‘Mr Zou, Mr Zou, you must get up. Up now, they come. Look, they come. Stand. Please, please it will not be good for us if you do not stand.’
Zou started from his painful reverie. ‘What? Did you say something Minginoo?’
‘Yes, Yes, Mr Zou. Look!’ He fingered a crack between the slabs making the walls of their confinement.
Shafts of light streamed through the unintended windows. Dust stirred by Minginoo’s agitation sparkled in the gloom. Zou tried to follow Minginoo’s finger but his neck couldn’t respond.
Minginoo grabbed his arm.
‘Aghgghhhhhhh! … Minginoo … Nooo!’ Zou coughed, spitting blood and other bits he didn’t want to know about.
‘You must see, they come.’ Somehow, Minginoo had him up. His head scraped the low ceiling. Puffy eyes tried their best but the contrast between prison black and jungle sun was too much.
Head throbbing, Zou licked his fat lip and tried to compose himself. Rubbing his chin, feeling five days of growth, he finally made out Minginoo’s face. The man wore a permanently startled look. At least he appeared undamaged, no gentle persuasion for him.
‘Are you OK, Minginoo?’ he whispered, just managing the words. Knowing he should show more concern for his loyal employee, he tried to return a reassuring grip but barely held on.
‘Yes, yes, Mr Zou, you not worry. I be OK.’
Without warning, the door swung open. Both men flinched and looked sideways as the box exploded with light. Zou felt himself fall against Minginoo but stayed upright. Minginoo walked, half dragged, Zou out into the space around the box. The midday sun seared the machete hacked greenery.
‘You are free to go Mr Zou,’ came a hard voice from above.
’You’re kimberlite samples and notebooks are not.’
‘Thank you, thank you sir. Much good.’
A hard thud was followed by a deep groan. Minginoo fell, clutching his groin. Losing his prop, Zou fell to his knees and put out his hands. Head spinning, his swollen eyes tried to peak the world, forest leaves crackling under the heels of government men striding back into the wilderness. Rolling over and lying flat on his back he heard Minginoo groan again.
Zou opened his eyes, this time a bit wider, a bit more pain. Forest greens electrified his mind and bird songs echoed. Wild flapping crossed his field of view. His sight suddenly failed again. The unexpected pain was terrible but a huge grin sparkled across his bloodied visage.
‘Shit!’ he yelled, bursting into a prolonged giggle that hurt, wiping the green and white goop away as best he could.
Zou smiled and shook Minginoo’s hand. A sleep in the dappled afternoon jungle shade had done wonders. It was all good. They were alive, he’d confirmed the geophysics and the kimberlite was diamondiferous.
‘Mr Zou, would there ever be a mine?’
‘Not our problem, Minginoo, not our problem.’
Laughter tore through the clearing and was lost in the leaves. They seized the moment and departed.
I was going to enter this into In the moment … but used up my allocation with images. Oh well. It is an exercise in writing dialogue and creating spaces for character movement that I don’t plan to take any further but it seems a shame to let it gather digital dust since it is more or less a finished work. Exploration geologists sometimes live on the edge but most can find humour amongst the adversity.