The airstrip is near to a dusty, nondescript town. In the distance are the far-sprawling outskirts of Mitù, a town in Colombia. It lies on one of the numerous tributaries to the river Negro, which in turn feeds the Amazon. The heat is often unbearable and the landing strip no more than scorched earth: a temporary clearing in nature. The heat-haze blankets the area, inhibiting strenuous work between the hours of dawn and dusk. Javier came in early: it was still dark. Moving around he startled me, causing me to wake sharply. I allowed my head to fall to the right. Javier had the hurricane lamp in his hand and was searching through some papers. The rising dust was visible even in this light. The storms had left the cabin powerless. Not knowing the time, I took my watch to where Javier had left the lamp. 3.45am. My cabin was small and isolated. It was also badly constructed. Dereliction had set in. Not in the charming way that some buildings acquire age, but rather in the way a person would be described as having let themselves go. The occasional winds sear through the holy, wooden walls and disturb everything within. The floor was desperately uneven and screamed dramatically. When I arrived, I hung a picture of my parents above my bed, itself little more than a mattress placed roughly over some crates. The filth now completely obscured the picture: an irremovable residue of grease from the small, badly kept planes that visit. I had few possessions, though I never brought many in the beginning. My few clothes hung solemnly from an improvised rail. The table on which I lent however was a thing of opulence. Allow me to rephrase – it was a thing of opulence. The green, office-leather finish was now dust-grey and resembled scorched mud. The gnarled legs had been carved from some extravagant wood but now could have fooled even the most assiduous collector of antiquities. To add injury to this insult were the letters J.S.M crudely initialled in its corner – Javier Sebastian Matas –the pilot. I met Javier when I first arrived in Bogotá almost a year and a half ago. I had arrived from London with ambition, and a degree. I ended up at the airstrip, the airstrip with no name. It is that insignificant. I had finished an uneventful Spanish and Latin American studies degree and had grand plans of coming to South America, and making a difference. My friends had found tour-rep jobs in Sevilla or somewhere similar. I did not care now. I whimsically applied for a job that I had found on the Internet: a school in Bogotá for American Nationals Within the first week of the placement, I quickly grew out of being nervous and instead grew bored. I spent night after night learning colloquial Spanish in filthy bars. The night that I met Javier had been spent in these spirit-soaked, immemorable bars. One final drink I told myself, as I beckoned the bartender over. At that moment, in strolled Javier. He was casually dressed and the epitome of South American cool: pencil-perfect facial hair, a blacker-than-night mane, a loose fitting shirt, and a swagger. He slowly drew himself up to the bar and ordered. Around a fortnight later, I was to join Javier. I stopped being in contact with the school in Bogotá and never went home. I had a job, I had more money than I could spend or use and I had a good friend in Javier. When I arrived we left immediately for the strip and stopped at its end less than three-quarters of an hour later. He pointed from a distance to what appeared to be a lavatory: my new home. I started the walk as he sped off, He left instructions that I would know when I was to start work. The door hung off its hinges, having flapped in the past and broken its window. I stepped back and glanced up and down the scorched scar of a runway before returning to remove the door altogether. I brushed aside the glass with my foot and set my bag down. With hands on hip, I looked from left to right. Still, I thought to myself, it was rent-free. Chapter 2. A last-gasp clap of thunder echoed from far away. The sun had started to rise and shed more light into the shack. Javier’s truck was covered in mud. I looked around for him, but heard him first, attending to the plane. I made my way outside draining the warm coffee that Javier had made. Morning had started to burn its way across the sky. The last time the plane had been out it had been for a private affair. They all were. Javier had been approached in Bogotá and asked if he would fly a research group to a destination of their choice. Someone had apparently recommended him. After several drinks, he agreed he would take the group, providing they could find the strip themselves and brought a negotiation-starting thousand US dollars per head. I remember my first outing in the plane well. I remember the initial terror as I thought the runway was not going to be