This article is part of the That Insidious Beast series.

November 18th, 2009 - An Empty House


The Composition 4 is old, but it is engineering grade. Shelf stable for 100 years. Each eight ounce brick is wrapped in plastic and double-wrapped in brown waterproof paper. There are five bricks in the guitar case.

I set each brick of plastic explosive onto the bathroom counter. I look at myself in the mirror and unbutton my BDU shirt. My undershirt is badly stained with sweat and blood. I shed it as well. My torso is mottled with livid purple and yellow. I am not even sure what caused most of the bruises.

There is an infected blister over my collarbone, the result of a hot shell casing and inattention to hygiene. I swab it clean with a damp cloth and douse it with peroxide. I stare at myself.

Am I a ghost? The fuzzy after-image of someone burned into the screen?

I am wasting time. I know I do not have long.

The detonators are in a canvas pouch marked with a red and white explosion symbol. The cylindrical silver detonators resemble the detonators we trained with, but they are not the same. Where the hell did Reyes get this shit?

Knock, knock, knock!

"He wants usss," the voice is soft, feminine, but assertive. It is the voice of someone accustomed to being obeyed. "Come out little man."

I turn on the faucet.

"Two minutes," I reply.

"Come out," it beckons. "Come out."

I am still drunk from the night before. My stomach churns and stinging bile rises to the back of my throat. I spit into the swirling water in the sink to fight down my nausea.

I take a deep breath and settle myself. I need to focus.

There is a roll of duct tape in one of the drawers. I wrap my stomach in the textured tape, wincing when I tighten it around my ribs. I tear off three long strips of duct tape and lay them out on the counter with the sticky side up.

Unwrapping each of the bricks of C4 makes a great deal of noise and seems to take hours. I place each white, putty-like block onto the sticky side of the tape on the counter. I space them out with about an inch between them. After I have placed all five bricks I press my palms down and smash the plastic explosive into a malleable sheet.

I place the tape and plastic onto the duct tape wrap already around my stomach. I gingerly try to flatten the contraption as much as possible. I run my fingers around the edge of the tape, securing it to my stomach, but leaving the top edge open.

At last, I insert the detonators. I use a few pieces of tape to attach the trigger wire to the inside of my left arm and up my wrist. The small push-button mechanism rests neatly in my palm. Just a press of my thumb and-

Knock, knock, knock!

"Out!" the voice commands. It is agitated.

I quickly don my filthy undershirt and button up my BDU top. I turn off the faucet.

The doorknob turns against the lock.

Rattle, rattle, rattle! Knock, knock, knock!

"We will come inssside," the voice warns. "We will take you back with only half alive!"

"I'm coming."

One last look in the mirror. Is it visible? Will they see? I can only hope not.

I turn and open the door and step out-

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