Survival of the Fittest
by Matthew Bailey
I saw my first one in 'Nam after clearing an NVA machine gun nest near the Laotian border. We left the bodies where they'd fallen while we secured the area. By the time we returned, two of them were back on their feet, staring at us with heads cocked like we were an interesting, potentially delicious solipsistic problem to be solved. When they went for our throats, we explained that Cartesian philosophy had no place in the bush. I don't know if they ever bought our arguments, but the 5.56mm cartridges we used sure ended the discussion.
After their bodies hit the ground for the second time, after Pvt. Higgs stopped saying, "What the fuck just happened?" over and over, after each of us had come to terms with the fact that apparently only taxes were a sure thing in life, we realized the third body, the one who'd originally gone for Connors with a knife, was nowhere to be seen. We looked and looked but never found him.
I've been preparing ever since.
You see, I always knew it was comin.' Every one of us who came back from 'Nam alive agreed you developed a kind of sixth sense in the bush, a third eye for danger lurking just over that ridge or behind that tree. So when I went for groceries forty-eight years later, I was ready.