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Goodbye to the Jungle

By Wayne Mansfield

Published by JMS Books LLC at Smashwords

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Copyright 2017 Wayne Mansfield

ISBN 9781634865159

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Cover Design: Written Ink Designs |

Image(s) used under a Standard Royalty-Free License.

All rights reserved.

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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published in the United States of America.

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To all indigenous tribes who have had the misfortune to encounter western civilization.

* * * *

Goodbye to the Jungle

By Wayne Mansfield

Chapter 1

His throat was on fire. The muscles in his legs burned. His chest felt tight, and it was becoming more and more difficult to breathe. His only desire was to stop, to collapse to the ground and rest, but the men pursuing him would never give up. He knew that. They had targeted him, and unless he could come up with a way to evade them, to outmanoeuvre them, he would be captured and sold.

Jahl couldn’t let that happen.

The feathery tips of the wild grass whipped against his legs and torso as he sprinted towards the jungle. He refused to take his eyes off the thick vegetation, to glance over his shoulder at his pursuers. He didn’t need to. He could hear them shouting and making noises, trying to frighten him, but they were just men. Men like him. He ran, not because he was afraid of any one of them, but because he was terrified of losing his freedom. He lived with his people in the jungle, in houses high in the trees so they could sleep closer to the gods. The world of men, and their buildings and barbaric ways, was not for him. He’d wither and die. He knew it with as much certainty as he knew the sky was blue.

He was nearly there. He could smell the dampness of the leaf litter. Already he could feel the slight change in temperature. It was cooler in the jungle than it was on the open grasslands. Once he was beneath the canopy, the air would act upon the perspiration covering his flesh and cool him.

He burst into the jungle, pushing through the leafy undergrowth to a place that was darker and not as easy to move through. But he had the advantage. The jungle was his home. The men would have a hard job keeping up, and they knew it. He leapt onto a low-hanging branch and clambered up the tree as well as any other primate built for life amongst trees. He smiled, knowing he had the edge over them.

He could hear the men below as he leapt from branch to branch, swinging from one tree to the next with as much ease as he had run across the grasslands.

There he is!”


Up there. Use your eyes!”

Something whooshed by Jahl’s ear. A spear. He ducked, too late, but it had missed him. It struck the trunk of the tree in front of him, embedding itself and quivering for a few seconds before becoming still.

Did you get him?”

Jahl couldn’t hear the answer. It didn’t matter. He was moving faster than them. Soon he would lose them. The branches presented no obstacle to him. He dug his toes into the bark as he ran, while at the same time using his arms for balance and his hands for support on the nearby branches.

He went deeper into the jungle, where the undergrowth was thicker. The men would have a more difficult time moving through it. The thick snake vines that hung from branches overhead made his task easier. He could swing from one tree to the next. The only problem was his muscles were starting to tire. His stamina was beginning to wane.

He closed his eyes for a moment, pressing the lids together.

Focus! Concentrate!

He heard the men crashing through the ferns and bushes, and the occasional shout, now coming from quite a way back. One man howled like a wolf. Another laughed. Jahl’s concentration remained fixed, his determination unfaltering. He was confident he could lose the men and make it to the safety of his village, back across the grasslands where the jungle continued.

In the branches of a neighbouring tree, he glimpsed a jaguar sunning itself in a shaft of light beaming down through a hole in the canopy. It presented no danger. He was moving too quickly, and as long as he left the jaguar alone, they’d simply acknowledge each other and leave it at that.

He gripped the nearest vine and swung, sailing through the air towards a nearby branch. He leapt onto the branch and something with lightning speed swung towards him. Snake! He ducked, avoiding the fangs and the venom contained within, but in the process, lost his balance. He flailed his arms, seeking purchase but finding none. He plunged helplessly to the ground, landing with a thud that rattled every bone in his body.

* * * *

When he regained consciousness, he was on his back. It took him a moment to realise how he had come to be on the floor of the jungle. The vine. The snake. Falling. He went to lift his head and was immediately rewarded with a throbbing that brought stars to his eyes. He felt nauseous, though he discovered if he lay still, the desire to vomit evaporated.

