50 meters outside the Pool of the Dead.
1 hour and 26 minutes later . . .
Juan concluded that nobody was watching us, at least, at that time. We set up a small, nearly invisible, camp within sight of the dead pool. We dug a trench and used some camouflage vinyl tarp material to create an observation post. We then covered it with broken branches and loose soil so that it’s easier for us to see them, than the other way around. Which, when dealing with evil, is really the most prudent way to go.
He’s set up several seismic sensors, so sensitive, he clams, that we can hear a bird fart at two hundred meters.
What happens when birds fart? I asked him. Are there all kinds of bells and whistles?
“No,” Juan whispers matter-of-factly, “the bird just farts. But we can see where they did it.”
We have our weapons laid out in case they make a run in on us. Our goggles are on, but we’re taking turns watching. If you stand watch too long, Juan tells me, you’ll turn into a zombie that can’t tell one thing from the next. Your eyes, he said, will play tricks on you.
Our plan, that we’ve been whisper-forming for the last hour, is to try and follow whatever creatures are using this place as a feeding or dumping ground. We’ll wait here until something supernatural crosses our path . . . or until the sun comes up. Then we’ll have to get some breakfast.
12:44 am . . .
I’m on watch while Juan studies the seismic meter results. There’s pretty much nothing going on, here. Animals don’t want to get anywhere near this place. They’re the smart ones, I think. Alarm, consternation, dismay, dread, fright, panic, terror . . . these are all things that animals instinctively feel, and base their decisions off of.
We humans, we fight these urges. Look down on them as weakness of character and resolve. How far-off we stray from our roots.
Juan perks up, pointing at something on the meter. “Hay algo . . . cerca de aqui.”
I don’t know if he can see my eyes looking nervously around. To explain my demeanor, the phrase, ‘guilty as sin’, might be appropriate.
That thing can really pick up a bird fart?
He looks at me incredulously, knowing what I’ve done, “Pinché, Yack. Cerra su culo.”
“Well . . . all you eat is beans in this country,” I say as an excuse.
He lifts up part of the vinyl camouflage covering and gives some ventilation to purge my indiscretion.
2:01 am . . .
I’m on the meter now, Juan’s looking through the night-thermal goggles. He makes slow, calculated sweeps of the entire dead pool area, as well as to the outsides on our right and left where an ambush might arise.
“Nada,” he says under his breath. “Mucho muerto, no vivos.”
Nothing. Much death, nobody living.
On the meter I see absolute flatline. This is less than nothing. This is nothing times 14.
Maybe our sensors are broken, I whisper.
“Son buenas, son nuevas.”
They’re good, they’re new.
I watch a small beetle walk by, carrying a piece of a dried leaf. Good for him. Must be a lonely place for this little guy. It’s the first living thing I’ve seen. I point it out to Juan. Our new pet.
“We’ll call him, Juanito.”
Alright, then. Little beetle, your name is now Juanito.
But Juanito doesn’t pay us any mind. He’s got important things to do with that scrap of dead plant life. He’s part of the natural course of things. Something dies, and other living things find a use for it. Life decays into death, which begets more life . . . and the drum just keeps on beating.
Juanito is gone.
The seismic meter is still waiting to exhale.
And Juan, he continues to make his scans.
4:56 am . . .
I’m back on goggle duty, watching everything in terms of its heat signature. As I make my visual sweeps I quietly ask Juan questions about how he got into this life.
“Mis vecinos,” he says softly. “They were into running guns across the border of Columbia and Venezuela.” He shrugs, “When I got out of the army I was bored. I got into the family business. Good money. Exciting life. Y, yo tengo many stories to tell my kids.”
You have kids!? I say, surprised.
“Si. Dos hijas.” He then leans to his side and pulls out a small photograph of the two cutest little girls you can imagine. They have dark skin, green eyes and dirty-blond hair.
I look at the picture, then to Juan, the picture, Juan again.
He smiles, taking the picture, “They get the hair and the eyes from their mother, Mariana. She’s Brasilian. Muy guapa.” he says, his eyebrows lifting up and down.
But, if you have a beautiful family like this, why do . . . this? You don’t need this kind of heat.
“Es en la sangre,” he says. He then tells me in his mixture of Spanish and English, that he needs the kind of release that this type of work provides. He likes fighting the battles that don’t ever make it to the front page of the papers. He likes being one of the guys in the shadows. It’s an addiction of sorts. He and Andy—Mr. Green—have been working together for nearly six years.
Two months here, three months there . . . all bills paid.
Tax free violence. They even accept corporate checks.
It’s not for everyone, he explains to me. It’s lonely and dangerous, and reckless. But it’s pure and has its own kind of honesty. The way of the gunslinger is not a life for those who want to leave a legacy. It’s for those who want to make a difference.
“Y tu, Yack. Porquéestas aqui?”
And you, Jack. Why are you here?
I’m a retard, I tell him. I woke-up in a hospital, stuck on stupid and I’ve pretty much been going full-throttle since then. I’m trying to save the world.
“Me caes bien, Yack. Estas buey, pero me caes bien,” he says patting me on the shoulder.
I like you, Jack. You’re stupid, but I like you.
5:35 am . . .
Well, the sun is starting to turn the black sky into something liquid blue. This is the time between dogs and wolves, and the only thing we saw all night was Juanito cross back and forth with exponentially bigger pieces of decayed leaves.
We’re both yawning when we hear Mr. Green on the radio, “Has encontrado algo?”
No, I tell him, frustrated. We didn’t find anything.
“Well . . . we did.”