Forgotten Minds

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Chapter 3: The final Assault

Tuesday after. The school bell announced the end of the school day for children a few minutes ago. John and I are walking down the corridor with a heavy feeling around our hearts. Tuesday the afternoon of meetings. You know those meetings where teachers talk just for the sake of talking. They bring problems up that have been solved before I was born, do you get the drift. Everything I tell you to get discussed, from the underwear teachers should wear to dogs having sex on the way to school.

Well and then you have those with, it must be a kind of phobia or psychological defect, who love hearing their own voices. They repeat everything they say even if it is not relevant.

“Afternoon, afternoon, afternoon everyone, I mean everyone,” I start imitating the lady leading the meeting.

“God stops it,” John sigh the word out.

“We are gathered here today to meet, to meet face to face. I welcome each and everyone who is here for the meeting. First on the agenda is weekly meetings, the importance of these meetings, we have to meet so that we can communicate,” I tease.

“Let’s go to the office,” I suggest.

“I just want to go home,” John says.

“Linda tell the head John and me are in the office if he needs us,” I say, flashing my cell phone in the air. Linda the head master’s secretary shake her head smiling while we pass her desk in the front foyer.

“What office? John asks

“The one above the Spar.

“The pub.”

“Yeah.”

We are now on John’s off road motorbike rushing through the streets. You know that type of rush where you worry that the beers will be finished before you arrive. I think the spirit has now hit John too. As we pass the primary school in Warner Beach he pops the bike into a ‘wheely’. You know driving on his back wheel. We keep it up all the way to the Spar, a whole kilometer I tell you. Me, sitting at the back showing peace signs to all the pedestrians in the road.

“How was that? John asks as we park the bike next to the Spar.

“Fuckin awesome,” I reply before we walk up the narrow stairs to the pub.

“I was hoping for a sexy bar-lady,” John says as we walk in.

“Sixty years ago she was,” I reply.

“Fuck off.”

“Come on you are a history teacher.” I tease.

“Two Castle Drafts, please,” I ordered for us.

While the lady fixes the drinks John start walking to the corner table.

“are the beers hot,” I ask.

“No, they ice-cold my dear.”

“Thought the people around her only go to work if the beers are hot,” I reply while gazing over the empty pub. That is now if you don’t count Martin sitting at the pub. Deep in his hundreds, I tell you. He is like furniture here, last time he went home must have been for his twenty-first birthday party.

With the two ice cold draft glasses in my hands, I start walking across the small dance floor towards John.

“Where were we,” John asks while sitting back in the metal chair.

“At school,” I reply.

“Fuck off, in the story I mean.”

“Let me tell you about the final day in the mountains,” I say.

“You still remember me passing out, well this continue from there,” I start the story.

My eyes have adjusted and the blurry vision has improved. Only the bottom part of the vision is still covered by the misty blur. My eyes can once again see the trees in the valley and send useful information to my head for processing.

Movement in the trees is now real and I can see the first hunters approaching the area with caution. Their camouflaged clothing refuse to hide their figures under the bright sunlight, it refuses to melt them in with their environment.

With the blurry vision, I struggle to count them, to accurately assess the weapons that they carry. I struggle to see their faces under the military berets, but at least I know that they are there. My left-hand feels for the fully loaded AK47 leaning against the rock wall, to ensure that it is within reach and accessible. Just in case the AKM on my lap run out of ammunition. With a slow movement, I now move my hand to the wrist knife to ensure that it is properly secured and ready to defend my den.

They approaching the cliffs, and are about fifty meters from the place where I have left Chappies.

My chin is touching my chest to see over the blurry part in my eyes. I can still feel the fever running through my veins, the breath of death blowing down the back of my head, but I know that I need to keep my head clear. I need to keep my conscious mind alert and prevent it from slipping control to a dream-world.

The first soldier, the leader, lifts his hand indicating to his followers that they must stop. Everyone honors the command and goes down on their one knee, their guns in the ready position.

