Author: Sam Douglas
Location: Columbia, South Carolina
Sam Douglas is a former US military man who served all over the world in Air Force Intelligence. He is now a freelance writer living in the Southern US. His work has appeared in numerous university, small press, and online publications.
Across the Trail
Jimmy Hunter was scared. Barely 18 years old and in combat only three months, he sat in the jungle night guarding the perimeter trail. He had been here for hours. It was hot and humid. He was sweaty and sticky. He thought back to his high school graduation less than a year ago. All his friends were going on to college, but Jimmy wanted to do his patriotic duty. He joined the army, and now he sat in the dark and the heat thousands of miles from home. He wished he could see some of his friends right now. And his little sister, only nine years old when he left home. He’d be glad to see her again when he got back. He hoped she didn’t grow too much while he was away. He didn’t want her to change from the little sister he’d always known. The enemy was across the trail. But it was very dark, and Jimmy could see only shadows over there. He squinted and one shadow seemed to move and take form.
Nguyen Thi Thuyet was frightened. He was 17, on his first patrol, beside the trail that the enemy must not be allowed to cross. He had traveled down from the north on foot wearing only his loose black uniform the enemy called pajamas and sandals. He held the AK-47 he’d been issued only a few days ago. The trip from the north had been hard and long, but it was worth it to do his patriotic duty to Uncle Ho. His father told him before he left that it was a noble thing to help rid his country of the foreign invaders. Even his little sister was proud of him as he marched away. He wanted her to be even prouder when he returned victorious. He peered into the blackness and saw only swaying foliage. He squinted and a ghostly, gray image seemed to emerge from the foliage across the trail.
Jimmy sighted down the barrel of his rifle, lining up the shadow across the trail. Ever so slowly, his finger began to close on the trigger.
Nguyen held his breath, set his rifle sight on the ghost image across the trail. He released the breath and gently squeezed the trigger.