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Just Keep

By Janna_A All Rights Reserved ©


Just Keep

The darkness wasn’t the scariest thing. The time was 0200 hours and a cloudy, moonless night. No lights were on in the bay and we shifted uncomfortably in our wet suits and waterproof backpacks. They both were as dark as the water below our plane.

“T minus 30, soldiers,” the commander barked. “Double check everything. Remember what to do. Remember what you read about this place.” He paused, “We regroup t 0400 in location A. Don’t be late. We will not wait for you. Am I clear?”

“Yes sir!” we yelled together. I could hear the movement of everyone double checking their straps and started doing the same. Suddenly the plane jerked. I grabbed the wall to stop falling and heard a few thuds.

“What in the world is-” the commander was cut off by an explosion. Suddenly we were ripped out of the plane. The wind screamed in our ears and cut off any cries of pain or surprise from being yanked through a jagged hole in the side of the plane. I could see the fire as the plane plummeted to the ocean. I searched for the cord to engage my parachute. I found and pulled it a few hundred feet from the water. I hear 3 splashes from those who were unable to find theirs. 3 dead, 7 left. The plane crashed into the ocean and sank. I touched down in the water and gasped as the coldness surrounded me. I had survived the landing.

I detached my parachute and let it sink. I pulled a glow stick from one pocket and my compass from another. I cracked the stick and patiently waited for the light to brighten. I looked at the compass.

Broken. It was broken. The cover was cracked and the back was bent. I dropped the useless instrument and looked around. I couldn’t see any land or anyone else. We had been scattered farther than we had wanted. I looked up. We had been taught how to navigate with the stars a month ago. At that time I had thought it was useless, but at that moment I was grateful. East. I had to swim east. I looked until I realized that I would never see any stars.  The stars were hidden behind thick, menacing clouds. I screamed in frustrate.

Ok, I told myself, I need to go east. We were flying south east. The plane went down to my front left. I need to swim left. I turned left and started swimming.

Just keep swimming.

The thought flew through my head as I swam for 30 minutes, 40 minutes, 50 minutes, an hour. I could feel the strain in my arms and legs. My breathing was starting to become ragged. I should have had only a half hour left to swim, but because of the circumstances, I had no clue how much longer it would be.

Just keep swimming.

I heard a scream to my right. Loud, pain filled, and cut short. I heard a splash along with it. I swam faster. A few minutes later something brushed past me. I stiffened, but kept swimming. I wanted to move away from where it had just found me as fast as possible. I didn’t want to know what it was. I heard another scream from my left. It was also cut short. 5 dead, 5 left. The silence was deafening. My senses were overexerting themselves to try and find anything in the inky blackness that surrounded me. I couldn’t tell where the sky ended and the sea began. How would I find something in the water?

Just keep swimming.

It brushed my leg. I swam harder and faster. I sensed it next to me and kicked it. I hit its gills. I quickly pulled the glow stick from my pocket and looked. It was a shark. It drifted away some.

I had been swimming for an hour and 40 minutes. My watch had survived even though my compass had not. I laughed at the thought. I would not die here. I refused to die in the middle of the ocean. I refused to be killed by a shark. I would make it to shore.

Just keep swimming.

I had now been swimming for 2 and a half hours. The shark had left me around the 2 hour mark. I was exhausted and barely able to keep going. My arms and legs were heavy. I could barely lift one after the other.

Just keep swimming.

I saw a small, but bright light sweeping over the water around a boat to my left. Machine gun fire tore through the silence and flashed in the darkness as it peppered the water around it. A couple seconds after it stopped I heard a call of we got one.

I heard the boat as it approached me. I took a breath and slipped under the waves, but kept going forward. A few minutes later I heard the boat pass behind me. It fired again, but missed me by a long shot. The boat moved on. I waited until I couldn’t hear it to come up. I rose until my head was above the water and looked around the darkness. It was far to my left and a moment later it was gone. 6 dead, 4 left.

