As the sun began to set, lengthening the shadows cast across the tiny jungle village, Captain Maynard excused himself from the festive welcome to inspect the steamboat Emerson had hired for their journey up the river. While he acquainted himself with the boat and made ready to depart, the rest of the company sat cross-legged upon reed mats in the village’s great communal dining hut.
With vibrant welcoming smiles the islanders presented our New Babbage crew with all manner of rainforest delicacies. Dish after dish of pure succulence was placed before them; and all the while they feasted upon exotic flavours the villagers danced and swayed with a lithe sensuality, gyrating with an ever increasing degree of carnality as the night progressed.
“If you will excuse me for a moment.” said Lapis, standing and making his way towards the lavatory huts across the path leaving the other three to the hypnotic charms and driving beats.
“I think he’s been quite affected by the news that Malus may be some sort of mad, third world island dictator now.” remarked Emerson as Lapis threaded his way past glistening, undulating young bodies. “I think he is anticipating a show down.”
“No doubt he has excused himself to polish his sword.” Junie snickered.
“Mister Brother does a lot of sword-polishing.” nodded Gadget chewing on some sugar-glazed grilled coconut on a stick.
As the dizzying beats and the visual poetry continued, it wasn’t long before the three remaining crew members were caught up in whatever spell these island creatures cast, jumping up to join the dance with reckless abandon.
With rising mania Emerson and Junie turned towards one another as the villagers bumped and jostled and corralled them together. With each beat of the drum they found themselves dancing just that much closer. The accidental touching of hands became more frequent… in this tight space their bodies couldn’t help but come in contact sparking sensations too intense to be captured by words alone… in this heat… this humid heat their eyes locked.
The sudden shrill scream pierced the air. It was really quite a jarring interruption! An insulting incongruity. Lapis, wild-eyed and fierce, slashed his way through the islanders leaving severed limbs and heads along the way.
“Lapis! Have you gone mad!” shouted Emerson. It was only then that the spell was fully broken. Junie, Gadget and Emerson found themselves in a large pot of hot water suspended over a raging bonfire.
“Bugger if I’m not in a bath!” shouted Gadget in distress.
Lapis continued to slash and swing his sword. The villagers no longer seemed so pretty. In fact they had taken on a hungry and demonic countenance. Scrambling from the pot, her clothes soaked and heavy, Junie grabbed a flaming log and stood beside Lapis fending off the horrid, hissing creatures now menacing them. Emerson and Gadget jumping from the pot began to run for the riverboat about a quarter of a mile through the jungle with Lapis and Junie valiantly taking up the rear.
Captain Maynard was enjoying a solitary moment aboard the river craft when, with great commotion, the four members of the crew emerged from the treeline for the final fifty yard dash to the boat; a mob of hungry island demons in close pursuit. Emerson started shouting as soon as he was in visual range of the boat, ““Maynard! Steam up! Steam up!” It was a nerve-wracking few moments as the four adventurers scrambled aboard.
Maynard Quinn fired rounds from his handgun into the menacing horde while at the same time managing power up the engines to full steam. Once aboard, the crew, took up arms and began firing at will, dropping any of the ravenous monsters that managed to get too close. But the island demons took no heed of their fallen kin. They pressed forward, climbing over bodies in search of living flesh.
With the engines finally fully engaged, Captain Maynard called out, “Everybody okay?” to which he got nods of assent and Gadget’s relieved, “Phew, I think they was about to get out the soap!”
Belching black smoke into the air, the the steam boat pulled clear of the banks of the river leaving behind the village of the damned.
“If no one has any objections I would like to name this vessel the Indiscretion Two.” said Captain Maynard at breakfast the day following their escape from the village. Knowing a little of the captain’s history, Emerson nodded speaking on behalf of the others when he said that would be fine.
“Gadget what can you tell us of this ship… you reviewed the plans didn’t you?” asked Emerson.
Gadget nodded most seriously and solemnly as he stood up and recited: ” The recenlty renamed steam ship Indiscretion Two was manufactured by Bodgeit and Scarper Industries. It was said they ran out of rivets ‘alf way through and used glue from boiled carcases… which explains the smell. The poorly aligned crankshaft oscillates at the exact frequency of the mating call of a female ‘ippopotamus and an upside down plumbing schematic caused the fire ‘ose to be directly connected to the ships effluent tank.”
