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Another day, another field, another bunch of angry people trying to kill me.
I pound along the path, trying to get my breath back. There’s a split- left or right? A guy holding a machete tears up the left fork, and I pick right.
This is becoming annoyingly common. The field part, at least- people trying to kill me isn’t that unusual. Recently, though, I find I spend a lot of time on the land of some farmer or other. Running through corn in Iowa comes to mind, and that Thai rice paddy- I was picking mud out of my hair for weeks. Ugh.
Right now, it’s sugarcane. They tower over me, green at the top and brown on the bottom, at least ten feet tall. It feels like a maze. I’m in…Brazil…no, maybe Columbia? I don’t know if or when I’ve crossed the border. There’s nothing out here. Nobody cares.
The trail I’m on peters out, dissolving into the stalks. I make a frustrated noise, turning around. Dead end equals bad.
Sure enough, when I return to the other path, there’s someone waiting for me. She’s dressed in black, holding a sleek-looking Beretta that she levels at my chest. “Don’t move.”
I stop, holding my hands up. She smiles a somewhat evil smile. Um… plan… plan…
I come up with it in about a second and a half. I look over her shoulder, where she can’t see, and make a startled movement.
She glances around to see what I’m looking at. Which is, of course, nothing. Before she recovers, I slam my fist into her gut and then grab a nerve cluster as she doubles over. She’s out. One down, a heck of a lot more to go. I relive her of her weapon and take off again.
Some of them are so cocky. Black belt in karate, a PhD in computer science, acting talents that Hollywood could kill for- and once in a while they’ll fall for the oldest tricks in the book.
Once in while- it doesn’t work nearly as often as I’d like.
I keep running. Gosh, it’s hot. I’m sweating hard.
Of course, sugarcane is illegal out here (in Brazil/Columbia/wherever)- it’s environmentally protected land. This farm was made by burning down part of the rain forest (Amazon, in case you were wondering). And I’m pretty sure the sugar from the canes goes into bootleg liquor of some kind. So obviously the owners of the land don’t want me here. They’re afraid I’ll turn them in.
That’s one, the farmers. There’s three of them- three separate groups that want me dead. Maybe two or three dozen people out here in this field chasing me.
Angry Spanish yelling behind me- something I really shouldn’t translate. A bullet flies over my shoulder, and I jump to my right onto another path that splits off. These trails seem to be there completely by accident, just places where the cane didn’t happen to grow. I worry that maybe I’m going in circles- not like I’d be able to tell.
That was group two- a drug cartel. Exactly which one escapes me at the moment. Somehow I’ve managed to offend them: trespassing on their land and accidentally blowing up a half-ton of cocaine. (I’d needed a diversion, and didn’t have many options then either.) That seemed to make them mad- can’t imagine why- and so they’ve been chasing me ever since Bogotá.
Left, right, left, left- I see a horde of men headed for me and hastily retreat. The farmers. They’re armed with- what else?- pieces of sugarcane stalk, which is actually quite a vicious weapon. Quick and handy club. I bury myself in the maze, make sure I’m alone for the moment, and check the gun I stole- Beretta 92. Six bullets left; better use them wisely. I start running again, wishing desperately for some air conditioning or a drink of water. Or both.
Group three is…bad. Not much more I can say. The reason I’m even in South America at all. The hunter has become the hunted, and I’ve been trying to find someplace safe for…for…a while now. It seems like forever.
Three paths converge ahead of me- two people on each. Cartel members are coming up on the right, guys in black on the left. They notice me- shouts. The drug guys see the black suits and must assume they’re my accomplices (since they were there- they were the one ones I was diverting, in fact- when I destroyed that coke). The suits see the cartel dudes and obviously realize the less narcotics trafficking, the better-
In a sudden blaze of gunfire, the four of them shoot each other. I take off in the confusion, laughing for a moment until I decide to stop wasting breath.
I can tell them all apart fairly easily- the farmers (who speak some kind of native language or mutated Portuguese- I can’t tell which and I’m not bothering to listen) are armed with those crude cane clubs and machetes. Cartel members (Spanish) have a motley assortment of sidearms, rifles, and/or machine guns. The suit people are English speaking- at least when talking to me, I bet there’s at least forty-eight languages between them- armed with those Berettas. And also some info that could get me, my director, Agent Khan, and one or two innocent bystanders killed.
A drug dude shows up in front of me, brandishing what looks like an original Kalashnikov. Where on earth did he get one of those? He shows every sign of wanting to take me out- I’m ready for him. One bullet at close range into the stomach. He crumples and I keep running, not sure if he’s going to die or not. At the moment, I don’t care, although I might feel slightly guilty later. Or I’ll just tell myself firmly he’s going to live and forget about it.
The sugarcane all looks the same. Five shots left, unless I can steal another weapon. The air smells sweet.
If I had my pick, I would have gone with one of the first two. I can handle bootleggers. I can handle druggies. I can not handle the others. Quite frankly, the people in black scare me.
Unfortunately, I don’t have my pick, and so I get all three. Gee, thanks, universe.
A man with a machete swings at me. I dodge easily and leave him behind- he’s drunk. I can smell it.
