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Odd Stories: Lev, The Church, and The Sins of Man

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Crunch, Crunch, Crunch. Sn-ap.

Lev took a moment to glance down at his boot, noting the sound that broken the monotonous tune of his boot crunching against snow. He glanced around, and upwards, at the trees above, and then the moon past them while taking a drag from his blunt. He knew he'd been in a forest, the fact that with half a foot of snow on the ground, he hadn't really expected to walk on anything but snow, the noise alone causing his instincts to flare up, as if he'd stumbled upon a trap. A few scant moments later, his nerves cooled, and took another hit of the small, smoldering lit up paper. His form sank into the snow slightly, on account of the black juggernaut armor that donned his form, a Heavy Gorka Helmet hanging from his vest, which was replaced upon his head by a simple white poncho. An AKM and Praetorian M300 hung on his shoulders, left and right, respectively. He reached onto his belt with his right hand, while his left held his blunt, briefly raising up the hem of his red quilted jacket, to access a canteen that had been partially covered by it. Unbuckling the canteen from his belt, he flipped the cap open with his thumb, he took a long sip, exhaling once afterwards with a pleased sigh. Reconnecting the belt, he continued walking, not bothering to readjust his belt or jacket. 

After nearly five minutes of walking, the forest, with it's trees that might as well have been black pillars holding up the sky, opened up, and cleared away ahead. Taking a moment to teeter upon the rim of the clearing, he gazed inwards, leaning against a tree. Ahead, was a small church, it's construction one of traditional style of the Eastern Orthodox manifold, but one would wonder where the small group of attendants come from. As far as Lev knows, there's not a single village in the convenient area. Positioned at the back, the Chernarussian man was able to identify a sizable graveyard behind it, the moon flying high. He held up his right hand, extending his wrist outwards to glance at his watch, the hands and time indicators lit a neon green. Thirty minutes past midnight. Good time to take a break. Slowly, he approached the church, taking a wide-step over the low-bearing stone fence. As he got closer, he noted a singular door at the back that would lead into the church. Sliding the blunt into his mouth, he reached out to push the ancient wooden door open, the door hinges creaking with such agonizing stress that the doorway itself seemed to threaten to collapse upon him. Thankfully, it didn't, and he shut the door behind him.

The roof was caved in, roughly at the middle of it's shape, yet the structure itself was largely intact otherwise, letting in enough moonlight to illuminate a majority of the room. Appearing from a small alcove behind where the preacher would stand, he noted a stairwell up to a second floor. Maybe that's where the priest's office was? Placing a hand on the small, dusty metal stand, upon which an old-looking bible stood. Out of boredom, Lev pulled on the edge of the book, thumbing through the bible, before continuing to walk by as he browsed the pews, which he found strange. The Orthodox didn't usually sit for services, except maybe the old. Was this actually a Protestant Church? He glanced over his shoulder, at the cross that stood lordly over all else within the building, just beyond the preacher's stand. A stone statue sat upon the cross, it's feet rested upon a lower bar, while it's arms were hung prostrate upon the upper bar. Certainly a slavic cross, Lev reasoned, so why the pews? After one last moment of contemplation, he gave a shrug, before sitting down at one of them. Pulling his blunt from his mouth, he looked about. He sighed and exhaled loudly, setting down his MOLLE pack between his legs, looking at his own feet for a moment, before closing his eyes. He inhaled once, absorbing the crisp, cold air that ventured even within the confines of this ruined church. He allowed his senses to focus without his sight, and took in the sheer quiet of nature.


That's when he heard the clattering of wood, and in an instant spun around, the AKM slung around and gripped tightly in his hands as he gazed down the kobra sight. Aiming towards the front of the church, he slowly got up, gazing from his left to right, never letting down his guard, or the weapon, venturing into the center of the of the aisle between the pews again. Slowly, the barrel of the AKM lowered, as he gazed towards a small pile of refuse and wood, painted white by snow. Probably the material that was left behind from the collapse of the roof's center, he figured. Yet, he noted that now, a singular piece of wood, no larger than his leg, was now moved from the pile, having moved snow quite recently as it had not been covered back up, and it scraped the snow off the red carpet underneath his feet. His instincts kicked up again, and he slowly began to back up, and in his peripheral, noticed a human figure to his left. He nearly leapt back into the right(from his perspective) pews, training his weapon on the figure. There, sat at the pew, was a man, his head slightly bowed, and concealed by a black hoodie, wearing darkened jeans. Along his left arm, he could make out the lettering on the hoodie, 'Να κρίνετε, τους νεκρούς.' 

