The author is delighted to offer her short story, The Intrepid Adventures of Ralph Ingleton, as a free download in a variety of digital formats - for eReaders, computer screen reading, or home printing.
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The short story is featured in the author's collection of short fictional works called SHADES. Here's the start of the story:
Sweat! He was sick of the feel of it, sick of the smell of it. And yet, as Ralph made the last few wearying steps up to the mountain top, all thoughts of discomfort faded into the background.
As the remaining hours of daylight filled the valley, he surveyed the breathtaking terrain below. Hours of hacking through dense Amazonian undergrowth had been worth it, he thought. His body relaxed and gave in to the solace offered by the cloudless blue sky and the 180-degree vista of unbroken jungle canopy which stretched for miles before him. It was enough to make him forget, at least for a short time, the weeping calluses on the soles of his feet and the stinging ache of his forearms and wrists.
Ralph took a sweat-soaked handkerchief from his breast pocket and mopped his brow. Arrested now by tiredness and the heavy humidity, it occurred to him just how expansive and diverse the planet was.
At times like these, he couldn't help thinking back to his school days and nursing his annoyance at having been led to believe that we live in a 'small world'. As it turned out, there was still so much uncharted territory to explore, and he loved the thrill of setting off with only a compass and the scant provisions in his backpack. Often, all that stood between himself and death was what he modestly thought of as a handful of survival skills; although in truth, he had an in-depth knowledge of bush foods and healing plants, and knew how to find water when none appeared to be readily available. Many of these abilities had been gleaned from the native peoples he had met on his travels.
It was then that his mind turned to reflect on the previous week, as he stood there in gratitude for the peace and safety of the moment. Forty-eight hours ago, he had miraculously managed to escape the clutches of an indigenous tribe-turned-hostile who he had chanced upon living deep within the rainforest. Their first encounter had seemed friendly enough, the children in particular finding him a delightful curiosity, marvelling and pulling at his apparently-strange clothes and panama hat. Several days passed wherein the tribe seemed to take him under their wing, bringing him along on hunting trips and when they gathered food.
The tribe appeared to speak an ancient Amazonian dialect which he wasn't familiar with and, in the absence of language to communicate, he had elicited the use of hand gestures to get his meaning across. Surprisingly, though, it had not been a misplaced sign that had sparked off his peril at the hands of the rainforest-dwellers.
Just before dusk, sharing a fireside meal with some of the tribe members, he thought about taking a few pictures, photographic evidence of his interaction with a people happily surviving so far from the reaches of Western civilisation. But, as he pulled his camera out of his rucksack, there came a gasp of wonderment from his companions gathered around the campfire. Without warning, the camera was grabbed away from him and passed from person to person as though they were playing a primitive version of pass-the-parcel, turning it this way and that to explore every angle, wondering what it could be.
"Hey! Give me that back!" Ralph exclaimed, holding his hands out, gesturing as politely as he could for them to return the camera. But they were too engrossed to take any notice. A knot formed in Ralph's stomach as they started pushing buttons and turning dials, imagining them breaking it or, worse, not giving it back at all.
The camera finally reached the last person along the circle line, the one Ralph had guessed was the chief. Having already watched everyone tossing and turning it about, he held back from doing so himself, studying the apparatus in a more meaningful way, as if by doing so he would appear wiser and would have a chance of tapping into the mysterious wisdom behind the strange object.
The chief's considered inspection of the camera made Ralph feel more relaxed. Its imminent return to his own hands was finally in sight. Or so he thought!
Slowly, the chief brought the apparatus nearer to his face to get a closer look, but as he did so, the camera flashed, and the chief flinched, raising an arm to shield his eyes from the unexpected, frightening light. All at once, the chief dropped the camera to the floor and hastily stood up and away from the source of this evil magic. He stared at it in an agitated manner and the tribe members moved away from the fire, wide-eyed and heaving fearful breaths. The chief began stabbing his finger animatedly towards the camera lying on the ground, jabbering away in obviously panic-stricken tones; and as he looked over at the other members of the tribe, they began aping him.
Ralph raised a hand to try and calm the situation, but without the use of language, or a cultural reference point to explain the camera, it was clear that something had definitely hit the fan!
The small crowd was looking more aggressive now, as the chief's head jerked about, alternating frantically between the camera, his tribe and Ralph, all the while pointing and chattering wildly. Ralph's attempts to restore harmony were going unnoticed, and as they all closed in on him, he inched away, realising that the point of no return had come.
His instincts told him it was time to leave, and without thinking, Ralph turned tail and ran as fast as his legs would carry him.
[ END OF EXTRACT ]