General Flash Fiction posted May 10, 2016

This work has reached the exceptional level
Flash Fiction: Adventure into the heart of fortitude

Heart of Courage

by DonandVicki

Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of time. The plants grew impenetrable on both sides of the stream. The trees canopied the river and the air was hot, heavy and thick.... There was no joy in the all consuming shade from the oppressive sun's rays. As my wife's paddle quickly stroked the brown-green water, I remembered, time is just like this river, I could not touch the same water twice because the flow that passed will never pass again.

The pain broke me free from my mind's wanderings. I tried my best to hold the pain where it was but it was becoming unbearable. The prior evening I was cutting wood for the cook fire and the axe head slipped and I gashed my right calf muscle. The cut was deep and I could feel the infection traveling fast up my leg. I looked at my wife frantically paddling and I felt sorry for her.

"Sweetie, you have to slow down or you will wear out." I tried to sound as if I were in control of my suffering.

"We have to get you to a village as soon as we can," she cried, "if we can get to a clearing I can radio for a rescue plane or something to get you out."

"Damn...." I winced at another excruciating bolt of pain shooting up my leg.

"I wish we had never come on this trip, this miserable, hot, pain in the royal ass Africa," she seethed.

"Wishing and complaining isn't going to get us out of this mess, besides this trip was on my bucket list not yours. You can put the blame on me," I said trying to calm her down, "let me paddle for a spell, it will take my mind off the pain."

I paddled for about twenty strokes and felt like I was going to pass out. I put the paddle in the bottom of the canoe. The pain traveled up my right leg and then into my chest. It came as a rush; not as a rush of wind or of water then tapered off into a calm acquiescence of surrender. It was then that I knew I was going to die before we could get help. She was a good woman and always had been, I needed to make these last few moments, hours comfortable for her.

"I'm sorry babe, I can't go any further, I don't want to go any further."

"That's giving up," she said as she reached for the paddle, "lay back and rest, I will get us out of here if it kills us both."

"Can't you let me die in peace?"

"You're not going to die, I won't let you."

I felt the smooth strokes of the paddle and the gentle rocking of the dugout as I drifted off. 'So, this is what dying is like....' I thought.

I woke and saw my wife smiling at me through a drug induced haze. I was inside a hut, on dry land, I presumed. I looked and what appeared to be a shaman standing nearby.

"What happened? Where are...." my voice trailed off.

"Shhhhh!!! Just rest, the chief has a medicine that helps with the pain, I think it's a raw form of morphine or some type of opiate," she said hardly containing her joy. "I was able to get a signal out for a rescue, They should be here tomorrow."

"By plane?" I asked quizzically, "why so long?"

"There's no clearing here big enough for an air rescue," she said, "they are coming by boat."

"I hope they have better luck than we did." I said without thinking.

"Excuse me?" She said with a note of irritation to her voice, "you were the one that was ready to give up. Only by the grace of God did I find this village."

"I should have known that you hate sad endings." I smiled back.

"Found" FLASH FICTION Contest contest entry


Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" pg 88 "Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world."

Word count: 675
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