Kanana: The Jungle Girl – Chapter 9 Excerpt

I had a terrible time getting any sleep the remainder of the night, but by morning I had convinced myself that there was nothing to worry about.  The jungle girl had left me before, I reminded myself, and she had always returned.  She was probably hunting another meal for us.  When the sun came up, I busied myself with my morning rituals and then sat down to wait.

When she had not returned by what I judged to be eleven in the morning, I decided that I could make myself useful.  Kanana had fed me fruits back at her fortress.  Therefore, there must be fruit available for the picking in the jungle. I would search the immediate area and see what I could add to our shared meals.  I searched for about two hours, but found no fruit, no mushrooms, no vegetables.  The only thing I found to eat was a scorpion and I was no more inclined to put it in my mouth than I had been the day before, when Kanana had found its twin.

After mashing the urine-colored creature beneath my boot, I looked around and realized that I had no idea where I was.  I had wandered out of sight of the fire pit and the broken hammock, and I could no longer see through the trees to the savannah beyond.  We had set up just inside the boundary of the trees, so it should have been an easy proposition to find the boundary between forest and grassland, if not my campsite.  This was assuming of course that I knew which direction either of them lay.

I thought that the grassland was south of the forest.  Had Christopher Columbus been correct and the world round, it would have been easy enough to navigate by using the sun, but as the sun is always directly overhead, it was no help at all.  I had heard that moss grew on the north sides of trees, but for the life of me, I could find no moss.  Therefore I made my best guess and started through the trees.  After walking for an hour, I decided that I was walking in a circle.  This was the fate of one moving through a forest or swamp without a fixed point of destination.  Everyone has a dominant foot and they, usually without realizing it, tend toward that direction.  I had learned a remedy for such a situation when I was in the jungles of Cuba.

I cut a tall but narrow sapling and stripped it of leaves and branches.  Then laying it down, I followed it as though I was following a compass needle.  Then I reached the end, I picked it up and laid it down again.  I was creating a path for myself and this kept me from turning one way or the other.  It did slow me down quite a bit though, and it was late afternoon when I finally saw the savannah through the trees.

I was at the edge of the woods, not knowing whether my original camp was to the left or right of me, not knowing how far I had travelled, and most importantly, not knowing where Kanana was and why she hadn’t returned.  Thinking about it, I decided that it wasn’t important that I wasn’t in the exact spot in which I had started.  I couldn’t have travelled very far, and Kanana’s skills in navigating the jungle were surely such that she would be able to find me were I ten times as far as I could walk in a day.

These thoughts soothed me for all of thirty seconds, for just as I stepped from the edge of the forest, I was surrounded by a dozen fierce looking natives, each with a stone-tipped spear pointed in my direction.  They looked very much like the Tokayana people of the coast, copper-skinned with jet-black hair, tall, graceful, and muscular. Unlike the citizens of Abbeyport, these warriors wore clothing of animal skins—usually nothing more than a loincloth, but sometimes a vest or pants.

I was weighing the possibility of pulling out my pistol and shooting one or two of them before they stabbed me, when the largest among them reached out and snatched the weapon from my holster.  This fellow, who was evidently in charge, tall and I had to admit, handsome, said something to me and pointed across the grassland.  That he was ordering me to move was emphasized when he poked me with his spear.  I gave no argument, but started walking, surrounded by my captors.

I marched all day long through the waist high-grass, and while I was constantly on the lookout for any opportunity in which to escape, none came.  Every so often, the warriors allowed me a drink of water from an animal skin canteen, but they gave me nothing to eat until that night.  When we at last stopped beneath a little copse of trees, they handed me a piece of dried meat.  When I had finished it, I was bound hand and foot.

I didn’t sleep much that night.  I was uncomfortable.  I was worried.  And I was constantly watching and listening for any sign of Kanana.  None came.  In the morning, after short preparations, we started off again.  Though they untied my feet, this time they left my hands fastened behind me.  Though again I was given water, this second day took quite a toll on me.  I was weak, and it became increasingly difficult to pay attention to what I was doing.  I tripped several times.  By the time we came to a halt on the second day, my shoulders were so sore that I could barely lift what small bit of food I was given.  Thankfully when I had eaten, though they tied me again, this time they did so with my hands in front of me.

On the third day, we reached the village of the warriors in whose grasp I now found myself.  I didn’t know what I was expecting, but I certainly didn’t expect what I saw. Village was not nearly a lofty enough word to describe it, though perhaps city would be too extravagant. Five hundred round huts were gathered together inside a great wooden palisade.  In the very center was a small hillock and at its top, a hut, similar to all the others, though larger.  This town, as I shall now call it, had been built at the juxtaposition of the grassland and the forest.  Now though, neither looked very close.  The ground in and all around the town had been beaten to bare earth by a thousand footfalls, and all that remained of several miles of what had once been forest were the burnt stumps of large trees with tilled farmland running between them.

The warriors led me to the center of the town, where I was surrounded by the citizens, men, women, and children all chattering away in a language that I didn’t understand.  Several men and women approached and examined me.  I assumed they were local dignitaries because their clothing was finer and more highly decorated than most.  They poked and prodded me and then apparently gave orders for my disposal.

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