I am around eight or nine, sitting on the floor of my parents’ pristine bedroom and watching a jungle movie on our first color television, a portable set that was pink. I am alone, completely uncharacteristic of me in this tumultuous home, and I can only guess that this had something to do with me craving peace and quiet from my two younger brothers.
Suddenly, there is a half-naked man in the movie and he is running away from a tribe of natives chasing him with spears. They look furious and are yelling words I do not understand. Though he keeps running, the man keeps frantically checking behind him, his face contorted with fear. Practically banging into trees as he runs, the man trips over a pile of branches and debris and quickly struggles to get up. He tries pulling on the branches and vines for leverage, but nothing helps. The man is stuck. Now the natives are getting closer. They are chanting loudly. I hear myself saying: “Quick, quick, get up.”
One hand shields my eyes. I don’t want to see any of those spears land.
Stuck in the murky mud below him, the man seems to have lost his legs as he sinks deeper and deeper into the ground below. The look on his face is now utter terror, and yet he is still using all his strength as he tries to lift himself back unto solid ground.
Lower and lower I watch the man sink, and I am both fascinated and frightened, not understanding why this is happening...or what could possibly cause someone to slip under the ground. There is a close-up of the black mud now bubbling all around him like the top of a volcano. His neck and shoulders are soon covered in a dark, dirty blanket of mud. The man is screaming. I put my fingers in my ears to stop the sound. I have a hard time watching, and yet I must watch, up to the very last second and bubble that sucks the man in and eats him up like any hungry beast in the jungle in search of his prey.
The natives, his enemies, have already left the scene, all stopped short in the circle of quicksand that had opened and closed before their eyes. I didn’t know what the sludge was called then, but for years, and even sometimes now, I will stare down at the most normal of surfaces, not trusting it solidity, or what lurks underneath.