Jungle trials

Manu woke with a start.  He wasn’t sure what had disturbed him but he instinctively knew that something was very wrong.  He listened but everything in the forest was quiet.  Still, he sensed danger was close by.  He climbed a tree to gain a better view of his surroundings and then he saw it coming ever closer.  The air was filled with the shrieks of terrified birds and small animals.  The jungle was on fire.

He quickly descended the tree and focussed on his best route of escape from the flames.  He knew that flight was impractical but even so he soon heard the thunder of hooves as the larger animals raced, panic-stricken in an effort to outrun the monster.

The crackling sound of the blazing undergrowth, combined with the boom of falling of trees intensified; it was getting closer.  Manu knew his only hope of survival was to reach the stream but that meant running towards the ever engulfing fire.  He had no alternative so he ran passing the fleeing animals heading in the opposite direction.  As he sped on he reflected on the irony of species that would normally run in fear of each other racing together unified by the joint objective of survival.  He could see blazing treetops above him and felt the heat of the ground on his bare feet as he avoided the cascading trees falling around him and setting light to the shrub land beneath.

Finally he reached the stream and threw himself into the water.  Blazing debris floated in the usually cool water now sizzling his already blistering body.  He had to keep moving but in which direction?  Rationale dictated that he should move away from the fire but years of living in the jungle had taught him that the obvious solution was not always the best.  The stream must eventually flow into a larger body of water and the direction of the current indicated that his salvation lay towards, rather than away from the fire.

He struggled on, occasionally lying flat in the stream although this provided little relief to his scorched limbs.  Eventually Manu realised that the surrounding plants and trees were burned but no longer aflame.  He slowed his pace as the stream widened confident that he had chosen the best route.  On arrival at the swamp he observed a variety of jungle animals had managed to reach the same destination.  Now a different problem presented itself.  Having survived the inferno behind him, he was faced with a group of animals who, having reached safety, were no longer in a co-operative frame of mind.  They circled each other menacingly and regarded Manu keenly as a source of food.