The further up-river we had driven the more we had felt the VW straining against a different-textured sand, more refined. The VW bogged down. Again and again. My friend’s idea made sense,

“Whichever of us is driving the Bug while the other pushes it, the driver must not slow the vehicle, no matter what.”

Simple enough. . . The guy behind the car, the one pushing, will likely hoof his way out, reuniting with car and driver out on the bank. We could then happily leave our water-less tributary behind us. We simply had to get the VW out of here and back to the dusty road. All this, of course, in the dead of night.

My turn to push.

“Come on, little bug”, I coaxed, my energy seeming to drain out my boot soles. John’s foot to the accelerator, the vehicle picked up speed.

Good”, I panted, “keep going, keep going.” Traction picked up and my Kiwi partner shifted to second gear. The car was on its way. My reserves now spent, I couldn’t marshal strength needed to leap aboard the rear bumper as I had wanted. Unreasonable thought.

Shoulders adroop, I waved John on. The car gained more speed and as the distance between us grew I remembered our pledge. . . Keep the car in motion. The bug mustn’t slow and risk her tires spinning again into “stuck” mode. And I remembered another thing. This is Africa’s Wild, I’m in. Where the term “ferocious” links itself to many names in the animal kingdom.

My panting slowed and I squinted, surveying what landscape I could yet make out. Sketchy outlines of treetops marked what I knew to be distant river banks at either side. Apart from this, everything between the forests and myself was entirely dark. A cry of some undefined animal sounded from a distant place.

Turning to the direction of the vehicle, I watched the car grow smaller – the space between it and me widening. Nothing captures the isolation I felt when that car passed out of view, its dwarfed taillights vanishing around a bend far up-river. The motor sound faded. Softened further, then went silent. The dark about me seemed tangible, so much I knew I could feel it. My body tightened.

I was afraid. I had never been more afraid.

©2017 Jerry Lout



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