14. Oui, Mon Général

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I kept my distance from the smelly cave entrance while we waited for the rain to end. It made me shiver. As a kid, I had always been scared of dark, cramped places, and I still was.

Farid put his head into the tunnel.

"You're sure you want to go in?" I had a vision of the thing swallowing him in a series of peristaltic motions.

He pulled back. "Not much to see, there's not enough light." He had to shout his words. The noise of the rain was deafening, and it made conversation difficult.

For a while, we just sat and watched the world drowning. 

We caught some of the drops with our hands, liking their moisture eagerly.

When the rain finally did stop, it went out quickly, like a shower turned off.

We left our hiding place and clambered up the steep slope. Once out of the ravine, we turned left, south, and from there we descended the more shallow incline towards the depression between the hills.

The sun broke through the clouds as we did so. The temperature climbed quickly, and where the sun's rays found the ground, steam rose. In response, the birds clamored loudly as if the sudden heat had driven them into a frenzy of disapproval.

Small rivulets and puddles glistened everywhere. We drank, with urgency. The fresh water tasted sweet in my dry throat. Once I had quenched my thirst, I felt much better. Yet, as we descended towards the camp, there was still a void in my stomach—a yearning one, demanding food.

Nita was the first to see us. "Megan, Farid." She stood beside Chris Pond and waved at us. Yves was beside her, his arm on her shoulder.

"Hey, Farid." The voice behind me made me jump. I turned. Bruna stood among the bushes with a faint smile on her lips. She emerged onto the riverbed, where the water was gurgling between the stones. "What happened to you?" She frowned as she gestured at the stains of blood on his shirt.

She wore her hair loose—its strands rested on her shoulders, coppery and damp from the rain.

"I got caught in a landslide," Farid said. "Then we spent some time under an overhang, waiting for the rain to stop." His face was neutral.

"Overhang?" Chris asked. He had approached from the campsite. "That sounds useful."

"Yeah." Farid nodded. "But it's useless... too hard to access. Wouldn't make for a good campsite."

"Is Pamela back?" I asked, looking at Chris.

He shook his head, eyes on the ground.

Dammit.


~~~


Physically, we all felt better as we sat around a smoky fire that night. The fresh water had helped to cleanse our digestive systems. I also had dared eat some more pieces of pandan fruit, but I still felt hungry.

At least, our bottles were full of fresh water.

Pamela hadn't returned, though, and her absence was a pall over the camp. I missed her.

"Maybe she got into a landslide, too," Chris said. "Then she fell into the sea."

The analytical, unfeeling words were delivered as if reciting company figures in a boardroom. Dammit, this was Pamela we were talking about.

"Makes sense." There was a finality in Bruna's low-pitched voice. Her hair was back in its ponytail.

"So, no more hiking on that mountain in the north," Chris said and looked at me.

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