Where their sharp edges seemed restless as sea waves thrusting themselves upward in angry motion , Papa-san sat glacier-like , his smooth solidity , his very immobility defying all the turmoil about him .
`` Our objective '' , the colonel had said that day of the briefing , `` is Papa-san '' .
There the objective sat , brooding over all .
Gouge , burn , blast , insult it as they would , could anyone really take Papa-san ? ?
Between the ponderous hulk and himself , in the valley over which Papa-san reigned , men had hidden high explosives , booby traps , and mines .
The raped valley was a pregnant womb awaiting abortion .
On the forward slope in front of his own post stretched two rows of barbed wire .
At the slope's base coils of concertina stretched out of eye range like a wild tangle of children's hoops , stopped simultaneously , weirdly poised as if awaiting the magic of the child's touch to start them all rolling again .
Closer still , regular barricades of barbed wire hung on timber supports .
Was it all vain labor ? ?
Who would clean up the mess when the war was over ? ?
Smiling at his quixotic thoughts , Warren turned back from the opening and lit a cigarette before sitting down .
Tonight a group of men , tomorrow night he himself , would go out there somewhere and wait .
If he were to go with White , he would be out there two days , not just listening in the dark at some point between here and Papa-san , but moving ever deeper into enemy land -- behind Papa-san -- itself .
Was this what he had expected ? ?
He hadn't realized that there would be so much time to think , so many lulls .
Somehow he had forgotten what he must have been told , that combat was an intermittent activity .
Now he knew that the moment illuminated by the vision on the train would have to be approached .
It could take place tomorrow night , or it might occur months from now .
There was just too much time .
Time to become afraid .
White's suggestion flattered , but he did not like the identity .
He did not spill over with hatred for the enemy .
He hadn't even seen him yet
Pressing his cigarette out in the earth , Warren walked to the slit and scanned the jagged hills .
He saw no life , but still stood there for a time peering at the unlovely hills , his gaze continually returning to Papa-san .
He had come here in order to test himself .
While most of his beliefs were still unsettled , he knew that he did not believe in killing .
Yet , he was here .
He had come because he could not live out his life feeling that he had been a coward .
There were ten men on the patrol which Sergeant Prevot led out that next night .
The beaming ROK was carrying a thirty-caliber machine gun ; ;
another man lugged the tripod and a box of ammunition .
Warren and White each carried , in addition to their own weapons and ammo , a box of ammo for the ROK's machine gun .
Others carried extra clips for the Browning Automatic Rifle , which was in the hands of a little Mexican named Martinez .
Prevot had briefed the two new men that afternoon .
`` We just sit quiet and wait '' , Prevot had said .
`` Be sure the man nearest you is awake .
If Joe doesn't show up , we'll all be back here at 0600 hours .
Otherwise , we hold a reception .
Then we pull out under our mortar and artillery cover , but nobody pulls out until I say so .
Remember what I said about going out to get anybody left behind ? ?
That still holds .
We bring back all dead and wounded '' .
At 2130 hours they had passed through the barbed wire at the point of departure .
Then began the journey through their own mine fields .
Ours were kinder than theirs , some said .
They set bouncing betties to jump and explode at testicle level while we more mercifully had them go off at the head .
Big ones and little .
The crude wooden boxes of the enemy , our nicely turned gray metal disks .
But theirs defied the detectors .
A foot misplaced , a leg missing .
All sizes : big ones , some wired to set off a whole field , little ones , hand grenade size .
Booby traps to fill the head with chunks of metal .
Warren tried to shake off the jumble of his fears by looking at the sky .
It was dark .
Prevot had said that the searchlights would be bounced off the clouds at 2230 hours , `` which gives us time to get settled in position '' .
Because they were new men and to be sure that they didn't get lost , Prevot had placed Warren and White in the center of the patrol as it filed out .
His eyes now fixed on White's solid figure , Warren could hear behind him the tread of another .
He could also hear the stream which he had seen from his position .
They were going to follow it for part of their journey .
`` It's safe '' , Prevot had said , `` and it provides cover for our noise '' .
Soon they were picking their way along the edge of the stream which glowed in the night .
On their right rose the embankment covered with brush and trees .
If a branch extended out too far , each man held it back for the next , and if they met a low overhang , each warned the other .
Thus , stealthily they advanced upstream ; ;
then they turned to the right , climbed the embankment , and walked into the valley again .
There was no cover here , only grass sighing against pant-legs .
And with each sigh , like a whip in the hand of an expert , the grass stripped something from Warren .
The gentle whir of each footstep left him more naked than before , until he felt his unprotected flesh tremble , chilled by each new sound .
The shapes of the men ahead of him lacked solidity , as if the whip had stripped them of their very flesh .
The dark forms moved like mourners on some nocturnal pilgrimage , their dirge unsung for want of vocal chords .
The warped , broken trees in the valley assumed wraith-like shapes .
