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Bird of Pray - Part 1/2
Far as any of knew we were just lost. Just stuck on another patrol around this wretched jungle. The swarm of mosquitoes kept us on the move, and the burning sun in the shade.
The heat from the sun was an inconvenience, but bearable if one knew how to walk out of its leer. The real pain was when you would have to do without your boots and march... No run across the airfield like you were furious at the ground for being so scorching hot, so hot you would have to do high-knees to give a unfairly brief moment of relief to your brave feet.
The jungle just made the heat worse. The humid green veil drenched your fatigues with water before your sweat could make it smell. The bugs seemed so much more bigger, which was expected, but so much more deadlier as well, they flushed with harsh reds and piercing yellows.
Deeper within the jungle, no one knew. No one ever bothered going in deeper, and frankly no one was willing to entertain the idea.
Today I was assigned to another patrol with added advanced structure defense operations, which just meant a whole lot of walking and digging holes. I was cleaning my rifle which had sprung out of tune in a past firefight to get into this forsaken landing zone when I heard these orders presented to me by Sergeant Vladimir Polktrov. For a Russian in the U.S. Army you would think he would have a less climactic name as so not to be compared with the most evil dictators in the world. He was a real ******
"Get your shovels and hand-cannons my little rats!" snickered SRG. Polktrov. "Time to make the holes!".
I hated his accent almost as much as I hated this place.
"Sir!"... Like a well oiled machine were we, in respect to eating, sleeping, talking, fighting, and as we have grown used to, taking orders.
I finished up cleaning out the barrel. I lost my barrel cleaning kit near the beginning of the war, so I resorted to using one of my shoelaces drenched in oil, running it through the receiver and out of the barrel.
We armed few, and fewer at heart... Rose to the march.
The whole trail bordered a good 20 yards from the jungle. When there were not breaking in the surprisingly deep and often humorous exclamations of "It's the whole universe man!" and "We are just these little specks of dust in this big flow of life dude!" and my personal favorite " Man I would just love a big box of those chocolates girls eat when they break-up with someone, man oh man I like me some chocolate!". It all kept my mind off the heat, and the whole misery of the approaching fact that I might fall on these brittle and broken trails.
We eventually reached the area where we were to build our fortifications. On this set of trail bordering the jungle we were to build foxholes, holes deep enough to hold a man under fire, and to bury one to if it came to it. In Army standards, a multi-purpose structure.
"Okay my little kiddies, we are diggin-in here tonight" SRG. Polktrov addressed the squad with joy.
"Permission to speak sir!" I exclaimed while holding back my anger, not as much for the order, but his abrasive Russian accent.
SRG. Polktrov furiously replied "Net, ty kroshechnyh svin'ya!"
Luckily one of our navigators was a Russian-American and told us what he said a lot of the time, this time being "No, you tiny pig!"
I would have shot him, but I didn't want to give him the satisfaction... That is the kind of man he was. After defecting to the U.S. near the end of the Cold War he really began to hate what he thought American was, but when he saw what it really was, in this rare case he just hated it more. SRG. Polktrov joined the U.S. and gained a non-commissioned officer position through little time, though he hated America, he loved freedom. This was one thing his much higher-up Vladimir could not give him.
So we settled into the night. Minds on our triggers, fingers in the dirt.
... Sometime into the night...
I felt like I was in a big cup. All I could see out of my fox hole was a bazaar of stars for sale, all yelling "Pick me!... I'm the one you want, I'll show you home", oh how I wanted to go home. And moon so big you would have thought everything else got smaller because there was no way the moon could get so bright and so huge that it just about made the fireflies dim in jealousy, and maybe even some bestial form of respect and honor.
It got cold at night. What you caste away during the daylight to keep you cool was sorely missed as the ground lost its flame.
The high-pitched buzzing of bugs grew into low deep echos of the owls as the sky churned from blue, to yellowish orange, to violet, to deep blue, to the darkest black you have ever seen. I mean so black that the stars shinned even brighter, that the arc of the moon's rays stretched wider, that in my foxhole I moved even deeper to hide from the darkness.
And then you have the birds, probably... no... The only thing I loved about this place.
