As we moved south that night a new seriousness gripped the unit. Each of us knew what lay ahead, if not that night, then soon. We were already in a fight to the death with the land itself, so no bunch of maniacs was going to stand in our way. Every one of us was ready to die to protect the man next to him – woe betide the fool who crossed our path. Looking around each time we paused on march I was impressed at the discipline and dedication. Not a word, not a grunt of discomfort, pure professionalism.
Moving fast and remaining even more alert then usual takes its toll, so by sunup I have nineteen exhausted souls ready to drop – me included. Knowing full well how rough a march it had been I was glad of the spot Glynn and Big Brin had found us. In a dip where a stream had long ago worn down some softer clay and since dried up, a gully some fifteen yards by three to four yards had opened. It was like a tiny canyon, just big enough to fit us all. It was even almost deep enough to stand up straight in. When my lads had covered it over with the silks and the canvases from the trucks and tossed fistfuls of grass over the top, it made a damn good hide. Low down and away from the wind it held body heat pretty well. It was perfect for our needs and that we had it on that night in particular was a godsend.
All my men were out cold in seconds and as I sat up on first watch with Murphy I couldn’t help feel a momentary relief. There in the middle nowhere, little more than a day away from potential utter destruction, I lay back against a rock and watched the sunrise with a full heart. Jesus it was beautiful. If my Anna had been beside me it couldn’t have been better. There was something about the uncertainty of the day sunrise heralded that gave me a sense of life I’d only felt once before. I knew there and then, no matter what happen at Kyzylorda, or on the river, we had already won. And that’s a feeling that can’t be matched.
“Sir. I’m here to relieve you, Sir.”
“Take a pew, Collins.”
“How you getting on, Sir?”
“Just been sitting here taking in the scenery and d’you know what… ?”
“No matter where you go on this Earth, and matter who you meet, you’re right where you should be. This whole world belongs to you. It’s not for anyone to tell you otherwise, even though they’ll try. This is our home as much as it’s Serik’s. Only problem with him is he can’t get along.”
“Sir. My Grandfather used to say similar. I always wondered what he meant though.”
“He was dead right, Collins. I can’t tell you, soldier. You’ll have to figure that out for yourself.”
“I’m heading back to put my head down. Just do us both a favour will you?”
“Think about what I said.”
“Will do, Sir.”
To be continued…
© Stephen Fahey