Hilson took his helmet off and wiped his brow with his sleeve. They had been in the defensive position for 20 minutes and he and the rest of the squad were just now getting their wind back. The stress of the massacre of the rest of the platoon, the run through the worst jungle the had ever seen, and the Simpson's death was bad enough. Now they were waiting to see if their ruse was going to work. But it couldn't be much longer. Hilson rolled onto his back and whispered to Carter "I'll be right back, keep an eye on Williams" Carter nodded and clapped Williams on the shoulder. "Keepin it frosty ain't we buddy?" Carter whispered.
Hilson was in a crouch as he ran towards the right flank position. He flopped down between Galleria and Jones. "Nothin?" Galleria shook his head, "not yet." Hilson waited a moment then whispered to them "Look, I wanna run this by you two."Jones rolled his eyes and twisted his wrist like he was reeling in a fish. "Who gets to be a hero this time Sergeant?" " Screw you Roosevelt" Hilson snapped, he did give Simpson the order but he wanted him right back here with the rest of them, not dead in this shit hole of a country."Just keep you mouth shut and listen" Hilson said through gritted teeth. Roosevelt waved his hand in acknowledgement. "Right, I see it this way, if we get luck and the gooks miss our path and follow the path it wouldn't be for long. We would have to slip back the way we came and I am not sure we can out run them any more" "Sounds right to me" Galleria said. "So what do we do?" Roosevelt asked. "We go west" Simpson said. "West???"We are already too damn close to Laos" Roosevelt lowered his head to the dirt for a moment in exasperation. "Not close enough, thats where we are going." Hilson said. "You are fucking kidding me" Galleria barked through his teeth. "When?" Roosevelt asked. Hilson looked at them for a moment then getting up from the ground he answered them. "Right fuckin now, get your shit we are going" Hilson headed around the perimeter to give the bad news to the rest of the squad.
Not long after Hilson got his exhausted squad up and moving, advance teams of the 9th Regiment, Division 304 of the Viet Nam Cong San had discovered that the Americans were no long following the trail to the north. They had contacted their commander, Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Son, and informed him of the current situation. Colonel Nguyen had ordered teams to search either side of the trail, the flanking units had fallen far behind because of the terrain they didn't even have to back track. They remained steady on their western track. The 9th had been to Laos before, back in 1965. They were not happy about that, they wanted to catch, capture or kill the Americans before they crossed the boarder. There was dem toi tao Lao, where they were going, a great darkness in Laos.
The pace that Hilson and the marines could maintain was not much more than a stroll in the park but given their earlier cross country sprint it was probably the best they could hope for. The sun was only beginning to set but the jungle canopy was raising to meet it and the darkness was growing at a astounding rate. The trees were so immense their lowest branches were 4o feet or more above them. Ancient lianas rose from around their bases climbing the tree trunks, clinging to them like leeches fasten to their prey. Vines hung like tassels from a mossy green blanket above, woven from leaves, branches, and a thousand years of detritus. Strange calls echoed in the distance, incredibly long screeches that began as lonely, rumbling low pitches that rose to ear drum piercing levels. Private Momon jumped in response, his eyes wide, "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?" Galleria chuckled, "God damn it Momon, its a fuckin Gibbon." Momon relaxed a little, "That doesn't answer my fuckin question Galli." Hilson snapped at them both "Its a monkey damn it, now you two keep your eyes open and your mouths shut." The world around them seemed to insist on their silence, demanding their respect in this ministry of darkness.r
After an hour of their silent pilgrimage, the exhausted marines simultaneously reached their physical limit and the bank of un-named river. The river was dark brown and it was painfully slow in its journey. The surface resembled polished stone complete with sporative patches of green algae. "I ain't fuckin wading in that" Hendricks swore. "Not in the dark" Galleria agreed. Hilson shook his head, "listen you god damned chicken shits, you aint army, you aint navy you are fucking jarheads now ***** it up", and he slipped and slid his way down the red clay bank to the river's edge. At first the marines hesitated then finally they started to move in single file to follow their sergeant. Hilson waded into the unpleasantly warm water and it quickly rose to his chest, he held his M-16 over his head. He had hoped that the water would refresh him, instead it just made him feel contaminated, like he was swimming in sewage. The darkness was complete now and the screech of the jungle night life was deafening. Hilson was beginning to scale the far bank by the time the last of them, Private Momon, entered the river. One by one they slowly climbed from the river, the added water seemed to double their weight, and it oozed into everywhere. It seemed as if even the water was reticent to leave their over heated bodies to return to the river. Finally only Momon was left, he was nearly out, the water just below his belt. Momon froze, "Wha was that?" and he spun around to look back the way he came. The rest of them dropped either to their stomach or to their knee, their weapons pointing back into the jungle, even though it was so black they could see nothing. "What was what?" Galleria asked. None of the other marines could see that Momon was not looking at the far back, he was staring at the river, holding his M-16 so that it was pointing at the water. The marines were straining their ears trying to ascertain where the VC where, their eyes forced wide trying to glimpse their pursuers. Momon took a step back, he was shifting his aim back and forth looking for what had brushed against his leg. Galleria again whispered "what did you see?" but Momon was too scared to answer, his lower lip was trembling, goose bumps formed on his arms under his soaking, slimy, sticky blouse. A cold shiver ran up his spine, "Something is in ..." but Momon's sentence was cut short by his scream, he squeezed the trigger and tracer rounds lite up the night. Some of the marines, already on edge fired into the jungle on the other side of the river, Momon was carried into the middle of the river, screaming for Galleria, screaming for Hilson, screaming in agony for someone to help him. Someone to save him as his crotch was ripped from his body, his entrails pulled out of him like someone was slurping a too long piece of spaghetti in an Italian restaurant. He was rapidly spun around, his weapon fired into the air, his throat filled with slimy brown water and he was drug beneath the surface.Private Momon from Monroe Louisiana was gone.
"CEASE FIRE! CEASE FIRE!" Hilson yelled and their fire died away. A few tense seconds passed "Momon?" Galleria whispered. "LIGHT, one of you swinging dicks has a flashlight." Hendricks, clicked his flashlight on, the only evidence of his passing was a slowly spinning helmet liner, upside down on the mirror like river. There was silence from the men on the shore. "Wha tha *****?" Galleria muttered quietly. Carter started back into the river and Hilson stopped him with an arm across the chest. They all waited and the seconds ticked and their hearts hammered in their chests. "Look" Carter said patting Galleria on the shoulder and pointing to a place in the river. "What is that?" Galleria asked in a barely audible hush. Williams moved his way down the shore, looking around he picked up a fallen piece of bamboo at least eight feet long. Using it like an old fashioned cane pole he reached into the water with it and the both hands lifted the object. Hilson flashed his light on it. "Madre de Dios" Galleria whispered as he made the sign of the cross. Williams dropped the length of small intestines back into the river and fell back against the slimy shore, scrambling to pick his weapon up and get back to the rest of them.
"We are getting the fuck out of here." Hilson said, venom dripping from his lips. The rest of the them needed no more prompting than that and they all started to feel their way deeper into the Laotian jungle.