One night, they ran into the storm.
Muse said, “What are you doing out here?”
Zuangeng said, “To find out what the commotion is about! The yelling woke me up. What time is it?”
Muse said, “Two in the morning. If you are going to be out here, get your clothes on.”
Zuangeng went to his cabin. He got his clothes, including his shoes and socks on. He exited the cabin. His clothes quickly got soaked. The commotion had died down. The storm had died down. It was still raining; but, the wind was calmer.
The crew were preparing the life boats. Zuangeng found Captain Garaad. He said, “What is going on?”
Captain Garaad said, “We are preparing to go ashore.”
Zuangeng said, “Will the life boats make it over the reef?”
Captain Garaad said, “The water is deep enough. You’ll be with me.”
Zuangeng said, “Who else will be with us?”
Captain Garaad said, “There will be Muse and Bilal. Some of my crew will be with us.”
Zuangeng remained with Captain Garaad. The boats were lowered. Captain Garaad, Zuangeng, Muse, Bilal and two others got in one boat. One man with a lantern sat in the bow. Another man grabbed the oars.
They rowed across the reef into the lagoon. It continued to rain with lightning and thunder. The man with the lanterns at the bows guided the rowers. The water in the lagoon was quieter than in the open ocean. There were still waves; but, not as big.
They reached the sandy shore of a small island.
The men got out of the boats into water. Zuangeng jumped into the water with them. He walked onto the shore. The men pulled the boats onto the shore.
Most of the men and Zuangeng stayed with the boats. Those with lanterns searched for shelter. They found some abandoned houses inland. The houses were surrounded by overgrown grasses and bushes. Some retained their roofs. None of them retained their windows nor doors. The timbers showed signs of decay. The houses with roofs, the men on reconnaissance deemed them suitable for the remainder of the night.
They returned and reported to Captain Garaad. Captain Garaad said, “We shelter in the houses. When it’s daylight, we’ll survey the area.”
They reached the houses. They split among the suitable houses. Captain Garaad retained Zuangeng, Bilal, Muse and one man with a lantern with him. They entered one house. The wood floor was littered with dust, leaves and other debris. The walls were bare wood. The frame of the house was visible. The windows were bare of any glass, not even of shards. The window frames were laying on the floor.
They cleared an area of the floor as best as they could. Zuangeng, even, helped. They laid down and soon were asleep, except Zuangeng. He laid on the floor, still wet as everybody else. He felt a slight chill.
He, eventually, sat up. He surveyed the room. The men were asleep, some snoring. He could not sleep.
He got up on his bare feet. He silently walked to the doorway.
He stopped in the doorway. He turned to look behind him. The men were still sleeping. He turned back to look out. Rain still came down; however, there was no more lightning nor thunder. It was not raining as hard, more like a drizzle. It was still dark outside. The only light was from the lantern on the floor. He left the lantern behind.
He exited the house. He looked around. He barely saw the houses. The clouds had thinned admitting some moonlight to dimly filter through.
He turned left. He walked through the tall grass. He came across another house. Dim light of a lantern could be seen in the doorway. Nobody was awake. He continued his journey among the houses.
He came to the last house. He looked at it. It was vacant, having no roof. He walked past it.
He continued walking among the grass and shrubs. It stopped raining. It remained overcast. Eventually, it got lighter as the sun had started to rise. He looked into the sky. The clouds were grey except for the red ones on the eastern horizon.
He entered a mahogany forest. He stopped and turned around. He heard a cacophony of voices from the houses. He could not make out any words. A bunch of voices could be heard all at once. He said to himself, “They must have discovered me gone. I need to keep moving lest I be found. Don’t know what they’d do to me if discovered.”
He proceeded to continue his escape.
Captain Garaad was the first to wake up. It was just getting light in the room. He sat up and looked at the men. They were still asleep. He checked on Zuangeng. He, suddenly, sat bolt upright. Zuangeng was not there. He looked around the room. The only sign of Zuangeng was his shoes and socks. He, himself, was nowhere.
Captain Garaad jumped onto his feet. He kicked the men with his bare feet. He screamed, “Wake up, damn idiots! Somebody should have stood watch over Zuangeng! The damn boy is missing!”
Muse said, “What the fuck? He can’t fuckin’ escape! Shokura will have our heads for it!”
Captain Garaad said, “Somebody search the damn house! Everybody else, wake everybody up! Search the houses! That damn boy must be found!”
Muse searched the house. Everybody else, including Captain Garaad, went to the other houses. When everybody was awake, they slipped their shoes on. They went from house to house searching for Zuangeng. They yelled sometimes in unison, sometimes in discordance. They yelled, “Zuangeng! Where the fuck are you!?”, “Damn kid, where the hell is he?!” They yelled other unsavory sentences.
They never did find him. They gathered together. Captain Garaad said, “Since the damn kid is not anywhere around, fan out! Look for any traces of where the hell he went! Look around the edges of this hamlet!”
Everybody went to all the edges, looking for any sign. Shortly, Bilal yelled, “I found his tracks! They are heading east!”
Captain Garaad came to him. He studied the trampled grass. He said, “Sure enough, he did go the fuck east.”
Everybody else gathered around Captain Garaad. They were about to report ‘no trace’ when Captain Garaad said, “We know which way he went! Stay together and follow me!”
They followed the tracks.
Zuangeng turned around. He walked toward the east. He walked among the trees. He jumped over any fallen branches. After about thirty minutes, he changed course. He headed more to the south, toward the shore. He came to the southern edge of the forest. Tall grass extended to the sand.
He exited the forest. He walked through the grass.
The band of men reached the forest. They stopped. Captain Garaad surveyed the forest from the edge. He looked to the south. He said, “Bilal, take half the men into the forest. The rest with me.”
Bilal took half of the men into the forest. He said, “Form groups of three and fan out. Everybody head east.”
They did as they were told. They walked the forest, looking in all directions. They searched for him or any trace of where he went.
Captain Garaad led the rest south along the forest border. They reached the southern forest border. Captain Garaad looked to the east. He thought he saw some movement of grass. The wind was blowing. Now, the clouds were dissipating. The sun was starting to come out. There were patches of sunlight on the grass. He said, “Muse, go into the forest. Find Bilal. Tell him to head south. That must be the kid!”
Muse entered the forest. He headed northeast. He expected to run into Bilal in that direction.
Captain Garaad said, “Everybody, form into groups of three. Spread out and head east. We may catch the damn twerp, yet!”
Zuangeng continued walking through the grass. He thought he heard voices closer than before. They came from his right. He stopped. He turned the direction of the voices. He looked over the tops of the grass. He thought, “That must be them. They’re heading this way.”