Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write for the ACTION and/or ADVENTURE Genre (11/13/14)
- TITLE: Chomped
By Jack Taylor
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The moment my foot sank an inch into the spongy mass I should have stopped. “Njoroge,” I called to my broad-shouldered Kenyan friend. “Isn’t this hippo territory?”
“Hakuna Matata, rafiki” [no worries my friend]. Njoroge had the confidence of George Patton leading his troops into battle. Dreadlocks swung like a pendulum as he rocked his head, rolled his shoulders and flashed that Colgate smile. “The waterbuck are just ahead. See, here are the droppings. Fresh.”
“They’re probably trying to hide from those thunderclouds coming over Mount Longonot.” The rolling black mass clawing back the blue sky over the ancient volcano on the Rift Valley floor seemed to be coming our way quickly.
“Hakuna Matata, Richawd.” Njoroge picked up some of the bush buck droppings, rolled them in his fingers, smelled them, and then tossed them deeper into the papyrus choking the lakeside. “Some fresh, some not so fresh. This is the way they always come.”
I stepped gingerly through another squishy spot and then swung my camera to capture the image of a Black Heron in flight, one of 350 bird species in the area. “Njoroge, why do Black Herons put their wings over their heads to feed?”
“Richawd,” Njoroge whispered back, his dark eyes furrowing. “God made them that way. If the bush bucks hear us they will run. Follow me slowly by slowly.” He ducked under an arch of fallen papyrus reeds.
A spider web wrapped itself around my head like a knitted cap and the three inch web creator scrambled down the side of my face and under the collar of my shirt. The trickle off my brow no longer seemed linked to the sweltering heat that sucked my energy dry. My Nikon crashed to the soggy floor. “Njoroge, a giant spider just ran down my shirt.”
“Hakuna Matata, Richawd.” He swung his machete and cleared away the archway. “Better than up your shorts. Maybe he is hungry. I think you can spare a few inches for him before the mosquitoes get you.”
My buttons decided today would be a good day to stiffen up as I tried to undo them without putting pressure on the material covering my neck and shoulders. The area under my shirt grew itchy. Little feet seemed to scurry down toward my armpit. “Njoroge, I need your help.”
The stocky Kenyan rocked his dreads back and forth as if considering my request. Finally, he nodded, stepped forward and said “where is he?”
I pointed toward my armpit. He grabbed my arm, moved it slightly and then slapped me hard right where I had indicated. The shock paralyzed my voice and I just let out a solid “hummpphh.”
A thunderous “hooossshh” sounded a few feet to my left. Njoroge disappeared into the papyrus ahead of me without even looking around. A pair of love birds launched out of the reeds and then ducked back in as a hawk swooped low overhead. My shoe almost got sucked off as I launched after Njoroge.
The words of my former guide erupted like a volcano from my brain, “I’m not going in there. Hippos are one of the most aggressive, unpredictable, dangerous killers of humans in the country. They will go after you for no reason. They can chase you down on a short run. After elephants and rhinos, they’re the biggest. When the ivory teeth of a one-and-a-half ton crushing machine focuses on you, run faster.”
An Olympic gold medal seemed within reach for the first hundred yards despite the endless forest of reeds blocking the way.
Then the soggy floor disappeared and I stepped into nothing but lake. A sound, like giant hogs rooting for acorns, rolled out from the mass nearby. Having lost a friend to a crocodile, swimming the lake wasn’t an option. I scrambled back up onto the island mass and found my footing.
The solid wall of papyrus crashed down on me like an imploding building. The thunder overhead blended with the mind-numbing roar of a killer about to chomp. I rolled to my right until I was wedged in by a thick patch of reeds.
I crawled faster than any spider as I eased my way out of the fallen reeds and then scrambled to my feet and raced into any spaces I could find. The crashing behind was deafening.
After twenty minutes of terror I emerged shirtless and bloodied. Njoroge collapsed to the ground laughing. “Rafiki, I said quietly. Now, we will never find the bush bucks.”
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