57 - The Village On The Hill

46 9 6

Hernanda Wilkinson

The boys dragged the raft deeper into the bank from the river. We had to cut short our voyage out of the forest because of the signs of an impending storm. By the time we dragged the raft to the bank, it began to pour heavily. We were getting wet. The rain was so heavy that when we spoke to each other we couldn't hear each other. We were completely drenched within two minutes of the rain.

"What are we gonna do?" I asked Kirt, clearing my wet hair from blocking my view.

"I couldn't get you Hernanda. Can you speak louder?"

Raising my voice I repeated, "What are we going to do now?"

"I think we wait for the rain to stop," said Kirt.

"In this storm?" I said in a raised voice.

"I fear so. We can't do anything. We can't build a shelter in this storm" he said.

Timothy then said, "If we can't build one, we can certainly stay in one"

"What do you mean?" Kirt asked.

Timothy pointed diagonally upwards. Kirt, Alice and I looked up in the direction he was pointing in. Through some gaps in the canopy formed by the trees, I could see some mud huts on top of a hill.

"Wow, you've got a keen eye," complimented Kirt.

We walked through the forest, vainly shielding our already drenched hair from the rain with our rainsoaked hands. The winds started blowing once again, pushing the trees and their branches, and stripping them of a few leaves. The wet forest floor we walked on felt like walking on a carpet. The mud was soft and we sunk a wee little bit when we planted our feet on it. Our boots were dirty. Kirt was grateful to Amor for his boots because it was because of Amor that he found them after losing them near the place where he found Francisco Adelante's corpse. Poor Kirt. I could tell that at the back of his head he still missed Amor.

The climb to the top of the hill was hard even though the hill wasn't unscalably steep. The wetness of the hill's surface was to blame for the difficulty. Combine wet mud with fungi growing on the surface, and you would get a slope where you would slip every five minutes. Despite the challenges, we wrestled with the elements to climb up. In our minds was the goal of reaching the village. It was inhabited and it would be a source of security and food, or so we thought.

While the others went ahead, AnnSophia and I were at the tail of the pack. We were the ones who were struggling the most to climb. We thought that we were the ones slowing the entire group's progress. Just after we were overtaken by Alice and Shifaly who went ahead of us, we saw a bunch of the fruits in a bush somewhere on the slope. While the others advanced, AnnSophia and I stopped to check the fruits. We gently pushed our hands through the spaces between the many thorns of the bush and plucked a fruit from the bunch. I took it in my hand and smelled it. It had the same strawberry-like scent as the fruit that AnnSophia asked Shifaly to collect while we were building the raft. We smiled at each other when we realized what fruit it was: we discovered what would be our dinner. We bagged as much fruit as we could.

Looking at the rest of the group, we found that everyone was climbing at a different pace. Kirt and Timothy were at the head of the pack, as usual; they were near the top of the hill where the village was. Shifaly was just behind Timothy. Everybody else was at different spots on the part of the slope above the spot where AnnSophia and I were.

"Phew!" I heaved a sigh of relief when AnnSophia and I finally reached the top of the hill.

Kirt and everybody else who reached the top before AnnSophia and I stood looking at the view from the hill. Once AnnSophia and I reached the top, we joined the others in admiring the view. It was beautiful. We saw the windings of the river. We saw the fresh green canopies of the trees. We saw the silhouettes of hills taller than the one we were on, in the distance. The rain reduced to a drizzle by the time we were on the hill, and the wind began caressing us gently. We panted as the sweat on our faces mixed with the rainwater and flowed off our skin. I scanned the scenery once again, absorbing the calmness it radiated. My eyes looked at the hills, the river, the bank, and the place where we landed and disembarked from our raft. The raft? Where was the raft? I remembered getting off it, but looking at my classmates, I discovered that none of them had carried the raft uphill with us. The only things related to the raft that we had on us were the paddles that we fashioned out of wood with the machetes. "Where is the raft?" I asked.

"What? Guys where is the raft?" repeated AnnSophia.

For a while, everybody was confused and concerned about where we had left the raft until Timothy responded, "Oh guys don't worry. Kirt and I tied it to a tree inland with some of the remaining rope that we had. It'll be safe. Nobody would probably come here in this weather."

"But Timothy, I think you should take it from there," said Alice.

"Why?" asked Kirt.

"We can't risk a termite infestation," Alice said.

"A termite infestation? But I don't think termites would infest a piece of wood that quickly. We'll be here just for a day right?" said Shifaly.

Kirt thought for a while. "Guys I think we should bring it up. It's better to keep the raft dry by keeping it under one of the huts"

"How will you take it?" asked AnnSophia Fabron.

"Wait, guys, I have something," said Shifaly. She took out a box of plastic wrap from her bag and smiled.

Kirt smiled because he knew what Shifaly was thinking: we could wrap the raft and shield it from the elements. We could do that instead of having to carry the raft uphill, only to carry it downhill once again when we were to continue our journey downstream.

While we waited at the top of the hill, overlooking the scenery, the boys went downhill to wrap the raft.

"Where in the world did you get that?" Alice asked Shifaly, with a chuckle.

"Oh. I brought it with me when I came to Bolivia because I store uneaten sandwiches by wrapping them with," Shifaly said with a smile.

The boys took an hour to return. During that time, we noticed that no one from the village approached us to greet us or confront us. It seemed like there was not a soul in that village. Nevertheless, none of us girls went inside to see if there were people inside. We waited for the boys to climb up before doing anything of that sort.

The boys were sweating and smelly when they came up. The rain had stopped by then, but the pause in rainfall only seemed like a temporary intermission between two heavy sessions of incessant rainfall.

"Oh boy you guys stink," said Alice.

"What do you expect? We smell like flowers?" said Rhett with a chuckle.

Once we were ready, we began knocking at the wooden doors.

"Hello? Is anyone there?" Kirt asked as he knocked on the door of the hut closest to ours. The door just opened. As we entered the hut, Kirt continued began to ask if there was anybody there in Spanish, "¿Hay alguien?" There was no response. Nobody was there in the hut. There was no furniture in there.

We searched through every hut yet found out there was no trace of humanity in the village. We went through every hut but were met with no response.

Finally, after checking the last hut, Kirt concluded, "It's an abandoned village."

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