It was 0700 hours. The morning felt crisp. Visibility was good. There was a slight breeze coming in from the northwest. All was quiet. My comrade and I looked at the unforgiving, sprawling jungle that loomed gravely before us. We both took deep breaths. We wanted to leave right then, but there was no turning back now. We’d come too far and we had a solemn duty to fulfill. So with nothing but a machete and the packs on our backs, we headed fearlessly into the unknown, knowing full well that we might never see the light of day again.
The vegetation grew thick around us, the undergrowth threatening to swallow our feet with every step. My partner cleared the path ahead as he went, hacking away at the stubborn, tangled plant life. Despite this, vines and branches still scratched our arms and pulled at our clothes. But we were making progress until, abruptly, my partner stopped and bent down to look at something closely. I looked too. It was barbed wire. Barbed wire strung as far as the eye could see at about thigh level, craftily hidden and just waiting to rip the flesh off of any unwanted guests and ensnare them in a mess of blood and metal. A booby trap set by the hostile natives most likely. But my comrade had had a keen eye and we were spared. The wire was too high and thick to step over safely, so we found two strong tree trunks fairly close together. Using my thick-soled boots, I put one foot up on the barbed wire and hoisted myself up, using the tree trunks to help me balance expertly on the wobbly tight rope. I then made a great leap over to the other side of the wire and escaped unscathed. My partner did the same.
But we’d gone out of the frying pan and into the fire. Before us we now faced a field of extremely toxic plants. Even the slightest contact with this particular species could induce extremely painful blistering and a rash outbreak over the entire body. It was a treacherous situation. Taking our time, my partner and I stepped gingerly through the plants, avoiding each delicate little leaf as if it were a razor blade. By the time I had wound my way through this death maze, the sweat was trickling down my brow from my intense concentration.
But our greatest obstacle was yet to come. A little ways past the field we encountered what looked to be a fortified wall, ten feet high, a foot thick, made of concrete, spiked all over, and all but insurmountable. We had finally reached the outer wall of the compound. I glanced at my teammate and he nodded. Then, in an incredible display of athleticism and fearlessness, I bravely leapt up onto the wall despite the risk to my own personal safety. But as I grasped for hand and footholds, I had the awful realization that the wall had been slicked with tar. My feet and fingers had no traction, and I fell violently back down, catching several of the spikes as I went. I now had 3 holes ripped into my shirt as well as into my arm. I was wounded badly.
Despite my grievous injury, I stood up, brushed the dirt off my torn uniform, and collected myself. For the next attempt, my partner aided me and hoisted me up by the feet so that I could make a clean vault over the wall. I stuck the landing. Then the awful problem presented itself: how was my mate supposed to get over? He demanded that I go on without him, that I carry out the mission, but I wouldn’t hear of it. I utterly refused—I never leave a man behind because I’m so valiant like that. The situation looked bleak, however. My partner would surely get caught and killed, whether by human or animal. Just as I was about to give up the situation as hopeless, I heard my partner’s footsteps receding. I called his name. No answer. I called louder, frantic now. Still no answer. But at just that moment my partner’s head popped up out of the ground on my side of the wall like a gopher. I watched incredulously as he climbed out of a grass-covered metal trapdoor in the earth. A secret tunnel. A secret passageway under the wall. Well, that certainly would have been convenient about two minutes prior when my limb had practically been severed…
It was about that time that the sirens sounded. The compound wailed to life in the early morning, as the harsh sounds permeated the air and spotlights cut through the mist that had begun to settle around the compound. My partner and I were on the clock now. We had approximately two minutes to make it to the heart of the compound and complete our mission before we were found and captured. Without a moment to lose, we took off in a dead sprint and ran for everything we were worth. My pack slung up and down on my back, my bloody arms pumped up and down, and the sweat was pouring down my back.
We finally reached the center building and we flattened ourselves against the concrete wall, trying to control our heavy breathing as a troupe of armed men passed by so close that I could have reached out and touched them. When the coast was clear, we entered the building and split up, according to plan. I shook my partners hand and then tore up the metal staircase, taking two steps at the time. I checked my watch. My two minutes was up. I heard shouting in the stairwell below me but didn’t take the time to look back. I took the steps three at a time now. After what seemed like eons, I finally reached the top and found myself in a long, dimly lit corridor. Room 310, room 310. Where was room 310??? There. With every last ounce of my energy and courage, I went careening down the corridor to the door of 310, flung open the door, and burst into…
math class. I burst into math class looking like a wild woman. The teacher stopped teaching mid-sentence and the entire class stared at my torn shirt and my bloody arm as I stood in the doorway, drenched in sweat, panting like a pathetic puppy. Oh, you thought this was a fictitious story, didn’t you? Well, joke’s on you—it’s entirely true. Okay, well, maybe some details were a little bit fabricated but the general gist of it is true. My brother and I were sophomores in high school at the time and could drive, but our school didn’t offer parking for sophomores. My brother’s friend’s grandma had graciously allowed us to park at her house, which was directly behind the baseball fields of our school. The only thing that separated the house from the school was a stretch of woods. Armed with a pair of tree clippers, we painstakingly created a path through the patch of woods as we went. We did come to a string of barbed wire and had to step on it while balancing between two trees and carrying our backpacks. We also had to wade through a patch of poison ivy very carefully, as we were both wearing shorts. Afterwards we came to a chain link fence that I tried to climb, but my arms gave out and the metal on the fence ripped my shirt in three places and cut my arm in three places too. I still have the scars. My brother then hoisted me up and I was able to jump over the fence, but there was no way for him to get over. He walked a little to the left, however, and found that there was a pathway that circumvented the fence and that I hadn’t needed to jump over it in the first place. Awesome, right? At that moment, the bell rang and I took off, sprinting across the entire campus and up three flights of stairs to my math class. My teacher looked horrified as I stood there sweat, blood, and all. She gave me some bandaids, but I had to go the rest of the day with holes in my t-shirt. And I was exhausted. But looking back on this noble pursuit, this incredible adventure of mine, this defiant display of perseverance, I realize one thing: that my brother and I should totally have just given up and gone home and eaten Dunkin’ Donuts or something.