Insanity, delusion, madness. Everything I was was a complete lie, these scars did more than leave marks into my skin, they left valleys of torment buckling my mind beneath their weight. Every passing moment I found myself reliving these nightmares, wanting to rip off my own skin though nothing would relieve the pressure. They said I had been a hero, what kind of sick hero slaughters women and children?

It was the dream again, every night since my return I'd woken up in a cold, panting sweat, still thinking that I was breathing out gunpowder. Waves of blood and gore washed themselves upon the shores of my mind. What the hell had I become since the final days of that wretched war? Everyone ignored the answer except me. I was a monster.

Every time I looked over my shoulder I would see the faces of the lives I took. Small children wailed when I passed by them while their parents cheered me on. Their praise was what pushed me into my solitude though I can not say that I did not deserve it. Nightmares were what I once stalked my prey in, now it was their turn to stalk me. Sleep had become torture. If I dreamed it ended with my head hanging off of a pike or some other wretched death.

My name? Like hell if you're entitled to that information. Why you should care? If you did the blood that stains my memory and these lesions in my flesh may remind me of why I no longer go out in public and why some of you deserved your fate at my hands.

In all honesty, if you had any idea what I'd really done to end this absolute disaster, you would be wishing yourself into an early grave. There was nothing pleasant about what I did and yet every last one of you sick bastards worship me.

I had peeled the skin off another living persons face. He was only eight and to my knowledge, survives to this day. This was just one of the atrocities I had committed. I was commanded to then and still am today. At least they think I am. Bunch of backstabbing idiots don't have a clue.

Every now and then I would be sent out to clean up a mess that a peer, at least they thought they were my peer, had created. Nasty little jobs, make someone disappear, mutilation, assassinations, or worse. As of late, I hadn't moved an inch out of my hovel. If they needed me, so badly I'd be here waiting to finish off a personal mission.

The room I was in was filled with incessant dust. It permeated every fiber of the ancient walls, the randomly placed holes in the dry wall giving me a lovely vantage point should a rat try to squirm in trough the rotting wood beams. The place itself was a dive and possibly the only reason I had not been dragged back into service. Nobody really expected a great "hero" to be found buried up to his neck in Hephaestus laden, decrepit apartment in one of the abandoned districts.

Much to my chagrin, my lack of action had been noticed. Through the crackling, white fluff on the television screen buried beneath a rubble heap squeaked out my name and a search warrant statement. It looked like my temporary retirement was about to be cut wretchedly short. I wasn't going to leave alive. At the very least I hoped I wasn't, it'd be doing the rest of the world a great favor if I left in several body bags.

At times the competence of the military astonishes me. I had been sitting on my ass gaining dead weight for a week by the time they got around to me. Nothing about the apartment I was in was stable to begin with and I had greatly improved how destructive time had been to the place. A few rafters had been renovated with trip wires, some of the supports in the floors were cut out; I was not going to make this easy on them, oh no, but I was going to test them.

Gleefully I listened to someone knocking on the door only to hear the sound of the ceiling collapsing on top of their heads. Somewhere inside of me I was hoping that took care of the entire squadron, the scent of their rotting carcasses would keep everything but the scavengers the hell away from me. You ever smelled what a rotting body stinks like? It's delicious.

If only luck were my friend. The collapse had only temporarily buried three out of what had been five. I sat there and listened for their breaths. Personally them being dead would create an unwanted scene, some obnoxious cover up involving insurgents or something. I didn't care at the time, I was just going to sit here and wait for them to drag me off again.

I was slightly psychotic to begin with. I'd spent the past week altering the framework of the apartment, making sure that every last bent and broken rafter, every rotting floor board was just waiting for some unlucky searcher to wander across. This was the training that those who were searching had given me, a ruthless killing machine, caring as much about their lives as my toe nail clippings.

As they removed the rubble pile by the door, every last living fiber of my being was laughing at them, finding their suffering humorous in a sadistic fashion. I remained seated in an old recliner, just idly rocking back and forth upon the old dusty floor wanting to watch another set of my searchers become one with the sub floor beneath this ancient place. Within my own head I smiled, wondering how long I was going to be chewed out for this "Irrepressible action against your own team members". They knew I was a monster, why should I treat them with any more respect than I did my last few decades. I did not know these people by face or name, they were just numbers inside of my twisted head. And numbers were for two things, body bags and dates for stone slabs.

The door finally blew off of it's hinges, taking an insatiable amount of time to fall onto and eventually through the floor, leaving a gaping chasm between them and myself. Just sitting there I waited, not especially caring what they did to remove me from the room but still I laughed inside of my head at their feeble efforts as another of their crew found that most of the floor boards were dissolved or had been assisted in doing so. Every few steps another piece of the floor fell through, leaving a zigzagging path through the room. It was like watching a bad horror film, save that they were the unwitting victims and I was nice and cozy in my recliner, back facing the door for good measure.

