More complaints, I suppose

Day 12 in the Congo:

One of our expedition disappeared last night.  No-one saw him go, but his tent was empty in the morning and before noon we had become concerned.  Such is the sapping blight of the climate here that it is hard to imagine a journey of any length, much less one of several hours.  Our expedition has therefore become an increasingly fantastic idea, and I am not sure how many of us truly believe that it can be accomplished.

We can set ourselves to lesser goals, however – moving from one shaded spot to one that might be slightly cooler, changing sweat-soaked clothing for damp, arguably fresher apparel, and eventually, searching for our absent comrade.  Once it was established that he was not anywhere within the perimeter of our camp, the operation to find him became more vigorous.  It is no exaggeration to say that the poor man, thus the cause of unplanned-for exertions in these conditions, instantly became the most unpopular member of the expedition.  It is with effort that I was able to make myself recall the person who I had quite liked but a few days previous.

It is hard to imagine what might have caused a generally amiable man of science to suddenly depart into the night.  We are no longer within hiking distance of anything but mud, trees, and stinking water.  Of course at night it is dark here in a way that those of us trained to town life cannot truly understand, so it is possible a brief and mundane excursion turned into one that took the rest of his life.  Perhaps he fled the camp itself, with its quiet, resigned despair.  Perhaps he thought there was something to embrace, there in the steaming, dripping woods.

We found his body in the forest, perhaps fifty paces from camp.  Something was already growing on it.


(It’s still very hot here.  We’re supposed to get a break soon which is probably best for all concerned)

Word Count: 51,249

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