drill instructors that he could handle anything they threw at him, and with as much composure as possible. He wanted to gain their respect, but it was going to take time. After all, he was still just a recruit in the early stages of transformation.
Leaning his freshly shaven head against the pane, recruit Jaspers brought his arm up to see the time on his black, digital military watch. It was 2317 hours, or 11:17 pm, still enough time to get a few good hours of sleep before reveille.
Outside in the distance, the stomping of boots hitting the pavement in unison came to life. As Darryl listened, the cadence became a little louder, and a little closer. It was a platoon marching in perfect harmony with one another, except it didn't belong- not now, not at this time of night.
He was uncertain as to what he was hearing, knowing how tired he was and how something like this was actually prohibited. Recruits are required to receive eight hours of sleep every night, though once in a while a drill instructor takes the chance of being reprimanded or worse by his commanding officer for the purpose of getting his platoon in line. This was understandable, even to a new recruit such as himself.
What he did not understand was why any drill instructor would march his platoon without regard, without even trying to be unheard and at this late an hour. If he was smart, it seemed to him, he would make sure his recruits had "go fasters" on, or sneakers, so that the sound of a heel hitting the pavement would be muffled. That is, indeed, if this was what it sounded like.
Then again, what did he know? He was only a recruit.
In the rack next to Jaspers, recruit Paniagua got up and joined his friend at the window. "Hey man. You still up, you freak?" he smiled.
Roberto Paniagua was 100% Brazilian but born and raised in Salem, Massachusetts. His parents lived most of their lives in Porto Seguro, which is known as the birthplace of Brazil. They enjoyed many years together enjoying beautiful seascapes, year round sunshine, and breathtaking natural wonders in a real-life paradise. But they were not financially stable, not for a long time.
With a newborn child on the way, they knew they had to make a decision that may affect the future of their child. They set off for America.
"Listen. Do you hear that?" asked Jaspers.
Paniagua, in his green t-shirt and skivvies, which is required nightwear for all recruits, took a glance around, with his hands on his hips.
The cadence stopped.
"I don't know dude, you're probably just not getting enough sleep. What did you hear?"
Jaspers leaned back onto his rack. "Either I'm hearing things or there's a platoon outside practicing drill."
"I just heard it Paniagua."
"The only DI that's crazy enough to do that would be good ole Sgt. Hack," said Paniagua.
Sergeant Hack was the senior drill instructor of the platoon. There were three instructors assigned to every platoon, occasionally four. The senior DI was the toughest, the meanest, always the most intimidating. And what he said, went.
He stood at 5'10, shorter than some of the recruits in the platoon, but it didn't matter in the least. At twenty-eight, he was one of the youngest drill instructors. Nonetheless, he commanded the utmost respect from his peers and his students of war. He had a presence; there was a fearlessness to him, unmatched even by other marines.
There is something about an instructor's cover that makes it seem like you are looking at some kind of machine, like a terminator, not just a man. Maybe it's the shape, how it indents on both sides, accenting your face to look somehow, more fierce. It also adds close to a foot to your height.
Jaspers laughed. "He is whacked, isn't he? And I mean that as a compliment."
"But you gotta admit, we must be getting the best training on the island."
"You know what? Every one of these drill instructors are maniacs. They all have that same look in their eyes. You know, that look only a hardcore marine has," said Jaspers.
"Or a serial killer." Paniagua snickered.
"Whatever that look is, I want it."
"Soon enough man; its only been a week. Give it a couple years and some battle ribbons or something. You'll get there."
"That's what I'm shooting for, you know, to be a drill instructor."
"I know. You've told me this a million times. I just feel bad for the recruits who will have to take orders from you. Just don't kill anyone," Paniagua joked.
It was only three and a half years ago when he and Jaspers met for the first time. They were both in their junior year at Salem High and it was on this day that a bond between two friends had formed that could never be undone.
