Under the Nile: Dave’s Rabbit Chapters 22 & 23

Under the Nile


It was dark, cold, silent and still. As Kallis sank slowly down, a feeling of peace and calm came upon her; she felt strangely sleepy; everything had an unreal feeling as if this was all just a bad dream. She tried to move her arms and legs but swimming fully clothed is a lot more difficult and she surrendered herself to the pull of the Nile as it eagerly sucked her down and along.

Blackness, darkness, silence. Then, in her silent, cold dream she heard a voice calling her name, over and over: ‘Kallis! Kallis! You must wake up, my little Hod-hod, Kallis, come on, swim to me!’ It was her father, but how could it be? But it was his voice, and no one else had ever called her Hod-hod, the name for the hoopoe bird found in Africa and his pet name for her. Kallis started out of her strange sleep and started to swim towards the voice; he was calling over and over to her, ‘Kallis, Kallis, swim to me…’ But it was hard to swim. The water was strange and syrupy, full of mud and weed. It was hard to know which way was up. But she followed the voice, wanting her father so badly. The water hurt her eyes and she wanted to close them again but suddenly she could see a little lightness filtering through the silted water. Suddenly her hand touched – something. It was soft and damp, a tree branch maybe? She pulled herself up to it and her head broke through to the surface. She gasped for air, she had not realised how long it was since she had last drawn a breath. She looked to see what she was holding. It appeared to be a mass of leaves and stems all woven together, a large organic mattress floating along the Nile. Kallis managed to pull her top half onto it, then with a big kick, swung her legs out of the greedy waters and, twisting over, she lay full length upon it. Kallis started to sob as she panted for air: ‘Daddy, Daddy…’

Gradually her breathing and sobbing quietened down and she gazed up at the incredible night sky full of the brightest stars she had ever seen. And the moon! A new Islamic moon looked down upon her, the silver crescent low in the sky. Kallis started to sit up a little to see where she was. She appeared to be moving quite quickly. She could see the lights of the city – and what was that over there…? A boat of some kind was heading towards her. It was all lit up and she could hear soft voices and laughter. Kallis tried to sit up a little more and she started to shout, ‘Help! Please help me! I’m over here!’ She waved frantically, her wet sleeves weighing heavily on her arms.

She saw a head look over the side at her, then heard some shouting and then several heads looked over at her.

‘It’s someone in the water!’

‘No, look, they’re on that plant-stuff in the water!’

‘Hello! We are going to throw a rope to you.’

‘Maybe he doesn’t understand English. Where’s the Captain? Get him to shout something to him.’

‘Get that book hook and try and grab the plant.’

The boat came along side Kallis and her ‘mattress’ was held with a pole.

‘It’s a woman!’ someone shouted in surprise.

Hands reached down to her, pulled her up and helped her on board.

‘Do you speak English?’ she was asked.

‘Yes, yes, I’m British,’ Kallis managed to reply.

A blonde lady put her arms around Kallis, as she started to collapse onto the deck. ‘Come on, let’s get you below and out of those wet clothes. It’s alright; I’ll take care of her. I used to be a nurse,’ she added as she helped Kallis down the wooden steps below. The lady smelt of a soft perfume which reminded Kallis of her mother and she started to cry gently. ‘Hush, it’s ok, we’ve got you now. Come on, sit down here.’ This kind lady got some towels and started to dry Kallis off. She pulled a curtain across to give Kallis some privacy. She unwrapped a galibaya she had clearly bought as a souvenir and offered it to Kallis to put on. Kallis slowly took off her wet clothes.

‘What’s your name?’ she asked Kallis. ‘I’m Judy, by the way.’

‘Kallis. I’m Kallis’.

‘Well, Kallis, a good job we happened by!’ She laughed, and then stopped as she put a hand out to Kallis’ face. ‘Oh, my, what happened? Someone has beaten you? Oh, you poor thing.’

‘It’s ok, I’m ok.’ Kallis covered her face with her hands.

‘Did you swallow any of the water? You should see a doctor soon to check you over.’ Judy was concerned.

‘Yes, I will, thank you, I’m ok.’ Kallis pulled on the galibaya and sipped some brandy that had been put into her shaking hand.

‘Are you going to tell me what happened?’ Judy asked.

‘I would rather not talk about it, if you don’t mind. Thank you so much for rescuing me. I am so grateful but I just need to think about what to do next. Please just let me off the boat wherever you can and I’ll be fine.’

‘Absolutely not. How can you think we’d do that? Where are you staying? I’ll drop you back there if I do nothing else. We can’t just let you off to wander the streets of Cairo, and presumably with no money on you.’

‘Oh.’ Kallis hadn’t though about that. ‘Thank you, I’m staying in Zamalek.’

‘Well, that’s where we left from and the boat will be going back there in about 15 minutes, so just relax and we’ll sort you out when we get there,’ said Judy.

‘Did someone throw you in the river?’ Judy couldn’t help herself, she had to ask.

