January 26 at 12:00 PM
Photo courtesy of the US Army
The flash from my barrel was the last thing they saw before I laid them down, one-by-one. I was quick, methodical. I snapped the last soldier's neck with one arm as his rifle fired harmlessly into the foliage. I was their shadow, their plague.
I waited for the encore, but no one obliged. What I wanted was just below the surface. But where was the access point? I ran my hand over a steel grate resting inside a concrete slab. The protrusion didn't have any slats and the metallic frame was too narrow to squeeze through. It wasn't exactly a door and blowing it open was out of the question.
There was no sense in searching the bodies for a key, but I did it anyways. A few pesos, pictures of loved ones. Hash. I combed over the bodies one last time as if expecting a different result. Same old bullshit.
"Delta One, are you inside?" a metallic voice crackled in my ear. It was an inside joke. I wasn't Delta and certainly didn't come here to rescue anyone.
"Negative," I replied, melting back into the forest.
"What's the delay, Delta? Did you find the hatch?"
"It's not a hatch. It's something else," I whispered into my collar.
"What do you mean?"
Boom! Something struck against the metal grate from underneath. Something was down there and it wasn't given the honor of a lock and key.
"Fall back to Rio Mutara. About a quarter mile southeast of you."
"Roger that," I replied.
"Wait, Delta. I'm picking up movement in your vicinity."
"All around you."
Dead silence. Not even the drone of a fly. My breath was slow and steady, my heart ready to blast off. I was sharp, focused...alive.
"Just pulling your leg," he hawed into the headset.
I took out my knife. Pretended the bamboo was his neck. Sheared through it like a twig. But the tree didn't want to give it back. So I left it as a souvenir. And turned.
She stared back at me with deep brown eyes. She was unarmed and didn't dress the part like the others carpeting the jungle floor. I guess it was too late to ask for a dance and besides, she'd already seen the knife.
The banging began anew and that was all I needed. I tossed her to the ground before she could even blink. She's terrified. And beautiful.