The Trek

Posted: August 1, 2016 in Creative Writing
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The sun beat down angrily, on a lonely sandy trail in the foothills surrounding a bustling military base.  Trudging wearily through the sand was a lone figure wearing combat fatigues, load bearing equipment, and a large rucksack that looked ready to topple the Soldier if he grew careless.  He was a short, stocky man, with wild black hair that sprouted from his patrol cap, which he was trying to use without success to mitigate some of the sun’s harsh glare.

With each step he dug his feet deeply into the sand, trying to gain enough purchase to push off again.  Every time he took a step his ripple soled jungle boots left a slowly fading trail in the sand showing his progress.  The muscles in his legs were working endlessly between the walking, and carrying the large pack on his back.

Pausing for a moment, he wearily looked down at the watch strapped to his wrist, while at the same time sucked water voraciously from the camelback straw that was looped over his right shoulder leading to his rucksack.  He had already been walking for eight hours and the strain from the pack on his back was already starting to wear on him.  His trek was only one third of the way over and already the seed of doubt was starting to spread in his mind.  “Will I be able to complete this task?”

As he was getting ready to start moving again, he heard the unmistakable sound of an ATV churning up the sand behind him.  Over a short hill behind him rode a figure dressed similarly to him on a large green ATV with a rack on the back.  In the rack were several five-gallon water cans with water sloshing through them.

“Candidate 205, do you need water?” Asked the figure, referring to the number sewn on the man’s uniform and rucksack.

“Negative SSG Towne,” he said, while grabbing the straps on his pack and giving each a sharp tug in order to tighten them and pull the pack higher on his back.

“How about a nice cool shower, and a hot meal?”  asked SSG Towne with a grin.  “All you have to do is say the magic words, I QUIT.”

“Negative SSG Town,” he repeated, slowly turning and continuing his journey through the sand.

“Ok, well maybe next time 205,” said SSG Towne, as he turned his ATV back on and roared down the trail in the direction that candidate 205 was headed.

“My how I would love a nice shower, and some real food, but a nice warm bed sounds so much better,” said 205 putting his head down, leaning forward slightly and digging into the sand with his feet again.

Glancing at his watch again, he felt his heart drop, realizing that only another hour had gone by.  It felt like he had been walking for an eternity, yet he had only walked for a total of nine hours, leaving fifteen to go.  His mind instantly started cycling through everywhere he would rather be instead of rucking through a continuous sand trail, causing countless blisters and the sorest shoulders he had ever had.

As soon as the thoughts entered his mind it started a vicious chain reaction within him, and all he wanted to do was quit and go home.  He missed his wife, and his young son who was just starting to walk.  Closing his eyes, he could picture them both vividly.  His wife’s long black hair that flowed down to her lower back.  Her elegant brown eyes, small nose, and her tan that never seemed to fade.  His son who is a short, and chubby and is always stumbling into walls and falling down.

With all the thoughts flooding through his mind, he couldn’t even concentrate enough to keep walking.  Reaching to his chest, he unclipped his top buckle that kept his ruck close to his chest.  His waist strap was the next to be undone and with that, he let the heavy bag fall into the sand with a dull thud, that was swallowed up by the light sand.  Looking around he slumped down onto the bag with an exasperated sigh, and laid his head in his hands to process his thoughts.

“That’s it,” he said to himself.  “I’ll quit as soon as SSG Town comes back around to harass me.”  With that he decided to lean back against his ruck and take a quick power nap while he waited for cadre to come around so he could VW or voluntarily withdrawal.  Leaning back, he pulled his patrol cap down to cover his eyes from the glaring sunlight.  Closing his eyes, he was about to fall asleep, but instead went back to his thoughts.

How could he quit and then look at his family the same way?  Would they think less of him knowing that he had made it this far only to give up and quit when it started to get difficult?  All he knew for sure is that he didn’t want to set that kind of example for his little boy.

Planting both hands in the soft sand he forced himself to stand with a groan.  Standing at the front of his ruck he reached down with both hands, grabbed both straps, bent his knees and while flexing his back, flung the bag over his head and onto his back.  Grabbing both straps again he pulled hard and made sure his bag was sitting high on his back.  With that he reoriented himself towards the direction he was supposed to be headed, and once again started his seemingly endless trek.

Standing in the distance inside a swathe of trees was SSG Towne, who’d watched the entire ordeal play itself out.  With a slight crooked smile on his face, he moved over to his ATV parked into the shade, mounted it, turned it on and headed towards 205.  “Candidate 205, do you need water?” He asked.


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