BLACK DARTS / UPON THE WATERS
Historical background tidbits:
- The setting for this fiction short story is pre-US troop involvement in the Indochina war theatre. The Hmong, and other mountain peoples were fierce, deadly fighters. With CIA-supplied arms and some training, these loyal warriors almost singlehandedly drove the Chinese-backed communist "blackshirts" back into China.
- Evangelical missionaries in the 1950's reached out to these mountain tribes and tremendous "Book of Acts" type miracles were purported to have happened during that time as many came to faith in Christ.
- The "sniper" part is based upon the exploits of "White Feather" (Carlos Hathcock USMC), but is a tribute to the unsung mountain peoples, both living and dead, so greatly feared by the Viet Cong. Few books have been written about their brave acts to protect their own families and lands...and the Secret War they fought against the communist Chinese, Russians, and Asians. Sold out by the United States government, these brave friends of the USA were slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands.
Part 1 – BLACK DARTS
1960 AD - Indochina
The constant drips irritated Song Tuang. He hated the rainy season, especially because of the noise. Noise was an enemy. He pulled his peaked hat down even farther and hunched his shoulders forward to try to fit his whole body under the wild banana leaves, but a steady trickle of water ran down his back and into his black cotton pants. He was getting tired of the constant wet and most of all...the noise...the terrible covering noise.
He shivered, but not from cold. His thoughts ran to the stories he had heard about these crazy, mountain people. He had heard whispers of them turning into tigers at night and even the bravest North Vietnamese Army soldiers spoke in hushed tones when talking about their attacks.
A slight movement to the right caught his eye in the heavy foliage down the hill and he slowly leaned his head forward against the log to peer down the sights of his rifle. Again he saw movement on the narrow, almost hidden trail below and a small, slender figure walking quickly through the dripping leaves, came clearly into view. It was a young girl with a bamboo basket full of firewood on her back. His finger tightened on the trigger and he squinted to aim carefully and look for any other movement behind her. Her bare shoulders came into view again and Song could see that she was in her early teens and very pretty. He licked his lips and lifted his finger off the trigger. No! This one was his! He carefully got up; keeping his head low as he moved down to cut the girl off. He stepped carefully, but decided it would be better to grab her from behind. He grinned with the thought and quickened his steps a little. The slope was quite steep and Song was glad for once for the noise of the rain. He half fell several times, then slowed down as he neared the trail below. The girl’s hurrying figure cut suddenly across his view and he cursed as he saw her glance over her left shoulder up at him and jerk forward in alarm. He leaped down and cutting onto the other trail, plunged after the wildly swaying form. He was rapidly gaining ground and had come within 3 or 4 running steps of her, when he saw the pack suddenly fall from her shoulders directly into his path. He leaped over the bundle and cursed again as he saw her gaining speed ahead. This one was going to pay very dearly for being so hard to catch!
The girl disappeared around a bend in the trail and as Song ran around the curve, he stopped confused. Although the trail still continued for quite a ways ahead, the girl was nowhere to be seen!
A sudden burning pain in the left side of his neck made Song drop his rifle and he stared stupidly at the long, black dart he yanked out. Fear surged up inside and he looked wildly about him with the blowgun dart still in his hand. He bent over to pick up his rifle, but sudden nausea and weakness caused his legs to buckle and he dropped the gun and fell to his knees. Through quickly blurring vision, he weakly lifted his head and saw the girl step out from the jungle. Beside him, another figure stepped out with a short blowgun in his hand. The young, long haired Hmong warrior thrust the blowgun into his red cloth belt and pulled out a wicked looking long-knife.
Song's arms seemed like lead and it was all he could do to keep his head up. The young girl stared at him and the last thing he saw in slow motion was the man lifting the knife and bringing it down with all his might.
Lutsua closed her eyes just as the knife hit the NVA soldier's bare neck. She stepped to the side to avoid the sudden spurt of blood from the already-dead body lurching forward onto the trail.
Kwin Dai Sao grabbed the head by the hair and pulled it out of the floppy hat. Lopping off a small tree near the path with his knife, he impaled the head so it stared grotesquely down the trail. Quickly stripping the body of its ammo belt and knife, he slashed the clothing to pieces. Wiping his knife on the torn strips, he picked up the rifle and looked at Lutsua and said:
"One more to make them fear! Quickly now little sister, we need to go." With small branches, they wiped out all traces of their footprints, then backed into the bushes. Working their way up the steep hillside, they followed almost invisible animal trails, cutting across what seemed impenetrable jungle. Their bare feet made almost no sound and after two hours of hard hiking, they stopped to rest by a small stream running down the mountain. Neither was breathing hard despite the physical exertion and altitude, but Kwin Dai Sao knew they needed rest.
