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Crack! A branch snapped under the weight of the running Joe. His face was soaked in sweat and he suddenly stopped to take a breath. He panted, thoughts racing through his mind about whether or not he would survive. They just appeared, one moment quiet, the next they were there, the image of death scorched his mind. How? How could anyone be able to do that, and against us? He was scared, scared for himself and scared for the men he left behind.


It doesn’t . . . matter now, just . . . have to . . . get back to base, even his train of thought was being interrupted by feelings of weariness. Joe then proceeded to run deep into the forest along the Red River. He had been fighting in Hanoi but now he just followed the river.


Joe was only twenty and already faced with the realization of how petrifying death was. It was only a mere two years ago that he was a freshman at UNC, worrying more about girls and food, not about politics or what was going on overseas. Now times were different, he thought differently. Joe now believed his dad’s words, “Son, people aren’t born with anything really, it’s the experiences in life that come to shape them and make them what they become.” It was true, it was this experience, this war, that had made him into the present person. But was he even a better person than he was before, or just one with a few more stories to tell, if he even came out of all this alive?


Joe’s feet ached with pain from the gout that corroded his foot. His body had felt like it had been thrown and torn in every place possible and then hung a couple times. He rubbed his neck at the thought of being lynched. It was a stupid thought, they don’t even do that any more Joe, come on think! Which direction to go? Come on which way? He gulped at the realization that he had no clue as where to go. After losing sight of the Red River it was all small towns and deep foreboding woods. He was just like a puppy being pulled around on a leash, he just simply followed his master who in this case was no longer with them. He had been gunned down during their first march in a paddy field about two weeks ago outside of Thanh-hoa. From then on it was Sergeant Jack Hopper that lead the unit. What a unit it was, full of guys looking to make a few bucks from being in the army, or pencil pushers like Joe. All the glory of America, yeah, they hardly knew what it meant to kill a man. Joe smirked, even though the time had hardly called for such an expression he couldn’t help it. It was comical to think of all the guys at sign ups, thinking they were ready for war. I was no different, just remember that Joe, you’re no different, thinking like that only made Joe even more depressed. He was no super soldier, so how in the world was he going to make it out of this jungle.


He kept running aimlessly just hoping to have some dumb luck and stumble upon an American-friendly village or base. His heart raced and he wiped a bead of perspiration before it got the chance to scorch his eye. It was then that he heard it, he heard English. He ran faster, now more inspired than before. It was a sign, an act of God, it had to have been. Only a being with such power could have placed an American base a mere sixty feet away from Joe. Hope that was seemingly lost about two minutes ago was now revived. He smacked a small hanging branch and kicked over a protruding shrubbery. Let’s go Joe, nothing’s gonna stop you now, I’m gonna make it, yes! He smiled brightly then the happiness faded, it was abruptly put to an end and his face swelled up in tears. Darkness fell upon him and he was trapped, trapped in the misery at the sight that he saw.


The words that he thought he had heard had really just been simple screams. The North Vietnamese had lined up captured soldiers and shot them in their heads. He cringed closing his eyes in disgust. Then he realized that he was in danger and he ran, he ran as fast as he could. He didn’t even care about being quiet he just kept running as hard as he could to get as far away as possible. He stopped after about fifteen straight minutes to realize that the soldiers had not noticed his presence and had not chased after him. So Joe sat and sobbed; he sobbed more than he had in his entire life. He had not realized what he had got himself into, and he never would. He got up slowly and walked, tired of running. Joe then immediately collapsed, his body had been exuded of all energy and he fell asleep as soon as his body smashed into the leave and dirt covered ground.
*****



Joe awoke, still as frantic as he had been the day before. He didn’t know it but he had already made it to just outside Dong-hoi, a city nearing the South and North Vietnamese border. Joe looked around in a paranoid gaze. He felt a little more rested than he had yesterday but a tired feeling was still overwhelming his aching body. He rose from the ground, holding his gun tightly to his body. At this point in time he could safely say that it was his best friend, and he hated himself for being able to say that.


Another day, another chance for a way out, he thought to himself. He continued to stumble around for hours, mostly in any direction his feet felt like taking him. It was late 1965 and it was the beginning of American siege into Vietnam, but Joe was so incoherent he wouldn’t have been to tell anyone if they had asked him. He tried to remember any political news, maybe just to keep his mind focused and refined. Ah, Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and the ship Maddox, that was it, that’s what got me into this mess! He spit on the ground in disgust then wiped his mouth dry. He looked at his hands, they were trembling messes filled with cracked and caked blood, dirt, grass stains and scares.


The glorious history behind this war came rushing into his mind. He remembered back home in South Carolina that people always talked about the war and what was going on overseas. There were the doves and the hawks, and he never considered himself either. Joe never bothered to pay attention, but somehow he still went to sign ups. Joe remembered why he signed up, almost bursting out in laughter. Instead tears came and they came fast and with force flowing down his face like Niagra falls. He came to sign ups on that fateful day, coming up on two years ago, because he felt his life had no meaning, so of course the obvious answer was, join the army cause that would fix all his life long problems. How naive he had been. All the while Joe kept pacing around sluggishly.


