Why not look in the archives of things previously posted elsewhere to fill some of the gaps here while I’m too busy sorting-out life’s little perturbations? Hmm. The idea has merit. Here’s one, a bit of Flash Fiction for your entertainment while I noodle on some new works.
It was colder than a witch’s heart. No snow falling. Just a wet, biting wind that ripped through your parka making ice pops of your ribs. HQ wanted to know the exact position and strength of a known detachment of North Korean troops likely two klicks northwest of our location. That meant a recon.
Recon is never conducted with pomp and circumstance. It’s not a bluff and bluster deal. It’s a sneak in, take a look, memorize, and get the hell out kind of thing. Whether you crossed any lines or not. And there were no lines drawn in the snow. Last spring there’d been none in the mud, and last summer, there’d been none in the dust. Everything was “no man’s land.” Out there, there was always a feeling you would be alone the rest of your life.
And as fast as your heart beat, you were still cold.
I’d expected the unit to be positioned on a hill or a ridge with a good view in as many directions as possible. There was a series of small ridges just ahead suited perfectly. But I saw nothing. There was no choice but to play in the snow on my belly up the ridge immediately in front of me to take a better look.
Cresting my ridge, focused on the ridge across a small valley of sorts, I still saw nothing. Looking down however, I saw a poorly camouflaged encampment. Fifteen snow tents. Two small transports. I could only count twenty men.
The snow behind me crunched. My heart collapsed. I had become, or probably would soon become a casualty of war.
Three soldiers and one junior lieutenant escorted me to the largest tent in the little valley. A captain inside began questioning me. He grew tired of my refusal to answer direct questions, then fumed at the lieutenant and a slicksleeve with a new looking seven point six-two carbine. Exchanging words in Chinese I couldn’t understand, the captain dispatched the two men on some mission, probably to fetch instruments of torture. Hard to remember all the things I dreamed-up waiting.
A few scant seconds after the tent flap closed, the captain leaned into me and spoke in perfect English, “Listen carefully. I will take you out of here. We will go back to your base and I will surrender myself as your prisoner.”
He threw my parka at me, shouldered a carbine, and pulled an ugly knife from its scabbard before hollering something at the guard I knew was stationed outside. The guard came in and said hello to the captain’s knife which slit his stomach open like a payday envelope. Tossing the guard’s carbine to me, the captain opened the flap and left the tent with me close enough behind to be his shadow or his lover.
We made it nearly to the top of the little ridge where I’d been captured. Bullets zipped and pinged all around us as we put the ridge peak between us and the encampment. To discourage the others from assuming we’d come back politely, we started returning fire. I tried to remember the captain and I had little in the way of ammunition and had to be stingy returning fire.
It was then I noticed one of the earlier ‘zips’ I’d heard managed to ruffle the fabric of my unfastened parka. It wasn’t much, and if an airborne division swooped to our rescue, I’d likely be easily patched up.
“Why?” I asked. I figured the details of the question were obvious. A jagged outcrop kept the captain from seeing me and me from seeing the captain.
“I am Chinese,” the captain said. “It is politics, and I cannot stay with ideologies I no longer support.”
“You can call me ‘Kam,” he offered as pieces of rock disturbed by angry rifle fire splatted around us.
“Well, Kam,” I continued, “we’re in a hard spot.”
I felt it unlikely the gravity of the situation really escaped Captain Kam. But I answered, “Your angry former charges are down there, and behind us is a lot of open ground to be covered before we reach first the sniper outlooks, then my unit.”
“We can do that.” Captain Kam popped-up to fire once into the little valley.
“Yes, we can,” I said. “We should wait for nightfall.” It was my turn to toss a shot into the valley.
“No, we need to leave now. More troops are coming.”
“My boys will hear. They might come help out.”
“Probably not.” I admitted that with genuine sorrow. But an unknown enemy strength was why I’d been sent earlier, and having failed to return, I was in a deep hole and missing numbers wouldn’t support foolhardy rescue.”
“Then we must leave now!” said Captain Kam.
“Not a really good idea,” I suggested. You’re wearing the wrong uniform to go prancing across the gap in broad daylight. We need some darkness, so I can make sure sentries welcome us.”
“We should leave now. I can take my chances.”
“Okay.” I popped another shot into the valley.
“I will go first,” announced Kam.
“Wait while I draw fire.” I stood to see if there wasn’t a target I could pick on in the valley. There wasn’t. I wasted a round.
“Did you go, Kam?” I asked.
I heard nothing.
More nothing. I crawled around the outcrop to Kam’s side of our little nest.
Kam wasn’t there. I looked down the ridge. Kam was about twenty yards downhill facing away from me with his carbine across his chest.
No response. And no movement.
When I reached Captain Kam, his eyes looked at me but didn’t, I figured, see me. A small hole right above the bridge of his nose was leaking. It almost matched the red star on his cap.
© S P Wilcenski 2020
Originally posted to Prose 8/2/2020