When the plane carrying a group of Nigerian students to South Africa for the annual African Colleges Competition, crashes into a Congolese jungle instead, there’s a lot at stake. These students were chosen to represent the nation, because of their academic brilliance and sportsmanship; their ability to beat competitors is the reason they are their country’s hope.
But in the jungle, there are different sets of rules … and some are being made up along the way. Thrust by Fate into hostile territory, it’s not just a question of who will survive. There’s also the issue of what – their friendships, innocence, sanity, sense of right and wrong, and hopes for the future
The quiet air of the Congo jungle was suddenly broken. A fierce-looking, young man leaped over a log and through the shrubs. He was running breathlessly, cutting his way through marshy lands, hanging vines, low branches, twigs and the thistles. In his left hand, he clutched a white cowboy hat. The hat had been reduced to a dirty, brownish moistened piece of clothing, but its owner was not ready to let it go. In fact, he had just killed a man for this same hat – this same dirty brownish piece of clothing. In his right hand he held on tight to a re-curve folding knife. It was The Commander.
He scuttled through the jungle, trying to keep from falling due to exhaustion. He kept at it. He was fleeing for dear life. There was nothing else on his mind, but to make a getaway. With no destination in mind, he ran aimlessly.
Hard on his trail were two vicious 4-foot-tall men with spears in their hands. They were quite familiar with this jungle so their feet went faster than his and began to gain on him. As he ran through the jungle, his mind raced over what would happen if he were caught. He began to think of those he had left behind, his friends who were in the hands of these brutal pygmies. It was with a jolt, that he remembered the two men he had stabbed. Had he really killed two men?
“Don’t be a fool,” he thought as he sped on.
He took a quick glance at the knife in his hand as if to make sure the bloodstain was really there and to confirm he had really stabbed the men. To his dismay and relief, there was blood smeared along the shaft of the 3-inch blade. He ran, swinging it through the air.
His blows had been precise and he had sliced the right nerves and veins, so their continued existence was out of the question. Come to think of it, taking their lives was worth it. If the men died, then he had done a good deed.
Femi was injured and it was by the arrows of one of these men. So what if he had killed them? It was in self-defence, he encouraged himself. Then his mind returned to the escape.
He had to lose these men as soon as possible, then think of what to do. As he thought on these things, his legs gained ground, vigour returned and he began to run faster. He only began to slow down when he listened but heard no footsteps behind him. He came to a sudden halt and turned around sharply. He didn’t know why he decided to stop, but a thought was forming. Perhaps he could fight these two men and take their lives as well.
But when he turned, there was nothing. Apart from the chirping of a few birds, the croaking of distant frogs looking for mates and the crickets making their evening appearance, it was just quiet. He dropped his jaw wider and let in as much air as possible – he needed the jungle air.
He remained alert. He scanned the area with his eyes and his grip on the handle of the knife became firmer. It was too quiet for his liking. He had expected his pursuers to burst through one of the openings. But they didn’t. He waited. Then, his nerves began to relax. He managed to drag himself to the hidden shades of a thicket, before beginning to sob. He went down on one knee, then on all fours, weeping hysterically.
How did it get to this? This was not the plan. It was too wild to be real; yet too real to be a dream. This wasn’t meant to be happening. If this was some kind of a nightmare, now was the right time to wake up. But there was no mistaking it for imagination: The crisp air of the jungle was real, his heartbeat was real, the dryness in his throat was real … everything from the sound to the feel, the blood, the screams, the deaths.
“Scratch that!” he thought to himself, coming to terms with the facts staring him in the face.
He wasn’t sure what to do; keep running, or go back for his captured friends? He sat in a clumsy sprawl and tried to compose his thoughts. His next move would be crucial. But make it, he had to if he wished to see his friends again in this life or in the next.
Yet, he couldn’t help remembering how different everything was, a short time ago. Several weeks ago, he never considered in his wildest imagination that he would be in this muddle, that he would be fleeing through a jungle for killing. Several weeks ago, his life was safe and full of potential. Right now, he was full of doubt and fear.
He had finally stopped crying and was trying to focus, but his mind kept wandering back to the perfect life he had been living, mere weeks before the ill-fated trip. He had been a promising student and long before now, things had been different.
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