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One Man Escape

By: DJ Dupas

Page 1, A man goes on a vacation which could unknowingly cost him his life.

 

Snap!  I stiffened; my body froze in an instant. I shut my eyes as tight as I could, grimacing at my mistake. I tried to make myself as small as possible, hunching my back, tucking my arms against my sides. I couldn’t let myself be seen. Small spots of perspiration had quickly turned into big drops of salty sweat, soaking my hair and dripping down my neck.  I wanted to wipe the stinging wetness from my eyes but I couldn’t. I couldn’t move. That stick breaking under my knee had made the loudest cracking noise I’d ever heard. It heard me. It could smell me. It knew my whereabouts. Any slight movement and it could see me. I have no chance of out-running a monster like this, but it could pounce at any moment. I can’t hide for much longer but no way in hell could I fight a thing like that and live. There’s nothing left to do. I’m trapped. Maybe it’s just fate that I die here tonight. I shuddered at the thought.

            I opened my eyes, one eye at a time, holding my breath. I watched with pupils big and black as the beast scanned the area. It’s thick tail swaying back and forth behind it, mesmerizing me. The only ray of light that made it through the thick, bushy trees was on the beast’s eyes, making them glisten in the darkness. As it got closer I could make out its powerful hind legs and its mouth slowly opening as a long, pink tongue swept over those black gums. It was licking its lips, it was expecting a meal! The animal was now bearing its teeth; each long, white spike could pierce through my arm with such a minimal force that the creature could generate.

            My breathing got heavier; in through the nose, out through the mouth, I told myself. I could feel the beat of my heart pounding, racing. Thud, thud. Thud, thud. I started to think about my life, my family and my friends, how little we’ve kept in touch lately. I would truly miss each and every one of them if something happened tonight. My girlfriend popped in my mind, our future kids, Halloween and Christmas. I want to go shopping with my kids for Halloween costumes! Finally I thought about death, about my own funeral. My casket, a dark room, full of people overflowed with sadness. Is there a heaven I will go to after this night of terror?

            The beast’s movements got slower now. Its whole back descended, shoulder blades showing above its head. I can see its tail brushing up against its body and leg as it continued to crouch. Sniff! Its head darted my way. Did it catch my scent? My knees started shaking beneath me, rocking left and right until they began hitting against each other. It was so close now I could catch a glimpse of its long, straight whiskers, its black and curious heart-shaped nose, its unforgiving eyes of death. Their blackness was like never-ending tunnels. I was staring my grim reaper straight in the eye!

            The great white beast growled but I couldn’t hear it. I could hear nothing, not a sound. My ears were pounding at my head like thunder to the rhythm of my heartbeat. Thud, thud. Thud, thud. Thud, thud.

The tiger’s paws got heavier in the dirt, its claws digging into the earth getting ready for an attack against its prey. There was no way this was really happening. It felt like a dream, a nightmare rather. Before I could realize it, one of nature’s most powerful beasts had begun its leap, the white furred and black striped tiger’s front paws leading the way in my direction. It was at this moment that I realized that my time on this planet was about to be over. I was a moment away from being cat food. My heart exploded, beating so fast it lost its rhythm. Thud, thud. Thud. Thud, thud.

These were the longest seconds of my life. My chest stopped pounding. I could feel the emptiness inside me. I could sense my life slipping away like a ticking clock. I couldn’t keep this up much longer. I closed my eyes, trying to accept what was about to come. A streak of wetness rolled down my cheeks and past my chin to the ground. Thud, thud. Thud, thud. Thu-.

 

*          *          *

 

            “How would you feel about going to a developing country and helping women and children, sick and poor, in ways that could save their lives? These kids, these women, these people, struggle every day, fighting to make ends, to make enough money for food to feed the family, fighting for just enough food to last them through the day to keep them alive until the night is over. They do all this and still end up the next day right back where they started. They don’t progress, there’s no ladder of social order where these people live. That’s why a few of us are flying to a small village in Costa Rica that gets overlooked by big foundations who support third world countries. We’re going for a couple of days to get involved. You should think about coming along, Jeff,” Annie explained kindly. “It’d be great to have you out with us.” She put her hand on my shoulder.

            I wasn’t sure how to answer. My response was more intended to humor her rather than actually being interested in joining.

            “When are you planning on leaving and for how long? What’s it going to cost? Where exactly are we going?”