long enough and then the subsequent relief as Javier only clipped the upper-most reaches of the sentry-like frontline. Then, there it was. Indeterminable distance, heart stopping beauty and a sight to which words can simply do no justice. Lay before us, spread like emerald clouds, was the Amazon. I remember thinking that this must have been like Adam’s breathless conception into the Garden of Eden. I thought it was paradise, unspoilt save our stain of a shadow flickering below. The ‘84 Multi-Engine Piper Mojave coughed into life, and I heard Javier slap the yellowing windshield in pride. Its off-tan finish was the result of infrequent hangering. I moved over to the nose baggage-compartment where he was stood, and saw him hastily packing a variety of items: the first-aid kit, beacons and a compass, some blankets and his gun. My thoughts turned immediately to the research group. Needing no more than a confirming glance from Javier, I left to prepare myself. The researchers had been slightly disappointed and slightly duped by Javier. It transpired that he had not told them that he was not the pilot of some low-level helicopter that would be able to drop them exactly where they wanted, and that he was instead, the pilot to a once-beautifully restored Mojave that would be landing exactly where he wanted. The drop however was successful, leaving our explorers around one and a half days walking to their desired co-ordinates. They arranged a pick-up for two weeks later and left one of three, handheld CB radios concealed at the drop-off. They gave one of the other two to Javier. This would be my first proper experience of the Amazon. Of course, I had strayed from my shack on the strip and made it fifty impenetrable metres into the undergrowth. However, it had still been the jungle and the jungle scared me. Scared and excited me. Of course when I had first applied to come to Colombia it was not my intention to become employed yards from South America’s Heart of Darkness, in a place insignificant enough not to have a name, but Javier had been very persuasive. After having drained whatever foul-coloured liquor the barman had given him, Javier straightened up placing his glass on the bar. The others in the bar, now having forgotten his momentary invasion, had returned to gambling, smoking and whatever other vice was available that night. I however kept him in sight, watching him for a while via a filthy mirror positioned on the wall. He finished a second drink and I had almost stopped my clandestinity when he swung from the bar and swaggered in my direction. I impulsively shuffled whatever came to hand to appear busy. The cover was less than convincing as I held a menu professing to Bogotá’s finest food. I lowered the menu and raised my eyes to meet a stare. Two intensely brown eyes saw more than through my menu molesting. A small narrowing of the eyes and gesture towards the offending item told me exactly what I had suspected. Then, he laughed. Not the reaction I was expecting when I had just caught sight of his pistol projecting over his belt. He drew up a stool, retired back to the bar momentarily, and then returned with a bottle and two glasses. The next day I carefully awoke on a creased sofa in a strange apartment. I opened my eyes to see a hazy woman in the next room who I would later find out to be Carmen, Javier’s cleaner. The place was adequate and seemingly two or three floors up, much better than my school supplied gutter lodgings. With the early afternoon playing havoc with my eyes, I managed to sit up and drag myself into the buoyant adjacent room. Carmen heard me enter and spun round to garble heavily accented Spanish at me, which in turn echoed around my head. She handed me a crumpled note from her pocket that Javier had left, penned in his best English. STOP THE WORK YOU NO LIKE YOU WORK FOR ME, SI? I SEE YOU EN MITU YOU USE AUTOBUS I SEE YOU TOMORROW JSM. Like a punch to the stomach, I remembered the previous night. Javier had wanted to talk, undeniably because he thought I had some money he could appropriate by one deceitful means or another. I was however more alert to his games than his usual prey. He soon stopped his serpentine ways and we got to talking over that inadvisable bottle. His work and mine, his lifestyle and mine, we covered it all. It became apparent that Javier had a plan when I saw eyes glisten at his own proposal. I bought the next bottle and tacitly the deal was done, except Javier neglected to tell me that this was the case. The phone number on the reverse side of the note was the one I would now be expected to ring, and from a phone in a place called Mitù no less. I was expected to ring, and I rung! Why I was following Javier and his instruction, I did not know. What I did know however is why I had left Bogotá. I had made it to school somewhat late