The adventures of the night had sapped the living daylights out of him, and he felt a heavy sensation in his head. He collapsed on the surface of the raft and laid on his back, staring blankly at the sky, his teeth still chattering. The moonlit violet sky slowly faded into blackness, as unconsciousness came over him. He was unaware of how much time had passed, but a gentle rocking of the raft stirred him into consciousness. He leaned up and looked about himself, trying to get hold of his bearings. The night was slowly turning a lighter shade of violet, and he noticed from his watch that he had 43 minutes before dawn broke out. Strangely, he felt elated and free, and the chilling sensation had completely vanished from his body; puzzled by the fortunate turn of events, he glanced ahead of him, and noticed that the raft had reached the end of the river, and was now anchored on a soft embankment. The shore led to a clump of palm trees, which seemed to form a sort of pathway between them, leading to a place further into the place. His mind tingled with excitement – he instinctively knew that he had arrived at his destination. He walked onto the shore, holding his faithful machete, squinting his eyes at the path ahead of him. He felt remarkably fresh and alert, and the strain of the past events in the night had vanished completely. However, he wasn’t going to be lulled into a false sense of complacency, and continued to remain alert for any signs of trouble. The ground felt smooth under his feet – seemingly the entire place was man-made. The walk across the pathway between the trees was short, and soon he found himself witnessing an amazing spectacle. He spotted the ruins of an ancient temple, dotted with 4 square shaped structured on the corners of the area, and a huge monolithic statue at the end of the area. The aura around the temple radiated a sense of serenity and warmth, undisturbed for eons by human civilization. The artistry behind the mammoth sculpture was highlighted by the attention to detail paid to every part of the statue, which portrayed a woman with six arms standing atop a pedestal, two hands holding out a huge stone cup in front of it, two hands stretched out towards the sky, and the remaining pair of hands resting on the sides of its hips. The surprising thing about the statue was that it still looked so real and beautiful, unaffected by the sands of time and the corrosive effects of nature’s continually changing face – which led him to believe that the entire thing was carved out of a mineral alien to Earth. Arriving at the site, he looked up at the statue, which towered at least 25 feet high from the ground. There was an assortment of fruits, plants and meat placed in front of it on huge leaves – signs that he was not the only living thing in the area. What if they are cannibals? I don’t see any signs of human sacrifice here though…. He walked around the place, looking for some sign of life. Finding nothing, he walked closer to the statue, aware of some invisible energy radiating from it. The statue’s surface glowed dimly in the fading moonlight, and he stretched his left hand towards it, wishing to know what would happen. He heard a faint sound before he could touch the statue, and an arrow whizzed past him. Startled, he withdrew from the statue and looked in the direction of the shot. He spied a man from atop a tree, naked except for a loin cloth, holding a bow and aiming another arrow around him. At the same time, more men stood up from their hiding places among the trees, all aiming their bows at him. His eyes made out the outlines of small wooden huts nestled in the branches of the trees, as several pairs of eyes were trained on him. So, these natives are actually tree dwellers… they would have watched every move of mine. He walked backwards to the middle of the area, dropped the machete to the ground, and raised his arms above his head, hoping to convey to those locals that he meant no harm. A few minutes later, as he stood rooted to his spot while the archers continued to train their arrows at him, he espied a group of men emerging from behind the statue. There were about six of them, and they were bedecked in masks and fine red cloth – presumably the upper echelons of this civilization. The men came to him, and the man in front, whom he assumed was the chieftain or figurehead, barked out a command. The men withdrew their bows and fell back into their hiding places among the tree. The chief, who was adorning a red and white mask, uttered a word in some strange language, and a second person stepped forward. He let out a gasp of shock, as the second man removed his mask, to reveal Caucasian features and a rough white beard; there was a white man who lived among those locals! The chief conversed with the foreigner in a gruff voice while he listened calmly. Once they were done, the foreigner spoke in clear English to him. “Our respected host here wishes to let you know that Brodinga is the protector of this forest, and her statue is sacred and should never be violated by anyone. I know it was not your intention, but you would have been turned into a statue had you touched it; in fact, the man who shot at you saved your life. Now the chief wants to know what could motivate you to go through a great deal of trouble to come to this place. “ “Yes. A white man like us, whose name is Henry Summers… had said something about finding a place where he finally knew no fear… we got his last