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Chapter 42: Report from Point 24

The balloon had more patches on it than his grandmother’s quilt. The pilot climbed into the basket with his bag, checked the air-burner frames, and told the guard to cut him loose.

The balloon started to rise tentatively into the air, while the pilot looked for a breeze blowing in the direction of Dead River. He shivered at the thought and put on his fuzzcoat. The pilot radioed his position to the assistant. He glanced at the map and checked his direction.

The balloon floated on, mostly silent except for the times he had to turn on the airburners to maintain height. The sun was high. He leaned over the basket and saw his shadow running along the ridges and valleys underneath him. The pilot saw the thick grey clouds in the distance.

When he could make out the river, the pilot glanced at his map and saw that he was approaching Point 23. He released air from the balloon to drop altitude until he was floating downstream parallel to the river on his left, keeping a respectful distance from the river, the roiling clouds, and those damned lightning bolts.

The ridges and valleys moved slowly underneath him. He passed over a clearing in the woods and saw something that made his blood run cold: two naked corpses hung upside down from the limb of a skag tree. One of them was a woman. Well, it was a common enough sight. “They must have been Rat-lovers,” the pilot told himself. He trained his monocular on the dead woman a little longer than was proper or necessary. The pilot thumbed on his STU and reported the hanging bodies and their position to the assistant.

“That’s none of our business,” said the assistant. “You’d better be looking for those commandos, if you know what’s good for you.”

The pilot flicked off the STU. He adjusted the altitude to take the balloon in a little closer to the river.

He saw the three deflated balloons on the beach. As he approached the gutted balloons, he saw the commandos lying every which way on the beach. Not a one of them was moving.

The pilot reported what he saw to the assistant and asked him what he wanted him to do. The assistant told the pilot to return home. “Put as much distance as you can between you and that river,” the assistant ordered. “I wouldn’t want your balloon to be hit by some stray lightning bolt.”

The assistant laid his STU on his desk, walked over to the governor’s office, and stuck his head inside. “Sir, the scout balloon found the commandos at Point 24,” he told his boss. “49 of them, all dead, and 9 dracs. 6 of the commandos looked badly burned. The rest looked blue in the face. Oh, and the pilot said he saw two corpses, a man and a woman, hung upside down an hour northwest of Point 24… probably Rat-lovers.”

The governor nodded at his assistant and called the Sector 84 Commander.

The Sector 84 Commander ordered a unit of 10 men to go to Sector 127 to recover the equipment and bring back the remains of his commandos for identification and determination of what the hell happened. He ordered the unit to bring back the two Rat-lovers for identification in case they could be linked to others.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Chapter 39: Click Sirka!

By the end of the week, they reached Sector 127. Sangor scanned the hills around them with his monocular for signs of his wife. He saw none. He did not know whether to worry that she had gotten lost or worse, or be pleased that she had kept herself so well hidden.

The skies looked ominous, dark and heavy. There were lightning bolts splitting the sky in the direction of the river. Heavy drops of rain began to fall. Sangor feared for his wife. His finger itched to press the transmit button of the STU under his poncho but he withstood the temptation.

The commander ordered the commandos to move out.

The commandos reached the river bank by mid-morning the next day. They were being pummeled by hail the size of rocks banging down on their dented helmets. Sangor hoped the weather was better where his wife was or that she had some protection from the elements. The fog moved inland from the river making it difficult to see more than two steps in any direction.

Now! he thought. Now was the time to escape. He walked through the fog to the edge of the clearing, behind a clump of skag trees, opened his pants, and relieved himself in a long arching stream. Sangor closed his pants, ducked down, and moved as quietly as he could through the fog into the thick forest, pelted on his back by the hail. The sounds behind him began to die away. He looked back in the direction from which he’d come. He couldn’t see anyone. He ran up a hill and down into a ravine. Sangor heard his name called in the distance. He did not answer. Again he heard his name. Again he did not answer. He pulled his STU out from under his poncho and clicked the transmit button twice. Nothing. He heard nothing. Then he heard three clicks.