"Who the fuck are you, and how long were you sitting there?" He asked, and the man didn't respond. "I'll ask one more time. I repeat. One more time. Singular. Not plural. No more than one. Less than two, greater than zero. Who are you?" He stated, and yet again, no response. Lev narrowed his eyes, pulling the trigger. A single bullet ripped through the hoodie, and the figure fell onto it's side. A skull fell out of the now perforated hoodie. Lowering the AKM again, he raised an eyebrow. "Sick fucking joke, someone. No wonder I didn't see you. You're already fuckin' dead, and in the pitch black at that." He turned back around, about to sling the AKM. The wood probably just fell from the roof, he assumed. His eyes fell upon his MOLLE pack, and noted a pair of feet sticking out from behind it, one on each side, from the row of pews behind it. Following the feet, his eyes set upon another bowed, sat figure. Reaching out, he pulled the hood back. Another skeleton, another skull rattling along. "Ohhh this fucking guy...." Lev said, his voice tainted with annoyance. He went back to his own row of pews, grabbing his pack as he moved to sit a few rows ahead. "Wait...I should of seen those feet when I sat down." As he turned to face the second skeleton's position, wheeling left, he was met with a third bowing figure, sitting closest to the aisle. Sitting closest to him. Wearing another hoodie, the same hoodie. 'Να κρίνετε, τους νεκρούς.' Reaching out, he punched the third skeleton's head clear across the room, glaring back at the former two, confirming their prior positions. "That weed, I am not buying again from the Not Very Sober Novy Sobor place again...fuck me, missing skeletons and getting spooked, that's just sad." Holding up his hands, he'd realized now that he'd left the blunt down when he'd grabbed his weapon. Seeing it's vanquished form in the aisle, without a flame, he sighed. "Thing was almost done anyway, I guess." Taking a seat in front of the preacher's stand, he glanced around the pews. No more skeletons appearing, just the three he'd discovered. That was enough weed for one evening, he dictated internally.

"Να κρίνετε, τους νεκρούς."

Again, Lev shot up, turning to face the voice that sounded from behind the preacher's podium. There, he came face-to-face with a man, who was certainly shorter than him by a good foot, their heights equalized to allow such a view as a result of the stairs that ascended to the podium. He wore the same damn black hoodie the three skeletons had worn. Lev grasped onto his hip and aimed his Stetchkin APS at the figure. From this angle, he could see there was more than bone underneath this hood. A feint-looking beard, clearly growing back from being shaved atop tanned skin. "Hood off, hands up. Now." He coldly ordered, and the man complied, pulling back his hood in silence, to reveal short, black hair, with a face occupied by dull, green eyes and pointed eyebrows, with a slightly prominent nose. A Takistani man, Lev figured. "This your idea of a joke? I could of shot you, dude. The fuck's wrong with you? Should've made yourself known." Lev chastised the man as he rounded the podium, the Takistani's eyes following him, but otherwise no movement continued. Lev noted that the man had no gear. No backpack, belt, no body armor, not even a weapon. "Dude, you just get robbed? Where's your kit?" He asked, to no reply. "I want your name." The man pursed his lips. 'Malang. My name is Malang Teishaum.' He spoke in a thick accent, his english harsh but understandable, somewhat. The name, though sparked in Lev's mind. Did he know this man? "Okay, Malang. What is this?" He asked, gesturing with his free hand to the church. "Your sick joke? Art statement? Seems you're sharing clothes with the skeletons. Did-did you kill these people?" Malang merely shook his head. "They are simply here, as am I. They are dead, as am I." Lev spoke up, correcting the man. "You will be if you keep fucking with me. Why are you here?" Malang gave a shrug. "I am dead. Where else would I go?" Lev sighed, lowering his pistol, holstering it. "Yeah, sure you are. Okay, look, gun's away. We're friends, see?" He held up his hands, before placing his hands on his own hips after a second. This was a trick, he had a second holster on the back of his belt, with a Glock 18 on full auto. If Malang tried anything, he'd eat a 30 round magazine. Malang simply gave another shrug. "Okay, Malang. I can tell you're not all there, but I intend to sleep here tonight. So I need to know I can trust you, and that you're not going to try some shit." The Takistani man merely turned. "Why sleep so close to the dead? Have you not seen the graveyard, and the pews, Lev Yelagin, son of Bohumir and Maria?" Lev sort of just stared at the man, before speaking up. "I-I'm sorry? I didn't give you my name, and how did you-"I am dead. We all know each other in death, eventually." Lev contemplated reaching for one of his weapons. This guy knew too much. "Do I know you from somewhere, Malang? Were you with the NHF? Lopatino Survivors? The House mercs? SDF? How did you know my parents' name?" Malang exhaled loudly through his nose, the edges of his mouth turning upwards. "I tell you again and again. I am dead. The dead all know each other. If you wish, I could tell you which of, if any, of your siblings have passed-" Lev reached out, grabbing the man's collar, the Takistani showing no emotion from the effort. "Quit. Fucking. With. Me." Lev held up his other first, slowly lifting the 5'5 man up to his towering 6'5 face. "Who told you my name? Who told you any of that?" As soon as Malang opened his mouth, Lev let the man go, taking a few steps back as he pinched his nose. "I am dead-" "I aM dEaAaAd, aND tHe DeAd kNoW eAcH oThEr." He mocked, utterly annoyed, Malang continued after a moment. "But yes, Lev Yelagin. You do know me. I met you back when you were part of the 3rd Airborne Special Operations Battalion of the Chernarrusian Defense Forces, dubbed the 'Jacks' by the Americans for your versatility." Lev narrowed his eyes at the man, raising an eyebrow. "I didn't-do anything to you, on deployment in Takistan, did I? Like, I mean, we had to do some fucked up shit, you know, but I didn't blow up your village, or-or accidentally kill someone you knew, did I? Were you the guy whose sheep I tagged with a 5.56 during that ambush? I-" The Takistani held up a hand. "More recent. Go back to right before your battalion was overrun, in Tisy, as the hordes of undead rushed against your encampment's gun lines." Lev's head quizzically tilted. "I...I don't remember any Takistani men at that time. My guys didn't interact with any civilians, we just...were there as part of a deployment. We shored up defenses and did long-distance ops. Only time I even spoke to one of the civilians was during the evac, when this guy tried to pull a gun on me as I was getting in a military Humvee. Put a .45 to my head and didn't see my rifle underneath my rain cover, or didn't care. He was some Takistani-...." At this moment, Lev got quiet, sloooowly reaching for his Stetchkin. 

