My Dear Lucilius:
Forgive the relative paucity of this entry; I make it in poor light.
Our preparation for the march was unlike other readiness we have done before, but familiar enough to me from earlier hiking days. Every single item in whatever we were using as a pack was pulled out and gone through and anything not precisely related to “March out and prepare to kill people” (apologies for the language being so forthright, but that is what we are discussing) was to be put in a pile. We made our pile, then it was inspected in turn by The Leftenant, The Captain, and The Colonel. At the end we were left with the most basic of items: a sleeping bag and ground cover, some level of clothing, minimal personal care effects, any medical or first aid items, a bowl (mostly plastic or folding) and utensil, TP, and a knife. Entertainment items that made no noise – cards, books. Food and water containers
And guns and ammunition, of course. All of those.
What was left behind? Anything not related to that. Lights (the Leftenant had one) that might go on randomly or by accident. And anything – anything – that could make noise.
Prior to our march we were divided up into three 3 man teams and the Leftenant. Our separation seemed largely based on our age and physical ability; apparently Blazer Man and I appeared the least able as assigned to us was a clearly much younger man to whom the Leftenant referred to as “Ox”. These would be the group we would sleep with and man shifts with as a team.
With that – packs now secured and loaded with our supplies and noise free – we set off at the settling of the sun, which was well after 9:30 PM (as if we were keeping track).
Our passage through the town (once again, with only occasional pinpricks of light) was silent as we moved through the center to the outskirts, where commercial centers and stores – including the Grocery store I had used only a year ago – yawning and gaping dark holes specters overlooking a road that lead only to the past. The remainder of the waxing moon gave us a pale light as it dropped low and we trudged almost soundless (but never quite so, I imagine) across the pavement.
The world is silent at such a time, Lucilius: the birds of day having all sought their nests. Rustling farther beyond our sight betrayed deer moving just out of sight. Beyond the stars and moonlight, there is nothing else to light the way.
We are likely not the first to walk this way at night on our way to war; others have come before us likely in situations far closer to ours than to the modern world we so recently left behind. In that way we seem to be a sort of time travelers, lurch back slowly into a past that is racing to catch us.
The march seems interminable in the dark and silence; later the Leftenant tells us it is is only 4 miles. We reach our initial point and make a hard left turn, heading up a more rural road, which in turns leads us to a second right turn, bringing us back online with our main direction. This is now a dirt road, we walk slower still. In the distance one can make out the occasional black spots of homes or Summer cottages against the backdrop of the range we crossed to get here.
We pass one: A building that is dark and silent. It is impossible to see in the moonlight if it is whole or destroyed; certainly there are no lights here. We go by silently; if there is anyone or anything at home it does not notice us as we pass, both because of us and the sound of a stream running which becomes closer as we approach it.
This is our destination, apparently; the Leftenant halts us by dirt and sand crossing. The word down the line is to try and get some sleep as we will move again in the predawn light, when we can see again.
The moonlight dips as I make this final note.
You Obedient Servant, Seneca