Herbie Stuart stood on the edge of the runway watching the Cessna plane, his flight out of the remote African ocean island; disappear into the distance without him. It had been the fulfilment of a lifetime’s dream to come to the island to see the natural habitat. He had arrived two days ago with three other people. There was Judy, good looking with red hair and dressed in jeans and T shirt with “I’m FREE” printed on it. She looked about his age of forty, and was in the process of getting a divorce due to her husband’s infidelity. She had decided to get a long way away while it was being sorted so this trip had been ideal for her. He secretly quite fancied her. Then there was Ron, a South Londoner who had come looking for a friend he had known many years before when serving in the army, and had been disappointed and very upset when he learnt that his friend had died a year ago. And finally there was Carol. What can be said about beautiful Carol; she was about thirty, blue eyes, with long auburn hair tied in a pony tail and a figure any man would swoon over, and maybe die for. He never did find out why she had really made the journey.
In the distance, where the plane had now disappeared, Herbie could see that the sky was black and storm clouds were building up, which didn’t look good. Why the heck the charter airplane couldn’t wait another five minutes beat him, especially as it pilot had taken his £500 for a return trip. He could only guess that he had seen the approaching storm and didn’t want to get caught up in it. No doubt the others had mit back in time, lucky so and so’s. He shifted his backpack to sit more comfortable on his shoulders – there wasn’t much in it, only his mobile phone, camera equipment, water bottle and some fruit bars for sustenance, which he had bought with him from England. He had a few Euros’ which the locals preferred to their own currency.
He was furious with his situation and kicked at one of the many stones that lay scattered around and on the dirt laden primitive runway that looked like it hadn’t been cleared for aircraft for some time.
‘Sod, Sod it.’ He shouted out loud towards the forest of trees which began fifty yards away, and surrounded the clearing, and mumbled to himself;
‘What the bloody hell am I going to do now?’
Looking around him he couldn’t see a single person in sight to ask what he should do. When they had all arrived the Cessna had landed on this dirt clearing, cut out of a forest area, and a couple of locals had appeared as if by magic and offered to show them the way to their digs for the two nights they were to stay. The promise of a tour guide when he booked the trip never transpired: he would have something to say to the tour company about that when he got back, and he would ask for a refund as well. The locals had offered to guide them around the island to see the wildlife and Herbie had some good camera shots of Lemurs, exotic birds and lizards: and the scenery was magnificent. They had managed to negotiate a good deal with some of the locals for assistance, which actually turned out not too bad, as they were taken to areas that they may not have otherwise seen.
He decided to return to the village that he had stayed in as there was no chance of using his mobile phone to call the mainland for someone to fly back and pick him up where he was now. The only means of contacting anyone off the island was by short wave radio, and that was situated in a small wooden hut in the village where they had stayed. Unfortunately the village was a good hour away and he hoped he could beat the approaching storm. Tropical storms could be deadly if caught in them so he started back at a fast pace. He knew he wouldn’t be able to keep up the pace for long as the forest area was dense in some places and the high humidity would certainly slow him down. It was a good job he had some bottled water with him.
He hadn’t gone far into the forest, when he heard some movement ahead and voices.
‘Hey look who it is.’ he heard a female voice say. Then a man’s voice replied;
‘It’s Herbie Judy; thank goodness we are in the right place. I was beginning to think that we had it wrong.’
Herbie stopped; shocked to hear the voices of two of the people he thought had just flown off, and then see them coming towards him through the trees.
‘What are you two doing here, I thought you two and Carol had flown off in the plane. I must have missed it by about a couple of minutes; although I thought I was early and had plenty of time.’
Judy was bending over with her hands on her knees and panting from the exhaustion of the heat and exertion of having just struggled to get there;
‘We waited for you and Carol.’ Ron said. ‘But then we were told that you had left, and we couldn’t find Carol so we came on thinking she must have left too. We saw the plane cross the island. The rotten toad; you were right he did leave half an hour early without trying to contact us to say he was leaving early. He must have seen those black clouds and got cold feet. We shouldn’t have paid him until we got back to the mainland.’
‘So what do we do now then?’ said Judy looking attractive in her shorts and clinging T shirt in spite of her sweating profusely,
‘Well I was just about to go back to the village to try and contact the mainland on their radio.’
Judy and Ron both sat down on their backpacks and Judy looked up at Herbie and said;
‘It’s taken us nearly an hour to get here, and I was so pleased to see you. I don’t think I could make it back to the village right now though.’
Ron nodded in agreement, and Herbie saw he was looking whacked out, after all he was in his late sixties, and then Ron said;
‘This is a real dilemma, if we hang about too long we are going to get caught in that storm that’s brewing. And if we try and make it back to the village we will still get caught up in the storm because of the time it will take to get back there. I don’t think I can make it, you will both have to leave me here and I will try and find some shelter and stay there until it’s safe for you to come back to me.’
‘Nonsense Ron, we can’t leave you out here on your own.’ Herbie said, putting his backpack down and wiping the wet off his face with his hand.
‘Herbie’s right Ron,’ said Judy, ‘we can’t leave you on your own, think of the snakes and insects that are crawling about and goodness knows what else. It’s just not safe.’
‘So we have yet another dilemma now.’ said Herbie, now seeing Judy in a different light, and liking what he saw. He thought her husband must have been crazy to leave such an attractive and caring woman. ‘Well we have to do something, let’s see if we can find some safe shelter for all of us and after the storm we can go back to the village then.’
They started back to the airstrip with Herbie and Judy helping Ron with his backpack. As they got to the edge of the trees there was a shout from behind them.
‘What are you all doing there; I’ve been looking for you, you’re in the wrong place?’
They all stopped and turned to see Carol jogging over towards them.
‘What the heck?’ exclaimed Judy?
As Carol came up to them looking not a bit out of breath, she said;
‘You’ve come to the old runway, we don’t use this one any more, You should have turned left instead of right when you got to the large tree near the waterfall.’
‘One tree looks like another,’ mumbled Ron
When they followed Carol, it was only a short walk to the runway that was used now. The only difference was the there was no large stones on it, but it was still dirt laden. As they approached the plane on the runway they couldn’t see the pilot.
‘So where is the pilot?’ asked Herbie.’
‘I’m the pilot, didn’t I tell you. I’m doing the return run while Jack, the pilot that flew you in has a break. We take it in turns.’
‘So that’s why you came with us. But what about those storm clouds and what was that plane I saw leaving.’ Herbie asked.
‘Don’t worry about the black clouds they are heading a different way to us. And the plane you saw was one from a neighbouring island, it flies across this island. I think he will have a little problem if he was heading towards the black clouds; now then, all aboard everyone.’
As Herbie helped Judy aboard she squeezed his hand. Ron noticed this and when they were all sat down Ron leaned across to Herbie and nodding towards Judy, he whispered;
‘I think you’re in there lad.’
Herbie smiled and whispered back;
‘I hope so Ron, I do hope so.’ and settled back in his seat and closed his eyes as the Cessna left the ground.