Forgotten Minds

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Chapter 6: The Beginning Of The End

For four days I have followed the elephants, using their abilities to find water. I relied on my instincts to hunt protein and to find eatable vegetation. Four days that I have survived the predators, four days since the hyenas stopped following me through the bushes.

During these days the elephant herd allowed me closer. A line marked with mock charges that shrank some days to less than fifty meters.

On the evening of the fourth day, I have found a suitable tree to rest, a place, where I could face my demons, my dreams, and my internal conflict through the night. With my gun hanging above my head and the defensive knife strap around my wrist, I shuffle myself into a comfortable position. My mind dwells over the evening of the mission, over the moments that will forever be stuck in my mind.

Moonlight illuminate the little plane roaring like a constipated pumpkin bug through the air. I feel how the engine cut and the plane decelerates the signal for us to jump. Chappies and I give each other the thumbs up before Chappies swing through the door.

I follow and feel how the wind pushes against my wool lined jacket how the adrenaline rushes through my veins. My heart rate accelerates, a feeling that I have every time I jump and waiting for the canopy to unfold.

My head turns to have a last look at the plane, the last look at civilization before I plunge to the ground. I only see the shadow against the stars and hear how the engines accelerate to pull the plane away.

With the lonely feeling, I fall through the air accelerate towards the trees, towards a mission that has impossible written all over it.

“A suicide mission,” I think.

My eyes search for the second parachute but I cannot find it, I cannot use my eyes to sooth the feeling of loneliness, the feeling of a lost soul floating without aim through the air.

The stars above flicker with light that might have left them before my birth. The light that now witnesses me descending to a moment in time, a moment that Chappies and I will share in the time to come.

Movement on my arm high-jacks my mind from my dream, placing me back in my tree bed of reality. My eyes investigate my shoulder and meet the beady eyes and forking tongue of a snake. His coffin shape head followed by a greenish body freeze my blood. Emotions leave my mind, slow-motion take my vision, adrenaline sweep through my heart. Frame for frame the movement of his tongue, the scaly body, and his head pierce into my survival mode.

“One wrong movement,” I think, “will uncover the lip curtain over his deadly fangs.”

“It will inject me with poison from hell.”

The snake training we had flashed through my mind.

“Identify.”

“Asses.”
“React.”

Picture of snakes and their names flip like a slide show in front of me, but the page of this one seems to be torn out of my mind. I wonder if I ask if he will answer.

Hypnotical his tongue forks in his assessment of me, before he decides to slither over my shoulder. I feel the muscle contractions through my shirt. See the scale movement of his frame whilst he slowly slides over me.

Towards the tree trunk at my feet, I freeze all movement anything that might scare the creature. Scale for scale he leaves my leg to the branch at my feet. Twilight makes him just a shape as he glides in a branch next to me to a nest higher up.

“He will return, I think, “Perhaps with a feather in his mouth.”

“Or will it be egg yolk on his lips.”

My body relax I feel how my heart rate return to normal, my defenses drop and my mind return with questions of doubt.

I want to go back to the memory of the night of the mission. I want to replay the mistakes we have made, but my eyes remain fixed on the trunk of the tree, on the path of my slithering companion.

The morning of the fifth day has arrived and like usual the birds beat the arrival of the sun. Their chirps fill the empty spaces in my ears and announce the end of my nightmares and my thoughts.

I lift my head from the branch pillow to listen to the sound that I thought I heard.

“Vehicles, diesel vehicles,” I observe, whilst listening to the roar of metal monsters in my bush.

“Soldiers, enemy, guns and ammunition,” flash in thought through my mind.

With a shock, I realize that I have once again become the hunted, but this time there are vehicles, four by four vehicles that can outrun me between the trees. The thought drives my legs and arms to remove me from the branch.

With my feet on the solid ground I listen again, I now put my ears to the ground to listen to the vibrations. The sound is real; I open my eyes wider to see if this is not a second nightmare. Will they not open to a peaceful morning, a morning with the smells of fresh air and elephant droppings?

To a morning with a bright red horizon and birds jumping from branch to branch, but the nightmare does not stop. My eyes still view the trees before them my ears hear the growling noise of diesel vehicles that wrestle through the thick sand.

My fingers remove the bullet cartridge from the AKM, and start counting, one… two …. three….. four, my fingers fiddle but that is it.

I have four bullets, two knives, two hands and one leg left, the only option will be to run to the point where the diesel vehicle outlast me.

My mind rushes through options, calculating a route, a route that will slow the 4x4 vehicles down.

Frame for frame my mind sees the birds flying; I see all movement, hear all sounds. Knives on my wrists and the AKM becomes extensions to my limbs. The sound of the diesel engines become hollow like in a dream. Thoughts become that of action, of survival, calculating my next move.

