Bats, peeper frogs, night birds, lizards, snakes, scorpions, and giant night beetles—those are the jungle sounds I had identified in my fevered brain. As I lay on my back in the inky darkness, they were the only audible sounds next to the distant crush of ocean 400 feet down the mountainside.

My eyes blinked against a cold bead of perspiration that rolled from my forehead. I was sweating bullets, but freezing. When I coughed my entire body shuttered. I blinked again and raised my head to make out the time through the mosquito-netting cocoon. Three AM? Four AM? Maybe….

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Earlier in the night I awoke with a start. I was attempting to wheeze but there was no sound. No air escaped. I was drowning. I rolled on my side in an attempt to breathe—it felt like there was liquid in my lungs.

I usually like the humming of the jungle and the cadence of the sea on trips like this. But now, after four nights of unrest, the noises tormented me.  

On our first afternoon in the jungle, we had found a two-foot iguana sunning itself on the inside edge of our open-air cabana. My wife was not overly enthused, but I was intrigued. I named him Carlos. “Hola, Carlos,” I said to him. He leapt from the cabana edge into the surrounding canopy and continued to bask in the sun.

As I lay on my back staring at the ceiling in the predawn abyss I heard the distinct footsteps of a four-legged creature outside the hut. Someone, or something, was stealthily crushing the dried palms just outside our door—not far from my head.

“That you, Carlos?” I thought in a near hallucinogenic fog. “Are you coming in here to save me?”

Whatever bug had taken hold was chewing me up. I’d caught it in the States and brought it with me. Somewhere along the line it morphed into an avian-swine-flu-monkey-pox hybrid. Who knows, maybe I’d been bitten by a rare venomous spider. Malaria? Not likely, but anything was possible. For sure, I felt like shit.  

I delved into local medicinal herbs and tinctures to no avail.

I settled back into listening to the jungle. Two animals screeched and hissed at each other. I imagined giant colorful parrots having a domestic dispute in the wee hours—one of the parrots was really pissed off about something. I coughed again until I dry-heaved, then I sat up in bed. The sheet around me was soaked in sweat. This time my wife awoke next to me.

“Are you OK?” she asked empathetically—yet a little annoyed that I woke her… again.

I stifled back another coughing fit.

“I’m fine,” I mumbled.

“Are you sure? You don’t sound fine,” she said.

“I’m fine,” I repeated.

“Are you going to be able to fish tomorrow?” she asked.

“Of course,” I said. 

I didn’t have to think twice about it. As I peered through the mosquito net I could see it was getting lighter out.

Morning would come soon.

Epilogue: Forty-eight hours after this piece was written the author returned to the United States, visited his doctor, and was diagnosed with pneumonia. He was prescribed a 5,000 mg hit of Levequin and is slowly—but surely—on the mend. Carlos, the iguana, recently immigrated to Hollywood, where he's busy auditioning for bit parts on the big screen.

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