Survive The Jungle

Entry by: Seaside Scribbler

11th May 2016
Author's note: I'm giving myself an extra challenge this week. What I'm writing is the first part of a three-parter. I don't know if it's allowed, but I'm doing it anyway. Obviously I've no idea what next week's prompt will be and the whole thing may fall flat on its face, but I'm going to try and somehow make a three part story that is coherent and full. So here's Part One.

Green, all Green

Sweat ran down my back and my thirst was making me imagine all kinds of things from ice cream to ice cold ponds frozen over in wintertime, and it was thinking about this, instead of following the trail, that got me lost.

My mouth was so dry it made me cringe and I finally gave in to it and started to look for some water sitting in a leaf or in a puddle. Stagnant or not, I needed my mouth to be wet. It felt like cornflour. I looked down, to make sure I didn't go too far from the paper trail, and didn't see any paper. Shit. I turned back and retraced a few steps - no paper.

I was too parched to shout but I tried anyway and my pathetic 'Are you?' came out as a croak. I licked my arm. Sweat was salty, but it was wet, at least, and I got enough moisture to be able to yell, 'Are you?' at a reasonable level. All I heard in reply were the insects. The ever present chirping that sounded like a roar if you listened too hard was all around me. Usually I found it comforting, now I wanted it to be quiet so I could listen for the other runners.

'Are you?!' I yelled again.


I turned in all directions and was blinded by green. This was a new area that I'd never run in before. All around Melaka there were little pockets of jungle, interspersed with the ever-growing housing developments and shopping malls, and most of our usual areas were too well known to lay a good Hash in. We'd been forced out here, out past Ayer Keroh, in a huge area of as yet unspoilt virgin rainforest. It was beautiful, wild, tangled and absolutely full of life.

At first I'd found Hashing all a bit silly. The codes, calls and 'punishments' after the runs, the fact they called themselves a 'drinking club with a running problem', the cavalier attidtude they had towards runnin off in any direction, anywhere, with only a thin paper trail to follow. I'd only joined so that Jim and I had something in common out here - I'd been 'taken' along to Malaysia as the ex-pat wife, wasn't allowed to work and had to try and make friends with other wives, some of whom were okay, but most I found moany tired overweight women, trying to cling onto their men in a country full of slight, beautiful women, some of whom wanted an ex-pat husband. Mine wouldn't be like that, I assured Patty, as she tearfully explained how her best friend was off home after her husband went off with his secretary. This was the seedy side of life here. The good side was the wonderful people, the weather, the food, and lifestyle. I'd not wanted to come but the move was a good one for Jim, so I dutifully gave up work and came with him. At first, I loved it. I still loved it now, but for the ex-pat man/exotic woman syndrome.

But mine wasn't like that. Or so I thought.

Part of the problem, I told myself, was that we weren't doing anything as a couple. So I suggested we join the Hash House Harriers, which we did. And despite all the things that put me off at first, now I loved it, never missed and a run and enthusiastically learned all the codes and joined in with the sitting in a bucket of ice at the end, sang along, mock-abused people and had a fab time with Malaysians and ex-pats alike, levelled into one big sweaty t-shirted bunch of loud runners. I made new friends and I had fun. And then there was Rob, a single Australian, working here as a teacher, dark-eyed and smiley, giving me certain looks. Which I ignored. Completely. Jim and I didn't need any more complications. Most of all though, the hash was something Jim and I could do together, apart from drink, attend work-parties and eat out.

I didn't think he'd been unfaithful. But I knew he was thinking about it. (I don't want to explain that right now.) Usually we'd have run together but anger had spurred me on, I broke from the main bunch, found one of the first false trails and kept on running. I'd left Jim trudging with one of his work buddies. And now I was lost.


Other Hashers had spents nights in the jungle and been found the next morning, dehydrated and covered in mosquito bites and leeches, smiling nonetheless, at their adventure. I didn't plan to be one of them so I started yelling again, listened hard for the 'ON ON!' but heard only wildlife.

