The Sac of Hashin
We just wanted to be free. Was that too much to ask? I pondered while I sat by the corner of the cabin, a dump rag wrapping my legs. I was keenly watching the flame of the fire that was blazing at the centre of the cabin. I envied the flames as they flew up to their freedom, not bound by anything.
I looked up to the small opening that I had come to accept as a window above. Through it I could see the black inky sky, in its vastness. There were no clouds, and the moon had hidden its face. That left a blanket of stars that gleamed and twinkled. The air was hot and dense, as the fire clogged up the room with a thick fog of smoke. I was already immune to the sneezy effects of the smoke, for it was either get used to sneezing or die in the cold outside. Not that the smoke was any better. I knew it was slowly killing me, but with it at least I had time, to suffer. I felt a mosquito bite at my leg, and I promptly slapped it, scratching the spot absent-mindedly.
Sifrana was not back yet, and I was starting to get worried. I tried with fail to push all thoughts of dark and doom from my mind, with the consolation that perhaps she was caught up somewhere, or maybe she had to change her route and hide from the soldiers. The soldiers! I recalled. They were everywhere it seemed. I reflected at how they had relentlessly pursued us through the thick jungles. It was by sheer strength on the part of Sifrana that we had managed to barely escape. She was built for the earth, and it seemed as though she was in commune with Pachamama herself. We could not stay anywhere for too long, or they would eventually catch up with us. And that would mean death. But we could not run forever. For the deeper we went into the forest, the further away from civilization we went. So that now we were at the mercy of nature. It seemed to me, that we were already dead, if not by the hands of men, then by that of nature. A bounty was on our head, and someone was bound to collect.
I stood up to stretch my legs a bit, and impulsively gave a yawn. That is when I realised how tired I really was. Debating whether to continue waiting for her or just go to bed, I put out the fire because it was risky to leave it too long. Without a clock to tell the time, I estimated that it must have been around 9 o’clock. I decided I should just sleep instead; I was sure she would be fine. She always was.
It was not as if sleep itself was truly possible. I had conditioned myself to wake at the slightest breaking of a twig. It was necessary too. Furthermore, it was not like I even had a true bed, it was just a mere rug to prevent sleeping on the dumpy ground. We had been reduced to savagery.
I could feel my bones ache as I lay on the mat. Months of running does that to a person: Not only do your muscles ache, but the bones do too.
Darkness. She was leaning against the rough bark of a giant tree, trying her best to slow and her heavy breathing. She could feel her heart thumping heavy against her chest, which in turn was rapping against the wood of the tree. She leaned out to try and see if she could make out anything against the dim lit forest. Nothing. Perhaps she had just imagined it. But the voices had been so distinct that she could almost picture the face that had uttered them. The face that had pursued them for months now.
She stood still as she could and closed her eyes to enhance her auditory senses. In the distance, something howled, and in response, an owl hooted in the branches above. Quiet. She had managed to regain control of her breathing. The forest was as quiet as her, as if it were attempting to listen in with her. Her leg was starting to numb, for she had not been in the best of positions when the sudden sound had startled her. And she couldn't shift it now lest she announce to her pursuer her exact location. Or so she thought.
After what felt like a sufficient amount of time, she concluded that her brain was playing tricks on her. It was late, and she needed to head back to the shelter quick. Apinat was waiting. Slowly, she crouched and started shifting through the bushes, carefully watching her step to not break any twigs. But the floor was lava, and there were dry dead twigs everywhere. She paused after every step to assert that there was no one, having a painful but necessary crawl towards her destination.
Then, she heard it again.
"I think I heard someone," a male voice emanated from the shrubbery beyond.
"Get me the torch," whispered the another.
She stopped dead in her tracks. Immediately her heartbeat spiked, and her breathing shortened. She had not imagined it. She could run. She thought. Maybe if she remained still enough, they would not be able to find her. Suddenly, a patch of ground ahead turned into day as a searchlight shone a brilliant oval it. The oval started moving around to a different part of the forest floor, clearly in search for something. Her. It was only a matter of time, she figured, as the oval moved closer and closer to her.
When the oval started moving directly to her, she shut her eyes tight and grimaced. As if they couldn't see her if she couldn't see them. She was waiting for the inevitable. But it never came. Prompting her to peek out of one eye. The oval had stopped momentarily just at the tip of her feet. And then it moved away. Sigh.
"Hey! turn that off, you don't want to announce to them where we are," another voice called in an unmistakable raspy boom. Him. She had heard, pictured him. The hairs on her back stood erect, and a cold washed over her. If her heartbeat had been fast, now it was racing. The man was the definition of terror.
The oval suddenly disappeared, then, "I thought I heard something,".
"It's nighttime, and you're in a jungle, private." Terror reprimanded.
"Sorry sir!", the private replied, in a tone of subordination, but with a hint of I-know-what-I-heard buried somewhere.