Thursday, 24 July 2008

The Island - Part 6

I woke with a start in the half-light of dawn, feeling drops of liquid splattering onto my forehead. The backs of my ribs were so stiff from the pressure of the lumpy bed that in the effort to rise, it felt as though my lungs were being asked to carry the entire weight of my upper torso. I was still alone. But not at home. What sort of person lived in a place like this? It was hardly an ideal home; a grubby, worn bed probably infested and exposed to all comers in the forest. The vegetation around the bed's base was well-trodden. I wondered whether I should be expecting the return of its owner. Would they be pleased to see me or did they choose this wild and solitary existence? If so, I might not be welcome. Either way, this person wouldn't be accustomed to having friends for dinner except possibly in the most gruesome sense, I mused. I should be on my way.

I clutched roughly at handfuls of neoprene from my wetsuit, which in this heat was as pliable as newly-kneaded dough; the warm, salty waft as it rebounded,clapping back onto my chest was the closest I could get to letting my skin breathe. I undid the zip a few inches, scratching at the raised wheel left around my neck by the sweaty elastic. I longed to strip off and seek a stream but I knew that even if I could find one, getting my wetsuit back on would be all the more unpleasant. No, I had to return to the beach or find someone who could help me.

Having gathered myself into a more upright position, and with the stiffness fading, I swung the rucksack onto my back. I felt a trickle down my forehead and wiped it with the back of my hand. My eyes were scanning for a lost horizon, a sight of the end of the dense jungle, perhaps a sea bird or even a change in the hue of the soil ahead. But I saw no exchange of red earth for pure white sand. On the edge of my field of vision I glimpsed the back of my hand returning to my side, streaked with blood.

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