by Kate Appleyard
Harry was thrilled when his friend Arn told him of a competition in the local paper.
“ Top prize for the best essay on any animal is a visit to Disneyland “,Arn announced with a glint in his eyes.
An essay Harry thought. What was there to write about? Most people would choose cats and dogs, that he was sure of. When dad heard about it, he suggested a visit to the cinema.
“ Maybe that will help you come up with an idea . “
“ Have you been to the new cinema in town,” Arn asked.
“ Nope, I rarely got money to go to a cinema, so why should I be interested?”
“ You Ignoramus,” Arn remarked, just a little bit haughty.
“S’pose so, but am I complaining?”
Arn burst out laughing and looked at his friend.
“ This time you will be interested. This cinema is special , dead cool in fact , just you wait.”
Dad, who never minded a bit of extra pocket money for a good cause laughed and pushed a note onto the kitchen table.
“ You write that winning essay and it will be money well spent ,” he told Harry.
When they reached the building that housed the cinema, Harry could not help being surprised. Seven floors full of whatever and there was an incredible din. No wonder, when the ground-floor housed any number of shoot them ups and racing games. Right in front of Harry a huge, green sign kept flashing.
“ I got it, it’s a virtual cinema! “
“Shut up and look for the elevator, we’re be up quicker”, Arn whispered.
What a turn-out. Inside the lift, there were monitors build into every wall. Without warning, the screens came alive and a vaguely human looking blue blob began to scream.
“ Attention, especially you who think you know it all. When inside the cinema, sit down and put on your seat belt immediately. If you have trouble, raise your arm “!
Harry shook his head. This was weird. Why should you need a seatbelts in a cinema?
Arn smiled and told him to do as requested.
When the screen went dark, Harry stared at the Australian Outback baking in a pale yellow sun. A boat with several people was gliding down a narrow river and when the picture closed up, a blond man turned round and looked at him.
“ You are now part of an expedition to find out the habits of crocodiles. Stay close behind, but never think you’re safe. Crocs are reptilian dinosaurs, who have adapted extremely well. They are masterpieces of prehistoric survival. In a minute you will see them lying on the mud banks, warming their cold blood. With sight, hearing and smell second to none, keep very still, the slightest vibration in the water will alert them “.
Harry stared into the cloudy, green water and felt his throat tighten, in fact his whole body was full of apprehension. He knew that crocks were very strong- willed creatures, that would attack even large animals with extreme ferociousness. It was precisely that speed and ferocity that made them survivors.
“ We are now sailing into a mango creek , were crocs are absolute masters on the river ‘ the blond man explained again.
Harry felt his hands go damp and shaky, but his eyes kept searching the scorching landscape.
What was going on? Why did it feel as if he was in the action?
And there they were. Gaping mouth’s turned towards the sun showed rows of vicious, razor-sharp teeth. The boat stopped and he kept close to the men, who seeking better protection, decided to make for higher ground. The sun had almost gone and soon enough it was dark. The eerie sounds of the night came out.
Then he saw them pulling a small mesh cage from a landrover on standby.
“ Crocs are more active at night ‘, the blond man said as he climbed into the cage and held the door open for Harry.
There was little choice, so he crouched into a corner, his eyes following some horrible, putrid bait they were throwing out. Fat, white maggots dropped into the water and Harry started retching. A bright light came on.
“‘ Its to stun them, a sort of defence, “ someone murmured.
Harry nodded and told himself it was not real, but the fear that kept rising from the pit of his stomach refused to go away.
He could not see any faces. They were all wearing glasses and a mouthpiece that reached to the lifesaving oxygen tank on their backs.
Time went, but the crocs who did not like the light stayed away.
“ Did you see the little man in front of the boat, “ the blond man whispered again.
“ He can call crocks with incredibly weird sounds; so don’t worry, you will see them”.
Who wants to see them Harry thought. I just want to get out of here. But before he could make a decision, there they were. Hundreds of them and it felt as if they were crowding in on him. The cage, being just below the water surface, allowed him to see the countless snouts rising from the murky water. Every hair on his body stood up and he stiffened. When the attack on the cage began, he screamed his terror into the night.
“ Help, Help me.”
The bait tied to the top of the cage bounced as soon a first body hit it. Cold eyes stared unblinkingly at Harry, as he kept howling with fear. No doubt, those crocs would rather pull the cage to the bottom of the river, before letting go of the food.
The water was swirling madly and Harry, breathing heavily and ready to give in to destiny, saw a small herd of buffalo arrive further down the river. The croc’s took the opportunity and when one shot out of the water, it broke the buffalo’s neck just snapping it and going into a death-roll.
Harry was still screaming when the lights went on. Once outside, he realised he had lost his voice, but gained the perfect subject for that all important essay.