As I started towards the main cottage, the French nuns and nurses, and the civilian aides all emerge. Always in command at MY sanctuary I start barking orders, the first being the head nurse thoroughly check Danielle for injuries and get her some assistance. My second order is to the few men in the compound. I tell them to strip the soldiers of all weapons and supplies and bury them deep in the rainforest near the top of the mountain. I want the other aides to gather any other evidence of violence around the compound and bury it with the soldiers. Then I go to my room, knowing my colleagues will take care of the details. I can't let the children seeing me looking like this. If nothing else, they are used to seeing me look sane and calm.
I almost jumped at own reflection in the mirror. I am covered in the rich black dirt-mud of the forest floor, and more than enough blood for a lifetime. I strip off the clothes and throw them into the trash to be burned. I step into the relatively modern shower, as showers go in Cameroon and wash away the mud. I find more than my share of cuts and bruises. I'm too old for all this!
But something is still racing through my mind. Those were only 5 men with fairly sophisticated technology. They were 45 miles inside the international borders - an overt act of war. Why? There had to be more of them out there but where? What information had they received back from the advance men? And how soon would they be coming here? And why here of all places? A small refugee camp for infants to young adults.
After dressing, I go to the admin office, such as it is. Three banana crates and some chairs and paper and pencils. Most of the young ones have been here a long time recovering from unrecoverable wounds, but a group had arrived in the last few days. Danielle and her redneck friend had arrived in the last 24 hours. I flip through the dirty pieces of paper, looking for anything that might give me a clue. Nothing.................
April 1st, 2003, 07:02 AM
Took a while to get myself back together. Gabe goes strutting off into the sunset, damned proud of himself...and he should be...wonder which episode of M*A*S*H he got that line out of. But I can't laugh and I can't get angry because every bit of my body is scrunching up with nausea.
Been around this world six decades, seen all manner of horrible ways to die. This time I was the horribleness. I gag. I gag again and fall to my knees so I can spew forth whatever it was I had to eat the last time I had something to eat. I cough and spit and cough and spit. The strength in my arms and legs seem barely sufficient to hold me away from vomit.
I push away from it and slide inelegantly to the ground, amidst the bodies, the gore, and the woman.
The woman?! Oh, ****! The woman!
I crawl over to her. As I manuever, I can she is breathing, great terrible gasps. Her arms are flung akimbo. Her legs spread, a masss of blood polluting her pubic area. Her clothes are in tatters.
I'm so tired but there's only me.
One arm to waist; the other arm to waist; pull her to sitting position. Stand. Pull her forward, squat balanced, one foot forward. Get shoulder into mid-section. Heave.
She almost slides off my right shoulder but I get her stabilized. She mews with pain but I wasn't going to leave her.
One foot in front of the other. Thank god this body is young - yeah, mid-thirties is young!
One foot in front of the other. Can't be more than 50 yards, right?
April 1st, 2003, 02:15 PM
One of the male attendants helping with the dead soldiers' bodies saw the small woman desperately trying to carrying the native woman to the medical cabin and rushed to her side. Gently he lifted the abused woman into his arms to carry her inside, telling Danielle, in a thick French accented English, that he would come back for her. Less than a minute later, he was back and just as gently lifting her and carrying her into the cabin as well. As the nuns and doctor worked on the native, Danielle sunk into the cot, exhausted.
She closed her eyes only for a moment it seemed when soft exclamations were heard and she looked over. The woman had died afterall. One of the nurses rescrubbed and came over to her, explaining that she had to examine her and help her clean up. Angry again, Danielle sat up and snapped "I'm not injured. Just show me the bath, and not the outhouse this time." The nurse blushed slightly as she smiled.
By the time Danielle had showered and received new clothes, she was feeling somewhat stronger physically, but mentally she was still stressed..........
April 1st, 2003, 05:10 PM
I gotta talk about this; you'll understand. It's not like it was the first time I ever washed the female body but then, again, yes it was. This time around it wasn't near as interesting although I had more time to examine the bits and pieces. But scrubbing mud and gore and puke from it was pretty much mechanical. A couple places more difficult to clean than usual. What was a whole lot different was trying to get the hair clean. Even the worst I ever let my hair grow was nowhere near this mess. It's amost as if each strand demands its own particular attention. No simple soap it up, rinse it out. Stuff hides in there!
First time through, I'm ready for the towel till I run my fingers through a thatch on the left. left hand of course, right hand still stings. Use the left hand on the right and get the same result. Are there gunk magnets in there? Okay, let's attribute it to inexperience, but three times? Is that how it's going to be?
Someone thoughtful enough to leave clean clothes, light blouse, shorts, sandals......yeah, underwear, too. Let's don't talk about that "cause putting a bra on is no easier than taking it off.
Okay, I'm clean. Now, I'm hungry.......
Now I'm sitting in a chair and I'm not a happy camper. Now I'm sitting in a chair outside the shower and five dead guys are dancing in my eyes. They're easy to get rid of but she isn't it. Now, I'm sitting in a chair and I'm thinking there was something else I should have done.