radio call seven years back. I came to find what he had found, and am certain Henry was here in this place the last time we heard from him. Do you know where he is, and if he is still alive?” The other man translated his speech for the chieftain, who nodded in response and spoke in that strange language again. It was a surreal feeling for him, as he watched the white man interact with the local chief with consummate ease – surely he must have been living amongst these tree dwellers for several years. The white man turned to him and said “He did come to this place and find us, and yes, you can say he found fearlessness. However, this is a magical place, and only the Mizotecs here..” he gestured to the chieftain and other tribals, “… can live in human form, thanks to a rare gene in their blood. The outsiders like you can remain in human form only as long as the night lasts here, and once day breaks, you will simply vanish with the night. “ “Then how come you are still alive and in this body? You should have been non-existent by now, if that was the case.” “Well. It’s a long story. To cut it short, I came to this forest 43 years ago from Hamburg, looking for some rare plants which could provide a cure to diseases like cancer and diabetes. My team was killed by the dangerous elements in the forest, but I managed to find the river and was carried across by the water to this place, afloat on a single piece of wood. These Mizotecs found me and nursed me; the first night I was here, the chieftain managed to commute through hand signs that I wouldn’t survive the day as I was an outsider. However, if I agreed to stay with them and never return to the outside, I could have a chance. I was forced to drink some horrible liquid, which actually inculcated that rare gene in me. Now, I live with them and have learnt many secrets from them, but I can and will never let the outside world know of these.” The old man continued “However, the subsequent foreigners who came to this place didn’t have noble intentions like me. They believed that this place was like the City of Lost Gold, and plundered the village looking for treasure. They incurred the wrath of the Goddess Brodinga, and were turned into statues. After these incidents, the Mizotecs have decided that any outsider has only two choices – give up your human form and live a life, or go back to where you came from. The second one is a catch – you have to be out of the forest well before the sun rises, else you simply vanish along with the magical parts of the forest.” He couldn’t believe what the old man was saying. “So, you imply that whoever comes to this place will never get out of the forest?” The old man nodded his head in agreement. “Henry Summers was confronted with the same thing as you. He chose to remain here. Before he traded his body for a life without fear, he spoke into the radio handset, which he had hidden in his shirt pocket all the time, without our knowledge. Fear is a basic element of human emotion, and it is fear that makes the human side of you visible. Without fear, you are not a human. Even the bravest men fear something. So, my son, the dawn is approaching; time is running out for you. You can choose to either vanish into oblivion, or join your predecessors in the forest. “ He closed his eyes, pondering over the old man’s words. There was clearly only one path for him.He had found what he sought for, but the world would never know of his greatest achievement. Did it matter in the end anyway? He gestured at the chieftain with a slight nod of his head, and the latter replied with a curt nod, beckoning him to follow the group. He was made to lie down on a flat stone slab in front of the statue, while the masked natives formed a circle around him. The old man stood a few feet ahead, watching the proceedings; their eyes met, and he smiled weakly. The natives began chanting prayers to the Goddess Brodinga in a chorus, the loud voice resonating in his eardrums. As he watched, he noticed sparks emanating from the statue, and soon a bright ball of unbridled energy formed in front of the statue; it remained suspended in the air for some time, as the chieftain and the priests continued their rhythmic chant. Suddenly the chants stopped, and the bright ball of energy hurdled towards his body, before he knew it. He felt a sudden shock course through his body, and blacked out instantly. A few seconds later, he opened his eyes. He found himself facing the statue, the huge eyes of the Goddess looking at him at eye level. He looked down and saw his body on the slab slowly withering away into the air, like sand being blown away by the wind. However, he felt no grief at losing his body; on the contrary, he had never felt so free and elated before, and there was nothing to be afraid of anymore. As the first rays of the sun broke through the clouds, his spirit sped away towards the midst of the forest, which was now his new home.
They walked in silence, the soft clanging sound of the unicorn’s hooves syncing with the hoarse breathing of his in the cold night. A million thoughts were running through his mind. Are there other animals which can talk like the unicorn? How is it possible for everything to be gigantic in this area and not elsewhere? What further dangers lurk ahead? And most of all, how much further to go before he reached the place where Henry Summers’ radio signal was last received? His watch informed him that he had only 2 hours before dawn broke.
