Sunday, February 27, 2005

THE HILL ( A VERY SHORT STORY...A PARABLE IF YOU WILL)

We crept up like a virus through the tall grass, making our way to destiny one step at a time, each of us as one climbing higher and higher towards our fate. Slowly at first, and as the cover of tall grass subsided and the small arms fire increased we increased our speed and hopefully our stealth until we reached the ridge. Another 100 meters and we would be exposed. Exposed on an an open plain for the final run up to the top of the hill. The hill we had been ordered to take. And just behind that line of tall grass we gathered under the thunder of increasing small arms fire and mortars, mortars that ended your life in a second if they met their mark, their schrapnel ripping you to the essence of flesh and blood. But we stayed at that line of tall grass and bullets and blood, waiting for the order to move on, to advance...to take the hill from the enemy.
And as the night wore on, I remembered my time in Colorado, in the Rio Grande National forest. Hiking there with my friends, and my son and my wife. And I remembered the tree line. 10,000 feet and you are barren,nowhere to hide. Just open feilds and rocks and the undeniable feeling that you are exposed, defenseless. In the rockies the enemy is the thunderstorm, here the thunderstorm is inherently different. It is a thunderstorm of bullets and rockets and men coming down the mountain that want simultaneously to kill you and survive. You are hardcore, but they are too.
And as you wait in the border of the tree line you wonder if you are more hardcore than the man that waits for you on the other side. He has the advantage, being on top of the hill you have been ordered to take. But you can't help but wonder if he's as scared as you are. Has he been able to wear you down with the lucky shots and lucky mortars that have thinned your number down on your journey through the tall grass before tree line. And there you sit and wait. And you try to reconcile your life before the war. You look around at the others who have made it this far up the hill and wonder what you have in common. Are you patriots, brothers in a national cause? Or are you just a bunch of guys that have murdered your way up a hill in the middle of some fucked up country for some fucked up reason-and then you shut that shit down in a hurry because it's not how you were trained.
And then the call comes in.
You and yours rush the hill leaving behind the relative safety of the tall grass...the tree line. And as you shoot your way up the hill, you are consumed with a feeling of mountain climbing- it makes you feel better somehow. It's funny how the mind works like that, in reality, you are charging up an open space with the members of your squad killing everything you see. But in your mind you are making the summit of sheep mountain with your buddy and your dogs in colorado. And it's 1984. Until your squad starts dropping around you. Ripped to shreds by the pigs on the summit. it's amazing what a pig can do to the human body. 50 caliber slugs , rapid fire into a body is so very different from what you've seen in the war movies you've watched over and over and over again. You think you know what to expect, but you are wrong. Dead fucking wrong.
When hit by multiple shots the forward momentum stops and the most important parts of you fly out the back, spraying your squad mates with the memory of you. The more that sprays on you, the more you try to pull of the razzle dazzle zig zag to avoid the bullets and the viscera that is turning your jungle camo blood red, all the while trying to aim and shoot and kill. And trying to keep your mind on those glory days, before the killing. when you were a young man playing in the woods with your friends.
And then it hits you. You're not sure exactly what it was, but one minute your charging up the the hill and the next you're on the ground with a hole in your shoulder that burns like the fires of hell. You hit the ground with such force that your gun and your helmet go clattering away back down the hill, and you are moot at that point, game over.
Laying there on the ground, screaming for the medic, until you realize that screaming attracts the snipers, you reach back into your memory as the fight rages on around you. After the tenth or so soldier jumps over you and you finally have the time to look around you and see the other bodies scattered on the ground, you realize there is no medic. Not anymore anyway, he's a few feet away from you...he no longer has a chest, but you can still make out the cross on his helmet. They're not suppose to shoot the fucking medics you think to yourself, but you quickly realize the difference between the movies you watched and the realization that this is fucking war.
You try to melt into the ground as the fire increases...helicopters fly by and blast the ground with mini guns and napalm. It's the middle of the day at this point , but the sky is nightfall gray from the smoke.
And then, all of a sudden, it stops. The ground below you is soaked with your own blood, it's like you're laying on a sponge. You figure you're a deadman and release yourself to light.
You wake up in the field hospital days later, you took a 7.62 x 39 round to the shoulder it turns out, hollow point, no less. you'll live, but that dragon tattooed on your shoulder will never look the same...curiously, this is what you focus on. You almost bought it, but you're pissed that whoever shot you fucked up your art. That's when they tell you who shot you. But after they give you a purple heart and a silver star and an increase in rank and a form to sign that says you won't seek further compensation from your government for the injuries caused by friendly fire. Friendly fire? That's right. You took the hill, only you took it from your own people.
And two miles away the real enemy was wondering where you were, and what was all that action on the other hill?
And when the gunfire stopped and the smoke cleared they moved out. Blessing their luck and our stupidity.

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