It is not of course a pleasant experience to be swallowed by a crocodile, but if one is swallowed whole, it is some small consolation.
Once Talic had got over the shock and his eyes had adjusted to the light, he found that being eaten was not nearly as unpleasant as he’d imagined. Admittedly the crocodile’s throat had a nasty smell, a sort of mixture of dead fish and muddy indigestion and the floor beneath his feet was slippery and revolting: but at least the large sharp teeth he’d passed on the way hadn’t chopped him into pieces or removed anything of any great importance.
At last clinging to some slimy sticks and bits lodged here and there he managed to stand upright. Trickling beneath him was a sort of river, not a green gold river like the one Talic had just been paddling in. This was a foul, steaming, unwholesome bile.
Now Talic knew he was in a fix and no mistake. Miserably he imagined his mother’s horror when she found just his toy ship and shoes on the riverbank.
Additionally his tummy began to make an uncomfortable growling noise, how long ago his breakfast seemed. His mouth watered at the thought of his mother’s freshly baked corn cakes dipped in milk and honey and he felt empty and lonely.
Miserably he felt around, something cold and wet brushed past him. He stretched into the darkness with his fingers and grasped a bristly piece of twine. Winding it around his wrist he gripped the slimy floor with his bare feet and pulled hard. Suddenly with a jerk the twine came loose and down, down he fell, into the sludgy river.
Thrown this way and that he bumped along making little grunts and yelps of pain, which echoed around the walls and ceiling.
For a while all he could think about was how to avoid the slippery sides and bottom; and all the trailing bits hanging down.
Then in the distance over the greedy sucking noises of the water he heard another voice.
“Heeeeeeeeeeeloooooow!” it said “Heeeeeeeeeeeloooooow where are yooou?”
Talic’s heart thumped loudly. What if he had survived this only to be eaten by a river demon?
Granny Gihani was always talking about river demons and how they stole small children and cooked them to make spells.
But as he came closer, the voice became so small and ordinary that he began to think that what ever it was; was just as stuck as him and probably just as scared. So taking a deep breath he called back “Talic sends greetings, show yourself friend!” managing to sound very much braver than he felt.
The voice became excited, lots of oohs and ah’s followed. Finally he was grasped and dragged upwards onto a nearby ledge.
Happily his rescuer was not a river demon, just a small wiry man with a rather dirty beard.
“Proper troublesome, here’s I waiting to be rescued and I’s rescuing you!” he chuckled.
Talic who had landed in something slimy and was just trying to remove enough of it to shake hands without squelching too much, was pulled to his feet. He managed a politely soggy. “Thaanks Mr?...... Hhhave you……....been here long?”
“Don’t recon to tell without days and nights, seems long. I’s Pina; don’t got anything to eat I s’pose?”
Talic shook his head but all the time his eyes were fixed on a small battered fishing boat at the back of the ledge. As he half listened to Pina’s rambling on about the inconveinience of being eaten, he
considered their predicament.
“That boat” he said finally “couldn’t we row back up and wait for it to open its mouth?”
“Tried that; oars broke; waters going wrong way.”
“What about giving it belly ach; make it sick? Like Gihani did to me when I’d eaten bad berries.” Talic suggested.
“Tried that, tried gouging, scraping, even built a fire, didn’t do a thing. Expecting you’ll wan’ a try again though just to see.”
Talic’s attention wandered to his itchy wrist. The twine!
He pulled, after a couple of arm lengths it stopped. He tested it, it seemed strong. It might have caught somewhere on the way down of course but there was a slight chance that the rest of it was lodged at the back of the crocodile’s throat.
“What about this?” he asked.
“I’s fishing line!” whooped Pina “Where’d find it?”
Talic explained while Pina spluttered excitedly. “Might work, was long, strong too, big hook on end.”
With nothing else to try Pina and Talic clambered into the small boat, wedging their feet under a bar at the front. Talic tightened his grip on the twine.
Pina shunted them unsteadily off the ledge and down the slimy riverbank. Finally they plopped alarmingly into the strange steamy river. Talic pulled, as Pina wound the slack around a sinewy shoulder and elbow and ever so slowly they began to move back along the river.
Eventually after what seemed like hours the current increased slightly and distantly they could see a bright strip of light which widened, then snapped shut with a soggy slap.
“The mouth!” Squealed Talic and began pulling franticly on the twine.
Meanwhile the crocodile prowled the dark shallows of the green gold river. Blinking lazy yellow eyes, he began to feel an uncomfortable itching in his throat. This grew more and more annoying until he had an irresistible urge to cough.
If you’ve never heard a crocodile coughing Talic and Pina would tell you it’s a most unpleasant sound; for he and Pina who’d just arrived in the back of its’ throat found themselves flying out of its mouth and up high into a nearby tree. Delightedly they gulped clean air, hardly believing their luck.
The crocodile snapped its’ jaws and settled down beneath the tree to wait.
Talic, knew his mother would be missing him and began to worry about what would happen if she came looking for him? Besides Pina kept panicking and making the boat shake alarmingly.
Stepping gingerly onto a narrow branch he watched the crocodile snap angrily and move round the tree.
To Pina’s surprise Talic started moving down the tree, till he was just a little higher than the huge crocodile could reach. Then he began to clamber about, shouting wildly and dangling a tempting leg or arm towards its enormous jaws.
The crocodile, still attached to the twine became more and more angry. Circling the tree, twisting and jumping, loops of twine got caught in the lower branches and rapped themselves around its jaws and limbs until it became tightly entangled in the tree. So in spite of its thrashing its tail and flattening a large number of small trees and bushes, and even though it made an awful fuss and a terrible racket, somehow it only succeeded in wrapping itself up even more tightly.
Taking their chance while it lasted, Talic and Pina jumped down into the grass and ran as fast as they could back to their villages.
It would be true to say that when Talic returned, somewhat late for supper and rather smelly and muddy, his mother was less than impressed by the truth of it, in fact he was for a while quite unfairly punished I am sorry to say.
As for Pina, though he was often called on to recount his tale on winter evenings, it was always begged of with a smile and a wink such as might precede the toleration of the ramblings of a much loved but slightly dotty old relative who is prone to wandering slightly in the mind.
However the strangest thing of all is that though no-one ever admitted that they believed Talic and Pina’s story, no-one ever went looking for Talic’s toy ship, or to see if Pina’s boat was still in the tree either.
How do I know this? Well if they had, they like me might have found, that being eaten isn’t nearly as unpleasant as one imagines.