Clumps of brush that they passed were so many enchained demons straining in anger to tear and gnaw on his bones .
Looming over all , Papa-san leered down at him , threatening a hundred hidden malevolencies .
Off in the distance a searchlight flashed on , its beam slashing the sky .
The sharp ray was absorbed by a cloud , then reflected to the earth in a softer , diffused radiance .
Somewhere over there another patrol had need of light .
Warren thought of all the men out that night who , like himself , had left their protective ridge and -- fear working at their guts -- picked their way into the area beyond .
From the east to the west coast of the Korean peninsula was a strip of land in which fear-filled men were at that same moment furtively crawling through the night , sitting in sweaty anticipation of any movement or sound , or shouting amidst confused rifle flashes and muzzle blasts .
White's arm went up and Warren raised his own .
The patrol was stopping .
Prevot came up `` .
Take that spot over there '' , he whispered , pointing to a small clump of blackness .
`` Give me your machine gun ammo '' .
Warren handed him the metal box and Prevot quietly disappeared down the line .
Lying in the grass behind the brush clump , Warren looked about .
The others likewise had hidden themselves in the grass and the brush .
Over his shoulder he could see Prevot with the machine gun crew .
Even at this short distance they were only vague shapes , setting up the machine gun on a small knoll so that it could fire above the heads of the rest of the patrol .
Warren eased his rifle's safety off and gently , slowly sneaked another clip of ammunition from one of the cloth bandoleers that marked the upper part of his body with an Aj .
This he placed within quick reach .
The walk and his fears had served to overheat him and his sweaty armpits cooled at the touch of the night air .
Although the armored vest fitted the upper part of his body snugly , he felt no security .
Figures seemed to crouch in the surrounding dark ; ;
in the distance he saw a band of men who seemed to advance and retreat even as he watched .
Certain this menace was only imaginary , he yet stared in fascinated horror , his hand sticky against the stock of his weapon .
He was aware of insistent inner beatings , as if prisoners within sought release from his rigid body .
Above , the glowing ivory baton of their searchlight pointed at the clouds , diluting the valley's dark to a pallid light .
Then the figures which held his attention became a group of shattered trees , standing like the grotesques of a medieval damnation scene .
Even so , he could not ease the tension of his body ; ;
the rough surface of the earth itself seemed to resist every attempt on his part to relax .
Sensing the unseen presence of the other men in the patrol , he felt mutely united to these nine near-strangers sharing this pinpoint of being with him .
He sensed something precious in the perilous moment , something akin to the knowledge gained on his bicycle trip through the French countryside , a knowledge imprisoned in speechlessness .
-- In France he had puzzled the meaning of the great stone monuments men had thrown up to the sky , and always as he wandered , he felt a stranger to their exultation .
They were poems in a strange language , of which he could barely touch a meaning -- enough to make his being ache with the desire for the fullness he sensed there .
Brittany , that stone-gray mystery through which he traveled for thirty days , sleeping in the barns of farmers or alongside roads , had worked some subtle change in him , he knew , and it was in Brittany that he had met Pierre .
Pierre had no hands ; ;
they had been severed at the wrists .
With leather cups fitted in his handlebars , he steered his bicycle .
He and Warren had traveled together for four days .
They visited the shipyards at Brest and Pierre had to sign the register , vouching for the integrity of the visiting foreigner .
He took the pen in his stumps and began to write .
`` Wait ! !
Wait '' ! !
Cried the guard who ran from the hut to shout to other men standing about outside .
They crowded the small room and peered over one another's shoulders to watch the handless man write his name in the book .
`` C'est formidable '' , they exclaimed .
`` Mais , oui .
C'est merveilleux '' .
And then the questions came , eager , interested questions , and many compliments on his having overcome his infirmity .
`` Doesn't it ever bother you '' , Warren had asked , `` to have people always asking you about your hands '' ? ?
`` Oh , the French are a very curious people '' , Pierre had laughed .
`` They are also honest seekers after truth .
Now the English are painfully silent about my missing hands .
They refuse to mention or to notice that they are not there .
The Americans , like yourself , take the fact for granted , try to be helpful , but don't ask questions .
I'm used to all three , but I think the French have the healthiest attitude '' .
That was the day that Pierre had told Warren about the Abbey of Solesmes .
`` You are looking tired and there you can rest .
It will be good for you .
I think , too '' , he said , his dark eyes mischievous , `` that you will find there some clue to the secret of the cathedrals about which you have spoken '' .
Within two weeks Warren was ringing the bell at the abbey gate .
The monk who opened the door immediately calmed his worries about his reception : `` I speak English '' , the old man said , `` but I do not hear it very well '' .
He smiled and stuck a large finger with white hairs sprouting on it into his ear as though that might help .
Smiling at Warren's protestations , the old monk took his grip from him and led him down a corridor to a small parlor .
`` Will you please wait in here .