In the cueva nganga we had to do a ton of religious work. We also had to do a bunch of annoying red tape shit like calling the brass in the Rear on the comm, writing up reports, and helping Fat Bob write his own report in English. Colonel Müller sent the cobra helicopters into the city and they leveled the building where the sniper had been. (There was still a bunch of other buildings around the Forward, tho. We couldn’t have all of them leveled because of international law and Geneva and all that junk.) A convoy came from the Rear and picked up the officers. The Humvee driver who took Cap’n Finch back told us later ol’ boy looked thoroughly shook.

The convoy also dropped off a big heap of desert cammie netting and poles. When the sun went down the pobs and us spent all night camouflaging the entire compound. No inch of it was exposed to sunlight by dawn. A forest of long fiberglass poles, some a hundred feet long, held up the cammie netting. We could actually get around inside the whole square block under cover, even on the rooftops. It was like the compound had been a mirage. We were completely exhausted by morning and collapsed on our cots, sweating.

I had two incredibly vivid dreams which have been recurring since. In one dream I am holding an old-timey sheriff from the West at gunpoint in a forest. I’m holding a bag of money and I’m taking his horse. He says, “The trail’s right yonder. You gon’ git away with this, but boy, you ain’t really gon’ git away wit’ it.” I escape out through the trail, beating the horse and riding hard. I come out to a vast green prairie and I ride to the edge of Babel, but before I reach the city the mare’s leg breaks, and she stumbles and I fall off and roll. She’s hurt and she’s on her side now, looking at me with her large and black and anxious eye. She knows she’s gonna die. She begins to convulse and blood comes out of her mouth and nose. Her eyes bleed too and I am completely overcome with a feeling of compassion for her. I hug her neck and blood gets all over me and the bag of money. I’m yelling for help. People gather around me and ask me what’s wrong and where I came from, and of course I can’t tell them about my whole osobbo with the sheriff, and suddenly all I want to do is call the sheriff and tell him where I am and to come fast and save her. But I can’t do anything because I begin to feel ill and to cough and fight for air and to choke and choke and choke on my own tongue. Then I wake up.

In the other dream I’m waking up from the first one (super meta), because a viejito with hands of silk is playing the accordion by my bed. The music makes me feel that Sunday morning breakfast sunlight joy we experience as kids, but to a mystically augmented degree. I get up and walk to a big window and stretch my arms to the sun. Then I realize that the whole world is crystalizing. Every tree branch and every songbird is turning into crystal, and once all solid things are crystal the particles in the air begin to crystalize. At first it is rapturous beauty, but then I freak out and I begin climbing the crystals toward Heaven. Desperately and tirelessly I climb as clusters of oxygen crystalize just above me. Eventually I’m exhausted and fossilized.

I’ve had some variation of that dream sequence countless times since that day. Also, I’ve since been such an active dreamer that I haven’t really experienced actual repose. I truly am restless. Because of this I’ve resorted to simply working incessantly. The other four tata have been on the same tip. We only understand labor. We’ve long resigned ourselves to exist in an extreme state of workaholism. Que vengan lo’ Kongo’ a laborar.

A few days after we cammied up the Forward we raided the officers’ quarters, since they were all chilling in the Rear. In the Forward they’d been living in what used to be a hotel, so we scored a bunch of wall AC units and couches. We brought them back to our building and gave two of the ACs to the pobs. We ran them on generators. We set up the couches on a rooftop. The coolest thing we found, tho, was a personal journal by none other than Mr. Captain David Charles Finch.

There’s a fascinating phenomenon that happens in the Marine Corps: almost every jarhead that keeps a journal has serious delusions of grandeur. In their personal journals they often recount missions which never happened and deeds of valor they never performed. (I know this because stealing people’s diaries is a hazing tradition in the Corps.) In this particular journal Finch described clearing whole buildings of alibaba by himself, while shot! He even describes being a personal inspiration and role model to us (dude, lmao!). One night we had Big Bob make tea and bring his hookah up to the rooftop with the couches, and we basically made it like an open mic poetry thing with the journal, and had a really fun evening.

Btw, the journal was a helluva score cuz it was a pristine piece of intel on someone whose guts we had nothing but contempt for. (Do you see that for us five tata the journal is almost as good as the marrow in his bones??)

A few days after we found the journal two pobs wandered from under the camouflage nets and got sniped. The sniper was still active and had figured out the weak spots in the cammie netting and how to pick us off. Bob was devastated because he loved his pobs and felt responsible for them. Of the two that got popped one of them was his nephew. A single person had laid siege to our Alamo. After the bodies were taken back to Baghdad we fed the prenda and powwowed all night with Bob, and we laid out a plan to exact osobbo ikú on the lone sniper.