Episode 46 - When you are afraid to walk down the path of life towards death; you aren't any better off than a dead man.

I fell powerless, emotionally and physically drained. The more I try to understand and fix things in my life, the more complicated things get. It’s like the Mulberry Ridge is cursed. And everyone who sets foot in this menacing forest is bound to be damned by the Ridge’s maledictions. As usual, I assembled a team early this morning for pond patrolling. The remaining men headed out to the logging road to clear an old path for a new supply truck. It was about 0800 hours when my team arrived at the pond’s shore. We gathered by the small beach, where the rubber raft was anchored. After working out minor details, we left on patrol. I served as the point man, while Malloy, Redman and Willis followed me. We had barely walked 20 feet when I noticed bubbles coming from underneath a boulder. I signaled the men to stop and for a minute or so, we watched the water fizz like a glass of alka seltzer. - It’s the Giant Turtle! - I whispered as I pointed down to the rocks. The air bubbles disappeared and the water surface became clearer. A blurry silhouette of a turtle then appeared. Mesmerized by the size of the animal, I failed to notice Willis walking in the water. - Get out of there! - yelled Redman. Slowly, Willis looked at us. I turned my eyes back to the boulders and the turtle wasn’t there anymore. - Rats, Willis! Move it soldier! - I said almost panicking. But just as Willis was turning around, the Giant Turtle grabbed him by his right boot. Malloy held my arm. My throat shriveled. Redman froze. We got into attack positions. The commotion in the water grew bigger and so did Willis’ screams. I tried to shoot the turtle but Willis body kept jerking in front of the animal. In the mean time, the turtle kept pulling Willis to deeper water. - I got a lock, sir! - said Redman while pointing his gun to the water. - What are you waiting for!? Shoot! Shoot the damn thing! - I replied impatiently. Redman fired as Willis’ body disappeared under the water. The pond became silent. Not even the birds were chirping anymore. Malloy held my shoulder tighter. - Oh my God! He’s gone, Harris! - said Redman. I didn’t know what to do. All of a sudden, Willis’ body resurfaced from the depths of the pond. He was still holding his gun. But he wasn’t screaming anymore. - I’m going in! Cover me! - I said. I strapped my Thompson machine gun onto my back and got in the water. It was awful. The water once murky brown, had turned red. Willis’ eyes were closed and his body motionless. Afraid of another turtle attack, I pulled Willis to the shore as fast as I could. - Get on the radio! We’re gonna need medical assistance ASAP! Hurry! - I told Malloy while checking Willis for vital signs. I was freaking out. I never lost a man. And worse, Willis was bitten by the turtle, which could turn him into another genetic freak. Willis had a faint pulse. He had also taken a lot of water in his lungs. I started CPR immediately while Redman picked up a net from the rubber raft. - We could carry him easily with this - said Redman. I got Willis to spit some water out. We then moved him onto the net. Malloy had just finished with the radio: - We got a helicopter coming as soon as possible. Sergeant Palmer is also heading this way. - she told us. But Willis didn’t make it. He took one last breath and his head tilted to the right. Redman burst into tears. I tried to convince them to move the body away from the pond with no success. For a while, we stared at Willis’ deceased body on the beach. His right boot was all torn apart and a trail of blood led back to the pond. I saw a man die today. I want to think he’s better off dead. But what kind of man am I? I need to lift the curse. I won’t be a victim anymore.

by Corporal John Harris, August 17, 2006