July 21, 2013

Illumination

It's 4 a.m. You are in a shallow fox hole just deep enough to keep your head below the sight-line as you half-sit, half-lie, with your rifle resting on the edge. Behind you is the wire, which marks the perimeter of the base camp. Ahead of you, across a couple of hundred yards of cleared ground lies the tree line, which marks the perimeter of the unknown.

The heat, the darkness, and the silence close in around you, a smothering weight of sensory deprivation that soon has your mind playing tricks with itself. You raise a hand and hold it a foot from your eyes. Nothing. Just true darkness. Dawn's early light is still a long hour away. And a lot can happen in an hour.

A soft pop is followed by a spluttering arc of illumination. The flare casts an uneven greenish light over the landscape, shadows dancing under the flickering light. You jump from vigilance to hyper-vigilance. Your eyes scan the open ground looking for movement, real or imagined. Too soon, the light from the illumination flare gutters out. Darkness settles back around you. The watching and waiting go on.

In my time, I have come to understand that certain events act as a flare in the night, illuminating the darkling plain upon which we struggle to live our lives. In those moments when the darkness lifts, we catch fleeting glimpses of hidden motives, unseen actors. A different truth emerges from the shadows playing across our eyes. Knowledge is gained. And sometimes innocence is lost.

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