I hated coming out here after dark, even if my older brother came with me. Sure, we’d grown up in the wetlands, and yeah, we both knew the place like the back of our hands, but there was something eerie about the place at night.
I couldn’t quite place it, but I knew something was wrong. Something dark descended on the world after the sun went down for the day. I couldn’t see it, and maybe that was the problem. But I sure could feel it, a shivery tingling sensation spidering its way down my back, along my spine.
There was no other way to do it: the only time the landlords and their musclemen weren’t constantly patrolling the waterways was at night, and so it was then that my brother and I slipped out, under the cover of darkness.
My brother steered the boat, poling along, allowing the current to have its way with us. It was never the leaving that gave us difficulty; it was the coming back part that was most troublesome.
“Is this illegal?” I whispered, looking up at him over my shoulder.
He continued scanning the horizon, not looking over at me. “What?” He asked. I couldn’t tell if he hadn’t heard me, or if he didn’t understand the question.
“Is this illegal?” I persisted, turning the rest of my body to face him. “What we’re doing?”
“Don’t ask such complicated questions,” he shrugged me off.
“I mean it,” I huffed, shivering, looking back over my shoulder. It felt as though someone was watching us, just beyond the tall grasses. “We would get in trouble if they found out.”
“Sure,” he replied, still keeping his voice just above a whisper. “We would get in trouble, but that doesn’t make it illegal.”
“Yes, it does.”
“Fine,” he clarified. “So maybe it’s illegal. But that doesn’t make it wrong. Now stop talking. You’re distracting me.”
I turned back around. The waterways whisked us along, curve by curve, faster than usual. Navigating back upstream was going to be a challenge, especially after the recent rains.
I allowed the silence to linger for ten, fifteen, thirty seconds. A minute later, the words tumbled out of my mouth before I could stop them. “I’m afraid.”
“No, you’re not,” my brother chided. He didn’t even sound surprised that I’d said it.
“I am too,” I whispered. “What if we get caught?”
“Then we get caught,” he shrugged, clearly still unbothered by the prospect. “At least we get caught doing what’s right.”
“Even if it’s illegal?”
I turned back. He was right, and I knew it. Even if they called it illegal, and even if we got caught, I knew it deep down inside: we were doing what’s right, and that was what mattered most.
Source: This blog series is inspired by the book “Earth from Above: 365 Days” by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Click here to read more about my Creation365 series.
The top picture is from “Botswana. Delta of the Okavango. A tributary river in marshland.”
Arthus-Bertrand, Yann, Isabelle Delannoy, and Christian Balmes. 2005. The Earth from above: 365 days. New York: Harry N. Abrams.