The gorillas dragged us up to the wooden cage, opened it, threw us in, and locked it again. We fell on top each other but soon, we found our balance. The cage was wide enough, giving us room to move about freely. I crawled closer to the bars that held us prisoner and watched the gorillas closely, as they danced around the camp fire.
They were really big, black and scary. My fears doubled when I saw that they all had something like blood stain on their mouth.
“Jane!” I cried, “They have blood on their mouth. I’m sure they’re going to eat us”.
“Ignore them”, a male voice said, from the other end of the cage.
We turned to look at him. We had been so engrossed with our own fears that we totally forgot about the prisoner. The brilliant light from the camp fire enabled us see him well. He was a dark complexioned man wearing an afro, and well shaved side beards. His lips were full and his eyes were round. He was dressed in dirty rags but he didn’t seem to mind.
“What?” I asked, still taking in his appearance.
“Ignore them”, He repeated. “If you keep looking at them, you will be draining yourself emotionally. Too much fear and anxiety.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
The man didn’t reply, he just sat quietly at his own corner and stared at us.
“You,” Jane faced him, “how did you get here? Why did they catch you”.
“I’m here because I want to be here”, he said, boldly, “they caught me, because I wanted them to.” He finished with a wicked smile playing on his lips.
“Are you serious?” I asked, bewildered.
“Or are you joking?” Jane concluded. I could hear the seriousness in her voice and so I knew she wasn’t joking with him.
“Of course I’m serious”, the man said, “Ha! Don’t tell me you don’t know. From the kind of questions you two are asking, it seems you truly don’t know”.
“Know what?” I asked, beginning to wonder if he was okay in the head, or just playing games.
“Don’t tell me you don’t know how you got here, because if you really don’t know, that means you didn’t read the book. You’re going to die here”.
“Die?” Jane and I chorused.
“I don’t get you.” Jane protested. “What do you mean by read the book? What book?”
“The Lost Tale”.
“What tale?” I asked.
“The Lost Tale, its a novel.”
“The Lost Tale? The Lost Tale, I have that book…” I said thougthfully.
“But?” He asked, cutting me short.
“But I’ve never read it before.” I concluded. “It was in my to read list though.”
“I thought as much”, The man said, shaking his head at us and smiling. “The events taking place now, are events that lead to the end of the story in that book. If you didn’t read it, then you are both obviously going to die in the war that’s coming.”
“War? What war?” Jane asked. We were really already getting confused with everything he was saying.
“The war that ends the story.”
“Look, we sincerely have no idea what you are talking about, but please, you have to help us. Please!” Jane said, as she moved forward to take his hand. “Please, tell us what to do?”
“There is nothing else you can do. I read the book, I followed the rules, and that is why I’m here. I’m simply here to play the game and survive. Soon, they will take me back into the forest and then, I will escape from them, I will be gone for good.”
“You are not making any sense at all.” I said. “If what you are saying is real, please help us understand.”
The man sighed, closed his eyes briefly and opened it again. “I’ve been counting the hours.” He said. “I have just five minutes left, so listen attentively. The book is a game. You don’t just buy it because you want to, it picks the people who buy it. Now if you bought that book, it simply means it picked you.”
“But I didn’t buy it. Someone bought it as a gift for me.” I protested.
“It wasn’t even given to me.” Jane protested too. “I only came over to her place and saw it.”
“It doesn’t matter the excuse you give. If the book doesn’t choose you, you wouldn’t have it, neither will you see it. If you have that book in custody, or a friend comes over and sees it, it’s because he or she has been chosen. If you got it as a gift, it means you’ve also been chosen.”
“Chosen to do what exactly?” Jane asked.
“To read and play…”
“Shut up and let me finish.” He said, almost yelling at us. “They will soon take me away. Do you want to know what to do or not?” The man asked. We kept quiet and allowed him talk. It was really important to know what to do.
“Now once you have the book, or come in contact with it,” he continued. “You are supposed to read it thoroughly, from cover to cover. You are to learn every survival trick, as well as the role of the characters in the story, only then will you survive. Apart from that, we are here to play the roles of specific characters. If you have the book and you haven’t read it yet, make sure you don’t fall asleep in front it. If you do,….”
“If we sleep in front of the book, we will enter the book’s world and play along with the characters in it.” I completed.
“Yes, now you are getting the gist.” The man smiled.
“How did you know that?” Jane turned around to ask me.
“I just remembered.” I replied. “We were in my room watching a movie, the book, the lost tales, it was lying on the bed with us. We must have slept off in front of it.”
“Oh dear,” Jane said, looking thoughtful, “Yes, I remember now. It was on the bed with us”, She then turned back to face the man, “so that means, we are re-living the story in that book?”
“Not reliving the story dear, you are now part of the story. You are not in dreamland, you are in the world created by the author of the lost tale. We are now the characters in the story”.
“Oh God!” I cried, “what kind of mess have we gotten ourselves into?”
“Please! please!! how do we get out of here?” Jane asked the man. Her eyes pleaded with him.
“You can only leave this place, when the story is over”, he said, “that is the rule”.
“Oh, let it be over quick”, I said, anxiety written all over my face. “I can’t stand this anymore”.
“Its not that easy,” the man said.
“Because if you die here, you die in the real world. You have to strive to survive so as to make it out alive”.
“Oh my God!” that was Jane. Her bold front disappeared for a split second and for that brief moment, I could see that she was really scared, “how are we going to survive when they want to eat us?” She asked, almost in tears.
“Not eat. They won’t eat you. The gorillas don’t eat people”.
“So? If they won’t eat us what do they want with us?” I asked.
“Bait. They want you as bait. There is a war, and to draw out their…..”
He was cut short by the sound of banging on the cage. Their bodies blocked the light from the camp fire as they worked their fingers around the ropes, trying to loosen it so as to unlock the cage. As soon as it was loose, they opened the cage.
“Uga! Uga!!” One of the gorillas yelled.
Not wanting to be dragged, the man happily crawled out of the cage. As he crawled past us, he whispered ” Survive. That’s all you have to do”.
As soon as he was out, two of the gorillas tied his hands and legs, carried him on their shoulders and made into the forest. The last one simply placed a covered pot inside the cage and turned away before opening it. Thick smoke rose out of the pot. As soon as we inhaled it, we coughed for a while, and then passed out.
By the time we woke up, it was day break, but we were not lying down, neither were we still in the cage. Instead, we were tied in standing position against thick bamboo sticks.
“What is this? Where…” that’s all the question I could ask. Fear took over again and I temporarily lost my speech when I saw hundreds of lions in front of us. They snarled wickedly, revealing long sharp fangs.
Jane woke up before me and had obviously gotten used to the situation but not me, my heart beat tripled and the weather suddenly felt warm
“Bait,” Jane said, as she looked at the lions without fear of any kind. “That’s what the man said last night. The gorillas’ plan was to use us as bait.”
I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t say anything. How could I? When my entire life was flashing in bits before my eyes? After my life flashed, death was all that was left to be seen, and a painful one for that matter.
To be continued…
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