Philip Harrison is an emerging talent based in Bristol, England. Having written his first novel ‘There’s More To Life in 2012, Philip went on to write several children’s books including The Adventures Of Fluffy Monkey Series, the Draw Your Own Adventure series, Bounce, Children’s Bible Stories: Noah, Mathew The Hero, The Funny Honey, Where’s Ted? and Dot. For more information, please visit: www.philiprharrison.webs.com
BOOM! Another explosion. The sand, mud and dust all around was difficult to see. Scrambling up the bank he could just make out the bodies running off to safety. The temptation to chase after them, to hide, to cower, gripped Zak’s mind. He turned and realised that could never happen, he had to go back for her.
Zak desperately wiping his eyes, calling out, stumbled back in to the furore. They were getting closer as another grenade exploded close to the left of Zak throwing him back in to the dirty sand. His ears ringing, he struggled back to his feet. That was when he heard her, her screams, piercing through the battle torn beach. Zak rushed towards her stricken voice, back towards the incoming tide. Panic set in as the splashing of water and heaving of the oars rowing away from the shore muffled the sounds of the prisoner’s hopeless screams.
The last boat to leave the pillaged land drifted in to the fog, the other boats had long gone with their captives in toe. “ELIZABETH, ELIZABETH…” Zak reached the water’s edge running towards the shadowy figure of the invaders vessel. The echoing despair of Elizabeth is the last thing Zak hears as darkness surrounds him when a final explosion sent Zak collapsing, falling down on to the stricken coastline.
Slowly, his eyes opened, blinking to adjust to the sun’s bright rays streaming through the old cottage door. A pain seared through his left side jolting his body upright as he wearily pulled himself to a sitting position on his bed. Surveying his familiar surroundings Zak’s memory brought back the horrific realisation of his loss. He stumbled out of bed, frantically searching for his clothes, now ignoring the pain wracking his bandaged up torso. Zak knew he had to get across the water quickly if he had any chance of saving his beloved Elizabeth. Rushing through the green fields, the baking sun beating down on his worried brow, Zak head back towards the coast, towards his old friend’s boat house.
Concern for his mentor grew as Zak maneuvered around the wreckage of several wooden vessels dotted around the beach as he approached the seafarer’s work place.
‘Gus, Gus,’ Zak called as he neared the dilapidated beach hut.
‘Gus, you gotta help me, they’ve got Liz’.
Zak ran through the sand, up the small steps and noticing the old wooden door open bursts through in to a small room filled with wrenches, tools and odds and ends of every description. Going from room to room and up the short spiral wooden staircase to the upper deck Zak frantically searched for his friend. He pulled up a window to scan the beach and noticed something further down the beach.
It was unclear what he could see at first, so Zak cautiously clambered along the sand banks. With some relief, Zak, noticing Gus working on a small rowing boat, called over to him as he approached the old sea dog.
‘Hey Gus, you’re ok, you’re ok’
‘Zak, you survived, thank goodness’
Gus embraced his younger friend in his great arms.
‘Are you hurt?’
‘Just my ribs I think, the medics must have found me as I woke up at my place. Gus, they‘ve got Liz, I need to go after them.’
‘Those savages have taken a lot of our maidens’ Gus muttered regrettably. ‘This is the third time now this semester. We gotta do something.’
‘Were you hurt at all?’ Zak asked concerned.
‘I wasn’t here, only got back this morning. My hut survived, but all of my boats have been blown to smithereens, all but this one.’ Gus sighed waving tiredly to the patched up craft sitting sorrowfully in the sand.
‘Well, let’s go, we haven’t got a moment to lose’, Zak replied urgently as he started pushing the boat towards the water’s edge.
‘Now, hold on just two minutes will you, we can’t go rushing in blind an’ all, we need to think, plan, prepare properly. We won’t last long against those invaders with courage alone.’
‘Look, let me check this over’ Gus said holding on to the boat, ‘we’ll go back to my hut, get provisions and work out what to do’.
Soon, the distant land came in to view. The cool evening air breathes softly on the men’s conscientious brows. Zak and Gus cautiously drifted slowly towards the desolate beach. As they approached the apparent empty coast line the two would-be rescuers steered their craft towards an area of the land covered in jungle.
After hiding their boat with vines and foliage the pair entered the dense wooded area to cover the approach to their rival’s village. The humidity dripping through their clothes, Zak and Gus determinedly made their way through the forested undergrowth. After what appeared to be many hours clambering through the woods the sounds and lights of the invaders homestead grew ever more apparent.
Gus motioned to Zak to stop as the cheering and celebrations of the pillagers filled the air.
