Everything I saw, I saw sideways. I tried to lift my head. It weighed 2,000 pounds so I gave up and laid in the dirt.
Gollum was back, with new wheels. Same machete though.
Daw turned and yelled something to me. No idea what. Maybe, “Get out of the damn road,” because the elephant had turned and spotted Gollum too, and he looked pissed.
Gollum tried to nail Daw with the same golf club he laid me out with. I knew I was out of it because my thoughts wouldn’t stop circling around where a Thai hillbilly could have gotten a golf club. Instead of like, getting to safety.
Daw barely ducked the swing. Super Veterinarian, yes. Super hero, not so much. I yelled inside my echoing head, “Punch him Daw! Punch him right in the ‘nads!”
Instead he ran. At least it was toward me instead of into the jungle.
The elephant stood stock still watching us. Then he moved.
Have you ever popped a tick? That’s pretty much what Gollum’s head looked like when the elephant stomped it. He look three strides, knocked his abuser off the moped and straight curb stomped him.
Daw was running toward me and didn’t see it. To the guy’s credit, he scooped me under the arms and was trying desperately to pick me up.
“It is not okay! Whether is the money or he is angry at being fooled, he means to kill us. Can you move?” He pulled me up to standing.
“Daw, it’s okay.”
I turned him around and he saw the shattered head. It took a minute to sink in.
“We need to go,” I said.
“We need to go fast,” he replied. “Are you hurt?”
I gently felt the back of my head. A giant knot, and a minor cut. Head wounds bleed like crazy, if it wasn’t gushing, the cut was superficial. I was more worried about concussion. So was Daw. He took his hands off my arms and I swayed a little.
“Do you know where you are?”
“No.” He looked worried.
“I mean, I’m in a shitty village 40 miles from nowhere, in some Godforsaken Thai jungle, with a sexy veterinarian. I couldn’t point to it on a map though.”
“You have a hard head. Come on.”
I walked up to the dead man in the road. With all the death I’d seen, I’d never seen a head laid out like that before. I thought about Spaghetti-O’s. Then I puked in the bloody dirt. Maybe I did have a concussion.
I grabbed an ashy foot and dragged the body into the undergrowth. Ha, now I not only know what undergrowth is, I’ve hidden a corpse in it! Travel really does expand your horizons.
Daw came to help. No, no, I’ve got this murder covered Daw, you go stand over there and file your nails some more. We got him pretty well hidden and kicked some dirt over the blood stain in the road. It still looked like a blood stain. Oh well. I picked up the golf club. You never know.
“At least he saved us a walk,” Daw said, checking the moped’s fuel guage.
“There’s no way that thing will go over the trail!”
“We were going to take logging roads back anyway. Chai Son would not fit down those trails.”
“Chai Son. It means mischievous boy. Do you think it suits him?”
The elephant had been munching leaves peacefully since committing murder and saving our lives. He gave me a sideways glance and snurfed.
“It does! Will he…follow us?”
“Yes. Unfortunately, he is used to following human’s orders. And he is smart enough to know we don’t mean him harm.
Daw approached him silently, and offered his armpit. Chai Son sniffed it deeply. He mumbled to him in soft Thai, stroking his trunk firmly. He worked his way to the back leg, patting as he went. He pulled a large can out of his pack, and very gently worked the analgesic salve into the shackle-bitten flesh.
Finally he cut a number of leafy branches from the tree Chai Son had been munching on and stuck them through the straps of my backpack. He motioned for me to get behind him on the moped.
“A carrot,” he said, pleased with himself, then he made a loud, chirpy noise a couple times, and Chai Son magically followed us down the road.
We rode the moped through the night. We both wanted to be long gone from the Village of the Damned by the time someone missed Gollum. I tried to stay awake in case I did have a concussion, but the drone of the tiny motor and the comforting rhythm of Chai Son’s footsteps behind us in the dark made my head dip. I woke up every time we hit a bump (painfully shaking the lump at the back of my head), then drifted off again against Daw’s back.
At dawn another sound entered my foggy brain. A big rushing. I realized we had stopped moving. And that a large, delicate penis was tickling my ear.
“Gah!” I snapped up, ready to bust some teeth.
Chai Son’s trunk was gently pulling the branches out of my backpack. I watched the end of the trunk work with real precision to pull a single branch out. Damn, how could such a big sucker do such a tiny task? Daw was busy looking at a map. I hopped off the moped and followed The Hulk as he went for richer branches on a tree.
I wasn’t scared of him, even though I’d seen very exactly what he could do to a human in a second. Chai Son and I, we had a thing. I could tell from the first time I put my hand on his side. I didn’t think he’d hurt me on purpose. I stroked his front leg while he tugged powerfully on a branch.
At first it felt like someone poured a bucket of dark red sequins over me. They covered my eyes and hair and skittered everywhere down my body, into my clothes. Then the sequins started to bite.
I am not ashamed to say I screamed. It was some scream-worthy shit. The ants were everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Each individual bite pulsed, then pulsed out to reach its friends, until every inch of my skin was on fire.
