Chapter 1: The Clearing
One minute I was riding in the back of the big 10 ton truck up the main highway. The next, a tremendous bang! I was thrown forward on to the ammunition boxes we were carrying. The impact must have knocked me unconscious for a moment, for I felt dazed. Feeling liquid running down my face, I put my hand up. On examining it, I found that it was covered in blood.
The first thought that went through my mind, was the ammunition had exploded. If it had I wouldn't be sitting here on the tray boards nursing just a sore head. WOW! How relieved I felt.
Struggling out over the tailgate I saw the trailer we had attached was still there. It was even in an upright position. But, to my surprise, there was no road! I climbed down and looked around. There were about ten or twelve crashed vehicles nearby (cars, vans and trucks), but some looked as though they had been there for many years. The absence of the road still puzzled me. We were in an open clearing surrounded by large trees. There was no sign of any broken or crushed ones, to allow the truck in. On examination, I could clearly see (as the ground was fairly soft) that the tracks of our truck started suddenly, about 10 yards behind the trailer.
Suddenly I thought of the driver and the young officer, who were riding in the front of the truck. I went around to the front, to check what had happened, also to see if they were injured. There was no need to check any further. Both had been thrown out through the front windscreen and had crushed their skulls on the wrecked truck that we had hit.
I walked around to examine the other vehicles and found some that contained skeletons, which had been there for many years. Other vehicles contained bodies that were in various states of decomposition.
Where the hell am I? And how did we manage to get here, with no sign of passage!
I shouted, but all I heard was the sound of birds. I could hear no traffic sound. This was odd, as we had been driving down the main arterial, the busiest road in the country. It had heavy traffic, almost 24 hours a day.
I decided to go and explore. Since the truck was facing south, I decided to go north. That should be the way the road went.
I had only gone about 50 yards, when I saw what could only be the remains of three humans. They were two adults and a small child. That was about all I could tell, from their skulls. It was plain to see that their remains had been disturbed by wild animals.
I went on and into the wood, but after a few yards, I found that it was getting a lot denser.
Nearby, was a large chestnut tree, with easy access. I decided to climb it as high as possible. I wanted to get a good view of the area and hoped to spot the roadway from there. I climbed well above the surrounding trees and still I could see nothing but forest. No electricity pylons, no houses or roads. Nothing! Impossible!
I thought, there is no place in this country that has so large a forest, without it being cut up somewhere with a road, or with fire access lanes.
I made my way back to the crash scene and tried to assess my present situation.
I had been on my way to shipping out, to a posting with a UN peace force. I was to take charge of a sniper observation section, in another jumped up province that wanted independence, but couldn't be bothered with doing it through the ballot-box. They tried it through terror (no doubt supported by our greatest ally, the United States CIA, which seemed to be behind most of these flare-ups, nowadays). The truck I was travelling in was full of ammunition of various types. And the trailer, which held about 3 tons, was our "Compo" rations these were either made up in 'seven man packs', or 'one man packs'.
I myself was carrying my sniper rifle. I had full field equipment; right down to my "Gilly suit" (This is a camouflage Hessian suit, with multiple pieces of Hessian attached to it, to break up the body's outline. This is for when one is lying up on an observation, or other covert operation.). I was well equipped to survive in the field, for quite a while. That is one of our primary roles, anyway: To live in enemy territory, for long periods of time.
I recovered my kit from the back of the truck and examined my rifle in case it had been damaged by the crash.
Rather than the standard L96A1, I had the Parker Hale M-85, which I thought was a far superior weapon than the L96A1. I liked it because I could fit a flash suppressor and the extras on to it. It also had a 12 x 50 Schmidt and Bender scope, rather than the standard 6 x 42.
All seemed to be in good order. I would have a practice shoot to check it out though, sometime soon. However, I had no ammunition. None had been supplied, as I would have been issued it, on arrival at our destination. To be on the safe side, I decided to search the truck for any sniper 7.62 ammunition. I found boxes of Ball (sniper long-range), Styx and AP (armour piercing) rounds. I took 50 rounds of each, which was more than I normally carry. Somehow, I felt that I needed to arm myself for any event.