In case you are wondering why he was concerned about reaching the place before sunlight – here it goes. Rumors circulated among the adventure seekers and the bounty hunters about how certain parts of the Furchtloser Wald were sort of camouflaged and invisible in sunlight, and would come into view as darkness approached, as chronicled by an old timer who had claimed to be inside the mysterious place for 2 days and witnessed this phenomenon. Many people laughed off this theory, claiming it was nigh impossible to hide a sheep in broad daylight, let alone an entire patch of land. But there were a few people who felt that it was possible, and he was one of them. If sunlight dawned, he would probably never find his target, and the prospect of this happening caused him to walk faster.
“Tell me, kind one. Is it true that this strange jungle contains some areas which are hidden in the day? “
He stroked its mane, as the unicorn replied Yes, human. They do exist. They are magical places, and my brethren tell me these places came up thousands of years before this forest. In fact, if certain things are to be believed, the story goes that the forest was grown by the inhabitants of these places to conceal them from sight. I don’t know how much substance is there in this, because we know better to stay within our limits in the forest.
“Hmmm… interesting.” He continued to scour about the place, catching sight of other strange species – a disgusting brown giant caterpillar with several rows of teeth in its round mouth finishing off a hole filled pinkish leaf; a weird rodent with red circles round angled eyes and a short torso with a long red tail nearly 4 times the entire length of its head and body darting a few metres across them; and many other species which he didn’t bother to look at, fearing his brain would be stupefied by the wealth of new fauna in the jungle.
They walked for a few more miles, before the sound of running water reached his ears. They waded through a clump of bushes, and he found himself in a small clearing on the shore of a rather wide river drifting downstream. The water was crimson in color, as though it had been mixed with blood; the moonlight’s reflection caused it to sparkle an eerie red color, and he observed fish swimming about in it. A few of them jumped above the surface of the river, giving him a clear look – they looked like harmless goldfishes, albeit slightly bigger than the ones you would keep in a fish bowl.
He heard the unicorn snort softly through its nostrils, and touched its snout again.
This is where we part ways, human. The river shall take you to the place you seek; these trees here have hollow branches and make for good flotation. I have seen the man who came here before you built something with these branches to carry him across the water. Farewell to thee, and thanks again for saving my life.
“Thanks, o kind unicorn, for saving my life and guiding me across the right path. I will now take leave of you; hope to find you again when I return after having got what I came for.” He saluted to the creature with a big smile, and his sharp eyes did not fail to detect the hint of sadness in its big black eyes, as it withdrew backwards into the comforting darkness of the forest.
He shrugged, placed his backpack on the ground, and went about looking for wood good enough to make a raft. He collected a handful of green colored sturdy tree branches, which were hollow as the unicorn had said. Fishing out a length of kernmantle rope, the kind used for climbing, he set about assembling the raft, using the rope to bind together the logs of branches. In twenty minutes, he had made a strong and sturdy raft, good enough to carry him down the entire length of the river.
He pushed the raft onto the river, and climbed atop it. Using a long wooden stick as an oar, he steered the raft carefully towards the middle of the huge river, and stayed on course from there, stirring with a little more urgency. The fishes he had seen earlier swam lazily around the raft, but he paid no heed to them, his eyes looking for something distinctive- a kind of marker which would lead him to the place of fearlessness. There was no sign of it, and after nearly 40 minutes of rowing continuously, his arms were beginning to feel heavy, and he felt some numbness creeping over his tired body.
Soon, he felt fatigue crawling all over his mind. He stopped rowing for a while, and allowed the motion of the river to carry the boat along. Mustering his last reserves of energy, he directed his brain to keep him awake; to do this, he began looking at the foliage that lined up on either side of the river. He noticed the absence of gigantic plants and trees as the raft travelled further – was he going deeper into the forest or away from it? Confused, he continued to look ahead, and spotted a line of trees, the silhouette of their branches reaching out above the surface of the river visible in the dim glow of the moon.
The raft came closer to these branches, and he thought he saw one of the branches move ; his eyes were semi closed, and he felt he was seeing things again. He rubbed his eyes vigorously with the palm of his hands, and blinked them to clear his vision.
Holy crap! The branch was moving, and it was headed straight for him! A second later, he realized it wasn’t a branch but a huge snake, evident from its wide open mouth, revealing its pink interior, waiting to swallow its meal.
He fell back, ducking out of the reptile’s grasp, and scrambled for the backpack, the machete strung to its side. His hand pulled out the machete from its place, and at the same time, the raft rocked wildly, nearly tipping to one side, the other side rising up from the water. The snake had come to give him company on the raft.