Now, I'm sitting in a chair and I don't think I'm ever going to get up. I'm too old for this ****!
April 1st, 2003, 06:55 PM
I'm still tearing through this rathole of an office looking for anything that might give me a clue to why those advance scouts were headed directly to MY sanctuary and children.
My biggest worry is how to evacuate the children. Between older youngsters who could help carry small ones and the adults who could carry two, that still leaves half the children with no one to lead them. Many will probably die on the trip from wounds that won't heal even in the sanitary conditions of the med ward. And the nuns and nurses and the few native men here aren't enough to mount any kind of defense. The small village at the base of the mountain couldn't assist, it would only mean more for the slaughter! I don't dare use the radio to call to the UN Peacekeeper camp 40 miles away in case the Nigerian forces are listening in and trying to find us. Hopefully the advance guys had just been damned lucky.
I knew as soon as I said it, it wasn't true. Those were fully trained and fairly sophisticated equipment. They knew exactly where they were headed. But why? I'm interrupted by the doctor who tells me of the death of the woman and I am shocked to discover she is one of the village women. The kindest woman I had ever known. Three times a week, she would climb the mountain to bring us fresh fruits or vegetables for no charge. Though she had her own 9 children to feed, she chose to help us, and her kindness was rewarded with brutality. After the doctor leaves, I finally allow my emotions to overflow but quickly stuff them back inside.
My mind is made up! I know what I will do. First I check my safe and count the cash I have on hand. Excellent. One good thing about being from a wealthy family! I go to the radio and tune into the station and wait for the top of the hour, thinking about my dear friend who gave her life for my children.
On the hour, I use the appropriate call signs and identifications. And I wait. And though there is a noise behind me I am intent on my decision. Hearing the thick Australian accent answering me, I identify myself by my real name and hear the smile in my Aussie friend's face as he says "G'day Mate! So what dya need?"
"I need as many of your mercs as you can muster, and damned fast. I'm going to war with an unknown size of forces from Nigeria. I have $200,000 cash but whatever your price, I can get it." There is a silence and finally my Aussie friend says "Are they headed for the children?" "Yes". "Then Mate, we're there." And the radio goes silent.
Leaning back in my chair I sigh heavily. After my experience in Mogadishu I had never wanted to see warfare again. But sometimes a good person has to fight to stop a greater evil. Then I hear the noise behind me again and turn............
April 1st, 2003, 07:12 PM
"Came by to see if you're hungry 'cause I damn sure am. "
He's spins around like the little boy caught reading Playboy but I heard and I know it isn't sex on his mind....is that a pang of regret?, naaah, can't be.....I'm a man, damn it! Still, I owe him.
"Thanks, Gabe, for out there. I couldn't have handled it by myself."
That's the goofiest damned grin I've ever seen! Time to bring him back to the world.
"Now that we're choosing sides and issuing the balls and gloves, how many are coming and how many are we likely to have to stop "em? How far down the hill are we going to draw the line?While you're counting, give me a good guess about heavy weapons and artillery. And, please, please, tell me there are no aircraft involved.
When you finish that spread sheet, run down a project plan for moving the children out of harm's way."
And while you're doing that, call Dominos and get some pizza delivered. Add a six pack of beer to the order and I'll be your friend forever."
Seems to be a bit miffed that I want to know. He'll get over it.
April 1st, 2003, 08:10 PM
Despite the condition, I laugh out loud at the Dominoes Pizza and beer remark. This lady is okay in my book - as far as ladies go that is!
I offer her a seat at my "desk" (banana crate) and pull out a map of the province, showing her our location and that of the nearest village. I show her which way the troops will most likely come from, but I don't have a clue how many. If I knew what they were after, I might have an idea how high a price they were willing to throw at us in soldiers. I confide in her and tell her I am clueless about how to get the children off the mountain before anything happens. There are too many and too many in a serious condition. I even admit that I had allowed my arrogance to get the children into this condition. Seeing the look of surprise or shock on her face, I explain that I should have used my money and connections to med-evac these kids out gradually over the previous weeks or months but didn't want them to wake up in some foreign smelling medical facility where no one treated them like humans. I wanted to be the one that "cured" them.
After several moments of silence I hear her repeat her question. She deserves the truth.
"Danielle, these men are mercenaries. They are some of the best soldiers I have ever served with but each for their own reasons left their careers and settled here in Cameroon. They are available to anyone who can pay their price. But once they accept a contract, they are honorable men and that don't change sides. These mercs come from several different nations and all have skills we'll need. Most of them live near Lake Ladgo and yes there'll probably be a couple of choppers to bring them in. But you'll stay up here and help the nuns and nurses. I plan on taking these Nigerian bastards as far from here as possible. If you wish to leave, you could catch one of the helicopters back to Lake Ladgo."