My AKM is also now in a position pointing towards the floor of my hiding place, my trigger finger curls lightly around the trigger, ready to fire.

Shoot them,” my mind start.

“No, wait, don’t react think,” I smile.

The leader indicates to one of the soldiers to come closer. The man responds by approaching his leader slowly and carefully.

He is now kneeling next to him and listens to his words. I cannot hear their voices but I can see his hand as he points in the direction of Chappies.

With his hand the soldier signal, two other soldiers start to approaches the rock on the left of Chappies. All the guns that I can see point in that direction as if they expect him to get up and start throwing guts at them.

My heart pounds in my chest, adrenaline pumps into my veins, heat fill the cold fever spots between the goose-bumps in my body.

Whack them now,” my mind says in a panic.

“I cannot see them all,” I reply.

“If I fire now the soldiers behind the trees will be able to rip my new home apart,” I explain, “I must allow them to go on the rest of the trail.”

“The trail might lead them away from us.”

“But…” my mind starts.

New voices start an argument in my head, I can hear them debating the situation, but I do not recognize any of them. I feel how the fear drives my mind, how the adrenaline pushes the blood from my knuckles, it prepares me for battle, but I am also aware of the calmness of long training hours keeping me from engaging. The sensible voice commands the body to calm down, to save the energy for the right moment.

I hear how one of the soldiers scream back at the commander

“ele esta morto” (he is dead).

It is as if the tension of the group of soldiers relaxes and it brings calmness to the group. Their guns are lowered and a few of them talk louder than they should, discipline becomes suspicious.

“Havia dois”, (there were two) the commanding officer shouts to the relaxing men.

“e so ele?”, (is he alone) he continues his sentence

“sim” (yes) the reply comes from the rocky area where Chappies is lying.

“Vamos sequir a pista,” (let us follow the track) the commander commands.

All the soldiers move from behind the tree and start walking straight towards me. I can now see all ten of them.

“They will come towards me before they will turn east on the track towards the rock,” I tell myself.

One of the soldiers stop.

“A pesta e pelo menos quarto horas velho”, (the track is at least four hours old) he explained to the other soldiers.

“Veja” (look) he said while he points at the trail that I have left

“Hienas” (hyenas) he said while pointing.

They start laughing, while they follow the leader on the dry blood trail that I left for them.

It is clear that the group that they have sent through the middle are undisciplined soldiers with a lack of ability.

“They are definitely not their special forces or even the qualified hunters that they think they are,” I observe.

“They will not find me unless I make a mistake,” I think

You hope,” my mind mumble.

“I need at least one of their water bottles to enable me to start planning an escape route,”

“Without water and rest I will not make the next day, I will enter that death room forever with no plan to escape.”

“I also need to eat something that will assist me to replace the blood I have lost during the last day.”

They are now close to me, close to the place where I have left the trail to my hideout. The AK47’s that they are carrying over their shoulders and the water canteens tight to their green canvas belts, the rest of their outfit carry only useless information.

They slow down as they approach. The tracker in front stops while he investigates the dry blood on the rocks. My hands tighten around the strap of the AKM on my lap, ready to fire the bullets in the direction of the group, but I will wait to see what they do.

They are now directly under me their heads are at the level of my feet, if I reach out with the machine gun on my lap I will be able to touch them. My breathing remains controlled with a soft in and out. The last man in the line turns towards me. He fiddles for a while before he starts urinating against the cliff.

“The slightest move will give my hiding away,” I warn myself.

Talking to me,” my mind tries.

“Only a thought to beguile the tedious minutes.”

What.

Before I can reply I hear the front man start talking an African language to the person next to him. I listen but the words do not fall favorably in the translation department of my brain. I do not understand a word. The man closest to me shake and close the urinating monster back into his pants. Turn towards the others and joins the conversation for a few seconds.

“Clearly they are not aware of me, as they keep on talking as if they own the bush and the spaces. They have no idea of the barrel of death a few meters from them.” I further the one-way conversation with me.

