Episode 43 - There is nothing more frightening than active ignorance

"Family" is a strange word. I regarded my real family with nothing but hate and fear as a child. What is family anyway? According to some, a “family” is made of two or more people who share goals and values, have long-term commitments to one another, and reside usually in the same dwelling place. Last year when I was assigned to the PondPatrol Mission, I figured my Marine Fire Team had become my family. I was wrong. It seems that we have no responsibility for each other; besides following rules dictated by the military. The sense of friendship gets lost when mixed with duty. I trust no one. Sure, there’s Roy, who embraced me as a friend and our pilot, Jillian. But Roy sometimes seems unconcerned with the streak of bad luck this mission has had. And Jillian…let’s just say I ruined our friendship with my “love letter”. I spent most of last week pretending to care. Pond patrols went smooth and I insincerely laughed at my buddies jokes. But the truth is: there’s something wrong with this place. And I’m starting to hate my so-called new family”. People are getting hurt and no one seems to care. I kept in touch with Ben, though. Time alone at Base Camp is scarce, but I managed to sneak a few radio transmissions. Last night after dinner I went to my tent a little earlier. Everyone felt a bit tired after a really hot summer day. The evening uproar of chirping birds had just ended. Roy stayed up, responsible for the night guard shift. It was 2043 hours when I heard Roy snoring. He had fallen asleep. I was considering getting him up, when I heard someone passing by my tent. I took a quick look outside and spotted Dr. Johnson. Carrying his shotgun and one of our radios, the doctor was heading towards the Mulberry tree. I quickly put my shirt on and grabbed my pistol. - He’s up to something! - I thought to myself. I carefully got out of my tent, trying not to wake Roy up. I trailed behind Dr. Johnson, who was about 10 meters ahead, now heading for the pond. I noticed he seemed too comfortable on the trail, like he’s done this trip alone before. It was now dark and it became almost impossible to see the trail. I accidentally brushed against a willow tree, which made the doctor stop. He looked around, but I managed to hide behind a boulder just in time. A few minutes later, the doctor arrived at the pond’s shore. The lights of our generators reflected on the pond’s surface. It was a beautiful scene, only spoiled by another one of Dr. Johnson’s shenanigans. He walked around impatiently. It was about 2100 hours when his radio came alive: - Jeff, are you there, over? - a man said on the radio. The doctor sat down on the rubber raft and answered: - Yep, I’m here, go ahead Adrian - said the doctor. Could it be? Adrian Ivanov? I cautiously climbed the trunk of a cottonwood and proceeded to listen to the conversation. - Jeff, since our boy got away, I think it’s time for plan B. Don’t you think? - said the metallic voice over the radio. The doctor scratched his head and said nothing for a second. - You want me to turn the “sonic transducers” on again? That’s how Dr. Daniel died, isn’t it? - Doctor Johnson asked frightened. - Listen, Dan died because he cared too much about the turtle. He had never seen such reptile before. You have. Besides, he went out to turn them off against my will and failed, remember? Now do your job, would you? Over and out. - replied the man. Dr. Johnson remained at the shore, starring at his radio receiver. What in the hell does it all mean? I was puzzled. I stayed up in the tree, till the doctor decided to go back to Base Camp. My mind was going in circles, trying to understand what I had just heard. I waited. I finally decided to make it back to camp. Roy was still asleep. I was mad: - What kind of night guard is this, Private? - I yelled furiously. He jumped out of his chair and almost fell on the ground. Later that night, I tried to contact Ben but he didn’t answer me.

by Corporal John Harris, July 20, 2006