The Essex Gargan and Other Friends

The boy is hit, lit up against the sky, like a sign, like a neon sign
And he crumples, drops into the gutter, legs twitching
The flood swells his clothes and delivers him on, delivers him on
Sometimes, when I look deep in your eyes, I swear I can see your soul

The last thing I expected to see when I joined the army was to be in the centre of London facing a three-hundred foot angry lizard creature. I think back to my training at Catterick and learning the basics of battle drills and field craft. It’s a struggle to remember any courses about dealing with colossal, fire-spitting, raging balrogs. 

Islamic terrorists, yes. This feller, no.

I fire a quick burst at the giant beast and duck back in to the steps down to the station in front of Lilywhites. A gigantic roar obliterates every other noise in the vicinity. The noise of artillery, shouting and falling masonry are drowned out by the prehistoric bellowing. The guy next to me, Jonny Field is in tears. All of us are acutely aware that this is most likely our last day amongst the living. I’m surprised no one else has broken down.

The sound that comes out of its mouth is quite simply the most terrifying sound you could ever hear. It’s an equal pitch but the volume is truly incredible. Where the hell have these creatures been hiding for thousands of years?

Last week genuinely feels like a lifetime ago. I was so proud following my graduation, my mum watching me pass out in Harrogate. Her face during the parade made me think I was now a man, the man of the house. It took literally one day before the creatures emerged from the sea and angrier than…well, angrier than anything ever seen on Earth.

Shouted instructions are flying around but no one appears capable of paying heed to them. I lift my head up above the wall and see a sight of unreal carnage. Thousands of troops are firing at the creature but it is having no effect. It has scales that must be armour-plated they are that hard. Nothing has made a difference, the cost of the operation must be in the billions already.

Rapier missiles fly metres above my head towards the creature which emits a huge fireball that engulfs the missiles resulting in massive explosions. Dozens of troops are incinerated at the base of the Shaftesbury Memorial, their screams cut in half as they turn to ash.

I don’t know how we can beat these things. They are indestructible.

It all started four days ago off the Southern coast of China. An enormous, ancient thing crawled out of the sea. It looked like a long, muscly snake with ten legs and a head reminiscent of a komodo dragon. Only a hundred times the size. 

It emerged out of the Shizi Ocean and immediately began wrecking the city of Guangzhou. We were at the base watching Sky News and it felt like watching Godzilla or some mad video game. Factories and warehouses along the river were being simply swished down with a thrust of its tale or a sweeping paw.  

I have to admit, the lads at the barracks found it quite funny despite the obvious human cost. For many people it was seen as karma for the Chinese government. For the rest of the day we gormlessly stared at the box as the Chinese armed forces tried to stop the creature. The attempts to censor the footage were futile as Hong Kong TV helicopters swooped in and filmed the action.

By the time midnight approached in England, morning was rising in China. Also rising were three more creatures and a global panic. One of the entities sprung from the basin of the River Plate, another off the coast of Malta and another near Angola. 

All of the monsters were gargantuan, beyond the comprehension of anyone. The theories about where they came from abounded. Were they the results of the pollution of the oceans, an American genetic experiment gone wrong (or right), or a punishment from God? Literally everyone on earth was discussing it and the fear if more beasts emerged.

Grim fascination enraptured the globe as armed forces of varying lethality battled with the monsters. The Chinese government were bombarding the serpentesque creature with immense firepower. The creature simply evaded the missiles and ducked back under water. The might of the Red Army was having no discernible impact and they were caught off guard when a huge leonine animal was destroying Shanghai’s central business district.

In Angola, government troops were soon overran as a blocky animal, like a bison multiplied in size by six hundred, wildly rampaged. Television cameras showed hundreds of people being flattened. Stampedes occurred in Malta too as people fled from a half-eagle/half-kangaroo resulting in a huge loss of human life.

I glance up again over the wall and within a second I see a soldier being flicked by the hand by the creature, He flies off, almost comically, head first through the “E” of a giant Netflix neon sign at Piccadilly Circus. Exploding shards of glass spatter down upon the street. For a moment the firing stops as people watch the solder being embedded headfirst into the giant screen with his legs dangling down. 

