“Deep in the stomach of the jungle where the peculiar shadows move with distilled winds on the unchartered paths, ensconces a world of density, of entangled darkness. Light is rarely invited to touch the ground. Hope ensues lost on its trek to fortune.”
“Run away,” his neighbor had yelled to him as green berets of soldiers bobbed while bayonets shimmered in the field of tall brown grasses by his home, like silver plants had sprouted. Putting down the only worthwhile keepsakes he could find after rummaging through his empty home, Zronas fled on foot, escaping into the jungle. What he had found inside his home was disturbing. Broken pictures, raided cupboards, chairs in pieces, but most disconcerting of all: no trace of his family.
Zronas Abuli had been known locally as a simple captain of a river ferry, trained by foreigners, and who subsisted by trading and ferrying cargo along the serpentine jungle rivers of Old Cajljodre, a mountainous region of Zarobia.
“By the banks he sang to passing ships, old songs they never knew,” a former crewman said of Zronas, when interviewed by the government. It was true that Zronas was tested at sea and knew songs from all over the country, for his travels took him throughout the inland ports of Zarobia. He also knew the geography of the region exceptionally well.
After his ship was wrecked by a careless government warship during maneuvers in a prominent wharf, Zronas entered the perilous realm of Zarobian politics to seek proper compensation upon awakening to the internal inefficiencies. Tragically, some would say, he never left the political realm.
A successful local magistrate, the kind-hearted Zronas worked his way up the ranks of the reigning political party, the Daek-mooth-safra, winning the favor of many high-ranking elites who were outwardly impressed with Zronas’ local following in Tsuly, a region vital to trade and economic prosperity for the new republic of Zarobia. Moreover, Zronas quickly gained favor with the restless rebels covertly blended inside the government, who were plotting a full-scale coup against the round table of clueless military leaders allegedly hogging the power. Assigned power, the military was infamous for laxly presiding over the country. This was most evident in the crumbling infrastructure, which, coupled with poor planning and distribution of resources, severely hampered economic prosperity.
Jakoskelus, a self-boasted genius and the mastermind of the rebellion in Zarobia, was coincidently a persuasive speaker able to conjure hour long speeches that captivated the filthy crowds that tended to gather with extravagant words he failed to understand himself. But he was also rich, and a thief for it. Jakos, as loyal followers called him, led the revolution to ensue. Growing discontent among the rebels, with Jakos’ less than impressive leadership skills, became an opportunity one member of the rebellion seized with ease. Enter Lordus Mazaweei. Lordus, a floating traitor and power-hungry politician, son of a former general, voiced sharp criticism of democracy within the fragmented rebels. He wooed them with immense promises, serene visions, which eventually turned into the stepping ladder for his ascension to power. Lordus’ charisma is scary, and his slyness, scarier.
With a guerilla force well-endowed by arms-makers under his command, all the cunning warlord Lordus had to do was seize control of a few deposits. And, he did. His militia survived luxuriously off the money made from clairvoyum deposits, a newly discovered mineral and key ingredient that is needed to manufacture microchips for modern cell phones in the developed world.
Internal fighting ultimately marred all attempts to reunite the rebellion. Money always was in the middle. Within a year of infighting, not only had the guile dictator Lordus won the favor of the clueless citizens, mislead by his outrageous promises, but he was hailed as a figure of democracy by leaders of the western world who had no choice but to support Lordus, in fear that economies would suffer without the technological components exported by the ruthless dictator.
Upon seizing total power, Lordus’ focus silently turned to quashing his outspoken critics. Resultantly, he enacted a clandestine campaign to eliminate all political dissidents. Zronas, having openly criticized the distribution of funds, was inevitably placed on the hit list.
* * *
Wild purple mist rested lightly over the enfolding mountain ranges bordering Tsuly, disappearing mystically behind the creeping of an ominously dense fog. Morning had come and Zronas was miraculously alive. Over the dawn hour, the mist unraveled gently, almost unnoticeably to the eye. Lordus’ military was after him. They had scoured the surrounding jungle outposts, burned small villages, and killed traitors in their hunt of terror. For three days Zronas had been valleys ahead of the units combing the jungle around Tsuly. At night he slept in streams to throw the military off his trail. Even with the somnolent chatter of water, he hadn’t slept much and the scraps of food he picked from the plants and trees made him sick.