I wandered about for a bit, trying to find the trail. There was nothing. By now the stragglers would be home, back in the clearing where we'd parked the cars. They'd all be drinking beer and chucking friendly insults about and catching up on a week's life in Malaysia. At some point Jim would miss me and come looking. But how did you find someone in an area the size of a small town, that didn't have any roads or mobile coverage - if I'd even had my phone with me - when they didn't know where I'd lost the trail.

Damn damn damn.

I sat down and almost immediately saw leeches wobble upwards and start waving in the air, looking for the flesh they could smell. I got up again and shivered with revulsion. Mozzies started whining around me and I cursed, and realised I had to keep moving. I stamped up and down a few times, wiped the sweat out of my eyes, and tried yelling, one more time.


Water. I still had to find water. I picked a direction that sloped downwards, and set off, hacking my way through creepers and close-woven branches. I cut my arms, slipped and fell several times, and at some point, bashed my head on a tree branch. It began to bleed and I had to wipe not only sweat, but blood out of my eyes, too.

But wait - what could I hear? Above the insects' roar, I heard water. I ran the last few metres and found a stream, rock-lined and clear, and threw myself down in it face first. The water was probably all right, I told myself as I slurped. And if it wasn't, the hospital here was good. I didn't care, anyway. I slaked my thirst and sat back, taking stock, finally.

And this is what I thought:

I was alone. Not just here, in this part of the rainforest, but in this country. I was losing my husband. He was changing, slowly but surely, into a beer-bellied loudmouthed ex-pat, one of the ones I'd looked at with scorn when we first arrived. Did that mean I was turning into one of the moany wives?

After my initial shock at the idea of the move, I'd thrown myself into it all, learned some Behasa Melayu, looked at work opportunities (none), looked at leisure opportunities (loads) and got excited about it. At first, I loved it. I made good friends, I learned how a move like this can be good for a couple, binding. Now, I was forced to see another side of life here, and I didn't like it at all. I cannot blame the women - I knew loads of lovely Malaysian women and the husband stealers were by no means a commonality. But they did exist. And Jim was in someone's sights. I didn't know quite who, but I knew it was a woman from work.

He was thinking about being unfaithful. I knew becasue of the arguments, the tiny lies creeping in about being late home; the change in his expression when he looked at me. That's how it starts, Patty had told me.

I hadn't lost, yet.

I was still attractive. Look at how Rob looked at me.

I could go home, leave him here, get my career back.

I loved it here, and I wanted to make it work.

I was alone.

It was this last thought, coming at me again, which made me see I was struggling, not just out here, but in the metaphorical jungle my life had become. I began to cry, then, and sat down in a lump by the side of the stream, nothing more than a mosquito's dinner. A leech's lunch. A snake's snack. I giggled, then burst into laughter, laughter that sounded crazy.

What the hell was I going to do? The bits of sky I could see were darkening - night came early here, and fast - and I had to have a plan. It was impossible and foolhardy to try and negotiate the jungle at night. Staying here would see me covered in bites. Making a fire would be impossible in a damp jungle, when I didn't have matches. I had no shelter and we were in the part of the year when there were nightly storms.

I felt my anxiety levels rising, filling me up and making me want to scream. I clamped my hands over my ears to drown out the sounds of the insects and to try and keep my thoughts from spiralling out of control. I'd fallen into a metaphor, of my own life.

Just when I thought I couldn't stand it any longer and was going to burst, I heard something moving through the undergrowth. I looked up, ready to run.

A pair of hairy legs slipped down the bank of the stream, to land next to me on the tiny stoney beach.

'Well. Of all the jungles, in all the world, you have to walk into this one...' said a voice.

'Oh thank God,' I said, breaking into a smile, and rushing into the waiting arms...

To be continued next week. Hopefully.