Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The Island - Part 9

The crushed vegetation beneath my shins began to wriggle; I realised that it was inadvisable to be kneeling on the jungle soil but I was fearful of looking at the girl, fearful that she had landed with the fragility of a rotten plum. I needn't have worried; she was already struggling away from me with more purpose than the creatures I had flattened on the ground. The green smell of the bruised leaves, the sap oozing from the fractured stalks and shattered petals were wrestled into submission by the odour of fear and weeks of wild living. How could a frightened human smell so bad and yet an injured plant be so sweet?

Our arms and legs remained entwined despite the girl's efforts. I managed to free an arm and hold up my hand as if I was stopping traffic. I felt ridiculous and was on the brink of laughing. The pulling was subsiding and I wasn't sure if she had been calmed by my hand gesture or whether she had run out of steam. I offered my hand to her.

'Please. Let me help you. Use my hand to steady yourself.'

At last, she seemed to have given in and I was holding her rough hand in my own.

'Now, just stay there a minute whilst I stand up. There. I'm going to help you onto the bed. It's yours isn't it?'

She nodded and a grimace flitted across her lips.

'Well, we may as well make use of it.'

As I lifted her by the armpits to a sitting position on the filthy bed and gently swung her legs up, I could feel that she was severely undernourished. I turned the blood-stained pillow to its other side and supported her as she lowered her upper torso down to rest. Almost immediately that her tufted head touched the rancid pillow, her eyelids came down like heavy shutters over a Glasgow off-licence. It certainly seemed as though she was genuinely exhausted but I wondered whether she was really just playing for time.

Of course, I could just walk away and in a sense, maybe she was offering me the chance to do just that. But I couldn't. I had already swallowed the silent promise to help this wretched girl. The birds and insects seemed to hush waiting for my strength of resolve as I gulped down the lump in the back of my throat. This would be the hardest promise I would ever make.

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