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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Military · #1674033
We huddled in the mud and watched as death rained down on the other side of the river.
I Want To Go Home

By: Bikerider

Our sweat mixed with the mud beneath us, as we squatted where the path curved to the right and disappeared into the dark thicket of jungle. After the rain stopped last night, we had crossed the river to find a safer position. Crossing at night was safer, but it was sheer terror for a non-swimmer like me. We checked our ammunition, again, and then waited for the sergeant to return from his scouting trip around the bend. The cicada’s buzzing rose from the humid tangle of vines surrounding us, the noise adding to our cover.

As we waited, our eyes betrayed the fear we tried to hide.

The sergeant returned in a low crouch and sank into the mud. He was quiet as he knelt with us. Wiping his hands on his wet shirt, he looked at each of us, one at a time. His eyes were wide, revealing large white ovals veiled in fear. I felt a rush of heat flow through my body—if the sergeant was scared, then I knew we were in trouble.

Brody was nineteen, the youngest of the eight-man squad. His eyes jerked between each of us as he looked for positive eyes, a reassurance, anything that would give him a glimpse of security—and hope.

He found none.

“Sarge,” Brody’s words were clipped. “Did you find a way out of here?” His hands shook as he wiped mud from his forehead. The sergeant looked over his shoulder into the darkness, and then turned his gaze down into the mud oozing into his pants.

“What’s going on sarge? Are the choppers gonna get in here and take us out?” Jennings, our RPG man’s voice was firmer. Unlike Brody, Jennings was not timid; he feared the enemy, not the Sergeant.

Everyone began to ask questions at the same time, our words mingling like a cloud of gnats.

“Okay, okay, keep it down!” The sergeant was somber. “I went up the path and it doesn’t look good. The place is crawling with em. It looks like we walked right into a major camp area.” He stopped talking and fell silent.

The momentary silence was broken by Brody’s trembling voice, “What’s going on sarge, how are we gonna get out of here?” Everyone was quiet as we looked at the Sergeant.

With a voice barely above a whisper, the Sergeant looked past us into the black air. His words made my blood run cold.

“If any of you believe in a Maker, now would be a good time to make peace with Him.”

Jolted by the sergeants words, Brody began to stand, but Jones, the squads sniper, pulled him back down into the warm mud. Jennings stared at the sergeant with cold, blue eyes, his fists clenching and unclenching as he looked around the group, and then he put his head down and began to pray.

“We can’t surrender…right?” Brody said more than asked as his eyes moved from man to man. “Maybe that would be better than…dying.”

“Shut up, Brody!” the Sergeant hissed, his eyes bulging.

Kneeling in the wet mud, my eyes searched the darkness wondering what I would see. No one said a word. There was nothing to say.

Lying in the dark, waiting for whatever was next, no one fidgeted, everyone was lost in their own thoughts. My thoughts went home. I imagined what it would have been like to hold the son I had never met—and probably never would. I feared I would never feel the warmth of my wife again. I was surprised that pangs of jealousy shot through me, as I thought of her marrying someone else. We were all far away from ourselves, as our personal, intimate thoughts seeped into our minds.

Brody was quiet, and his shaking had stopped. He looked to each of us in turn, his eyes searching for hope, but finding none, he looked away.

When it started, it was quick and thunderously loud.

The sergeant was the first to react. “Jennings!” he said. “Get your RPG on the left flank, cover us. Brody…you stay with me.” The sergeant’s voice was strong, he was in charge again and his confidence reassured us. Everyone reacted out of training…and fear. “Everyone else get down by the river, go, go, go. Wait for us at the river bank.”

We crawled through the mud, sliding down to the riverbank into the warm black water. The thwack-thwack of bullets smashed into trees and gave us energy we didn’t know we had.

Splashing into the river’s edge, I looked around, trying to account for my squad. “Stay here, wait for the others,” I shouted into the dark, I didn’t know if anyone could hear me over the close-up sound of war. I called for the others. “James, Conner, where are you guys?” They were riflemen in our squad, and they were also best friends.

“We’re over here. I think I hear the sarge coming.” They were hidden in the dark.

“You okay?” James called to me.

“Yeah, I’m okay,” I said.

“Good, okay,” he said. “Keep your eyes open.”

James was one of those people who could fall asleep as soon as he stopped walking. Thinking about him telling me to keep my eyes open pushed a odd smile onto my face.

The air stunk of gunpowder, as we fired into the dark jungle at phantom targets. The frenzy of men fighting to survive and the sounds of bullets cutting the thick air filled our senses with chaos.

The bright light was brilliant—and sudden.

Is this the light? The one everyone talks about at the end?

Suddenly the noise of the rotor blades shook the air. I looked up but didn’t need to. I knew what it was.

The sergeant slid down the slippery bank, pulling Brody along with him. Jennings slipped and fell, then began to crawl, clawing at the mud. The others splashed into the water and waited for the sergeant’s orders.

“Get to the other side of the river, and don’t stop.” The sergeant held the radio to his ear and shouted orders at us. “They’re gonna pick us up on the other side.”

I grabbed Jennings by the arm and we trudged across the river together, leaving chaos and death behind. Sloshing onto the other back, we gathered in a semi-circle under a tree limb that dripped last night’s rain. We watched in awe, as red-hot-tracers ripped the jungle to shreds. No one said a word as we huddled in the mud and watched what was being endured in the dark mosaic of jungle we had just left.

The Huey landed, its revolving red light flashing across the ground. “Go, move, move, get in,” the sergeant yelled. He slapped the shoulder of each of his men as we jumped into the helicopter.

As the aircraft lifted into the night sky, eight dark silhouettes huddled on the cold steel floor. We watched two medics hover over the sergeant who had an arm wound no one had noticed.

I looked over at Brody who sat near the open door looking out into a sky the moon had turned yellow. His thin, dirty fingers held tight to the cross that hung from his neck—his lips moviing to a silent prayer. He turned his gaze to me. His blue eyes were blank and emotionless, and his voice was flat when he spoke.

“I want to go home.”



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