Nowhere

The water in our bottles was disturbingly warm and tasted of dirt and sweat. It hardly did anything to quench our never-ending thirst, and with the unforgiving Amazon heat beating down on us, all it did was fill our bellies while leaving our mouths and throats uncomfortably parched. I grimaced. How I longed for a nice cold glass of lemonade. Sergeant Wilde must’ve had read my mind, because his mouth immediately curled up into a nasty smile. “You ain’t gon’ get a nice cold drink in a long time missy,” he drawled. I scowled at him and looked away.

On we trudged through the seemingly endless rain-forest, constantly swatting away mosquitoes the size of houseflies, but to no avail. We were literally being eaten alive. I tried my best not to paw at my mosquito bites, but the itchiness was so intense that I felt I would go insane if I tried to resist the urge to scratch them. I jealously eyed Sergeant Wilde, who didn’t seem to be scratching himself raw like the rest of us. I looked closer, and when I didn’t find any bumps or red patches on his skin, I came to a satisfying conclusion. Sergeant Wilde was so horrid, even the mosquitoes didn’t want his blood.

The smell of rot and mildew coupled with who-knows-what-animal’s faeces was enough to give me a headache, and the air seemed to be 20% water, so I was also running out of breath. It wasn’t until we reached a small river that I was able to draw a decent amount of oxygen into my poor, deprived lungs. I thought the river meant we were near our final destination, but boy, was I wrong. “That was just the beginning,” sneered a smug-looking Sergeant Wilde. It’s uncanny how he seems to be able to read my thoughts at any given moment. Ugh. How I hate that bloke.

The forest across the river was much denser, and the huge trees seemed to be closing in on us, which made me feel extremely uncomfortable. The towering trees made even Sergeant Wilde look small, and he’s easily 6’4. It was getting harder and harder to breathe because of the hot, humid air; I was constantly breathless, and my sweat was causing my clothes to stick to me uncomfortably. “At least the vampire mosquitoes are gone,” I muttered under my breath. Almost immediately, I wished I hadn’t said that. Because when I looked up, thousands of glassy eyes stared down at me, making me feel helplessly naked and vulnerable.

  Monkeys. They wouldn’t take their eyes off us, not even for a second. Hanging from vines, peering down from behind the thick, leafy branches, they followed us silently in the treetops as we now tip-toed along on the ground below. I could sense that we were carefully calculating our every move, not wanting to provoke any of our furry friends. As seconds ticked by, more and more of them seemed to materialise from out of nowhere. Although I didn’t lift my gaze to look directly at the monkeys in fear of triggering them with my mere eye-contact, I could sense their ever-increasing presence, and I couldn’t help having a feeling that they were secretly planning to launch a full-scaled monkey attack on us. There were only five of us, including myself, and there were hundreds of them. We were hopelessly outnumbered. Walking along, we pretended to ignore the hundreds of pairs of eyes which stared down so intensely at us. Our every step was being watched, and I got the feeling that we were all holding our breaths.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, we reached a clearing, and I was so overjoyed at having exited the dreadful Amazon jungle that I shamelessly ran out and lay down on the flat ground. I let the wind sweep over me as I closed my eyes. Sand, carried by the wind, tickled my eyelashes, but I didn’t think much of it then. Gravel poked through the back of my shirt and stuck to the back of my arms, but I didn’t think much of it then either. Only when the loud crunch-crunch of coarse gravel under Sergeant Wilde’s boots reached my ears did a slightly alarming thought come to mind. Where are we? I scrambled to my feet, rubbing my eyes as they struggled to adjust to the blinding sunlight. My jaw nearly hit the ground when I realised where we were.


 

The dry ground stretched out for miles and miles around us, and I whirled around, looking for a building, something, anything. Nothing. There was nothing out here, except for a single bush that probably died years ago from the look of it. I knew where we were then. We were in the middle of nowhere.

 

—————- End of Part I ——————

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Melissa Mern. All rights reserved.

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The Masked Ball

 Getting in was not going to be easy. 6 guards stood at the entrance, all wearing identical dark suits and dark, tinted sunglasses although the sun had already set. He watched them, potential plans and scenarios running through his head. In the dim moonlight, they looked creepy and robotic; their ridiculous sunglasses weren’t helping. Out of the corner of his vigilant eyes, he detected a flicker of movement and froze. Had he been spotted? Slowly, he turned his head. He knew that any sudden movement would only attract unwanted attention. He was crouched behind a row of thick bushes that faced the old castle where the bal masqué was being held. Dressed in dark clothes, he faded into the shadows of the night like a black cat in a dark alley.

