This is story #4 in my Short Stories from the Road series. Introduction found here
Holy cow, that’s a big lizard. Crossing the trail not 10 feet in front of me acting like he owned the place, which I suppose he did, was a giant water monitor at least 6 feet long. I had an iguana growing up, and to the everyday individual, and really anyone that came over, the thing was enormous, but I’m pretty sure this lizard would eat my iguana for lunch. Mr. Monitor casually moved along and into the bushes looking back a few times to make sure I didn’t come too close. I was in Sungei Buloh, a wetland reserve in Singapore, killing some time by exploring the swamp.
Being in the tropics, it was no surprise when dark clouds formed and the rain began. It was that light sprinkle that builds momentum quickly and turns into a downpour. Fortunately, as I walked along the raised boardwalk, I came across a covered section with a few benches. Removing my daypack and getting comfortable, I imagined myself blissfully listening to the rain in a sort of inward contemplative solitude. However, as I sat I soon noticed a lone individual walking in my direction. It was clear he was an elderly Chinese man, having the hunched over, hands behind the back type swagger and when he arrived at the covered section he too, naturally, took a seat in hopes of staying dry.
I wasn’t stoked on the prospect of sharing my meditation chamber, but having no choice, I decided to make due. Leaning over the edge of the railing I watched the raindrops patter against the murky water’s surface and listened as the chorus of drops drowned out all other noise. I also noted that the tide had been working hard to drain the swamp, revealing thick dark mud. In my calm and relaxed trance, quick movement suddenly caught my eye. Circular ripples moving outward pinpointed the alien culprit. For all intensive purposes, it looked like a fish, but it couldn’t be a fish, because my mom taught me that fish swim and this one wasn’t swimming. It was skirting across the muddy surface. He also looked like a bully because he was telling all the other alien half-fish to scram. I imagine they told him his eyes were too close together. Leaning further over the edge to get a better look at this odd species’ social behavior, I felt my imitation Ray Bans free themselves from their perch on top of my head and proceeded to watch them fall silently to the murky ground below. Dammit! How many sunglasses have I already lost on this trip? Not another pair! Annoyed, I glanced over at the Chinese gentlemen who showed no acknowledgement of my recent loss, then back at my glasses, resting there. They seemed so close.
Screw it, I’m going for it. Removing my shoes and socks, I climbed over the railing and began working my way down the thick metal wires giving support to the 15 ft wooden structure. Reaching the bottom, I surveyed the area for any of the alien walking fish and seeing none, took a giant step into the mud, immediately sinking in past my ankles. I could feel the mud ooze between my toes producing an altogether unique and cool sensation. Not wishing to linger for a therapeutic mud bath, I made quick work of snagging my shades and climbed back into the shelter. Tracking clumps of mud along the wooden floor, I glanced over at my lone companion who didn’t look phased in the slightest, not even mildly amused. Literally, a completely blank face. But I know what he was thinking, “Crazy white people.”
After my feet had sufficiently dried off, I began making my way back to the entrance when some folks began pointing toward the swamp in an excited fashion. I followed the direction of their fingers and realized just below the water’s surface sat a full size crocodile. That was the time an old Chinese man watched me climb into a swamp… with crocodiles.