That night we camped out under the stars once more, but this time there was hardly any tree cover as we were in a more open location in the jungle, not too far from where we’d crossed over the river on that rickety rope bridge. It was kind of nice, or I should say it would’ve been if the circumstances had been different. I’d never done the whole camping thing when I was a kid - my childhood had been one audition after another until the Backstreet Boys came along. I hadn’t had much experience with normal childhood activities - but I imagined it would’ve been a bit like this, minus the jungle location of course.
We were all worn out, both physically and mentally after the day we’d had. Not only had we covered a lot (hopefully) of ground, but we’d had that scary rope bridge to contend with too. It had been hard going for all of us, especially Howie who was now snoring away in his sleeping bag. He had asked to be woken up when food was ready, if food is what you could call it. It was sustenance and nothing more.
Brian was the designated cook for the day and was boiling up the little pan of water over the small fire we’d managed to get going.
“What’s on the menu today Bri?” AJ asked as he leaned against his back pack, arms folded behind his head.
“Freeze dried chicken curry and rice, followed by a delicious and nutritious fruit bar and a few sips of water” Brian announced in a way that made it sound like he was cooking a gourmet dinner. It wasn’t. Those freeze dried meals tasted like shit and the fruit bars were tiny and the supply was dwindling to almost nothing.
“Sounds delicious” AJ joked “I can’t wait”
After we’d finished the bland meal, we sat around the fire talking of the things we missed most from back home. It didn’t take long for food to become the main topic of conversation, I think the food issue was a major problem for all of us.
“I miss cakes, fried chicken, chocolate and McDonalds” I said, licking my lips and imagining them all. I’d been on a diet for so long; I’d almost forgotten how good they tasted. I made a promise to myself that when we got out of here, I was going to treat myself to a little bit of what I’d been missing. I would just work harder in the gym to compensate.
“I miss my wife’s cooking” Brian sighed.
“I miss my hot sauce” Howie replied “it would’ve made this so much more bearable”
“I just hope we get out of here alive” Jordan said, changing the subject.
“We will, don’t you worry. I have faith that the Lord will see us home safely” Brian confided “I’m praying for all of us”
We studied the map by torch light for a little while before going to bed, we still weren’t 100% sure where we were, we could only hope that we were getting closer to the edge of the jungle.
“Good night” we all said to each other and climbed into our sleeping bags, hoping that this would be our final night out in the open. It’s surprising how easily you can sleep in the jungle, even though we knew there were all sorts of creatures lurking, we had no trouble getting to sleep. Maybe it was all the physical exertion that was tiring us out, but whatever, I was glad we could at least get some decent sleep.
Then suddenly, in the middle of the night, I heard a scream which woke me up instantly. It sounded like someone being murdered. Within seconds, all of us were awake.
“I’ve been fucking stabbed” AJ cried out “my fucking shoulder hurts like fuck”
“AJ, you can’t have been stabbed” I told him. Unless of course he’d been stupid enough to sleep with his knife under his sleeping bag and it had somehow managed to stab him in his sleep.
“I’m telling you, I’m in fucking pain” he whined.
I was up and out of my sleeping bag first, so I grabbed a torch and went to look. I shone the torch over him and didn’t see any big gaping stab wound. Instead, I saw a bite mark.
“Dude, you’ve been bitten, that’s all” I laughed and the others laughed with me, thinking AJ was just being a little dramatic, like he was prone to be at times.
“Hey, it’s no laughing….argh…fuck…FUCK” he screamed again and squirmed about, trying to get out of his sleeping bag “whatever the hell it is, it just bit my fucking back. Get it off me”
“Calm down and let me see” I asked as AJ wrestled his sleeping bag.
“Calm down! You try fucking calming down when you feel like you’ve been stabbed by a fucking red hot poker. I’m in fucking pain man”
He eventually got out of the sleeping bag, still whining in pain, as I looked to see what was causing it.
There was an ant like creature, about an inch long and ugly as hell, crawling around in there. It let out a kind of shriek as I shone the torch on it and then jumped onto my hand and bit me.
“Fuuuckkk” I screeched and squashed it with the torch.
“Told you, hurts like a fucking bitch doesn’t it” AJ said, still in pain with his ant stings.
“Hell yeah” I grumbled.
We looked around to make sure there wasn’t an ant’s nest or anything nearby, but none of us really knew what we were looking for, so we moved a few feet away and settled back down for the night. The pain took a couple of hours to subside, but thankfully it did go and by morning, we were fine.
Breakfast again was bland oatmeal; I think we were all starting to get pissed off with eating this stuff. God knows how explorers managed on real expeditions, when they were out in the wild for weeks at a time, did they really just live off this shit? Who knows, but I don’t think I could eat nothing but this for that long, it would drive me crazy.
“Do you know what? I’m sick of this shit already” I said as I spooned it into my mouth “I think we should try and find something else to eat. They did say we were expected to fend for ourselves in the jungle and live off the land, so I think that’s exactly what we should do”
“I wonder what would be safe to eat?” asked Brian, considering it.
“I’m sure we’ll find something” said Howie “how do you think the ancient tribal people lived? They lived off the land, so there’s bound to be plenty of edible stuff around here”
“Well, we’ll see what we find on our travels” AJ said, not really seeming all that keen on eating the unknown.
“We might find a tasty wild pig. We could roast it on a spit over a fire…” I began.
“Are you gonna catch a wild pig? I’d like to see you try” AJ laughed.
“Just you wait and see” I poked my tongue out at him, like a child would.
“How’s your leg looking this morning D?” Brian asked and went to him, unwrapping the bandage to take a look how it was healing.
“Well, to be honest, I’m not sure it’s getting any better yet” he said as Brian inspected the wound, cleaning it with water from one of the few water bottles remaining and re-covering it.
“It’s going to take some time, but at least it doesn’t look infected” he said as he secured the bandage once again.
“Thanks Bri” Howie said gratefully.
“Come on then, we ready for another day?” AJ said, fastening his rucksack on his back, eager to get going.
“Yeah, let’s get going” I replied and within a few minutes, we were on our way once again.