13: Freefall

What does it take for peaceful people to turn to violence? For that wafer thin veneer of civility to slip away in a lash of red? It need not occur through the travails of outer forces, from the harsh batterings of nature, but more often from the inner turmoil and brutality of human conflict. Wound up tight enough, it could take little more than an exploited fear, a hatred of the unknown, a poisonous whisper, a misspoken word.

Massif was not a bad man, his often dark frown was simply the way his face hung and often due to his bemusement of others. Despite his looming bulk he was a gentle giant. Yet now, his machete was at the throat of an eight year old and he could feel her shake and whimper under his huge paw.

It was only to scare them, that was what Pisiv had told him, so when they left their lives could return to normal. He did not like doing it, but understood it was a necessity and his role to play in events, just as Pisiv had instructed his fellow villagers in theirs.

He moved round the hut with his charge, so her mother could see them both, and watched her break. And break, Blake did.

She could never have imagined the sickening lurch of pure fear she plunged into then, as the world swam and fell beneath them. Madison’s tears swam down her cheeks, trickling onto the dirty blade at her neck.

“Please, don’t,” said Blake. “I’ll do whatever you want. We’ll leave right now, never look back, just don’t, please don’t hurt my little girl…”

Pisiv stared at the whimpering foreign cow and an immense feeling of power overwhelmed him. He revelled in their weakness, for it made him stronger.

“You’re still trying to tell us what to do,” he said. He wished this moment of glory to last as long as possible.

Jack looked at Neri, who was moving around the hut slowly, picking a log from a corner stack with silent care. He remained still. To Massif and Charles, he was the other threat in the room, so their eyes darted across to him alone, unaware of Neri’s stealth. They were also transfixed by Blake, the lean foreign devil crumbling on the floor before them.

Tears streamed down Blake’s cheeks, she had never felt so weak, so powerless before. The purest terror felt is not for your own well-being, but from the pain of those you love the most.

She looked away from Pisiv’s snide leer to the man with the machete. Her red raw eyes met his.

“Please,” she said. “Please don’t hurt my angel.”

Massif could see the pain he was inflicting and, unlike Pisiv, did not enjoy the feeling, it made him sick. He kept his hand on Madison’s head, but slowly moved the blade away from the whimpering child’s jugular. They had already made their point, enough was enough.

That was when Neri saw her chance. She rushed forward and swung the log with all her might. Half the height of Massif, it took a leap through the air for the wood to connect square with his nose. It exploded in a plume of gore and he fell back screaming, Neri toppling onto him.

Jack rushed forward, grabbed Madison and hoisted her to his chest, picking up the fallen machete in one fell swoop. Charles started forward, but Jack pointed the blade to his forehead. “Don’t,” he said.

With a roar, Blake rose up and kicked Pisiv in the head. She wanted to tear his face off, but Neri pulled her away from her father and the four of them rushed for the hut doorway. Flight, not fight, being the desperate option.

Jack carried Madison at his front, hoping the islanders would not be cruel enough to pierce his angelic shield. Jean and Louis jumped up as they exploded past them. The captain swung the machete in an arc and they lurched back away from the flying blade.

However, the biggest shock was Jack’s own. Looking down the hill he could see his boat, the Island Dreamer,  unmoored from the jetty and drifting away from land. Under threat of losing their home, the islanders were taking his. Pisiv’s plan was darker than he realised. The foreigners were not to be dissuaded, but dispensed.

Think fast and keep moving. Jack turned to Neri and Blake. “Come on,” he said. “There’s always another way.”

Blake took Madison from him, tear stricken and wild eyed, as they ran from the village peak into the thick jungle surround. They plunged along a narrow path until Jack swung right, sliding down a bank. He hoped his memory hadn’t been fogged by panic.

“Where are we going?” screamed Blake.

“Down,” said Jack. “We’re going down.”


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