Goodbye to the Jungle (MM)
Jahl lives with his people, the Hamica, in the jungles of a nameless world. They live at one with nature. It’s a simple existence, centred around family and community.
One day all this is snatched away when Jahl is captured by slavers. But he’s a proud man from a proud people, and he never shows his fright or anxiety, despite what he feels inside. They take him through the jungle, through swampland and farmland, to a town that has seen many like him come before.
In a strange, wooden building in the middle of the town square, Jahl is put into a harness, naked and spread-eagle for all who have gathered there to see. It’s humiliating and degrading, especially when the bidding starts.
For the first time, Jahl is truly frightened. Who will purchase him? And for what purpose?
Later that day, Jahl was in the garden by himself. Brocknor was working, and therefore was not to be disturbed, and Mari was elsewhere in the villa. He lay on the cool, soft grass staring up at the clouds drifting aimlessly across a sky of vivid blue. He was smiling, though not because of the sensual start to his morning. His mind was in the jungle, on his mother and the rest of his family.
By now they would have searched the immediate jungle and, finding no trace of him, would have widened their search. His mother was, no doubt, deeply upset and concerned, though still hopeful. The thought of her with tears in her eyes erased the smile from his face.
He sat up, suddenly angry at his situation. After glancing over his shoulder at the villa, he got to his feet and walked to the nearest tree. The lowest branch was at head height. Although, he noted, there had been lower branches which had been removed; not recently, however, since the tree had almost finished healing itself. He placed the palm of his hand against the smooth bark and peered into the canopy. It wouldn’t take much to hoist himself up and in the blink of an eye he’d be over the wall and free.
It was Brocknor. The sound of his voice set Jahl’s heart racing. He turned, looking as guilty as he felt, watching Brocknor walking purposefully towards him.
“What are you doing?”
His master’s smile looked fixed. Had he been watching? Testing him? Waiting for him to do something? To attempt an escape?
“I wasn’t doing anything.”
Brocknor looked at the tree and at the top of the wall. “It looked like you were about to do something.”
Jahl shrugged again. “I probably was about to do something. Aren’t we most of the time? About to do something?”
The smile dropped from Brocknor’s face.