Rock Bottom by Newton Webb

Updated: Oct 19

When driving an autorick through the mountains of Nepal turns to disaster. Wilbur and Francis come face to face with primal adversity.

3rd March, Nepal, 2008

The Tuk Tuk bounced merrily along the narrow mountain road. Wilbur and Francis were happily singing along to Green Days ‘American Idiot’ album. The wind was bitter, but they were seasoned travellers and dressed appropriately. The climate in Nepal was a far cry from Australia.

Francis passed Wilbur a bottle of the local rotgut, a drink called raksi that blew away the cold like a fist through cobwebs. Wilbur took a medicinal-grade swig, holding onto the steering wheel with his other hand.

Driving over a rogue stone, the Tuk Tuk jumped, raksi splashed all over Wilbur’s face and into his huge, bushy beard. He gripped the steering wheel as the vehicle swerved on the road. They looked at each other, and both erupted into peals of laughter. The album flicked onto its title track, and they reached new levels of volume, if not ability.

Francis took the bottle off his friend, 'Steady there, mate. I can already taste the beer at the hostel. Let’s not fuck it up.'

'I wonder if any other tourists will be there? This has been the loneliest walkabout I’ve ever had.'

'That is what happens when a cheapskate books the tickets off-season.' Francis pointed accusingly as he swigged from the bottle.

'Oh fuck off mate--' Wilbur started before a loud whump sounded, heralding a cascade of rocks '--shit!'

The Tuk Tuk swerved around them until, with a crack, followed by several smaller thuds it was out of control, tumbling down the mountainside.

Gripping the steering wheel, he clung on for dear life. They were rolling and sliding down the ravine.

Bang. Smash. Pain. Silence.

Water was running over his leg and arm. Fuck. He was lying in a shallow stream at the bottom of the ravine. Francis was gone. He cried out an expletive as his leg informed him it was broken. Looking down, the bone was visible through the skin. He fought down panic by taking a deep breath.

Grunting with pain, he shifted his position. Why didn’t these things have seat belts? Rolling over, he levered up the Tuk Tuk and slid out from under it. His vision blurred. He roared with pain, almost blacking out. Sliding across the wet rocks, he levered himself up against the cold stone.

'Fuck me dead. Are you alright, mate?' A voice floated down from the top of the ravine.

Relief flooded through Wilbur’s system. Francis was alive! Wilbur bellowed back up to him. 'I only went and broke my bloody leg, mate. I can see the cunting bone!'

'Nothing major then, you’ll be alright. Pat on the back, stubby in your hand and a bit of physio, and you’ll be bouncing like a joey.' There was a brief pause, 'I saved the Raksi.'

Wilbur chuckled, 'Oh good one, mate, pass it down, will you?'

'Get stuffed prick! I’m going onwards to the village. I’ll grab some locals and be back.'

Leaning back against the rockface, Wilbur looked at his broken leg. Something would have to be done about that.

'Oi mate, can you keep an eye out down there? I lost my bloody hat!'

'I thought you’d fucked off? Sure, why not? I’ll have a jog around, shall I?' Wilbur yelled back.

'Too right, well see you in a couple of hours then.'

After waiting to see if anything else echoed from above, he assumed he was alone.

Somehow, he’d lost a trainer in the fall. He still had his other one, though. Gingerly, he pulled his leg up so he could remove it. Then he pulled out the laces. Small scrub trees grew wherever enough dirt could accumulate. He uprooted several of them, pulling out his clasp knife and cutting off the branches. Pulling off his canvas belt, he arranged the trunks on either side of the break with the belt wrapped around the fracture. Tying the laces at the top and bottom of the splint, he took a deep breath and muttered, 'Oh, you cunt,' then jerked the belt tight, screamed and blacked out.

He didn’t know how long he’d been out, but when he came to, he saw a large dog sitting on its haunches on the other side of the ravine. It was watching him. 'Oh, you furry bastard.' He saw it had his missing shoe in its mouth.

