The Last Remains
by Bill Purdin

I.In the long history of the place there had been only one problem: it required a steep climb up the river bank to the warm, fine sand above. It was difficult, but the reward was worth the terrible, clumsy effort it exacted from them all. Their condition and the urgency of matters often turn this part of the journey into a frantic last effort. But there were never any thoughts of failure or of turning back. This journey was essential, unavoidable ... destiny. For only in the sands of their history could be done what must be done as it had always been done. They found the warmth and softness of this final destination, and its relative safety and isolation, to be incomparable. The sun seemed to soak deeper, the soft sands seemed to caress and soothe more intimately; it was these sensations, so comtorting and reassuring that drew them, and always would draw them, to this location.

The deep water of the inlet, after the vast expanse of the great ocean and torrent of the great muddy river, was a pleasure to to be savored. The inlet formed a near perfect "O" that was set of seclusively from the main river by overgrowth and a long narrow canal of about two miles directly from the river's delta. It was on this delta that they, who had come from so far, from so long would first rest before beginning the last, sacred part of their journey. The water there was warm and shallow, out of the current. They could rest their feet on the bottom and warm their heads and backs in the sun. The contentment of the ages would rejuvinate them after their long effort. It seemed a natural place to stop, so close to their destination, but it was instinct and nothing else. They had no plan but intuition and a sort of natural direction. In their innocence they had come to this spot, like their ancestors, to continue history.

Warmed, rested and hopeful, after a day or so, the journey's end was begun. They moved from the warm, shallow waters of the delta into the narrow canal and as they swam, the felt the memories that were not memories, they felt the familiarity of a place they had never seen. The canal branched to the left and right, no council was held for decisions, the current of their species was now in control. It was their time and their place was soon to be reached. The beauty of the place told them that this was the place and none other would do; it was here, and here alone, that all could be done as it must be done. There was a name for the place in their thoughts. It travelled with them and actually had many meanings, all matters of faith as they knew in their natural way. The name had implications of infinity, perpetuation, beginnings, and of an entrance. The name, Iznaya, was of course never pronounced, but felt, emoted.

The overgrowth of the canal that carried them towards Iznaya was worn and more sparse than legend spoke of. There were strange smells that intruded. The water tasted strange. There was now concern rippling as they swam. But when the time came to make the final turn, it was made and they all entered, vanishing beneath the surface as always, leaving no ripple, no wake into history.


The stitched-on twin silver lapel bars gleamed in the past-midnight moonlight. The well-oiled rifle in his hands felt reassuring. It wasn't really necessary that the commanding officer carry such a weapon, but James Brent just liked to do it. As he walked around the mobile base in the starry night of Vietnam, he was actually happy and contented. Some soldiers longed for home, but not Lieutenant Brent. He had come to Vietnam from his desk at the Bureau of Naval Personnel, in fact he had written his own combat orders. After reading endless citations of heroism and bravery under fire and watching the promotions and the accalades that came from "in country" service, he had decided the time was ripe in the waning years of the conflict to get a "combat tour" under his career belt. So, here he was, tonight, in command of Mobile Base One, and six divisions of river boats and hundreds of combat sailors. Lt. Brent was feeling pretty good. He had already awarded himself a Purple Heart, although the men on the boat were furious about it. At the first sign of incoming fire, Lt. Brent had put his helmet on backwards, tripped over the engine covers and broken his nose in the resulting fall. But, he knew the definitions, and it was an injuring sustained in combat, so there it was in his service jacket, now and forever. In twenty years, who would quibble about how he got it? "The perogatives of command," he thought.

Tonight was a quiet night with a clear, bright Vietnam sky. There were so many stars that they lit the night almost like a full moon. As he looked around, he could see the roving patrol was on duty, and that the watches were in place and hopefully vigilant against swimmers or other threats to the base. But, it was now very quiet, almost like a world apart from the real Vietnam. The dirty brown water of the river, tonight looked like black ink, smooth and silent as its currents moved. Even the jungle was quiet, as though waiting for something. With that thought, the Commander of Mobile Base One, went to bed, instantly falling into a deep sleep of the untroubled.


LTJG Mike Kelly had his feet propped up on the desk in front of him, his hands behind head, and his arms relaxed as he leaned back. He was the Combat Control Center duty officer and as usual he was alone in the middle of the night. He and the base Commander, Lt. Brent did not get along at all. Mike knew it was bad for his career, but it couldn't be helped. The guy was a phoney, especially compared to the man he relieved. This situation resulted in LTJG Kelly getting this job night after night as punishment, but he didn't mind at all. Out on the river during the day, in ComCon all night, he was busy and informed. "What the hell," he thought, "at least I'm not drinking every night." Many of the officers and men did get drunk every night on the five cent shots of had liquour the government made available. He could easily have fallen into that routine, but this was better. The codes were all in order, the "shack" as they called it was clean and squared away. Any radio communications were handled instantly and efficiently. It was a good job, and he was handling it very well. Any time something came up, he contacted the Commander right away. Waking up Lt. Brent was a special extra benefit of the position. The Commander liked his sleep.