Read The survivor Online

Authors: 1909-1990 Robb White

The survivor

This book made available by the Internet Archive.

BOOK ONE Nightmare

THE MAN, wounded to the point of death, was awakened by a sound. The sound, being different and closer than the other sounds around him, struck through to the mechanism of his brain, as yet unwounded, and woke him up.

He found that he was slumped, half sitting, with his back against some metal object. His bare and bloody legs and feet stretched out awkwardly down what appeared to be a narrow corridor. Blood was pouring from some wound in his body, and there were flies around him.

There was Hght coming from somewhere, but the place was fairly dark and cool.

Perhaps, he thought, he was in some sort of church, for there were pews, thickly padded, on each side of the aisle in which he sprawled.

There was a window, and through it he could see the tops of green palm trees, the fronds waving to him in the wind.

5 ^,

He was in a church. Or, perhaps, lying in the aisle of an airplane.

An odd thought, as complete as a Httle cloud drifting in an empty sky, floated into, and across and out of his mind. He thought: I am the only American left ahve on this island. Something has happened to all the rest, and I am the only one alive. Then he thought: Perhaps I am the only American left ahve anywhere in the world. If this is true, he thought, then I am the only person who knows what it feels h'ke to be an American. The only person who knows how to be an American.

Then he said to himself, "I'd better not die. Not because I'm important but because what I know is important. No, I'd better not die."

Then that thought drifted away and he wondered again what had waked him up. There was music coming from somewhere, but that had not waked him. It seemed to him that it had been a voice. A voice close to him and, now as he remembered it, full of menace.

The man looked then at the details of his situation. He was hurt, for blood was coming out of him and the flies were buzzrag arornid, lighting and flying again. Purposeless, they seemed. But there had been purpose in the voice which had awakened him; purpose and threat.

There were some shoes near him. Shoes with high uppers; shoes such as they wore in Texas and the Air Corps—boots almost.

White trousers were above the shoes and above

the trousers was a white jacket with a pretty red sash across it

The man raised his head a little higher.

The enemy was standing there looking down at him, a pistol in his hand.

To the man the enemy looked small and—mean. He would have preferred an enemy of great height and strength and, even with the gift of death, dignity. Not this httle meanness like a bad-tempered little feisty dog.

It was not, really, the enemy in his white uniform and pretty sash.

It was the pistol.

Even the pistol was of no stature. It was shod-dily made and badly put together, the parts of it not fitting properly, the trigger guard screwed on and the screw slots burred by carelessness. There were even rusty spots on the enemy's pistol, and the man doubted if the action worked with the creamy smoothness of a United States Marine's gun.

It was not good, the man thought. The enemy was small and mean, and his pistol was mean and rusty and, the marines said, made a disagreeable angry little yelp when it fired. It had none of the power and authority of a Colt .45, none of that arm-jarring slam of the .45.

But it could kill you, this little gun. And it was going to kiU him.

The man remembered now what had awakened him. It had been the enemy saying, in English, **American, you die."

The man could do nothing. His wounds held him with simple weakness against the seat, all bis strength having drained out of him. He could not raise his hand, nor draw up his legs to rise from the floor. It took all his strength just to raise his head high enough so that he could look beyond the pistol to the face of the enemy.

Above the immediate silence between him and the enemy the man heard a band playing, a diesel motor running somewhere, even the far pounding of the surf against the coral reef. But no voices.

The man was now sad, for he had, finally, failed. He and the marines.

They had come so far and endured so much only, now, to fail. It made him sad, and to feel his life flowing away and to see the pistol which would put a final end to it made him feel, as he had felt before, that he was a failure. Somehow, he thought, everything I try to do fails. The things he knew: the details of the enemy, the numbers of him here, the guns and planes and facilities he had would, because he was dying and the Marines were dead, never be known to those who desired and needed to know. And because they would not now know the strength of the enemy, their attack on this place would be murderously expensive.

That made him sad, and the manner now of his dying made him sad. He hated lying helpless here.

It was not right.