Four, five of their members found themselves buried beneath the apartment. For nearly half an hour I sat there doing nothing past listening to the white noise from the flickering television screen and their disgruntled groaning from below being a wonderful symphony to my ears. After hole after hole had crumbled through upon the floor, they finally reached me and in a lethargic motion I removed myself from my chair, turning around to smile at the three newly arrived recruits that had made it across the death trap I had created. My hand instinctively moved towards my waist, where I could have sworn my Smith and Wesson had been sitting not more than two days ago. My fingers found themselves surrounded by a wonderful feeling of air running through them instead. It was no major loss, they would drag me out of here eventually anyway one way or another so for them it was a stark relief.

Moving past them, I wandered through the gauntlet I had created, a careful step here a hop here and I had gotten out to the hallway where my welcoming brigade was waiting, leaving the recruits to fall through what was left of the apartment floor. I could feel a trained smirk piercing its way across my lips as I swore I heard a bone crack somewhere.

Four heavily armed and bulky men stood there, faces covered with tinted riot helmets, plastered from head to toe with body armor. They may have been necessary if I had not just waltzed out the apartment mostly unarmed, half starved and probably slightly more insane than I was before. With a little wave I tripped myself, falling head first into one of the guards, smirking inwardly as he fell over with my limp frame dangling across him. The noise of his helmet cracking against the cement flooring was enough of a reward to be shoved back into active service.

It was a joke that no one else but me would understand as my limp frame was removed from his chest, snickering at how confused the entire group was. With no resistance they hauled my dangling, forcibly relaxed frame into the tank waiting outside. It seemed overkill by my standards considering I have had no funding for nearly a month, not having money for rocket propelled grenades and the occasional land mine would have been nearly impossible for me to remove the tank from it's post.

In the back, a man sat there in a Hawaiian shirt and a pair of cammo jeans grinning at me with a cigar twice the thickness of his thumb protruding from his face. Had his eyes not been covered by some ridiculous pair of police goggles. I could have sworn I'd just walked into some part of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" for a moment before he flashed a toothy grin at me. Only one other soul I had ever worked with had gone farther off the ledge that I had. Of course they sent him to get me, he'd be the last one to go in if I didn't come out and of it, I'd be leaving hog-tied to a flag pole and being waved around as a war trophy. At least he didn't.

In twenty years of knowing this man, he was still completely mad, mentally unstable, once ate a live eel just to prove a point and the best man I had ever worked with. The cigar in his mouth was light, but that was quickly remedied as he ground out the ember in the back of one of the stoic soldiers armor, smirking at the melted splotch now tainting the otherwise polished suit. Still a bastard after twenty years and apparently a promoted bastard at that.

A grizzled voice, grinding from years of exorbitant smoking boomed across the metal shell of the vehicle and only the guards seemed to notice the increase in volume. "You god damn sonuvabitch, made me waste three weeks hunting your lily cracker ass down, I'd try to beat the shit out of you but last time I tried, you landed me in the hospital for nearly three months." His hand raised to back hand my face but it stopped and turned around, giving it more of a pat than anything else, "Dammit the one time we need your sick ass and you go and play chameleon on us. Get your gear, I'll be blunt."

It was hard for me not to laugh as he flung nothing more than a pistol and a package of explosives into my lap. This was my gear, almost never anything more and while I was still dazed by this awkward reunion I decided to speak up, shaking my head and wondering how important it'd be for them to send one of two people I trusted. Grumbling beneath my breath I spoke up "What did you get us into this time? We going off to start the fourth world war today or is this some bizarre reunion?"

With a shove I found myself forced back down into the chair, looking into a pair of eyes, had I not known differently, that should belong to a blind man. No pupils, just a solid sphere of storm gray in one socket and a murky white in the other. Sadly the guy could see things that no living being should and if he felt like it, my heart would burst inside my chest just for staring to long. Sadistic, everything about him was sadistic. I couldn't be happier.

A clip fell into my lap and that lopsided, cigar brimmed, toothy smile found my face. I could smell rotting meat off of his breath and from the stink of it, vodka from the time of the czars. My nose flinched at the repugnant stink. "You're knocking off someone today, some girl and her child... do it myself, but last time I tried to do your work, entire building imploded when I left." That damn grin stayed on his face the entire time, he knew it was irritating me and therefore made sure he kept it plastered on his face. "Kid's like me though, look at her long enough and your head'll pop like a zit." His grasping hand dug fingers into my shoulder, making sure I understood what I was getting myself into.

