LostInPanama“Estamos aqui.”

Not quite awake from napping, I grabbed my old parachute bag that had traveled around the world several times and headed for the door. The twin Caribou aircraft kept the engine running for immediate takeoff. I jumped to the grass and ducked my head against the prop wash until I was clear.

I looked around. A grass clearing surrounded by tropical rainforest. A tin shack at one end of the makeshift runway. One other passenger, a man who said he was an abogado, a lawyer. You just can’t get away from ’em.

Where was I? Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness came to mind.

The plane was already taking off. I ran after it, shouting. Too late. It leapt off the runway and soared away, leaving the lawyer and me alone in the jungle.

“Who are we going to sue?” I asked him.

I had caught the airplane in San Jose, Costa Rica, bound for Sierpe to meet an old friend where the river meets Drake’s Bay. I was specifically informed that I should get off at the second stop. I took a nap.

While I was dozing, the pilot arbitrarily changed his flight plan. I was to get off at the first stop instead of the second. I was sleeping and didn’t hear the announcement. I slept through my destination.

?Adonde estamos?” I asked the lawyer

“Panama.”

The lawyer and I walked to the nearest small village about a mile away. It was big enough to support one store and a cantina. When people heard a gringo was in town, they threw a party in celebration.

The only way out of town until the plane returned in two weeks was a daily “chicken bus” to the next village, where I could grab another bus to the next, and so forth until I reached Costa Rica again. A “chicken bus” is generally a school bus painted blue whose passengers get on carrying their luggage and perhaps a crate of chickens, a goose, or a pig in a poke. If there is a load, excess passengers climb on top of the bus and hang on.

It took me two weeks in transit to reach Sierpe. I lived off the land, stayed with new friends, sometimes walked to the next bus stop. In short, I lived the good life.

I called my friend when I came to a village with a telephone.

“Chuck,” he said, “if it were anyone but you I’d be scared to death.”

Etched into the shuttle’s hide, a metal tougher than any other known in the universe, was a series of four deep bright troughs like those that might have been made by a claw five times the size of a Human hand. . .

From Sanctuary by Charles W. Sasser, available in paperback from Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and fine bookstores. If you liked Dark Planet, this author’s first SciFi, you’ll like Sanctuary.