             “Well James, Julie, Dave and I have already scheduled a flight for next week, Wednesday evening. We’re leaving in the evening so that we can sleep during the flight there and arrive the next morning to help right away.”

            “OK, sure. I’m interested.” I really wasn’t that interested at the time. “But I don’t have a lot of time to talk right now. Could you email me all the details about it? Then I can check my plans, see if I can make it and really have the chance to consider it.”

            “Absolutely” she replied cheerfully.

            “Great, thanks. I’ll make sure to check my emails either tonight or tomorrow night when I have time.” I smiled back politely; not letting her read through my facade to see my true intentions.

            “Oh, and Jeff,” she hesitated. The next part started as a stutter but got more fluent as she got more confident of what she was about to say. “I’m really glad that you’re sincerely thinking about joining us again. We missed you during the last one; it’s too bad it didn’t work out.”

            I couldn’t help myself from chuckling gently when she had to add that last part.

            “Thank you, Annie. Remember, email me the details. I’ll talk to you later.”

            “Bye!”

            This was just like Annie. She was always trying to find a new way to aid developing countries. She cared so much about helping the underprivileged. She wore bright colors most days and had a fairly perky personality. Her thick, round glasses and pigtails gave her that young, innocent schoolgirl resemblance. She was always raising money or food for charity, trying to get as many new people involved as possible. Annie, the philanthropist.

I was not seriously considering this event of hers but the last one I told her I would come to and ended up having to drop out almost last minute. My guilt was still shadowing me about that one, so when I got home that night I opened my emails and sure enough, there it was, with every detail I needed to stop me from asking questions. I read through it and took the whole scenario into consideration. I finally agreed to join her on this mission mostly because I wanted to see the jungles of Costa Rica and also because going would take all the weight off my shoulders from the last time I bailed on her.

            One week and two days later there I was. My bags were packed, toothbrush and toothpaste included. I was still unsure if I really wanted to go but it was too late now to try to turn back now. The private plane was all fired up now and ready to go, we just had to board.

            “It’s really nice that you’re coming.” Annie spoke with her sweet and innocent tone.

            Annie had had a crush on me since the first week we started working together. She has asked me several times to go on dates with her but I’ve had a girlfriend for over two years. Annie and I just weren’t going to happen, but I couldn’t never really tell her that straight up.

            “Yeah, thanks. I kind of owe it to you anyhow from the last time I had to cancel,” I said with much respect. I refused to let her find out my true feelings about the situation.

            After the entire luggage was finally loaded onto the plane, the five of us plus the two pilots and our assigned flight attendant took our seats. The seats weren’t very comfortable and that could be a problem. There was no way I was going to be able to get very much sleep during the flight if I had to spend seven hours on this uncomfortable seat.

            We departed just after nine o’clock that Wednesday night, closer to nine fifteen, to be exact. Seven hours was a long time. The flight was a bumpy one at first, but it calmed down a little later on. That was the time I was able to get most of my sleeping done. When we hit the seas I got a little queasy as the plane rocked slightly back and forth. Flying wasn’t my thing. I was a bit old fashioned and still believed that if men were made to fly, God would have made us with wings. Going through the sky was relatively new to me even in today’s society. All in all, however, the skies were pretty clear and the flight was fairly smooth.

            We arrived at our destination at around four thirty in the morning, there being no time difference between our home and Costa Rica. Just in time for breakfast; pancakes, toast, hash browns and eggs were on the menu this morning. We decided to eat in the plane first and then check in after. Breakfast being claimed to be the most important meal of the day, we needed to have a big, delicious early morning meal to start off our long day of aiding the people.

            We went straight to the volunteer site that was set up to find out all the details about what we will be doing to help in the next few days. We were pointed to a place to sleep, a place to eat and a place to bath.

            “This will be your home for as long as you’re staying with us,” our guide explained to us. “It should have everything you need but if not, then you can find me and let me know and I’ll try my best to get you whatever else it is that you need.”

            Thursday to Saturday is how long we stayed to help the people of the small village in the outskirts of Costa Rica. We aided the doctors to give patients their vaccines, we cooked and served food to the starving children and their families and we helped cloth and supply the cold, fragile people. We helped the elders by supplying permanent walking aids. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

            Every night, when each day came to an end, everyone headed back to our temporary home and lied down in our bunks for a moderately short and uncomfortable sleep. It was a similar routine every day and night that we were guests to this foreign land until the last day of our visit. On our last day we had a group vote to my idea of going on a tour of the jungle that was located only about a two-hour plane ride from the village we were supporting. Having our own personal jet with a fully qualified pilot was more than we could ask for. It made the trip ridiculously simpler.

