The sun flecks through the trees, as we sprawl flat on the floor and our camouflage blends with the foliage. My platoon and I have been commanded to defend our base from attack. From my position, hidden from view in the trees at the top of the hill, I can see enemy boats approaching along the river, unaware that we are watching their every move.
“What’s the latest, Sergeant Robert?” Private Maxwell asks.
“Shhh,” I command. A knot of tension twists in my gut.
Glancing back at Maxwell I can see the fear in his face. I whisper, my voice barely audible so that he has to partially lip-read, “They’re surrounding us on all sides. We’re out-numbered by a huge amount.”
“Shit,” Maxwell replies.
“Shhh,” I say again, more urgently this time.
We have a certain vantage point being on top of this hill. The only trouble is the numbers. We are few, they are many, and our chances are looking bleak.
My gaze flicks from the river to the woodland at the bottom of the hill. How many hundreds of enemy soldiers are hidden within that maze of shelter and leaves? It’s impossible to tell, but with every rustle and movement I imagine thousands of fierce faces, waiting for their command.
A rustle in the trees above startles me momentarily.
“Maxwell?” I say, not taking my eyes from the woods.
“It’s a bird, don’t worry,” he replies. I sigh in relief.
I have to avoid making any sudden movements in case their lookout is watching us too. I remain statuesque as a giant spider crawls across my forearm, and the smell of rotting leaves and fertile soil fills my nostrils. I try to work out whether the sound I can hear is the wind gently stirring the trees above us, or the river flowing along its channel.
I hear my stomach growl. This is not the time or place to be thinking of food.
“What can you see?” Corporal Brian whispers.
“I can’t make out numbers, but they’re out there, I can feel it,” I tell him.
Sweat prickles my forehead as the sun beats down through the leaves and heats up our hiding place. The decision has to be made; to stay in our defensive positions or to come out of relative safety and attack.
I look at my watch. It’s 13:14. One minute left until it’s time to rotate and for Maxwell to take the position of lookout.
We can’t see the Captain from where we are. But we await the command which we know will come soon.
Suddenly we hear the voice of authority, loud and clear:
“Come along, boys, the picnic is ready.”