TAN RA. (short story)

A short story based on a creepypasta. Thanks to RobotKumo for the aid & ideas.

”Kinney, is he ready?” Heckstall asked pinning the younger man with his gaze, hoping he solved the task, but expecting him to fail.

”He is, I gotta tell you that something is real dodgy.” Kinney whispered, ”That guy gives me the fucking creeps.”

Heckstall just raised an eyebrow, ”I am going to forget you said that,”

”Haven’t you heard anything of what the police said he said when they found him?” Kinney whispered urgently, ”If that is not -”

”You Kinney, are watching way too much syfy channel.” Heckstall huffed like he was offended, ”Get yourself together, we’re here to do a job. Our job. Science, rememer?” he reminded Kinney with a hand on his shoulder before Heckstall pushed the door open to the room.

”Goodmorning Mr. Raymond.” Heckstall, ”I am doctor Heckstall, and this is doctor Kinney, we’re here to talk with you some.”

Raymond looks up and smiled at the two doctors, ”I know, doctor.” He just said politely.

”Alright,” Kinney said pulling a dictaphone out of his coat pocket, ”Mind if we tape this?”

Raymond looked a little concerned at the tape recorder but then nodded, ”No I don’t mind.”

”Great.” Kinney sat down next to Heckstall, who pulled out a pen and wrote Sergeant Jarvis Raymond and the date on top. He nodded at Kinney who started the recorder. ”You look a little on edge Raymond, there’s nothing to be nervous about, we’re just here to talk a little to you about your mental state.” He smiled his best doctor smile, ”It’s procedure.”

”Ah alright doc.” Raymond seemed to relax a little, but his lips were still a fine bloodless line of worry.

”Okay lets start with the easy ones.” Heckstall said softly. ”You are Sergeant Jarvis James Raymond, Born 1947 in Salem Oregon, right?”

”Yes Sir.” Raymond said, and added ”Of 3rd batallion, 9th brigade.”

”You look pretty young to be Sergeant, Raymond. How is that?” Heckstall asked scribbling away on his notepad.

Raymond’s eyes flickered nervously for a second, and he licked his lips nervously, ”Field promotion, Sir.”

”I see.” Heckstall said with a little nod, ”How old are you?”

”Twenty two.” Raymond just said flatly.

Heckstall and Kinney looked at each other, ”So Raymond,” Kinney said, ”You and your entire squad was listed as M.I.A. What happened?”

”I didn’t go A.WO.L or nothing like that,” Raymond looked shamefully down at his own hands folded on the tabletop. ”But.. I don’t know what happened to them. Please you have to believe me.”

”Take it easy, Raymond.” Heckstall said shooting the young soldier another smile. ”We’re just here to evaluate your mental state, not whether you ran from battle. That will be for the tribunal to decide but even then I don’t think you’ll be court-martialed.” Kinney leaned in and looked at Raymond with another perfect doctor smile, ”Carry on Raymond. Tell us what happened.”

Raymond looked a little uncomfortable but more relaxed, ”I’m not crazy doctor,” He said softly shyly, ”Yesterday was crazy, marching into Laos was crazy.” He paused and looked away from the doctors. ”I don’t know what happened, it was all so damn fast. And we had to flee deeper into the jungle to hide. I know it wasn’t exactly brave, but.. but we would have been sitting ducks,” He turned his dark doelike eyes to look at the doctors, ”We thought we would be safer in the thick vegetation, maybe the vietcong would have just a hard time seeing us as we had them.. I.. we.. But we got lost in the jungle.” He smiled bloodless, ”I can’t tell you how, but the compass weren’t working, and we were afraid to move too fast because of as you know the vietcong would make the most brutal traps, right when you thought everything was safe, SLAM” Raymond slammed his hand down into the table for dramatic effect, ”You were impaled or sliced in half or -”

”We get the point Raymond.” Heckstall said firmly.