 

The movement that had caught his eye turned out to be a slightly drunkard beggar who was savagely digging through a nearby rubbish bin in the hopes of finding some leftover food. It gave him an idea. Quietly, he unzipped his bag and took out a leftover turkey sandwich from lunch. He’d wrapped it in cling foil to avoid it being sniffed out by dogs. A low whistle and a beckoning with the hand got the beggar’s attention, and he stumbled over in a clumsy manner. The man patted the floor beside him and the beggar willingly plopped down. When the beggar saw the sandwich in the man’s hands, his eyes lit up and he instinctively reached forward to grab it. “Gimme, dammit” the beggar growled when the man pulled the sandwich out of his reach.

 

The man saw intelligence in the beggar’s metallic-blue eyes and lowered his voice. “Look here, I’ll give you this sandwich if you do me a favour” The beggar made a grumbling noise and looked at the sandwich longingly. Eventually, he gave in, saying, “Ah-right, what’s it?” His voice was raspy and sounded like two pieces of sandpaper being rubbed together. Inwardly, the man smiled, tasting the first few drops of success. His plan was starting to come together. “Alright, here’s what you’ll have to do…” Leaning forward, he made an effort to seem friendlier. Just then, he had an idea and paused, leaning back again to study the now puzzled beggar. “I bet you’re a good street fighter…” the man said in a questioning tone.

 

Suddenly, a lopsided, arrogant grin appeared on the beggar’s grimy face. “Best one there is” he smirked. “Perfect,” the man muttered, “I’m going to need you to go up to those guys in the dark shades and cause a scene.” At this, the beggar frowned and looked at the sandwich reluctantly. “What if they shoot at me?” he asked. The man shook his head,  “They won’t, just do what you do,” he said, as convincingly and reassuringly as he could. He patted the beggar on the shoulder, “…if they get too antsy, just walk away.” “What about my sandwich?” the beggar asked, eyeing the man suspiciously, unsure of the decision he had made. Sensing the beggar’s growing uncertainty, the man hurriedly answered, “I’ll leave it here, so when you’re done, you can just come back and get it.” The beggar nodded once, then again to himself. He was hungry, and he’d had no luck searching the dumpsters. Furthermore, it was true that he was a good street-fighter. He used to have a notorious reputation in the back-streets and alleys and was once the gang leader of the Underground Snakes. Surely ten years wasn’t too long ago…?

 

Instructions were given and soon, a beggar, then a masked man, emerged from behind the bushes and made for the castle’s entrance. The beggar staggered forward, clutching a chipped, dark green beer bottle. The man kept a few paces behind him, eyes carefully lowered, muscles tensed, hands stuffed into the pockets of his trousers. He was wearing a silver and navy mask which concealed his whole face except for a pair of striking emerald-green eyes (which were naturally dark-brown in colour; he was wearing night-vision contact lenses). His chocolate-brown hair was neatly combed back, and anyone would’ve assumed that he was in his early twenties. However, if they had caught a glimpse of the person behind the mask, they would’ve seen not a man, but a teenager. Although he was the IA’s youngest recruit, he was their deadliest weapon. They called him Viper, but his real name was Ryu. Ryu Shen.

 

The beggar had reached the guards and was beginning to yell obscenities at them. Luckily, many guests were entering the castle at the same time, so all the guards were either busy checking tickets or keeping the beggar away. His plan had worked. And, thanks to his ninjutsu training, he was able to slip past the guards without any of them noticing. Inside, a grand Victorian ballroom welcomed him. Waiters clad in tiny waistcoats and pointy shoes served him cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Women fought to outdo one another with exquisite pearls, delicate jewellery, elegant gowns and embellished purses. Men in smart tuxedos and dark suits chatted in low, grave voices as the string quartet played Franz Schubert’s No.14, ‘Death and The Maiden’. No one noticed a solemn teenager walking across the vast, chandelier-lit ballroom floor with a state-of-the-art pistol and silencer concealed within his tuxedo, for everyone wore masks, for this was a masked ball.

Copyright © 2017 Melissa Mern. All rights reserved.

Preface

…I created this blog with only one purpose in mind: to share the stories I’ve written over the years. However, when I started thinking about it, I realised that there are so many other things I can blog about. Hence, I will be posting all kinds of things; excerpts from my stories, simple workout routines, pictures I’ve captured, and so on. Hopefully, you’ll find some of my future posts interesting, helpful, relevant and/or enjoyable.