My Short Stories

3.

" South Africa in Winter. "                           Charlie Dimech

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I took a walk deeper into the forest one day, venturing further than normal and came upon a sight which gave me the most gigantic shock I had ever experienced in my whole life - like a bolt of lightning.
 
By another stream which probably fed my stream was a tent made out of animal skins. There beside it bending over with her back to me, gutting an animal which had obviously been caught very recently, clad also in animal skins was a youngish looking woman, no Amazon but a gentle creature, small framed of skin and bone.
 
"Hi." I said, loud and as affirmative as I could muster.
"I wont hurt you" I continued assertively as she whirled with a look of fear and surprise. She eyed me angrily. "If you want me to leave I will." again I spoke.
"Then go!" she yelled.
I took two paces backwards. then I glanced once more straight into her eyes, wild with fear, turned and left.
I marched all the way back to my camp. I couldn't force myself into a situation where I wouldn't be welcome.
When I arrived, I found my camp had been rampaged as though by a wild bull. There were nets and skins tossed about, utensils and firewood. the tree house was half destroyed with part of the walls and roof missing and my 'blankets' on the ground below. Nothing was missing.
What did she want? how did she get here,  before me? how long had she known I was here?
These questions hit me with such force that I was left reeling, my head spinning. I was completely dazed.
I knew there was only one thing left to do, and as I marched straight back in the same direction from which I had come I overcame my apprehension that if she could beat me back to camp, wreck it and disappear all before I could reach it on a course I knew wasn't exactly straight then she could also finish me off in an ambush wherever she liked.
She had known my exact whereabouts and my travel behaviour and hence everything about me and yet she had never revealed herself. I still had a little fear creeping into the back of my mind but too dazed to do anything about it and far too euphoric to give a damn.
 
I approached her camp, by this time without any fear whatsoever. She wouldn't have let me get this far if she hadn't wanted me to. I strode up to her tent, sat down and waited for her to return.
 
Her name was Cherrinne. She had been camped here for some time: four to five or maybe even six months. She marked off the days on an upright piece of log inside her tent, but sometimes she forgot, she told me.
 
She stumbled across my camp about three months prior to my finding hers. She was afraid and did not want to get herself into a situation. She made special plans regarding finding my camp without being seen. She had the route down pat. She had watched my movements and my zig-zag curves through the forest looking for game which took me in a wide arc to her camp on this particular day. She knew in the back of her mind that I would one day find her and when I did she tested the waters very strenuously before I had left. She followed me half way back, keeping well out of ear shot but knowing the route I would take she had no difficulty. Convinced that my retreat was genuine and not a bluff she realized that she had made a mistake and decided to "have some fun" at my expense. ' - wild woman' I thought, to have wrecking a camp up her sleeve as a party trick.
 
By now it was quite late and we both slept on the creek bank, the strong smell of the dying fire and its faint glow, the only sensible traces apart from ourselves that nature had been forcedly receptive to human contact.
 
It was the same story: forced to work as an assistant in an abortion clinic or lose her social security entitlements: forced to take the oath of allegiance. she had refused both and was dumped on this same coast without hope. Two gallons of water, more than what I got I thought, a knife, four cigarette lighters - the female option? and a rug! they had actually expected her to survive!
 
They were deporting more and more people now, she told me, than the trickle when I had been deported two years ago as the ruthlessness of the dictatorship and its demands intensified and so did the resistence, but still it was only a few by comparison to those who were able to hide, self-sufficient, and the vast majority who accepted the status quo.
 
There were probably others nearby, and quite a few if they had dumped us so close together. We, neither of us had looked. She was closer to the coast than I realized because I traced an arc, unintentionally, always lousy at directions, but especially in these thick woods. I had to mark my way quite drastically so as not to get the proverbial, in this case 'lost'. I carried a sharp stone for this, reserving my knife for essential food gathering, spear making and skin cutting.
 
The pain had been made much smaller now that I had a companion and after six months in the bush, Cherrinne too was beginning to lose her edge, all alone.
 
We decided to marry. Under an oak tree we pledge each other to each other for life, come hell or high water and as we had already experienced both we knew what we were talking about.
 
If fate could have been kinder I certainly wouldn't know about it. Cherrinne was so much like myself on the inside it was uncanny. I understood her every thought. I knew her likes and dislikes, her courage and forebearance and her apprehensiveness about the environment we found ourselves in. I also knew her love, which when united with mine made it difficult not to be happy even in this harsh environment. As time went on we became more and more indivisible, more and more one. This was aided by our sharing of every task, great or small. We even devised new methods together of catching wild game. One would drive them towards the other and this increased our catches.
 
I found that the fish did not migrate and hence I was able by blocking in three hundred yards of creek to create a fish farm.
 
We also found crabs, shellfish and crayfish which inhabited a bay just a half a mile to the south, which were in such numbers that they provided us with an inexhaustible supply of fresh seafood.
 
Luck would have no strange bedfellows, and one lucky break led to another. Wild melons grew one to two hundred yards in from the shoreline of the bay. We gathered as many as we could saving two hundred seeds which we transplanted nearer camp and close to the stream. We did this in two stages, eight weeks apart in groups of three so that there were thirty-three groups in the first planting and again in the second, which were planted between the first, digging down to a depth of six inches in the sandy soil with sticks just strong enough for the job.
 
Skins were used to transport water, keeping Cherrinne thus occupied while I hunted for fish with my nets, taking only the largest and releasing the others, and for game.
 
A quietude is the best description one could give to this shore. A quiet which even the company of two happy souls could not disturb. We sensed it, we breathed it and we lived in it and as time went on we grew accustomed to it as the only possible form of existence. Nature had its own rythmn and our lives were enhanced by this rythmn, so that the rustle of the leaves, the sound of the water falling onto rocks, the song of the birds seemed only to enscribe the way we felt inside and this was perfectly natural. It was after all simply mankind returning to the natural world from which he came, not in a degenerative sense, but creatively.

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4.


"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down."