The man looked up at his enemy and said, in the enemy's own oddly soft and singsong language,

said it aloud and with authority: "I will not die in this contemptible fashion."

The explosion was so close to his head that it added a small, sharp pain to all his pain.

Then a slow darkness moved toward him, covered him, pressed him completely down into his own blood on the floor.

The man did not die immediately. Instead, he seemed to drift backward down the flow of his life.

He could not remember now how he came to be on this island nor how long he had been here, but he did remember that it had been a long and painful time. A time of endless fear, day and night; a time of being hunted and having the feeling of a thing that is being hunted and has no escape from, nor any defense against, his hunters.

There had been others with him, the marines, but they were not with him now and he did not know where they were, but suspected that they too had been finally hunted down by this enemy and killed.

There had been a purpose for his coming here, but this purpose was draining away with his blood into the carpet of the airplane. The purpose was lost; everything was lost.

The man felt strongly that he did not want to die. Not yet, at any rate. It was not, he thought, time for him to die.

The man, all strength gone, enclosed in darkness and pain, could do nothing. He lay there, dying, almost naked, his body torn with wounds and

scars and cuts, his beard ragged and unshaven, his feet bare. . . .

The dying man's name was Adam Land, twenty years old, a naval aviator with the rank of lieutenant (junior grade), U. S. Naval Reserve.

The place where he lay dying was Enulab Island in the Micronesian group of islands scattered like tiny, but lethal dots in the vastness of the Central Pacific Ocean.

The time of his dying was 1943.

This book is the story of how Lieutenant (j.g.) Adam Land, USNR, came to Enulab Island. The events in this book, the people, the boats and ships and the islands are not real, but the war was real and, in the desperate days after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the need for such ventures as this was real and, in fact, such ventures were carried out.

In the months after Pearl Harbor, with the United States Navy crippled and almost ruined, nothing could prevent the enemy from spreading an enormous spiderweb across the Pacific toward the shore of America. V^ith fleets of ships and armies of men, he overran miUions of miles of ocean and land, estabhshing on the more choice islands bases from which he could continue his outward sweep and, also, protect what he had stolen. VV^ith his ships and planes operating from these outer islands, he ruled the Pacific from Alaska to Australia's Barrier Reef and denied it to the U. S. Navy.

The situation was intolerable, but it took the lives of thousands of men and many ships to cure it.

Adam Land was one of the men thrust out into the Pacific against the enemy waiting there.

Adam Land's plane was fifth in the landing pat--t\tem, and that grabbed him. Four of the old Douglas Dauntless SBD's were flopping around in front of him, wasting his time, wasting the whole afternoon, wasting the tide and the surf. How could any airplane go so slow?

His own SBD chugged along, waiting, while the green and brown and patterned fields of Oahu shd like something on a slow conveyor belt below him. OS to his left he could see the ocean, to his right the cloudy mountains and the long gray road twisting toward Honolulu.

"Come on! Come on!" Adam said aloud, urging the planes ahead of him to get on with it; get down on the ground, get out of his way. He debated for a moment opening the throttle and blasting in imder the four planes ahead of him. He could tell the operations oflBcer that it was an emergency. But then he reflected that he was in a good deal of trouble already—missed flights, late to the line, failure to relieve. He had better, he decided, watch his step for a little while, or they'd confine him to the base and he'd miss all that surf.

The surf out here in the Hawaiian Islands was terrific. It made the surf he had known along the

coast of California look like beginners* waves. Out here they came in, great blue humped-back monsters, and when they hit these coral reefs surged up ten, twenty, thirty feet high. With their tops now in the wind and the spray blowing they came on, some for a mile or more, with their slopes smooth and fast, giving you a ride like nothing else in the world.

Then when they curled and broke they made a tube of water as smooth and perfectly formed as blue steel. A tube so big that all you had to do was crouch down on the board and race through it, the water all around you, completely, but not touching you. Then you broke out of the tunnel, rammed the board up and over, and headed back for the sea again as, behind you, the wave broke on the shore with a crash that shook the land and tore chunks and pieces out of it.

