In a band at the water’s edge were giant trees whose roots must burrow down to water and whose boles thrust skyward, and beneath them layer upon layer of vegetation – saprophytes, mosses, lichens, an abundance of fruits and flowers, vines, and birds of all colors flittering between the layers of green. Yet even from my position at water level I could see the unyielding rock rising up behind the jungle, at places seeming only a hundred meters wide.
Nowhere on the planet have we found anything like this. Perhaps it is the moderating effect of the surrounding lake that allows such to develop. I do not know; such knowledge as I have is sketchy on these things. Perhaps Jandrax would have understood.
I sailed west around the island, looking for a safe anchorage. Were I whole, I could have run ashore anywhere, leaping out and dragging the boat up on some rocky shingle; with my injury I needed a place where I could tie up without beaching my craft. Once I entered the mouth of an inlet, dropping the unpredictable sail and rowing in, but the inlet was surrounded by low and swampy ground that I could not negotiate.
I stayed in that inlet, tied up to the knobby root of a low-growing tree and slept poorly, mindful of the new sounds around me. I did not hear the coughing of longnecks or the squeal of krats – for which I was thankful – but I did hear many sounds that I could not identify, especially a soft, crooning call that echoed throughout the night.
I missed the sunrise the next morning, shaded by trees and tired out by an uneasy night. When I woke, soft light was filtering through the jungle and the birds were about their daily tasks. I saw several species new to me and familiar species that were somehow different, like the leatherbill that landed on my prow, his brilliant red underbelly at odds with his continental cousins.
I caught rocod from the murky waters and ate them raw, but I kept my rifle close at hand, hoping that some herbivore would come down to water. I was thoroughly sick of raw fish. Leatherbills came to watch me eat, so I set my line again and, dividing my new catch, spent an hour feeding them. They were very bold, one even venturing to eat from my finger.
No herbivores came, nor had I really expected them. This fringe of jungle would be the abode of small creatures only. I saw what I took to be huge birds circling the island as I approached it yesterday, but they were not in evidence today.
I realized, with a twinge of guilt, that I had not notched my calendar board yesterday.
I spent the afternoon lounging in the boat. I had not realized the depth of my loneliness at sea; now it fell in on me again. In the afternoon I stripped and went overside for a much needed bath. At sea I had not dared do this for fear of becoming separated from the gig.
I considered sailing out to fill my waterskins rather than drink this muddy shoreline water, but I could not bring myself to leave this haven even for an hour. The next day I would go, however, for I was determined to find a landing where I could actually go ashore. I cursed my leg in bitterness, knowing that I had passed a hundred landings, including this one, where an agile man could have gone ashore.
When dusk came, the crooning resumed, alternating with an airy cry of, “Dilwildi, dilwildi, dilwildi.” more tomorrow