In the Jungle

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic

A group of men push through the Vietnam jungle in what could be their most dangerous mission. Tensions are high, the jungle is thick, and Charlie lurks somewhere deep in the steamy hell...

(Please review if you have time. Thanks)

"What was that?" a Pvt. Tom Hayes asked.
"I said fuck me its hot in this place," Pvt. Shewmaker replied, smacking a mosquito on his arm, smiling as the blood squirted out of it onto his hand.
"Aint that the truth."
The two men were positioned behind three stacks of sandbags, each wall measuring about a foot and a half high. North, west and east were covered. Inside the makeshift fortress about a foot of dirt was removed from the ground, giving anyone in the foxhole enough room tokneel while operating the machine gun and still have adequate cover from enemy fire. Shew -- the monicker given by shortening his last name-- leaned back against the west wall of sandbags and spread his legs out. "Damn that feels good. How long you think we're gonna be out here?"
"Shit, its been all damn day already. You think the brass gives a shit? They'll leave us out here till we've got our asses to the front door fighting off the enemy!" Tom spit. A large spittle of dip and saliva ran down his chin. He did not bother to wipe it off.
The soldiers were part of an infantry squad that arrived in the early hours of the morning. They were commissioned to clear the forward area from their headquarters four miles into the enemy position. The  squad of eight men hiked throughout the night, heading downwards  into the jungle from the hill upon which HQ rested. One commented how the trees appeared to be swallowing them. Another told him to shut the  fuck up. For twenty minutes or so, the hike had been fine. In the relative  sense of the word. The men had the high ground, traveling at a 30 degree angle towards a small creek. Then it happened  about two miles out. As it normally did. Out of nowhere.
Dan Gilbert, a thin pale boy from Virginia, was on point slowlypushing towards the creek. He had been in the country a week. In the shit twice. He hated point but what the fuck could he do? He was "the fresh little pinkie", as one man described him. Fucker. Fuck him. I'll be outta this shit in no time. And he was right.
While the young man thought of various ways to exact revenge upon all those who had crossed him, he had forgotten a cardinal rule. You gotta keep your shit tight. Ten feet ahead, a thin silver wire stretched between two trees. Gilbert continued raving in his head. Six feet, 4 feet, 2 feet. By the time he heard the familiar click of a claymore mine being tripped, it was too late. The explosion ripped from the ground up with enough force to tear his body in two. An echo resounded through the forest and somewhere deep in the jungle a man smiled. Everyone hit the ground and began releasing bullets unbiasedly into the blackened forest. There was no return fire. The men waited 10 minutes or so, bagged the young boy up, one piece at a time, and continued slowly onward.
At length they reached their stopping point. The time was 6pm.
Ahead of them lay a creek. Thirty feet across, about a foot deep— some patches a bit deeper. In the middle was a small cusp of land, six feet by twenty feet, that rose to form a small hill 5 feet high. Various types of vegetation protruded from the soil and from an untrained eye, it would appear the island was not really an island but rather a peninsula jutting out from the other side. The foliage at the edges was that thick.
The piece of land was pivotal. It was a perfect place to mount a few machine guns in secret and hold back any attempts to cross the river. A perfect place for the enemy to stack men and lead a vicious charge. Fuck. We need this, Sergeant Burns thought. However, there were not enough men at this point. They all knew that. Anyone exposed there would be immediately eradicated.  More importantly though, Charlie can NOT have it. Defensive positions then.
Burns called the soldiers to huddle. "Alright men, we all know the deal. I want the M60 placed left of the hill. The rest of us will stack right side." Burns pulled a twig off a short sapling and drew in the sand. The displacement of men formed an L. Tom and Pat were the top tip with the machine gun. The other six men formed the corner. Each bunker's success depended on the others' survival.
The squad built fortifications throughout the evening. Overhead, small patches of clouds trod across a bright sky. Andrew Rainey, a veteran doing his second tour, stared at the blue canvas with envy. Oh. To be so free. He glanced around and noticed others staring upwards.
Rainey looked back towards the heavens and changed his mind. His pupils now reflected wonder. Soon. Soon we will all be free. He smiled and continued digging. Time passed. Inevitably, the large neon orange ball sizzled into the earth as large rays of pink and red shot from the horizon. 

* * *

It was dark now and everything changed. The men drew lots  and Tom and Pat pulled second watch. They both groaned.  Second watch  meant the heart of the night. The watch all men  dread. The watch when men die the quickest.  The watch when men simply vanished.
Tom peered into the darkness that enveloped them. Only fifty feet of visibility. Fuck me. This is hairy. He doubled checked the M-60 that was stationed between him and his buddy. Full load of ammo. Excellent. Atleast I have some comfort. And the 1100 meter range didn't hurt either. The foxhole was placed about 30 yards from the
bank of the creek and about ten yards to the left of the patch of land in its middle. This way they could have atleast a bit of time to fire on Charlie if he comes rushing from the woods to grab cover behind the
  "I can't see a fucking thing," Tom bitched. "I really can't."

