Chapter Fifteen

Fox Island

Fox Island

Chapter 15

The world was amorphous. All was black and incomprehensible. His body floated like an astronaut lost inside a black hole, an endless void of weightlessness and breathless fear. He threw his arms and legs about wildly; no idea at knowing if he was swimming upward toward oxygen or downward to his grave. He bumped into something and fought it with his fists but found nothing in its place. 

He caught sight of brilliant beams of light shimmering through the lily-pads and dissecting the surrounding water. The stocks grew dozens of feet up through the world around him, before bursting into magnificent white flowers. He swam through the leaves before hitting his head against the limestone ceiling overhanging the cenote. He swam toward the light under the sun, out into the pool among the lily-pads.

His leg wrapped in a firm grasp, and his body jerked underwater. The man was fighting with him again—his arms and legs around him, choking the life out. He wondered if this was the end—if this was how all of it finally came to a head. He stared forward into the burly stocks of lily-pads. It was a miserable way to die. It achieved nothing. 

His abdomen thrust forward from the man squeezing and pushing on him. Then the grip became loose. He pulled the arms away from his neck. The water turned red. He spun round and saw the man’s face. It was ugly, full of horror and hatred—the face of a man whose purpose is to abominate, wielding power like a toy who has realized his life was the product of deception and evil disposition—a lie spun on him from childhood. He wasn’t special, and he wasn’t worthy anymore. A pair of massive white and black jaws locked onto the skull. The brilliant teeth crushed the horrified face into two and blood exploded under the black water. 

He swam to the surface, fought his way through the lily-pads, and pulled himself up to the roots of the jungle. The water was red and black. At the center was a great black caiman, fifteen feet long. Its tail caressed the water with the grace of a dancer. In its jaws were the dead man.

He stared in the beast’s eyes. They were black and blood ran down the speckled jaws. He had seen an animal stare at him this way before—full of resolve and nobility. It was the king of this pool, king of this jungle, waiting in its lair for a sacrifice. The beast lowered its back and sank below the surface with its meal. 

A spear landed at his side and lodged into a thorny thicket. Three hunters were on top of the precipice under the ficus. Two were staring at the bloody water in disbelief. A bow pulled, and an arrow strung, but he was back in the jungle, racing for the beach as hard as he could. 

He was back at the place he called home. Time, rain, and nature beat his paths, but they could not destroy them. He raced quicker than before and the cool water refreshed his wounds.

The hunters were faster, but he knew his next step before they did. He flashed past the rucksack tree and into his runs along the beach, heading south, past the very first mango tree and north again along the dense forest line, before he burst out of the tree-line and saw it: the ceiba tree.

She stood tall and brilliant, adorned in elegance and motherly wisdom. Her shade a perfect reminder of her grace and fortitude. She had been waiting, always waiting, for her child to return and rest again. 

But he wouldn’t relish her beauty and magnitude; under the tree waited two more villagers. They lunged at him with reckless hatred while the other three came bounding from the jungle and joined the scuffle.

The wind swept up and the ceiba bent over from the weight of its breath. The leaves trembled and screamed; sand threw everywhere, blinding the hunters. 

They were at him again. He was on the ground now. Kicked and beaten, madly. Someone reached down and drove a sandy hand inside his hip. A foot dislocated his jaw. Another jab. Another pummel. Another kick. 

Lightning splintered across the sky. Rain fell. 

The storm was brutal, pounding the hunters; the wet weakened their blows. He gasped for air and held onto the last of his life, curled in the sand. This was it. The moment at last. 

He was floating above his body, looking down at the pitiful bloody corpse being kicked and spat on; it didn’t even look like a man anymore. 

The hunters stopped. They gave up their wrath and looked at the horizon in astonishment, mouths agape. 

Air filled his lungs and he was in his body once more. He could feel his heart beating and his back bleeding. He took his hands from around his head and looked up. The five men were hovering nearby, but completely disinterested in him. And then the sound shook the beach. 

The great horn blew from the mammoth creature, breathy and metallic. It came from the ocean. 

“Jikarai is coming!” They cried, fleeing into the jungle. 

He lay motionless, collecting his consciousness, before sitting up with the toil of an elderly dying man, arms shaking underneath him and legs bruised and broken. He crawled on his stomach to the canoe.

The vessel was ready. Patched and prepped, stored with rope, flax, sack, and an oar. He pushed with his all his might and life seeped from his bones. Years of life escaped him with every inch moved; with every foot closer to the water, his soul left the corpse on the beach. But he had to get into the ocean. In the water was freedom; a chance to live. 

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