Written by Ella Pegrum
“Ahhhhhhhhhh!” I scream.
“Ma-m-mam-MAMA! HELP ME!!!” Two doctors are holding me down, a third is trying desperately to jab a three inch needle into my arm. “MAMA! No, stop… PLEASE!!! MAMA-aahhhh…” The needle sinks its single, greedy fang into my arm, and the corners of my vision blur. “P-pp-pl-please…”
Fog shrouds my vision. I slip through the doors of consciousness and into the uncharted land below.
My mind is replaying the same moment over and over again, and no matter how many times I see the same scene, the terror is always fresh.
The jungle is fresh from the monsoon. The overflowing creeks wind through the trees like the snakes that search the ground for prey. I know that Mama is in front of me, despite the fact I’m looking down like a cow in the rain. I can see the footprints she’s leaving in the mud, and even though she’s only four paces in front of me, if I was any farther away I’d surely get lost.
Behind me is Tiger-Eye, and behind her is the kilometres of forest we’ve covered today.
Tiger-Eye’s parents were swept away in the monsoon, as well as the rest of the village. But she is strong. She won’t get emotional until it doesn’t put the escape plan in jeopardy. That’s why I like her.
Finally, after hours of trudging through the thick mud, we emerge into the grey expanse of what used to be Lilly Beach. Relief floods me when I see Mama’s old shack is still standing. We run over, scattering clumps of mud with our tired footfalls.
When we get inside, Mama takes charge.
“Both of you take out all the bamboo and line it up on the beach. And take the rope, so when you’re finished you can lash the raft together. Now!”
We scramble to work. After we’re done taking out all the bamboo and lining it up, we speedily tie the poles together.
I go to tell Mama that we’re done when she hurries out of the shack carrying another sturdy bamboo rod and a white sheet of fabric.
“Now go get all the food out of the cupboard and pack it into the canvas bag on the floor.” She commands. We do as we are told, and when we come back out there’s a completed raft waiting for us. Mama has somehow attached the mast and sail to the deck and she’s yelling at us again.
“QUICK! We have to leave!”
We reach the boat. Then I remember.
“Wait!” I shout, sprinting into the shack one last time. After an aeon of searching I find what I’m looking for. It’s a tiny photo of Papa, mouth smiling, eyes a-twinkle.
I race back two the raft, wading through the shallow water and jumping onto our raft just in time as the wind fills the sail and we drift out to sea.
I wake up to crying.
“What’s the matter?” I ask.
“Look.” Tiger-Eye says.
A scream erupts out of my mouth. I’ve been bitten.
We were fleeing from the mosquito storm. We were fleeing from malaria. The Death-Bite. It happens every time a monsoon comes. It makes me sick to think of anyone still trapped on the island, suffering… dying.
I feebly tell the nurse monitoring me, “I want to see Tiger-Eye.”
He ducks, shuffling out of the room, and then the next second Tiger-Eye appears. She flings her arms around my neck and we embrace.
“I love you.” she says fiercely. “I’ll always love you.”
Arranged marriage or not, I nod.
“I love you too.”