Zronas had been spotted in Tsuly as he went to get water from the stone well in the village one afternoon. A local policeman, whom he knew and had befriended, reported his location to Lordus’ Army in exchange for extra food for his son, dying of malaria, and Zronas didn’t blame him. Although Zronas realized the irony—that he had advocated for malaria treatment—even secretly diverted government funds for treatment and care of patients. The little shack between hills that a local physician operated out of was understaffed and supplies were never enough to meet the line at the door each morning. A rebel of the underequipped group, Klablaq Jwamp [jah-womp] (Dark Order, in Zarobi), Zronas expected no assistance in his escape. He was alone. The fragmented rebel group was unorganized and lacked support.
First it was a bounty on his head. Living in a small village made Zronas virtually impenetrable though. However, the famous Eeok [e-ock] was sent after him—the war hero Eeok that fought in the revolution, whom Zronas himself fought beside in the reunification, and had shared stories and slept in his home once. The Eeok is considered the best assassin, performing the dirty work for whoever is willing to pay—often quelling small uprisings and wasting the politically outspoken; he is nothing more than a gun for hire.
* * *
Warriors were trained to keep moving in the Zarobian army, yet Zronas had forgot about the rules, about order, and instead sat pensively as the sun coated his dark skin in a docile bronze. From afar he could have been mistaken for a statue or some kind of idol. Search parties combed the jungle nearby. Voices echoed sometimes in river valleys. Little by little they were forcing him back to the village. Six o’ clock arrived to his delight, though. The lowering sun was calming. Soldiers didn’t chase him at night. Zronas rested with his knees bent up as if a roof were to be laid and they the supporting beams, with his arms tying around them like rafters so he could hunch. He stared fixedly at the lake, which was akin to a puddle of melted blue glass. Orange-white discs skipped across the surface. Though restless, he tried desperately to settle, to find the right shape, the right frame of mind—a peaceful one. Somewhere in the distance, in the acres of mossy, vinery, entangled jungle, a blue smoke lingered over the canopy from wood-burning fires preparing dinner in some hidden village. With late afternoon breezes from an incoming storm, it was carried away before his eyes.
If he returned to the village, he would be walking right into an ambush. Lordus was not an idiot. And there was still the dreaded Eeok. Zronas had felt he was being watched at times, from the gloom in trees at night, from beneath heavy mosses by day. Perhaps the Eeok was internally struggling to kill him. They had been close friends. Nonetheless, Zronas was risking his position by exposing himself by the lake, but he needed the uplifting feeling, a glitter of hope that he found so brightly beside the water.
Earlier he discovered a sunken creek not far from the lakeside, with tall mud walls fraught with wicked roots to hide him. Soon he would crawl into the mud and try to sleep. He thought about another night in the mud and rubbed his eyes. His stomach growled. He wanted some real food and human contact. For days he had nobody to confide in but the unkind jungle.
What if he went back to Tsuly? What if his family was waiting somewhere there, hiding from Lordus, waiting for him? Question raided his exhausted mind. But Zronas mulled the options. By 7:30 the jungle was dim and uninviting, and most search parties had headed in for the night. The village was two miles from the lake. He could sneak into Tsuly with the remaining light, without being seen, he believed. More than anything else, Zronas longed to reunite with his family.
Using the advancing night as cover, Zronas chose each trail, each path, carefully as he raced amidst the routes leading back to Tsuly. For a while, to him, it seemed that he was not a criminal but a hero, returning to his village to a cheering crowd of his friends and family.
* * *
The simple word left such a deep imprint: betrayal. An imprint filled by the noisy children wearing raggedy clothes that suddenly ran down to the river-side beach from the village. Zronas watched as they played on the trashy beach where tall palms preserved shade like giant umbrellas. Caught up in the excitement of the game, using a coconut to play keep-away, they didn’t notice Zronas sitting beneath the bridge that connected Tsuly to the highway. For Zronas, the more he watched the children play, the more he was reminded of betrayal, as if someone were pouring alcohol on an open wound to re-aggravate the pain he already felt. It was so muggy that outlying mountains in the vast jungle that borders Tsuly lay separated by foggy-nestled valleys.