"I told you I was dead. You unloaded your weapon into me. 'I had it coming', was what you said to me." 

"Let's say I believe you. Let's say I fucking believe you. Shouldn't you be in muzzie heaven? What? Is the waiting list for Allah and his virgins long enough that you gotta sit for two years in this dingy church, which by the way isn't even Islamic." The man shook his head. "I'm not the one who should be asked 'why are you here'....I should ask you that." The incredulous look on Lev's face almost seemed insultingly blatant to his otherwise cool temperament. "I'm just looking for a place to sleep, dude, I..I mean, what?" The Takistani man walked towards Lev now, who drew his sidearm. "Or were you drawn to this place? Perhaps you felt the slightest need to repent for your sins? For all the things you've had to do. That Chedaki man, who had no weapon and was surrendering to you? How about after the apocalypse? What about that woman who you killed, for her cans of food as you fled to the mountains? How about when you came down? Those two Italians who saved you would regret saving you if they knew. The first thing you did was mug that man of his canteen and his coat. He died, you know. He died. You weren't even thirsty, or cold." "Yeah, I did." Another voice rang out, and Lev turned. The first skeleton, the skeleton he'd shot, was replaced with a sitting man, who slowly got up. Pulling back his hood, he recognized the man as the one he'd done just that to. An American, one who reminded him of that todgering fool Chris. "We both know you only followed that Chris guy around for so long because we were so similar. You felt bad. Yet you'd go on to do worse, right bud? Like how 'bout that other fella, before you met Chris? That Englishman. That guy who you and a few others held up, and he took off running. Your buddies told you he wasn't worth shooting, he didn't have anything good on him. You popped his kneecaps at 300 meters, bud. Then, as he crawls away begging for his life, you put two in his back. Your boys called you '310' after that, for the number on his jacket.' Another voice now joined the symphony of persecution as Lev raised his pistol at Malang, withdrawing his Glock to cover the second man. "And you liked that name so much you use it to this day, bruv." From the second Skeleton's position, a third man approached. Tall, African-descendend and British. "Shut the fuck up, all of you. I don't, you're all just fucking with me...no, no it's the fucking weed, ain't it? That fucking shit was laced, I knew it." Now it was Malang's turn to tilt his head. "If that was the case, you'd of felt these effects sooner don't you think? You smoked that weed for nearly a week. That's just your last one, back there." Sweat began to drip down Lev's face. Malang, now, found himself near point-blank with Lev's Stetchkin, the barrel pushing into his chest. The second and third closed in, and Lev opened fire. Pulling the triggers of both weapons, a combined 50 pistol shots rebounded through the old church, brightening it up in a symphony of fully-automatic fire. Only after the weapons were empty, did Lev note that all three men had been gunned down. Their forms laid still, but Malang shot up, bullet holes perforated his center mass, and several in his face. "Guns don't solve your problems, Lev. You just keep going for the kill whenever you run into an obstacle. How about the dozens of others you ended?" The pews were filled now. But, among the pews of hooded people, was one particular woman. "You let go, because it was me or you. If only you'd held on a little longer, you'd of realized the tide would of settled. So much for being your FRIEND.Her voice echoed, as he felt nearly a hundred eyes on him. The two other men he'd gunned down slowly rose, their wounds hindering them not. Lev took several more steps back, re-holstering his pistols as he reached for his AKM. As his shoulder shifted slightly to allow the sling to fall, he paused. Gulping once. He took a deep breath, before setting his AKM against the wall, his Praetorian following suit. Sighing, he spoke up. "I'm....sorry. Not for what I did, God no, I am not sorry for any of that. I'm sorry you all died as a result." He glared at the crowd. "If I am being persecuted by the dead of my past, then everyone should be. I'm far from the worst piece of shit in existence. Ask Anarchy, or the Dead Batteries, or the Jackals, or...fucking