The Monsters of my Youth

When I was a boy, I lived in an old house in Saco, Maine. As with most old homes, nights were filled with cracking noises, and soft thuds that sounded like footsteps. My imagination kept me awake for hours at night. I slept with my bedroom and closet doors open wide. In my mind it was better to see the monsters coming for me, than have a door fling open when I least expected. My bed was my safe place. I believed, as long as I was on my bed, my monsters would leave me alone. The exception to my rule lived in the space between my bed and the wall of my room. My bed was set up with a small gap, about 12 inches, between the side of the bed and the wall. The space was left to allow room to make up the bed without crawling all about the top, mussing the covers.

The small space is what haunted my childhood dreams. I was convinced, when the lights were off, my monsters hid in that space, just inches away, waiting for me to close my eyes. Time and again, into the early hours of the morning I would peer over the edge of the bed, heart pounding, ready to scream for my father at the first sign of a monster. 

Now, as an adult, I still don’t feel comfortable with my bedroom door closed at night. My eyes pop open, as I listen from across the house to the ice fall from the machine, and into the freezer container. I lift my head when I hear scratching sounds made by bugs or other unknown forces that hit and rub against the window screen. I look through the doorway of my bedroom, into the dark hallway, still listening to the cracks, and unexplained footsteps of my childhood fears. My monsters follow me still, even now, with my bed placed firmly in the middle of my room.

Sanchez, the Little Fighter from Mexico

“Thank you, Drill Sergeant Perkins,” responded Sergeant Honeyman, taking his position between the two eager squads. “The rules are simple. Each recruit must wear a protective helmet, protective footgear and boxing gloves to participate. Members of each squad will be paired with an opponent of like size and weight. Only two recruits will be inside the ring at one time. You will fight for a full two-minute round. You are allowed to punch or kick your opponent – no head butting is allowed. At the end of the two-minute round, the buzzer will sound. The fight is then over. You will stop fighting and shake hands. Do you all understand?”

“Sir, yes, sir!” screamed the two squads of recruits.

The two Sergeants compared rosters, pairing up the squads by size and weight.

“Sanchez from Upsilon and Ranier from Alpha, barked Sergeant Honeyman. “You two are first. Grab your gear and get in the ring.”

Sanchez was a twelve-year-old girl, who came from a proud boxing heritage in Mexico. Her father was a professional boxer who, for a short time, had actually held the title of Welterweight Champion of the World. Sanchez spent most of her spare time at the gym to be near her Ager father. While there, young Sanchez developed some impressive boxing skills – as young Ranier from Alpha Squad would soon learn.

Buzzzzz! Sounded the timer.

From the very beginning Ranier was eager to attack. She hit her gloves together and rushed toward Sanchez. Ranier stepped forward and threw a wild haymaker punch. Sanchez leaned backwards slightly and watched the misguided punch blow by. Sanchez then followed with a blazing left hook and connected with the exposed Jaw. Ranier’s knees buckled as she dropped to the mat like a twenty-pound bag of potatoes falling from the back of a truck. Merely four seconds into the fight young Ranier was lying semi-conscious upon the mat. She struggled to focus her glassy eyes, making a goofy face, and muttering something about moon-glow as she stared up at the lights above the ring.

The members of Upsilon exploded in cheer while Alpha Squad kicked the ground, grumbling, disappointed.

Sanchez removed her headgear and grinned proudly as she exited the boxing ring. Upsilon hugged her and rubbed her head for good luck. Several Alpha Squad members helped Ranier slide out of the ring and watched as she wobbled toward a metal chair in the corner of the room.

“Next,” yelled Sergeant Honeyman, checking the clipboard, “let’s have Dubois from Upsilon and Walker from Alpha.”

The Baby Eagle 

The bright sun kissed the blue summer sky, as it had done time, and again. The sunlight glistened upon the surface of the roaring river like fire jumping randomly about the canyon floor. High above, upon a mountain ledge, a baby Golden Eagle sat inside his comfortable nest. The baby watched as his mother soared above the canyon, so graceful, powerful, and beautiful, circling effortlessly against the backdrop of the pale sky. After a while the mother eagle landed upon the edge of the nest.

“Mother,” said the baby, “how do you fly? I’m afraid. I don’t think I will ever be able to do that.”

“My son,” said the mother eagle, smiling into her son’s majestic, young eyes, “even the mother eagle, at one point in her life, had to search herself for the courage to try her wings for the very first time.”

Part 2: The Horrible Bear Of Colorado

Things were quiet at the makeshift camping area, with just a few minor periodic snorts and snores breaking the silence. The nine remaining recruits of Upsilon had managed to drift off to sleep, shivering in their sleeping bags as the temperature continued to drop. Suddenly, the peaceful Colorado night was interrupted by aggressive whispers of a frightened young Laurence Dubois.

“Psssssst! Psssssst! Jackson!” whispered Dubois, shaking Jackson awake, urgent.

“Dubois?” mumbled Jackson, half asleep, eyes wide with confusion. “What is it? Is it midnight already? Ian, dude, I’ll pay you to take guard duty for me.”