One of the young boys tossed the coconut back and forth with another, steering clear of the child in the middle. The next minute the middle kid and one of the others tossed the ball together, and the third one acted as if he had been betrayed; whatever allegiance may have existed, had diminished upon the changing circumstances. Zero compunction was exhibited by the betraying party. Yet, that was the idea of the game. It was all about control of the coconut. After growing up the case is different because instead of the coconut, money plays the part.
Screaming returned his focus to the beginning of the jungle. His nerves bubbled for a brief second. He was undoubtedly edgy. With each passing thought of the jungle, he was overcome with a sour taste in his mouth, a nauseous reluctance, a stark disdain. He would do anything to prevent going back in there. He doodled in the dirt with a stick. To him the twirls and brown circle resembled his wife, Luma-Noona. A lustful moment overcame him. Lost in the fantasy, an engine roared above him. Suddenly a truck rumbled over the bridge and shook the rusted girders above Zronas, the diesel engine exhaling a cloud of black smoke that dissolved quickly in the ruby sky silhouetting against the gloomy contours of the jungle that went onward for dark miles.
Zronas didn’t breathe for a minute, not until he heard the beastly truck continue ahead and was sure of it. He didn’t dare move, letting his imagination fill his vision instead: a military truck with a large green canopy on the back where men with shiny dark faces, smoking long cigarettes, and waving machine guns, yelled at the villagers, asking indignantly, “where is your traitor?”
“Here,” Zronas mumbled aloud, condemning himself. With all the cheap patch jobs that had been enacted to fix the bridge, it was a miracle the truck hadn’t plummeted through and sank in the stream.
The sun instantly brightened on him like a searchlight. Uptight, his stomach plunged into stream at the change in light while his mind stayed frozen. Zronas was paranoid and consequently descried the palpable sunset, but he didn’t want to return to the jungle. Rather, he wanted to discover what had become of his family.
The jungle waited on the horizon, a jagged black line filled in with entangled darkness he couldn’t explain. Some children played in the dirt by the stream, kicking up a fussy cloud of filth that residual sunshine turned into a pink mist, which obscured the darkness for a second, just as the sky deepened in red, and the semicircle of gold, the wealthy sun, peeked through the dark treetops, as if the ten black men’s fingers were trying to grasp a slippery bar of yellow soap. Yet, sadly, as Zronas knew, many things in the villages were known in dearth.
“if i am to live, they will have to live. But i am not to die here,” Zronas uttered. It was then that he realized his destiny. He gazed at the laughing children, their skinny dark bodies framed by the pink mist, dark backdrop. And when the misty pink cloud dispersed and the dark returned, Zronas remembered the promise he had made to his wife: to protect, to love, to overcome, for her.
* * *
Zronas patiently waited for an hour after sundown. He passed the time by meditating and trying to shed the stress. Although he looked much disheveled from his escape, his appearance allowed him to blend rather easily. He strolled along the road into Tsuly. With as dark as it was, people were unidentifiable. He saw two women carrying jugs of water and one old man hobble with age, but no soldiers. Soon Zronas was enveloped by clusters of huts on bamboo stilts, with thatched roofs reinforced by palms, and dirt streets stretched narrowly around the dim structures. It was home. Politics, for several years, had robbed him of his familiarity. He hadn’t walked the streets amongst the commoners in so long.
His feet suddenly hurt from stepping on broken pottery or glass. Zronas searched the village and found a tree to lean against. He knew where he would go. He recounted the faces of his family: Luma-Noona, Mossa-Fath, his son, Yalza, his daughter, and Vlea. Oh, and Vlea was his little girl. Many villagers disdained anything other than a boy. Zronas, however, adored Vlea since birth. Her eyes were gorgeous and the curiosity she exhibited often elicited chuckles from Zronas.