One word came to mind and quickly fell out of my lips "damn... just damn" I hated cases like this, and it would be interfering with what I had previously planned. I found myself pressing his fingers into my temples, rubbing at them, "And... you need me to take care of this since no sane person would go near eh?"

Blunt, always blunt he responded, giving me a stark punch to the shoulder "Yep, now get your ass in gear" With that said, I was jostled in my seat, head smacking harshly against the metal bracer between us and the driver. We were moving and judging by the heavy screaming of the over burdened engine, hauling ass. If we were going directly there, as was my friends way, I was going to end up hating him for a good long while.

A newscast was blaring inside of the already wretchedly noisy machine. It looked just as bad as what started the war that made both me and my compatriot, landscape mutated and warped, ground looking more like some sick and malevolent animal. I could hear myself incoherently mumbling, caressing my pistol like a cat, glad that it wasn't purring though. I hated cats.

With that strange thought, I found myself jilted against the cold, lifeless wall of our vehicle. I looked skeptically at the man sitting across from me and couldn't stop myself from rolling my eyes into the back of my head. I had known my compatriot to be mad but I was not expecting the entire team that we were bringing up had all gone completely mad but it was how he worked.

The landscape was disgusting, nothing past desert at the moment, or at least that was what the monitors were displaying through the white static. The ground had revolted against the sky, against the rest of reality. The zones that had been warped by the presence of mutations was always where I felt the most at peace and it was also the place where the dreams were the clearest, calling out to me and pulling me back into their nightmares.

Every time we approached a piece of turf that should have been semi-normal it would twist and sway, creating it's own whirlpool of freakishly designed earth. A tree near by was literally sucked into the ground beside our transport, only to erupt into several smaller trees before every last one ignited into a plume of ill-tempered bark, branch and core wood. Wrestling with it's newer growths to determine what might have been considered dominance over it's other limbs.

My insides revolted against the last meal I ate, sending me into this wretched dreamland where everything I ever did become drastically real and I knew that I was doing something just as terrible again. Time never moved properly in my dreams, everything ran through either freakishly fast or bizarrely slow moments. The tank transport we were in had crashed and was being shredded by the landscape, jutting pillars of flowstone whipped and promptly found the gas tank that had once been beneath five inches of solid steel, adding to the damage that the tree had already done, immolating the insides of the vehicle, the charred remains of the driver and two other soldiers being the last visage in my memory.

Insides no longer belonging to my own line of thought, I could feel every inch of my body joining in the revolt of the land against reality, twisting and shaping itself to move through this acid trip of a reality. I could feel the presence of my comrade in arms close behind, his vision guiding him while my mind created my own actions. It would take me a few days to realize that this had not been a dream but what happened throughout the rest of this was more a blurry and some siphoned off portion of my brain, filled with memories, they would return shortly.

The terraforming outside would have been awe inspiring had the branches not gotten the bright idea that the metal monstrosity we were roaming through this forsaken ground in was a suitable test for its new found mobility. The first few smacks of those twisted limbs, those knotted, warped extensions of plant flesh found a few dozen feet of new growth beneath the ground and slammed hard into the side of the vehicle. They didn't damage it but the general feeling they were giving was much similar to what a child does to the first beetle they encounter, experimenting with our transport.

The smacks gradually became more violent as the vehicle whined and the gears ground into the inside of the engine, not wishing to take this kind of abuse. It was about then that one of the branches decided that it belonged inside of the engine block, piercing the gas line and promptly causing the engine to catch fire. In a wretched, nail-on-chalkboard like noise, it ripped the tendril out of our engine block, beating the now blazing inferno of tree flesh into the ground.

Events no longer made sense after a while, for one moment I was standing inside what had once been an opulent manor, white spiraled staircases spilling up each side of the foyer. I felt my insane cohort pressing up one rout and found myself going down another. A little girl caught some shard within my mind but was ignored for a moment until the search was completed. Having found nothing else that could be causing the distortions, she had become the target.

Anyone else would have found her as an innocent but in this twisting, warping, sickening place, she was a freak that belonged no more than we did. It was only a few moments before my hand literally melted into her chest, fingers draping around a still beating heart, crushing it in my palm as she cried at me, tears falling to the floor, evaporating when they touched.

This was not the first case that I had dealt with what had become simple, to extreme mutations in human psyche and psychological conditions, those other creatures, those who ended up like I did are for another story.

After that I passed out only to awaken in a cell, the praise of the people from the county that the new mutation had spread cheering me on in the news across the hall, through the slotted door. So it sit now, a hero to the masses once more, rotting in a cell so far removed from any contact with reality that the sane would call this hopeless. I'll just call it a vacation.