His heart raced with joy. He rushed head-long up the slope to the top of the wooded ridge. He listened to his STU and was not sure whether he heard clicks or static. Then he heard his name spit out harshly on the STU. Why hadn’t he thought about selecting a private frequency after the first two clicks and the three-click acknowledgement? Now they’d have to share their frequency with the commandos. Sangor heard his name again on his STU. The unit commander ordered some scouts to look for Sangor. There wasn’t much time left before they’d find him. Sangor was desperate. He shouted into his STU “switch frequencies — Sangor’s compromised this one!”

It worked! Sangor could not believe his luck. The frequency had gone quiet all of a sudden.

Then the silence was overwhelming. Where was his wife? Click Sirka! For God’s sake click, he thought. He heard four unmistakable clicks, weaker though than the three clicks of acknowledgement he’d heard before. My God! I’m moving away from her.

He looked back in the direction from which he’d escaped. Sangor would have to run around the commandos who were widening their circle in their search for him. He ran along the ridge, just below it on the far side to avoid being seen by the commandos, until he thought he had outflanked them, and ran back down the slope into the ravine and back up the next slope to the top of the hill.

He waited for a minute and heard four clicks, stronger this time. He continued running in the same direction, stopping to listen, and running again. The clicks were louder now. Sangor had a sharp pain in his rib cage from running but he continued breaking through the dense skag growth until he found a drac path. He ran up the slope and over the ridge. He slid down the loose rocks between the trees that parted into an open field.

Sangor’s blood ran cold. His wife’s naked white body hung upside down, her ankles coiled by rope to a thick branch of a tree on the other side of the clearing in back of a boulder patch. Blood trickled down from a gash in her side. He dropped to his knees in the dry grass.

He heard four clicks behind his back and everything went black.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

 

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Chapter 38: Cyan Skies

The plan was to fly over the Uncharted Areas with manned balloons. Commandos would fly under the balloons in metal baskets. When they found the fields and caves of the Rat enclave they would drop cyanide gas bombs killing every living thing in a three-day radius.

The sector commander ordered Sangor to lead the commando unit back to the point where he had crossed the river between Sector 127 and the Uncharted Areas.

Sangor’s heart sank in his chest. Everything was happening too quickly. He would not have time to prepare their escape. He could not leave Sirka at home alone to face the hatred of their countrymen when he betrayed them, as he surely intended to do. They would lynch her after they raped and tortured her. No, he would rather die, saving his wife.

Sangor asked permission from his commander to say good-bye to his wife. He swore on his honor that he would be back within the hour. The commander thought it was a small request from a war hero who was willing to risk his life a second time for his country and he assented.

Sangor ran home. Out of breath, he told his wife that she must follow the unit at a safe distance through Sectors 87, 84, and 127, almost to the river and keep an eye out for Sangor to come fetch her at the last moment before they crossed the river. He planned to lead the unit to the wrong point along the river, break away from them while they were organizing for the crossing, and come fetch her. Sangor had stolen an STU from the governor’s stores and pressed it into her hands. He said she was not to speak into it, only to listen. He would click the transmit button twice to indicate he had escaped and was on his way to fetch her. She would count to ten in her head and click thrice to acknowledge. Then once a minute she would click four times to indicate her position. He would try to triangulate her position with his STU. As soon as he found her, he would take her to the correct crossing point along the river. After they reached the other side, Sangor was sure that Lem or one of his friends would find them and bring them safely to the village. Sangor kissed his wife long and hard, and ran back to his unit, arriving just in time to answer his commander’s question “where the hell is Sangor, goddammit”.

By morning, supplies, materiel, and transport were battle-ready. The unit set out with a wagon train pulled by a team of dracs. Three wagons were filled with mounds of folded cloth and coiled rope. Three wagons contained light-weight braided metal baskets and air-burner frames. The last three wagons were loaded with large heavy disarmed cyanide canisters. Some of the commandos rode on top of the wagons and some walked alongside them. The unit made good time marching through the sector, much to Sangor’s consternation. He hoped and prayed his wife would be able to keep up with the unit, without being spotted. Please, God, not too close and not too far.

Sangor’s wife had no trouble keeping up with the unit. Sirka hitched their drac to their cart, after hastily loading it with food and water, supplies, and blankets. She followed the column of dust the commandos and dracs kicked up on the long march, at a half-day distance, parallel to the dust column on the other side of the valley. When they stopped, she would stop.

