No matter how often I shook my head, flies landed back on my face. Blinking didn’t keep them out of my eyes either.
They slurped stuff from the corners. They walked on my lips.
Something bigger tickled the end of my nose. I looked crosseyed.
The two of them were mating on me! I tried to blow them away. They weren’t bothered.
We didn’t know why those men had picked on our family, why they’d made that phone call, which in a few short days had turned our lives into a complete nightmare. All we knew was they’d left us here, tied together around a thin tree.
A fly landed by my nostril. It actually went inside my nose—until I sort of snorted it out. This had to be a bad dream. I shook my head again. That felt real enough. Ropes cut into my wrists. This was no dream. If we didn’t do something, we’d die here.
“Hey, James,” I rasped.
“I was till you woke me.” He fidgeted and pulled the ropes so they hurt my wrists even more. “So what happens now, Alex?”
“I want a drink,” said James.
“Yeah. Me too.” My voice was scratchy, my tongue thick. It
stuck to the roof of my mouth.
James made a strange spluttering sound. “Aggh, a big fat
fly just flew into my mouth! And ants are biting me again—they really hurt!”
“Try wriggling your butt about.”
He yelped. “That’s made them even angrier.”
We were sitting on the dry dirt. Each of my hands was tied to my little brother’s so our arms encircled the smooth tree-trunk. Roped like this with our backs to the tree, we couldn’t even really look at each other.
“When will they come back, Alex?”
“I don’t know. I don’t suppose they care. Not now they’ve got the ransom money.”
Saying that out loud made me choke up. I was glad James couldn’t see my face.
There was a kak kak alarm shout from a langur in a tree above us. This was not a good sign.
Then James said, “What was that?”
“What was what?”
“Spotted deer. Alarm calls. Quite close.”
“Yeah, yeah, but something's moving over there,” he said jerking his chin towards the thickest patch of undergrowth. “Alarm barks—I don’t like the sound of that. It could mean there’s a leopard or tiger about.”