The dirt track was scarcely visible through the rain, illuminated by the headlights of the jeep. The falling water pounded against the roof and the glass. The only sound heard in the darkness.
I was dry inside the jeep, my driver peering nervously over the steering wheel next to me. Mud splashing across the side windows.
He’d been driving through the jungle for hours. My ass was hurting from being thrown around on my seat, I’d spoken up repeatedly for him to slow down but the request had fallen on deaf ears .
To my surprise, my driver slowed the jeep, switching off the headlights as we approached a clearing. Through the streams of water running down the windscreen I could see the medical centre.
The building had an atmospheric fluorescent glow, the walls painted the surgical blue and turquoise of when it had once been a medical centre. Now it was a stop off for back-packers and adventurists, at least that’s what it appeared to be on the surface.
But hardly anyone ever ventured out here on their own accord. Desperation and longing was what drove most people here.
My hosts were a pair of elderly sisters, twins, they were born and raised in a village on the other side of the river that cut through the jungle, snaking its way out to sea. They worked as nurses for many years, healing the sick. I hadn’t stepped foot in the jungle for twenty years . But here I was, back to repay my debt, just like I’d promised I would.
My twenty years of good fortune was up, they hadn’t lied, my life had gone just the way I’d dreamed. Every investment, every business venture was a success, my capital grew exponentially since day one of our agreement.
The two sisters made it a habit to welcome all the guests in person. Even at this late an hour they were there, waiting for me.
The two of them silhouettes stood beneath the corrugated roof, a curtain of water further distorting their forms.
The driver, upon noticing them too, pressed his foot down hard on the brakes, throwing me forward, I put my arm out on the dashboard to stop my face smashing into it, grazing my cheek against the side of my rolex. The both of us sat in silence, all I could hear was the rain drumming against the roof of the jeep, the driver looked at me and began sprouting a torrent of words I didn’t understand.
I don’t speak the language but I guessed he wanted me out of his jeep. He was reluctant to take the envelope of money I’d offered him when I’d approached him on the rickety boardwalk of the port a couple of days ago. I must have looked a sight, me with my suit, dragging my carry on behind me. Even with my handerchief pressed over my nose and mouth, the stench of fish was horrendous. But in the end he took my money, everyone does.
I was here off the books. No one knew I was here, and I wanted to keep it that way. So I willing to slum it a while, until I’d given the old hags what they wanted, a share in my wealth. I imagined I wouldn’t be here long anyway, they’d have me sign a check or something or transfer some money into a Cayman account or whatever account they might have here in Indonesia, I wanted to ask why I couldn’t have done this from my office back in London.
I hopped out of the jeep, my feet sinking into a filthy brown sludge. The shoes I was wearing cost more than what I payed the driver.
I trudged through the mud, holding my luggage close to my chest, terrified of it dropping it. It was heavy and made me lean drastically to one side to counterbalance it. I climbed the steps to the reception area where the sisters were waiting for me, they bowed slightly and smiled gently.
“It’s been a long time”, I said, holding my hand out, giving a courteous smile. The same smile I’d perfected over years of board meetings and champagne conferences, I didn’t want to be here, but you never show how you’re really feeling.
The jeep made a u turn behind me and its lights were disappeared down the muddy track into the darkness of the jungle, I turned back to the sisters who simultaneously turned to me from watching the the jeep drive off, it creeped me out a little. One of the sisters had one eye, hidden beneath one of the lenses of her spectacles that had been blacked out. The other sister, when she turned her head slightly, had a long scar running down from behind her ear, along her jaw a little and down her neck, disappearing beneath her straggly long grey hair. These were the only changes, apart from that they had not aged or changed in twenty years.
“Welcome”, the sister with the scar said.
“Your room this way”, gesturing to a lit corridor behind her.
The other sister, disappearing around the corner. I followed, hauling my soaked luggage over my shoulder, leaving muddy footprints across the concrete floor.
My room was at the end of the corridor on the ground floor. A room that looked more like a prison cell. It had the essentials; a cot, a sink and a small cabinet of draws against the far wall. The same fluorescent light tubes giving out an irritating hum above me. They were nice enough to hang a mosquito net over the cot, which was nice. Nothing had changed since I’d last been here.
“When do we start?”, I asked, turning to face the sisters stood in the doorway.
“Tomorrow, in morning, rest, you will need it”, she said, closing the door, the other sister, the one with one eye, the one who I didn’t remember being this quiet the last time I was here, she just stared at me as the gap got smaller, until the door was closed and I was alone.
The following morning, the rain had stopped and the sun was shining through the canopy. The net hadn’t done much to fend off the mosquitoes, I’d been eaten alive during the night, barely getting any sleep.