He closed his eyes, listening to the sounds of the jungle. Then he remembered. The men. He sat up on one elbow, squinting against the stabbing pain in his head. He couldn’t hear them. Perhaps they had gone past, not noticing him in the leaf litter, hidden by the ferns and shrubs surrounding him. He knew they wouldn’t have given up. Not yet. Not when so much was at stake.

His sole desire at that moment was to sleep. His reserves of energy were depleted, and there wasn’t a muscle in his toned, athletic body that didn’t ache. He lay down and once again closed his eyes.

Just for a moment.

He drifted in and out of sleep for a while longer before he felt able to get up. He opened his eyes, astonished to see a face smiling down at him. A surge of adrenalin soon had him sitting upright, better positioned to inspect the ring of five men standing in a loose circle around him.

Got ya,” said the solid, muscular man standing before him.

Jahl knew it was useless to try and escape, not the least reason being his fragile state. But if he had to go with these men, these demons, he would stay alert for opportunities to escape. Yes, they could grin like idiots. For the moment. He, however, had no plans to go with them easily.

A stocky, dark-haired male bent down and, with his dagger, cut through the leather strap holding Jahl’s loincloth in place.

Ya won’t be needing that,” growled the man with devilish delight.

Naked before the five men, each of whom was dressed in garments of leather and fur, he refused to feel humiliated or vulnerable. Proud and noble, he looked the leader in the eye. If they had meant his nakedness to weaken him in some way, they were greatly mistaken. Jahl had a slender, athletic body, tanned and hairless but for a small patch of pubic hair above his cock. Why should he feel ashamed? It was these men, with their bulk and their bellies, who should be embarrassed.

Come on,” said the leader. “Get up.” With the help of one his gang, he lifted Jahl to his feet.

Immediately, the throbbing at the back of Jahl’s head intensified and he squinted against the pain.

Go on. Start walking,” said the leader. “We’ve got a long way to go.”

The men burst into laughter. Jahl didn’t understand why, but he suspected it was at his expense. Let them laugh. He would keep his head held high no matter what befell him. If their intention was to demean him, he wouldn’t allow them the satisfaction. They could take almost anything from him, but never his pride. He knew who he was and where he came from, and this knowledge gave him a solid foundation for everything else in his life.

No demon from the land of men was going to rob him of it.

* * * *

Chapter 2

Over the next few hours, Jahl discovered the name of the leader was Dank and the man who had cut his loincloth free was Garth. There was a tall, willowy man called Bede, and the stockiest man was Keng. He had yet to hear the name of the fifth man.

They returned across the grasslands, and as they walked, Jahl kept his eyes to the front, though when he sensed no gaze upon him, he glanced into the trees, where somewhere his parents and the rest of his family were going about their business, unware he had been captured. Only later that afternoon, as the sky turned from brilliant blue to burnt orange with flecks of gold, would they eventually realise something had happened. They would certainly send men to search for him, but by that time, he’d be long gone.

Sadness filled his heart as he thought about his mother and how losing him would break hers. They’d soon realise what had happened, as men and women had been taken from their village before. It was one of the dangers of going out alone, so far from the protection of the village. Had it not been for the wounded antelope he had speared, he wouldn’t have made himself so vulnerable. It had been a stupid mistake, and one he would pay dearly for making.

And while he walked with his shoulders back and his chin up, a proud, defiant representative of the Hamica people, his soul felt heavy inside his skin. It knew that only misery and ill-fortune lay ahead. It understood that unless he could escape, flee his captors and return to his village, there would be no more days of happiness.

They returned to the jungle with Dank in the lead, and Garth just behind Jahl, prodding him every now and again despite the fact he was walking as fast as everyone else.

We’re gonna get a good price for ya,” snarled Garth, his voice low so the others wouldn’t hear. “A specimen like you will go for at least two bags of gold.”

They spoke a language similar to Jahl’s, although there were certain words and phrases whose meaning he didn’t understand. He comprehended enough, however, and the information had an unsettling effect. They’d sell me to whom? What for? Surely not to be eaten. Surely not even these men would stoop to such depths.

He recalled the wise ones saying that knowledge was power. But knowledge, he was beginning to realise, could also be terrifying.

Why?” he asked. He didn’t turn his head, and asked the question fully expecting it to be left unanswered.

Why what?”

Why are you selling me?”

Garth laughed. “Ta make money, of course. Even a dumb savage like you should understand that.”