I watch the emotions playing across her face, already knowing her answer. She won't leave. Hell, she'll probably demand to go with us! Sure enough I see the decision settle on her, her body language is obvious.
"I do have a question, Danielle. About this mist you came through. I think it surrounded me in the forest and it didn't feel like jungle fog or heat mist. It seem to move with me, almost like it was holding me, controlling me. Do you control the mist? Can we use the mist to send these Nigerians someplace really bad!" I almost laughed at myself. Those sounded like the silliest things I have ever said. But she didn't laugh............
April 1st, 2003, 08:35 PM
The mist? He has got to be kidding! But he isn't.
That strange growl emanating from my mid-section is trying to tell me something.
"Gabe, seriously, where can I get some food? Let's go there while we talk."
We get up to go to the cafeteria. He probably would have ordered someone to bring the food but I'm not a princess and I can serve myself. While we walk, I talk trying not to notice the damn fool has no sense of a person's space. If we bump into each other again I'm gonna trip the bastard.
"The mist followed you? It controlled you? And it changed me. I'm not the person you see here."
He can think whatever he wants to think about that remark.
"Walked into the mist thinking I needed a little adventure in my life. Got more than I bargained for."
Engimatic's kind of fun, isn't it?
"If we follow one train of logic, the one that says you go out into the air, get swallowed by mist, and the Nigerians start shooting and raping, we can end up believing the mist brought the Nigerians. Don't think I'm ready to buy that, yet."
"We know the mist dropped me here; we know it brought you to the right spot at the right time to bail my ass out, so we can build a logic that says the mist and I are connected."
We get to the cafeteria. Too much to expect they'll have a bowl of chili but they got soup, vegetable soup and bread and I can fill up on that.
"If the mist and I are connected then there must be some way to take advantage of the fact. Don't think I want to be the bait again. We need bait; it's your turn."
"First thing we do is figure a test for how the mist and I relate. Any ideas?"
I concentrate on the bread and the soup.
April 1st, 2003, 09:04 PM
I love to see a woman with a healthy appetite! None of that pencil-thin, I-can-only-eat-a-piece-of-celery-per-day nonsense! In fact, her curves are quite nice! Especially the breasts are nice and full. Hips are nice and rounded! WHAT AM I THINKING? <<mentally slapping myself>> **cough cough**
"There's only one test, Danielle. Sorta like leaving a trail of bread crumbs and walking into the mist, see what happens. Are you willing to try with me? I mean....uh....are you willing to try this test of the mist with me?" WHAT AM I DOING?
I got bruises on top of bruises on top of scratches and cuts, and I'm thinking about her figure? I've been on this mountain too damned long!
After filling up on soup and black bread, I fill a couple of water jugs - one with soup and one with water. I check all my guns and knives, and I'm ready for the test. I go by the small inventory shack for the flares, colored stakes, and plenty of nylon ropes and wait at the edge of the sanctuary. I can't keep my eyes off her as she walks across the field towards me. GET A GRIP OLD MAN! SHE'S HALF YOUR AGE! I give her one of the jugs, a couple of pistols, a few flares, stakes and rope and we proceed into the forest. If she thinks we should go left, we go left. If she thinks we stand still, we stand still. If she thinks we go deeper into the jungle, we go deeper.
As soon as either of us spots the mist, we drive a colored stake into the ground and clip the rope onto it. As an afterthought, I take a rope, quickly cut it in half and tie us together, just in case. The mist seems to see us and starts to move towards us......
April 2nd, 2003, 06:48 AM
Damn, damn, damn. Another Bruce Willis wanna be. Guns and knives and ropes. Well, it ain't exactly Toyland either, is it?
I know everybody loves the 9mm but I'm an old fashion kind-of-guy and I take a .45, couple of clips, two edged hunting knife. Leave the rifles. Not going hunting; going exploring.
Glad the demins and socks got clean so I can have my boots again. Feel barefoot with out "em. I'm ready; he looks ready. Oh, hell, men always look ready.
I have as many corny lines as he does: "Okay, here we go. Once more into the mist."
He takes my hand...?....and we start off into the mist where we lose sight of everything but each other. He tries to get a half-pace ahead and I stay with him taking five steps to his four. Don't need no big strong man to take care of me.
Wonder if I ever looked like that?
Five minutes in, nothing changes in the scenery; just mist. But things are beginning to change with Gabe. He's getting all shimmery and shimmery is not the kind of right arm you want in a mist. That big strong hand of his is getting kind of something. like you can see through it; like there's another hand inside. A smaller hand, just as strong, just different proportions.
His head seems to be experiencing the same kind of changing; another head inside, smaller, prettier.
Oh my god, there is another body inside him as well. Oh my god!
Oh my god! Oh my god! Gabriel's a Gabrielle.
Time to turn around. Follow the rope back to sanity. C'mon Gabe. Don't argue. Stay with me here.
Five minutes to get out of the mist and five nanoseconds to turn on him: "What did you see? What did you SEE?!