He spun around, and brought the machete down hard on the snake, as it slithered with lightning speed across the raft towards him. The weapon made a tiny cut in the tough hide, and the snake wavered from its original course; however, its powerful tail whiplashed across his calves, the unexpected impact swept him off his feet, and he fell on his back into the water with a loud splash. The water was freezing and the chillness stung his skin; he gasped in shock, struggling to hold his breath. Miraculously, he had managed to keep hold of the machete, and brandished it in front of him, looking about wildly for the snake. He espied the huge reptile coasting towards him with alarming alacrity, the red blood trailing from its skin making the red water redder. Finding no quick escape route, he hunched himself in preparation for the inevitable, goose bumps forming on the nape of his neck.
It all happened in a blur; he couldn’t register immediately what had happened, as the mammoth reptile was suddenly attacked by something else in the water. It took him a few minutes to register the fact that the new found adversary was actually a massive horde of the goldfishes, which had launched itself into the snake, probably attracted to the blood seeping out from the cut he had inflicted on it. The scene in front of him was bizarre, as he watched the snake swivel and turn frantically, trying to escape from the razor sharp teeth that these fishes possessed. Who would have known that these goldfishes were actually piranhas in goldfish guise?! The water in front of him turned a darker shade of rest, and he realized that the snake was losing the battle to these fishes. He thanked his stars for the timely intervention, and with sheer willpower forced his limbs to take him up to the water, where the raft lay afloat.
His head broke through the surface, and he gasped in relief, taking in the oxygen from the air. He spotted the raft to his left, and swam slowly to it; after a tiring lap, he hoisted himself onto the wooden floatation, dripping wet from head to toe. His teeth chattered from the adrenaline rush and the coldness of the water, and he clenched his palms to stifle the shivering sensation which had coursed through his body. He slunk out of his soaked shirt, and dumped it on the floor of the raft. The arrival of the unwelcome visitor on his raft had caused the backpack to be dumped into the water, and he had nothing except the machete in his hand. With the piranha goldfishes lurking in the waters, going after the backpack would be an exercise in futility. As if to reinforce this conclusion, the bubbles in the water vanished slowly, and a minute later, whatever was left of the snake came up to the surface, a tattered black snakeskin with large red blots on it.
As he went deeper into the forest, he noticed a lot of strange things around – plants with giant leaves, bigger than plantain leaves; trees with smooth maroon barks, with white liquid oozing out of them in some places; huge spiders of an arm’s length and of varying shades of red and black; a weird species of monkeys with almost no fur and very short tails, but were as nimble as their ordinary cousins; and a plethora of hitherto unseen fauna, concealed in Mother Nature’s own private paradise. They caused him no trouble, but he was careful not to get any closer to them. He came across a huge sturdy tree, and climbed up to the second branch, intent on saving his energy and scouting for anything interesting in the vicinity.
He could see nothing amiss. The moon glistened with a tinge of yellow, as purple clouds coasted in front of it. He felt dryness in his throat, and the urge to take a swig from the cognac flask in his backpack was too strong to resist. He fished it out from the bag, and turned the lid open. The lid, however, was slightly dented from the impact of his encounter with the beast, and refused to budge despite his best efforts. He swore softly to himself; the thirst was now stinging him, and this darned thing only added fuel to his restless mind. He gritted his teeth as he wrapped the front of his shirt around the lid, and turned it with maximum effort. The lid came off finally, but not before it made a loud ‘pop’ sound, which in the silent night reverberated like a mini-explosion. He was startled by the noise for an instant, but the next moment he forgot about it, greedily taking some sips of the alcohol.
Suddenly, the branch under him shook, and sticks and leaves began to fall on him. He nearly fell off his perch, but managed to wrap his hands and legs around the branch in time. He realized that the entire tree was shaking; he sat up and threw a glance up the tree. His eyes widened in surprise and shock as he saw a huge nest atop the highest branch on the tree, which was about as big as the bedroom in his mansion; and now one of its inhabitants was flying out of it, looking for the intruder on its tree!
He hurriedly grabbed his backpack and slung it over his shoulders, placing the machete on his right side and the SIG Sauer straddled to his belt, and gingerly walked across the branch towards the bark, his eyes still fixed on the huge flying thing bound for him. As the thing drew closer to his branch, and he was still a few feet away from the tree’s body, he identified it as a sparrow. But it wasn’t the small cute bird you would find in your garden; rather, it was bigger than him, and the big beads on its heads were fixed on him.