Olu had been Zornas’s secondhand man during his time as local representative, known as a Mwali, in Zarobia’s congress. He had been elected to the common house of Tibi, which was the poorer side of congress. Lowlife’s, warlords, tribal leaders all served in Tibi, appeased by titles and power of trivial significance, and much overshadowed by the house of Mwaqor. Lordus presided as a representative of Dunjunka, a region rife with clairvoyum deposits, in the Mwaqor. Coincidently, sons of generals, magistrates, and tycoons, orbited in and out of representation in the Mwaqor. With money at their leisure, running for office was a pace down easy street. Zarobia, a country of five million people, sixty percent of which are literate, is not the most developed and educated place. Thus, it makes campaigning simple: feed the ideals with rhetoric. Advertisements were like wallpaper, coating fences, sides of buildings, signs; they are posted everywhere.
Olu was a loyal informant Zronas must visit if he were to try and locate the whereabouts of his family. A cloak partially wrapped around him to conceal his identity, Zronas snuck to Olu’s home. If anyone knew of his family’s fate, Olu would. Luckily, Olu had been spared Zronas’ fate in exchange for allegiance to Lordus’ Army. Nevertheless, the crafty and aged olu remained loyal to democratic ideals that he shared with Zronas.
The village slept in silence as Zronas tiptoed with a beggar’s appearance up the steps to the bamboo balcony where Olu’s modest hut rested on stilts. Darkly visible, Olu’s modest hut was lifeless and somber as a corpse. This was strange to Zronas because Olu’s wife, Qwabella, often had trouble sleeping at night and so she typically left a candle lit. Zronas knocked once; no reply. He knocked harder a second time. Inside somebody got up and walked toward the door. The lock turned and the door opened slowly. None of this made sense to Zronas; it was eerie, unlike Olu’s welcoming smile, his flamboyant hospitality.
About to enter into the dark room, a muscular arm wielding a knife reached around the door and stabbed Zronas’ cloak. He instantly wrenched his body and vaulted down the steps as the assailant emerged, unidentifiable, to remove the knife from the door. But, there was no doubt in Zronas’ mind who had attempted to kill him. The Eeok was unprecedentedly clever. Somehow he predicted Zronas would return to the village, visit olu. Something was fishy, though.
Lordus had resorted to extreme measure to try and rid Zronas in the past week … but why?
First his family was gone, and then Olu and his wife. It was safe to assume Lordus had captured them. Yet that was no longer important. Zronas threw the cloak into a cluster of bushes and sprinted barefoot as fast as he could through the black versus gray paths of the village.
* * *
Running at full speed, Zronas’ mind sped through options. Of them, callus’ face capriciously arose. Callus, the wealthy man with the mansion outside of the village—abandoned since his untimely death—if there were a place he’d be safe, Zronas could run there, hide.
Why hadn’t he thought of it before? He didn’t have the breath to curse himself, nor could he, in his exhausted mental state, refer to any curse words. To be sure he wasn’t being followed by the Eeok, Zronas dove into a grove of tall trees by a pond buzzing with all sorts of bugs. It was dark and there were many thick shapes, if the Eeok was tracking him, he would shortly be informed.
After twenty minutes or so, not a person had passed by, nor had any vehicles tried to scour. Twenty minutes was ample time for him to recover and prepare to journey to the mansion. Even under the veil of night, Zronas could navigate the walkways and paths. Before callus died, Zronas had worked for him. He owned the shipping company where Zronas had been employed as a captain. They spent hours in conservation, debating issues involving the government.
Callus always wore a crimson suit and leafy green tie; oftentimes, when Zronas joined him for dinner, he paraded about the large rooms of his massive house like a famous general. The suit coat was extra-long, and the pants, baggy. Zronas knew callus hated listening by the way he curled his lower lip in silence and nodded wildly. When he talked at great length he never ceased to offer smiles when he made points, showing the white theatre seats in his dark mouth, and Zronas sat somewhere in that audience, excessively listening as if it were a lecture. And, the few times when callus couldn’t think of the correct word, he stuttered and moved his hand as if he were winding some fishing line.
