Thurman P. Woodfork


Trang Sup Photo courtesy of David Honey
Trang Sup Sunset: Graphic from Photo courtesy of David Honey
One minute I was sound asleep, the next I was wide-awake, pop-eyed with alertness, straining to pierce the inky darkness. Then I heard it again, the sound that had awakened me, a chilling, sibilant whisper, “You die, GI; you die.” It came to me with a little electric thrill of shock: the bastard was in my hooch room! I realized that I was holding my .45 in my hand, on full cock. It always hung from the mosquito-netting frame right over my head while I slept, but I didn’t remember taking it from the holster. I didn’t even remember moving, other than to open my eyes.

I lay still, waiting for some sound of movement, and then, the voice whispered again, sounding almost gleeful, “You die, GI.” I realized he was not in the room with me but outside my window, talking through the locked shutters, and he couldn’t see me any more than I could see him. Suddenly, I was completely furious and I slipped out of the cot, forgetting for once about the deadly kraits that lurked beneath my bed every night, waiting for just such an opportunity.

I was intent on scaring this turkey as thoroughly as he’d frightened me. I slept fully dressed, so I only had to slip into my boots and sneak the M-16 off the wall. So far, I hadn’t made a sound; the cot had not creaked as I slid out of it. I inched the cubicle door open and tiptoed down the hall, feeling my way in the darkness. It took a moment to find the key to unlock the door, and then I was outside; still, I thought, without making a sound other then cocking the .45 when I first awakened.

I could see the Sergeant of the Guard sitting by his radio in the Team House, but he wasn’t looking in my direction. Sam, the mascot, was awake and stared at me owlishly through the mesh of his cage as I snuck to the edge of the barracks and peeked around the corner. Nobody was near my window. The building was white, so I would have seen anyone close to it even in the darkness. There were the usual CIDG guards on the wall; some were sitting on the sandbags around the mortar emplacement a little distance from my window.

Nobody knew what I was talking about, even the ones who could speak enough English to understand what I was saying. They all swore that they had seen nobody near the window nor heard anybody say anything. Nobody got close to me and they all sort of managed to keep from getting directly in front of me as though they were afraid I would shift the rifle from semi-port to bear on them if they did. I finally gave up and went back to the barracks.

As I started to enter the building, it suddenly occurred to me to wonder if maybe this hadn’t been somebody’s warped idea of a joke. There certainly were Viet Cong agents and sympathizers inside the camp. Suppose some of them had been trying to lure me into doing just what I had done; come alone around the barracks in the pitch-black night to where they waited. “You die, GI,” could have turned out to be deadly reality and not a joke at all. I got a little shivery again.

I unlocked the barracks, went in and locked the door behind me, then felt my way down the hall to my cube, and hung the rifle back on the wall. This time I turned the light on and examined my cot and the space beneath it for cobras, kraits, and other deadly reptiles before turning off the light and crawling under the mosquito netting, making sure it was securely tucked in all the way around.

I put the .45’s hammer on half cock and returned the gun to its holster. I closed my eyes, half expecting to hear that amused, whispered voice again, but nothing broke the silence except the far off, almost subliminal thud of the omnipresent bombardments. Eventually, I drifted off to sleep and awoke later on in time for duty, having survived bad judgment once again. Whoever had paid me that nocturnal visit never returned to my window again, although I heard he whispered in others. Guess he just liked waking people up.