“Jackson, there, there, there’s a Kodiak Bear in the woods!” exclaimed Dubois, terrified, and no longer whispering.

The recruits were awakened by the excited young Dubois, then most just gripped their sleeping bags tighter, and rolled over, away from the racket.

“Dubois, there aren’t any Kodiak Bears here!” exclaimed Jackson, now wide awake, peeking at the boy over the top of his sleeping bag. “That’s Alaska, man. And, it’s just 11. Go back to your post!”

“But, well, maybe the bear swam to Colorado,” stammered Dubois, shivering from the freezing cold, and afraid to go back to his post.

“Yo, Jackson,” interjected Ian, pulling his sleeping bag snug, yawning, rolling over to get more comfortable. “You might as well go look. Dubois is pretty upset. Besides, it’s technically possible for a bear to swim to Colorado from Alaska if it wanted to bad enough.”

“Aw, dang, man,” Jackson huffed, unzipping his bag, then wrapping it around his shoulders, “alright, come on, Dubois. Let’s go find your bear.”

The two boys walked across the open field to the fat pine tree at the edge of the forest. As Jackson and Dubois stood silently, it wasn’t long before the growls began again. The grumbling roars filled the night. Dubois hid behind Jackson, pulling his sleeping bag tighter around his shoulders as he peered into the treeline. Jackson slowly made his way toward the noise, shining his flashlight into the night. Dubois pressed against Jackson’s back, inching forward toward the horrible sound. The growls became louder as the boys moved closer. Suddenly, Dubois shrieked as Jackson located the angry animal’s eyes with his flashlight. The animal jumped and moaned, snorting loudly. It didn’t take long for the boys to realize the growls were actually loud snores, coming from the sleeping Sergeant Perkins, who was now awake with the blinding flashlight still shining in his eyes.

“What are you people doing!” groaned Perkins, confused, squinting at the bright light.

“Sorry, Sergeant Perkins,” answered Jackson, embarrassed, but still accidentally shining the flashlight in Perkins’ face.

“Shepherd, is that you!” grumbled Perkins, still mostly asleep.

“Sir, yes sir,” responded Jackson, “just looking for a spot to go to the bathroom. Have a good sleep sir.”

“So, find a spot, do your business, and get back to bed,” Perkins mumbled, actually falling back to sleep as he spoke.

Jackson and Dubois jogged away from the treeline, giggling uncontrollably as they hurried along. Jackson spent the rest of the hour with Dubois, sitting beneath the pine tree, wrapped in their sleeping bags. The boys chuckled quietly amongst themselves, and joked about the crazy-eyed look upon Perkins face. They couldn’t wait to tell the other recruits about their adventure with the horrible, Kodiak Bear Perkins.

Part 1: The Horrible Bear Of Colorado

Drill Sergeant Perkins and Upsilon Squad took a transport into the mountains. Eventually, the road ended and the transport dropped the recruits at the edge of a dense forest. The squad then hiked for hours until they reached a flat, open area, as the sun began to set. One of the requirements of basic training was to sleep outdoors in cold weather with only sleeping bags for warmth. The recruits would go without food or fire for the night, with temperatures dropping to around 20 degrees fahrenheit.

“Recruits,” said Perkins, “this is where you will bunk for the evening.”

The recruits stared at one another, confused. There wasn’t a bunkhouse in sight.

“You have your sleeping bags,” barked Perkins, “and that’s all you will need. I recommend you find a soft piece of ground and stake your claim for the night. I hope you ate a delicious breakfast, because you will not eat again until tomorrow morning.

“Dude, seriously?” whispered Jackson into Ian’s ear, irritated, his tummy already rumbling with hunger after the long hike.

Ian glanced back at Jackson, exhaling deeply, clearly not looking forward to the campout.

“Dubois,” barked Sergeant Perkins,  “you’re on guard duty until midnight. I’d climb that fat pine tree over there for a better view point. I’ll see you children in the morning. Try not to do anything stupid. Goodnight.”

Perkins turned, jogged across the open area, and disappeared into the trees. The unmotivated recruits slowly began to unroll their sleeping bags, still hoping this entire cold-weather camping episode was just a bad dream.

“What is Perkins thinking?” said Jackson, agitated. “Does the military know we’re sleeping out here in freezing weather like a herd of elk? Prolly not. And, where did Perkins go? I got ten dollars says he’s in a nice, heated camper right now. Un-Freaking-Believable!”

“Dude,” said Ian, laughing, climbing into his sleeping bag, “you’re from Colorado. You should be used to cold weather.”

“Yeah, I live in Colorado,” responded Jackson, matter of fact, hands on his hips, “but I live in a snug, warm house with central heating, and a big fireplace in the living room. I don’t sleep in the yard, Ian!”

“Will you just stop complaining,” said Ian, zipping his sleeping bag up to the neck. “The sooner you get in your bag, the sooner you’ll warm up.

“Fine,” said Jackson, shaking his head, mumbling as he climbed inside his sleeping bag, “Stupid Perkins.”

