He sat in the front seat of the Jeep with an excited look on his face. It was over! He had his bullet proof vest! He had spent eight days in the forest with the dirty old man and till he felt like a dirty old man himself. He hadn’t come with an overnight kit so he wore the same clothes he had gone into the forest in and he hadn’t shaved while there.
His friend the catcher had left with the Jeep soon after making the introductions to the old man, they both assured him that it was important part of the process that he did not return to the city or leave the forest till the rituals were completed and his bullet proof vest was ready. He had reluctantly agreed. Even his wife did not know where he had gone and he thought for a minute that she would be worried but the thought quickly vanished.
He was a man after all, head of his household; he was not answerable to any one much less to a mere woman and his wife. The old man of the forest smiled as if he could read his thoughts. It took a certain type of person to perform the rituals and the sacrifices. It was not for the thoughtful or the sentimental. The catcher knew this of course; he only brought the desperate, the avaricious and the strong minded.
The old man made him exchange his city clothes for a loin cloth of questionable hygiene. He slept on a raised mud ledge in the wall of the hut that served as a bed. There was no pillow or blanket. At night he shivered on his primitive bed while the old man stoked the fire in a round hearth in the centre of the hut. Most nights they went walking in the forest while the old man collected herbs and objects for his rituals.
He could have sworn that he heard wild animals in the forest but he didn’t say anything. He had to be brave and bold. One morning he woke up to find a python curled in the small of his back where it had gone to seek the heat of his body. He jumped out of his mud bed in a cold sweat ready to slay the monster but could find no weapon. The old man laughed derisively at his fear but said nothing.
He felt as if he had somehow failed a test and squared his shoulders in determination. He too was covered from head to toe in red cam wood now. It kept the biting insects at bay. That morning they walked further into the forest than ever before. The old man carried a machete in addition to his staff but the small bell was silent. They came to the edge of community farmlands. The old man signalled him to be quiet.
He had watched surprised as the old man stalked a lone farmer foolish enough to work so far out on the edge of the community farmlands by himself. The old man’s eyes gleamed as brought the farmer down with one swift cut from his super sharp machete to the back of the neck. Together they hauled the heavy body slung over a big stick back to their forest camp.