Jahl tensed his jaw. He balled his hands into fists. “I meant, what will happen to me after you sell me?”

Garth continued chuckling. “Why? Ya worried?”

Jahl refused to dignify the question with a response. He’d rather remain ignorant to his fate than humour an imbecile.

When Garth realised Jahl wasn’t going to play the game, he provided the information anyway. “Can’t say for sure. Some buy for labour. Farm work, or house work, if ya lucky. Some buy for sex. Some buy to sell on.”

Jahl received the information with silent contempt. At least he knew that, should any escape attempt fail and he was indeed sold, it wouldn’t be long before an opportunity arose when he could flee back to the jungle, back to his family and those he had grown up with.

The men pushed through the jungle, moving along a crude path often used by slavers. Jahl and his entire village knew about the path and kept a wide berth. Children were warned from an early age not to stray too far from the village, and under no circumstance were they to go near the path.

When the shadows grew too long and too dark to navigate with any degree of ease, the men stopped in a small clearing and got a fire going.

Secure him,” said Dank. “And you two”—he pointed at Keng and the nameless man—”get us something for dinner.”

Garth removed the rope he’d been carrying over his shoulder and tethered Jahl’s wrists, then squatted to tie his ankles together.

The rope was a little too tight around his wrists, but Jahl refused to complain, to show any sign of weakness. Similarly, he made damned sure the slaver’s hot breath bursting against his naked cock as the man secured his ankles would have no effect, as he suspected the man meant it to have.

Garth pushed Jahl into a sitting position, his back against the tree. Then Garth tied the rope around the base of the trunk. “That ought to hold ya,” said Garth before joining the others around the growing campfire.

Soon, the aroma of meat cooking filled the air. Jahl’s stomach rumbled. If they gave him food, he’d eat it, but he wouldn’t ask for it. He needed to keep up his strength and he’d gain nothing by refusing sustenance.

Only after they had eaten their fill did the tall skinny man, Bede, bring a chunk of roasted jungle antelope to Jahl. “Thirsty?”

Jahl had already bitten into the meat and could only nod. He’d nearly finished his meal by the time Bede returned with a wooden cup half-filled with water.

As the flames of the campfire began to dwindle, and some of the men drifted off to sleep, Jahl waited. His energy renewed by the small meal, he felt ready to attempt an escape. He’d chew through the rope if he had to, though he hoped it wouldn’t come to that. But as Jahl began to twist his hands in an effort to loosen his bonds, he noticed Garth collect his spear and walk towards him.

I’m on first watch,” he said, looking none too pleased.

Jahl slumped against the tree, frowning.

Aww. Did ya think we were all gonna fall asleep and leave ya alone so ya could escape?” He started snickering.

Would ya shut up!” shouted Dank, unseen in the shadows.

Garth knelt by Jahl. “We didn’t hunt ya all day just to let ya slip back into the jungle. You’re worth half a year’s wages, you are. None of us’ll be giving that up in a hurry.” He leaned closer. “So best ya forget any plans ya had of runnin’ away. I’m here now.”

Jahl let his head fall against the trunk. He tried to make himself as comfortable as possible, stretching his legs in front of him and relaxing his shoulders. Garth sat on a clump of wild grass, positioning his spear between his legs and using it to lean on. He rested his chin in the crook of one arm.

And don’t worry,” said Garth. “I might look like I’m sleeping, but don’t be fooled.”

Jahl rolled to one side, urinated into the leaf litter, then slumped against the tree. He closed his eyes and let sleep take him away.

* * * *

Wild dreams disturbed his sleep and prevented him from resting peacefully, so when the first rays of the morning sun kissed his face, he awoke feeling only slightly restored.

For a moment, he remained motionless, staring into the trees. The whisper of a smile broke on his face before a boot whizzed past him. He looked to see who had thrown it, but a thump followed by a cry had his attention on the recipient.

What d’ya do that for?” grumbled Bede, rubbing the side of his head where the boot had connected with it.

Dank stormed towards them. “Useless bloody fool. Ya had to keep watch for a few hours and ya couldn’t do it, could ya? Ya lucky he didn’t take off or it would have been your arse for sale to the highest bidder.”

Bede didn’t argue, but slunk off into the bushes, likely to relieve himself.

