Tension was high as James and his men skulked along the undergrowth. The air was thick and hard to breathe; and they had to be careful not to sink their entire feet into the soggy earth lest their shoes would disappear into the mud. He and his unit had become lost along the offensive and all contact between them and the main force had been lost. Despite sending many scouts to find their way, nobody returned and the soldiers were getting nervous.
Talks of them being surrounded circulate among the men and nobody dared to go anywhere unless they were in sight of the others. It was pointless to send anymore to their deaths and rather than risking going even deeper into enemy territory, he decided to dig in and wait for relief. They found a hill which they fortified as well as they could, giving them view over the endless forest jungle. James wanted to scream out in frustration, but he couldn’t; he was an officer, and an officer could never complain, at least when his men saw, which was always.
The air was particularly still that night. James was used to deafening sounds of the jungle, at night; the bellowing monkeys, the shrieking birds and the endless buzzing of thousands of different insect species. They had become but a hiss in his ears, unnecessary sounds they wouldn’t aid his survival. But in their absence, there was something ghostly about the jungle. James couldn’t fully relax that night, though he heard his men snore and whisper.
Though being cautious was a virtue in war, James was but a man and he soon succumbed on the dry floor of the officer’s tent. He’d never liked beds, or anything soft, for that matter. Perhaps he’d been born a soldier, definitely not meant for modern conveniences. His eyes and ears were keen and his men depended on him, like a guard dog, which was another layer of responsibility on top of the commanding one. It was as if he was the hound and the human, at the same time.
His eyes felt heavy and he was near blissful unconsciousness, when he heard muffled voices at his ear. Are they crazy? Talking so loud on enemy turf?! But as he rose to tell his men off, the muffled voices vanished. He stared at the ground for a moment, not wanting to believe, but as his ear reached on the ground anew, he heard the muffled speech of the enemy.
And before he could shout out a warning, there was already an explosion and gunfire. Bullets whined through the tent, ricocheting on his canteen and then, a burning at his throat. James stumbled out of the tent only to fall with blood rising through his mouth. The last thing heard was the screams of the men and those that tried to bring order to the chaos.
It didn’t take long before the cries silenced and the animals and the crickets returned to their usual calls…
© Christopher Stamfors