Editor’s note, 9/11: Since we published this excerpt from Dennis Maulsby’s Free Fire Zone, the book has received two national recognitions. It was a finalist for best science fiction work in the American Book Fest’s eighth annual International Book Awards. More recently, the book was awarded a silver medal in the science fiction category in the Military Writers Society of America’s annual contest.
Dennis Maulsby, a native Iowan and current resident of Ames, has had his book of linked short stories released by Prolific Press. Welcome to the Free Fire Zone, also known as a free kill zone. In Vietnam, it was enemy territory, all the friendlies and neutrals moved out. Anyone found in such an area was considered hostile, a legitimate target that could be killed on sight, no questions asked. Each of the linked short stories in the book originate from this zone, any subject, any genre fair game. Arranged in chronological order, sixteen stories, each introduced by a poem, follow the life of Lieutenant Rod Teigler, from combat in Vietnam through a civilian life plagued with a re-wired brain. Teigler’s war experiences, helped along by government experimentation, leave him with a severe personality disorder. His mind now shared with an alternate berserker reptilian personality struggling to become dominant.
On Saturday, February 11, at the Ames Public Library, Maulsby will read from Free Fire Zone.
We wade through jungle shadows. Sweat drips
off our tiger-striped fatigues to wet red Asian soil.
Boots scuff, release fermented biting odors.
Butterflies blink wing eyes, shimmy dragon tails.
Insects in droning click-bodied clouds flutter,
nip, creep. Saw-toothed leaves and vine thorns
scarify our necks and arms. The clack of hornbills,
the chortle of long-tail macaques set the tempo.
The bass drum beat of mortars firing slaps
our cheeks. Explosions shake triple canopy trees
their creaking limbs a pizzicato of violin and cello.
Bodies crazy-dance to the brass cymbal screech
of slicing shrapnel. We hear the tremolo drumstick
smack of jacketed bullets pierce canvas, cloth,
flesh. The splintered oboe thunk-grunt of metal
embedding in wood creates jittering chords.
Smoke-curdled air quivers with the clarinet warble
of blunt-nosed ricochets. We dying give up
a final fugue of voices. Jumbled echoes fade,
weep off elephant grass, strangling fig, twisted lianas.
Published June 2013, Music in the Air anthology of the TallGrass Writers’ Guild of Chicago. Also published in Free Fire Zone, November 2016.