I notice a few troops staring up at the monster and making the mistake of looking into its eyes. After a few seconds firing erupts from all angles and I duck down below stairs again.

Please, please don’t say they have made eye contact with it. Jesus, no,

More and more of the creatures began appearing – Alaska, Vladivostock, Seoul, Helsinki, Alexandria, Chennai, Mogadishu, Providence, Genoa and the rest. That was when strange things began happening. It started initially in Angola where impromptu uprisings began in the vicinity of the monster and within hours enormous gun battles raged across the country. Most people assumed it was a coup within the chaos of the monster attack. Angola was now in the midst of civil war as well as trying to stop the berserk ogre destroying downtown Luanda.

It was in the footage from Malta where the incomprehensible truth emerged. Maltese troops were halting in the presence of their abominable creature, not shooting at it. They would drift into a brief, hypnotic spell. Within a few seconds the soldiers would turn around and commence firing on their own side. It was almost as if the creatures had telepathically converted the soldiers by bending their minds to their side. Valletta had turned into a battleground of street-to-street combat. 

And thus it was around the world. The two monsters attacking Guangzhou and Shanghai had not only turned thousands of troops onto their side battling government forces. But the events had inspired uprisings across the country with Tibetans, counter-revolutionaries, Uighurs, and democrats all engaging in armed battles throughout the country. China was truly ablaze and quickly imploding.

By the time our monster, nicknamed the Essex Gargan by the press, had appeared in the London estuary the heads of the armed forces were as ready as they could be. Strict instructions not to make eye contact were rammed down our throats. The whole of the British Armed Forces were drafted in to deal with the creature and any others that may arrive. There were fears that the brooding scorpion that was tormenting Amsterdam by firing flames from its five stingers would hop over the channel.

Thus, for over twenty-four hours we have been fighting this creature in the streets of London. The Olympic Stadium was obliterated in a bizarre effort to lure and trap the creature in it. However, our defence was as porous as the West Ham back line that usually plays there. The stadium and the nearby aquatic centre were destroyed within minutes and the beast headed towards the centre of London.

My commanding officer is ordering my regiment to attack the left leg of the creature, rumours are abounding that the creature is hobbling. The regiment on the other side of the square is engaging in a firefight with the dozen or so men who have flipped to the creature’s side.

We rush out of the tube station and I look up at the man implanted in the neon signs when he suddenly drops to the floor and crashes to the ground. Instead of going limp, his limbs begin twitching violently and he almost rolls away on countless thousands of shell casings. As he drifts away like an electrified corpse I am stunned by the sight.

Shooting is coming from all sides and the monster has retreated back to Golden Square. Have we got it on the run at last? A rush of adrenaline kicks in and knocks me out of my haze. I run down Sherwood Street and something inside me says this is going to be the end but I am going to try and take out this bastard’s leg before I do.

I reach the park and I see the monster is much closer than I expected, it is barely thirty metres away. I stop, flick my head round and notice that my regiment are still some way behind me. 

The incredible roar once again powers out of the creature’s mouth. It is staggeringly loud and I helplessly shit myself and I feel five years old again. I lift my head up and the monster is hunched over and his face is barely ten metres away from mine. 

I am unable to resist gazing into its eyes. As I do so, everything slows in my mind and I can see my whole past come to life. My mind starts spooling through all the moments of my life – from being born in a hospital in Leeds, my first day of school and meeting my new pals, the Boxing Day when my father walked out forever when I was age ten, my first kiss with Stacey Longbottom in Year Seven, my first proper fight in Year Eleven with some scrote from a rival school, up to my passing out parade a few days ago.

These thoughts seem to last for hours, all the amazing times, the sheer emotional journey is invigorating and I can only be thankful to this creature for sending me this gift. I understand everything it is about being human, from the bitter lows to the joy and passion of the highs. Life can never be the same again.

And all these other humans are trying to murder this creature simply for existing. They are unaware of what they can do for us. I will not accept the death of these glorious, quintessential beings.

My senses for the real world return and I am startled by the explosions erupting nearby. I turn around and see members of my regiment running towards me. Now they are my enemy, the enemies of humanity. I reload my SA80, close my eyes and pledge my life to keep these creatures safe. I open my eyes and head in to battle.

by Martin O’Brien based on Sometimes – James

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