Dumb asses,” my mind dryly reply.

“Please don’t decide to rest here,” I say to myself, as one of the comrades remove his water canteen from his belt to drink.

The urinating man now also removes his water bottle while they talk. He takes a sip before he puts it on the ledge right next to my left foot.

The urge to grab it, open the lid and drink before I replace it becomes stronger and stronger, but I resist. I can only see five of the ten men which mean if I start defending my den now I will only have clear shots on fifty percent of them.

“My chance of survival will be less than fifty percent; it will be like giving up, surrendering my life without a proper fight.”

Less than 50 percent,” my mind disgustedly asks.

The bird spider is now moving down his web, movement that I do not need. A disturbance that might catch the eye of the soldier closest to me. His face is so close to me that I can see the small scars on his eyebrows and the hair on the side of his face. If the movement of the spider catches his peripheral vision and he turns his head he will stare right at my naked body. I will have no option other than to shoot him in the face. I feel how the muscle in my shoulders tenses up, how they become ready for the final assault.

The sound of a single shot from my AKM break like a cracker through the air and the valley below, the head in front of me explodes. It vomits his brains spattering over the cliffs and me, as the bullet enters right between his eyes. Soldiers scatter towards the cliffs for protection but not before my machine gun rattles again. Two of the men fall to the ground with bodies riddled with holes. With my strong knee, I push myself out of my protection to fire shots down the cliff into the head of one of the hunters hiding below. Their machine guns start firing in all direction. A soldier rolls away from the cliff in an effort to fire at me but a well-aimed bullet hits his body and he rolls over in pain. I fire again this time in the direction of two men running towards the trees, I see how their bodies curl over and hit the ground like a bag of beans, they kick a few times before the movement stops. I fire again but the AKM remains silent.

“Fuck no more bullets,” I scream while I grab the AK47, my hands cannot reach the gun, I have left it too far from me.

Two of the four men left are now ready to fire; they are ready to rip my naked body apart.

“Cover,” I command my body to move back into the protection. To the loaded gun against the wall, but before it can respond I feel how my body shakes as the bullets from the spitting guns rip through the naked flesh. My feet collapse under me and I fall down the cliff to the death acre that I created. A death acre, where my soul will roam for years to come.

No, you cannot start it now,” I hear the voice in my head.

The scenario that I have just played out in my mind was good. I killed six men before I died. My left hand now takes hold around the AK47.

“I have to remember you”, I say softly to the metal gun

“I have to remember you” I repeat the phrase to myself.

The gun does not answer me and the sanity in my mind remains intact.

The hand of the man in front of me reaches for the water bottle at my foot and he places it safely into his pouch on his belt. He starts following his friends on the blood trail to the rocks.

“If I play my cards right,” I contemplate. “the hunters will become the hunted in the next few minutes; all ten of them will become part of the compost that feeds the trees.”

Are you writing a book or thinking.” My mind question

“Thinking,” I answer.

“They will become part of the men that have died in vain.”

I continue the conversation with myself.”

“A mistake will turn the tables; it will join my soul with those who died, with Chappies, with soldiers that will fall with me.”

Right, and …”

“You wanted to say if you fuck up you dead.”

They are now forty meters away, I move my gun off my lap into my hands. I secure the strap around my arm and pull the AK47 against the wall over my shoulder. Adrenaline starts pumping through my body, my knee feels stronger. My peripheral vision is blurry as if it is filled with tears.

My head moves to see past the rocks on the western side of my den, past the tree branch, at the ledge. I am looking for secondary cover from the bullets that will be exchanged on this bright sunny morning.

“There is not much cover,” I observe

Troopers have now arrived at the rock, where at least two bullet shells have littered the surroundings. One of them pick something up between the rocks and study it, I pull the binoculars closer to have a look,

“It looks like one of my offal filled boots,” I tell myself.

He is now showing his find to the rest of the party before he throws it back into the grass.

