Episode 40 - The night walked down the sky with the moon in her hand

Back at Basic Training School, a private named Jeremy Hinzman told me he started to question the Military as it became clear that basic training was all about breaking down the human inhibition against killing." In rifle training, he said, - You start out with targets that are black circles. Then the circles grow shoulders and then the shoulders turn into torsos. Pretty soon they're human beings. - I’ve questioned the actions of the US Military many times too. The invasion of Iraq and the abuse of war prisoners are just a few examples. But after my unauthorized visit to the Naval Hospital, down at Twenty Nine Palms, I started to doubt myself as a soldier. In fact, I started to question the entire PondPatrol Mission. Someone at the hospital knew that Ben’s DNA had been altered. Someone let him go back to the Mulberry Ridge so they could watch “their” experiment from a distance. Was I part of this evil plan too? Who else was involved? One thing I knew for sure: I had to find Ben. Or at least let him know about my discovery. I arrived back at the Mulberry Ridge last Thursday. Everything seamed about the same, except my faith in the people I work with. I didn’t mention anything about my finds. Not even to Aunt Ann, who I saw briefly on my way back from Oregon. Neither to Roy, the only person who supposedly knew about Ben’s back problems. I had kept Ben’s file from the Hospital stashed with the Giant Turtle scute inside my duffle bag. Soon, someone would be looking for it. And I would like to know who. Upon my arrival to Base Camp, I had mentioned I was ready for work and that I would like to finish my reconnaissance mission of unmarked trails, which had been interrupted by a freakish snow storm back in March. Sergeant Palmer didn’t object, as long as I brought Private Harvey along again. The only one who seemed to care was Dr. Johnson, who was tired of doing the pond patrolling in my absence. It was all a plan so I could contact Ben somehow. So on Friday, Roy, unsuspectedly, drove Brian and I to the end of the logging road. Once there, Roy set a pick up date, then Brian and I took off to our topographic assignment. I wasn’t sure “on how” to contact Ben. Especially because Private Brian was with me. Brian had become good friends with Dr. Johnson and I couldn’t trust him. I figured I would keep working on my recon assignment and the opportunity should show itself. We finally reached Mount Carmello. For someone who trained with the Marine Corps's II Marine Expeditionary Force, Brian was really out of shape. I had to help him a few times while we climbed the mountain side. – I kept yelling at him: - Private, you need to quit eating all that Wonder bread! Let’s get moving soldier! - I kept yelling while he panted even more. When we finally reached the mountain top, the view was unbelievable. How am I going to find Ben out here? I asked myself while staring at the vast horizon. Regardless, Brian and I spent the afternoon trekking through the other side of the Valley and measuring a few trails. It was getting dark and after a whole lot of hiking, we reached the Loess Hills. Pioneers, who migrated from the Mohawk Lake area, came through these Hills back in the mid 1800’s. They probably gazed out, upon the virgin valley behind us and thought it to be home. I was hoping that Ben thought the same thing. We set camp by a wooden area close to a stream, in which I almost fell into, if it wasn’t for my hiking pole. The night came fast and so did the moon. Howling coyotes and echoing crickets were the perfect soundtrack for a lurking moon hiding behind the clouds. Brian sat by the fire. I stood looking at the moon, like waiting for it to tell me all the answers I needed. I woke up early the next morning, to find Brian still asleep. This was my chance. I grabbed all my gear and a piece of paper from inside my backpack. I headed for the woods. With a lousy pencil I scribbled a message to Ben. I read the note quite a few times wondering if I was making any sense. Then, I pulled my knife out of my utility belt and secured the note on a tree trunk. It was going to be like finding a needle in a hay stack, but it was worth a try. As I walked away heading back to the camp site, I wondered how Ben was doing; if his health was getting better. But mostly, I wondered if he was still the Ben I knew.

by Corporal John Harris, June 22, 2006