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Explorers

 
   
 
Bilal stood knee deep in the river, he had been standing without moving for the past fifteen minutes. Suddenly he moved plunging his hands down and bringing them back up again grasping a large fish.
‘Here, Mujtaba catch,’ he said, as he threw it to his friend, standing on the bank.                           
Mujtaba caught the fish, grinned, and then screamed, as the bank gave way hurling him and the catch into the water. Bilal grabbed him by the collar and hauled him coughing and spluttering to his feet, but it was too late, not only had the fish escaped, the splashing had alerted the crocodiles and they began sliding into the water.
Nothing had gone right since they had become separated from the rest of the expedition five days ago. Apart from a small amount of dried meat and a canteen of water between them, which they’d had consumed on the first day, they’d had nothing to eat and were growing weaker by the hour. Now, the fish that they had been going to grill over an open fire was gone, and there was no chance of catching another.
It had been the same yesterday, when he had spotted the nest high in the jungle canopy and climbed up to get eggs. He’d gotten two, but when he came back down and handed them to his friend, Mujtaba had fallen over a log hidden in the undergrowth and broken them.
Bilal had shouted at Mujtaba then, calling him all the clumsy clods he could think of. But when Mujtaba had hung his head and said, ‘Sorry, Bilal,’ he knew he had been unfair. Dropping the eggs had been an accident, and today losing the fish was an accident too.
‘Come on, Mujtaba we’ve got to keep moving,’ he said, as he helped his friend up the bank and onto the trail.
‘Follow me and keep close behind.’
As they set off once more Mujtaba knew that they couldn’t go on like this, if they didn’t eat soon they’d collapse and die. He felt terrible; it was entirely his fault, if he hadn’t dropped the eggs and lost the fish they wouldn’t be starving now.
Ahead of him, Bilal began to stagger as he walked, then suddenly he fell. Mujtaba stumbled up to him, dropped to his knees, and shook him, ‘Bilal, Bilal, come on get up, we need to keep moving.’
But his friend just gave a groan and mumbled something that he couldn’t make out. Now what was he going to do? He wasn’t used to making decisions, he left all that to Bilal, he was good at it. But Bilal was out of it and that only left him.
‘Up you come, Bilal,’ he said, as he bent and hauled him to his feet.
  He staggered on, supporting his friend, but it was slow work and he knew they wouldn’t get far, and they didn’t. A few moments later they stumbled and fell. Mujtaba lay there for a long time and then staggered to his feet. This wasn’t going to work, he would have leave Bilal here, while he went to find food. The most upsetting thing was that there were berries all around them in the jungle; they’d tried eating them on the second day, but had become so violently ill that they wouldn’t dare try again.
Mujtaba dragged Bilal to the side of the trail and propped him up against a tree and saying, ‘Bye old friend, won’t be long,’ set off.
He didn’t go far; he must have only gone twenty metres when he saw the hut to the right of Cabin the trail. It was no native hut; it was an abandoned log cabin, which must have belonged to some long gone explorers, like themselves. And maybe, just maybe, those explorers had left a stash of food behind, like Captain Scott had in the Arctic.
He made his way back to Bilal, he hadn’t the strength lift him, and so he grabbed him by the arms and dragged him along the trail and into the hut. Leaving his friend on the floor, he looked around. At one end there were two beds made from bamboo, at the other end, a table and four chairs and beyond the table was a kitchen area, with cupboards also made of bamboo. There was even a sink carved out of a tree trunk and on the bench next to it, were two bowls and two wooden spoons.
Mujtaba headed straight for the cupboards, he opened the first, it was empty, the second was also empty, but in the third he found four tins all with no labels. Carrying the tins to the table, he looked around for a tin opener; surely they wouldn’t have left tins and nothing to open them with. He tried the rest of the cupboards, nothing. There must be one somewhere he thought, as his eyes roved the hut, still nothing. He was about to go outside for a rock to bash the tins open, when he spotted the small drawer next to the sink. Pulling it open he smiled, success, taking the opener to the table he opened the first tin, it was full of peas.
Grabbing Bilal again, he managed to lift him into a chair and holding the tin to his lips fed him the pea juice. As soon as his friend could hold the tin himself, Mujtaba got the bowls and spoons and began opening the other tins, they were all peas, but still it was food.
Emptying two tins into each bowl he sat down next to Bilal, and they had barely begun to eat, when the door opened and a voice said, ‘What on earth are you doing with my peas?’           
Mujtaba looked up and said, ‘Sorry, Mum, we were just playing explorers.’
 
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