I tried to brush them off in swipes. No luck. Each tiny asshole had six sticky feet to cling on. Daw was there in a second, stripping off my clothes and pulling off the ants he could reach while I danced in a circle of pain. My hair was the worst. I could feel them crawling everywhere, especially over the tight knot. One bit the open cut.
Daw picked me up and threw me over his shoulder. This was not how I had pictured being aggressively taken by him in my underwear. Not that I spent a lot of time picturing that on long jungle hikes.
He ran to the rushing river around the next bend and dropped me in the shallows. The cold water immediately helped the burning and made it easier to brush off the ants. We both worked fast and cleared most of my body in a minute. The hair though. They kept dropping out and biting my shoulders. I laid back in the water and let him fish the bugs out of my tangles. The gentle tugs gave me a flash of someone picking lice out of my hair when I was little.
The panic started to fade.
I was just a girl, in a scenic river, being held by a cute boy…with her tits out and covered in red welts. Sighhhhh. At least they looked fantastic in the cold water.
Daw took his shirt off and handed it to me without looking…for long, anyway. Very gentlemanly.
“Stay in the water. It will help. I will find your clothes.”
Chai Son came down to the water, all innocent curiosity.
“You bastard. I trusted you.”
What’s it called when you put human reactions onto animals? Anthropormizing or something. I knew he wasn’t a human. Doesn’t mean he didn’t look ashamed as he took a long drink from the river.
Daw chirped a few commands and Chai Son knelt on the river bank.
“Climb on his neck.”
“What?! You looked at me like I was scum when I thought we would ride the elephant back.”
“We do not believe in humans riding elephants for profit. However, do you see another way across this river?”
I looked across the crashing whitewater. It was littered with boulders and even in the shallows I could feel how strong the current pulled.
Daw ditched the moped in the brush, strapped my pack on top of his and easily climbed onto Chai Son’s upper back.
My hands scrambled for a saddle horn when the giant stood up. There was nothing to grip on to, only expanses of smooth grey skin. I started to fall sideways, with eight feet of air down to rocks below.
Daw grabbed me and pulled.
“Hold with your knees,” he instructed.
He pulled me tight to him and pressed my knees down into the flesh.
We moved slowly, rocking as Chai Son picked the safest route across.
I felt a strange rush of adrenaline and extreme calm. My heart was racing and my senses sharpened as I completely surrendered control to this animal. He was in charge of the crossing. My only job was to hang on.
The only sound I could hear over the river was the loud bird calls. Daw’s soaked shirt clung to me, shoulders already drying in the hot sun. I tried to focus on my balance, keeping centered over the mountain moving beneath my legs. But I was…distracted.
I could feel Daw close behind me. Hands on my waist to keep me centered. Bare chest pressed against my back. His heartbeat wasn’t slow either, but his breath on my neck was steady and calm. I paid close attention to his thighs behind mine. They adjusted a half-second ahead of the next roll or pitch. I tried to move with him and it made a huge difference in stability.
I was starting to actually enjoy the ride when Chai Son stumbled.
I pitched forward like I’d been bucked off a bronco. I felt Daw grab for me again. Too late, I was a lost cause.
Thankfully we were most of the way across. If it happened in the middle I would have joined Aunt Mary on the other side. Instead I got dumped into the shallows again. Soaked and rock scraped, I chose to lay there a minute and look at the sky. Scary dark clouds were rolling in. Fuck this. My next stop was going to be an all-inclusive in Indonesia. With monkey butlers.
Chai Son chose that moment to take another drink. And spray me with it. I will send to you to the Great Elephant Graveyard in the sky, Chai Son. Try me agin, dickhole.
Daw pulled me up by both hands. Then his mouth was on mine. The stealth was strong with this guy.
I pushed him away.
“No thank you. I am soaked, sore and starving. Not horny.” That was a lie. Even after a cold water dunk I was still super horny from the ride together.
“I told you this wasn’t a tourist trip,” he laughed, helping me to the sandy bank. “Let’s eat.”
There were still sweet rice packets from his village, beef jerky sticks and apples in my pack. We ate like wolves. He laid out on the sand and was asleep in a second.
I was free to stare. He looked younger with his intelligent eyes shut. His full lower lip sagged to the side. Patchy stubble had sprung up since leaving Chiang Mai. I held my thumb up to the width of his eyebrows. Yup, they were a full inch tall. The chicas in Battle Creek would have their work cut out for them with those caterpillars. His bare chest looked like a topographical map of a harsh climate. Sharp ridges and valleys, with two landmark dark brown nipple mountains. And the start of a low forest right above the line of his pants. Poor dude looked exhausted. I should let him sleep.
Thunder rumbled from somewhere downstream. Chai Son, busy playing in the mud down the bank lifted his head and perked giant fan ears.
I straddled Daw on the sand and put my face close to his. My dark hair made a curtain around our faces.
“Wake up,” I whispered.
His eyes fluttered.
“A storm is coming,” I whispered.
He turned his head, trying to hang on to unconsciousness. I got a chill up my back as the wind picked up and blew his soaked khaki shirt against my skin. Fuck it.
I took his chin and kissed him, sucking a little on that full lower lip. Like he had done to me by the village fire. I let the weight of my breasts rest on his hard chest and rubbed myself against his thin pants.
He opened his eyes.