Small Wars Journal

Dry Season Combat

Dry Season Combat

Keith Nightingale

An overwhelming cloak of nature. Inescapable. All pervasive.

Seemingly solid but untouchable. Not the warm temperament of home.

Enervating. Suppurating. No escape.

Clouds in the distance but never shading.

With the first shaft of dawn, its presence is announced in bold invisible waves.

Shock and awe.

Sweat beads instantly on exposed skin. The helmet gets wetter. Tighter. Inside out.

Sweating without movement. Enveloped with a thick continuous coat.

Ruck up. Move out. Aches and sores momentarily dominate. But, only for a moment.

Pain combined with heat is an anesthetic for the mind.

Fatigues soak and outline the straps. The eyes are showered with sweat.

White crusts build, outlining the pain and fracture lines.

Tongues are dry and attach to the pallet. The lips are cracked and constantly suppurating. The only moisture to be seen other than the rivulets coursing down the neck, chest and beltline

Local life is energized in mass for the soft transitory flesh.

Mosquitos in clouds, spiders, scorpions, multiple-legged centipedes flashing with hot juices bent on extraction from passing opportunities.

Penetrating, sucking, charging the sexual juices.

Leeches, inching across the dry and cracking leaves, waving sensors ingesting full meals with spiked and sucking mouths.

Constant checking and extracting limits damage but does not eliminate. The remains remain.

Pains of a thousand punctures. Another burden to bear.

Mind in neutral. Drive on. Endure.

A sudden welcome squall, rains bring waves of water. Momentary relief.

Then pain and irritation of another form. So hard and pounding.

With thunderous silence, it ceases.

Clouds wrapped in gold and crimson. A present of view with tendrils of cooling breath.

Momentarily beautiful. The instant quickly recedes into the reality of life.

Further on, thirst of building proportion and physical penalty.

Canteens drained of plasticized liquid converting quickly to water extruded by sweating cells.

Tongues tied to teeth. Dreams of watermelon, cool cottage cheese and cold beer.

Dreams of the moment, jarred by reality.

The shock of fire trumps the mental lethargy. Bullets sing and singe, lightening the brain and draining the minimal internal reservoirs.

Fire erupts with organic impact. Smoke obscuring. Throats tightening.

Combatants lost in combustion. Receding. Gaining. Receding again.

The enemy dresses better for the field. No hair. Little sweat. Few clothes. More skin than cloth. Generationally tuning to the demands of the environment.

Darwin at work.

Our profligacy is our burden.

Breathless with anticipation and the dwindling reservoir of endurance.

Voices choked by unquenched smoke and cordite.

Dirt covered faces coursed by salt-charged rivulets puddling at the lowest point.

With silence, the soporific heat returns to consciousness. Never truly receding.


Heat is hell.

Endure. Endure. Endure.