Just keep swimming.

Another half hour had passed. My arms were numb. I was swimming on pure will power now. I refused to die. I hadn’t heard anything for the past half hour. The silence was terrifying. I should have heard something, right? The darkness was so complete that I couldn’t make anything out. It swallowed all sound and light. I couldn’t hear the boat or its machine gun. I couldn’t even hear the beach that must be close. I had to be close, right?

Just keep swimming.

One thought drove me on for 10, 20, 30 minutes.

Just keep swimming.

It was my mantra. If I could do it, I would live. I refused to die.

Just keep swimming.

I wondered if anyone had given up. Was I the only one left? Could I complete the mission on my own? If I was the only one still alive, this would be a suicide mission.

Just keep swimming.

If the mission was going to kill me any way, then wouldn’t it be better to die now? To save myself the trouble of all my effort going to waste? My body kept moving. It would keep swimming until it could no longer swim. No matter how much I thought about giving up and sinking beneath the soothing waves my body wouldn’t let me. It didn’t want to die. It refused to die.

Just keep swimming.

It was 0550 hours. T minus 10 till sunrise. Was I wrong? Would I die? If I had been going in the wrong direction, I was dead. My body kept swimming. It wouldn’t even stop for 10 minutes. It refused to die.

I glanced at my watch a few minutes later. 0601. I dropped my last glow stick back into my pocket. The sun hadn’t risen. I had to have been going in the wrong direction for the past 4 hours. That was the only explanation for the sun not rising. My body slowed. Finally conceding to the useless fight. I sighed. Next thing I knew, I was blinded. I squinted into the light. I expected it to be the enemy combatants on their boat, but saw the sun and a dark streak along the horizon.

Land. It was land. I hadn’t been going in the wrong direction. I swam harder and faster. The shore coming closer until I could make out details. I was the beach and trees. I saw where the water ended. I saw the end of the shadowy darkness I had been living in. It was over. I would live.

Just keep swimming.

I eagerly followed my mantra. I couldn’t wait to reach solid ground. I was 40 feet from shore and could see where I wanted to land. Then, 100 feet down the beach from that spot I saw a plume of sand shoot into the air. An instant later I heard the blast. 30 feet from shore I realized what it meant and stopped dead. There were land mines in the sand. 7 dead, 3 left.

I cautiously swam forward until I was sitting at the edge of the water. There was no way to tell where the land mines were. The beach was covered in the dark shadows of the trees. The darkness hadn’t left. It had just changed forms.

Just keep running.

A new mantra filled my head as I took the first step onto shore. Nothing happened. I took another. Still nothing. Fifty steps later I was safely hidden in the shadowy forest. I had survived the plane being shot down. I had survived the fall. I had survived the ocean. I had survived the beach-the mine field. I would survive the forest. I would survive the mission. I would live. I refused to die. I took another step.

Just keep running.

I carefully progressed through the forest. The trees quickly swallowed me in their dark embrace. I couldn’t see outside of them. I had to trust that I was going in the right direction. I had checked my map and found my location. Location A was dead. Location B was a meet up at 0500 and was dead. Location C was a meet up at 0600 and was dead. I had to travel to location D for the late meet up. It would happen at 0700 hours. I had less than an hour to travel 5 miles through this forest. I would survive.

Just keep running.

It was 0730 and I had traveled a mile and a half. I wasn’t going fast enough. I needed to speed up, so I started jogging. Five minutes later I heard a scream to my right and tripped. I slammed into the ground and the trees above me were sprayed with gun shots. I froze and scanned my surroundings. I carefully sat up and searched the ground until I found what I was looking for. A trip wire. The forest was filled with traps. 8 dead, 2 left. I stood back up and started slowly making my way through the bushes, checking the undergrowth as I went.

Just keep running.