They all chuckled, “A toast then, to the Indiscretion Two.” said Emerson
“Just make sure you don’t burn the toast.” smiled Maynard as the crew raised their glasses in cheer.
Their humor held for most of the first day, however it wasn’t long before it became evident the cramped quarters and frayed nerves were best met with an open bar. “Gadget, you have no idea how important your job is son, keep it flowing.”
It was on the evening of their third day aboard the craft when a strange fog appeared upon the river. It surrounded the Indiscretion in an eerie ghostly glow. Some may claim that there were spirits within this fog… whispering, malicious, vengeful ghosts bent on satisfying their murder-lust; and then there are others who might claim that the hallucinogenic pollens released into the air by the rainforest-sized stamen ubiquitous to this particular region may have been wielding some influence. Regardless, it was a very unsettling experience and the crew unanimously agreed to land at the side of the river and hold out until things became a little clearer.
It was an uneasy sleep as the crew kept awakening though-out the fog-shrouded night to a terrifying and disturbing howl from deep within the jungle.
The next morning it was Lapis who was the first to rise. Climbing to the upper deck, intent on relieving himself over the rail, he found himself suddenly face to face with a large ape in the process of stealing the crew’s supply of sausages and eggs. This did not sit well with the brother.
“Get your stinking paws off my breakfast you damn dirty ape!” Lapis snarled through gritted teeth.
The ape, which stood close to 6 feet in height, regarded Lapis for a moment before curling its upper lip in a sneer and raising its middle finger by way of response. Not one to take insults from primates of any sort lightly, Lapis charged the brute, punching it in the nose. Screaming at audacity of the attack, the ape slammed Lapis to the deck of the Indiscretion and then gave him a kick for good measure. Lapis’s next move most assuredly shocked the monkey. He reached up and grabbed the closest delicate appendage he could and gave it a sharp twist. With a howl beyond rage the creature picked up Lapis and thew him over the side of the boat where he landed with a jolt upon the riverbank.
Leaping over the rail, the large ape landed landed next to Lapis. The rest of crew, having been awakened by the commotion, had scrambled to the deck in time to see it next to Lapis continuing to howl until from the jungle appeared a dozen more of its kind.
The creature then most remarkably signalled to its kin with a series of hand signs that was quite clearly a demonstration of language. To the fascination of all they appeared to be heavily involved in the dynamics of an intense debate through a combination of sign language, grunts, hoots, and body pragmatics.
“Who taught these creatures to communicate so well?” Junie wondered aloud.
“I did.”Came an unexpected response.
The group turned at once to see a woman in her mid thirties appear from the brush, her long blonde hair pulled back tight in a ponytail. She was dressed in jungle fatigues and held a rifle aimed squarely at Lapis. “If you move again, even a twitch, I will shoot you where you lay.”
“Please, we meant no offense.” replied Emerson speaking on behalf of Lapis. To either you or these most remarkable creatures. We most sincerely apologize for any over reaction on our part.”
The woman’s stance seemed to soften somewhat as about a dozen more of the large apes emerged from the jungle to stand in menacing support behind her.
“Perhaps we might start again.” offered Junie, “My name is Juniper Ginsburg. My colleagues and I come all the way from New Babbage in search of a lost friend. We beg your hospitality as we pass through.”
The woman hesitated, then lowered the rifle. “You can call me Jane.” she said plainly. “And these are my friends.” She indicated the apes. “I believe you’ve already met Kerchak, former king of this tribe of Mangani.” the lady paused before reporting, “Look at him! Poor Kerchak once ruled all these you see before you, and thrice more unseen, and now he’s brought to stealing food from passing steamboats.”
“You seem to be on rather friendly terms with these brutes.” said Lapis with a note of suspicion in his tone.
“Mister, I have been living with and observing these…” her smile seemed to shine with a radiant and genuine conviction, “…these incredible beings, for almost 10 years.”
She was about to go on expounding when from the jungle came the piercing and terrifying howl that had tormented the crew through the fog of the previous night. Noticing their uneasy glances, Jane spoke up, “That would be my husband calling.” she stated, “The current king of this tribe.” The air was once again cut with a howl, closer this time, from the jungle canopy far overhead. “He is coming.”