"Well fuck, what do you want me to do about it?"
"The fuck's up your ass?"
"Nothing sorry. That shit earlier kinda put me in a bad mood."
"What? With Dan"
"Yea with fuckin Gilbert!"
"Sorry. I know he was pretty close t-"
"Leave it alone." Shew's stone face let Tom know he should indeed do just that. That and the cold inhumanity that seemed to posses his eyes.
Why Shew had taken a liking to the kid Tom will never know. Maybe he reminded him of his brother. Who knows? But since last Tuesday when Gilbert arrived, Shew had been looking out for him. He recalled how a man had tricked Dan into taking his night shift watch outside the camp.
Upon hearing the news, related to him by another buddy (Magic Isley), he sat for five minutes thinking. Then he sto od up, walked out of his barracks, and headed towards the man's quarters. The man, who went by Sly Innascio, was playing cards with some of his buddies.
"Aces and 8's btiches, read em and weep," he rasped through
whiskey-drenched lips.
"Shit..." Downy said.
"Fuck you mac, lucky mutha," another soldier, Graves sounded off.
"Hey mutherfucker," Pat hissed at Sly, stressing u-sound as he tore through the screened door. Hayes, Rainey, and Peterson a step behind. A drunk Sly turned around.
"Who me?"
"Yea you piece of shit, what the fuck kind of nerve you got tricking one of our guys out into the field?!"
"Fuck you. He's an idiot for listening. And you're an idiot for bargin in here like you wont get hurt!"
"Yea and your mother's a no good whore with a bastard for a son!"
"You're fucking dead!" The squat headstrong Italian bolted out of his seat and charged Pat with all his might. This was anticipated. He kicked a chair in the path of the charging bull and sent the beast tumbling towards him. Sly's head smashed against the corner of a bed, putting him out cold. The man playing cards next to Sly jumped up and threw a sloppy punch towards Tom. Hayes easily ducked and countered with a heavy right across temple. The man crumpled. Immediately, two other men joined the fight. One hopped off his bed, grabbed a bottle of the table, and swung at Rainey's face. He missed and exposed his back. Within seconds the man was gasping for air on his knees as Andy held him in submission. The other made his way towards Peterson.  Erick smirked. He had been through training with this man—this Pvt. Anderson. He knew his style. He knew how he carried himself. And most importantly, he knew when he threw an overhand right, his face would be completely exposed.
Anderson stepped towards Peterson and threw two jabs. Erick accepted them gratefully. The two men danced. Anderson stepped forward and threw another two punches. Again Peterson took them. Blood trickled from his nostrils. Anderson laughed. Erick's brow dropped slightly. He had him. Anderson didn't know it but he was done. He stepped forward and threw two lefts. One Erick ate, the other he dodged and snapped back with a left. It connected and Anderson stumbled back. Hateful pride filled Anderson's his eyes. He stepped back in and threw two lefts. So predictable, Erick almost chuckled, as he allowed the two jabs to hit him in the face. He faked stunned and as Anderson windmilled with his right, Erick ducked beneath and caught his right arm. He brought it behind his back and slammed Anderson into the iron bar of a top bunk. Four more punches battered his left and right kidney and he fell beaten.
One of the card players could not keep from laughing.
"The fuck's so fuckin funny Downy?" Isley asked.
"Ace's and 8's," the man cackled. Graves looked at him confused.
"Dead man's hand. The most unlucky hand in poker. Haha you called him a lucky fucker! I knew that shit would come back to ge thim, I just didnt think so soon" And with that he let out another roar of laughter. Isley just shook his head.
Pat approached Sly and hunkered down to rest on the balls of his
feet. He lightly slapped Sly in the face his eyelids lifted. "Don't fuck with our squad again. Got it?" Pat asked silently. And
with that, he turned and left. Gilbert has not taken anyone's shift since and had actually had a few men volunteer to pick up his.
Crack. Tom was brought back to the present. His eyes scanned the woods...searching. The fuck was that? Easy… easy... Relaxe. You are a killer. Use your training. Shadows became enemies then became shadows again. Over and over. From what he could see there was nothing. Yet his instincts were on overdrive, screaming danger and pushing his trigger finger down on the metal. It was a fraction of a centimeter from firing. Out of his peripheral he saw Pat crouched next to him, M16 staring into the trees. For now, they would wait...

