Short Story: Desert Watch

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Desert Watch

Johnny Lee was bored. “Why am I getting paid to sit out here and watch over nothing?” he muttered to himself, as he took a swig from his canteen. Tonight’s patrol was as uneventful as any other patrol during the past 6 months.

Johnny had enlisted in the military after graduating college, seeing it as an opportunity to get away from persistent family members and to maybe use his degree for something useful. At first, he was excited to travel the world, but that excitement quickly faded once he learned how boring working in those places would be. Especially, he thought, in the middle of a desert.

You see, the desert is the perfect place to hide things. At the sun’s peak in the sky, it is the brightest and hottest. Animals hide out of sight while the sun is up, but when it becomes cooler and darker, the landscape teems with life. So, it seems fitting to be the place to hide secrets, away from prying eyes. The first time Johnny set foot onto the compound, he was amazed. He was there! He was at THE place he couldn’t tell anyone about, or that it exists, but anyone with Google Maps could point it out to you.

The night’s briefing was simple. Begin securing the installation at 1800 and patrol the perimeter from 2000 to 0600. Blackout from 0100 to 0400. Under no circumstance should you exit your patrol vehicle. This meant driving around with night vision goggles, and hoping you don’t accidentally run over some desert wildlife in your Jeep. Johnny liked simple briefs - it meant he could take it easy.

At around 0030, Johnny was at the wheel of the Jeep. His partner had fallen asleep in the passenger seat, having stayed up far too late the night before playing “not beer” pong in the barracks. Well, as long as the commander doesn’t catch us, Johnny thought. The radio was abnormally quiet, but Johnny concluded that the control center was too busy throwing darts to radio periodic updates.

1 AM. The radio suddenly crackled to life and a tired voice said: “All patrols, lights out. Radio silence until 0350. Use STRAWBERRY for emergencies.” Johnny glanced at his radio. A small red triangle blinked at him. The people on site liked to nickname everything, and they had named the emergency button the strawberry. He glanced back at the main compound, and watched as the outside lights progressively turned off until none remained on. He turned off the headlights of his Jeep and put on his night vision goggles.

1:30 AM. It was unusually dark outside. The moon was nowhere to be seen, and a thin layer of clouds rested in the upper atmosphere. Johnny stared past a desert shrub into nothingness. The wind picked up outside.

2 AM. Johnny took off his night vision goggles to wipe the moisture off the lenses. His Jeep’s air conditioning was on the fritz, and seeing as he was unable to open his window due to the sand blowing around, a wipe with his shirt would do the trick. His partner mumbled something and flopped in the other direction.

2:30 AM. A greenish glow appeared over the horizon, but Johnny was too busy counting the number of wildlife creatures to notice. 3 different types of desert mice and 2 different snakes!

3 AM. The greenish glow crept up behind the Jeep. Johnny tapped the sides of the goggles and squinted at the snake currently enjoying its dinner, noting that he needed to get them recalibrated when he returned to the supply depot.

3:30 AM. The Jeep was filled with a pale green light. The triangle shaped light blinked slower and slower.

4 AM. A desert mouse scurried underneath a rock. 4 round indents were left in the sand where a Jeep once stood. The sun peeked over the mountain range. The wind settled.

Post Script

Hey, thanks for reading! I wrote this little thing while procrastinating on my main big story. I’ve got other short story ideas, so keep an eye out.

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