Don't run

by Chloe Amoo (United Kingdom (Great Britain))

I didn't expect to find Gabon


The air was hot and heavy, you could almost taste it, that earthy dampness. Looking down, I counted the dried spots of blood along my legs “one” “two”… “six” … “nine” I smiled to myself, thinking how excited the trackers were, collecting the leeches from my legs and putting them into little plastic tubes. “très bon médicament”, very good medicine Alouise explained to me. Walking through the forest, they always knew the best leaves, or bark to collect. Majoirty of the time when I asked what it was for, it was met with the same answer, la malade, simple. I stepped forward, noisily breaking branches. The trackers looked back and gave each-other a glance, as if they were watching a small toddler crashing through the forest. Even after a few months, I couldn’t quite crack the method of walking in silence. “les sens-tu”, do you smell them. I paused, looked up and closed my eyes, as if that would help me smell things better. It felt as if even the forest had gone quiet, helping us make things out a little clearer. But to me, I could still smell the same damp scent of rotting trees and soil. “Par Ici”, This way. We walked further, trying to avoid making noise, or at least I was trying whilst the others made it look like an effortless task. Our eyes peeled in all directions, looking for any slight movement, and listening for any small sounds. Gradually the smell got stronger, a musky scent, which soon became a favourite smell of mine that would not be forgotten any time soon. I looked at the trackers just in front, Jean-Pierre looked back at me and smiled. My heart raced in excitement, could it be him. So far the moments shared were fleeting, still trying to gain his trust. Then, as if out of nowhere, the silence was broken. A scream echoed through the forest. The volume alone was enough to make my heart beat in an uncontrollable rhythm. Birds scattered and small trees parted way, crashing down as if they were nothing but twigs in the way. Chaos, but in slow motion, and right towards our direction. I could hear each footstep as it thudded onto the ground, the cracking of branches under a heavy weight. We all crouched down without the need to exchange words, we knew the drill. It felt alien to my body to make itself small, looking away from what was heading towards us, averting our gaze. Instinct tells you to run, to move, to stand strong, but you go against all this and just focus on making sure you don't make any stupid moves, you go against that animal instinct and trust in that logic you are telling yourself. The forest went silent again, with just the grunting noises coming from behind me. I could feel my heart beating out of my chest, and as crazy as it may sound, I could not stop smiling, in that moment, that encounter made everything feel so real. Curiosity got the better of me and I peered over my shoulder. I just had to see him. But it wasn’t him, it was not Kamaya. This was the Gorilla who did not like humans.