Interestingly though, in spite of his propensity to ramble, callus proved to be an excellent mentor, enlightening Zronas on the inefficiencies that would become the target of his terms in office. It was callus who first proposed a step toward democracy. And, perhaps, it was a proposition that proved a fateful for him.
* * *
Nightly breezes swept through the dark footpaths, moaning like heartbroken ghosts, rustling the canopies, wide leaves, veiny vines. If he was unsuccessful, if he died, Zronas imagined himself ensuing in the afterlife as one of those troubled ghosts, mourning eternally with the winds—wherever they chose to carry him.
Shaky black palms swayed over the path, disrupting the cascading moonlight lighting his way. Seven more steps and the mansion should be there, Zronas hoped. Little things such as bent trees, the elevation, had reassured him. Sure enough, a lagoon of stars opened the starlit sky, a big black box rose from the ground before him. The road to callus’ mansion had practically been swallowed by jungle. But that didn’t stop government vehicles from suddenly slicing through, en route to the house, lights flashing.
How? … they knew I would be here, that I am connected to Callus … how?
Overgrown branches snapped as vehicles slogged bumpily along the road to the mansion. Something scuffled in the bushes, tripping or stumbling. Poison-tipped darts whizzed by his head from an unseen position. Overwhelmed, Zronas dashed behind the house as headlights lit up the property. He found the first traversable path and didn’t look back.
Not far behind, a black thing scrambled about the trees, foraying anything inconveniently jutting in the way. The Eeok was old fashioned, killing with daggers and knives instead of guns. The violent movement fit his style, gorillaling about the path with a quiet and swift confidence. If he and the Eeok were to meet face to face, and scuffle, Zronas trusted he would die. In hand-to-hand combat altercations, the Eeok was superior by far; ‘unmatched,’ accomplices of his would overtly boast of his skills.
* * *
Chasing gloom, risking doom, Zronas wiggled frantically between the sharp bristles of jutted napa palms in the thin swathe. Palms shook closely away. Ahead, he saw a rope bridge and made haste, for just as he saw the promise of an escape, more branches snapped and feet pounded aback. In seconds Zronas clasped the rugged rope and thrust forward, his bare feet smacked hard on the planks, squeaking with his scurrying weight. The whole bridge swung in his furious sprint across.
Fires attracted his vision. Zronas saw a tiny village in the old creek-way below the rope bridge, with little blue-red flames lighting the quietness of deep slumber, peeling back the river of nebulous dark flowing by. The bridge suddenly shook harder. Zronas started running again, quickly checking over his shoulder, seeing only the sweaty black shimmers of muscular arms in the moonlight. Noticing Zronas was looking at back, the chaser grunted and raised a knife in the air. The Eeok was a tall yet stocky figure with red and green war paint in bone-like images on his upper body, white skull across his face. Adrenaline dispersed through Zronas’ body. It was the Eeok, indeed, and he was nearing his prey. But the surprise of Zronas looking back almost caused the Eeok to tumble over in shock. Nobody dared challenge his melee, and that came as shock to him.
Having almost toppled, the Eeok had to regain his footing. Zronas sprinted off into the darkness. Tiring, he sped up and scavenged for a place to hide, the beat of his heart contorted his chest, but the thought of a blade—the blade of the Eeok—contorting his dark flesh the way it rives the dark forest, impelled him to accelerate. Croaks and chirps and buzzes reverberated all around, confusing the sounds of the Eeok’s footsteps. Pounding from the bridge suddenly mellowed in the distance; Zronas blew passed the chirping, and discovered just the sound of him running. But that was not enough to stop on.
Tearing across an intersection of unchartered paths, giving one quick look each way like a child about to cross the road, and seeing not a soul to contest, finally a small sense of relief overcame him. Zronas ducked into a cluster of brush. Pausing, hunching, he caught his breath and settled his heart beat in an undergrowth of soft, moist leafs. He kneeled, but his eyes were as vigilant as a vulture—unwilling to accept the emotion that absolute victory ought to warrant.