Every couple hundred feet I found trip wires. The set ups were intricate and nearly invisible. It had taken me 20 minutes to reach the 3.5 mile mark. I was running out of time. I sped up some and slipped on a pile of slick leaves. More guns went off and once again barely missed me. I took a deep breath and stood up. I would go slowly no matter what from now on. I refused to die here. I would not die from a trip wire in a forest.

Just keep running.

I thought it again and again for the next 20 minutes. I had finally reached the clearing. I had reached location D 5 minutes late, but if anyone was still alive, they would be here. We were supposed to wait here till 0720 hours. I walked around the perimeter, but didn’t see anyone. I glanced at my watch 0719. I would have to leave in another minute no matter what. That minute passed.  I sighed and moved on. Our orders were that if no one met up with us at location D; continue on as though you were the only survivor. Complete the mission at all costs. I turned from the clearing and started moving to location E. The location we were supposed to infiltrate.

Just keep running.

It took me 3 more hours to escape the forest. I entered a small village and carefully made my way around its perimeter. I didn’t want to be seen. From here on out I would travel 80 miles along the edge of the forest. I would follow roads and villages to know where I was going while drifting in and out of the dark forest and untrampled overgrowth. It was 1005 hours. I would arrive at location E around 2200 hours.

I found the road leading from the village and moved farther into the trees to check my map. I located the name of the village and the roads I would need for the next couple hours. I packed everything back up and pulled out some food to eat as I went. I glanced around before starting to jog on a path parallel to the road.

Just keep running.

At 1221 hours I ran into my first convoy. Luckily, I was safely hidden in the trees and unable to be seen. I heard the engine and immediately crouched down so that I blended into the shadows of the foliage.  A minute later, the truck drove by. Enemy soldiers were looking around, scanning their surroundings. I crouched lower. I held my breath as it passed. I remained unseen. After the engine faded, I started moving again. No more vehicles appeared to be coming.

Just keep running.

I stopped again at 1438 hours to eat. I climbed a tree 15 feet into the forest and watched the road as I rested. My entire body was sore. The only thing that kept me moving was the fact that if I stopped I would die. I packed up and was about to get down when I heard another vehicle approaching. After listening for a moment, it was apparent that it wasn’t alone. There were 2 enemy convoys.

I climbed 5 feet higher into the tree and waited. I could barely see the road through the foliage, but could easily hear the engines approaching. I saw them pass me and heard the engines start idling. I froze. They couldn’t know I was here, so why had they stopped? The soldiers leaped from their cars and started walking through the undergrowth, looking for something-or someone. I waited.

They searched thoroughly. No hiding spot was unexamined. They slowly approached my tree and once there they combed every inch around it. Not once did any of them look up. I thanked God for that as they moved on.

10 minutes passed. 15 minutes passed. 20 minutes passed. They searched in vain. Finally, their commander called them back and they moved on. I waited in the tree until I was unquestionably sure they were gone. I glanced at my watch after jumping to the ground. 1513 hours. I needed to hurry. I still had 47 miles to go.

Just keep running.

The mantra played in my head for the next 5 hours. Each time I encountered a convoy I would hide in the shadowy branches of the trees and wait patiently. As I got closer to my destination, the amount of cars and convoys increased. I had 13 miles and 2 hours. I didn’t know if I would make it on time. I carefully progressed and froze at every sound. I didn’t know whether or not the soldiers would be on foot or in their vehicles.

Just keep running.

2222 hours. I finally made it to my destination. The convoys and enemy combatants had made me late, but I was here. I was alive. I had survived the forest. I would survive the compound. I observed the compound for 8 minutes and then decided it was time to move in. I was already behind schedule. The sun had set at 2134 hours and spotlights rotated around the compound. Once I started towards the building, I couldn’t stop. I snorted at the new mantra that filled my head.

Just keep moving.

