Chris swerved like a mad woman, following the narrow path. Then she made a quick detour off the man-made trail. Once again, my arms and legs were slapped mercilessly by overgrown shrubbery—fresh cuts appeared. There was no cleared path, but Christina didn’t falter reaching her destination. The four of us had ventured much farther into the jungle than I’d realized, and now she was going even deeper—but in a different direction.
“Lord, please let me survive this and I promise I won’t do it again,” I whispered.
“We’re almost there. Take your feet off the pedals,” she commanded. We swerved to a stop and she got off of the bike.
“Get the flashlight from my back pack. We go on foot from here.”
“What? Where are we going? Josh told us to leave this place.”
“Just come on, Gabby. Hurry!”
I was horrified at the gall of this chick, but what could I do? I was totally helpless in a world that I knew nothing about—her world. “Josh is going to need more medicine.” She snatched the flashlight from my hand and yanked me forward by my wrist. My fingers grew numb from her grip. I was running on my toes like a three year old trying to keep up. We walked for about twenty minutes among flying bugs that struggled to get to the flashlight. I inhaled and coughed—nearly choking—hacking up something which had flown up my nose and down into my throat.
“God help us,” I said.
Chris snickered with amusement. “Look!” She directed the light straight ahead and we stopped. “The flowers open only at night, so you can see them if you’re brave enough to take the risk.”
“What about the medicine for Josh?” I frowned with dismay.
“This is it!” I focused upon this tree which was totally out of place among its neighboring giants. “It’s called ‘Ixcanan Aka,’ meaning Polly Red Heat. I call it “burning bush.” The leaves were lime green with crimson flowers extending from its smooth limbs. Small red berries in plentiful patches hung on the ends. It stood graceful in the light while surrounded by its towering cousins. The larger trees leaned their appendages over to shroud it like a wall of protection. “The leaves and berries are an antibiotic,” she explained. “We’ll make a compress with them, cover his wounds and wrap them in bandages. Let’s stuff as much as we can in my back pack and our pockets.” We hurriedly stripped the icon of its precious beauty. A sense of welcome radiated from the tree as though it was happy to be of service. Then it struck me.
“Wait, you mean we’re not taking him to the doctor?”
“No need to, we have everything we need right here. Hurry, we might be able to meet them back on the trail. He’ll be pissed that we’re still out here, but I know what’s best for him.”
“I don’t believe this.” I shook my head in total bewilderment as I followed my sister-in-law’s direct orders. Where was her head? I knew that, though medicinal plants have been used throughout the ages, the healing process is a slow one. The antibiotic properties in some plants are very minute and they require a lot more frequent and larger doses in order to work. Most plants, the leaves are crushed and boiled in water to make a tea.
After every storage compartment was full, we started walking back to where we left the bike. I held her hand with a solid grip. My fresh bug bites were giving me grief and I did everything in my power not to scratch. I was carrying the back pack by then.
Chris slowed her pace.
“Gabby, I think we’re in trouble.” She stopped in her tracks and called my attention to the flashlight. Its luminescence was slowly fading. As the light flickered out, I cringed at the sight of a different pair of yellow lights gleaming in the dark from behind her in the distance. My expression conveyed the unmistakable message—we were not alone.
In total darkness, a disturbing hush surrounded us once again. The feeding insects no longer buzzed around my head and the humid breeze stopped blowing. Dead leaves crunched as the closely-positioned lights moved near. Finally, a reverberating growl split the silence. The king had returned for his prize.
A shallow gasp escaped my lips. Christina pulled me closer for a last embrace. Our hearts thudded rapidly against each other and we leaned our heads together, waiting for the end. Then it happened. The pair of glowing eyes ascended into the air—then dove towards us, accompanied by an ear splitting snarl. They were met by a matching pair of eyes—head on, and an even louder, more terrifying roar.
“Thank, you Jesus,” Christina whispered.
We listened to the sounds of massive beasts, tumbling, growling in the dark. I couldn’t even scream for I knew this was our last day on earth—and what was the meaning of her remark? We didn’t heed the warning as we escaped death an hour earlier, and the yelping of one injured animal let me know that it would be over soon. The winner would be coming for us—served on a platter, just as Josh said. I hoped it would be a quick death.
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