I sheltered behind the steamer’s gunwale as the natives’ arrows continued to thud into the sad wood of the stranded vessel. Dr. Ross meanwhile dodged the deadly poison missiles with the dexterity of one of Diaghilev’s ballerinas and, after yelling something encouraging to the remnants of the crew, turned to me.
‘Hurl yourself from this boat like a replicant escaping a blade runner! Swim to the opposite shore and head into the trees; I shall then find you henceforth. Move, bitch!’
I understood but little of what he said – I lacked the training in the trivium and quadrivium that Dr. Ross possessed – yet I nodded and clambered to the vessel’s starboard side, ready to jump ship; but before doing so I paused to shout at the Doctor – was he not fleeing as well? Still dodging projectiles with the litheness of a wild-cat, he stentoriously projected,
‘As my good friend Foucault would say, J’ne suis pas une chienne… I am no bitch. Now off with you!’
With that I flung myself into the river, swimming through the choppy, murky brown shades of the Pandaruan until I reached safe haven upon its soft bank. I looked back once to see the broken ship slowly start to sink into its silty grave, but from such a distance I could see no sign of the illustrious Dr. Ross.
Deciding to take my chances, I clambered inland through the primeval terrain, tripping on vines, swatting away large mos-quitoes, and quickly becoming enveloped in an ungentlemanly sweat. Strange noises from even stranger animals echoed throughout the canopy and I found myself quite turned-around. After some time of futile wandering I decided to curl up amongst the roots of a particularly large banyan tree and delay my attempt to find the good Doctor till morning. Soon enough, the dim light of the rising sun was glowing softly through my eye-lids; I stirred but, upon opening them, found myself surrounded.
At least a dozen pygmie-men stood in my little glen in various states of nature; covered with savage tattoos and animal skulls, their noses were pierced by profusions of sharpened bamboo and their hair was cut and patterned such as has never been seen on the civilised streets of Miami. They motioned me to rise with their spears and soon began to lead me through the jungle, prodding me whenever they deemed I had gone astray.
We continued in this interminable fashion until the ancient trees gave way to a clearing filled with thatched huts. Smoke with the most succulent smell filled the air and, as I was led towards the center of the village, a gaggle of pygmie-children twittered around me like so many sparrows. I was brought to the face of the settlement’s largest hut, its door-frame constructed from the gigantic sun-bleached bones of some jungle-abomination; the hunters who had been my escort forced me onto my knees and held down my head so that I faced dirt – dirt that had been packed over the decades by multitudes of sweaty pygmie-feet. And so I was awaiting my fate when I heard a shuffling before me and a great and familiar voice ring out:
‘My boon companion! See, I told you I would find your ass.’
* * *
The Doctor and I sat, surrounded by hot plates of vittles as he recounted the events leading up to his own arrival at the village. ‘Well, we held on to the boat as long as we could but they soon swarmed us in their war-canoes and bound the survivors; though I gotta admit it took those bastards some time to find enough vanu-vines to constrain my hearty frame. They then led us through the jungle back to this very settlement. As they readied their largest cooking-pot for me they started to pound their ceremonial drums; seeing my future before me and bound like some bitch version of Samson, I could do naught but defiantly sing:
I think I’m Big Meech…. Larry Hoover
Whippin’ work… hallelujah
One nation… under God
Real niggas gettin’ money from the fuckin’ start.
At this repeat of his Elysian words, the tribesmen around us went to the ground as one and started chanting ‘Ohhh-mah patta…. ohhh-mah patta…’ Dr. Ross smiled, ‘Yeah, just that happened, as you see now. They hastened to unbind me and fêted me as they would a great Pygmie-Chief or Jay-Z; for in their culture the gifts of syncope and sick flow are seen as evidence of Divine favour.’
As I reached for another plate of succulent bush-meat the Doctor swatted away my hand, saying only, ‘Nah, eat this shit instead,’ as he handed me a different clay bowl. He then explained that he had used his new-found clout with the primitives to send parties in search of me.
I gushingly spoke of my amazement that he had so easily integrated with the tribe and, of course, thanks that he had found me.
‘Well,’ the Doctor said, leaning forward, ‘learning a method of communication took several hours but finally I arrived at an arrangement whereby, with simple gestures and markings in this land’s fertile soil, I could convey basic thoughts to this pygmy-people, though I admit to its imperfection: the Chief seems to think I’m still schooling at Eton – can you imagine that shit at my age? But we’ve got an understanding; the tribe’s best hunters will lead us onward to Her Majesty’s outpost while the Chief’s men will bring what supplies remain from our boat back to civilisation. Pack light and eat well, we leave at tomorrow’s first blaze.’
I heartily agreed, but then a thought came to my mind and I wondered aloud: the Doctor had said there were other survivors; what had happened to them?
Dr. Ross coughed and shifted, shooting a glance at the bowl from which he had earlier forbid me to eat. ‘Well, my friend, they – say, have I ever told you of the time I was stranded in the Khyber Pass and surrounded by hostile Mohammedans? It was late in December and…’
I leaned back to enjoy the ebullient Doctor hold forth, my cares forgotten.
* * *
The next morning we set forth, our pygmy-guides leading the way as Dr. Ross and I carried naught but we absolutely needed. I wore the clothes on my back with a small ruck-sack while the Doctor had fastened his back-packing straps over his full-length coat of adventuring-chinchilla. Meanwhile a group of friendly pygmies were already carrying to civilisation the unnecessary remainder of our small supply cache: the Doctor’s 2,000-volume travel library, the diving-helmets, our entire stock of rifles and ammunition… we would not be needing these things upriver where the deadly Lizard-Men dwelled.
After an eight hours’ trek we came to a break in the jungle and the pygmies stopped, then made several simple motions while drawing two parallel lines in the dirt. The good Doctor interpreted:
‘They will travel no further – they say badass spirits inhabit this cursed plain. They wish us well and with the blessings of their gods, and express honour that they have met my ass, acclaimed Professor of… damn,’ he squinted his eyes behind his opaque glasses at the two lines in the loam and then drew a rectangle constrained by a circle; looking up at the pygmies he enunciated, ‘Phi-lo-lo-gy; I’m a Professor of Philology, not some goddamn,’ he glanced at their original etching, ‘bitch lecturer in Phrenology!…’ He quickly composed himself and wished farewell to the newly-enlighted pygmies.
We then set forth to the shattered outpost below. A plume of smoke wafted over a limp Union Jack and the wooden buildings looked like they had been rent asunder by an angry giantess; dark stains, all too identifiable, were spread across many of the surfaces. We passed through its cloven gate and then, from under the mangled porch of the mess-hall, we heard a hiss…
Tune in next week for Part Three of The Saga of Rick Ross: The Lizard-Men of Borneo!