As he recovered, he gazed up in the trees. Fireflies lit the air by seemingly burning in yellowy bulbs that naturally flickered with life, on and off, moving around the dark canopy. A sea of the yellows rearranged overhead of Zronas, and the exhausted man gazed up at them against the thick, dark, canopy as if they were the stars in a clear night sky. Unfortunately, the dreamy aura the fireflies elicited was cut short when a twig snapped by the path. A faint voice quieted the chirps and buzzes, of one man, talking to himself as he travelled along the path, singing.
“Where are you? … Where are you? Dissenter. Dissenter.
Come to me! Face your punishment like a man! Come to me! Here and now.
Dare to make us find you? … dare to make us kill? Dissenter. Dissenter. We shall. We shall,” the voice sang.
Zronas held his breath to listen. Leery about the vulnerability of his position, he laid flatter on the burl of leafs and let the tall plants swing back over him, obscuring evermore his black skinned body amidst the sunless green life.
In his head he hoped he would look like a few fat vines or ant hills in the plants and just another piece of the dark jungle floor. Flattening, even when he felt a thorn prick his neck upon leaning back, puncturing his skin which bled down his neck, mixing with the runny sweat, Zronas just bit his lip and did not make a sound of his suffering.
Meanwhile the voice was getting closer, still singing eerily, maybe just a few feet from him it got, and then the figure stood tall enough to carve a hole in the canopy with the wielded machete. Towering the figure was, as tall as the trees by the path from where Zronas stared upwards.
As the Eeok crept, Zronas closed his eyes, fearing the white ponds could be seen. Slowly, and softly, the singing dispersed and the figure, continuing onward, meshed with the bodies and limbs of tall trees and the plants and the black air hanging over the path, unable to show the sight of distance—but in the dark, distance is unquantifiable. Sweat pooled on Zronas’ forehead, and despite not hearing singing at all, nothing inside him wanted to move until the sun overlooked the jungle.
Minute by minute, the exhaustion lowered his alertness, eased his nerves like large swigs of lethal alcohol, and Zronas could not resist slipping, like a cart on ice, into a deep slumber. Dark shapes retuned in his sleep. He dreamt of the chase all over again; each moment, every emotion—the beat of fear, the footsteps, the fearsome Eeok.
Life before had been simple and unobstructed. Now he lived in constant terror. They, the oppressive junta, the notorious Lordus, could show up at any moment and kill him outright. Zronas was deemed undesirable, un-submissive—a waste of intellect, for he could not support the new regime, and knew dearly of the undermining failures that were causing its downfall; it’s why they are so keen on discarding of him. Politics were never his ace of spades, but Zronas was adamant about preserving life at all costs. It was his conviction that prolonging lifespans was conducive to the common good, while the notion did not bode well with his opposition, who disparaged him unremittingly for such a liberal perspective.
* * *
Until he was stung by a mosquito somewhere along his forearm, it didn’t occur to Zronas that he had been awake. It was still dark, and he was still in the jungle. Eager to investigate, he inspected the path—nobody was around.
The Eeok had probably followed the whole path.
“Zronas!” hollered a masculine voice, as he stepped into the open. Zronas’ first inclination was to run, but he decided to confront the voice. Turning, he came face to face with the Eeok, a knife by his side.
“You know we cannot look upon one another like this in life, again, old friend?” The Eeok laughed.
“I have nowhere to run,” Zronas declared.
“Coward, you are no fun! Stand still, it will be over in a moment!”
The Eeok sprinted after him with blazing melee speed. Zronas took off too, moving his arms and legs as quickly as flames flickering in landward gusts as he flew by trees that looked as if they were arrested black flames; branches appeared suddenly, he ducked and vaulted plenty. He evaded jutted twigs and palms like the arms of prisoners begging to the guards, trying to snag his flesh.
Jittering at the sight of black air suspended over a canyon, he careened to a halt just short of the black doom, almost tossing himself into the falling black shimmer of an imageless waterfall he heard resounding in profound echoes. He felt his chest constrict, shutting down. Zronas faced the darkness and waited for a knife to fly through his heart, and he thought of his family, of the end.
Spotting a vine alongside the cliff below his feet, he bravely leapt. Hopefully a vine and not a snake, he prayed. Zronas grabbed it, clinging with all his strength as his body slammed against the jagged cliffs, causing a few rocks to break off and tumble downward. A second later he heard two splashes in the unfathomable abyss. Would the Eeok believe he had jumped?
