Cal walked towards the light that he had seen, it wasn’t too close but it wasn’t that far either. He struggled as he pushed aside the springy branches of the mangroves, cursing as he stepped onto the aerial roots that stabbed at his feet. He blundered through the swamp like an enraged buffalo through a china shop, following the light. It seemed to be moving and would occasionally wink out, the first time this happened Cal almost lost it again but it winked back in a moment later before he could surrender to the panic.
He was steadily gaining on the light, as he started to hear the quiet burble of water. He was nearing the beach, which while he would no longer be lost wasn’t exactly any safer then where he was now. Caliban was hyper focused on the water around him, dreading hearing a splash that would indicate the presence of a crocodile stalking him.
All of a sudden the light source stopped moving and flicked towards where Cal was, it’s intensity ramping up as it was shone directly into the bush where he was crashing through, just as he burst through the last of the mangrove trees and out onto the beach. Blinded by the light Cal raised his hand up in front of his face as he squinted, peering around his hand out towards the light that was blinding him, relief at finding the presence of other human beings.
Moments later the light snapped off and Cal was plunged back into darkness, functionally blind as all of a sudden hearing chattering in a language that he didn’t understand but was incredibly distinct.
Standing about twenty meters away from Caliban was a group of young tribesmen who were out spear fishing. They had been using the big spotlight to scan the water down below the rocks as they gathered food, which was what had drawn Caliban to them. The young men were dressed quite traditionally with a red bandanna wrapped around their heads and another cloth that was wrapped securely around their loins.
Cal was both fortunate that they had been out fishing, but also quite unlucky as what he didn’t know was that they had been fishing for the offerings that would serve as proof of their worth that would see them recognized as full adult tribesmen in tonight’s initiation ceremony.
At first they were stunned by the sudden appearance of the overweight white man who had suddenly appeared out of nowhere on their land. This disbelief paralyzed them for the minute that it took for Cal’s eyes to readjust to the moonlight being reflected off the ocean, the blindness giving way to the sight of four stunned young men.
Cal looked at each of the young men and for a moment it was like they were all frozen in a singular moment in time. Then that moment ended as Cal took a deep breath and went to speak. That small movement was all it took to break the moment, the next erupting in shouts of anger from the youths and rapid fire words snapped out with some english mixed in. Just enough english that Cal didn’t have a hope at understanding what they were saying.
“Whaatt?….” Cal stuttered out before he saw two of the young men bring their spears up and step forward, the threat clear and present as they radiated their hostility as they brandished their weapon aggressively. The tiredness and the pain in his legs and feet forgotten as his brain shut down, one thought and one thought only in his head.
Cal scrambled to get away from the young men as one of them let out a whoop of joy. He plunged back into swamp barreling through, no longer careful to avoid the aerial roots, trampling over them; sometimes injuring himself in the process. He didn’t know how but he knew that they had spread out and were hunting him.
Maybe it was a million years of hominid evolution which collected all the sensory inputs that he was no longer consciously aware of and combined them into one instinctual sense of awareness that recognized a pack of predators. He was aware of where the young men were as they easily kept pace with his inept attempt to evade them. Even as the chafed skin broke and bled he still pushed himself forward.
Cal heaved and sucked air in as he continued to scramble, he realised he wasn’t going to last much longer going as he was, he saw a stand of cycads clustered about on a elevated patch of ground and lunged for it, he could use the thick fibrous trunks of the trees to stymie his pursuers for a moment so he could regain his breath and try to talk it out with them.
He didn’t know why they had immediately resorted to violence, he knew he was on their land but if he could just explain what was going on he could to talk them, or at the very least try and get them to direct him how to get out of this fucking swamp.
He moved around, keeping the tree trunks between him and the young men as they spread out around the corpse of trees.
“Please…” he huffed, “I…got lost….I’m sorry.”
One of the young men grabbed the others spear and said something to him, but the other one shook him off with a burst of words and then his arm whipped out and the next thing that Cal knew his back was against one of the trees and the wicked tri-tipped spearhead was sticking out of his gut.
“Juki…what you do” the teen who had tried to dissuade his friend from further anger cried out.
The teens were stunned at Juki’s actions, they knew he hated the white man bad after his father had died in custody last year, but they had only gone along with his desire to teach this white man a lesson in fear for daring to step onto their land on their sacred night. The spears that had been raised in anger were lowered as Cal stumbled off into the bush, the young men arguing amongst each other. Some were afraid that now they too could be taken by the police.
“No trouble if that white fella just disappeared.” Juki tried to persuade his friends, putting out a possible solution to the trouble while his friends were even more shocked about what he was proposing.
“No Juki, this gone too far.” Noah argued back. “Ahh shit, where he go now. Spread out, find him” Noah told the other two who dashed out into the night while Noah stepped in front of Juki to prevent him from causing any more trouble.