name a faction, if any of them regret killing all of the people they put down. I guarantee many of them don't give a shit! You know why you're all bothering me? Because you all lost to me. Humanity is driven by conflict....legal and illegal, good and evil, fuck all of that. There are only those who do or die, who win or lose. The best I can do is do what's best for me and mine. As for all of you? You lost the game of life. Malang, I shot you because you had a gun to my head, you fucking Taki-muzzi fuck. As for you, hick, the reason I took your shit was because you were bragging about how you'd mugged a girl just earlier. It was payback. As for you, you English FUCK. You and your friends crippled a guy I was good with, and it was in retaliation! You said you'd do more! We made sure you didn't, but we only intended to beat you all up! How 'bout you?" He flipped off the girl, shooting his eyes to her. "Your grip slipped. That was never my fault in the first place. It was storming, raining, and we were on a boat. I let go because you'd of taken me overboard with you. You were always talking about how you didn't expect loyalty from me, or anyone else. Don't blame me." He stared back at the rest of the crowd now. He made out some faces, and others he didn't. He recognized a few Dead Batteries, the Anarchy man who wielded an M249 on Prison Island, that Corporation Operator, that female Cannibal. But, for every face he identified, ten more were lost to him. "You all made your decisions, I made mine. I met you all in combat. You'd of all killed me. I can't show kindness to my enemies when they've made the choice to try and kill me. I would of loved nothing more than to sit down and talk it out. If you remember my bad actions, at least remember my good ones too. Do you know what I do? I make peace between groups, I sell my services. I conserve lives. I'll take them as needed, and sell them as needed. That's the best anyone who lasts long in this world can do at the moment. But you know what? I will do better. You're all the foundation to a better world, and I will make your sacrifices have meaning. I won't forget what I've done. That's what I resolved back then, I'll resolve it again now. When my time comes, you can drag me down to Hell with the rest of you, but I won't apologize for fighting for what I believe in." There was a tense silence, as the eyes of his past stared upon him. Malang finally broke the silence, his expression one of clear confusion. 

"Lev....why are still you here?" 

Lev shot awoke, sitting up from the pew he'd sat down at. His blunt sat expunged between his boots, MOLLE pack hanging from it's left sling in his hand. Leaning down, he held up the blunt, he noted some kind of certainly-not-weed fell out of the back. Bastard had spiked the joint with something. Just to make sure however, he glanced about. No skeletons. No hoodies. No Takistanis. He breathed a sigh of relief, and took himself upstairs, to the Priest's office. Locking the door, and placing a landmine at it, he nuzzled up in his sleeping bag behind the priest's desk. He left eight hours later, but offered a few spare coins at the offering table.

"Lev! We can't see you, damn it! This forest is too thick!" The good Dr. S's german voice rang through his radio. Lev could only roll his eyes. He's gone for one night and the doctor loses his navigational ability. "I'll fire up a shot." Reaching onto his hip, he withdrew his Stetchkin, and pulled the trigger while aiming up. To his surprise, the gun clicked empty. Examining it, he found the magazine missing. Patting down his pockets, he found the magazine in his MOLLE back-left pouch on his belt. He never put anything in that pouch, and pulled it out, his fingers catching a second magazine; his thirty round magazine for his Glock-18. Both were full, but he only ever carried one of each, and he hasn't removed them. "Lev? Waiting on that shot...Chris is getting jumpy." Lev pulled his radio to his mouth as he held up the now-loaded Stetchkin. "Firing." He replied, a feeling of content residing deep within his being, and a smile on his face as the pistol let out a bang. 

"Guess you're holding me to it then. Gonna be a long road...I hear Poland's good this time of year..." He mused, aloud as he waved to his encroaching friends.

(Critique welcome in replies. Thanks for reading!)

Edited by Wbtrex

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