Across the creek hunkered behind a patch of bamboo, Bao scratched his head nervously.I can't believe I broke that fucking twig. So loud in the dead silence of night. Sweat trickeled down his neck from an unending source. Gnats and mosquitos buzzed about, plotting out their next flight plan to gorge on human blood. He had been in hiding in the
same bamboo patch for nearly 9 hours. The Americans had approached at the beginning of evening, and Bao had watched the squad begin setting up battlements. Unfortunately, he was only able to see the first machine gun post, hopefully only, because his view was obstructed by alarge mound. Fucking hill, he thought. The machine gun post of the enemy was also hidden by a large amount of foliage. From here he could only fire bullets their way and hope to get lucky. Patience.
When the Americans first appeared he was able to signal to another soldier posted roughly 50 yards behind him. If anything came from the front line, that man's job was to run back to his command and relate whatever message was sent. Reinforcements should arrive soon, Bao told himself. Then we can eliminate these gutless swine.
Ten minutes passed. Nothing. Then another five minutes. Come on. Come on. Then he heard it, a faint caw of a bird. He answered with a similar caw and watched as men appeared from the darkness. The group silently passed through brances and patches of briars, the number of men totalling 14. Their commander, Lin Chao, wormed his way through the mud and up to Bao.
"What is the situation?" Lin Chao asked.
"Seven men that I've counted so far," Bao answered. "There is a machine gun post to our right about 30 yards, 50-60 yards deep."
Hmm. The commader thought. We can count on 2-3 men operating the machine gun. That leaves me another 4,5,6 guys. If it were me, what would i do? Where would I post my men?
"Trong Tri, take three men with you about 300 yards to the left and flank them. Bao, stay here and put fire on that machine gun when I give you the signal. You three, go about 50 yards south with Trong, and set up a machine gun placement there. You two set up a machine gun 50 yards north. You two move about 300 yards north and flank them. I will be 20 yards back, Tuan you will be my messenger. When each of you are in flanking position and ready to close the trap, give the signal."
Immediately, the men dispersed. Not a sound was made. The battle had already begun, yet only one side was aware.
Tom eased his finger slightly. "Something's out there. I can fucking feel it." Pat didn't say anything. He had the look of a seasoned vet, but inside his heart was pounding. It sounded like a drum was being beat inside his skull. A deep breath helped quell some of the noise but his hands still felt clammy and unsure. He gripped the M16 tighter.
The two men Lin had sent north moved deftly through the woods. Fifty yards, one hundred yards, two hundred yards. Within twenty seconds they were three hundred yards away and completely undetected. Quietly they eased their boots into the slow-moving creek and began creeping across. Above the moon shone heavy on them. Both men hated
being this exposed, but fortunately it would not be for long. Six hundred yards upstream four men began crossing the water. The men followed eachother's steps in order to be sure they had secure footing. A large salamander watched the men from a wet rock then quickly darted into the water as they got too close. At last they breached a muddy bank and disappeared into the trees. Trong prepared to signal.
Tim Burns, Alpha company's squad leader, peered through binoculars at the four men crossing the creek. Sneaky fuckers. Burns was stationed 30 yards to the right of the machine gun post. With him was one man, armed with an M1 carbine. Burns loaded his M16.  He signaled to Finan and Herbert, the men adjacent to each other in separate foxholes twenty feet away. Four men approaching from the right. They in turn signaled to the two men twenty feet behind them, Peterson and Rainey. From above, Alpha squad formed a loose L, the base extending back in the direction from whence they came.
Not far in the jungle, Trong let loose the loud shrill of a howler monkey. Lin Chao heard it. In his other ear echoed a similar call. Lin nodded to Bao, who turned his head towards the machine gun post and peered down the sights of his AK-47. Then he pulled the trigger.
Clack Clack Clack Clack. Bullets pumped out of the barrel and burrowed into the sand bags protecting Tom and Pat. "Fuck! Open fire!" Without hesitation Tom threw his shoulder into the butt of the large cannon and depressed the trigger. Tcht Tcht Tcht Tcht! The sound of automatic gunfire filled the air. The group of machine gunners across the creek saw the muzzle flashes of the M60 and began firing in its direction.  Trees were ripped to pieces around the two young American soldiers and splinters pierced their exposed necks and hands. Tom continued firing. "On the left!" Pat heard someone scream. He turned just in time to see three VCs lift their rifles and begin shooting. "Tom! Down!" Tom didn't hear for the gunfire was deafening. Shit! Pat turned and grabbed both of Tom's shoulders and pulled him away from his tool. Just as he did, the M60 was clinked and clanked with hot metal..
As the two hit the dirt, Pat signaled "3 men left side" with his hands. Tom nodded and they both pulled grenades. 3...2...1.  The grenades left the sandbag bunker and sailed elegantly towards the three Vietkong. Only one man saw them, as he was kneeling and the grenades cast a dark silhouette against the sky. DDi ddi! DDi ddi! Go away! Go away! he shrieked in terror. The explosives landed in the middle of the three men with thud. Then.... Boom! The blast left the surrounding trees covered with a fine red mist. Bits of flesh and bone scattered the ground.
Tom turned his attention back to the M60 and began pouring bullets into the gun station across the creek. They found their mark. Left machine gun down!" Tom yelled.
Bao turned from the carnage to his right. Three of his brothers lay bleeding from various wounds, one of the men still alive and suffocating on blood pouring into his lungs. Those sons of bitches! He also just witnessed three of the four men that flanked from the north get blown to bits. Where's the fourth? His eyes scanned the woods back and forth. Nothing. To his left, two men handled another RPD. Bao pointed to the American bunker and yelled to take them out. "Theres no clear shot!" one man responded. "That hill is in our way!" Fuck me. Nearly half our squad is gone. Where the hell is the left flank?
Across the creek 4 VC advanced on three enemy bunkers as an RPD released hell from the other side. The six Americans that made the crux of their L-formation were now fighting a war on two fronts. No sooner could one pop up and shoot before a barrage of hot bullets came from another direction. Boom! Boom! Boom! Three concussion grenades detonated in succession across the front of the three bunkers. Sounds of horror filled the air. Peterson, situated in the back bunker, looked towards the direction of the screams. A trio of men lay dead. It was Herbert, Finan, and another he could not make.  Nearby, a man was howling with blood leaking from his eyes. "Hellllp! Hellllp me!" Dear God, Peterson thought. Nothing I can do now. Then he recognized the face. It was Burns, the squad leader. The mother fuckers. "Rainey, let's get these fucks!" Rainey shook the horror from his face, got on his knees behind the sandbags, and began firing into the trees. One hundred yards away a Vietkong saw a head come into view. Carefully and patiently, he lifted his rifle and peered through the scope. Rainey's head appeared. The Vietnamese soldier took a breath, held it, and squeezed.
Peterson ran out of ammo and went for clip. Nothing on his belt. "Rainey I need a clip! Rainey!" But there was no answer. He turned to grab his buddy only to be greeted by the dead staring eyes of a man he once knew. A wound the size of a dime lay in the center of his forehead. Arrggh! "Fuuuuuck!!!!" Rage that had been boiling for hours, days, weeks, spilled out. Peterson picked up a gun and began firing, screaming all the while. "Ahhhh! Fuckers!! Fuck you!" Bam. One guy down. "Fuck you!"  Bam. Another. Empty mag, out, reloaded. Pop. Pop. Pop. He was firing in all directions. Fuck death, he thought. Fuck everything.
Time slowed as Erick continued firing. Something changed. His eyelids felt as if they carried weights and he sloughed towards the ground. Looking down at his chest, he noticed it was covered in blood. He smiled and looked back towards the jungle. His right arm attempted to bring his M16 back up, but it failed. And so did his body. Pvt. Peterson hit the ground with a puff a dust and faded into darkness.

