I found the hat on the trail. It had rained for as long as I could remember, and the hat displayed signs of this. Mud caked large swaths of the fabric, so much so that it was almost unrecognizable, and, had I not been watching my step so as not to lose my footing on the wet trail, I would have passed it by.
I held it out at arm's length as one might a freshly killed rabbit and inspected it with equal curiosity.
I lost myself for some time in dreamlike thoughts. The jungle's humidity, lack of food, and proper sleep were taking their toll.
"When was the last time you drank water?"
"Water, private; when did you last drink water?"
“Sergeant, I think it was today, sir."
But Sergeant Greenly was gone. Now, the arhythmic drumming of falling humidity droplets filled the air. Unable to escape the impenetrable canopy, the moisture gathered and fell, often with frightening accuracy.
I continued until the sound of running water brought me back from distant thoughts about Sergeant Greenly and the rest of the platoon. I discovered a brook just over the rise to the west.
Carefully, I positioned myself on the bank and splashed water onto my face. It was tepid, like bathwater, and did little to clear my mind. Afterward, I submerged the hat I found and gently rubbed away the soil. As I did, I noticed handwriting on the underside of the inner brim. The elements had worn some letters out, but those which remained were as legible as if written that moment. "Sgt. Gr...ly"
Sitting back on the bank, I tried to piece together what I could since leaving for patrol. But my brain seemed to skip and run into blank areas; time was not linear, and my current state hindered my recollection of the events. I remember a column of men trudging through relentless rain. Then a blinding white light and a sound that seemed to fracture the world, a clang as if god struck an anvil to forge something unknown thus far to men. After which, all that remained was a mechanical and inorganic hum that grated against the sounds of the jungles.
As I sat there, a droplet of a thick crimson liquid fell heavily into the stream. It was taken swiftly away by the current. Another drop fell. I stood and looked up. "Sergeant Greenly, sir?" I said, "What are you doing up there?" He remained motionless. "I have your hat, sergeant." Standing, I walked from the bank of the stream. When I looked up again, I saw Sergeant Greenly wedged awkwardly between two tree branches that stemmed from the main trunk. He looked down with vacant eyes. "Sergeant.." I began, then I saw that the sergeant was missing an arm, and the back of his head would no longer hold the shape of a hat.