The sparrow is docile by nature, like most birds. But a mother sparrow, like every mother on Earth, will defend its own children at all costs, even death.He understood that the sparrow was going to kill him because it considered him a threat to its fledglings safely ensconced in its nest. The bird opened up its beak, and nearly took off his hand as he leapt in time onto the tree’s body and slid down it, not caring about the cuts and scratches from the impact of moving down on the tree’s rough exterior. He reached the ground, and espied the sparrow making a turn for him again; spotting a clump of trees with narrow spaces between them, he made a dash for them, not looking back to see if the sparrow was gaining on him. As he ran, he failed to notice a rock, hidden in the darkness, and tripped over it. He braced himself for the collision, placing his hands ahead of his head, so that he fell on his palms and elbows with maximum impact. He turned around in alarm as he saw the huge bird closing in on him, and knew it was over; his eyes shone with the realization of imminent death.
A white blur appeared in front of him, and the apparition uttered a loud neigh, causing the sparrow to steer clear of it. It uttered a loud squawk and flew back to its abode. He blinked at the thing which had just saved his life, and he saw a very beautiful horse looking at him with benevolence, its tail swishing from side to side. The horn between his eyes informed him that he was actually looking at an unicorn; he was at a loss for words, and blinked his eyes again to convince himself that the creature of kids’ fantasies was actually in flesh and blood. He stood up from his place, and dusted off the dirt from his shirts and khaki pants. Gently, he walked towards the unicorn and placed a hand on its snout; the softness of its skin sent a shiver of pleasure down him.
He was unsure if the unicorn would understand him, but he spoke to it “Thanks for saving my life. But why did you do it?”
The unicorn nodded its head in unison, possibly to convey to him that it understood his words. It edged closer to him, beckoning to him to touch its snout again, which he did without hesitation. Instantly he felt another voice in his head.
Yes. I understood your words, kind human. It was I who was running away from that predator which you just killed. Because of me, you almost lost your life; I followed you to make sure you were safe, and when that bird came for you for no fault of yours, I intervened and conveyed to it that you meant no harm. You are safe as long as you are with me, human.
He was astonished to hear, or rather think, the animal speak. What more mysteries does this forest hold??he wondered.
The unicorn appeared to read his mind as well. The forest hides many things you are not aware of, human. But what brings you here to this place?? Many men before you have come here, and I have not seen them return. Are you going the same path these men have travelled?
“Yes, o magnificent one. I seek the place where we don’t feel fear anymore after going there. Do you know of it?”
The unicorn lowered its eyelids, as it gazed intently at him. Some areas in the forest are forbidden to its inhabitants, and this place is one of these. I can see you are a man of a good heart, and I would advise you not to go there, and return to where you came from. Because once you go there, there’s no going back at all.
“So that means you know where it is?” he said excitedly. “I have travelled to strange places far and wide and have seen things. But I really feel I have accomplished what I want, only if I see this very place. I thank you for your concern, but I have only one road to travel, and that is this way.” He pointed towards the middle of the forest.
You have made your choice, human. I will guide you towards the place, but till the lake only. After that, you are on your own. Come, let us go.
The odd pair disappeared into the thickets; two seconds later, their shadows, cast by the brilliant moonlight, followed them into the depths of the forest.
There was a deathly silence in the midst; it seemed a little too odd for comfort, and he stood his ground, his face writ with tension. He switched off the torch, and sat on one knee, placing it besides him. He held his breath, the machete held tightly, waiting for something to happen. He remained in that posture for some time, ignoring the numbness which was slowly creeping up his legs.
He heard the sound, but was a fraction late. A huge creature burst out from the bushes behind him, sending him sprawling to his side to avoid being trampled. He barely had time to recover from his position and failed to get sight of the creature. But he didn’t have to worry about it, for another creature sprang out from the thicket, apparently in pursuit of the first one. However, the thing came to a grinding halt, as it detected his presence. It turned to him, and he saw a living nightmare.
It was nothing he had ever seen before. The thing stood about 5 feet high; on its legs it could easily reach 9 feet in height. It possessed the face of a hyena, including the gruesome jaws; but its body was akin to that of a wild cat’s – a combination of tough sinewy muscles and nimbleness to outrun and out-jump its prey. Whatever it was, one must make sure he/she didn’t have to face it.
