As I made my way to where the others were, I tried my best to find any thick patch of grass or tree root or anything I could use for footing. Any hope of dry ground was gone days ago. It had been raining for so long there was only a thick coating of mud. Even now it was raining pretty heavy and that mud was itself under up to an inch of water in most places.
Another reason I had to watch my step was because I had to be careful of traps. Though we hadn't seen the enemy in over a week, a lot of their nasty little presents were still scattered here and there and since I was good at spotting them, that soon became my role in the squad as we got deeper and deeper into enemy territory. The downside to this is that I usually ended up at point whenever we were on the move. I never felt comfortable being the first man to stick his neck out.
This is why I was glad when we found the cabin. It was obviously one of the enemy's, but for some reason they abandoned it. Recently too, by the looks of things. We couldn't figure out what had happened to them to make them run, but whatever it was, the signs were clear that they left in a hurry. Going out in all directions around the cabin were things they dropped along the way. Canned food, clothes and even money were littered here and there.
This is where we had decided to dig in. Sarge wasn't happy. None of us were, but it was better that being outside with the traps and the rain. Days passed. No one - friend or foe - came. We tried to radio for new instructions and new information but all we got was static. Sarge was getting antsy. Soon going out and patrolling started to seem pointless. Still, we went out. I guess he thought it would at least remind us that we weren't just sightseeing in this "jungle paradise". This was war.
This is why, despite being out in the pouring rain, three of us were now outside, exploring deeper into the trees. I met up with the others. Even Sarge looked like he was ready to pack it in for the day. I found three more traps - bear traps, this time - just a few feet from where they were. I also managed to spot a few scraps of paper. More money! At least, I thought, I got something out of the inevitable head cold that was coming my way.
"Let's head back." Sarge finally ordered.
We were only too happy to comply.
"ANYONE OUT THERE? HELLO? SOMEBODY?!"
It was the first time in almost two weeks we had heard a voice coming over the radio.
Sarge grabbed it, "Who is this?!" He barked.
"Oh, thank God!" the voice came back, ignoring Sarge's question, "I was starting to think everyone vanished off the face of the Earth or something."
The accent sounded American, one of our allies, but we couldn't trust that. The enemy could fake an accent. Whoever it was, he sounded genuinely relieved to hear another human voice, but even that could be a trick too.
"Come in! I repeat. Who is this?!" Sarge continued.
"Sorry," the voice came back, "Got carried away for a second. This-" then there was static.
"Come in! Come in!" Sarge waited a few seconds longer. There was no reply.
We told the others what had happened when we got back to the cabin. I didn't realize it until then, but most of us were starting to feel like that guy over the radio. With no contact from either the base or the enemy, it felt as if we were the last people on the planet.
"We're moving out in the morning." Sarge finally said later that night, "We're returning to base."
No one objected.
"*STATIC*...Hello? Come in! Anyone there?"
It was the same voice again.
Sarge grabbed the radio.
"This is ... My squad... if you can..."
The radio went dead after that. This time, though, there wasn't any static. In fact, there was no sound at all. That was when I noticed the noise outside had stopped as well. There was nothing. No rain, no insects or birds, everything just stopped.
That was when I started to feel this inexplicable feeling of dread. It was a fear like I never felt before. I couldn't explain it, but I knew...
Something was coming.
I looked around. In could see on their faces that everyone felt the same way. I couldn't understand it. One moment, we were all feeling relieved to be leaving. I know I wasn't the only one who felt even better hearing someone else's voice coming from somewhere out there. Now there was this feeling like we had to get away. To run as far as we could, as fast as we could before this thing we feared reached the cabin. Was this what happened to the enemy? Was this something they were doing to us? I didn't know. I"m sure none of us cared. We just knew we had to leave now.
"I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Please have mercy..."
I looked over to Sarge. Before I could ask him what he had done, I realized it wasn't us he was begging for forgiveness. His head was bowed, his eyes were closed. He was praying. He was a man who knew he was about to die.
That's when the others left. Everyone scattered in every direction. Some ran into different rooms. Some ran outside. They were so panicked, there was no thought or plan, just flight. I don't know why, but I decided to run to the door and try to lock it. As I did the last thing I thought I saw of the outside was the trees fading away, as if a huge shadow was swallowing up everything. The last thing I thought I heard was something resembling a growl. It sounded far away, but I just had this feeling that it was right on the edge of the darkness. The last thing I thought was, "When did this door become so flimsy? This won't keep it out."
I opened my eyes to pitch blackness. I was sweating. That was probably because my wife was lying mostly on top of me and that thick blanket she loves so much was mostly on top of her. Then again it was probably because my heart was racing. I looked at my phone. There was still a half an hour before the alarm was supposed to go off. Just as well. There was no way I was getting back to sleep anyway. Dreams like those are why I try not to sleep on my stomach.