Sirka listened to the military chatter on her STU, careful not to brush her cheek against the transmit button. She did not allow herself to sleep. She worried about Sangor and their future. What had happened to their whole world? Sangor had come home from the Rat wars a decorated hero. The high commanders praised him. Their neighbors talked about him admiringly. Then Sangor came home and the world turned on its head. He told her the Rats were good and our people were evil. He said the Rats were strong and smart, and they would win the war against us. He said our government would lead us into catastrophe and extinction. The Rats knew how to rise from the ashes. The Rats did not hate us. They were only defending themselves. They would help us survive. Sangor had asked his wife whether she knew how many Rats had fought against our army. Just one, Lem, he said without waiting for her to answer. They can control the weather. They can appear suddenly and just as suddenly disappear. They can be many places at the same time. They see the future like we look across a field. She did not know what to believe. Maybe Sangor had been brainwashed while he was in captivity. She had heard of such things. He certainly was talking crazily. She felt sure the things he said about the Rats could not be true, but she knew many of the things he said about our army and our government might very well be true. What was a person to do?

A voice from the STU gave the command to move. She snapped the whip over the inert drac’s back and started to lurch forward.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Chapter 36: Down by the River

Sangor returned alone to the compound. His friends were surprised to see him alive, standing on his own legs. One of the men jeered, “What’s the matter, Sangor, didn’t they have room for you in Paradise?” The men around him smirked or chortled.

Sangor stared at the man and the men around him until the sounds died. Some of the men wondered what had happened to Sangor.

When he finally spoke, Sangor spoke so softly that the men had to strain their ears to hear him. “They’ve decided to let us return home,” he said. Nobody else said anything for a long moment. “Those of us who want to leave are free to do so.”

Still nobody spoke. A voice from the back of the cave asked, “What’s the catch?” Another said, “They’ll shoot us in the back as soon as we leave this compound!” A third man who had been part of the aborted escape attempt said, “So what, we’ll never find our way out of this god-damned hell hole to the river. We tried before and see where it got us!”

Sangor waited until the other men had run out of words and silence once again began to fill the cave. “A Rat will come in one hour to lead those of you who wish to leave to the river,” he said. “Anyone who wants to stay here can stay.”

“What are you going to do?” the silent man who had led the aborted escape asked.

“What do you think?” Sangor answered coldly.

 

An hour later, nobody noticed that a Rat child had appeared in the captive compound. “Hey look!” a voice said and all heads turned in the child’s direction.

“Follow me,” the child said. “I will take you to the river, to the point where it may be forded.”

The men stood up, testing and stretching their legs, after sitting or lying so long on the hard stone floor. They began to file after the child across the threshold where the glass wall had been and into the sunlight.

Many of the men, including Sangor, looked around themselves at the caves and fields, but mainly at the cloudless cobalt sky that stretched from one horizon to another.

The child led the men up the winding narrow path to the plateau from which they could view the green valley. The men kept their eyes on the child’s back, especially those who had attempted to escape on their own and kept returning to the same point.

The child went through a gap between the trees and disappeared from the view of some of the stragglers. They hurried their pace and latched their fingers into the collars or the pants of the men in front of them to make sure they weren’t left behind. The men up front disappeared through the gap between the trees, followed by a millipede of men holding onto each other for dear life, until the last straggler had made it through.

They walked along a forest path with a meandering creek running along between the trees off to the right of them. The water lapping the rocks gave them hope that they might actually make it to the river.

Three of the captives, one of whom was the silent man, plotted to overpower the Rat child as soon as they were in sight of the river. They’d take him captive or they’d kill him.

The men could hear the rushing torrent of the river. The child had fallen back, as some of the men hurried forward to see with their own eyes what their ears promised them. The man next to the silent man grinned to himself. This was going to be almost too easy.

When they reached the river bank, the three men turned on the Rat who had no place to run to, but he was nowhere to be found. They looked everywhere within a radius of 30 steps, careful not to lose a line of sight to the rest of the group. Frustrated, once again, they caught sight of a flat boat tethered to one of the trees overhanging the river. The men filed down the embankment to the boat and climbed onto it. One man untied the rope, letting it fall from the tree, and while the rope slid along the bank towards the water, the man jumped onto the boat grasped by the outstretched hands of his countrymen.

The men paddled the flat boat with great difficulty to the opposite shore and stepped gratefully onto the far shores of Sector 127.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Chapter 34: All Paths Lead to

The silent man told Sangor the compound was unguarded at night. Sangor asked whether anyone had checked if the glass wall at the entrance to the compound was active.

“Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t,” one of the men said.

“How long is it inactive?” Sangor asked.

The man answered, “I don’t think anyone knows for sure.”

Sangor asked him, “Don’t you have any idea whether it’s inactive for a long time or a short time?”

“Not really,” he said. “Sometimes I walk by the entrance and see my reflection in the glass and sometimes I don’t. That’s when I realize it’s not active.”

“You should make a finger print or smudge of dirt on the glass,” Sangor suggested. “Then it might be easier to tell from a distance whether the glass is up or down.”

“Yeah, I thought so too,” the man answered, “but every time the glass comes together again, it’s clear as though it had never been touched.”

Sangor felt queasy in his stomach. “Any chance the glass might come together when somebody’s right where it’s supposed to be?”

The men looked around at each other. The silent man spoke up. “No one knows what would happen. Don’t make no difference though… We have to take our chance and make a dash to the river. And it will have to be tonight!”

“I’m not sure it’s such a good idea,” Sangor said, unsure of himself or the chances of their success.

“Then you shouldn’t have listened to our idea,” the silent man said threateningly. “I ain’t leaving anyone who’s heard our plan here to tell it to the Rats… It’s your decision. Either you go with us tonight or you go to your Maker. It’s up to you.”

The silent man told a couple of the men to keep an eye on Sangor. Sangor had a foreboding sense about the whole situation and a sinking feeling that maybe he should not have cast his lot in with his friends.

That night in the darkness one of the men went from one man to the next, covering his mouth with one hand and shaking his shoulder with the other hand. Silently they rose, one by one, and moved towards the entrance. Nobody went through until all of them were present and accounted for.

Sangor was standing between two burly men. He could feel the cool night breeze from outside the cave on his face.

The silent man gestured to one of the men to test the glass wall. The man raised his hand to the glass and it went through. He looked back at the silent man and waved his hand where the glass wall should have been.

The silent man made another gesture. The men started moving through the entrance into the night. The men at the front looked cautiously left and right for any sign of the Rats, but did not see any.

The men moved stealthily, single file, past the caves until they reached the path ascending to the cliff. The captives ran up the paths they remembered descending into the thick forests from which they’d come. Sangor ran between the two men. He had a knife-like pain in his side from running but his mind attempted to ignore the pain. Maybe he had been wrong. Maybe they’d make it to the river. Maybe they’d make it across.

After several days they reached a clearing. Looking through the clearing, they saw the fields of the Rats and the caves. The men realized with sinking hearts that they had come full circle.

The captives ran in another direction, this time following a new path, careful to run straight as an arrow flies. After two days and nights of running and scarcely resting, they arrived haggard at the same cliff overlooking the Rat fields and caves. Disheveled, disheartened, and weak with thirst and starvation, they descended the narrow path to their compound and gratefully wolfed down the food that had been set on the tables.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Chapter 29: Fallback

Just before dawn, the last-watch guard entered the downriver commander’s tent and fired his shot-blaster into the commander’s snoring face. One of the other guards dragged the commander’s corpse through the mud to the river bank, waded in until he was chest-deep and the corpse floated in the current, and released it to float downstream.

The other men began to wake up, one by one, and tended to their personal needs. They ate in silence after which they started to move upriver and homeward.

The STU beside the downriver commander’s cot squawked in high pitched tones to the emptiness of the tent.

The upriver commander called his commanding general on his STU to report that his troops had sustained a 75% loss of personnel and materiel against superior Rat forces deployed along the river bordering the Uncharted Areas. The commander surmised that the Rats had superior technology, including the ability to control the local weather to their advantage and to use lightning as an accurate and effective weapon. He recommended to his superior officer massive reinforcements to overcome the enemy and make them rue the day they were born. The commanding general explained there were no more troops available. It would take months to draft and train them.

“Sir, in that case,” the upriver commander said to his superior, “I recommend falling back with our remaining forces to defend our home sectors from an expected Rat counter attack.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Chapter 28: River Crossing

The next morning at dawn cavalry units accompanied two fresh pairs of scouts up and down the river. The scouts and units were to return before evening. Again radio silence was to be maintained at all costs. Night descended, not much different from the day, but neither the scouts nor the cavalry units returned.