The thing assessed him, taking a gigantic stride with each step towards him. He backed off, drawing on his martial arts skills and his toughness to try and get him out of this tight spot. The PG226 found itself in his left hand, as he waited for the thing to prepare its assault. The hyena-cat beast let out an ear-splitting snarl and leapt towards him, its powerful jaws waiting to taste human chow. He rolled to the left out of its path, but not before slashing the machete against the underside of its belly when the animal was still in motion. The momentum of its leap caused the sharp weapon to make a deep cut in the belly, and he felt the warm red liquid pouring down the machete onto his hand. The creature let out a hideous shriek, the blood pouring onto the ground from the open gash.
Things were not looking right for him, and the thing was going to finish him off in a frenzy of rage. He made a dash for the two giant trees a few meters ahead, and felt the ground shake as the creature dashed after him. He stopped, whipped around in an instant, and fired his pistol at the creature’s legs. The bullets hit the thing’s legs and chest, and halted its furious chase, but only for an instant. It struggled up on all fours, and its bloodshot eyes continued to fixate on him, slobbery saliva drooling from its agape mouth. It let out another roar, and ran at him again.
He was running out of options, and continued for the trees. However, a huge shadow blotted out the moonlight, and the beast appeared in front of him the next moment. Startled, he fell back on his behind. The creature took a great lunge at his legs with its jaw, but he did a somersault on the ground, lifting his legs over him and getting up on the surface in an instant. He thrust the machete at its face, and the steel met flesh, making a mark on the creature’s snout. The creature snapped at the machete, getting a firm grip on the weapon, and fiercely dragged it away from his hands. He held on to the weapon too tightly, and the momentum caused him to fly back a few feet towards the middle of the clearing, falling hard on his back.
Dazed, he sat up and cleared his head; the machete rested somewhere in the bushes; the gun was near the beast; he was defenseless now. The beast stared at him hungrily, a triumphant look on its eyes; he scrambled backwards on his legs, his hands searching for something to fight it off. He heard another roar, and at the same time his right palm felt something cold. The next instant, the creature was on him, its jaws ready to take off his head. But he was faster – he shoved the huge torch into its mouth, trapping its jaws wide open.
The creature left him alone for an instant, maddeningly trying all it could to wrench the torch embedded between its jaws. He didn’t hesitate for an instant, and ran to the spot where his pistol laid. He took aim and fired shots into the creature’s hind knees, causing it to collapse hard on the forest ground. He walked to where it laid, and aimed the gun at the spot between its eyes. “Eat this!” he murmured, as the gun shot echoed through the woods.
The ordeal over, he heaved a sigh of relief and inspected himself. He grimaced at the amount of blood on his hand, which thankfully wasn’t his. Opening up his backpack, he fished out a few things. He changed from his perspiration soaked and torn shirt into a clean crisp white one, and dressed up the bruises on his thighs and left elbow. He searched the area for his machete, found it nestled in a clump of thorny bushes, and cautiously extricated it from its place. When he was ready to carry on, he went to where the dead beast laid, and gave a curious glance at the strange specimen. He tried to take out the torch from the thing’s mouth, and was able to do so only after prying open the thing’s jawbones with a sickening crack. A glance at his watch told him it was 18 minutes to midnight. He had to find the place Henry was last found at, before dawn broke.
The forest beheld his view as he stood in front of the gnarled trees which marked the solitary entrance to the pit of the eerie jungle. The moon shone bright silver even at 6.30 in the evening, illuminating the violet coated sky with streaks of white, as bats noisily flapped over the gigantic trees which loomed over the entire canopy against the silent sky. A faint North-Easterly wind drifted through the air, and the dry brown bushes rustled noisily in harmony with the draught, accompanied by the strange howling sounds which you would hear in a typical eerie forest setting at night.
Legend has it that the forest, Furchtloser Wald(Fearless Forest), hid many secrets and creatures which one would normally associate with the fantasy stuff written for kids, a la Harry Potter. Many brave men have dared to enter it, but no one had come out of it alive yet. However, a Brit adventurer, Henry Summers, who had ventured into the forest 7 years ago, had sent a radio call “The foray into the forest is fraught with danger, but once you muster all obstacles, you come to a point where you become scared of nothing, knowing you have seen it all…….”. A second later, the sound of the radio hitting the ground was heard, and that was the last anyone heard from him.