‘Right, we need to find where the prisoners are being held’ Gus whispered to Zak pulling him behind a large Oak. Zak viewed the clearing some metres from the edge of the jungle. An array of adults and children sat on tree stumps, logs and stones surrounding an animal roasting slowly on a large fire. Others mingled in the darkening evening in and around the many huts and mud shelters within the community.
Zak followed Gus back in to the depths of the woods and navigated their way around the outskirts of the colony.
‘The captives will be guarded I suspect’ Gus seethed, wiping the sweat from his brow. ‘When we have found where they are kept, I’ll make a diversion and you see if you can find Liz and anyone else they’ve taken’.
Zak climbed a nearby tree to scout the area. Climbing to near the top of the large Wimba, he managed to see the village about half a mile from their position. It was difficult to see in the dark of the night, but Zak could see the torches dotted around the campsite lighting up the village’s homes. There were two huts separated from the others with what looked like a large man standing in front of each entrance glowing in the torches flames. Zak noticed the shelters where he thought the prisoners must be held were around one hundred yards from the jungle edge.
‘I think I know where they are held’ Zak called to Gus shinning back down the bark.
The pair diligently approached the village through the dense jungle growth. After some time of hacking through leaves and climbing over roots the camp came in to view. The moon shone bright down from a clear glittery sky. The smoke from the feast rose and dispersed in to the cool night air. Gus pulled Zak close to him behind the shrubbery hiding their existence from the invaders community. Gus’ attention was alerted to activity near the huts with the guards. He motioned to Zak to focus on what was happening. The fire from the torches lighting the mud shelters flickered gently in the night breeze. Zak noticed more clearly now the guards by the entrances, several of them talking and laughing. Two guards from each hut proceeded out dragging distressed, gagged prisoners. Zak scoured the desperate faces trying to locate his precious Elizabeth. Unable to see if Liz was part of the struggling captives being led away by the warriors, Zak proceeded to move towards the compound.
‘Hold on a minute’, Gus whispered through gritted teeth, pulling Zak back to the forest ground.
‘It’s no good, charging in there like a crazy man, they’ll take you down before you get to the first hut... then where will we be, or Liz for that matter?’ Gus whispered urgently.
‘Look, let’s keep to the plan, I’ve got these’ Gus said showing the flint he took out of his pocket. ‘Wait here, wait for my signal, when you see the smoke and fire from over there,’ Gus pointed to the far left side of the communal settlement, ‘you can go in the huts and search for Liz. The guards will be the first to notice the fires I make so wait until they have left their posts. You’re not gonna have long though until the other guards arrive, so be as quick as you can.’
‘What if she isn’t there?’ Zak replied concerned.
‘I’m gonna go back through the jungle and see if I can find where they have taken the other prisoners, with any luck one of us will find her. Meet me back at the boat as soon as you can, I’ll wait there for you… good luck buddy…’
‘Yeah, good luck Gus, stay safe’.
Zak watches his friend disappear back through the trees and branches, his movements blending in with the creatures and wildlife of the jungle.
Turning back to keep watch on the huts, Zak noticed the activity there had died down and the view that greeted him returned to two guards standing quietly outside the two shacks. He presumed there must still be captives inside the huts or else the men would have left with their companions.
Zak settled back against a tree, trying to calm himself and prepare for this daring rescue. The distinct sounds of his environment soothed his troubled mind while he took in his surroundings. Hearing more than seeing the inhabitants of this earthly home, Zak wondered what a different world the animals who co-exist in this natural paradise live in. Hunting and scavenging, securing their nests and dens from raiders. Searching for food and trying to survive, it appeared there were great many similarities to us than Zak realised…
‘GET THE WATER!’
Zak bolted upright. Blearily rubbing his face, cursing to himself for falling asleep. He peered out to the scene in front of him, the entrance to the huts had been left unguarded as Gus had said. The smoke was billowing up in to the night sky, a roaring fire was lighting up the forest with eerily shadows dancing through the trees.
‘Now’s my chance’ Zak thought not knowing how long he dropped off for. Cautiously creeping around the outskirts of the compound, he slowly approached the nearest hut. Zak felt the heat of the torches prickle his sweaty skin as he entered the dark interior.
‘Liz…Liz…are you here?’
Zak stumbled around in the dimming light, the darkness of the night in the shack engulfing the glow of the torches. Conscious of the shouts and screams of the now panicked villagers trying to contain Gus’ lethal strategy, Zak frantically searched around for any survivors.
‘Where is she? Where is she?’ Finding the hut empty but for some loosened rope and twine, Zak peered out from the edge of the doorway to check the coast was clear. The smoke from the enraging fire was swallowing the whole of the pillagers society, flames leaping and biting, destroying everything in its relentless path.