after that night's excess. It was noted by several staff that I seemed ‘aloof’ that morning and came with the aroma that follows what they had termed ‘gluttony’. For this repeat offence, I was politely asked to take a two-week, stock-of-situation sabbatical, and I took it to full advantage. Like a hormonal razor, I called into question the school's stance on the right to free expression, despite knowing myself to wholly be in the wrong. I then quit in a style a flamboyant South American footballer would not have found excessive. I left for Mitù the following day. It would be a decision I would later regret. Chapter 3. I didn’t take long to prepare myself for the jungle. I grabbed a torch, matches, and anything else I thought an intrepid explorer might take. I changed my attire into something I deemed more suitable before readying myself and meeting Javier back at the plane. He thrust food in my direction and gestured toward the plane. I guessed Javier had not had a lot of sleep the night before. Javier's CB sat atop the forward map and storage cabinet and I took it before climbing aboard. The white interior greeted me luxuriously. Where Javier had obtained the capitol to buy the plane, I did not know and could not guess. The air conditioning was already on and I shivered. I sat down and wished I could sleep in the plane instead of my hut. The leather, although worn and over-cracked, had become malleable over time and now had the enviable quality of being able to transfigure to fit the contours of whatever was placed on it. I began to eat the miserable snack I had been given and felt my eyes beginning to droop while Javier made his final checks before joining me in the seven-seater. We began to move and in doing so circled my shed. We trundled slowly down to the end of the strip and moments later Javier had us off the ground and above the trees. The serenity again hit me. I even lowered my breakfast to again revel in that splendour. I did in fact have a great job at that precise moment. All too quickly, Javier shouted back at me that we would be soon landing. I sat back, disappearing into the leather and returned to my measly meal, allowing Javier to do his work. At the far end of clearing, we slammed into the trees. Chapter 4. Searing smoke filled my lungs. Sparks kissed my smouldering neck. The pirouette just performed had left my balance somewhere far behind us. The smell of burning flesh clung to my violated nostrils. The noise created by the tearing and contorting metal had deafened me. And the pain had started, fire in my veins. I reached round and excruciatingly withdrew some shard from my shoulder. The flames from the cockpit forced me into self-preservation, compelling me to aim my body through the inscrutable smoke screen. I stumbled toward the tree line before falling. My head sunk and like a fish out of water, I could do nothing but gasp. Momentarily reopening my eyes, the whole world seemed to be on fire. And then it was over. I later awoke and retched, an involuntary expulsion of the nauseating smoke. I slowly got to my feet and began to survey the carnage. Flames still danced here and there but smouldering heavily, the plane was no more. I moved forward: stepping hastily over one of the redundant ice protection shields and moved as quickly as I could towards the cockpit. Javier’s blackened remains still sat upright on the springy skeleton of what was once his seat. His charred head lolled forward, and I could see that his legs had been broken. It was too hot to near further and I withdrew. I inspected our debris-strewn approach. Walking down this would-be-had-become skidpan it became all too obvious what had happened. The rear wheels had grounded fine but looking beyond their tracks, I understood. Surface water from the storm has caused a sharp slip, twisting the wheel’s guidance arm and causing a pirouette. I could see it all. I focused on the offending arm contorted and guilty looking lying ahead of me. . Chapter 5. Night was drawing close and fanciful birds started to roost high above my spinning head. The height of this forest when multiplied by its seeming width confused me. The density stifled me, along with the insufferable humidity. My wounds attracted flies. I did not move to move them. They seemed strangely comforting. Just out of my definite field of view were all the eyes that should have been contained within my head. Just too quiet were the noises that otherwise I would have been able to determine as friend or foe, and just too hot was I to have rational explanation for the shivers with which I was convulsing. I decided to continue forward, but only because I had been back. The left looked like the right and the right looked like an extension of where I was. Each tree was invariably different, but not to me. The futility of my task dawned on me, just