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The Midnight Run
It was late. The moon was a crescent tonight and shone with a light so bright it was almost like day. It was tossed into a sea of darkness and scattered stars with it, when the little boy reached the end of the alley. He looked around nervously then took off in a jog. In his left arm he was holding my well-earned piece of beef.
Our group of 10 boys, ranging from 14 to 20, took off after him; he took our food and we’re going to get it back. Slowly and stealthy, we sneaked our way through the trashed filled alley. The boy from behind looked about 12 years old and I realized he was a street boy and was no good. He continued down the road and stopped at the crest of the hill. He turned around and checked his surroundings once more, then turned to his right into the rain forest. We could hear him rustling in the trees and bushes. We were confused by his action to walk into the deadly forest. It was a well know saying in the town that if you go into the jungle, you will never come out; and so far the saying is proved right.
“He’s surely gonna get eaten alive in there with that piece of meat in his arms”, Antoine (the Mr. Obvious guy in the group) stated with a creepy smile on his face.
“Well, we don’t know that for sure …for all we know he could live in there…” I said thinking thoroughly why a boy at that age would walk into the jungle and mind as well scream Eat me! with a chuck of meat that big. I surveyed my bunch of boys with silted eyes from a perspective view. Most of them are tall, strongly built, and well equipped, so we could perhaps handle a night in a carnivore filled jungle. I made up my decision and expected my boys to follow.
“Boys, I have chose what we are going to do to that little scum.” I paused, waiting for the tension to rise, “We are goin’ to follow him in there with no fear. We will find him and make him wish he never stole from us in the first place. Now who will follow and help me do this?” I asked them this sternly and stared down each and every boy waiting for their response.
“I’ll go Pierre! I’ll come!” they shouted this to me and I was filled with a shot of pleasure.
“Let’s go boys!” I shouted. Machetes were brought out of their cases and wooden clubs were raised. I grinned with a glimmer of rage in my eyes and took off into the dark jungle.
I heard the men. Their loud voices filled the night and couldn’t be more than 100 yards away. I started to run. Running was not a skill of mine but it was my only choice. I pushed my way through the dark, leafy and pointy jungle not knowing where I was going. At that point I realized I put my life in double risk; I’m running in a jaguar filled jungle at night and I stole from a crazy bunch of 20 fearless men. My heart was pounding and beads of sweat ran down my neck and face. I closed my eyes, praying to my Lord for forgiveness and safety –forgetting I was running in the middle of the jungle. I opened my eyes and my pupils were shocked with darkness. I blinked and blinked trying to see- no such luck. I tripped on a tree root of some sort and landed on my face. In the process I threw the meat somewhere into the jungle. A trickle of hot blood seeped out from my nose. I tried to get up, but when I did my ankle screamed out in pain. I was now stuck in a horrible world of pain.
I could hear the men drawing closer. They rampaged through the jungle until they could only be a foot away hidden in the bushes. My heart started beating rapidly and my breathing turned heavy. This is it, I thought. I tried to picture the last Haitian sunset I’ve ever seen, but ended up blank. I opened my eyes and by now each boy was emerging from the trees and bushes. I could see their machetes shining in the moonlight while they cut away the trees then raising them high for me to see that they were armed. A man stepped up front towards me and grabbed me by the throat lifting me aggressively in the air. He leveled me so we were eye-to-eye, then he spoke,
“You have stole from us and we are not pleased. We want revenge and we will get revenge. You are the one to pay.” His voice was low and gruff and his breath stunk of tobacco. His grip tightened around my throat then shoved me to the ground banging my head on rock. Streaks of agony ran through my skull. I tried to lift my head but was hit with extreme dizziness and a fist on my throat. My breath was taken away quickly. Two large, ruff hands grabbed me from underneath my arms and pinned me against their bodies, leaving me no space to wriggle free. I prayed and prayed and prayed even when I felt the cold, metal machete against my neck. I started to feel the pressure of the machete increase and started saying my prayers aloud. This, for sure I know, is the end.
I brought the machete to his neck and started to heavy my hold. I prepared myself for the load I was about to get.
“Make sure you hold him good.” I told the boys “I don’t want this to be any more messier then it has to be.”
On that note they tightened their grip on the boys arms. By now the other boys crowded around us waiting and chanting for me to finish what the boy had started. I looked at the boy and now saw that he looked much younger than before. His lips were moving rapidly and his eyes were squeezed shut so it looked like he was in a deep prayer. Guilt suddenly appeared in my soul and body and I couldn’t get it out. All of my thoughts could only focus on the images of my dead son who got beaten to death by a young, stupid gang in Puerto Prince when we used to live there. I was the one who found him in the alley, a slit in his neck and bruises covering his already dark skin. And now here I was about to do the same thing to a boy who was my son’s age when he too got followed, then jumped by a group of older boys.
I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. I cant walk away without any harm, I thought, they will take me as a wimp. Then without truly thinking, in one swift movement I lifted my machete from his neck and sliced him on the right side of his check. Blood immediately started running from his wound down his face. With all my might I forced myself to stop shaking and looked him eye to eye one last time. I told him,
” You never mess with us again, never.”
I told the boys to drop him and they did so precisely. I scanned the group around me and saw a few confused faces, but overall revenge-filled faces of joy. They patted me on the back and congratulated me with no question of my sudden change in plans. When we finally left the jungle and entered the dark yet bright familiar landscape, we parted our ways home. I didn’t go home right away though; I stood at the top of the crest and stared into the moon. I recalled every feature of that little boy; the rosary on his neck, his soiled, snotty green shorts and those sad, fearful, chocolate brown eyes of a torn boy. Oh his eyes…I collapsed onto the brown rocky, muddy road to my knees. I wept until my eyes could no longer cry any more.
I saw it in his eyes when he was about to cut my throat. Guilt. Or maybe it was sadness. But I saw it, I know I did. That’s what made him change his mind. He’s a broken man. Something snapped inside of him and made him think hard. Stinging and burning pain blazed through my face. This brought me back to reality. As quickly as I could, I rose from the ground crying and moaning. I limped my way out of the jungle onto the barren road then settled on the ground to try to heal or at least disinfect, my cuts and injuries.
Along my searing, painful walk, I grabbed leafs of plants that I knew would help heal me. I looked at the leaves now and made sure they were safe for me to use because back in the jungle it was hard to distinguish the plants in the tiny slivers of moonlight between the tree branches. Methodically, I chewed and stuffed my wounds with the leafs until I was done filling all the cuts. As soon as I finished, I was hit with a wave of sleepiness. I became drowsy very quickly, but the last thought that crossed my mind was, Who was that man?