            “Who’s in favor of going for a tour of Pacuare Jungle? It’s not even three hours away from here by plane and if we’re going to be in Costa Rica why wouldn’t we take advantage of this opportunity?”

            Everyone agreed to the thought that even though it wasn’t our purpose of coming, it would be a shame to leave without seeing one of the world’s most famous jungles. We decided as a group that it would probably work best if we stayed one more night where we were as long as our hosts were all right with us staying another night. We certainly did not want to take advantage of their hospitality.

            The next morning we got up bright and early and headed to the plane. I was pretty excited about going to the jungle, I had wanted to go since the first time I’d seen the movie Jungle Book when I was a kid. Baloo the bear was my favorite. I knew the tour of the jungle wouldn’t be anything like the movie, but the naive child in me was still hoping for such a thing.

            Everyone boarded the plane for the second time, found the same seats as the first time we had boarded the airplane and we put our seatbelts on.

            I scanned the area around me, everyone was ready to go. I looked at the attendant and smiled.

“Let’s go.” I wanted to get home to my girlfriend as quickly as possible but not before we had the chance to explore the jungle. And we were off.

            Just over two hours after take off the plane landed on a designated landing strip near the town called Siquirres in the Caribbean region of Costa Rica. When we got out we saw that there was a black Jeep waiting for us along with a young sir we had never met before. One by one we approached this Jeep that was big enough to fit seven people, likely it was sent to fit the five of us plus the driver with one additional seat. Sure enough, this was true. Once we arrived at the vehicle that would be our transportation for the next few hours, the man introduced himself as a worker from Pacuare Jungle. He said that his name was Guy, which was what was written on his nametag and told us that he was going to be our designated driver from here on until the tour was finished. We each took our turn introducing ourselves to Guy and got in the Jeep.

            Twenty-five minutes later we were at the entrance of the Pacuare Jungle. The jungle was even greater then I’d expected. We could see nothing but trees from where we stood at the moment. A lovely woman by the name of Jessica came shortly after our arrival to help us prepare for an entrance.

            “I’ll be your guide throughout the tour,” Jessica smiled, bearing her pearly whites proudly. “If you have a question about the jungle, I bet I can answer it. But first, we need to get ready for the jungle!”

            Jessica helped us get equipped with small packs and explained what the items were and their purpose. The pack contained things as simple as a water bottle, to things such as first aid supplies. She said that we rarely would need these packs; however, for liability reasons it was mandatory that we have one with each of us. After all the safety procedures had been followed and the safety lecture had been endured, our journey began.

            We were about a third of the way through when we had to start dodging sticks and even a few pebbles. Our attackers were several funny-looking monkeys.

“That, over there my friends, is a howler monkey. When a number of howlers let loose their lungs in concert they can be heard up to five kilometers away. But when they get angry, they sure do have a good arm for throwing things,” Jessica turned around so she could see our eyes when she spoke, unaware that we didn’t care much for the facts.

What seemed like out of nowhere, a falling black figure fell from a tree as we were passing by. It fell fast and hard, right onto the front of the Jeep and smashed the windshield. Everyone screamed; not because we were all scared, but because it was such a sudden shock. Guy and Jessica got out of the vehicle as fast as humanly possible to inspect. They knew what it was that had hit us and I could tell by the look on their faces once out of the jeep that the windshield wasn’t the only thing that was broken.

The monkey was badly wounded and needed immediate attention. There was a pit stop and an emergency exit halfway through which we had now been arranged to use. I guess our tour is over. Before taking off Jessica called the base with her walkie-talkie to inform the first-aid about the incident. There was going to be someone meeting us not far from where we currently were situated.

            The mid-point of the tour, which was now our end due to the monkey mishap, was another twenty-five minutes away from where the accident took place. We had driven fifteen of those minutes until something flashed in front of the road. Guy’s eyes lit up and he panicked, he tried every option he could think of to avoid the wild animal. He spun the wheel to the right, then to the left. He hit the accelerator out of reflex, and then hit the brakes but there was no slowing down. No stopping. Not until the front end of our vehicle collided with a tall, thick tree with a trunk so massive that we almost flipped forward.

