My close call with death










I knew it was the wrong way to go from the beginning but did my mother listen?


Of course not.

It’s a hazy memory at best, given I was only 12 years old and the rainforest was misty. The day had started well, few arguments were had and we had equipped ourselves for the long haul. Well, the long haul we thought we were going to take, but my mother had other plans.

As soon as we had entered the translucent doors of the rainforest everything around us changed. The air had seemed to hum with the life of a thousand cicadas. Tendrils of searing heat snaked through the protective canopy grabbing and burning any limbs mercilessly and illuminating the vicinity. Mosquitoes and shiny shelled backed insects latched onto bare body parts drawing crimson from pulsating veins, regardless of the copious amounts of noxious bug spray we had coated ourselves in earlier. We were enveloped in a cloud of sticky heat, the oxygen thickened with moisture tugging at the air; it had felt like a watery weight on our backs. Heat encouraged sweat from pores of those who wanted it the least and proceeded to plaster hair to foreheads and shirts to backs. Green hues were ubiquitous,  tangled vines,  dangling leaves, blankets of moss even the water painted with the glow of the rainforest. Some areas, lucky enough to not be the sun’s next victim, were shrouded in shadow emphasising the scratched  words in the bark encrusted with old stories.

The aroma that assaulted our nostrils was a fusion of dense humidity and sweat with underlying tones of eucalyptus. The scent situated itself within us for the duration of the day never once leaving our system or allowing us a proper lungful of air. It was never quiet, every now and again we heard the tweeting  call of a parakeet attempting to show dominance over us  and others of its kind but the sound it made with the other birds was so harmonious to our ears we wished they would never stop. Drips of condensation and dew echoed around the forest walls syncopating to the sound of the parakeets so that the rainforest created its own symphony. Though from my memory that sound so fluid and musical is vanquished when my father’s giant unassuming head finds its way into a giant spider’s web home to an even bigger spider. His shrieks scared off the birds but invigorated our family with laughter so we were never too unhappy about the sound stopping.

Monkeys, with curious expressions etched into their features, scrutinised us from the looming trees. Ready to steal our food like a seagull catching sight of  ice cream, but that’s a story for another time.

After having acquainted ourselves with this otherworldly place we  came to a split in the already obscured path.

This is when it all started to go wrong.

Originally my family and I were meant to follow down the right path to the suspension bridge but given we had walked that trail prior to this expedition my mother thought it would be a great idea to follow down the left path. Sceptical at first we questioned whether that was a good idea and, given the left path certainly didn’t look amiable, I protested. But after rebutting my pleas they decided to take the treacherous left path.

This path was considerably darker than the rest. The seeking sunlight didn’t once penetrate the thick canopy, I took this as already a bad sign. This intuitive feeling didn’t once stop gnawing at my stomach producing acidic bile that rose up my throat as we paced forward. I think the second bad sign was the sound, more like the lack thereof. Unlike the earlier raging musical number the rainforest provided, now it was completely silent and still as if all the creatures had had the same bad feeling as I and were in their right mind to escape. And, of course, they weren’t being dragged forward by a mother who blatantly had no sense of the difference between safety and danger.

The air grew thicker so it was more water vapour than oxygen, making it increasingly harder to breathe, which was a problem as my breathing rate increased with my racing heart. They were the soundtrack of this new section of the forest. The adrenaline had magnified my senses so my head jerked with every slight rustling in the undergrowth and the sweat that once plastered my hair to my neck was now pooled in my palms.

The path grew thinner. Overhanging branches reached out to graze our heads and arms, pulling and tearing at clothing. Again I suggested we should turn around before we got lost, my brother now supported me. But our pleas fell on deaf ears, she was impervious to our calls.

We all stilled when we heard a distinct sound emanating from the treetops. Cautiously looking up we all saw a few monkeys resting in the trees staring down at us. Their beady ebony eyes inspected  our appearance and decided if we were a threat or not. They called to one and other in a fascinating display of sounds, though these are more harsh than the tweeting bird calls earlier having a jarring effect on my senses. We all stared in amazement.

Except for my mother.

Instead of just looking and observing like any kindly stranger is instructed to do, my mother, now obviously insane, decided to call out to these monkeys. And not just once. But three times. As if mocking them. From a distance it only looked like one or two monkeys were lounging in the treetops, so maybe they weren’t really a danger. But oh no. Given my family’s luck over the years there were many more. So many more.  Now, my mother must have said something highly offensive in monkey speak given that the monkeys, now multiplying in great numbers,   proceeded to disentangle themselves from the branches and slide down to greet us. Though I didn’t think it was a friendly hello at all. Unless friendly in the rainforest is guttural hissing and large man eating bared teeth, that may or may not have been able to swallow my family whole and use my me and my brother as hors d’oeuvres.

At least twelve of these frightening creatures spread out on the dirt tracked floor in almost hunting formation. My mother now finally coming to her senses suggested fearfully that we should probably start to make our way back. Synchronously, we all start with a slow determined pace to make our escape, but the monkeys follow suit on the ground and in the trees above. Ready to snatch us up like ninjas before anyone else noticed.

And in that moment, I think this was one of the first times in my existence that I truly feared for my life.

Increasing in speed we turned back around to where we could find and exit. My dad and brother, now very spooked, both picked up hulking fallen tree branches from the floor and wielded them as if they were Bruce Lee. One of them was  at the front, one of them at the rear protecting us from oncoming attacks. My eyes were on the trees and my mother, now finally lucid, watched ahead for an exit.

After a while of speed walking and anxious looks over the shoulder we came back to that two way path, though we had no time to stick around. Still apprehensive of deadly monkey attacks we scurried with the colossal sticks back to the car. We discarded the sticks right outside and jumped into the safety of the vehicle, my dad wasted no time putting his foot on the pedal and putting as much distance as necessary between us and that monkey kingdom.

At least I think my mum has learned her lesson now.

Don’t commune with nature you never know what’s listening.






image: ninja

courtesy of: nobody knows


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