The whistling was real. I wasn’t imagining it. No. Nor was I going insane or slipping into some delirium.
Armbranch was whistling.
And I’ve found him. He’s lying right beside me as I write. Though he’s weak and obviously in pain, he’s alive. That’s all that matters. He’s alive. His hands will grow back. Thin shoots are already visible, sprouting out around the sap that’s sealed his arm stumps. And I…
Wait. Sorry. I’m rambling. I’ve got to try and write the day’s events in a logical order. Otherwise I’ll end up confusing myself and everything might become warped with time. But it’s hard to stay focussed. I’m just so relieved to have Armbranch back, no matter what condition he’s in. I found him shortly after setting off this morning. He was stuck by the hands to a tree stump in the middle of a clearing. Everything around him: the trees, bushes, and other vegetation, had been cleared away. All that remained was mushy, rotting scrub that stank like a sewer.
I knew it was a trap, knew it as well as if I’d been looking at a goat tied to a stake in the middle of a tiger infested forest. But I didn’t care. I had to help him. Without him I had nothing: now way home, no Maya, no hope.
Besides, I was fond of him. Hell yes. He wasn’t just a travelling companion or guide anymore. He was a friend. And I’d never leave a friend in that position. He tried to call out when he saw me. Only a croak emerged. I knew he was trying to warn me. I didn’t stop. I was sick of running, sick of skulking and wandering through this place alone.
I was ready for a fight.
I didn’t have long to wait. When I reached Armbranch I first though his hands had been fused to the stump. They were barely visible against the wood. Then I realised they were encased in a glassy, sap like material. The Basilod’s spittle, Armbranch whispered. Impossible to break free from. The only way to get free was to cut them off.
Cut them off! I couldn’t believe what he was asking. Cut them off! I’d rather have dug up the stump and carried it away with me than cut his hands off. There was little time to argue. Barely were the words out of his mouth when that obnoxious wheezing started up in the trees a few hundred yards away.
I still couldn’t do it. Even as the Basilod swept towards us, I couldn’t bring myself to cut my friends hands off. Instead, I grabbed the laptop and watched the sky. I couldn’t spot the Basilod. The only giveaway was that rattle. It circled the clearing, twice I think, before hovering above us for a few moments. And, somehow, I managed not to open the laptop. Somehow I kept my nerve. I willed an image of Maya into my mind, took a deep breath, and waited.
It dropped slowly, confidently, like a predator that knew the bait’s taken and the prey’s hooked. God how those seconds felt more like hours. Everything slowed, became surreal. Armbranch begged me to run. The Basilod laughed a hissing, mocking laugh. My feet became stones. The instant I felt its breath sweep over me I opened the laptop and aimed the screen upwards. I guess the screen didn’t flicker on immediately because a few moments passed before a pale bluish light flashed above me. I saw something in that light; eyes, cobalt eyes, cold and wide and deep with hate. The thing howled once. Then it was gone, and that howl tailed off into one long, endless scream as it shot off across the trees and left the forest trembling in its wake.
I’ve spent much of the day trying to figure out what effect the light from the laptop had on it. The only conclusion is that the radiation from the screen burned or maybe blinded it. It’s wounded, Armbranch said. And not it’s left the island. Yet, somehow, I can’t celebrate this victory because I can’t help wondering if I’ve damaged Maya in the process. I also can’t get it out of my mind how I freed Armbranch. It mattered little that I only had to amputate one hand off and he cut the second one himself. It still hurt bad.
He’s asleep now. I wonder how long it will take him to recover. Not long, I hope.