“I have to leave the elephant trail,” I think.

“Elephant trails are sandy, but vehicle friendly.”

Sand will be conquered by the large wheels driven by diesel power.

My eyes fix on the small hill on the Northern side of the valley, it fixes on the rock formations that break the horizon.

“An option where the vehicles will struggle, where they will be forced to send the soldier on foot after me,” I think

The narrow gap between the top rocks will be the door, the trap that I will set for my enemy.

The vehicles are still out of sight, I need to move as far as possible into the rocky area before they can see me.

“Before they can use mounted guns to fire at me.”

“I need to force them to leave the vehicles.”

Ideas and notions run through my psyche while I am moving towards the rocks under the cover of the shadows.

The idea that formulates in my mind is;

“I have to lead them to the top of the hill.”

“To the rock-like gate, a perfect place for an ambush,” I think.

“But so will they.”

“With care, they will pursue, while I slip down the left of the hill,” I think while studying the cover to the left.

My feet are now carrying me closer to the rocks whilst my mind and I plan the perfect escape.

“Risky, but worth the thought,” I think.

“I believe they will leave one gunner at the vehicles.”

“One leg and all,” my mind interrupts as my hands start climbing through the first rock.

“He is right I do not have the speed.”

“I will have to outmaneuver them, but how?”

My eyes flash quickly back to see if I can see the trucks.

But it is still only the roar of the engines that disclose their existence. From the noise of the engines, I can hear that they are in high range, that their ground speed is not much faster than mine. Thick sand holds the wheels back, sand that I cursed yesterday as they filled my boots and rubbed against my ankles. Now it became a blessing it will give me more time to think as the vehicles struggle forth.

With the sun now peeping over the horizon and the sound of diesel engines in my ears, I move in behind the first rocks. A bank where even the best of 4x4 vehicles will struggle, even legs struggle to climb over the rough edges.

From behind the rocks, I see the first diesel smoke about 500 meters from me, diesel smoke that mix with the fresh morning air before the smell drift closer. The smell is now drifting over me, drifting with the message of doom. My eyes comb over the planned path ahead, over the rocks that I have seen from my tree bed.

My eyes search for cover from bullets that will search for my flesh through the air.

“Risk will be high with my slow moving body,” I think.

For a moment the thought of dying next to the elephants comfort me, the thought that my spirit might be caught in the savanna where predators hunt and where elephants walk. Before my instinct kicks raw adrenaline through my heart, it drives me to take the calculated risk, to my only wish to die fighting.

With the walking stick firm between the fingers of my left hand, my AKM under my right armpit, I run with hop along style to the next rock, to the shadow that is cast over the wet grass. I can hear how the vehicles momentarily come to a hold. Without looking I know that they have spotted me, that the soldiers are now jumping of pursuing me on foot.

From the cover of the rock, I see how soldiers are running from tree to tree in my direction. Two Unimogs continue on the trail that they have plotted. The next rock is about 30 meters, it is slight to the left, for a moment I will lose the cover of my current hiding and be exposed to the large machine gun. Exposes to the AK47’s under command of the now approaching soldiers.

The element of surprise that I had does not exist any longer. The quest to fight a gorilla fight between the rocks has expired it has become a conventional fight where numbers and ammunition will become the factor that determines the outcome. Two knives and four bullets diminish my chances of a conventional shootout, almost none existing.

Chances of survival are less than 10 percent; to die fighting will have to become my motto. A way that I will life my last few minutes by. The question that will determine my fight will be a number game. How many of the soldiers will join me today? “How many of you are prepared to die with me?”

Unexpectedly a shuffle in the grass behind me sends cold shivers down my spine. I sense the presence of two men that I do not want behind me. My head turns to confirm my feeling, to see the unseen. My head turns, my eyes stare into the barrels of two AK47’s, it stares into the faces of two black men.

“They have flanked me, how did I miss this?” I ask myself

“How did they outmaneuver me?”

I turn my head back to the rock waiting for the shots, for the darkness to fill my eyes. I am waiting for the blood and brains to splatter over the rock in front of me, but the end does not come.

Carefully I place my machine gun on the floor, lift my hands in such a way that they should not see the knife strapped to my wrists.

I wonder which one will get close enough to die with me close enough to become my companion in death, but they do not move, they do not utter a word.

For a moment the reality that I have seen becomes a question in my mind. I question the reality of the two men behind me, I wonder if it is real or if the staring eyes that holding automatic guns is only my imagination.

My eyes dwell over the rock surface in front of me. I see the shadows of two men against the rock.

I feel how the hope of survival shrinks, how the hope of fighting to the death become an unrealistic dream.

“A dream without an end, a nightmare that I will not wake up from,” I think.

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