“I am waiting for their next move. If the tracker is worth anything he will pick the backtracking up. He will point back to the cliff area where Chappies and I are hiding, to the death acre that I have created.”

Kill the fuckers, let’s go home,” my mind scream in my head

“We will… in time.”

Through the binoculars, I can see how he point towards the trees where the vultures are still sitting.

“His tracking ability is that of a smelling dog, he follows the scent, he follows the tracks of the hyenas,” I think.

Good thing.”

“Yeah”

“How can he confuse human and hyena tracks”, I ask myself

He thinks the hyena carried you, dumb ass.”

“Drag marks.”

Drag.”

“I am disappointed in his abilities, but at the same time in ecstasy about it.”

“This might mean that I will be able to escape without firing a shot.” I think.

“I will be able to move back on the blood trail.”

“It means that I will be able to remove the few pieces of clothing from Chappies, his boots,” I explain to myself, “I might even be able to hide his body under loose rocks.

Correction loose mountain,”

“Fuck off.”

“We will be able to travel under the night skies, unseen to the eyes of humans and elephants.”

Elephants, what the fuck, they are your buddies or what?”

“Measure,” I reply.

“We will be seen by the creatures of the night.

Creatures?

“Yes, creatures that become active like werewolves that decompensate into fearless hunters from the shy creatures by day.” Elephants will smell and hear me, but they will not be able to see me.”

“For the first time during this hunt, I will know where my enemy is. I will have the tactical advantage to outmaneuver them, to turn the tables if I wish to. Become the hunter and let them become the hunted.”

Talking to the spider or me?”

My mind dwells on the previous debate, the question to escape or to hunt. Both have advantages and disadvantages. If I hunt them I will be able to steal their water and food. I will be able to arm myself with more ammunition for the days to come. I will, however, alert them that I am still around, that the hyenas did not devour me during the night. Hunting dogs will return, to track my scent.

If I decide to escape I will be able to create a four to five-hour lead, a distance that they might never catch up to. But I will have to endure more days without food and possible water. Without ammunition, I will have to be when they catch up to me.

It is clear that the question must be approached with the rate of survival in mind, the chances that I will have to master in each scenario, or, should I calculate the killing ratio.

“How many of them for me?”

There are more questions than answers, more outcomes than I will be able to calculate right now.

My mind jumps through possibilities. I visualize the possibility to attach them:

The early night wipes his finger over my neck where I am laying plus minus 40 meters from the night camp of my trackers. I see how the yellow moonlight paints long dark shadows on the sides of the valley to the east of Chappies and my hide-out. The nightlife is loud with the hooping call of a spotted hyena that probably feasted on the guzzlers in my boots during the previous night.

The men are now all resting and soon the comfort of their thoughts will allow them to drift off into a deep sleep, with only one or two of them guarding over the sleeping souls, a time when my attack can exterminate them.

The clothes that I stripped from Chappie's guard over the skin that was exposed last night. It guards me against the rocky surface while I crawl slowly closer to the oblivious soldiers. Men that play freely with the idea, that the hyenas have ripped me apart last night. My toes are peeping without protection through the front section of the boots, they were too small and I had to cut the front open.

I am now only a few feet from the night watch that is standing with his back towards me. His Russian AK47 is hanging carelessly over his left shoulder. His posture is witness to the fact that they think I died last night, that only my spirit is still occupying the skies around the mountains. Gently I remove the AK47 off my shoulder to place it silently next to me’ the gun will not be quiet while I cover the last few meters. I cannot afford that the guard may have time to fire a shot.

I am now right behind him, my left-hand moves with the speed of lightning grab him around the mouth and pull his head backward. My right hand follows by piercing the point of the knife through the left artery of his neck before he can move the knife slit like a hot knife through butter through his throat, it exists on the right-hand side. I hold him tight until I can feel how his body relaxes in my arms, the life drains out of him. I now lay him carefully without making a noise down in the grass.

“One down, nine to go,” my mind whispers into my spiritual ear.