I got dressed, splashed some water on my face and made my way to the reception. No one there. I stood in the entrance way, at the top of the steps I had climbed the night before and surveyed the muddy court yard, a brown circle, potted with puddles, in the middle of the jungle clearing.
From the edges, between the trees I saw what looked like a big black pig emerge and begin plodding through the mud. From the other side, another appeared. After a minute or so the muddy courtyard was scattered with the bloated hairy bodies of a dozen Boar’s all staring at me.
“Good morning”, I heard a voice say. I hadn’t heard the old ladies approach, but somehow they’d both gotten right up next to me, one standing either side of me. If I said I was startled I’d have been underplaying it.
“Jesus!…”, I blurted out, my hand on my chest.
The old ladies just smiled.
“What are they doing?”, I asked them, gesturing to the audience of boars.
“They here for same reason you are”, the old lady with the scar said.
I waited a moment, thinking she had something else to say, that the sentence hadn’t finished, but I guess that was all she had to say on the matter.
“I want to clear my debt…”, I said.
“… what do I have to do?”, I asked.
I didn’t want to be here a second longer than I had to.
“You want breakfast?”, she said with that gentle smile, that now I saw in the daylight made a chill ripple down my spine. After watching the one eyed sister staring at the Boar’s rolling around in the dirt, I took a deep breath.
“Yeah, sure”, I said.
They both turned and I followed them back inside the hostel.
The dining area was like the bedroom, bare. They made no attempt to hide or change the building in anyway to hide that it had been a medical facility. In all respects it still looked like it was. Big patches of paint were flaking off the walls.
I sat in the only chair in the room at the only table in the room that was in the centre of the room. I guess they didn’t have many guests.
My breakfast was already plated and laid out on the table, the food looked like scrambled eggs with pieces of something brown mixed into it, two flies buzzed feverishly above it but strangely never landed on it. A half glass of milk sat besides the plate. The two sisters watched me as a I sat down. I poked at the food on the plate with my fork and hesitantly took my first bite. Looking at the old ladies, their fingers clasped in front of them, smiling and nodding their heads at me.
“Yes…yes”, the one with the scar said and then they both turned and walked away, leaving me alone in the room.
I began to have doubts about coming here. I started to think of ways I could leave, would I be able to remember which way I had come. If I followed the dirt road would it lead me back to the town?
I wasn’t paying attention to what I was shovelling into my mouth, not until I felt the texture change. Looking at what was dangling from my fork, I vomited a little into my mouth. All I could taste was the acidy bile. I spat it out onto the table. Mixed in with the scrambled eggs were clumps of matted hair and what looked like teeth soaking in watery blood. Tiny bugs crawled all over the plate.
My eyesight began to blur at the edges, I dropped the fork on the floor and attempted to stand up but my legs buckled beneath me. I felt a pang of pain stab me in my gut. I was on my hands and knees staring at the little puddle of bile between my hands on the hard concrete floor when I heard laughing, I looked up to see the two sisters stood in the doorway ,their hands clasped in front of them as if they were praying.
“What have you done to me?”, I asked, feeling the bile dribble out of my mouth.
“This part always the funniest”, the lady with the scar said as the both of them approached me.
I collapsed onto the cold floor, curling up into a ball as my guts twisted inside me.
The old ladies grabbed an arm each and started dragging me out of the room. I was confused, in and out of consciousness. Mumbling, trying to negotiate.
They dragged me outside, down the steps, through the mud, the Boars sniffing at me, their big wet hairy snouts smearing my face with snot.
The ladies dragged me into a bamboo shack, put me down amongst the hay and closed the door. I was in darkness, little gaps in the bamboo shone weak glimmers of light.
“Please, don’t do this, I’ll do anything, I can pay you”, I pleaded through agonising stomach convulsions, sweat pouring from my body.
“We don’t want your money…this the price you pay for success”, she said, I could tell she was smiling.
I must have been in there for hours, writhing around in the hay. It stuck to my sweat soaked skin. I felt like I was on fire.
My insides were churning and my bones began slowly snapping and re-positioning themselves. My screams turned more guttural until all I could hear was low, nasal snorts. In that darkness, after waking up after I don’t know how long, the pain no longer ravaging my body and my mind, I realised what I had now become.
I heard the old ladies treading through the wet mud, unlocking the bamboo shack. The door slowly creaked open, light poured in, forcing me to press myself against the back wall, to stay in the darkness.
I opened my eyes to see the two sisters smiling sweetly at me, gesturing for me to come forward. The one eyed sister holding a bucket of something in her hand, she placed it down by her feet. I hesitantly began stepping closer until I was looking down into the bucket, I shoved my snout deep into the feed, trying to devour as much as I could, my tusks scraping the against the inside of the bucket. I felt something scratch my leg, looking down I saw my rolex hanging loosely around my hoof, I shook it free, treading it deep into the mud and continued to eat all that I could from the bucket.