Pain erupted form his shoulder, from a gash the rocks had given him. Hanging, his shoulder wounded, black gooey blood streamed down his arm and dripped off the point of his elbow. His legs were wrapped tightly around the vine that he was beginning to confide in. He slipped down the vine, farther into the darkness obscuring the height of the cliff and the presumed river basin.
As his heart settled a little, Zronas’ ear attuned to the riffling echo of a violent river that sounded as if it were slowing filling the canyon with water, since he was wading into it, closing in on the sounds that intrigued his mind—that he drew a picture of what it may be like in daylight. The black and floppy contours of tall palms stood against the brightened sky across the canyon, and the hope of escape returned—and Zronas hoped that hope was not arriving too soon. Pebbles suddenly crumbled from above, almost grazing Zronas as they fell. He stopped moving and held his breath, imagining two white eyes as curious as the pearly moon, peering downwards—scavenging for any sign of motion.
The hopeless man rubbed his bleeding feet and cried. Mist orbited around the slippery cliff-side. He could taste it in the air. Tears finally ended the mounting drought across his deserted face, sliding off his chin, dousing his wounds. Vulnerable and lonely, Zronas fled to the almighty, praying so softly he knew only god would hear it.
Plight of the night, am I right in this fight? Or, have I wrongly lost sight of the moral blight I once walked in the direction of fresh tropical breezes? My hands are tight and I hang with all my might, but tell me O’Lord, am I right? Let me be assured. If so, dare I say, show me your light, string me and let me fly like a kite in your watchful eye. This O’Lord I your servant cry. May you be the merciful lord they say you are, if I should die this night.
He looked up at the black noiselessness cliff-side with the same look he gave when he was puzzled by a remark, imagining the unforgiving eyes of the Eeok trying to peel back the same black noise, trying to find him, with a vigorous intent to kill beautifully tonight. And the moon sat quietly above the black jungle valley, an indifferent witness to the whole escapade, shining brightly as if it were unwilling to wane in a helpful way for his escape. But there he hung, on the dark mess of vines, lost inthe political jungle.
* * *
Few Zarobians adopted Christianity as a religious practice. Zronas was different. The foreigners who trained him exemplified an intriguing devotion to the cause, and gradually, with encouragement, Zronas did too.
Afterlife was always a difficult and convoluted topic to discuss with others—although, there on the cliff, Zronas envisioned the afterlife with an ominous clarity. He was not the only soul clinging to the vine. In his firm grip, upon his shoulders, he carried the livelihood of his family. Without him, surely they would die. Thoughts of their enslavement upset him.
For less than the time it takes to wink, he envisioned Olu, his old partner, and how he is probably miserably rotting from the inside out, with a beautiful view of the sparkling ocean and incoming lines of swishing white surf dissolving in the sands—that the bars kept a dream of reality. Yes, Oxroz’s beachside location is pure torture until the inmates immunize to the sounds of thundering waves and comfort of warm sunshine cast on the cell floor by the rusty iron bars.
The sunset there at the infamous Oxroz prison is one that many who see it would immediately envy: a time when turquoise streaks, the same color as the ocean, jigsaw with black clouds lingering after the sun melts into a golden line. Ruby slivers often flirt with the soft, peachy sky, sharing its wholesomeness. But everything had a charming glow that warranted the mind to stop and the weary eyes, gaze.
He had climbed up the whole vine and crawled back onto the ground. Mossa-Fath, Zronas’ eldest son, stood thinly like a bamboo pole in the center of the path, head bowed in shame, and unmoving fingers at his sides. His long shorts tattered and shirt ripped from a struggle, it seemed. Tears blew like heavy bubbles in Zronas’ weary eyes at the sight of his son, and he approached him and gave the biggest hug he could muster to the silent young man, while ignoring the questions in the back of his mind: how or why he was there?
A knife pierced Zronas’ abdomen. Mossa-Fath collapsed to his knees, yelling “if you die, they will let us go! I am sorry father! Forgive me! … father, forgive me!”
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