Episode 58 - I hope good luck lies in odd numbers

The landscape outside the cave had changed dramatically on Thanksgiving Day. It’s amazing how fast the perspective of things can change. The Mulberry Ridge was now covered by twelve inches of snow. According to a National Weather Forecast radio bulletin, another big storm was heading this way on Sunday. I had spent the past two days inside. Mostly sleeping in order to conserve energy. I shot a rabbit the week before when I endeavored up north and that’s all I had for food. Not good. From time to time, I would work on the broken tracking device that I had taken from Dr. Johnson. If I could only make it work again, perhaps I wouldn’t have to stay out here much longer. I could find Ben with it, putting an end on all the awful things that have happened in this mission. Using my knife and some coals as a soldering iron, I was slowly repairing the broken circuit board. When the metal box hit the ground during my struggle with Dr. Johnson a few weeks back, it shorted out the screen to ground, burning the screen board onto one of the output tubes. The result was a charred mess. The problem is that a carbonized circuit board becomes conductive, so all of that had to be scraped away. My solution was to cut the trace leading to the burnt area so there would be no possibility of further arcing or voltage leaks. Then I had to get all of the leads into new holes at the same time. It’s was a really annoying job, especially without the proper tools. If you break one connection, you have to shorten the whole cable, in order to work on it again. After many experiments with the leads, I manage to turn the main screen on. Unfortunately I had no tracking signal inside the cave. I had to go outside to see if the box actually worked again. I suited up and packed accordingly to the snowy conditions. The snow had heavily drifted overnight, covering the cave’s mouth. I punched through the snow and made a hole big for my body to get through. Then I dove out, head first, sliding on the mound of snow bulging up in the cave’s entrance. There wasn't much movement in the trees. The sky was clear. I looked over to my right to check on the rabbit meat I had burrowed in the snow the day before. It was all gone!!! Left behind, I found only a few animal tracks. I had underestimated the sense of smell of my new neighbors: the wolves. - Oh, God…what am I gonna do? - I said apprehensively. I turned the tracking device on. The screen came alive but still no signal. With my machine gun strapped on, I turned into the face of the wind and started hiking up hill towards the Mulberry Mountain. Perhaps in higher altitude I could get a red dot blinking on the screen. Ice crystals collected on everything, even on minor changes of terrain right along the ground. At times I was wallowing in deep snow and the hike became real slow. I considered turning back a few times, but my curiosity kept me going farther into the snowy hill side. I heard a helicopter approaching. In an attempt to not be seen, I crouched behind a bush covered in snow. Foolishly, now that I look back at it, I set the metal box on the snow to avoid glaring my position to the pilot. It was a big mistake. Snow made its way into the circuit board through the broken side of the box, shorting the leads again. I was mad. Mad at myself for letting things get this bad. I was cold, hungry and by now: pretty far away from the cave. I took a long breath a pondered over the situation. I could go back to the cave or try at least to catch another rabbit. After all it was a clear day and rabbits need to eat too. I pulled out my binoculars and scanned the frigid landscape. I kept looking around then something up in the sky caught my eye. I adjusted the focal point of my lenses and looked again. Attached to parachutes, two wooden crates glided down the sky like feathers. And then it hit me: Malloy and Redman were still out in the woods. - A supply drop-off! - I said out loud. Without wasting any time I took off on a steady pace following the trajectory of the crates. With enough luck, I could arrive at the landing site before Redman and Malloy and perhaps “borrow” something to eat for the next few days. The wooden crates landed on a clearing about a half a click away. I sped up through a group of rocks going down hill. Footing was particularly hard there, as I walked through between the rock crevices and found my whole leg buried in the snow. Or sometimes I would stand right on the surface only because I found a point of rock to stand on. As I got closer to the clearing, I thrashed through the snow covered trees. I caught myself many times dreaming about food. The trees became bigger and finally I had arrived. No one was there. Well, yet. I pulled out my binoculars again and made sure I was alone. Then like a little excited kid I ran towards the first wooden crate. - How am I going to open this? - I said while standing by the crate. I knelled down and started to pound the top corner of the crate using the stock of my gun. I repeatedly hit the wood top for a while till I was interrupted by a gun shot. I ducked, not knowing where the bullet was coming from. I looked over the crate and saw Malloy and Redman several yards away. I was being driven away like an old dog. Redman was getting ready to fire again but I noticed Malloy grabbing his shoulder. There was only one thing left to do: I had leave. I strapped my gun back and walked away facing Redman. Hiding behind a small bank of snow I watched them approach their crate. I could tell Redman was still a little unnerved since Malloy arrived first. After setting the parachute free, they opened the crate and retrieved their goods. Back at my hiding spot I could hear my stomach growling. Minutes after, the two Marines were ready to go. But before they took off into the woods Malloy looked towards the snow bank I was hiding at. Like she knew I was watching them. I laid there for 15 minutes; my feet getting cold and the hunger bigger. - What else could I’ve done? Get into a fight with them for a lousy can of pork and beans? - I said trying to reason with my empty stomach. Decided to make the best out of my dreadful day, I stood up and went back to the landing site. At least I could retrieve the parachute. It could be useful at some point. Malloy and Redman’s foot prints were all over the place. The white parachute was heavy and I could barely see it when mixed with the snow. I stopped folding. It was just too wet and too awkward to carry back to the cave. I looked over at the crate and then I saw them: two packages of MREs left inside. The big ones! While I grabbed them from the box I couldn’t think of a better day for such a thing to happen. Thanksgiving was looking a lot better than Christmas.

by Corporal John Harris, November 22, 2006