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Rip the Sky book by Mark Packard

Exclusive Excerpt


He heard his voice echo through the jungle again and then the sound of trampled grass crunching, folding, and unfolding. He listened to the spectral voice within, wiped the red moisture from the photograph as best he could, stuffed it into his pocket, and took off toward the jungle. But before Billy could take ten steps, the loud cacophony of bullets firing from AK-47s forced everything else into background noise, even his loud shriek when a burning, stabbing pain sent him tumbling to the ground. Billy was writhing in agony, trying not to look at his leg that twisted awkwardly. When he instinctively reached for the searing pain in his thigh, his fingers hit hard, splintered bone as warm blood streamed red across his hand.

And then he remembered, inside a pocket underneath his blood-stained hand, a photograph of a pretty lady and her beautiful baby girl. They called to him, mother and child, beckoning him back to the terrible phantom hiding in the dark branches. Billy wasn't sure why, but the woman and her baby needed to be with him under that awful tree when he died, and he was determined to inch his way back. He would perform one heroic deed in his short life and atone for his cowardice, even fight the devil waiting high in the tree if he had to. Billy raised himself up, planted his buttocks firmly to the ground, and began scooting backward to the tree, which was a good fifteen yards behind him. His shattered leg wobbled as Billy dragged it along in excruciating pain, leaving a red trail in the trampled grass, all for them—the pretty lady and her beautiful baby girl.

At last, he reached the tree and leaned back against the trunk, moaning loudly as another red drop fell from the sky, this time dotting his arm. Billy pulled the photograph out from his pocket and clutched it tightly. Tears streamed down his face as he tried to get his leg comfortable, refusing to look at the awful vision above him. The red drops dripped rhythmically, seemingly cleansing him. A heavy weight tugged his eyelids shut, his thoughts drifting to a hazy and distant place. Slipping further and further away from Vietnam, Billy heard the surprising sound of American voices. He struggled to lift his head, opening his eyes just enough to recognize that someone had pulled him away from the tree trunk and into the barren field. He heard the firecracker sound of rifle and mortar fire and caught a fading glimpse of men scrambling around him as he resisted the urge to close his eyelids with all his might.

And then he heard the comforting whir of chopper blades.


Whir. Whir.

All was a blur.

Screaming as a bandage was wrapped around his leg.

Chopper blades humming above him like angel wings, kicking up clouds of dirt everywhere.

Two eyes in the circling mist, wild and excited, staring down at him beneath the rim of a helmet marked with a red cross.

Two red-stained hands strapping him onto a gurney.

The sensation of rising from the ground.

Tearing his eyes away from the specter that seemed to float beside the gurney as the chopper climbed into the air.

And then, feeling every cell in his body infused with odd energy as he rose higher and higher into the sky.

Billy Worster had learned to fly.

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