Today’s nightmarish tale unfolds within the real-life horror of the Vietnam War, but gives way to a more ancient, diabolical nightmare in the dense and deadly jungles of Southeast Asia.
The story in its only existing form originates with a US Army veteran (who does not give his name) who enlisted in 1972 at the tender age of 18, and soon found himself deployed to Saigon along with two other privates he befriended on the flight from San Diego — a carefree Texan named Paul, and Carson, a Californian whose mother had emigrated from Hanoi, who spoke fluent Vietnamese.
Granted a three-day pass before his first mission, the author explored some of the shops around Saigon, where he stumbled upon a small bookstore containing volumes on local myths, legends and folklore. While perusing one of the English-language books, he encountered a startling image of a red-eyed dragon; intrigued, he read about the legendary beasts once believed to stalk the jungles by night in search of human prey — to which terrified villagers had once delivered human sacrifices as appeasement.
He realized that the elderly shopkeeper was watching him read that particular passage, and she surprised him by speaking a warning in English. “You’d better walk with your eyes open in those trees,” she said, in almost a whisper, before promptly walking away.
The incident puzzled him, but he didn’t think of it again until he found himself in the jungle three days later on patrol, along with Carson and Paul, under the lead of Sergeant Rodgers. Their unit was one of several deployed near the front lines, where dozens of soldiers had been reported missing.
After an uneventful recon of the area, the soldiers were ordered to return to base camp… but on the way, Carson caught sight of a stone structure that upon closer inspection turned out to be an ancient, abandoned temple, overgrown by local vegetation. They reported this to Sgt. Rodgers, who dismissed it as one of several dozen crumbling Buddhist temples he’d encountered on prior missions.
The following day, the men encountered a Viet Cong encampment, and managed to capture a guard on the perimeter of the camp; Carson proceeded to interrogate the guard about the status of any possible prisoners inside.
Afterward, as they fell back to their own base camp, Carson recounted the guard’s information: he’d revealed there were no prisoners being held in the camp, and that several Viet Cong had gone missing from the region as well; his superiors were convinced the US troops had captured them, though the author and his companions knew this was not the case.
Oddly, when they reported this information to the Sergeant, the normally stoic man became noticeably shaken, hastily ordering them to return to their quarters. Once there, Carson told the rest of the guard’s story… the part he was afraid to tell Sgt. Rodgers: the guard had also babbled about a “serpent-like creature” which had been sighted by his comrades the same time multiple VC soldiers began disappearing without a trace.
Knowing that the other men would call them crazy, the three friends decided to keep the story to themselves for the time being.
The following day, the unit returned in full force to the same region, digging in prior to engagement with the enemy… but the VC found them before they could finish, and the trio of friends found themselves in the middle of a ferocious firefight which lasted well into the night. While the enemy was understrength and US troops clearly had the upper hand, Paul was still badly injured in the battle.
The three men decided to fall back from the battle line, seeking shelter at the old temple they saw on the first day in the jungle. A few VC pursued them, but when they saw the place they were entering, they froze and began to retreat, reluctant to follow. That was when the author and his friends realized they had made a grave mistake.
“Con Rong!” the enemy soldiers shouted repeatedly, before finally disappearing into the jungle, leaving the three men alone in the decrepit structure.
While Carson tended to Paul’s wounds, the author examined the walls of the temple, which were covered with carvings, paintings and statues depicting the same ferocious dragon he had seen in the book earlier. Several of the images showed the creature devouring people alive, apparently as part of a sacrificial ceremony.
Carson explained that the dragon played a key role in Vietnamese mythology, and such creatures were often considered bringers of rain and good fortune to farmers. But there was something very different about this particular dragon… something which the men discovered instantly when they began to hear screaming from just outside the temple walls.
Paul had spotted something horrifying beyond the temple entrance, and his screams brought the other two men into the main chamber… where they witnessed a massive, winged beast with gleaming scales and lion-sized jaws tearing a VC soldier limb from limb while he shrieked in agony.
Once it had completely devoured its prey, the dragon laid eyes on the men inside the temple.
Making a panicked retreat to the center of the stone structure, the three friends were able to hold off the creature’s onslaught — spared only by the fact that the dragon’s immense size prevented it from reaching the smaller portals of the inner chamber. It circled them again and again, thrusting its claws through the openings, snapping at them with its immense fangs, thrashing the temple walls with its leathery wings. Finally, the monster seemed to grow tired of the challenge and retreated, flying into the surrounding jungle.
Hours passed, and the men were still hesitant to venture out… so they lit a small fire and explored the inner passages of the temple. It was there the author found a narrow stairwell leading to a large subterranean cave, in which a massive slab had been built, which he immediately recognized from the paintings as the altar on which human sacrifices had been made to the dragon.
That’s when he also realized that an opening high on the opposite wall of the cave led directly to the dragon’s lair… just before the beast came swooping down upon him.
He fought back with everything he had, firing off several rounds from his sidearm, which seemed to discourage the attack long enough for him to escape its clutches — but not before its razor-sharp talons left deep, ragged slashes in his leg.
Hiding out overnight in the central atrium, the three men finally determined the coast was clear after sunrise. Though wounded, Paul was determined to get the hell out of there as soon as possible, so they slowly began to make their way back toward the American camp. On their way, they stumbled across the mangled remains of an entire Vietnamese battalion. The soldiers’ bodies had been ripped to pieces — not, it seemed, by bullets or explosives, but by a huge animal with immense claws and teeth.
As they cautiously made their way through the ocean of destroyed bodies, they encountered a single survivor, who was clutching his own spilled intestines as he struggled to take in his last remaining breaths. As they approached him, they realized he was speaking in a faint, raspy voice… and repeating a single phrase.
“Con Rong,” the dying man gasped. “Con Rong.”
When they finally returned to base, they found a similar scene: torn, mangled bodies strewn from one end of the camp to the other. A few harried survivors were struggling through the vast expanse of bodies and debris, tending to the wounded and trying to salvage what they could of the damaged equipment.
They found Sgt. Rodgers among this handful of survivors, and he related a similar story to what they had encountered earlier: a monster had descended on the camp, decimating every man in its path, forcing a small group to retreat to the shelter of a small cave until daybreak.
All three privates and the sergeant were honorably discharged and quickly shipped back to the States, without receiving a single question from commanding officers regarding what they encountered that horrible night in the jungle. The men overheard some scuttlebutt about a new experimental weapon being tested by the enemy, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to realize the details of that night were being squashed.
In the years following their discharge, the author tried to keep in touch with Carson and Paul. Carson went on to major in Eastern Religious Studies, and has since devoted his life to studying the dragon legend, vowing one day to return to Vietnam and confront the creature. Paul and Rodgers weren’t so lucky, however: after years of being tormented by nightmares and visions of the red-eyed beast, Paul was eventually committed to a mental hospital in 1984, while the Sergeant finally committed suicide in 1995, leaving behind a note claiming that something horrible was stalking him from the shadows.
As for the author, his last entry describes similar nightmares… as well as a sense that he’s being watched. He claims that some nights he can even see some thing watching him, barely on the edge of his field of vision. Something with glowing red eyes…