Courage is knowing what not to fear.— Anonymous
And so, I prepared to see my last sunset over the green valleys below. It was a wonderful view from up there, the silky green of the woods was made even more beautiful by the graded hues of the sky above. Around me, and a few hundred metres above the cave, one could see the edges of this mountain top, granite stones and overhanging cliffs. Beyond the valleys, the peaceful plains covered with the odd cloud, pink hues, absorbing the last rays of warm day light.
It started to rain gently and a breeze came blowing from the south. I took one last puff off my pipe, the only personal object I had managed to carry with me. The pipe is still something I can touch with the affection and care of something pure, the face of a child, the stroke of a purring cat, the breasts of a woman. My last chunk of personal paradise.
The dense twirls of tobacco smoke filled the cave gently as it rained a little more and the temperature dropped. I let the pipe die out on the floor near me and entered the sack to let myself slide into dreams and half nightmares of my own, knowing I would have nothing else to eat and just about a little bit more of battery remaining on my telecom pack.
I slept, I slept with a heart void of regrets, pain or memories. I had nothing to look forward to and nothing else to do to survive.
Another twelve hours or more must have gone by. I heard crows coming into my shelter and scrapping a few crumbs off the ground, scratching my sack to see if the content inside was dead or alive. I could hear their steps, cautious and suspicious, around me, leaping here and there to explore every part of the cave.
A sudden burst of wild desperation took hold of me, driven by an uncontrollable survival instinct rooted in the animal inside me. My hands came out of the sleeping bag fast as lightning aiming at the unprepared black bird. In a split second I had grabbed his soft body with the grip of a wild cat. This savage leap must have taken one or two seconds if that. I suffocated the animal almost instantly and with my bare hands and savage strength, I split the body open in two, goring the fresh flesh in my hands like the pulp of a watermelon. The moist fibres reached my mouth to quench my thirst, to relieve my paining hunger. I immediately recovered some strength.
This wild urge gave me a burst of life. My heart was thumping wildly fulled by the adrenaline. I looked at the dead animal in front of me, his feathers and guts scattered across the cave and all over me. I remembered it flying only seconds before. The taste of his raw flesh turned a bitter rotten flavour in my mouth. My palate ached, burned. I felt sick. I wanted to throw up.
My head went blank for a second wanting to forget what my hands had done. As the blood solidified in my hands and my fingers stuck to each other, I closed my fists with all my strength and cried in misery and shame. I prayed for mercy and for my speedy death.
The night came, I collapsed on the floor and continued to sleep. My stomach hurt. I wanted to vomit but was too tired for anything but to sleep.
In my toxic dreams I must have heard a buzz or a beep. The noise became more intense. It echoed in my head like the echo inside a cathedral. I did nothing. It soon came back. I felt extremely cold at that point and the beep continued to annoy me. The echo grew louder and louder. I felt a sharp pain behind my ear. Sharp as a blade. I thought I must have had a piece of glass encrusted somewhere. I turned and tossed. The beep grew louder and louder and sharp as a razors edge. Wakefulness and sleep blended in a state of nightmare governed by intense pain.
I then jolted upright and saw a pool of blood in my sack. I screamed in horror when I realised a giant camel spider had started to eat my ear. A piece of it already gone.
I came out of my position rolling furiously against the dust on the ground shaking instinctively anything living off my body. The horrid beast disappeared between some rocks. My eyes went immediately to the telecom system which continued to buzz and beep hysterically.
I jumped to reach the device and looked at its greenish screen. Messages were going back one day or more. I scrolled quickly and found an instruction to reply to a caller. I looked up the number and checked the battery pack which had its meter reading at almost two percent. I hurried quickly and grabbed the receiver. I tried the signal but was too weak so I put my gear on and went out the shelter to climb on the above rocks for better luck.
It was very cold outside but the fresh air immediately cleared my head. My ear bled profusely. I should clean that wound very soon. The signal meter jumped quickly another two segments and I tried to call again.
The phone rang and rang again without success. I took a long deep breath as the battery reader went quickly down to one percent.
Another five long minutes must have gone pass, long like an un-ending nightmare. I lit my pipe again and took a long invigorating puff, retaining the soft smoke in my mouth for as along as I could. I gently placed the pipe on a rock, touched my bleeding ear which pained like hell, and dialled the number again.
After a long beep, a voice came up: “ Receiver. Connection encrypted. Press 0 to accept”. I quickly followed the instructions but the signal went dead. I looked at the screen. It was absolutely blank. The battery was dying quickly.
Another long second or two went by. I shook the device a couple of times, held it in my hands to somehow warm it a bit. The screen came back again. It worked! The beep went off. It was a call! I picked up immediately.
The voice at the other end was dimmed but quite understandable: “Sargent Grobius. Albert Grobius?”. I answered. Before the caller could speak, I hastily explained the battery would soon die. No time to lose.
The caller was brief and identified himself as ‘Command’: I was requested for a top-secret mission. Classified cargo, classified destination. A special mission for the best pilot around.
I remained silent for a second. At first I thought it was the product of my own madness, and then, why me? I quickly figured the army must have run out of pilots at that point. Or perhaps my reputation had preceded me. After all I had built a degree of notoriety and had managed to become well known in the air force.
The caller spoke my name again to check if I was still at the other end. I immediately confirmed my acceptance and asked to be given rendezvous instructions.
There was a military airbase base some 30 kilometres North East. The precise coordinates would be sent to me after the call. They would wait for me for two more days after which I would be considered unreachable or dead and a replacement would be called upon. The caller hanged up. I waited a brief moment. Sure enough, the text arrived with the coordinates and immediately after the telecom pack died.
My head was now clear as a whistle and all my muscles tight like the strings of an arp. I knew the base from previous missions. The trail was long but it would be possible to do it in 48 hours. I had a chance to make it but I shouldn’t waste a single second.
I jumped on my feet and picked up what was strictly necessary. Adrenaline poured out of my ears. I was on fire! In ten minutes I was out of the cave and hopping down the steep sides of that magnificent granitic mountain.