85 - The Man In The Clinic

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The Narrator

Jackson King stumbled as he tried to catch hold of a branch. He looked frail and thin. He hadn't been eating well these days. Many days had passed since he separated from his group, and more days had passed since the children on the bus first slipped. He didn't know where he was. One cannot really tell where they are when they are stuck in a forest as thick as the one he is.

The ground below him was damp and the usual scent of rain saturated the air. His legs were bruised, a result of the many falls he had while climbing to grab some berries from the trees above, or from trying to navigate through the unreliable terrain of the forest.

Two days ago he found a freshly skinned and fleshed human skeleton in this forest. He feared that it might be one of his friends that he lost when the mist obscured his view or that it might be the bones of one of Kirt and the others who chose to stay inside the bus.

Almost a month had passed since they first arrived in Bolivia. Little did Jackson know that going to that camp was deadly. 

Despite the feelings of fear and dread that weighed him down, Jackson was optimistic out of getting out, of getting in contact with policemen, of going home. This hopefulness motivated him as he trekked through the forest.

Surprisingly he never encountered any monster or wild animal. He had been looking forward to coming in contact with a jaguar or mammal of that sort. But, strangely, none passed by him. 

He ate mostly the berries on the trees. Those red ones that grew in the weeds that wrapped around the tall trees of the forest proved to be fairly palatable, even delicious to the tongue of one assailed by the fierce, unforgiving pangs of hunger. 

This day, he was continuing his trek. He had rested the previous day because of incurring diarrhea from eating the wrong species of fruit. It had been a terrible experience. When he had gotten better, he decided to continue to walk towards civilization.

The area he was walking in was thick. He had to push away branches that were blocking his path. There was no way he could walk around the thicket for the entire rainforest was one big thicket, dark and lonely. 

He stopped. He could hear something familiar. Voices, ones of those he knew. He first hesitated to look for the source of the noise, but then the more he listened to the conversation of someone in the distance, he could recognize the voices; they seemed to belong to those he knew.

He began walking in the direction of the conversation, the louder the noise grew as the pursued the voices. The pursuit brought him into a clearing surrounded by a wall of thickets, formed by tall trees that stand sentinel, like giants, the ones of fantasy novels.

Then he was puzzled. The noise came from beneath the ground. He walked closer. There it was: a pit. And in the pit lay Hernanda Wilkinson and Timothy McAllister.

"Hernanda? Timothy?" King called.

***

Felipe was driving down a road that was being fixed. Recovery was slow but not absent in that region, which was faced by the recent earthquakes. 

"I am relieved that those terrorists in the jungle are killed," he says to Bernardo. "You did well. Killing them took a lot of time for the military."

"Thank you, sir."

"Now we have to think about going into the forest."

Bernardo said nothing, he just looked on. 

"Let's cut the idea of getting more experienced people. It's too difficult logistically to get that to work. Let's simply try again. Tomorrow evening, come to my office. Let's draft a plan."

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