I awoke in darkness, bringing up my Gus Grissom watch more for the tiny bit of illumination emanating out through the crystal than to see what time it was. I quickly oriented myself to where I was and how I’d come to be there. I heard the wind and river sounds wafting by the entrance to the cave. I breathed deeply in and out, gently sitting up and pulling away from Fusner, who’d apparently slept next to me unmoving through the night, or at least until five a.m., which it was. I remembered that Gunny said he was going downriver to pick up the remaining Kilo bodies just before dark the night before. I hadn’t heard anything since quieting Fusner’s crying and falling unconscious myself. I blinked my eyes rapidly. I felt vital, alive and so filled with an energy I wanted to get up and move about. I needed food and water, and I needed to get out of the cave. I hadn’t heard the CH-46 leaving or return, if it had returned. I’d heard nothing, and that fact was hard to believe since my nineteenth night had been the first I’d truly slept through since I’d been in Vietnam.
I almost whispered behind me to wake Stevens but then remembered he was dead. Zippo was there but I decided to let him sleep as long as possible, and Fusner too. The boy had shown me his age and how much he was holding inside himself. Why I had thought of him as a stoically tough figure I didn’t know, but I had. That he was just another young scared kid bothered me, although I knew it shouldn’t. My job, not his, entailed being the stoically tough figure, and I had to get better at playing that role.