I can leave now with water and food, but this will give me less than an hour before the guards discover the lifeless body in the short grass. An hour before they will regain their status of hunters.

From behind a tree in the darkness of its shadows, I stare at the sleeping men, count bodies that are spread out in the grass. A small fire to keep the hyenas out is burning in the middle of the camp.

“They thought I die last night,” chime through my mind, “a fire at night.” The counting stops at six, my eyes comb the bushes for the other three bodies, but I cannot find them.

“I am not so sure that I have persuaded these soldiers at the right time that I did not move too early.”

“Perhaps they are still awake, or did the commander send them ahead to meet with the flanking soldiers further up the valley.” This will not make sense unless one of the soldiers are injured, slowing them down. My eyes search once more through the camp. I see how one of the bodies move, how he shifts himself like a worm seeking comfort. Once again I doubt my timing, to slit the guard’s throat.

“I also know that I cannot undo what has been done. I have started a task that needs to be finished.” I said encouragingly

With my injured knee, I will have to take the six bodies next to the fire out at half the pace that I have been trained to do, which probably will leave me with half the chance of success.

With this thought of weakness, I abolish the plan to become the hunter.

“The small tree stump next to my hiding place will make a great walking stick, keeping the weight of my knee.” I think.

“Enable me to move faster, with less pain, but most of all I will move with less risk,”

I move closer and my hand starts cutting rhythmically through the bark with the Swiss type knife.

It is now eleven o’clock and the sun has marched higher into the sky. The heat that flows like warm soothing hands over my naked body chasing the chill and goosebumps from my bones.

My pursuers must now be close to the valley a few kilometers to the east of me; I cannot see or hear them anymore.

“They may have met up with comrades that might have flanked me that will remain a mystery that I might never know the answer to,” I philosophies.

“Useless information, I’ll say.”

“Agreed.”

I feel how the knife has found its way through the branch and the little tree is now lying in my left arm.

Below me, the sun makes small shadows around the body of Chappies as if it wants to frame the once powerful well-trained man.

“I have decided to backtrack on the tracks it will take me back down the timeline to space where Chappies was still alive.”

You did?” my mind suddenly questions me.

I sombrely continue ignoring my mind,

“When the blood and guts that poured over my shoulder was still warm, where there was still hope for him to live.”

“During the twilight, I will start my journey without my fighting friend, but with his clothes and boots to protect me from the elements,” for a moment my thoughts stop.

More questions filter through my soul. Questions remind me of my decision last night to protect his body.

I question my integrity, my selfishness towards Chappies and his gutless body.

“What will I tell his wife, how will I explain the empty coffin to his son?” I think softly, staring into the emptiness around me.

My mind becomes clouded; clouds of stress and self-preservation roll like thunder over me like heavy steel goons over my soul. It then manifests with an indescribable pain in my chest, forcing my soul to escape from the things I have seen, from the trauma that has dented my spirit.

There is now a movement in the bushes, my eyes squint to see, my ears twitch to hear, but the vision and soundtrack do not work. Then I see the troops with R1 assault rifles over their shoulders. The rifles are familiar to my soul.

I can clearly hear my voice screaming over my lips, a desperate voice, that I am not familiar with, but the troops cannot hear me. They cannot see me, my waving arms scratch against the branches in my den, but their eyes do not find me, and then they are gone. They have disappeared like the mist between the short grass and rocky surface of this God forsaken land.

Laughter from below the den breaks the silence, my eyes search and I see Chappies laughing, how the red hole in his stomach shakes and spits some red jelly over his lips.

“What is so funny”, I ask

But the only answer I get is laughter from the hollow depth of the gutless stomach.

My mind tears itself away from the hallucinations, from the dark thunderstorm clouding my judgment, to the reality of hot air blowing over my naked body.

With great difficulty, I move my body onto the ledge, straightening the knee slightly in the makeshift splint. My eyes sweep over an unfriendly environment in an effort to ensure that the hunters did not return. The area is without human movement. A few birds scatter from a tree close by, to just fly a few meters.

