6/29/2004

Jungle Fever

The red of the dying sun pierced through the dark green palm trees, and lit up the brown earth of the congolese jungle, changing it to a murky yellow. I felt the soft flow of a gentle wind touch my neck, an evening breeze, scented with the pecuilar and thick smell of the queen of the night tree.

Then in the distance, I heard the coughs of a jungle cat, and the answering roar of some big animal. It seemed like the air suddenly chilled by a good number of degrees, and I felt fear creep into my consiousness.

I was all alone in the middle of a large forest, without any weapons, nowhere to sleep, and wild animals were yelping around me. I started to laugh hysterically, because somehow it seemed like it was always me that these things happened to. What was I doing here, and would the money I get paid for this take away the nightmares?

But I knew that even though the cat was a threat, the larger dangers to me were much smaller. They were creepy, slithery, crawly and lay in wait for the unwary animal. It would be the snakes, reptiles, spiders and bugs that would get me long before the animals would.

I shrugged and continued through the forest, using a staff I had made off the branch of a tree. The forest was thick, and almost all the vegetation had serrated edges. My legs were streaked with thin lines of blood, and small insects were hovering over them, rushing in to suck greedily at my legs. Mosquitos buzzed around my head like a halo, no, more like a crown of thorns. And I felt like I was walking towards my golgotha. I knew I would not survive the jungle.

After a few hours of tramping, heading in a general western direction, I started to get hungry and a bit desperate. I was in the congo for heavens sake, there are thousands of kilometers of untouched forests, nobody lives here, I could walk for years before I would see another human being. If the entire jungle did not seem to be growling and wanting to eat me, I’d probably have stopped walking, and simply given up right there. But the chirping of the crickets, the intermittent calling out of the frogs, the occasional screech of some animal I did not know did not allow me stop walking. I continued, even though it felt my legs would drop off at the knees.

At about 4am, after I had been moving for about 13 hours, I stopped. I unslung my bag, dropped it on the ground and sank into the grass. I saw a small ladybug-look-alike run from my shadow as I sank, and escaped just in time to avoid being crushed by my weight. I felt like that insect. I could have very easily died back in that village, but I did not, and now I was running in the jungle.

I watched it run, and I imagined it was some wierd twin of mine, everything I did my world, it would do in its insect world. When I fell in love with some pretty face, so would it fall for some pretty insect woman. When I escaped near death, so would it. When I died, so would it.

I smiled at my special lady-bug, and I saw a large insect a bit like a black cockroach jump out from underneath a stone, grab my twin-insect by the head and crush it. I jumped and shivered. I looked up instinctively, looking to see if maybe some kind of insect would also be jumping down on me. What I saw was worse.

The tree I was sitting under had snakes on it. 4 or 5 snakes, moving slowly, the moonlight reflecting off their skins.

As I looked around, I realised that most trees around there had snakes on them. I slowly stood up, carried my bag and continued to walk.

The sky become light before the jungle did, but I did not care. I was tired, more tired than I could remember ever having been. But I continued to walk. For several more hours, till the jungle was sliced in half by a thin path.

It was a footpath. A path like that meant that there were people somewhere around. But there was grass growing on the path. Where people walk regularly, grass does not grow. This path was no longer being used. But still, I had no choice. I would walk on it.

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