Live River is another simplified story by the Czech author Otakar Batlička. This time the story is suitable for intermediate learners.
Robert and his friend Archer were really tired when they got back to the camp at the rubber plantations. There was not much work to do because most of the rubber was already in the warehouse. That was why Archer and Robert planned a new journey of discovery.
This time they wanted to explore the rainforest to the north of the camp. These places were not unknown but our young friends were looking for new kinds of orchids. And these flowers could only be found north of the Amazon. They planned the journey for the weekend.
On Saturday morning they set off with the enough food and two guns. The journey through the rainforest was really difficult and demanding. After several hours of walking they got to a place where the rainforest was not so dense and the trees were taller. Even though they went for several hours they weren’t that far from the camp. You cannot walk really quickly through the rainforest. Often they had to cut bushes and plants to be able to continue. At these times they went as little as a kilometre per hour or even less.
The rainforest was full of flowers. Hundreds and hundreds of different colourful flowers were all around them. And there was even one which even the experienced „traveller“ Archer had never seen before.
“Robert, take only the bulb of the orchid. Take it out carefully from the ground so you won’t destroy it. It must be a precious one!” Robert put the bulb the carefully into his bag.
The evening was coming. They decided to put up their tent at the edge of the rainforest. They built a fire and after dinner they were getting ready for the night. The rainforest was silent and a it was a beautiful night.
Robert and Archer decided that each will watch the camp for four hours. The rainforest was completely quiet. The silence was only from time to time disturbed by a shout of a night bird or a beast.
At twelve o’clock Archer woke Robert: “Well, friend, it’s time for your watch!” Archer lay down close to the fire and Robert sat down with the gun in his hand. The hours were passing and the morning was coming. The black darkness was changing into a grey morning. It was cold. Robert put some dry branches on the fire and covered his sleeping friend with the blanket.
It was about half past three in the morning, when suddenly the rainforest came alive. The birds started to cry and other animals seemed nervous too. First one or two birds flew over their heads. But after a while hundreds of birds were flying away. Robert got nervous. Now he could see some monkeys running out of the rainforest. It was morning now and more and more animals were running out of the rainforest. So Robert decided to wake Archer.
“Hey, friend, get up! Something is wrong!” Archer was immediately up. “Archer, I don’t know why, but during the last half an hour I could see a lot of animals running away. I could see even a cheetah. Do you think that the forest is on fire?”
“I don’t think so. I cannot see or smell any smoke. It must be something else! Let’s pack up and be ready! We will see what’s going to happen!
There were no more animals running out of the forest. “Robert, all of the animals ran in one direction – that’s strange! And now the strange and unusual silence!”
Robert wanted to say something but Archer stopped him with a movement of his hand. “Do you hear the sound. It sounds like a stream running in a distance. Do you hear it?”
“Yes I can hear it quite well, what is it? Now it’s getting louder. It sounds as if it was raining into the forest. What can it be?”
“Take our things quickly and let’s run away. Away! We are in the middle of the stream! Away! The ants are here! Look there, there, everywhere! Quickly, run away!” Archer shouted.
At the edge of the rainforest they could see a black band. A wide river – live river – of was running out of the rainforest! Billions and billions of ants were moving! Everything that was green suddenly disappeared under their bodies.
“But, Archer, they cannot move so quickly, they cannot catch up with us! It is enough if we walk and in this way we will easily get out of their way!” Robert said.
“You are wrong! You cannot know if the streams of ants aren’t all around us. And what’s more their march can last for several days. They do not stop. They go and go and go. And in the end they catch up with everything. Look there.”
The stream of ants has caught up with a big snake. The snake was immediately covered by the ants. Both of the friends started running towards the camp. After several hours of running they sat down to have a rest. It seemed that they escaped the terrible live river. They had breakfast but when they picked up their bags they heard the noise again.
“They are here! What did I say? I think the stream is several hundred metres wide and it is heading for the camp. We have to hurry up and warn the camp!”
On their way they saw a lot of anthills houses from which the black inhabitants were running out to join the live river. No one still knows why all the ants get together and march for days. Only water or fire can stop them.
Archer and Robert managed to get to the camp and they ran into the office immediatelly: “Kenny, ants! A stream of ants is coming to the camp!” They didn’t have to say more. Kenny was an experienced man. He took a gun and went in front of the office. He shot several times into the air. ALARM! In a minute or two everyone was standing in front of the office.
“Ten men will bring the fuel! Cut all the bushes and trees around the camp and built two lines from the wood and pour the fuel on it. The first line will be with 200 steps in front of the camp and the other one 150 steps from the camp. Other twenty men will take all empty boxes and built a boat out of them. The rest will take all the food to the river!”
Everyone worked quickly because everyone understood the danger that was coming. When the second line was finished the ants started coming. First there were only a few ants which were killed by men with branches and boots.
However a few minutes later the main stream arrived. All you could see was the black stream of live river.
“Light the first line!” Kenny shouted. The bushes and trees were lit from many sides and a huge fire started. The river of ants ran into the fire. You could hear and smell millions of small bodies burning. But the stream was still coming. Millions of ants were dying but it didn’t stop the ants.
Billions of the black animals entered the flames.
The fire was getting weaker and weaker because the dead ants put it out. The people were sweating, their eyes were red. In some places the fires stopped and hundreds of ants were coming through. The 50 metres between the lines filled up with the black animals really quickly.
Several men shouted in pain because the ants bit them. The second line is lit quickly and the situation is the same as it was with the first line. Now the situation is critical.
When Kenny saw that the ants managed to get through the first line he decided: “We have to break the stream. Cover the branches with old bags, pour the fuel on them and lit them. Throw them as far as you can into the stream.”
and panic started. The stream started to slow down and then lost its direction. The ants moved right and missed the camp. After an hour the ants were gone. Several men watched their march and later that night they came with the news that the ants disappeared in the rainforest.
This was the third dangerous adventure of the young Robert on his father’s plantations. After a year in the rainforest he became a good young man. He learnt to work, he learnt to appreciate a good friend, and he learnt a discipline and courage.