No words had passed between them during the strenuous march upward, so Lutsua was surprised when her older brother spoke:
"Why don't they just leave us in peace? Why can't they stay up north? What have we done to them?" he implored with almost a pleading in his voice. Lutsua knew killing troubled him deeply and despite the fame he already had among the fierce mountain tribes, he wanted nothing to do with it. She looked at her brother with warm brown eyes, but saw the look of agony on his face and spoke in low, urgent tones:
"Older brother, they are like mad dogs that attack trees and bushes and then die. They follow the Evil One and only listen to his voice. We fight to save our families and lands, but they fight to kill and destroy everything in their path!"
Her shining face seemed to almost glow in the afternoon sunbeam that spotlighted it's way through the trees and her brother lifted his head to reply:
"Little sister, I know you speak words of truth, but my heart can only wonder how the Holy One sees these things? It is also true we have seen His power and my heart burns to tell His Words to our people, but I am torn within! How can I give life and take it in the same day? How can I tell others of such great love, yet kill? I feel it is right to protect my own, but do not want to kill."
He ended the conversation by getting to his feet and starting back up the trail. They continued across the mountain until coming to the entrance of a narrow canyon as the sun hung low over the peaks. Kwin Dai Sao pulled the white cloth from his belt and sticking it on the end of the rifle, waved it back and forth until he spotted the answering signal from the other side of the canyon mouth. They continued down the tiniest of trails until breaking out into a small valley with dozens of thatch-covered long houses spread out across the bottom. The bright green rice patches caught the last rays of the sun and the air was hazy from the slight wisps of smoke that drifted ever so slowly in the stillness of the late afternoon. A small stream snaked back and forth between the hills and the tall trees along it's banks cast long shadows over the fields and houses.
Kwin Dai Sao lifted the rifle high and whooped until answering calls came from the nearest longhouses. Soon, groups of people were coming to meet them and Lutsua saw her grandfather coming. Her grandfather's face showed relief, then pride when he saw the rifle in Kwin's hand. He embraced his grandson and granddaughter and buried his face in their necks. He then knelt and all the people knelt with him. He lifted his face to heaven and prayed:
"Mighty God who hears our prayers, we thank You for the lives of my two grandchildren. Help us protect these people from the black-clad ones that come to destroy us. We trust you to help us in the name of your Son, Yeshua, amen."
The echoes of their amens were hardly finished when the people clustered around the two young people and began asking about the ambush. They acted out the story as the people marveled at their courage and ingenuity. The admiring looks of the young girls at her brother were not lost upon Lutsua, nor were the glances from the few remaining young men. So many were gone, so many! Oh dear Yeshua, it hurts to see so few…why does it have to be this way? Why can they not leave us in peace?
The evening shadows were merging with the swiftly growing darkness when the last of the people returned to their houses. Soft songs harmonized with the night sounds of the tree frogs as the village prepared to sleep. Lutsua and her extended family had gathered together to hear Kwin Dai Sao read. Her grandfather pressed close to listen with his good ear. Kwin Dai Sao opened his brand new copy of the book of Matthew and turned to Chapter 14. As he read the chapter, the eyes of the family were riveted upon his face and their soft cries of protest went up at the powerful words. They shook their heads at the wickedness of Herod, then Kwin Dai Sao's voice gained in strength as he told of the miracle of the loaves and fish. He picked up the smoky pitch torch and stood to continue reading about Jesus walking on the water. As they heard the story of Peter going to the Lord on the waves, the old man began to rock back and forth and tears rolled down his wrinkled cheeks.
"Oh, how I wish it were I going to Him on the water!" he spoke in a voice husky with emotion. "Yeshua, we worship you, we worship you. We know you are the Promised One Your Father has sent. We know You are greater than the spirits we feared before. We worship you, we worship you, oh how we worship you…" His head was bowed as he rocked on his crossed legs and clung to his thin, brown knees. The others in the family nodded their heads and softly praised the Lord with him. Kwin Dai Sao finished the chapter and closed the book.
"Respected grandfather, I know Yeshua can help us fight the black ones. He can give us the power to go where they cannot go!" his earnest face was shiny in the flickering light and he squatted before the old man.
"We need to ask Him for power to help us against these evil ones."