So hot. And humid. Have I mentioned humid?
I’m trying to get into the jungle- maybe then the farmers will leave me alone and I won’t be confined to the paths. I can find a place to hide. The field seemed to be relatively small- but I think I keep getting lost and there is, of course, the constant distraction of people who are out to kill me. Plus, if the suits are smart, they’ll guard the exits to the field so I can’t just slip away.
Speak of the devil. I stop dead, confronted by a group of them. So maybe not everyone’s in suits- it’s too dang hot and dirty- but they’re all wearing black. I turn around and discover that another half-dozen of them have filled in behind me.
I’m totally surrounded. Cane to my sides, enemies in front and behind me. I swallow. My options are limited and very, very unpleasant…
Three cartel members come around the corner and see me. They yell excitedly- “Aqui esta! Veinen, a-”
They are all promptly killed. The guys who shot them don’t even blink.
My stomach twists unpleasantly, but now is the moment. They’re all momentarily distracted.
I quickly do the only thing I can do and dive into the sugarcane.
Okay, those of you who are wondering, ‘Why didn’t you do that in the first place?’ have never actually seen sugarcane. It is about as thick as my arm and very hard. This particular field was poorly planted, (no straight rows, just a gigantic clump) and weeded even worse- it’s practically impregnable. And there’s one other thing about sugarcane you should know- the leaves have razor-sharp edges.
I charge through the cane off to my right, practically climbing through the dense stalks. A leaf whips me across the face and draws blood. In seconds the plants swallow me completely.
Yelling. They obviously can’t see me- I can tell because out of the hail of bullets they send in after me, only one hits.
Suddenly a burning pain explodes in the back of my upper left arm- I clutch at it with a yelp and feel blood. A quick examination reveals that there’s no exit hole- the bullet is still in there. It hurts. My left arm is now effectively useless.
Great. Just great.
I wince and keep going. Progress is slow and tough, like trying to climb through a stack of two by fours. Put the gun away. I reach out with my right hand to try and steady myself and get another cut for my trouble.
I squirm through another bundle of thick stalks and feel a spot on my upper back get sliced open. The leaves are mostly at the top of the plants- a good four or five feet over my head- but some have fallen or grown lower than normal.
Ow. My arm really hurts.
I’m moving slowly. Too slowly. If I’m not faster, then they’ll surround the entire field. If anybody is really smart, they’ll set fire to it. That would both take care of me and give the farmers an early harvest.
I try to go faster, but it’s nearly impossible. And I’m tired. And I can’t see where I’m going. And I now have a good dozen leaf wounds.
“Come on, come on,” I mutter, adding a cry and a swear word as a leaf slices right across my bullet injury.
It still hurts.
I come to a trail. There’s nobody there. But I can hear yelling headed my direction. Just to be safe…
I screw up my eyes and plunge into the cane on the other side of the path.
The tall trees that surround the field should be around here somewhere. I’m almost to the jungle- unless I’ve been going in circles. I hope not.
The air smells even sweeter in here.
Over this stalk. Around this thick clump. The weeds pull at me. Squeeze between these two plants- I get cut and scraped pretty bad. Jeez, I bet I look like hamburger.
And then suddenly I can see through the stalks- they end just ahead of me. I burst out of the sugarcane. The wall of cane is behind me, and across a strip of bare dirt is the forest. I’m only twenty feet away- almost there.
Unfortunately, I’m not alone.
There’s two men there, shouting angrily, almost to blows. One has a hunting rifle, of all things, and the other has yet another chunk of cane stalk.
Well, it worked once…I try to sneak past and hope they can take each other out.
Not happening. I’m seen. They obviously hate me more then each other, because the drug guy starts fumbling with his rifle and the other charges me.
I grab his arm and twist, and his momentum sends the stalk smashing into his own skull. The farmer drops like a rock.
The second man shoots at me, but he doesn’t take time to aim and it goes wide. In half a moment, I decide that it’s not worth wasting my ammunition and tackle him. He struggles, but I’m better trained than he is. In two seconds flat he’s out. I check his rifle, just in case- but there’s no more ammo.
My arm is throbbing. I get up, look around, and swear.
Somebody must have heard the noise and come to investigate. Somebody entirely in black, with a gun that matches mine. He looks at me expressionlessly and pulls the trigger.
I jerk, trying to avoid it- the bullet grazes my cheek but doesn’t lodge. I make a move like I’m going to change him (which startles him- what kind of weirdo runs towards a man with a gun?) which gives me enough time to draw my weapon.
He aims again. I shoot him before he can fire.
He drops and there’s a pause. I’m breathing hard. He might be dead, but I’m not going to stick around to find out.
If he is, I won’t feel nearly as bad about it as the guy with the Kalashnikov.
I take his Beretta too and look around. I’m alone now, but I can hear people getting closer. I turn towards the forest, which looks so inviting- and promptly stumble over the sugarcane club that’s lying on the ground next to the unconscious farmer.
Get up. As I look back at the field, I make myself a promise.
“I’m never buying cane sugar again.”
And I sprint into the jungle.