With the reassurance of no humans, no soldiers and no predators I look down from the ledge. The drop is about one and a half meters, a height that would be Childs play to jump under normal circumstances.

Momentarily the small rocks between the grasses become long knives as I think of the rollover.

I secure the two Russian guns to my back and ensure that the safety clips are on before I launch myself over the edge towards the ground.

I land roll and start jogging towards Chappies to remove his clothes. Blood and guts glue the clothes with a sticky hardness on the body of my friend. The stiff arms and legs do not help while I remove the pieces of cloth from the cold body. The hole in the shirt where he lost his guts is surrounded with hard coarse dry blood. Between my fingers, I rub the material to soften it. Boots is now removed. Leaving Chappies with only underpants, stained with his last bowl movement, the smell of fear that he felt while his last breath left his ripped open body.

My knife now slices through the shirt cutting it in long strips that will be wrapped like bandages around my feet as makeshift socks before I put on the boot.

His army jacket will become my shirt, my protection against the sun during the day and the July winds during the long dark nights.

I modify the pants so that it can fit over the makeshift splint that keeps my knee in position by pushing my knife into the material next to the crotch area next to the inner seam and slices the material open to the boot area.

With my new outfit complete, his torn backpack on my back, and with his AKM over my shoulder I move to the shadow of the rock next to the body. I will remain in this shadow for the next three hours, waiting for the horizon to change color, before I join the night dwellers, the rabbits, the predators, and scavengers.

My hands' fiddle with the last two hand grenades that I have hidden behind the rocks. My mind plays with the idea of removing the pin to leave this miserable earth with a big bang. To set a trap, a suicide bomb for the hunters of tomorrow they will be keen to move me. I play with the idea for a few moments before I file it in the bad practice section of my mind.

Air now ripped like thunder through my ears, the new sound echoes of the cliffs as a large Russian-made helicopter break the view above the cliffs.

I feel how the weakness of humanity leaves me, how the metal exterior of training fills the emptiness in my chest. My mind becomes calm, while adrenaline fills my veins. Emotions disappear and reality becomes my motto.

Immediate danger forces everything into slow-motion. It is as if every movement turn into frames of action.

Time slow down seconds become minutes and minutes turn into hours.

With my one leg, I pushed my body closer to the rock, deeper into the shadows in an effort to stay out of the sight of the gunner at the open door. The wind lifts the sand and dust from the rocky surface around Chappies and me. The sound of the turbo engine explodes like heart beats against the rocks before it enters my ears with horror. I feel how the blade generated the wind pushes against my body, my newly found uniform jacket slaps against my neck. The flying monster is now on the other side of the rock hovering over the naked body. Its shadow colors the cliffs in dark black that remind my mind of a giant man-eating dragonfly. A hunter that will devour Chappies and me, that will spit our clean sucked bones out on the grass before it will land in one of the valleys below.

In the shadow, I can now see the shapes of men tight with ropes to the hovering nightmare leaving the monster.

Four, then five shapes I count. I know that the shapes will become live men. Soldiers when their feet touch the surface, men that will search the area around the body.

I roll instinctively to the side of the rock; my AK47 coughs lead into the iron bird while my body rolls towards the cliff. I fire again, pieces of soil and rocks rip in dusty explosions up next to me. At the open door, I see the star like fire patterns forming around the large machine gun. I fire again and see how the machine gun operator tumbles like a bag of potatoes from the open door before he hits the ground next to Chappies. I am now behind a rock against the cliffs that will shelter me for a moment from the gunfire that now breaks loose from the man shape figures that hang in the air. My mind flashes through the possible scenarios, through my limited options. I fire again, but the AK47 remains quiet. I throw the empty gun away and swing the AKM from my shoulder into action. The whistling sound of bullets splintering from the rock face fill the air, the soil and rocks bounce as lead rips the pieces from it. My AKM is now firing, this time towards the hanging men that is now very close to the ground.

