Sway the Vote - Invite Your Friends!

Share__ __ Delicious Delicious__

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chapter 9 - Lost in a Strange Land

Jonathan seems to be slowly coming to understand just how lost he is.  I would say how lost "they" are, but the Iraqi girl doesn't seem too perturbed.  She actually seems to know what's going.  It's too bad Jonathan doesn't know how to listen.

9 – Really, Really Lost.  (Thank the gods we have a dead dragon to serve as a landmark.)

                He thought about calling out to the girl to make her follow him, but he thought better of it.  Instead he set off on his own.  It wasn’t like the girl was going anywhere – she was walking back-and-forth across the dragon as if getting ready to perform some kind of industrial autopsy.  Besides, he figured he could find the way himself.  Once he set a good search pattern, he’d at least catch side of a road or – macabre as it was – the plumes of smoke from the convoy.
                He started back to the clearing.  Then he reached into his shoulder pocket and pulled out his compass.  It wasn’t a particularly good compass – it was one of those five-dollar Scout compasses he’d picked up at Wal-Mart before deployment – but it wasn’t like he had to go very far.  And he didn’t even know which direction he needed to go – he just had to be able to find his way back.
                Of course, the compass chose today to stop working.  He flipped it open, held it out away from the twenty-odd pounds of gun metal slung over his shoulder, and waited for the needle to point north.  But then the needle didn’t move.  So he turned the compass, and the needle turned with the swirl of the water.  Then he waited, expecting the needle to eventually stop, turn the other way, and then wiggle back-and-forth until it settled on north.  But it didn’t.  Instead it kept spinning.  It slowed down little-by-little until finally it stopped, pointing in an entirely different direction from before.
                He tried the experiment again.  Then he turned his whole body.  Then he set the compass down on a tuft of grass and stepped back from it, thinking maybe it was all the pounds of machine gun and ammunition that were skewing it.  Each time, the needle pointed a new and arbitrary direction, as if attracted to no one direction at all.
                He shook his head.  The compass was a cheap piece of shit, a WMC – “Wal-Mart made in China.”  He should have just left it on the ground – instead he picked it up and tucked it back in his pocket.  Somehow, it just didn’t feel right to litter.  Besides, he could probably still trade a broken compass at the bazaar for a Haji movie, one of those two-dollar blockbuster bootlegs from Turkey.  Still, it sucked that the one time he might have gotten some use out of it, the compass was broken.  He would’ve been carrying a military lensatic if there’d been enough to go around, but they only issued out two per squad.  And every squad had a GPS anyway, so what was the point of a compass?  If Jonathan hadn’t brought his own from the States, he’d never have laid hands on one.
                Whatever.  He checked his watch – it was five-after-two.  The sun seemed low, but he could work with that.  He set the sun as “west to the left.”  That put him due east of the dragon.  He took that as a good sign – he could start north and walk a perfect box-square around the thing.  He’d scout the surroundings, find the way back, and never lose track of the dragon. Perfect.
                And so he set off.  For the first twenty minutes or so, he kept a careful count of his paces.  He’d already forgotten his pace-count from Basic Training – did he walk eighty-five or ninety-five steps per hundred meters?  No matter – he walked a hundred paces north, turned to walk two hundred west, then turned again to walk three hundred south.  It wasn’t something they had taught him in Basic or even at MP school, but it made good enough sense.  Geometrically, he’d always know where he was.  Just like high school geometry, only on foot.
                That optimism lasted until the sweat seeped through the leather of his boots.  By the end of an hour, his calves ached from the effort of pushing off each step from the uneven mire.  Then the weight of the body armor pressing all on his shoulders gave him knots on either side of his neck.  Normally, he’d never have spent this much time dismounted.  They usually went everywhere by humvee, except for the stops where they had to pull guard duty or – worst case – spend the night.  As he passed by tree after tree while stepping over roots and stones, he thought about how nice it would have been to get a massage.  And that thought gave way to dreams of ice water.  Eventually, all he wanted was to plop down on the ground to take the weight off his feet and his back.
                But then a strange thing happened – the sun began to set.  And it wasn’t even four.  Working his way back by dead reckoning and the last faint hints of twilight, he found the Iraqi girl laying back on the dragon’s wing, her eyes on the sky.  He didn’t like the idea of sitting on a dead animal – even if the thing was bigger than a yacht.  So he wormed his arms out from the assault pack, then unstrapped the two-four-nine.  Both he set on the ground.  He so wanted to pull off the IBA vest, too, but figured it best to keep the body armor on for now.  It was dark, his watch and compass had stopped working, and he still had no idea where they were.
                Wrapped in her dark fabric, the girl was slowly becoming a shadow on the dragon’s broad wing.  Her face was a pale circle of mute anger turned the sky.  She shifted her gaze his way just long enough to speak.
                “La Ej’lus fi el-Ard,” she said.
                “Aafwan?”  Pardon?
                “La Ej’lus fi el-Ard,” she said.  Don’t sit on the Earth, she said.  Except this time, by Earth she meant the ground.
                “Lemala?” he asked.  Why not?
                “Se-ya-kul-oon-too-ka,” she said, annunciating her words with strange care.  And it was good that she did.  It was so hard, working out Arabic verbs.  A whole sentence could be crammed into a single word.  And it took time for him to sort the prefixes and suffixes.  Future tense, they, you, eat: They will eat you.
                “Matha?”  What?  Had he heard right?  Who would eat him?  He didn’t trust his ears for English, let alone Arabic.  But the girl was gesturing for him to join her up on the dragon’s wing – with her fingers, at first, and then sitting up to wave him up.
                So he reached down for his machine gun and the assault pack.  The machine gun was no problem – it was steel and plastic, no heavier or lighter than before.  The nylon assault pack, on the other hand, was rooted to the ground.
                At first he thought it was just a strap.  But then he tried pulling on the edges, and the fabric itself wouldn’t come up.  He pulled harder, but it wouldn’t budge.  It was like someone had glued the back to the ground.  Fucking tree sap, he figured.  Or God knows what.  He didn’t have the energy to yank on it all night, so he crouched down on one knee for purchase.  He wasn’t down for more than a minute before he felt it – the ground was warm.  And then it was burning.  Like a thousand razors his skin all at once.  He pushed up, but the knee wouldn’t budge.  It wasn’t the uniform stuck to the ground, but his fucking skin.
                It wasn’t until after he planted a hand on the ground to push up that he really screamed.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share With Your Friends!

Share__ __ Delicious Delicious__

What's the air power in a magical war?

Who wields the magic on a battlefield?

From where do wizards draw their magic?

The Most Evil Form of Government Is: