Hot. That was the first thought that bounced unbidden into Hari’s mind. Next came really hot. After that it was the craving for a cold shower, a cold beer, a cold flurry of blissfully pure white snow. Anything. Why hadn’t he insisted he and Ash visit the North Pole or Alaska for adventure instead of this God forsaken place?
And that was always the next thought. Why?
Because they had wanted adventure. That was why. And the brochure, found, he had thought at the time, so providently, just lying in the street, had told them that this – the deep, dark jungle, unexplored and unimaginable – was where they would find it.
What fools they had been. Hari knew that now. He had known it, really, when he and his brother had stepped off the plane and had immediately been surrounded by armed guards who wanted to escort them, jostling each other and their wards, into the terminal building. Guards who had, once they were inside and the heat was no different to out on the tarmac (although tarmac was a grand word for what was, in essence, a dirt road), asked for money.
Ash had laughed, right in their faces. He genuinely believed they were joking. A shotgun butt to his stomach and the dirty floor slamming into his knees persuaded him otherwise, but it was too late.
It was the guards’ turn to laugh. All of them, sneering like the bad guys in a terrible movie, had pointed to the door. “Go on then. See how you manage alone.”
Hari and Ash had grabbed at their packs and half stumbled half run to the exit. Then they had half stumbled and half run to a taxi that was idling just in front of the airport building.
“What the hell?” Ash had garbled as they slid into the backseat. He was still clutching his stomach, and he winced every time he moved.
Hari shook his head. “Jesus, Ash, that was a bit much, wasn’t it?” He tried to get comfortable on the leatherette bench seat but his thighs were sticking to it and in the end it was easier just to sit still.
The cab driver said nothing. He pulled away and stared at the boys in the rear view mirror with bloodshot eyes until Hari spoke up. “Golden Bay Hotel please.”
Did the driver laugh? Perhaps it was just the static on his radio, or something big and loud outside the car.
Neither Hari nor Ash thought about it too much more.
“Talk about an adventure of a lifetime, eh?” said Ash once they were on their way and the pain had subsided a little. He winked.
“Yeah, well, happy stag do.” Hari couldn’t bring himself to return the gesture. He stared out of the window at the heat and the nothing and wished he was in Amsterdam. Or Dublin. Or at home. But it was just a few days, and their guide would sort everything out. Once they found him. Whoever he was. Wherever he was. The details the holiday company had given them had been pretty vague.
Of course, Hari had questioned it.
“Oh, but sir, that’s part of the fun! Part of the adventure!”
Since Hari thought that perhaps it was, he let it go.
He was wishing to God he hadn’t now.
Eventually the car pulled up outside a shack with half a room and a sign outside that proclaimed it to be the Golden Bay.
“No. Just no.” Hari saw it first and he shook his head vehemently. “No way.”
Ash opened the door and let a swarm of mosquitoes fly in. They went straight for Hari’s arm. “It’s okay, bro, it’s fine. This is all part of it, it must be. The adventure.”
Hari was not convinced, but the driver was grunting something, and it was time to go. Hari threw a little change at the man and just managed to get out of the door before the taxi sped away. He stared after it. They both did.
When it was gone they both looked around them. They were alone.
They never had found that guide.
They had, however, discovered a little canoe outside the ‘hotel’. In it was two oars and a map, water sodden and blurry. There was a flask of water. There was a note with Hari’s name on it.
Take me! I’m yours!
Ash was already clambering in. “Come on, Hari. That’s not an offer you hear every day, am I right?”
He was right. Little brother was correct.
That didn’t meant it was a good idea, though.
Despite knowing all of this, Hari stepped into the canoe.
That had been three days ago.
Now, it was really just a matter of survival. Keep going and keep going and eventually, soon if they were lucky, they would reach a village, a town, a bloody great city with skyscrapers and McDonalds and satellite TV. All right, maybe that was taking things a bit far, pushing their luck to the extreme, but it was a beautiful daydream, along with the shower, the beer, the snow.
"You all right back there?" called Hari loudly, despite his cracked, dry throat, trying to make himself heard over the rushing, roaring river that the canoe was racing along. Trying to keep in good spirits for his brother’s sake.
Ash nodded, realised Hari couldn't see him, and carefully leant forward, tapping the other man on the shoulder. "I'm all right," he said, watching the water screaming backwards. "I'd be better if you hadn't lost the paddles, but yeah, not bad. Not bad considering we've got nothing to eat, nothing to drink, the sun is blazing, baking us in this sodding canoe and we are lost in the jungle." He sat back, satisfied he had made his point.
Hari shrugged. "Could be worse. Like I said, we're bound to come to civilisation sooner or later, right? Right." He clung on to the sides of the canoe, praying he really was right. Thinking about that beer. Perhaps a swimming pool…
But yes, Hari had lost the paddles. That had been on the first day, not long after they’d set off from the Golden Bay.
In his defence, Hari had never been in a canoe before. He had no idea what he was supposed to do, no clue that he and Ash were supposed to share the paddles. He had used them like oars, trying to battle against the current instead of going with it. The water had ripped them from his hands, tearing the skin, opening up deep wounds that bled and were still bleeding, and had sunk without even the luxury of leaving bubbles behind.
And Ash hadn’t been much help. Only afterwards had he suggested it might have been better had they had a paddle each. That he had seen it on television and therefore knew what he was talking about.
Too late now.
Hari heard the waterfall before he saw it. He heard it before Ash did. A pounding, swirling, unmistakably deadly sound that even Hari could tell was getting closer.
They were going to die.
He was going to die.
Hari realised this was his last chance to get the final word in and he desperately wanted to say something profound before it was all over.
Shower, beer, snow, pool… His brain wouldn’t function, the heat was cooking it in his skull. Shower, beer, snow, pool…
He turned to his brother, steeled himself, and took a deep breath. "Shit," he said.
©Lisamarie Lamb 2013