The morning after, the field commander divided the infantry, cavalry, heavy artillery, observational balloons, and logistics units into two equal groups, each with its own group commander. Each would move in opposite directions up and down the river bank until they found a point where the river could be crossed. Both groups would use encrypted radio signals to communicate with each other. The two groups would meet up on the other side, possibly organizing a pincer movement around the Rat enemy although they had no idea where the Rats were. The upriver group slogged its way around the bend and soon was out of sight of the downriver group, which moved slowly downstream.

The upriver group marched three days before they found a point apparently shallow enough to ford the river. The scouts and cavalry units were never found. There were rumors that they had been beheaded or skinned alive and left hanging upside down from a tree. The rumors served to increase their hatred of the Rats and their resolve to massacre every last one of them. No mercy would be shown. Among many of the soldiers, however, the rumors served to make them afraid and to wonder whether this military campaign was really worth sacrificing their lives. The upriver group commander called the downriver commander over the STU. The downriver commander had not reached a point where the river could be safely crossed but was optimistic that it was only a matter of time until they found it. They had not found any sign of the scouts or cavalry units sent downstream. He feared the worst had happened. His men were itching to kill the Rats with their bare hands.

The upriver commander, being senior in command, decided to cross the river without waiting for the downriver commander’s group to cross. He ordered some men to wade across the treacherous rapids with heavy coils of rope slung over each shoulder and shot-blasters held high above their heads. The rope coils were tied around thick trees and boulders growing stubbornly from the river bank. The stones below the white water were sharp as axe blades and provided slippery footing at best. The lead man slipped and hit his head, opening a bloody gash across his cheekbone. The second man caught him by the collar but lost his shot-blaster downstream while scrambling to maintain his footing. He waited for the third soldier to reach him and together they dragged the unconscious soldier to the other side. They laid the soldier on the sandy beach of the far bank and looped the ropes around gnarled tree trunks. One of the soldiers carried the excess rope back across the river to the near side. The ends of the rope were tied so that a long low hanging loop of rope crossed over the river. A hundred or so men tied themselves to the ropes overhanging the river and waded across with their weapons aimed at the forested hill tops on the far side. They reached the other side and established a beach head facing their weapons inland, the direction from which they thought the Rat attackers would come. The remaining soldiers built several rough-hewn rafts and thick staves to pull the carts, animals, and heavy equipment across, while trying to brake the strong downstream currents. The sun seemed to break through the thick roiling clouds hiding the treetops on the cliffs surrounding the beach they had secured. Some of the men were heartened to see a keyhole of golden sunlight, the first rays in more than a week, what with all the dismal weather they had slogged through. Some men wondered how in God’s own hell were they going to scale those cliffs. Small but sturdy piers were built under the ropes on either side of the river. An empty raft was tethered to the rope and to the pier and pushed, sliding into the water. The first drac and cart were driven reluctantly onto the unstable raft. The drac snorted and brayed, swaying his head and neck left and right, and nearly charging off the edge of the raft. The cart held a heavy cannon battened down for the river crossing. The rope to the pier was released and one soldier pulled the raft via the loop rope while another soldier planted the stave into the riverbed to keep the raft from flowing downstream.

When the raft was halfway across the river, a lightning bolt ripped through the grey sky and blasted the thick tree to splinters, around which the crossing rope was looped. The looped rope catapulted uselessly into the air and the raft capsized, drac, cart, soldiers, and cannon. The rope held onto the raft as it swung along the radius downstream of the tree trunk on the far side of the river, that is, until a second lightning bolt blasted the tree trunk into splinters. The capsized raft, now released from any and all commitments, flowed downstream until it broke up on one of the sharp rocks jutting up from the riverbed.

The upriver group commander was undaunted by the singular bad luck he had witnessed with his own eyes. He would not be deterred and resolved to cross the river again but the grey light was waning and soon the night would render it virtually impossible to cross the river. He called his men across the river to make camp as best they could for the night and the logistics units would bring provisions to them in the morning. He watched with his monocular the camp fires sputtering across the river. His own men made camp and settled in for the night. He ordered two standing guards and two roving guards to patrol the perimeter. He gave the same orders to the unit commander on the far side of the river.

