Salmiah felt a certain trepidation entering the tropical jungle located some 12
kilometers from their small town, but led by Ismail, a seasoned hiker, she felt
calm. As the duo reached a cliff in the final leg of their trek, Ismail's legs
became entangled in some thorny bushes. He tried to cut away the branches with
his Swiss army knife and a moment later, cried out, "Oh, no !"
?" Salmiah asked. Ismail was clawing at his jeans. Looking down, she saw, from
his thighs to his ankles, a blanket of vibrating, probing black wasps. Within
seconds, thousands of the small ground wasps had engulfed the tree trunk beside
Ismail in a cloud of fury.
"We've to run !" Ismail yelled and leapt blindly into the tall grass below.
His left leg landed on something rock-hard and buckled beneath him. A searing
pain shot through his entire body.
"Miah, wait !" He dragged himself about a meter away. "Drop here ! The
Salmiah hesitated. How could the 12-year-old toss herself almost three
storeys down ? The angry swirl hit her from behind. Screaming, she doubled over
in agony, then tumbled down.
The siblings began brushing the wasps off them by rolling in the mud. "I've
lost my glasses !" Salmiah mumbled as she fumbled through the mud in search of
it. Ismail glanced at her and froze. Wasps covered her face like a writhing
mask. Her cheeks and chin started to swell, a sign of allergic reaction that
Ismail knew could send her into fatal shock.
"Move down the track, Miah !" he ordered.
Picking herself up, Salmiah stumbled away as far as she could from the wasps.
The swarm finally stopped pursuing her. When she realized that Ismail was not
behind her, she sensed that he must be too injured to walk. Head down, arms
flailing, she re-entered the black storm.
"Try to walk, Is. I'll help you," she stammered between gasping breaths. Arms
under Ismail's, she tried to lift him but was too weak. "What are we going to do
?" she cried, her speech beginning to slur.
Ismail knew they were in trouble. He was in terrible pain and Salmiah was
going into shock. No one knew where they were and night was coming on fast.
"Listen to me, Miah," he uttered bravely. "You've to go get help."
I can't !" she wept.
"I'll only slow you down ! Go now, while you still can !"
Seeing her incapacitated brother and hearing the overwhelming buzz, Salmiah
knew she had no choice. Ismail watched her stumble out of sight. He began to
pray, asking for just one special person to come to their aid.