Dank pulled on his boot and turned his attention to Jahl. “What are ya looking at?” He shot Jahl a dark look and disappeared around the back of the tree. After he had untied the rope, he worked at the knot at Jahl’s ankles, allowing him to stand, and to walk. “I think we’ll leave your wrists.”

He led Jahl across the campsite, where the other men stirred in their sleep. He stooped to collect his spears, then continued walking.

Come on,” he shouted at the others. “I’m not waiting for ya.”

Dank was a large man, but Jahl noted it was all muscle, not fat. He walked with powerful strides, barging along the path with unstoppable force.

Wait for us,” called Garth, running towards them, trying to clasp his spears under his arm while he pulled on his boots.

Dank didn’t reply. Nor did Jahl bother glancing over his shoulder. He could hear the men running one behind the other, afraid of being left behind, though more for the fear of losing their share of the profits, Jahl suspected, than of having to fend for themselves in the jungle.

Garth pushed by Jahl, knocking into him with some force.

Hey,” he said, grabbing Dank’s shoulder. “What’s the big idea of leaving us behind? Ya’d better not—”

Dank stopped dead and turned his head towards Garth, his eyes almost hidden beneath a frown. “Better not what?”

Garth’s Adam’s apple rose and fell. His expression announced the realisation that he’d overstepped the mark. “I-I-I just wanted to know why ya were leaving without us.”

Dank leaned towards Garth, their noses barely two inches apart. “Because I was ready and I can’t hang around all day waiting for you lazy bastards.”

Garth nodded. “Okay. Okay. I was only asking.”

Dank pushed him on the chest, making him stagger back. “Well, next time…don’t!” He held Garth’s attention a moment longer before heading off, violently tugging on the rope to make sure Jahl moved, too.

Jahl focused his attention on Dank’s ponytail, deliberately not looking at Garth. He didn’t want to provoke the man. He knew the ways of the pecking order, especially when someone lost face to a superior in the company of an inferior. The one lowest on the rung usually copped it next, and Jahl couldn’t get any lower on that particular ladder.

Garth saved his anger for Bede, shoving him aside as he passed so the man fell into the bushes.

Not your day today, is it?” snarled Bede.

* * * *

Chapter 3

They travelled another two days, leaving the jungle and entering the swamplands, the most treacherous part of the journey due to quicksand, crocodiles, and giant snakes. The swampland soon gave way to lightly wooded grasslands, which in turn became farmland. As they marched in single file down a wide dirt road, Jahl could see houses, constructed from wood and mud with rooves of straw. Each had a stone chimney from which a single column of smoke arose. And in the fields, olive-skinned men toiled hard, each, without exception, momentarily stopping work to observe the slavers and their latest acquisition as they passed.

Keep ya eyes on the road,” said Dank, tugging on the rope.

Jahl glared at him. Dark thoughts filled his head. Thoughts of blood and death. For all of them. They were vermin, lice to be eradicated. And still, despite his hateful thoughts, his expression remained unchanged. A Hamica never let his enemy see what was happening inside his head.

Near the end of the second day, the fields gave way to rows of houses, with cobblestone roads between them, and streetlights with candles inside. The houses were similar to those he’d already seen, constructed from wood and mud, with thatched rooves and stone chimneys. Most had been painted white, although some were an ochre colour.

They led him along a maze of paved roads to a large square at the centre of the town. On two sides, wooden carts, stalls, and kiosks sold fruits and vegetables, meats and cheeses, and flowers. Bunches of herbs hung from the rails of one cart, while another cart sold glass containers filled with coloured liquids. Women with baskets milled around, chatting to one another as they perused the goods on sale. Children played and shouted nearby.

At the centre of the square, blocking part of the markets from view, stood a wooden building. Not wood and mud, like the other structures, just wood, painted darkest brown. Inside, once Jahl’s eyes adjusted to the scant light, he found it largely empty.

Hello,” called Dank.

He waited, his men hovering behind him.

Hello,” he called again, his tone gruff and impatient. “You there, Amar?”

A man of equal size and proportion to Dank strolled from the shadows, unhurried and unafraid, as the other men were, of Dank. “You wanted something?”

Dank pulled Jahl towards him. “Brought ya some new merchandise.”

Amar stepped closer. “The windows,” he barked.

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