Graduate Writing Excerpt: Damian Magnay’s King of the Mekong
Damian Magnay is a graduate of Winghill’s Novel Writing course. Below is an excerpt from his recently published novel, King of the Mekong:
Mick took only a few steps before putting his hand up as if he’d seen something. Steve stopped dead in his tracks. Mick crouched down. He stared ahead through weary, sweat-filled eyes and detected a shape emerging from the bush. Blinking wildly in an attempt to focus, his heart was in his throat. A soldier. ‘There,’ he whispered to Steve as he pointed at the figure.
Steve saw him too. The soldier was looking in their direction, apparently unable to see them. He had his weapon by his side and checked the ground, no doubt for footprints or disturbed leaves. Mick and Steve lay flat and were almost completely hidden by the undergrowth. Mick still had a reasonable line of sight. The soldier made his way toward them. As he came closer, another appeared behind him, followed by another, and another. Mick pressed down further into the cover. They would surely be found. He kept perfectly still, as did Steve. The footsteps drew closer and closer…
With a frightening roar the chopper whizzed overhead, seemingly out of nowhere, and started to descend into the distant clearing.
The footsteps stopped. After a moment the soldiers laughed and spoke amongst themselves. Mick had no idea what they said but he guessed they’d been startled by the noise. With eyes squeezed tightly shut as if that would keep him hidden, he was certain his heart thumped loud enough to give their position away. In silence, Mick tilted his head slightly and opened first one eye, then both. It took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust but when they did, he saw a pair of boots not four feet in front of him. How had he not been found?
Mick pressed down further into the cover. They would surely be found.
Where the soldiers stood, the undergrowth was quite thick; thick enough to keep them hidden. Among the trees grew shrubs with long, overhanging branches. Smaller trees sprouted every few metres and the jungle floor was thick with fallen leaves. It was probably the best cover they could hope for. But as good as the cover was, two more steps and they would be discovered. A minute went by, then another. Frozen and almost too scared to breathe, they waited. The soldiers talked freely among themselves, as if they’d stopped for a rest. Mick dared to turn his eyes up, following the leg in front of him. He worried that even moving his eye may make a sound and give them away.
Two men in front. There were others—he had no idea how many—but from this position he only saw two. They fussed over a map, occasionally looking up and pointing around. At one stage they pointed straight over his head. Mick’s breathing became heavier. The soldiers were going to walk right over them. A third soldier joined the conversation. He studied the map himself and pointed in another direction. It looked as if he wanted to go around the hill in the hope of coming up behind them, rather than meet them head on. After a while they made a decision and pointed directly over Mick. Panic surged through him. They’d be found in about ten seconds. Should he run? He was paralysed with fear. His heartbeat was deafening. The first soldier put the map away, grabbed his weapon and took a step forward.