I had better explain the difference in rounds and their uses. The Styx is a high impact projectile, which gives you one hell of a hit. It expands in the body on impact and completely destroys all internal organs. However, it's only effective, up to about 250 yards. The armour piercing round is effective for firing against light armour. It will easily penetrate personal armour. It is also good for stopping vehicles, as it destroys engine blocks. The Sniper Ball is a long-range high velocity round. It is the only one that will allow you to use the maximum range of the M85, which is 950 yards.
I also carry an old Browning 9mm (I love this pistol). So I rummaged around the back of the truck and found a few boxes of 9mm ammunition, which I opened. I loaded three magazines for the Browning.
I opened the trailer, took a carton of Ration packs and packed them into my gear. Water was a problem, but I felt sure that I could find a stream. I would fill my water canteen and wash the blood off my face.
Now fully equipped, I felt I could face most situations confronting me in this strange situation.
When I had viewed the terrain from the top of the tree, I had noted higher ground, about five miles to the west. I decided to make for that area, to give me a wider view.
I had tried my Satellite positioning unit (GPS), but got no reading. I figured it had been damaged when I had been thrown against the boxes, in the back of the truck. I left it in the truck. No reason to carry broken or useless weight. I had also tried the radios in one of the crashed cars, but there was only static.
I set off around noon, heading to the west. In about an hour, I came upon a small stream and a grassy bank. I decided since I had not eaten since last night, I would have a light meal. I filled my water canteen (using my water filtration bag) and put a water treatment tablet in it. I didn't know what the state of the water was, in this area.
While I sat eating, I took out the rounds of rifle ammunition. I gave them a good cleaning and examined them. I carry a small flat box to carry my 'ready use' rounds, which I would use first. I never load a rifle magazine, as they tend to scratch rounds when auto loading. When firing, I lay the box open beside me. I load each round, one at a time. This way I can change the type of ammunition I use for each shot, as needed. In addition, I hate the semi-automatic loading for this reason. I put three rounds of each type of ammo in my padded box. The others I returned to my pack.
Passage through the forest got a lot easier. Most of the trees were huge oaks and their canopy prevented saplings and bushes from growing on the forest's floor. All around there was evidence of forest animal tracks. Never in all the woods and forests that I have walked through had I seen so many. Some I couldn't distinguish and I was meant to be skilful in field craft. In about another hour, the ground started to rise and I caught glimpses of the hill's summit in front of me. It was an easy climb to the top.
On reaching the top, I found a small clearing, with a large rock on the summit. I climbed this and was able to see quite a distance. There was nothing, only trees, the whole vista was just treetops. I used the scope of the rifle, to get a closer examination of the distant area. It was still the same. No sign of roads or pylons. This was crazy. There had to be something! I had at least a twelve mile view, in every direction, yet I could see nothing.
I did see the bare patch devoid of trees of the clearing where the truck was though. Making a mental note of the bearing and noted features that would guide me back to the truck (if I could see them from the ground).
Just as I was about to climb down, I spotted smoke. It was slowly rising from about five miles south of the crash scene, to my south-east. Surely it must be a habitation. Now it was getting dark and no chance of reaching it today. I noted the position and decided that I would head in that direction first thing in the morning. Anyway, I needed something to eat before I went anywhere.
Camp was made. I got the solid fuel burner going (it comes with the ration pack) and got my mess tins out. I made a cup of tea and had a good meal. Lying out my groundsheet and putting my sleeping-bag on it. I then settled down for the night. The usual sounds of the night could be heard, the squawk of the owl, the bark of a fox and I recognized all of them. There were no strange or unrecognizable sounds.
I lay awake for a long time wondering where I was and how I had got here. Oh I know how I got here in a truck, but how did the truck get into the clearing? There were no signs at all how a heavy truck could have got there. There were all the other vehicles too.
In contrast to the sparse woodlands remaining in England in the 21st Century, this land was densely wooded. The types of trees were the same, but the size and number of them standing was what troubled me.
I hope that I will find the answer in the morning where I spotted the smoke.
My head still spinning with questions I eventually dropped off to sleep.