Harris considered making a break for it for the hundredth time since this began. Sometimes it was his curiosity about the creature who held him captive, but usually it was the fact that he couldn’t reach the village before the Sheewa managed to catch up to his trail. So close, but so far.
He wasn’t a young man and certainly wasn’t prepared to wrestle an 80 pound cat. Worse, sentient cat. His eyes scanned the creature’s nest, taking in the mess of sticks and brambles absently. It spoke the native language, not that Harris knew much. The tones were rough, but clear enough to be recognized.
It spoke. Between the cure for the modern plague and the discovery of these creatures, he was going to be a legend! If he lived. Communication was rough and unclear, but had at least progressed a little. Those moments of insight at times felt more like a mutual study of one another than a forced captivity.
Harris studied the markings in the sandy floor. Symbols left from the limited communication he and his captor had worked out. Harris had done everything he could to convey that he and his people were harmless and non-threatening. In hope that this being would not hide if he brought a team back, but also to create a lull in the caution the Sheewa had shown. So far, a failing ploy.
A gunshot’s echo ripped him into the present. The company sent men when they found out about his data and daughter. There could be no other reason for the sound of a gun this deep into the jungle.
“Damn, now or never.” So much for waiting. They were not going to believe that foreign humans were safe if the damned fools were firing off guns here. Gathering up the jacket he’d taken off, scrambled through the narrow opening in the brambles and into the outskirts of the clearing. Thankful that the beast hadn’t lived in the trees like some Sheewa he’d spotted when rarely allowed to step out, Harris began to run.
The few Sheewa he saw were all focused towards the sound of the shot. He would only have moments to clear the brush and go over the hill before the movement drew their attention. One heartbeat. Two. He slipped over the side and slid, heedless of the sharp thorns that tore at him. There wasn’t time to find his machete not that he knew where to look. They would have seen that for certain.
He had to slow down very quickly. His chest hurt and he was bleeding profusely from thorn tears. His rush might cost him everything since it was fairly likely that they would easily smell the blood. Harris started circling towards where he heard the shot. How far would they be? A steep incline, so his initial burst had him well down the hill by now, but they would have had to travel up slowly. He angled now to stay parallel to the incline.
Ten minutes and he could hear voices. His chest hurt and he thought his arm might be tingling. Not good signs, but he had to press on and he couldn’t call out. He had to be closer. He had to keep going. So close.