The world stopped spinning for a minute, time froze. When my mind was functioning again to realize what had just happened the world was spinning too fast to see straight, almost too fast to breathe. I was so dizzy; nothing was in the same spot for more than a moment. Was I standing up, or sitting down? It felt more like I was on my head. I checked around for the others. My colleagues were already out of the vehicle, regaining their balance.

“Did that really just happen?” I could hear Annie’s voice, but everyone there was asking the same question.

One, two, three, four, five. Five? I looked back at the jeep. Being in the driver’s seat caused Guy to bang his head and he appeared to be knocked out. Jessica wasn’t looking any better. I checked the walkie-talkie. It was broken, smashed to pieces from the crash. Things weren’t looking very bright for us. At least we knew that we were only ten minutes away from help before we crashed. Another bright side is that if we can’t make it out in the next fifteen minutes then we can’t report in and they should know that we’re having difficulties and send someone out to help us. There is still hope!

There was still hope.

It was as if everyone was running the one hundred meter dash once we saw what was approaching. This was no Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. A savage looking tiger was making its way over to where we were. I was the last one to start running; I didn’t want to run at first, although I saw the tiger’s first giant stride and knew that it was its hunting time.

Dropping the broken walkie-talkie, I turned around and lowered my shoulders and started to sprint. I tried to stay on the designated path as long as I could. There were so many turns and the tiger was gaining ground by travelling through the trees. I couldn’t keep this up. I don’t know how long I could run for but I knew that it wasn’t longer than my chaser could. But what choice did I have at this point?

I searched for something, anything that could buy me some time, something that could give me a chance. A nook, a crevice, a small gap I could fit through. It’s unbelievably hard to find a hiding place while you’re sprinting as fast as you can. It’s even more difficult to find a place to hide in a jungle knowing if you slow down or don’t find what you’re looking for, that whatever is chasing you will end your life in a very painful way. Luckily for me I found one.

A small space I could crawl under and barely fit in. I didn’t look back, I knew it was there. Getting closer to me while I was trying my hardest to get further away from it.  I jumped through a pack of trees so that my hunter could no longer see me. I dropped to the ground and started to crawl like a baby on my hands and knees, making my way to the only hope I have of survival. Once I could get to that spot, I could check my pack for something useful. There had to be something in there for this kind of situation. Some sort of way to communicate with the others, with either staff or patrol.

I could hear it, following me. Only a few more seconds and I would be in its sight. I needed to hurry up if I valued my life over being eaten alive. A few more strides. One, two, my elbows sinking in the ground with each stroke. Three, four, five. I did a somersault to cover the last of the ground. I was there. I squeezed my way into the small crevice, forcing myself to bend in ways I had never bent before, but I made it. I could finally take a moment and use what little room I had left and try to sort through the supplies in my pouch for something helpful.

There was no room to spare. I had my knees on a stick and my hands against my sides. I kneeled in between two trees with enough leaves to give shelter to nearly my whole body. After a moment to make sure that my spot was hiding me enough to buy me a bit of time, I decided to start going through my safety pouch.

Reaching down into my pouch and bringing my arm back up required a lot of position adjusting. I had to be as careful as possible.

Snap!  I stiffened; my body froze in an instant. I shut my eyes as tight as I could, grimacing at my mistake. I tried to make myself as small as possible, hunching my back, tucking my arms against my sides. I couldn’t let myself be seen.

 

*          *          *

 

The tiger’s paws got heavier in the dirt, its claws digging into the earth getting ready for an attack against its prey. There was no way this was really happening. It felt like a dream, a nightmare rather. Before I could realize it, one of nature’s most powerful beasts had begun its leap. The white furred and black striped tiger’s front paws leading the way in my direction. It was at this moment that I realized that my time on this planet was about to be over. I was a moment away from being cat food. My heart exploded, beating so fast it lost its rhythm. Thud, thud. Thud. Thud, thud.

These were the longest seconds of my life. My chest stopped pounding. I could feel the emptiness inside me. I could sense my life slipping away like a ticking clock. I couldn’t keep this up much longer. I closed my eyes, trying to accept what was about to come. A streak of wetness rolled down my cheeks and past my chin to the ground. Thud, thud. Thud, thud. Thu-.

The tiger’s back paws left the dirt. Once airborne I don’t think that there is any possible way of escaping a tiger’s attack. You’d have to be the luckiest man in the world to not die a brutal and vicious death.

