Daylight mapped the trail for the brigade, as they humped it through the boonies in their best tiger camo. The entire legion on foot patrol, aiming for the big showdown with the bad guys.
The boys owned the day, Charlie owned the night. Once the march crossed the river, the good guys shared the feeling they were closing in on the battle.
Fresh from basic and Layne’s first mission. The private wondered if he had the stones to face these demons. Ready or not, a soldier boy now.
Along the path, a brother named Soapy read Layne’s dilemma. Soapy disclosed the magic weapon at the incoming camp.
Top secret, already dropped, and waiting for them. The payload, so precious, even the brass didn’t know about it.
“It’s gonna help us survive this war,” Soapy said.
“Survive? I thought the mission was to win?” asked Layne.
“Forget the John Wayne shit, kid. This war’s a suicide call,” said Soapy.
Layne imagined a super ray gun they could unload from miles away. A doomsday pipe to burn down every commie from here to infinity. End this war, and return the jungle to the birds with the banana beaks.
“What is it?” Layne asked.
“Can’t tell you ‘till we get there,” Soapy said.
They reached the clearing with a few hours to roost and ramp up for nightfall. That’s when Soapy reminded Layne of the secret weapon.
The soldiers found the sack the lead squadron left behind. The pills to make them numb, strong, and fearless. Not stupid, phony tough, or bat-shit crazy. The spitfire to cross hell and fight the devil.
Split down the middle, Layne wondered if this were a good idea. Harboring more fear than confidence, Layne joined the huddle to ingest the magic. Layne’s World War II father would think the whole thing blasphemy, and his son gone nuts.
After dusk, they moved out to comb the rain forest. Layne’s buzz began to fade as the black magic kicked in. Up and at ’em, as Layne morphed into a human warhead, ready to swim through lava.
That’s when the rockets lit up the jungle, setting things off. Layne watched the enemy burn up like comets and vanish. Others shattered like popcorn.
There were grenades, mortars, and napalm flames. The platoon pierced a sick, savage, and profane fugue. Someplace foreign and volcanic, beyond the maps and boundaries of humanity.
Layne fought beside his new brothers, dashing around the pitch, firing his baby. Once the violence ended, command ordered them back to camp for shuteye as a recon team scoured the battlefield.
When Layne sprang to the bugle call, the night before remained in fragments, feeling more like a dream than a battle. His mind a hard drive scrubbed clean. He’d never know if the steam from his rifle found enemy flesh, and didn’t need to.
The first rays bombed the jungle, as medics dressed the wounded and collected the slain. The smiles on the dead told them who carried the magic and who didn’t.
Poor Soapy had his chest blown out like a holiday pumpkin. How he pinched a gremlin’s grin on the exit ramp was anybody’s guess. Croakers covered a deceased Soapy with his own poncho, and hustled him away.
An air-vac swooped in, lifting Soapy and the fallen into the clouds and onto heaven. The sky swallowed the pack of choppers, while others touched down with brand new call-ups.
Virgin sunlight guided the file of tiger fatigues. The regiment crossed a swamp aiming for another encampment, the next sundown, and more magic.