Meanwhile, Dubois had made his way to the base of the big pine tree, and was staring upward, as if someone was going to drop a hoist down and pull him up to the top. After a few minutes, and several unsuccessful attempts to climb the tree, Dubois decided the best plan was to jump inside his sleeping back and lean against the base of the tree. Dubois fought to keep his eyes open, wishing he was back in his warm bed.

Around 11 p.m., Dubois was startled by a terrifying sound coming from the woods. It was a low, horrible growling sound, merely feet from him. Dubois frantically jumped up and tried to run away… falling a couple times, his sleeping bag still zipped up to his neck. He took tiny, rapid little steps, while trying to shove the bag down around his feet as he moved. Dubois knew one thing – he had to get away from the trees, fast!

The Recruits Finally Get a Break

Sergeant Perkins observed as the new recruits of Upsilon Squad settled into their new accommodations. After a full day, the ten recruits had finally stowed their gear inside their footlockers and Perkins took his leave, promising to return early the next morning at 5 a.m. Finally, the recruits could relax without a Sergeant barking out orders.

“Holy, cats! What a day,” said Jackson Shepherd, falling into his bed, doubling the pillow over behind his head. “I’ve never had so many people teach me how to do every little thing. I had a kid actually show me how to properly button a button.”

“I know, right?” added Ian Thomas, sitting upon the edge of his bunk. “The way they treated us like babies, I expected Perkins to give me a sack of diapers.”

The other recruits laughed out loud. The entire squad began to loosen up and enjoy themselves.

“Yes, and I had a Sergeant show me how to properly hold a bottle of water, so as to not spill it down my chin when I drank,” teased Weber, the young German recruit.

“I was upset when Sergeant Perkins left us alone for two minutes to eat our sandwiches,” joked Espinoza, the boy from a small Spanish mountain village of Trevélez. “I needed him to cut the crust off my bread.”

“Be careful what you wish for,” warned Chu, from Lijiang, China. “Tomorrow is another day and Perkins may help you eat your sandwich.”

“Hey, Espinoza,” cracked Irwin, the young Australian girl from Perisher Village. “If Perkins won’t help you eat your sandwich, I will!”

“I’ll take half of that sandwich if Perkins doesn’t want it,” laughed Gregory, the Canadian from Alberta.

“And, did you see Perkins’ messed up finger?” Jackson cracked, wiggling his pinky in the air. “A kid in the supply room told me he blew off his little finger during weapons training a couple years back. That’s why they call him, Pinky. Oh, man! Ouch!”

The recruits cackled hysterically at Perkins’ misfortune. Weber and Sanchez almost completely lost consciousness from laughing so hard.

The children continued to enjoy their first evening together and especially enjoyed making jokes about Drill Sergeants. Before long, taps began to play through the wall speakers. Drill Sergeant Perkins had instructed the recruits, on more than one occasion, that taps meant lights out and time for bed. No exceptions! All recruits were expected to be well rested for a full day of hard work. Training would begin promptly at 5 a.m. with a blast of the much-talked-about Air-Horn.

The Turbo Hydro-Hawk 3000

“Please, close your eyes for a moment,” said Major Pia Holt, addressing the class. “Now, I want you to imagine that you have found a way to strap yourself to a bolt of lightning.  Imagine, you are in control of the lightning bolt, and at will you jet through the clouds then rocket downward through the surface of the ocean, exploring the depths. Now you know what it’s like to pilot the new Turbo Hydro-Hawk 3000.”

The Hydro-Hawk has the ability to fit through the smallest cracks in the ocean floor, and while traveling at a high rate of speed, gives the gunner enough fire power to destroy anything in the way. The on board weapons system contains dozens of Raptor Class missiles, as well as hundreds of rounds of automatic hydro ammo. 

The design of the new Hydro-Hawk is based upon the world’s old, pre-quake fighters; the F-22 Raptor, F-16, F-14, Ru35, Stealth Fighter, among others. The Hydro-Hawk has no equal on the planet, above or below the surface of the Grand Ocean. This machine has the ability to fly at speeds of up to 3,700 kilometers per hour (2,300 miles per hour) while maintaining squad formation a mere ten meters above the surface of the ocean. The revolutionary Hydro-Drive engine manufactures power by converting ocean water into fuel. The engine requires a steady supply of moisture to operate most effectively. So, the closer the fighter is to the surface of the ocean the faster it will move. The revolutionary engine design also gives the ship the ability to reach speeds up to 1,600 kilometers per hour (995 miles per hour) below the surface of the ocean. And, yes – that’s beneath the surface of the ocean.

Just like an attacking sea bird, just a fraction of a second before water entry, the wings and tail of the Hydro-Hawk retract, making the fighter more aerodynamic. Once the ship is below the surface of the ocean, the wings and tail shift into the optimal position for the Hydro-Hawk to operate most effectively.

The tiny fighter is built in proportion to children’s smaller bodies. An Ager couldn’t fit inside the cockpit, even if he or she wanted to. The Hydro-Hawk is designed to hold one pilot, and one gunner. The gunner seat electronically rotates into battle position, placing the gunner upside down, in the Plexiglas nose of the ship, for a better view.