His bones ached. He couldn’t sleep despite being exhausted from hiking through the snow drifts for the past two days and nights. He couldn’t sleep because the package he had been sent to pick up was laying beside him in the tent as the blizzard rumbled outside. He lay staring at the ceiling of the tent, thinking. Then, he heard a sound from the package. It was the soft sound of a baby’s snore. That’s when he said out loud to himself-“I promise you will be with your family soon.” Then, he heard another sound, it was the sound of men yelling. It was time to run
His snowshoes made little clouds of powder with each step. His mouth was drier than he could ever remember. It was worse than any of the marathons he had run, worse than any trail race and even worse than most of the tests he underwent in the Navy. His breath made clouds too. The clouds were in sync Like a syncopated rhythm, his hoarse inhales and exhales echoed in his ears. They floated in front of eyes, blinding him at times. For the first time in decades, O’Brien felt real fear welling up in his chest. It wasn’t the fear of death, it was the fear of failure.
His arms ached from carrying his 40 pound package. Biceps screamed for relief, but, he had no mercy for his body, never had. He drove it on and on and on and would until he completed his mission or fell over dead. He became a machine, breathe in, breathe out. Take a step with the right foot, take one with the left. He thought of nothing. The package stirred and the sweatshirt parted just enough so that O’Brien could see the tangled black hair inside. O’Brien couldn’t help himself. He paused and looked over his shoulder. His snowshoe foot prints were clear to see as were the drops of bright red blood that trailed behind him.