Raymond calmed a little again, ”Sorry.” He nodded to himself, ”Have you ever felt claustrophobic? Like so much it was almost crushing you? Trapped. – That was how it felt moving through the jungle that day. We didn’t know if we were going east or west, if we were walking back or further into Laos. We couldn’t hear any battle, and we found that the radio was either busted or I don’t know.. not working, it only received static.” Raymond rubbed his hands, ”We all knew in our bones that we wouldn’t make it out of the jungle alive. It felt mostly like a fish struggling on a hook, the more he struggles the more he speeds up the inevitable. I have no other words for it.” He rubbed his face with his hands, ”After a while we started to suspect that we were walking in circles, the same large rock, the same dead animal, and the same little hut, none of us wanted to go in there, it smelled like something had died in there some time ago. It stank of death and decay, so we stayed away, I guess that was when we sorta began talking about something funky going on with the forest. Anyway – Private Ricks had this idea that he’d cut large x’es into trees, break large branches – plant markers, and that way we could tell if we were walking in circles or not.” Raymond looked haunted and stopped talking.

”Are you okay?” Kinney asked.

Raymond swallowed nervously, ”We kept seeing them. The markers.”

”So you were walking in circles like you thought you were?” Kinney said.

”No doc, it didn’t matter what way we tried to go, east, west.. new trail, through the thick.. the markers were there. Turn left there was a marker, turn right there was another, go backwards, there would be a marker, even if there hadn’t been one before. I swear the jungle was messing with is, keeping us trapped. We walked about for hours, trying to come up with new plans how to get out of there, over time as we got more tired, the plans got more and more ridiculous, but we were ready to try anything. But everytime we thought we had found a way out, there were the damn markers. Maybe we suspected that something was off about the jungle in the beginning, but we had no idea just how messed up it was before we left the markers.” He shook his head, ”It was a giant fucking maze and we were the lab rats.” Raymond took a deep breath, ”Doc I gotta ask you something, can I ask you something?”

”Sure.”

”How’s my family?” Raymond’s smile got softer and more genuine, ”You know, I had a baby girl, June of last year.”

”They’re good.” Heckstall said quickly and offered yet another clinical smile.

Raymond sighed of relief, ”Good.” Then he cleared his throat and his soft smile made way for a expressionless mask of a man who had seen too many things he should not have. ”The jungle – It got even worse at night.” Heckstall noted down that Raymond’s lips trembled and he was wringing his hands. ”I don’t know if you have ever been in the jungle but it’s pretty noisy, you know. Animals, birds, stuff breaking off and falling down. Have you ever heard of a silent jungle? I can answer that for you, cause no you havent. I have no explanation for it, and it was creepy as fuck.” Raymond smiled apologetic, ”Sorry.”

”It’s fine.” Kinney said urging Raymond to continue.

”That was when the men started to break down,” Raymond paused again, wet his lips, ”Can I have some water please?” His eyes flickered nervous from the door to the doctors.

”Sure,” Kinney said and got up and went to get Raymond something to drink.

”They just fell apart,” Raymond said with a little timid voice, smiling up at Kinney quickly as he handed him a glass of water. Raymond downed it in one go, and rolled his shoulders. ”I mean it was like the jungle had absorbed all life, this one guy Rodriguez he claimed he saw red eyes in the dark, another guy Turner he said he saw his girlfriend in the forest. And we all knew that he’d be on the next plane home cause his girlfriend had died some months earlier. I had personally seen the telegram and all.” Raymond stopped and took a deep breath and makes an almost imperceptible sob. ”But none of that was as bad as the goddamn silent jungle, and as what was to come.” He whispered, his voice trembling.

Kinney fought the childish urge to pull his feet up under him. Just studying Raymond as he tried to compose himself to finish his story. He looked so broken and scared, and Kinney honestly didn’t know what to think about any of it.