Now, it was his turn to uncover the mystery behind Henry’s words. He looked behind his back at the crowd of onlookers, comprising of the locals and media persons, who had come to check on one of those crazy fellas hungry for some publicity. He gave a confident smile for the benefit of the cameras, while turning a deaf ear to the questions darted at him by the reporters. He had visited several parts of the world, and his achievements were widely known. However, this forest would truly be his crowning glory, and he was certain of it.
He silently stepped forward onto the muddy path, oblivious to the murmurs of the crowd and the maddening flashes of the camera behind him. With practiced breathing, he kept his mind fresh and alert; his left hand gripped a huge beam torch, directing a bright yellow beam ahead of him on the path. His other hand held a machete, to slice through the dense undergrowth and also serve as a handy weapon against unexpected adversaries. His ears straining for any odd sounds, his eyes directly following the field of vision ahead of him, his rubber boots cushioning the sound of his footfalls, he steadily made his way through the trees, hacking at a few stray branches obstructing his path.
He trudged through the mass of vegetation for some miles, without any incident. Spotting a fallen branch nearby, he walked up to it and sat on it, slinging his backpack by his side. His watch told him he had been walking for an hour and 13 minutes, and yet he felt he had only scratched the radius of the forest. He had no clue as to what lay in store for him, and the very thought of this sent a rush of adrenaline through his brain. By intuition, he fished out his Sig Sauer PG226 pistol, and slid in into his belt. Gulping a few sips of water, he got up and began his trip into the heart of the devil.
He soon lost track of time, and there was nothing dangerous except for some rodents hiding among the bushes, and strange birds squawking in shrill voices. Soon he came to a secluded spot, where the ground was bare and bereft of grass or bushes. He looked up and perceived the silhouette of the trees swaying back and forth, the moonlight flashing through their leaves on the ground like a weak disco light. A huge grey owl stared at him from atop a branch, its huge bulbous eyes scrutinizing the intruder in its lair. After a few seconds, It ignored him and continued feasting on the small creature entrapped in its talons.
She waited anxiously in front of the operation theatre, her face bearing signs of anxiety and fear. Things had been happening to fast in the last 1.5 hours, and she had not yet recovered from the unexpected incident in the Pebbles cinema.
She and Lucius had been together for several months, and she loved him a lot. He was spontaneous and funny, and most importantly, she found him understanding and easy going. He was always there for her, and often put up with her occasional childishness, and never raised a word against her. They had been courting each other for four months, and she had never been so happy in her life.
She broke into tears, as a wave of memories washed through her brain. Please, let nothing happen to him. she prayed silently. The operator theatre light was still on, and she couldn’t see what was going on inside. However, she could hear Lucius’s scream of pain, and the noise gave her goosebumps. She took stock of her emotions, and her mind rewinded to what had happened 90 minutes back.
She and Lucius had been watching the movie “Finding Nemo” at the Pebbles cinema, when she felt him shift uncomfortably in his position.
“What’s the matter, Lucius?” she enquired.
“Nothing, honey. Just a little pain in my belly. Must be the oysters we had for lunch…” he replied, hunching over towards the ground.
“Oh! Shall we leave? Let’s go home.” she nudged him.
Lucius didn’t reply. He fell over, and moaned in pain. “Aargh! It hurts!” he groaned, clutching his stomach. Panic swept over her, as she tried comforting him, gently stroking his head. “Get the ambulance!” someone in the background yelled.
In an hour, Lucius found himself in the operating room, leaving her outside, her face creased with despair and anxiety.
The door to the operating theatre opened, shaking her out of her stupor. The doctor moved over to her, and removed his mask.
“Lucius is fine” he smiled. “And the best news is, you are now a proud mommy!”
Relief flooded her heart, and she was still unable to believe the good news. “Can i see him now, doctor?” she said in a weak voice.
“Of course!” he beckoned towards a room next to the OT. She veered to the room, and looked through the glass window where Lucius laid on a soft bed, and next to him were three small cradles. She opened the door silently, and strode to her mate’s bed.
“Honey! You have made me a proud mommy!” she said excitedly, throwing glances at her cute babies. Lucius smiled weakly in reply, and held her limb gently. She sat in front of him, and the couple continued to hold limbs, not uttering a word.
Mr. Sturgeon, the doctor, smiled to himself, as he watched the seahorses admire their fledglings.