The old man looked up into his eyes. He paused before answering, then said slowly:
"You are a mighty warrior like your father, my grandson. Truly you have brought honor to our people and have put fear in the hearts of the black clad ones from the north. I think though, that our Lord has shown us His power, not for battle with blowguns or bows or long knives, but to give us courage. He calls to us to tell others of Himself, even as we are being killed and hunted by these soldiers of the Twisted One. He will call us to Himself in power as we are following Him wherever He leads."
Kwin Dai Sao looked down at the floor. A wet splash appeared below him and Lutsua saw his eyes close. He said softly:
"Respected grandfather, pray for me that I will be willing to follow wherever He leads. I want to tell our people of Yeshua."
The wizened old man put his hands on his youngest grandson's bowed head and prayed:
"My Lord, please listen to the words of this old man. My grandson would take your words to our mountain peoples, but the enemy is all around us and we fear for our lives. You who gives food to the many, You Who walk upon the seas as if upon the earth, take my grandson and call him to Yourself upon the waters. I give him to you now."
Lutsua felt the goosebumps all over her body at her grandfather's prayer and knew God always worked powerfully when the old man prayed. Patriarch of their group of Hmong people, he had been the first to believe the words of the missionary that slowly learned their language and was translating God's Word for them to know. He had been a renowned warrior in his younger days and Lutsua's father had been as mighty as he...before the black one's killed him. He tried to go to them and reason with them about attacking the mountain peoples and keep them from taking their sons for war, but they had killed him in cold blood. Her brother was now the only male descendant left alive to avenge her father's death and unite her people against the evil ones.
She rose and followed the broad back of her brother out the low, thatch doorway into the night.
Part 2 – UPON THE WATERS
Kwin Dai Sao was growing tired. He had run for hours, but the black ones had radios and were calling for others to follow him when they grew weary. He had been amazed at the amount of men used to track him and he knew they were making an all-out effort to kill the "Phantom Tiger", as he had come to be known.
Slipping in the heavy rain, he fell flat on his face in the wet leaves. Like a flash, he was back up and running low through the dense foliage. He had used every trick he knew to throw them off, but obviously they had called in their very best trackers this time and were determined to get him at any cost. As he ran, he felt for the long knife he always carried and felt only the wet belt where the hardwood handle should have been. So, he had now lost his last weapon and had only his bare hands and his God to protect him!
"God, you have gone before me and made Your name great among my people. I call upon You to help me now". His rain-streaked face was drawn and he said the words between rasping breaths.
His mind went back to the events of the last weeks at the Sauntai village. It hurt so much to even remember the faces of so many now gone, forever destroyed by the black ones. Oh what a joy it had been to spend the weeks teaching among those people! They had heard of the tremendous change in his village and had sent a messenger to ask him to come and teach them. God had worked with great power in their midst, and even the evil spirits had gone out of a number of the people. At the name of Yeshua, a man was healed from the leprosy that had eaten his nose and fingers off! The people had then listened with rapt attention to his every word and he had told them everything he knew, starting with Adam.
How they had rejoiced when he told them of the Promised One's birth! How they had been dismayed and even despaired when He was hung upon the tree, but how the villagers had shouted and cried from joy when Yeshua rose again! Most had believed and had cast their spirit fetishes into the fires and begged him to tell them more. Now…their entire village had been wiped from the face of the earth.
He gritted his teeth at the pain and clenched his fists. His feet made no sound on the wet leaves, but his throat was on fire and his legs had started to wobble from exhaustion. He finally fell again and crawled under a wild banana leaf. Rolling onto his back, he closed his eyes to rest. Again, his mind went back, and he thought of the fury of the black ones. When word came to his village of the massacre, he had gone almost wild from anger and pain and had sworn to avenge the deaths of his people. He had planned to make the black ones pay dearly for their evil deed and so had decided to find some of their most important officers and kill them.
Kwin Dai Sao was greatly feared by the NVA for good reason. His craftiness, courage, and deadly cunning had driven them mad with frustration and he had helped to organize the resistance against them from among his own warrior people. They had succeeded in driving the NVA back into the north with the help of secret foreign arms shipments from the American CIA advisors, until their own politicians discovered and had cut them off. Without supplies or ammo from the Americans to fight with, the mountain people were left facing a hate-filled enemy, burning with desire for vengeance.
He had been given information on the existence of a secret NVA headquarters camp located about 50 kilometers north of them, housing for some of their main battlefield commanders. Kwin Dai Sao had become an expert sniper under the training of a special advisor and had decided to strike back at the NVA alone. He wanted to attack with total surprise and in a place the NVA would never suspect as a target.