My guardian angel must have been watching over me pretty closely that day and decided to finally step in because right at that moment the tiger went down hard and fast. I lost all feeling in my whole body. I was in shock with disbelief. Was it dead? It was on the ground only a few feet in front of me, paws spread out and not moving. How was this possible? A moment ago I was a second away from dying. How could this be? When I looked around, there was not a soul in sight. I still could not hear anything. The situation was too overwhelming for it to sink in. It all happened so fast I didn’t know if it was real or a trick that my mind was playing on me.  Maybe I had fallen asleep on the Jeep during the tour. I dug my fingernails into my left arm and pinched them together. Ouch! At least I figured out that this really did just happen. I don’t know if I should be relieved about the newly confirmed information or to retreat from life itself for a while. We really did get into a car accident, we really did get separated while being chased by a white tiger, I really was about to die and most importantly the tiger really did collapse right in front of me. I guess cats don’t always land on their feet. It was suddenly knocked unconscious before it had the chance to pull me apart alive with its teeth and devour every part of my body piece by piece. Well, I knew what I was going to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

I started to feel the tiny hairs in my ears vibrate once again. I could hear my heavy breathing and realized I was gasping for air. I could feel the wind blowing against my face and pushing my hair to the side keeping it out of my face. My vision grew slightly sharper and I could make out the different colors of the trees, I could see bunches of leaves surrounding me and I could identify the branches they were attached to. The rush of adrenaline was calming and I could soon think straight again.

A spec of blue from the corner of my eye caught my attention but I was too scared to face its direction. Oh Lord, you cannot be serious. Please, don’t let this happen all over again

“Jeff! Jeff!”

My eyelashes beat up and down furiously. Was I imagining things?

“Jeff!”

There it was again. I knew I couldn’t be dreaming. I had a throbbing left arm and a heart about to burst from my chest to remind me. I turned my head to face the unknown blue figure in the wild.

It was James, my co-worker, dressed in a bright blue shirt along with three staff members, each with his own stun gun in hand. I wasn’t very far from the main route but my panic had distracted my ability to think clearly enough and see it.

In moments my rescue crew had reached my spot and I fell to the ground flat on my face. It was over. I could relax now. No harm would come to me.

I woke up tucked in a bed back at the home base. My forehead was still hot and my breathing was still heavy. A glass of cold water was placed on the bedside table next to me. Now sitting up on the bed, I picked up the glass and chugged it back. I slammed the empty glass back onto the table and looked around the room for a clock. 9:14, cool. I couldn’t have been out for too long.

A few minutes of regaining my strength and letting my body settle down, I slid the covers off of me and stuck my legs on the floor, put pressure and tried to stand up. I fumbled around a bit at first but it didn’t take long for me to balance myself and make my way out the door. The room I was led to after going through a short, narrow hallway was the main room where I found my friends and several employees from the jungle. They were eating breakfast.

“Huh. Breakfast for dinner?” I said, not yet knowing that I had just slept right through the night and it was now morning. The good thing is that I did break the ice and avoid any awkwardness. Everyone just chuckled and came to welcome me back with hugs one by one. They told me that they could explain a little more later on but for now we should finish eating quickly and get ready to board the plane for the trip back. We already spent an extra night than we’d planned and didn’t have any time to waste.

Everything was packed and we were boarding the plane a half hour later. I hadn’t eaten anything this morning. I wasn’t sure if I could fly on a full stomach and keep it in. On the way home was when I heard everyone else’s stories of survival after that crash in the jungle.

James got out and ran the opposite way that I ran. He stopped and took a moment to think after the tiger had started chasing me. He realized that he was not far from the exit and took out his compass. He remembered Jessica saying at the beginning of the tour that we don’t go too deep into the jungle. We stay close to the perimeter throughout. James headed west for a few minutes and found his way out of the trees and from there he was able to be easily spotted.

Dave took care of Annie and Julie by staying near the crashed car and hiding on their stomachs as the tiger chased me. Dave couldn’t do anything to help me because he was with the girls and wouldn’t give away their position. While they were on the ground they spotted a hint of smoke from above the trees. They guessed it must have been coming from civilization and they followed it to the cabin. Both parties met up within a few minutes and informed the workers and the police about what had just happened and they took care of it as best as they could. I can’t complain because they got me out of their alive and with no time to spare.

I had said I wanted an adventure; I got much more than I bargained for.  

 

© Copyright 2014DJ Dupas All rights reserved. DJ Dupas has granted theNextBigWriter, LLC non-exclusive rights to display this work on Booksie.com.

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