A rustle in the nearby woods came and he turned around quickly. Trees sloped downward from the weight of men. It was now reflex to point his gun at anything that moved, and so he did. A large swarm of Vietcong soldiers came storming out of the bushes pointing guns at Joe. Joe ran and as he did he couldn’t help but realize that he had been running a lot lately, so he stopped. He was sick of it and he just stopped dead, diving behind a bush. He heard the soldiers laughing louder and louder as they got closer and closer. Joe plunged his head and gun out of the bush and fired off a few rounds into a couple of the unprepared soldiers. The rest grew angry and one ripped a grenade from his belt, ready to blow Joe off the face of this earth, but another held his hand against the man and motioned for him to stop. So he followed the man’s orders and swung his rifle back up to his shoulder. Again Joe peaked out firing random shots praying to hit them. One bullet whizzed through a man’s chest, causing him to gasp for air. He collapsed on the ground, and Joe then took the time to make a quick count of how many men were left. One, two, three, four, okay there are four. This is ridiculous Joe; what have we gotten ourselves into? He continued to think about what had gone on in the world around him in the past couple of years, but he didn’t know because he had been closed off from that world and then placed into this one, a world of violence, pain, anguish and hate.


Joe dove from the bush into another, managing to squeeze off a few poorly aimed shots. He was no marksman but over the past month he had gotten good shooting experience in. He counted again, only two left. They were shooting wildly at the bush running towards him. Joe waited, anticipating their moves. He felt a sense of power overcome him, and he like it. He shot the last two Vietcong down, then again collapsed falling asleep.
*****


Joe woke up, smelling the awful stench of dead bodies. He barely remembered killing them, but he figured it was all the better that he couldn’t. Joe thought about Bob Dylan and how entrancing his songs were. Joe could only hope to just be able to hear one of his songs now. He pulled out a small flask of liquor and took a sip, carelessly spilling most on his shirt. Joe knew he wasn’t supposed to be drinking, but he didn’t think it mattered at this point.


Once again thoughts pounded Joe’s mind. He reflected on his sister, Jennie, and her long wavy hair, her Chanel suits, and pillbox hats. He also thought of the Rolling Stones, the Supremes and a new band he had just heard about before shipping off known as the Beatles. What a silly name, wonder if they’re any good? After a long while of walking in the night his prayer had been answered, Bob Dylan’s voice had come to him. Joe smirked and he followed the deep growl and slurred speech that steadily lead him to an American camp. He never thought the smell of dried ration meat would be so good. Joe stumbled into the camp and immediately he closed his eyes thinking, Home free, home free!


He awoke to more music and the smell of drugs. He looked around to see people laughing and dancing, playing cards, or cleaning their guns, it was all very familiar. Joe then got up, and found a man named Henry, someone who he had met at sign ups. Henry looked at him and said softly, “Sit down, relax, this unit,” he pointed to the men around him, “are to ship out tomorrow. I talked to my head officer and he said that he would be fine helping along a fellow American soldier. So rest for today, but know, tomorrow we travel across the border.”


Joe was confused. “The border?” he managed to mumble out.


“That’s right, Joe, we’re in South Vietnam; I guess you managed to travel all the way from up north. Right now we’re close to the coast, near the South China Sea.” Joe then fell back asleep as soon as Henry walked off to go join some of his fellow soldiers for a smoke.


The next day had come faster than anticipated. Joe had just got out of a battle, and he was heading right back into one, but that was how this war had seemed to go. The fighting was never to end. All Joe wanted was freedom, freedom from this war and freedom from the Army. Still he marched across the Perfume River and into North Vietnam. They camped for a few hours then continued to march farther north. It was then he heard shots fired. North Vietnamese soldiers were crowding around. Joe’s new unit scrambled about and ducked for cover. Joe ran down diving behind a small bush along side Henry. They both were tired and out of breath. Joe then heard a scream and turned his head around. A man had been shot. Keep focus, keep focus. He then turned back around to see Henry lying on the ground, bleeding from the chest. He was panting in pain. Joe was about to cry, but it was already too late. A bullet came straight for his head and the last thing he thought before he died was, free, I am finally free from this war and this place.




Comments

The following comments are for "Freedom"
by Fantasycrafter

Please Review!!!
Please review this piece and others by myself, or at least just rate them. I appreciate all the feedback you can give.

( Posted by: Fantasycrafter [Member] On: July 23, 2004 )

What's up?
As a reply: yeah, I'm a fledging author all right. Am currently unpublished, though I'd very much like to claim title as just _published_, yet however that will take time, like all things, to find someone that'll accept my work.

Hmm, supposedly by today you're done a 340 page book. [question mark?]

A little about myself? I'll be vague. [grin]
Dark-haired.
Brooding.
Frequent daydreamer.

( Posted by: Daemion [Member] On: August 26, 2004 )





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