Before The Dark

I saw her today. Nabila was hiding behind one of the big trees, between our camp and the wilderness. She’s always been there before the sun goes down—reflecting while peeping occasionally from the shadows of the forest, darkened by the sinking sun. 

Sometimes I heard her mumbling, sometimes I heard her scratching the bark of the tree that it shielded her from everyone. Whenever Pak Tono and Desi tried to approach her, she would run toward the darkness of the forest, leaving a grumbling sound that blended with the rustling of leaves and twigs.

I observed her for a while. She was pensive there. She jumped when she heard the steps from my heavy boots. Carefully, I took off my hat which was the same color as my uniform. Her pair of round eyes looked at me gently. She stayed still—it means that she recognized me. I knew she didn’t like the emblem of WWF Indonesia on my chest so I covered the black-and-white-panda symbol with the sticker of our organization. After passing through the waist-high wire fence, I walked to her direction and step over the dry grasses. Nabila emerged from behind the tree. She greeted me by showing her white teeth. I laughed heartily, bowed and gave her a warm hug—which I knew she loves it.

We were sitting together, staring at the only building in the wilderness. I saw some people were pacing around the camp. Luckily my job as a tourist guide ends before five. I can spend the afternoon by helping Galuh to take care of the babies or just sitting in the backyard, watching Nabila.

“Do you know? They will come soon,” I said, half mumbled.

Nabila snored in her breath. She sat on my lap, unaware that now her body is three times heavier than four years ago—when I found her sprawling on the edge of the forest. I rubbed the wound on her hairless back. I have never thought that she would survive the fire. That heartbreaking tragedy destroyed most of her species.

“Are you waiting for someone? You always show up here since last month,” I scratched the top of her head and she muttered. I didn’t understand what she was doing. The only thing I knew, her sound was so cheerful. She’s excited about something, or might be she’s trying to tell me about her instincts.

I grinned.

I thought human beings were the most perfect God’ creatures. I thought that only human has intellectuals. But since I knew Nabila, she proved me that animals like her have senses and feeling. She yelled at me when a python hiding in the bushes; she grabbed my hair when a local hunter dragged one of Banjarmasin birds from a distance; she threw me gravels and make a couple tourists from Australia getting fright—she asked me to help one of them who got trapped by wild boar cage. She has a good heart, just like her name I have given for.

“Are you hungry? Need some food?”

Nabila answered me by tightening her body. Her face was infiltrated into my armpit. Somewhat ticklish indeed, but I like it. When she always attacked the doctor who wanted to heal her scars, she came to me with her grip and tears. Perhaps because she knew my intention. Perhaps she knew that I cried for her at that time.

Nabila murmured while occasionally pulled the collar of my shirt. She’s talking. She’s trying to pour out her feeling. There was something jammed her heart. There was something bothering her.

“Oh, they arrive!”

Suddenly I pointed out of the distance; the entourage of cars and trucks were moving on the unpaved road. Nabila seemed surprised. She looked up, searching of the noise from the driving machine.

I told her to go away but she refused to. So I left her there while I went up to welcome them along with the other rangers. They’re coming from the capital. With the jeep that we used for patrolling, Dr. Rafli, Pak Tono—the chairman of the organization, and the Rangers followed their entourage to the point.

They slightly accelerated the pace before it’s getting dark. The Rangers, including me, showing their enthusiasm with carefree laughter. We’ve been waiting for their arrival since last week, the smuggled orangutans which got caught by the police before they were sent to Thailand. The officers postponed it because they had to treat the injured babies in Jakarta. In the midst of the bustle, I saw one—maybe some—orangutans were moving to follow our speed. Seemed like they were excited by the presence of the capital officers. Just like us.

We stopped in the center of the point. The officers have been prepared with their masks, arm and leg protectors. Meanwhile, our Rangers were only coating by our uniform made of rayon fabric. When the two officers opened a large truck, we fought each other to carry the wounded orangutans. Dr. Rafli checked their condition first before Pak Tono releasing them into the wild.

Hesitant, seasoned with fear, the orangutans left us toward the jungle. Among them, I saw Nabila there, waiting. Her gaze seems worried. Her eyes moved, searching. Until a baby in Dr. Rafli’s arms caught her attention. Nabila approached him, slowly, without trying to scare the officers.

She knows him, he knows her. We know her.

He gave the baby to her, and she was sitting on the ground to hug that little body. Now I know why she was worried for so long. Somebody took her baby, somebody tried to steal hers. We looked at her with grace. Another duty that will never be finished for us: to protect them from the poachers and hunters.


In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Ripped from the Headlines!.”

Based on one of the articles at Jakarta Globe ¦ “Thailand Returns 14 Smuggled Orangutans To Indonesia” ¦ 960 words ¦ Fiction

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