I suddenly remember the hand grenade that I have left next to my friend, the suicide bomb. If I can hit it with a bullet it will explode between the newly landed earth dwellers. But my eyes cannot see it. I fire in any case in the general direction guided by my memory, but it only kicks up dust, no huge explosion

The last soldier has touched down and the chopper flies around the rock around my last cover. I am now exposed to the metal bird, to the anger of the pilot. Instinctively I raise my hands, showing my palms to the pilot. My body curls over the remaining hand grenade that will be my last hope, my last stand. The large iron bird turns its side towards me. I can see the large unmanned machine gun hanging in the door. I can see the last man in the cavity of the chopper. His arms are holding onto a gun a machine gun that will most likely become the tool that will send me to a room of ghosts. With a rapid arm movement, I grab the remaining hand grenade from behind me, remove the pin.

I am aware of the fact that I have only one chance at this. If I hit the metal sides of the bird the grenade will bounce back, it will fall to the floor and explode right next to me. But if I can get it in through the door, the machine gun carrier will be the first to explode to pass through the gates of hell.

My mind is not sure if the gates will lead you into hell or out.

It is as if time has stopped, the motions of the blade are slow, the soldier now at the door is moving in frames that freeze between each movement. The pin is now out and I throw the grenade in the direction of the door. For a moment I wonder if the soldier will catch it. If he will throw it up in the air like a cricket ball if the pilot will lift his finger like a cricket umpire to indicate that I am out.

The grenade flies neatly past the soldier now firing his machine gun in my direction. I feel how the rocks around me explode, how they dance to the rhythm of the popping gun. Instinctively I feel how my body starts rolling away from the hotspot. Rocks and sand explode against my face.

With a loud explosion, the hand grenade displaces the air inside the iron bird. I see how the machine gun bearer flies through the open door. Fragments of glass fly like ice under the command of an ice peak behind the falling body. The hope of survival becomes an adrenaline driven reality in my mind. I see how the accurate throw of the grenade changed the outcome. I have moved from the weak creature with his hands up, to the commanding figure within a moment.

The iron bird is still in one piece, her engine still run smoothly, but it is clear by the chopping sound of the blades the erratic tilt of the chopper that it is out of control.

The chopper spins with smoke rolling out the side door.

The blade of the bird hit the cliffs before it spun to the ground, to a flame ball on impact. The smell of burning fuel, electronics and flesh penetrate the fresh mountain air with black smoke.

It becomes my smoke screen to move around the rock toward a new cover.

Through the smoke, I can see the dark figures of three men moving towards the rock where I hid a few seconds ago. The AKM in my hands spits bullets in the direction. Two of them fall in the rain of bullets.

According to my initial calculation, there is still three of this rope jumping figures between the smoke that now fold like a blanket over the area.

I move again this time in the opposite direction to a few trees southeast of me. With my broken knee, it is easier to roll over the terrain than to run. Rolling is kinder to the painful knee but the sharp rocks demand respect from my ribs and soft stomach area.

I kneel on my strong knee as I arrive at my new cover. My eyes search through the smoke for movement of soldiers. But I cannot see anyone. I cannot determine if the fight is over or if it has just begun.

For a brief moment, my spiritual eye dwells through the dark area in my mind. Where each body that I released from this earth are dwelling, they dwell with the energy I give to them. All the corners and spaces are filled and I know that I will have to enlarge the dark corner. I will have to turn the lights in bright areas off so that the ghosts of my past will have space to walk.

“Rising smoke will become a magnet that will call all the living soldiers, all the hunters to gather, to re-group and to hunt me down like a rabbit,” I suddenly think.

I need to move, in order to create distance between the burning wreck and myself. But the fact that there are still three soldiers on the ground that I cannot see, keep my knees on the ground.

My ammunition is low and I know that one more encounter will turn me into a knife fighter, without one leg, without the ability to move quickly. I have to file this scenario immediately before it changes my courage to fear before my mind collapses to a miserable entity of hopelessness.