The birds that came around in the daylight were just like any you would see on the discovery channel. But the birds that seemed to just appear at night, were the most noble looking creatures you could ever imagine. They were swift, I only rarely got to see them for this very reason. But every now and then one would perch on top of a branch on the border of the jungle. They were white with silver gray stripes above their eyes and one running down each wing. They seemed to have a crown that would be gray itself; I never really thought about it but they had to be the kings of something. Their tail feathers ran long and would streamline after them in their flight. The ones I had seen were about two maybe three feet when standing, and maybe five or even seven feet when in flight due to their tail feathers. Mystical and reserved creatures I have come to know in my time in the war.
I dosed off eventually, just looked up at the stars, tilted my helmet over my eyes, and slept to the echos of the owls.
... Later into the night...
"Contact left! Polktrov is down!" harrowed out of some soldier's mouth
I woke with a shake from a soldier whose foxhole was nearby mine.
"We got incoming fire from the jungle's edge!" screamed the soldier who woke me. "You're in command SRG.Polktrov's down"
I instantly jumped and peered my eyes over the brim of my foxhole to be greeted with the eyes of SRG.Polktrov staring right at me three yards away. Jaw missing, index finger and middle finger shredded off his right hand, half his hair burnt to charcoal black, and his wedding ring in between us.
I reached for the wedding ring but my attempt was foiled when a ricochet shot tore across the top of my hand. I fell back into my fox hole, shaken and angry.
I grabbed my M-16 to my right and tipped the barrel over the rim and began to fire into the brush of the jungle.
There were bright flashes of yellow and red from the foliage of the jungle, I could have counted at least over a dozen.
A hiss sound means a bullet is close; a snap means it’s far away. I swear I heard the snakes slithering out of the jungle. These weren’t regular troops, these were elite.
Our operator with our radio was hit and his arm separated from his torso and he did a sort of belly flop as a round hit in between a shin and ankle. He was still breathing, so they shot him up anyway.
Our only hope was some artillery. I scattered out of my foxhole and stumbled as I tried to get up.
They made me dance under that moon. I felt like one of the native girls who would dance with a skirt of reed and a necklace of stones. I danced across that cold ground, splashed in warm blood, and flew into the foxhole of our dead radioman like one of the night birds.
I prayed once I jumped in the foxhole in a quick and desperate vocation to steel myself. I leaned over the foxhole with my wounded hand and dragged the strangely heavy remains of the radio into the foxhole. I picked up the receiver and spoke my coded words of imminent destruction.
“Fire mission 341 on echo-bravo-tango-hotel… I repeat! Fire mission 341 on echo-bravo-tango-hotel! Bring down the rain!” I screamed into the receiver of the phone radio.
I leaned the heavy radio over to see if it was tuned into the right frequency. The radio had been blasted with along with our radioman whose torso was still strapped in tight to the radio.
Anger had overtaken me. I unpinned the grenades from my chest and had begun lobbing them into the thick brush of the jungle. I inter-spaced my grenade throws with fire from my M-16. The rest of the men coordinated their fire on the brush.
“Support teams fire on the flanks!” I screamed to the soldiers.
It looked like a bunch of yellow glowing fireflies flying at me, and me tossing them right back.
Back and forth we fired, but I made sure we kept more fire on them then they did on us. The goal of all battle is superiority, in these means, bullets.
Out of the corner of my left eye one of the white night birds closed in fast and was caught in the cross-fire, it instantly died.
I only could see the motionless back of the creature, blood running over its beak and it feathers ruffled up with sticky dark red goo. Only the tail feather of the bird was still intact, though it was separated and resting on the path in the dirt.
I grew furious. Something within me snapped and I could feel my bones crack as I coiled forward into a sprint.
I lunged out of my foxhole to the fallen night bird.
I danced again toward the angry fireflies as they hissed by my face, and one grabbing my helmet with it. To my dismay these fireflies had not the respect of the moon as their brothers.
I dove and slid legs first to the carcass of the night bird, I grabbed the long white tail feather and curled up in the middle of the small battlefield to die.
No more hisses. No more snaps. Complete silence filled the trail.
I woke from my stupor by a soldier shaking me, saying "Their retreating back in to the Jungle... I think, we won?"
"No... They are not retreating, just regrouping... They'll be back" I said with low voice filled with rage "Keep the men on post... I'm going in after them"
I was involved. They spilled the blood of the innocent, to me it is enough.
I coiled my back again, and charged into the brush with the feather of the bird in my hand.
I prayed a quick prayer, kissed the feather and dove into the foliage.
The best thing to do when there is no way out... Is to find a way further in.
... To Be Continued...