We raced the storm that were coming out of the west at a quicksticks speed. The wind and the current pushed us along so strong that we didn't have to row and me father used one of the oars as a rudder. The sky fell so dark that it was more like night than day. Me father yelled above the wind and thunder that he'd try and seek a haven. As the water boiled and foamed we bounced along with me father unable to steer the boat towards the shore. The river were so wild that all we could do were to cling on tight to the sides of the boat or each other as we were flinged back and forward like puppets with no strings. The rain chucked down and we were soaked, so soggy it were like the rain were drilling through our skin into our marrow. There were loud bangs when tree boughs broke and fell into the madcap river. Then we were spun round, caught up in a whirlpool. Becky and I went dizzy and screamed in fear. out of the corner of me eye I seen a giant tree bough bouncing along the river straight at us. Me mother cried out in terror just before it hit us with a crashing and smashing and the next thing I felt were me stomach plopping into me mouth as the boat went over. o h me, o h me . . . I must catch me breath in remembering this I can still feel me terror and all that water pouring into me gob.
I felt meself pulled under like someone were grabbing me leg. Then I came up again only to see me mother's face full of panic there in front of me for a moment before she vanished under the wild waves. I heard screams and again felt me foot were caught in something like an animal trap. I were yanked under. Somehow as I struggled for breath I pulled me foot free from a snag. The waters of the whirl-pool grabbed me and hurled me up again, just as me lungs were bursting and then I seen me father. His face were filled with fear. He were crying out me name. He seen me and went to help when the boat, spinning round and round in the whirlpool, hit him in the back of the head and he sank under the waves. A bough floated past and I grabbed at it but me hands slipped on its greasy surface. I sinked again.
It were suddenly calm under the water and I felt like just letting go cos there were too much panic above me. Then through the churning murk I seen me mother. Her white dress were snagged on a tree bough under the water and she were waving her hands slowly in helpless fright. I wanted to swim to her and pull her free but a current grabbed me and chucked me up to the surface. As I were gasping for air, rain stinged me face. out of the corner of me eye I seen Becky near the bank spinning slowly in a calm eddy. She were on her back, her eyes closed tight. I didn't know if she were dead or not. A piece of a tree knocked me sideways, away from being sucked into the whirlpool towards the bank. Me arms felt heavy like bags of wet sand. I tried to move them so I could get closer to the shore. It seemed such a long way away but as I reached out to grab a tree root on the bank, something dark and huge suddenly loomed over me. It was a tiger, maybe the very tiger I seen before, and its giant jaws opened as if it were 'bout to take me. I screamed. It moved back from the edge of the bank. The current hugged me round me waist, like some devil wanting to pull me back out in the middle of the river, and I lunged at another of those tree roots but missed. I were 'bout to let the current carry me where it wanted when the tiger were near me again, its jaw wide open, its eyes like cold fire. It grabbed me wrist in its huge mouth and began to drag me. I didn't feel any pain. Maybe I were past all pain. I let meself give in, and it dragged me onto the muddy bank. once I were out of the river I lay on the wet, long grass panting and gulping for air til me head spinned and I blanked out.
Excerpted from Into That Forest by Louis Nowra. Copyright © 2013 by Louis Nowra. Excerpted by permission of Amazon Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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