”Tur-Turner was the first to go into the hut, he said his girlfriend was calling him.” Raymond’s hands wrung so hard how that his knuckles was white. ”Jackson went with him, I don’t know I think he said something about asking for directions, and not letting Turner act like a complete fool.” Raymond shook his head, ”Most of the men would find some reason or another to go to the hut, and we decided..” Raymond let out a sob, trying his hardest to control himself not to lose it in front of other people. ”God help me,” He mumbled, ”I think we would have killed each other right there, I tried to reason with them but it was like they didn’t smell the death in the air anymore. And eventually I had to admit to myself that I had lost control completely, not just over the situation, but over the men as well. So we decided that those who wanted to stay at the hut would stay, and I would try to find a way out and come back for them. Honestly then I didn’t want to be with in leagues of that hut, it was just wrong, twisted. But then again everything was wrong.. Why did I let them stay at the hut? I don’t know.” Raymond looked down at his hands, clenching his jaw trying to control his impending panic attack. ”So -” He croaked out ”Most wanted to stay at the hut, only Allen went with me to find a way out, so we started walking agreeing that we ignored the markers and the tricks it played with us, that maybe we’d find our way out. He was smart like that Allen. Trial and error. But the jungle felt like a fucking tomb, humid like a normal jungle, but it still chilled you to the bone. Like your entire being, your very soul was frozen. And with only me and Allen it felt mostly like the jungle was closing in over us, like it tried to swallow us whole. I don’t know about Allen, but I am not a queer, no sir. But I swear I have never needed to hold on to another person this much. And when we heard a scream, or what we thought was a scream I can’t be sure. We just ran, sprinted stumbling through the thick.” Raymond paused, ”Like scared rabbits.”

Heckstall scribbled something down and looked up at Raymond with that perfect smile in place. ”And then?”

”Well -” Raymond hesitated for a second, ”I am the only one who came out okay? I am not sure what happened to Allen his arm must have slipped from my grasp, I don’t remember – but suddenly he was gone.. He was just gone, I swear to God.” Raymond held a trembling hand to his heart, ”And I just stumbled on, running blind through the forest, and the next thing I know – well you know that story.” He looked away shyly away ”Now I’m here, and I just want to go back home to my family, and hear another word about jungles.”

”Okay,” Heckstall said pocketing his ball-pen, ”That was certainly some story you have there. We’re almost done here – I only have one more question; Are you absolutely sure you’re Jarvis Raymond?”

Raymond looked up at Heckstall with tired annoyance and frustration, ”Haven’t you heard a word I said?”

”I believe you,” Kinney said swiftly, and would have kicked Heckstall under the table if he wasn’t afraid that could cost him his job. ”You seem like an honest sorts.”

”Thanks doc.” Raymond, ”Oh but the others, they could still be at the hut and – have there been any word in either case, I mean I think they might have all killed each other, or they could have built a fucking bonfire and sung qumbaya all night, I don’t know.”

”No, no word I’m afraid.” Kinney said with a professional smile. ”Thank you for talking to us,” He picked up the recorder and said ”This concludes the interwiew with Sergeant Jarvis Raymond.” And then turned it off.

”Thank you for your time,” Heckstall said, handing the paper to Kinney as they left, expecting him to deal with this crackpot.

Kinney rubbed his eyes, staring at the words on the file, the picture taken of Jarvis Raymond from his service record when he enlisted in 68, and then looked at the picture taken when they had brought him in here. Apart from the quality it was almost the same picture. He just had no explanation for this, this was without a doubt the same Jarvis Raymond, his fingerprints matched, his blood type, everything. ”What the hell happened to you, man?” Kinney asked the pictures like those haunted eyes on the computer monitor could answer him.

Kinney took a sip of his cooling coffee, and lit himself another cigaret, he figured he deserved it today. He sighed and started typing.

Conclusion: This man is indeed the Jarvis Raymond who was reported  M.I.A in the jungle of Laos in September 1969. His answers to any test question is always coherent and calm, and all data checks out. None have any explanation as to what really happened in that jungle in 1969, so in that aspect this investigation is inconclusive. My colleague Heckstall whom I preformed the initial interview with, strongly recommend that he should be kept at facility 206. And I agree with that to some extend. I will however have a last session with him tomorrow before I sign him over, because someone has to tell him that the Vietnam war ended over 35 years ago, and that someone could just as well be me.

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