The Swamp (Part Six)

Hendricks spent the next two days and nights in the jungle. Even though he was constantly on the verge of passing out from hunger and exhaustion, at least he had solved the problem of thirst early on.

Luckily he was a big fan of the Discovery Chanel and had watched some episodes of Man vs. Wild with Bear Grylls (his secret idol). In one particular episode Grylls had been dropped into the middle of the Costa Rican jungle and one of the first things he did was catch rainwater in a banana leaf. And even though it was dry season, he got lucky and a few hours after leaving the cavern pool the sky opened up with the ferocity and absolute power that only tropical storms seem to have.

He laughed and danced as he drank and drank some more. He had not even realized quite how parched he had actually been. Unfortunately he had not been able to store any water for later, but what he was capable of drinking worked magic on his morale. He walked faster now, taking great care to leave landmarks and to cut the trees thoroughly. Once he tried doubling back just to make sure that his path was clearly visible and he was relieved to be able to follow so easily.

At first he had thought to not make the way back too obvious, but then he figured, what the hell? Even if someone did stumble upon his path, it would only lead them to a dark jungle pool. No, his treasure was just as safe as it had been since prehistoric times, he guessed. That cavern had to be ancient. Hell, didn't diamonds sometimes take millions of years to form? At least thought he remembered something to that effect.

A few times he found that he had been talking out loud. He would get angry at those moments, hitting himself on the side of the head and shouting obscenities.

Hendricks knew he was cracking up. He would not last much longer. Once he blacked out for several hours and found himself just sitting on a log in the dark, not knowing where the daylight had gone.

Yet he pushed on. He felt the lumps in his pants pocket and smiled a grim smile at the feel of them in his hands. This was what made him push well beyond his limits. The pain was overwhelming, but worse than that, worse than the hunger, was the fatigue.

Finally, finally, Hendricks dropped in a faint on the jungle floor, unconscious.

Fate has different paths for all of us. It tempts us with different choices and different directions. Taking one path may mean riches and fame, the other painful suffering and death. But many times, Fate does not ask us our opinion. We are as nothing to it. The whims of Fate need no permission. It will routinely ignore our cries and pleas for clemency.

And sometimes, on rare occasions, Fate welcomes certain persons with open arms, extending the full bounty of its magnanimity and generosity. Today proved to be such a day for Hendricks.

Luz Cardenas, a raven-haired, eighteen year old beauty, had strayed from her chores without thinking about it. It was a beautiful day and she had been out picking berries when suddenly a gorgeous golden butterfly passed near her face. Luz had always loved insects and animals, and especially butterflies. She had photographed them for years until her only old camera finally broke. Luz saved every dime she could scrounge, and one day she would buy a new camera, a digital one like she had seen on TV.

This butterfly was magnificent. She had to see it closer and so she followed its path into the jungle. Every time she would come close it would skitter away like a leaf of gold fluttering in the sun. She had laughed and chased it, running and calling to it "Mariposita", Luz felt that the golden insect was taunting her, staying just inches from her reach as she ventured farther and farther into the jungle.

Though she had lived here on the edges of the jungle with her family all of her life, still she feared the ever present dangers of the forest. The biggest killer by far were not any type of big cat or snake, but the forest itself. If you got lost in there, well, chances are you might never get out. Only the most experienced of the village's hunters ever ventured too deeply and even they were usually accompanied.

So on this day Luz skipped into the forest just as the rare butterfly rose up higher into the canopy. She watched it fly up and waved goodbye. Luz had heard that if you sat on the highest limb and were able to get above the canopy, that you would see hundreds of butterflies flapping their velvety wings in the sunshine. She signed, wondering what it would be like to be up there, all alone with her camera, taking the most beautiful pictures in the world.

She turned around and realized that it had gotten much darker. She was concerned that it was getting later and later and she was in an area of the jungle that was unknown to her.

She tried going back the way she had come but it was no use. She was lost. The realization brought instant panic and Luz began to hyperventilate, calling out for help and crying desperately for her mother and father. She trembled and fought her way through the thick vines.

Suddenly she tripped on an exposed root and fell flat on her face. She groaned and lifted herself up on her forearms, then looked to her right. There, not inches away, was the bloodied face and cracked lips of a bearded man.

Luz screamed with all of her might.

Hendricks woke with a start and tried to get up. But he was too tired and fell back down, panting and dizzy from the exertion.

Luz got up and tried to run away but Hendricks reached out and grabbed her by the ankle, causing her to scream once again.

Hendricks tried to comfort the girl without letting go. "Please, uh, por favor, no grites. Don't scream please. Please. Necesito ayuda. I need help. Agua. Water." But the effort was too much for him and he released her, almost passing out again.

Luz immediately scrambled backward and grabbed a nearby stick to protect herself. She continued looking at the fallen man. She realized that he was injured and that he would not be an immediate threat to her.

She stood up over him. "Quien eres? Como te llamas?" she asked him his name.

"Me llamo Hendricks." he croaked in a whisper.

"Henrique? Que haces aqui?" she asked him what he was doing here.

"Estoy perdido. I am lost." he replied.

Luz looked around, then sat down sobbing.

"Yo tambien. Yo tambien." she admitted. Me too.

to be continued

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valeriebelew profile image

valeriebelew 6 years ago from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA

Interesting. She can't be that far in the jungle, so he should be able to find his way out when the sun assists with directions. (: v

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