as dusk caught up with me. What was left of the light did not filter through the canopy; rather it gave the impression of dripping through the impervious leaves, on some futile crusade to populate the area with its kind. The small consolation I had in picturing this fluid light as an executive toy faded, as did the triumphant generals from the liquid light army. It was to become very dark. My torch functioned intermittently and was currently dead. Things moved. I did not. Noises were made. I hoped that I made none. I sat with my eyes firmly closed, as it seemed darker with them open. I had my back pressed tightly against the last tree I had seen before the light died. Although I had no watch, I knew time was passing excruciatingly slowly. Chapter 6. A new day brought new victory. I hollowly congratulated myself, as if it were my own initiative, rather than luck having been the reason that I had survived the night. I had found myself unable to rest in the night’s makeshift lodging and had stood up and begun foraging for anything to make my evening more comfortable. My heart gave an audible beat to my quest and filled my ears in contrast to the sinister and screaming silence that had arisen. An unholy screech caused me to stand sharply and attempt to pierce the indistinguishable night. I was sent spinning to my left, as I became the subject of my own torch’s beam. The loose connection in which must have touched. Whatever crossed the beam sent me into flight. I fled the torch yet stayed in its guiding light. Over my shoulder, the torch again failed. I failed to stop for a tree I had failed to see. It had loomed so ominously in the early morning blur, but had been so invisible under the smeared veneer of darkness. Low winds conversed above me, and steady rain disguised my telltale fear-soaked scent. The darkness encircled me and enveloped me, but did nothing to protect me. Evolution had ensured that my superiority in aspects such as culture and manners were now the only assets I had. My pitiful senses detected only my own fear and I feared the dark. I did nothing but walk, whilst thinking of nothing in order that evening would not come too quickly. Piles of branches littered the forest floor in varying states of decay, making my passage difficult. Smaller bushes gesticulated to their elders, jutting out at unconventional angles. Small rock clusters and outcrops made light work of my weary body and the blood created in consequence attracted companions. The over-populated undergrowth seemed to shield some unattainable heart. Insulting vines slapped my passage and a green film had parasitically attached itself to me. I later managed to wash in a small stream. Completely crystal, yet warm to the touch, this elemental silk refreshed only my mind. I told myself that down stream there had to be civilisation. A few moments later, my hope was to vanish as quickly as it had appeared. Through a small crack in the earth, this stream disappeared into a sterile chamber, dancing its way through the darkness. The light resultantly created a glistening, somewhat enchanting rainbow gateway. The inhospitable terrain of where I know found myself did not lend itself to easy passage for creatures of any notable size and the small gullies that occasionally became the subject of my attention were welcome as I pushed onwards. Here, the growth could only reach a certain height and then its weight would cause the plant to overturn in the shallow earth. The resultant spider web of decaying debris had me well caught. The land was far from desolate but my biased view rendered it so. Night was again falling but I continued ahead, willing myself forward. The spider had done its work well and in the near dark, my progress was agonisingly negligible. I was forced to stop. Chapter 7. To serenading birdsong, I opened my eyes to the full lustre of early morning. The morning mist still clung to the lower reaches of the surrounding terrain and the temperature was already soaring. The sky was a youthful royal blue and still contained certain remnants of the night sky. These stars were the sole reason that the night sky, when not completely obscured by the forbidding canopy above, was actually lighter than the night below. My eyes acclimatised to the morning light slowly and I picked myself up more determinedly than I had lain myself down However, I advanced cautiously. I was not been aware of any infrastructure in this area of the forest but just a few hundred metres from where I’d slept was a building. It was no longer in use, but a building it was nevertheless. Of a fair size but not imposing, it was impossible to imagine the intended use of this now decaying spectre. It was also impossible to see the intended use for it, as the windows, having remained intact, were now covered in a near impenetrable forestial