Zak swiftly stole over to the other unguarded cabin and passed silently inside. Knowing the layout of the previous shack, he maneuvered more confidently in this one, whispering and searching for his beloved. Finding more rope and binds scattered around the earthy floor, Zak began to fear the worse. Now groping around in the darkness on his hands and knees, cold sweat running down his despairing face, Zak explored as much of the inside of the hut as he could, searching around the rim of the structure, he thought he had lost his love forever.
As Zak turned, thinking he had scoured the whole of the area, his right foot brushed something. Zak reached back to throw off what he thought was some rope that he got caught up in. He felt, however, not the twine as he was expecting, but some soft material. With restrained hope keen to flow through his veins, he felt along the material finding it clinging to a body…
‘Liz, Liz, can you hear me?’
Zak lifted the unconscious figure to find Elizabeth hanging from his arms. Her face covered in mud and blood, with a large gash on the left of her forehead.
‘Liz, wake up,’ Zak shook her lightly. He carefully placed her back down on the ground to feel her pulse. An overwhelming relief swept over him as the blood continued to circulate through his lover’s body. Trying to think quickly, he thought of carrying her out of there when he heard something.
Keeping deadly still he heard the sound again, realising it was coming from somewhere in the shelter Zak tried to locate the source of the sound. He found another body further behind where Elizabeth was lying.
‘Hey, are you ok?’ Zak breathed shaking the figure awake.
‘Wh… What’s happened? Who are you?’
‘It’s ok, I’m here to help you, can you stand?’
‘I… I think so, just give me a minute…’
‘We don’t have a minute, we have to get out of here, can you help me with Liz?’ Zak whispered hurriedly helping the young woman to her feet.
The female lent on her rescuer trying to steady herself and clear her mind.
‘Where are the others? There were loads of us in here.’
‘Don’t know, we haven’t got time to find out, they’ll trap us in here if we don’t leave soon.’
Zak pulled the still unconscious Elizabeth off the ground and with the captives help managed to get her over his shoulder. The trio swiftly left the thatched prison and scuttled in to the jungle and away from the slaver’s compound.
Feeling relieved to be away from the village but still anxious as they make their way through the trees, Zak’s thoughts wander to the fate of the other prisoners and what has happened to Gus. After some time of struggling through the undergrowth at what felt like a safe distance, the troupe stopped for a rest. Liz had also started to come round, murmuring and slurring as they made their way back to the boat.
‘Liz, Liz, can you hear me?’ Zak asked concerned.
‘Oh, Zak’ Liz cried blinking and throwing her arms around her saviour. ‘You came back for me!’
‘Of course I did, I was never gonna leave you to those barbarians.’ Zak replied helping Liz to her feet. ‘We gotta keep going though, when they find you have gone, it won’t take them long to work out what has happened.’
Together the three weary bodies scrambled and clambered through the forested area determined to get back to their craft, back to safety.
They eventually came out of the jungle on to the shore, further down from where they had previously hid the rowing boat.
Recognising the coast line, Zak started running down the beach away from the two exhausted women.
‘Come on,’ Zak beckoned, ‘it’s down here, I remember where we hid it.’
As Zak approached the boats hiding place he saw movement in the trees.
‘Oh no’ he thought, ‘we are so close to getting away.’ Zak had come too far to get stopped now, he gathered what strength remained from his drained body and walked towards the woods preparing to fight for their freedom.
‘Hey’ the figured called.
Gus rushed out, seeing his friend approach him.
‘You made it back, did you find her?’ Gus caught Zak up in a great bear hug relieved to see his companion again.
Relieved to see his mentor, Zak pointed back down the beach to the two females stumbling towards them.
‘What a relief, after I started the fire, I looked for other prisoners but there was so much panic in the village, I had to get out of there. At least Liz is ok.’
‘Why didn’t you get the boat out, ready for us?’ Zak asked pulling the leaves and vines off their vessel.
‘I thought it was better to wait in hiding for you, in case someone found it and lose our only escape from this god forsaken land.’
The two men pulled the wooden craft through the sand in to the inviting water. Helping their liberated captives in to the boat, the rescue party propelled themselves away from the jungle, away from the invaders, away from despair and towards hope, safety and home.
Zak sat back on the boat as Gus insisted on rowing. His beloved Liz asleep in his arms, safe once more. The other lady who escaped with them sleeping curled up at the other end of the craft. The early morning sun glimmered on the crystal waters as they headed back towards their motherland. As Gus steered them towards their homestead, Zak watched the dwindling land floating away from them, the flames burning bright as the fire engulfed the barbarian’s realm.