Wild, man.

Yesterday a marine from La Jolla, surfing with Adam had never come out of a tunnel. Adam thought about him now, for a moment. These waves weren^'t for beginners, and they weren't for these California tigers who had no respect for them. They were man-ldllers with no regard for who you might think you were.

Adam looked over at the surf breaking near the Marine Base at Ewa, and even from his altitude he could see that the waves were running high and breaking close to the shore. It would be a Ht-tle dangerous this afternoon (if he ever got down out of this airplane), and he decided to take

charge of the girl Gloria. She wasn t, he thought, really a tiger, she just wanted to make you think she was, so she'd take a wave when it was too big and fast and breaking too short. With this surf she'd better not do that, he decided Or she'd get her pretty self slaughtered.

Just thinking about the girl and the surf and the lonely beach, and then the soft Hawaiian night, made him more impatient with the planes still ahead of him.

"Come onl Come on!" he yelled into the wind. *Don't take all day."

And, finally, the sky was empty ahead of him and he slapped the SBD down on the runway, braked it up hard and short, slammed it around to the taxi strip, and then, the wheels almost floating, taxied it in toward the hangar. As he cHmbed out, now in a real hurry, the squadron operations oflScer stopped him.

"You've got a great future as a taxi driver, Adam, but not much as a pilot."

Adam had never liked the operations officer much. He was a good deal older than most of the people in the squadron, a ground officer who spent his time criticizing the way you flew the airplane.

"I'll do until you get your wings," Adam told him and started over to check in his chute.

"The CO. wants to see you. Right away," the op officer said.

Adam turned around. 'What for?"

"For being such a dashing aviator, I guess."

"Come on! Is this a gag?"

**How should I know. I have here a message which states in plain English: 'Have Lieutenant Adam Land report to the commanding officer immediately/ "

"Look, oF buddy,** Adam said, '*do me this great favor, will you? Just don t see me. I came in way down the strip and parked in the Baker Area, and when you got there with your message I had gone. Vanished. Disappeared. Do that for me like a good buddy.*'

"Or buddy,** the operations officer said, "Vd do anything for you except get mine in a sHng. IVe dehvered the message. You can do anything you want to about it. It's a free country, you know.**

"Friendship,** Adam said angrily, slamming his chute pack do^vn on the counter. "Landl'* he yelled at the enhsted man behind it. "A as in AWOL. One lousy parachute.**

"A. Land,** the sailor said, writing in a notebook. "I'U pass on your opinion to the parachute riggers, sir.'*

Adam ignored him and then, in the sunshine again, stopped for a moment and listened to the surf, a faint, distant sound. It made him thiok of the guys in Califomia—the surfers. Nothiag—food, drink, money, job—nothing could keep the surfers away from the surf. AU day, every day they would be on the beaches. They would start before dawn, the long surfboards sticking out of whatever kind of old heap they could find and make run and head for the surf. And there they would stay until night fell; and some would stay through the cold nights,

sitting around beach fires, the long boards waxed and stacked, waiting for the morning surf. The waves were their life and nothing else mattered to them; nothing else was important. They were Robin Hoods, stealing from the rich in the grand houses along the Malibu Beach to give to the poor surfers squatting around the httle fires. Nothing could stop those tigers from going to the waves— not the fierce cold winds, nor rain, nor hunger, nor pohce. Nothing—

The squadron CO. was a good joe, Adam thought, and whatever he wanted now couldn't be so important that it couldn't wait a Httle while. If it was a big hot thing like shipping out to Guadalcanal or some place where there was some fighting going on the CO. would want to see all hands, not just him.

The last time he'd gotten a ^'report to the CO." all the commander had wanted was for him to check his flight log. Probably that was all he wanted now. Some Httle thing that could wait until tomorrow. You just couldn't waste a time like this with the sun shining and the surf coming in Hke cream and a girl like Gloria waiting for him. Even in war you needed rest and relaxation; it said so in the book. . . .

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