After the search beam passed, I slipped through the fence. I used the shadows to hide from guards and the walls to hide from the light. I smirked at how I was hiding from the light in this dark place. I pressed against the wall as a group of armed men walked by 15 feet from me. I held my breath until they were gone and then quickly darted away from the wall and approaching beam.

Just keep moving.

I skittered diagonally across the open spaces and slid along walls and through alleys. I didn’t stop. I knew that if I stopped I would be seen. I paused at the corner of a building and glanced around the corner. No one. I darted across the empty space. A beam of light flooded the emptiness. I breathed a sigh of relief and moved on. I glanced at my watch as I slipped through another alley. 2248 hours. It was almost over.

Just keep moving.

100 feet from the compound I stumbled upon the commander. He had 10 bullet holes and was clearly dead. I looked at my watch again. It read 2255 hours. 9 dead, 1 left. I truly was the last survivor. I jumped back as a beam approached the alley. I took one last look before turning around and leaving.

Just keep moving.

I crept up on the designated door and gently nudged it open. I didn’t hear anything so I glanced inside. No one. I slipped inside. It was 2300 hours. I had 30 minutes before they realized I was here. I recalled the blue prints and followed the path that had been drilled into us through the base until I reached the control center. I glanced inside through a window in the door.

There were 5 people inside. Each of them was intently watching screens and had their backs towards me. I pulled out my gun and opened the door. Only one turned around. Their eyes widened, but before they could say anything I shot them. The silencer dampened the noise, but the others still noticed the thud. I quickly dispatched them and moved to the main computer. I plugged a thumb drive in and entered a code. A count down started on the screen. T minus 5 minutes. I glanced at my watch. 2316 hours. I watched the door while the numbers slowly whittled down.

Finally, the timer ran out and the file was ready to be sent. I quickly typed a message to prove it was me sending it. The darkest place shall soon see the light. A thought that all of us on this mission had truly believed. I clicked send, smashed the thumb drive, and left. I did not look back as I retraced my steps through the compound.

Just keep moving.

I slipped out of the compound as quickly and effectively as I could. After traveling a mile from location E, I pulled out my map and located location F. The retrieval zone. I would be retrieved at 0200 hours and it was already 0023 hours. I had 5 miles to cross in the dark through a forest surrounded by enemy soldiers in an hour and a half. I smiled as I folded my map.

I had survived the plane being shot down. I had survived the fall. I had survived the ocean. I had survived the beach-the mine field. I had survived the forest. I had survived the mission. I would survive the forest again. I would be retrieved. I would live. I refused to die. I glanced around before standing back up. I had to proceed cautiously.

Just keep moving.

At 0140 hours I stumbled upon enemy combatants. We were both surprised, but I was a faster draw. I killed the 5 of them and started running. They were not alone. I listened for others and heard them 5 minutes later. They were tracking me and all I could do was keep running and kill them if they caught up. I was worn, but adrenaline kept me moving.

Just keep moving.

Location F can into sight at 0157 hours. I saw my retrieval squad coming, but the enemy was hot on my heels. I fired at them and they fired at me. Neither of us hit. I weaved between trees and was invisible in the shadows. I was once again thankful for all consuming darkness. More shots were fired. I ducked and fired back, never slowing down.

Just keep moving.

I entered the clearing while the copter was only about a mile away. A smile filled my face. I would live. Just then pain tore through my shoulder. I stumbled, but kept running.

Just keep moving.

More pain in my leg. I faltered and slammed into the ground. I got up as quickly as I could and started limping to the center of the clearing. More shots whizzed by me until their commander yelled stop. An instant later I saw why. The copter was turning around. It was leaving me to die. I fell to the ground. I no longer had the strength to continue going. I had been abandoned.

Coldness flowed through me as my blood drained. I didn’t want to die. I still didn’t want to die. I laughed bitterly at a single thought that flooded my mind.

Just keep living.

10 dead, 0 left.

The scariest thing was being left by the light and not knowing if the darkness would kill me fast enough.

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