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An Aversion

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Susie Chong

Early Morning

A jagged, red shape surrounds the wound across his left palm. His hand is now the size of a mango. Clutching a small knife in the other hand, Jack hears his breathing accelerate, causing his chest to ache. His body is saturated in sweat. The knife slips and the tip of the blade nicks his wrist. ‘Damn!’ He collapses onto the muddy floor, and sulphur fills his nostrils. The blade sinks in the black sludge. He has to dig his fingers under the goo to retrieve it.

Jack hates himself because he doesn’t have the guts to cut himself. He has an aversion to knives—being lethal weapons—and the injuries they can cause. As a kid, he wasn’t tough, according to his older brother, Carl. Jack was a wuss, always has been. He hears Carl’s voice: ‘A bit of blood and guts and Jacky boy passes out.’ The words linger inside Jack’s head.

Hours Later

Images shimmer before him. Jack blinks and takes deep breaths. A gold-brownish hue radiates from the smouldering sun. Between gaps of giant, skinny trees, slivers of light bounce and reflect off the lower canopy and rainforest floor. Dense and strange vegetation surrounds him; curved, white fungi, tinged with pink, form lines down the sides of a tree trunk, and from treetops vines, thick like fingers, mould together into knotted spheres, or dangle freely. Jack recoils from a tree whose trunk is covered in multiple spikes. He doesn’t know how long he’s been wandering but keeps moving, clutching a long stick to scare off dangerous creatures, and to push plants out of his way.

He remembers leaping out of a small boat, then hearing a spluttering sound… it crescendos to a BANG… there’s darkness… fuel and burnt fumes… searing pain… his hand… 

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