He had spent days circling the site from nearby mountains and had finally detected a weak spot in the triple perimeter guard. In spite of their efforts to protect their base by clearing a one-kilometer area around the main buildings, they had been lulled into feeling secure by their very isolation and distance from the war zone.
Kwin Dai Sao had covered his body and plastic-wrapped gun in mud, with small sticks poking out at odd angles. He had carefully studied the small depression that ran from the jungle to within 150 meters of the main HQ building, and had memorized the different guard shift times, noting the consistent routines they followed.
Following the rigid schedule of the changing guards, over a two-day period he had worked his way to within 350 meters of the HQ. He had gone without food or water as he crawled down the depression and had lain completely still during the day as the guards walked within 3 meters of his position without suspecting his presence or seeing him. He left no trail, but merged like a chameleon into the low scrub growing on the bulldozed clay soil.
When a chopper landed and he saw the four ribbon-laden officers ducking to run under the whirling blades into the main building, he knew his hour was fast approaching. After the Russian-marked chopper had lifted off and flown north, they had gone into a room with large, screen covered windows facing his direction. With the late afternoon sun hitting the screen, he could not clearly see for a shot until the gas lanterns were lit in the early evening. He saw maps along the walls, but more importantly, all four officers were clearly silhouetted by the light. Two of the men were in line for a few seconds, and his first shot had taken both out at once. Another officer was shot before he could think to fall to the floor, and the last man had disappeared below the level of the window. Kwin guessed his position and fired twice through the thin, clapboard wall. With the third shot, through the bullet holes he saw the man trying to crawl out the door and his fourth shot caught the man just as he reached for the door handle.
His next two shots took out the spotlights on the two guard towers and during the mass confusion and fear that reigned in the camp below from his deadly accurate shots, he had almost escaped undetected. Almost. What he hadn't planned on, was the returning patrol that had come upon him just as he made his getaway into the jungle. He had slowed them down for a time with a few well-placed shots taking out the lead men, but had thrown away the gun after using his last bullets in that effort.
Now he had no choice but to keep running in the direction they forced him to run. Kwin Dai Sao knew a fast, medium-sized river, flowing from the mountains, would soon cut off his escape route. Although Kwin did not fear death, he did not want to die being shot like an animal as he tried to swim the deep, rain-swollen waters.
Rolling back on to his stomach, he pushed himself to his feet, once again forcing his aching legs to press forward. Coming to the edge of the rapidly flowing river, he saw with dismay that no man could swim that swiftly flowing current and survive and the many battering rocks and trees would kill anyone unwise enough to try to float down. He could hear the shouts of the NVA troops as they closed in behind and cried out:
"Yeshua, what do I do? Help me!"
A sudden commanding voice sounded in his mind, as clearly as he could hear his own heavy breathing:
"Come to me on the waters!"
He stared incredulously at the roiling brown waters before him. After hesitating only a moment, he closed his eyes and stepped out. The water gave only slightly and with a stunned look, he began to run gingerly across the undulating surface. Waves of goosebumps rippled up and down his sweaty body and a heady exhilaration gave him a new burst of speed. He lifted his arms to heaven as he ran and shouted with the sheer joy of seeing the mighty power of God displayed right before his very eyes! The excited singsong of the stunned NVA troops suddenly silenced as they spotted him running and leaping for the other side of the river, but soon small geysers from their gunfire erupted all around him. He dashed up into the heavy brush on the opposite bank, and after making his way to the top of the small hill beyond, peered down through the leaves at the mass of soldiers on the other side. He watched them trace his footprints to the river several times, pointing and gesturing wildly, milling about like dumb sheep, totally confused. He could see them thrusting long limbs into the depths, trying somehow to understand what they had just witnessed.
Falling to his knees in weakness and shock, and totally overcome with swirling emotions, he laughed out loud and lifted his bare arms to heaven with tears streaming down his muddy face:
"Yeshua, Son of God Most High, truly You are mightier than all! I praise You for sparing my life. I pray Your enemies will fear You and Your servants from this day forward. I will follow You forever, wherever You lead me. I love you, I love you. I love You!"
Falling face down into the red dirt, he wept, laughed and worshipped until his heaving sides and hammering heart finally slowed to a normal pace.
Standing slowly again to his feet, he looked back over his mud-caked shoulder at the turbid waters below, then slowly stepped over the vines into the green forest.
© COPYRIGHT 2015 - All rights reserved by Stephen Richard Armour, the publisher/owner of "The Lion's Eye" blog