film. I thought to myself that it could be an oversized poacher’s hide or possibly involved in the drug trade. Perhaps it was something to do with logging even. Chapter 8. Then I saw it, laughably out of place. A backpack sat in the clearing. I again advanced cautiously fearing some ambush or trap, though from what I was not sure. Unsurprisingly however no pit opened hungrily beneath me and no giant boulder was released. I sat down to examine my find. A few items of sensible clothing were stuffed in the top, the type to keep you dry and warm. Further, down I found a couple of cereal energy bars, which were instantly devoured, matches, some strong-looking cord, a penknife, and an assortment of other seemingly useful equipment. What had really caught my eye however was a CB radio and not just for the obvious reasons. This was our CB radio. The one Javier and I had had aboard the plane. This radio had then been found by whoever owned this backpack. I repacked the bag and stood up looking left and right. I wondered if I should be taking the bag. I decided to wait a while; not really, knowing how long a while would realistically last, and that I would wait inside. If this building were still operational, maybe it would contain a satellite phone or the like. Optimism started to run away with me as I began to case the building. As the windows were filthy, I reluctantly concluded that the only way to be able to see inside would be to gain access. I continued round the property, looking for a point of entry and in doing so saw two doors. One of these was a kind of heavy, industrial-looking metal door, neither rusted so much so as to be superfluous, nor conversely in such a state as to be opened. The other swung open with a foreboding welcome. With little choice, beating heart, and incessant self-questioning, I rationalised entering the unknown. It was too dark for me to be able to determine building’s layout and I thankfully returned outside into the agreeable wilderness. I set about the obvious task in hand and rubbed a few portholes into the film with my sleeve, so that a little light would enter. Three or four stabbing shafts of light now bored their way into the room and with their guidance, I could make out a desk and moving closer found it to have several mouldy charts curled out on its surface. A small generator lay under one shaft’s gaze. Its front was removed and its innards were spread haphazardly around. My eyes started to acclimatise allowing more detail to leap forth. More charts forlornly decorated the walls and a cup lay on its side, nestled in a ruffled floor rug. A coat hung soberly from some peg on the wall which, when touched fell apart, ravaged by innocuous damp. An unmade sleeping area consisting of a rough mattress and sheet lay visibly stained in one corner. A cracked, glass-fronted cabinet momentarily caught my attention, its drawers hung lamentably, dripping out the cabinet’s body. The door slammed in the breeze. I swung it back open and saw that it had started to rain once more. I propped it open to avoid similar occurrences and turned back round to see the solitary light bulb swaying in the breeze. I took a few steps back into the room, placing myself on a chair. A black curtain flapped in the corner like a dying raven's wing, previously unseen in its motionlessness. I winced as I thought of all the other things I had not seen due to their lack of motion or lack of want to be seen. I approached the curtain to reveal a heavy, industrial-looking metal door, which unlike its immediate comparison lay slightly ajar. A small push allowed it to creak open on rusting hinges. Unable to discern the room's immediate intentions I wearily glanced round and happened to catch sight of a window directly opposite us. I returned outside to disturb Nature's will, cleaning a circle into the window. I appeared to be in some makeshift armoury. Bullets cluttered the floor and a small handgun sat to my left. A cabinet lay gutted to the right, and dead ahead was a vertical rack. There was enough space to have contained around twelve rifles or the suchlike. I was no expert. The handgun was similar to Javier’s Beretta 9mm. He had shown it to me innumerable times. A sinister but seductive looking stock sat in a box under the cabinet to my right. The box had also become a victim of the damp and came apart with my slightest touch. I reached inside and took a good grip before gently bringing the find towards eye level. A piece of resistant paper fluttered from the barrel end and landed between my crouched knees. Apparently, I now held a Remington 870 Shotgun. I read further. Despite having a “high stopping power in close” I would have to remember that this gun “loses force with range”. I devoured my first literature in nearly a week. “Ideal for breaching and close quarter battle”, I would