The darkness captures me, wrapping its arms around me in a cold, unfeeling embrace. My mind is racing, adrenaline pumping, panic increasing. I look around at the eyes boring into me recklessly, as if staring at their first meal. The waft of the breeze carries the scent of the fire across the tip of my nose, stealing my senses and making me dizzy. The arms of each person surrounding me is covered on top and bottom with long strips of red cloth, tied around the arm with thin strings. Their legs are similarly adorned with the addition of a black codpiece protecting their… members. Even the children are outfitted in this strange way. Yes, I’ve known this for a while. But the feeling these foreign folk give me sends me into an even deeper panic. My skin prickles at the sense of danger I feel from the top of my head to the nails on my toes.
A large man stands up, taking slow, threatening steps towards me. His sheer mass has my terror peaking to deadly levels. I remind myself to breath. In. Out. In. Out. He opens his mouth to speak, a deep guttural drawl emenating from his pursed lips.
“Run. Die. Fight. Live.”
Good God, what have I gotten myself into.
Savages they were. Everybody knew it. How they managed to survive this long in a world still dominated by evolution was anyone’s guess. They were one of the few remaining tribes off the island, ungoverned by any larger entities, and free to structure their government (or lack thereof) as they pleased.
I watched them with my telescope from the mainland as often as I could between studying and work. I’m not sure why, but they fascinated me: their complete and utter disdain for clothing, their detachment from their children, their dangerous and risky punitive measures. I suppose any anthropologist would be interested, but none quite as obsessed as I. Arming their children with knives at the age of 2 and guns at the age of 7; throwing both criminals and their victims off the edges of the highest cliffs in punishment; allowing older children to bully and beat the younger children – it all had me tied in knots. How could one survive in such a society?
I glanced at the time and realized I needed to get to the cabana for work. One of the bartenders had fallen victim to a tropical disease and the lunch rush was coming quickly. I flipped my folding chair back together, slung it over my shoulder with my telescope, and jogged across the hot sand towards Begya Blvd where my pale blue scooter was parked and chained under a palm tree.
“God, I love living here,” I murmured to myself. The juxtaposition of the scene before me – the small depot on the boulevard with my scooter snuggled up next to it, the thin cement road, the palm trees swaying in the near blinding sunlight, and my feet utterly and beautifully bare – against the shoe-donning, traffic-clotted, concrete wonderland that was Omaha made me giggle to myself. I’d always had a taste for the unusual, but this little exile to the other side of the world was far bolder than I ever believed myself capable of.
I unchained my scooter, hopped aboard, and putt-putted off towards the cabana.