Tom and Pat stopped their firing and heard the cries of their commander.  Automatic fire still whizzed from across the water. "Shit! Sounds like Burns!"
Both men were soaked with sweat and panting. In out. In out. In out. In out. Shew lifted his rifle and fired a few rounds. With Tom not shooting they eerily realized he was the only one firing from their side.
"Fuck this, lets regroup! You hear Sarge! Let's get him. Set up over there. We're out hear with our asses hangin out!"
"Man..fuck. I know. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Alright, let's go!"
A short distance away the two men saw figures running through the woods. Hayes let loose a string of ammunition. It was immediately returned. Pat and Tom ducked, knowing the world was shrinking around them. Screw it. The men looked at each other knowing the probable outcome of their actions. It did not matter. Glory.
Both men lifted from the ground and began firing. Anything and everything was a target. Bullets snapped past their head but neither cared. Shew's rifle went dry and he pulled his pistol. Round after round pumped into the forest. 
Suddenly, Tom fell forward unconscious. Pat spun around to be greeted with a bayoneted AK-47 in his face. A thin Vietnamese man was holding the gun and smiling. He was the fourth man of the right flank group. The man that had been waiting patiently. Silently. Knowing an opportunity would present itself. He spit on Pat then smashed his face with the butt of the rifle. Pat's head was rocked by the shock of the impact— a white, blinding light shooting into his eyes then slowly turning into black until there was nothing more.

Submitted: July 08, 2008

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