still be under guarantee until next year! I took both weapons into the light, breaching the original room like a fatigued soldier. I positioned myself at one of the desks and inspected the handgun. I emptied the clip purposefully. One by one, the bullets fell gently, rolling towards a dip in the centre of the table as I followed their every move. One suddenly deserted, skewing its way off to the left after awkwardly encroaching upon the table’s edge and falling. Chapter 9. Should I stay here the night? Could I stay here the night? I knew however uninviting the mattress looked that it would in turn, feel so much better. The drizzle had given me a sniffle and a little shelter may do me good. How I now wished for Bogotá. Night was once again winning and made my mind up for me. I approached the door one more time and gazed into the light mist. I lazily drew my eyes from left to right and dumbfoundingly had my gaze reciprocated. There eyeball to eyeball stood a living, heaving human being. I immediately noticed the hunting rifle in his grip. A sturdy growth of stubble helped emphasise his darting eyes. Well sunken, they seemed even further away from reality than mine. A swathe of hair stuck to his forehead and small droplets of mist and drizzle bounced a few of his poorly defined curls. A curious twig protruded comically from somewhere behind his ear and somehow eased me. He wore a bloodstained T-shirt and trousers as filthy as my own. I swallowed hard and spoke – just as he did. Chapter 10. His hunt had been successful. Behind him bled a deer-like meal to which he paid more attention than me. He withdrew a knife similar to my own and whittled a skeletal spit whilst raising his eyes intermittently as to confirm my position. I sat at a distance observing the free lesson in fire building. I appeared to be on his patch and had not as yet been invited to stay. I had trespassed the sanctity of his abode and as yet unpunishedly so. Desperation caused me to stay though I kept a hold on the guns. His knife flashed and flicked and its work was done. Meat lay separate from skin, the ground greedily sucked dry the evidence and in a blink, the carcass lay skewered. Mesmerised and repulsed, the event had taken minutes, had seemed like seconds and replayed in my mind infinitely. The drizzle had become more persistent and I refreshed in the rain. Luckily, for I was slightly resentful to admit wisely, the fire lay undeterred beneath impenetrable canopy. I refreshed myself in the rain, taking the time to wash my stubborn hands several times. I washed my blackened face with eyes shut. My hands joined in front of my face, the thumbs resting on my nose, the rain trickling in tears down my cheeks, forefingers resting dead central on my forehead. My hands relaxed as the sky erupted, arcing bolts across the sky. Confused images sprung to my mind’s eye and projected themselves onto my eyelids. Mountainous landscapes approached at improbable speeds giving way to suspended and interacting geometric visions. Fireworks etched unintelligible orthographics across the sky while I slowly exited from the scene, dimming and withdrawing to total black. Black gave way to pink and little flames appeared to lick the corners of my vision. Blinking wildly, I took a few steps forward and instinctively curled my toes into a familiar moss-filled lawn. I inhaled the intoxicating honeysuckle deeply. I was home. The house lay in front of me, the shed was still charmingly dilapidated, its door fringed with ivy. It was all as I remembered; a few daring growths sprouting through the gaps in the flagstones, a sprawling rose attached to a trellis flowered beneath my bedroom window. The old apple tree stood knowingly at the foot the garden, just before the lawn descended into a sterile ditch. An upturned barrow rotted placidly at its side. I continued forward and noticed the CB radio was still in my hand. It had begun to beep. My gaze rose upward where a small plume of smoke from the chimney danced contentedly in the early evening breeze before splitting into a fork and carrying on its spiralled ascent. It thickened suddenly heaving and spewing skywards whilst underscored by flames. The beeping quickened. Clouds amassed in an instant. Two fronts slammed into one another and circling fighters of nebulae assessed one another, threatening all the while to land their battle and engulf everything below. Lower than the roof, swallowing the top of the trees, blackening all in its path, my rose had long gone. The beeping flatlined. Chapter 11. The flames tongued the roast, and molten fat dripped back in hungry and macabre reciprocation. The fire highlighted the canopy above and brooding smoke wriggled upward between the leaves. I felt hot. The fire continued to burn while my heavy eyelids took over. Finally, I was to sleep soundly and deeply.