At the crack of dawn, the commander scanned the far side with his monocular but saw only the grey mists. He called the unit commander on the STU but only a dead silence issued from the earphone. He called the downriver group commander for position and status. The downriver commander reported they were about to break camp and continue downstream looking for a safe place to cross the river. The upriver commander told him about the two lightning bolts and the lost cannon, cart, and drac. He had an eerie feeling about those lightning bolts but he did not mention it to the other commander.

The upriver commander slipped the STU into his backpack. He ordered some soldiers to tie a new rope around one of the other thick trees on the near bank of the river and some other soldiers to tie the other end of the rope around their waists. The first group of soldiers fed the rope out slowly as the second group waded into the river with their weapons trained on the cliff tops. The men in the river moved slowly, trying to maintain their footing in the rapids. They disappeared into the mists. After twenty agonizing minutes, the commander heard his STU bleeping gratefully. “Sir, we reached the far bank of the river,” the voice reported, “but we don’t see any of our guys. There’s no tracks in the sand or mud either.” “Keep looking!” the commander ordered. “There’s gotta be something left behind, a cigarette stub, a food bar wrapper, a smoking pile of dung, something…” “We’re looking again sir,” the voice crackled with static, “but we’re not finding anything.” The commander ordered the men on the other side of the river to stop searching and to secure the perimeter immediately. He told them to call him every ten minutes to update their status whether or not there was anything to report.

Two men looped the rope around another tree. One of the men waded back across the river with the excess rope.

After the rope loop was hanging across the river, another raft was shoved through the mud and sand down to the river side beside the pier. A drac and cart were driven onto the raft. The drac roared fire and the raft nearly capsized. The cannon was carefully lifted into the cart and tied down. The raft inched across the strong shallow currents with one soldier pulling the loop rope and the other staving off the pull of the downstream. The raft reached the middle of the river with great difficulty and then a single lightning bolt split into two tines slamming into both trees on either side of the river, replacing them with ash and smoke. The rope flew upward in a diabolic smile of flame. The raft flowed sideways downriver until it hit a half-submerged tree and the cart, cannon, and drac upended over the side of the raft and splashed under the grey water. The men were shot off the raft into the water as it flipped over. During the excitement of this rolling disaster, the commander had forgotten that he had not heard from his men on the other side of the river for more than ten minutes. He called the voice he’d talked to earlier that morning, but there was no response.

The downriver group continued to move forward, keeping the river to their left. Around every bend, the river seemed to widen until the opposite bank was lost in the undifferentiated grey mists. Just before nightfall at the end of each long march, the group stopped to set up camp and draw up lists for guard and patrol duty. The commander called the upriver commander every hour from sunset to sunrise to give and receive status updates. The downriver commander was appalled to hear of the losses in men and material. He was even more appalled to hear about the lightning bolts. He had to consider that the Rats had succeeded in weaponizing lightning.

The next morning the downriver group broke camp and set out on another long slog. You couldn’t really march in mud up to your knees. They slogged parallel to the river looking over to the other bank as it receded into the distance. Everyone suspected the uselessness of the effort and that the river would probably become a lake before it became a creek.

The rain turned to hail, which turned to rain again, and then to hail again. The soldiers turned indifferent to the weather. The rain softened and beat down on the cloth protecting their backs and shoulders, so that the hail hurt even more against their wet skins. Their minds were elsewhere, in warm dry local pubs or in warm dry beds. The grey afternoon darkened into evening as the soldiers rounded a bend and entered a boulder strewn inlet. They set up camp for the night, sipped cold soup from crusted cups, and cursed their downriver commander more than the Rats.

It seemed an endless senseless cycle of night and morning, dreaming and waking. Some men had been feverish for several days and they moved in and out of hallucinations, effortlessly, passively. One soldier fainted headlong into the mud. His comrades lifted him up, barely conscious, supporting him with their shoulders under his armpits, carrying his backpack or shot-blaster along with their own.

The fog moved in low covering the muddy ground, the sandy bank, and the river itself. The soldiers’ feet trudged along blindly, not knowing where to step. One man stumbled sideways into the river.

The rain poured down straight from the low clouds in thick globules, beating away the low lying fog until once again the feet knew where to step. Grey morning slipped unnoticed into grey afternoon and afternoon into greyer evening. The last light began to fade from the rain. They stopped to set up camp. Lists were drawn up for guard and patrol duty.

 

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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