'Big bugger, aren’t you mate?' he warily noted the lack of a collar. 'Reckon you ain’t a dog after all, are you wolfie. Tell you what, how about you stay on your side, and I stay on mine, eh?'

The wolf cocked his head on one side and regarded him coolly, then laid down and resumed gnawing on his trainer. Wilbur leaned forwards and finished off his splint by tightening the laces. Wincing, he finished by tightening the belt. Now Wilbur had set the break, the pain was merely unbearable.

Rifling through his pockets, he found his phone was still working, albeit with a cracked screen and no signal. A sharpie pen, some tissues (used) and an empty protein bar wrapper. Nothing game-changing there. As he sat idly, he decided that what he needed was some company. Ferreting around him, he found a particularly attractive rock and drew a face on it. Critically appraising his artwork, he added hair and, after some deliberation, a moustache.

'Welcome to my ravine, Tess.' He waited patiently. 'Ah, not much of a talker then, that’s a shame.'

After a while, the wolf dropped off the chewed remnants of his shoe, sniffed the air and slowly started stalking towards him.

'No, mate, we discussed this. This is my side. That’s your side over there, you dumb drongo.' When subtle diplomacy failed, Wilbur resorted to roaring. 'Fuck off, you furry prick!' and hurled a stone that smacked the wolf on the shoulder. The dog growled and started to leap forwards, only to receive a stone bowled right between his eyes. Yelping, he scampered back down the ravine.

'Off you go,' Wilbur gathered up a pile of stones in case his hairy nemesis returned. Looking down at the heap, he moved Tess next to it. 'You look after those now, girl.'

Looking at the torn carcass of his shoe, he swore at length. Their luggage had scattered who knows where. Shame, he had duct tape in there. That would have sorted his leg out. Could do all sorts with duct tape, maybe even make some weapons in case the wolf returned for his other shoe. Sitting back, he gently sang ‘Basket Case'.

As it got dark, he saw three pairs of eyes glowing a fiery white, padding down the ravine. Fear gripped him as he levered himself up, 'Oh, you wanker, dialled up your uncles eh? You bastard.' He pulled off his jacket and wrapped the denim around his left arm, his clasp knife in his right. 'Come on then you bunch of stinking wombats!' His voice sounded weak and reedy to his ears so he added a few choice expletives until he had reached a suitably rage-filled bass tone.

For a while, everyone stood still, watching each other, eyes locked.

Then the wolves leapt forwards in unison.

The first one jumped.

Wilbur raised his arm with its denim shield and as the wolf locked its teeth around it stabbed it in the throat furiously. Blood gushed over him, as the dying animal fell away.

The other wolf tore into his leg as he stabbed down into the back of its neck.

The final wolf barrelled into his chest. Its fangs sought his throat as he fell backwards, the hot fetid breath washed over him as he tried to ward off the savage beast. In the brawl he noticed the scab between the eyes. So, his old friend had come back for the other shoe. Bastard. His clasp knife had disappeared in the fall and he reached around for anything else, white-hot pain lanced through him as the wolf trod on his broken leg in the scrabble. Tess, that blessed woman, his free hand suddenly felt her cool touch as it grasped her and smashed her into the side of the wolf’s skull. Knocked to one side, it made one last furious attack, but Tess met him in midair and its skull crumbled. Just to be sure, Wilbur introduced him to Tess a few more times. Leaning back, breathing heavily and bleeding freely he cradled Tess to his chest and passed out.

He woke to feel his legs being bandaged by a group of villagers.

Francis loomed over him. Pointing at the wolf carcasses surrounding Wilbur, 'Are those the bastards who shit in my hat?'

Wilbur nodded. 'Ate my shoe too.'

Francis shook his head in disgust. 'No wonder you killed the hairy cunts,' and passed him a bottle of raksi.

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