The night before, some kids from the school were having a house party in the city of Lynn, just a few miles away, and it quickly turned violent. Most of the kids at the party had been friends, but there were a few outsiders, a few new faces. Before you knew it, bottles of Vodka were almost fi nished, beer cans were piling up in a corner on the fl oor, and people were starting to get sick. Teenagers typically have trouble knowing what their limits are. Two or three kids had already left, having drank themselves into an oblivion. One of the better looking girls at the apartment was clearly drunk, but she had no intention of leaving anytime soon.
Sara Forner had blond hair with ponytails, a look that you would more likely see in a porno than in real life. She had on tight jeans and a belly shirt, but not for long.
When it was about time for everyone to leave for the night, Sara was lying on the couch, in a deep sleep. Nick, who was one of the new faces in town, walked in and took advantage of the situation, and the pretty girl who was alone in the living room.
Those who were still at the party were either passed out in other rooms or hanging out on the deck, just outside. When they finally heard the screaming, they came in and saw Sara on the floor with blood on her nose and naked, except for her bra. Nick had just begun to take down his pants.
They surrounded him in seconds and beat him, unconscious.
Sara was a good friend of theirs, and a former girlfriend of John Rathe, who made it a point to watch out for her even though the reason he dumped her was because she drank too much. Regardless, he still cared about her, and something like this was never to be taken lightly.
Since Sara would not be sober for a few more hours, as well as most of the other underage kids there, they knew that calling the cops would not have been resourceful, even in a situation like this one. So they decided a beating would have to suffice.
When he regained consciousness, they let him get up and put his clothes back on. After that, John dragged him over to the door and literally kicked him out the front door, and onto his face. As he picked himself up off the ground, he smiled, showing no remorse for his actions.
The next day at school, Paniagua and Rathe were talking just before class outside by the entrance doors of Salem High School. Rathe was explaining to him what had happened the night before at his house.
Seconds later, Nick came out of nowhere and blindsided Rathe, taking him to the ground by his neck. He had with him three friends who were older and much bigger than either one of them.
One of the others kicked Paniagua in the back from behind. Turning around, he threw a quick punch to thwart his attacker's next move. It was weak, because he was forced to sacrifi ce power for speed, but it did the job. He squared off with his opponent, now ready for anything, ignoring the ache in his back from the shot he had just taken. Rathe was on the ground, getting stomped on severely by Nick and his buddies.
Paniagua landed a couple of good shots before the rest of the others came over to join the action. It was too much for him, and eventually he was overpowered all the way to the ground.
They surrounded him, but were unaware that Darryl Jaspers was coming strong and fast in their direction, with a good sized rock in one hand. Coming up behind them, he swept the legs of the biggest one, dropping him down hard. Then he used his rock and smashed the nose of another, taking out two guys in seconds.
Now it was Paniagua who re-emerged to join his new partner in a battle they would never forget. They threw punches like never before, and won the fight.
After it was over, they looked over to where Rathe had been lying. He was motionless. They looked at each other, and walked over to find that he was no longer with them. He was dead. Paniagua knew that there was a good possibility he would also have been lying there next to his friend in the same manner, if Jaspers hadn't been there to help.
"We'll get there," Jaspers assured his friend.
"Yea, we just have to stay on the right path."
"Hey, dickheads? Wanna shut the hell up so we can get some shuteye?" shouted recruit Scruggs from the bunk above.
"Who is that? Is that you Scruggs?" said Paniagua.
"Yeah, you got something to say to me Punyowwwa?" he said, joking around.
Paniagua laughed. "You sound retarded man."
Even though this was how his name was pronounced, never was it accentuated so much, until now.
"That was good. I needed that." Jaspers said, laughing. "Okay Scruggs, we'll give you what you want."
"Thank God. And good night."
Excerpted from BEYOND THE BARRACKS by Nelson Baker Copyright © 2011 by Nelson Baker. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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