‘’No, I jumped into…well, to escape someone. It’s complicated, Judy. Honestly, it’s best if I don’t tell you.’ Kallis started to plait her wet hair back from her face.

‘Alright, Kallis, I won’t grill you. But promise me you’ll go to a doctor?’

‘Mmm, yes, I will. I am going to try and get a flight back home tomorrow so I’ll wait until then.’ Kallis was making plans as she was talking. ‘I think I have had enough of Cairo for now – or it’s had enough of me.’ Kallis suddenly had a coughing fit and Judy helped her to the small bathroom. Kallis was violently sick and her lungs felt heavy and sore.

The rest of the people on the boat took turns to peek down below at Kallis but generally they left her alone with Judy.

‘Do you live here?’ Kallis asked Judy.

‘Yes, I have been working for the British Council here for a few months. We were just having a goodbye drink for a couple who are leaving. You can charter these Nile boats for a couple of hours, and it’s usually a very pleasant way to spend an evening!’ She laughed. ‘I had been told that you sometimes see bodies floating in the Nile but it’s best to pretend you didn’t as the paperwork and hassle involved in reporting them is just not worth it. I’m glad you were a live body!’

Judy was worried about Kallis, but felt she had to respect her wish not to discuss things with her. She guessed a man was involved and hoped Kallis was not married to him. She was also concerned that Kallis might pick up an infection from the dirty Nile water.


After a while the boat stopped and Kallis could feel it sway on the water as people disembarked.

‘Come on.’ Judy took Kallis by the hand, her wet clothes were bundled into a carrier bag, and they climbed off the boat. The two Egyptian men, who Kallis presumed owned or ran the boat, looked on curiously as they left.

‘What about your new galibaya?’ Kallis suddenly realised she was not in her own clothes.

‘Oh, good heavens, it only cost me a few L.E. Please don’t bother about it,’ Judy laughed. ‘I was only going to use it as a spare dressing gown!’

‘Well, if you’re sure….thank you.’ Kallis smiled a bit shyly at the kindness of this woman.

Judy led the way over to her four-wheel drive vehicle and Kallis climbed in.

‘So, whereabouts are you staying?’

Kallis gave her the address and Judy drove her across Zamalek and back to Shamiela’s apartment. Judy scribbled her phone number and e mail address on a piece of paper and thrust it into Kallis’ hand.

‘Listen, if you need any help, do call me. And maybe when you are safely back in the U.K. e mail me and tell me all about it? Only if you want to.’

‘I will, Judy. Thank you so much. You’ve been so kind. And please thank your friends on the boat too; I didn’t really speak to them. You all saved my life. I could have drowned…’ Kallis bit back tears and swallowed.

‘Hey, you take care now. Are you sure you’ll be ok? You could come back to my place tonight if you want to.’

‘No, no. Thank you but I need to say my goodbyes and get my stuff as well.’ Kallis leaned over and kissed Judy on the cheek. ‘Thanks again. Sorry if I spoiled the evening for your friends’ She jumped out of the car and ran into the building.

At the top of the building Kallis rang the bell and waited. The door opened a crack. It was Walid.

‘Kallis! We have been worried about you. Come in. I will go and get Shamiela.’ He hurried off. Shamiela appeared straight away. ‘Kallis, my child, where have you been? Come through to the kitchen, here. And where is Yusef? I thought he would bring you back here hours ago.’

‘I…’Kallis didn’t know what to say. Suddenly Shamiela noticed her face and grabbed hold of her.

‘What has happened? Kallis! Who did this to you? And you are wet, child. Look at your hair. Tell me what has happened.’

Kallis put her head in her hands and started to cry. Shamiela held her for a moment, then got up slowly and shut the door. She walked back to the table.

‘It was my son, wasn’t it, Kallis?’ Shamiela stared down at Kallis, her hand to her face. Kallis looked up at her and slowly nodded.

‘He….I….I thought he thought of me as a sister, but, well, he wanted more. More than I felt for him. It all got out of hand.’ Kallis didn’t want to upset Shamiela, though she longed to tell her what had really happened.

‘My father, he was the same. Such a temper, such black anger, the beatings I suffered at his hands….’ she shook her head. ‘And my son, he has this anger in him also. I have seen it before. Kallis, I am so sorry.’

‘Shamiela, it is not your fault. I am going to leave tomorrow if I can get a flight. I think it will be best for me just to go and say no more.’

Shamiela nodded. ‘I will help you with this, Kallis; my husband will call the airport for you and make arrangements. Perhaps we can avoid telling him why you are leaving? Please? It will be easier for me. I will speak to my son quietly when I see him.’

‘O.K., Shamiela, if that’s what you want. However, I can make my own arrangements. I think I’d just like to go to bed now, if you don’t mind.’

Kallis stood up and walked out of the room. She collapsed onto her bed and was soon in a deep, dark, disturbed sleep.


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