“I cannot see anyone,” I now talk to myself.

“Jupiter, Mars beautiful planets,” my mind now talks.

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Thought, you were the blood spot on the cliff, so I took a trip.”

“Fuck off. You will know when I die.”

“Yeah, you will tell me won’t you?”

“Even if you are just a speckle of a brain cell against a chopper window, you will tell me.”

I ignore the statement.

There is still no sign of life around the burning wreck. The thought of time and distance become a real problem. Every minute that I lose narrows my chances of survival. The need to take a risk to move becomes a real need, a need that might cost my life, but it might also save it.

My body position changes from attacking to a withdrawal, as I roll over my back to my stomach. After a brief inspection of the burning wreck, I turn so that my feet show towards the hunters. My eyes send messages of the path ahead to my mind, images of trees, rocks and of a trail with broken branches and grass that Chappies and I left last night.

I calculate the time that I will be exposed while moving from rock to rock.

The search for a solution passes the dark passage in my mind, the corner that needs to remain locked away from all people and animals.

I see the staring eyes, the gaping wounds in their bodies, and I feel how it swallows my senses. Momentarily my conscious mind dwells over the idea that I will become part of this room, the staring eyes and part of the speechless mouths.

My mind and I take a visual trip.

With the makeshift walking stick, I am now running jumping between the two rocks, the one’s in my mind while plotting my escape. I am almost halfway when the stuttering sound of a machine gun fire sounds from the burning wreck. Instinct drives my body to the floor of sharp rocks and thorns. I feel how my legs go numb, how my spine turns into a nightmare cold mass. I want to roll over to return the fire, but my body refuses to move. I feel how the heat from my spine runs down my stomach, liquid mixes into my shirt. I lost the feeling in my spine. I lose the feeling in my stomach; I know that the noisy machine gun fire has entered my spine bullets have disabled my mind from communicating to my legs. I think of the painful knee but I cannot feel it. I move my hand to my chest to turn me but my hand refuses the instruction, it refuses to act, refuses to move.

Gasping for air my mind returns to the reality

“The distance between the two rocks are too big,” I now say out loud to myself.

“You think.” My mind replies.

“The time it will take me to cover that distance is far too long. The area is far to exposed to the burning wreck”

“Long jump training, you remember that.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” I disgustedly ask.

Long distances, I will never make it, remember.”

“I had to kick your sweet little ass to do it.”

“Fifteen, I was fifteen years old.”

I ignore the insane response and think of the scenario that I have just played through my mind.

“It is closer to reality than the fact that I am stuck in an unfriendly mountain, with unfriendly rocks.” I think

I know that my chances of survival between those rocks will absolutely depend on the hunters. I will have no control over that outcome.

“I need to command the situation to remain in control.”

The route that my mind mapped out for me is a mistake. I will have to start a new track that does not follow the tracks that were left last night. I know that this is not ideal but in reality, I should have been dead by now.

Without any further argument, I start my journey, the long journey to freedom.

“Fuck man,” John reply downing his beer, “was this all before the Cuito story.”

“Yeah, I will tell you that story some other time, fucked up my friend fucked up,” I reply.

My hand signals the historian behind the bar to fill our glasses.

John looks at the elderly lady working behind the bar.

“Well, at least we’ll know that it is only her tit hanging in the coffee pot if she complains about a pain in the chest,” John dryly comments.

“Shame John, hope you had no groin pains when you made our coffee this morning,” I reply sarcastically.

“Fuck off, just tell me the story,” John insists.

“A little espritd’ escalier moment there,” I tease.

“A what?”

“Sorry, it was an espritd escalier moment,” I repeat it in the past tense.

He shakes his head while the bar lady places our fresh beers on the table.

“Just fuckin go on,” he says with emphasis the goon.

“History teachers!” I start, “I will talk slowly in the past tense.”

“So where are we,” John prompts again.

“Well I got away from the burning wreck and walked through the night, let me continue with the next morning,” I start while taking a mouthful of beer.

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