Chapter 4: The Jungle's Wrath
We awoke in a jungle surrounded by monstrous trees and sticky, humid weather. Everything around us was a neon green or stunning shade of pink depending on the type of foliage. The ground under us was covered in twigs and leaves, and as I got up and brushed myself off, I heard bird calls in the distance. Emma propped herself up next to me and stretched, looking around at the area in confusion.
“What point in the story are we in?” Emma asked.
Her clothes had once again changed to a buttoned up blue shirt with a black tank top underneath and tan shorts.
“I don’t know, but we should probably figure that out so we don’t end up like we did last time,” I replied, helping her up from the ground.
“That’s a good point,” she said, grinning. “How about we head off in that direction and see where it takes us.”
She gestured towards the north and I just shrugged. “Sounds good to me.”
We trudged off in our planned direction, my boots crunching the leaves and twigs with every step I took. I kept readjusting my shorts; it felt weird wearing them because I normally didn’t like shorts, but I at least had a normal black shirt to wear with them. Mosquitoes buzzed around our heads as we walked, and we had to swat them away every five seconds so they wouldn’t bite us. Emma and I walked pretty close together; we both knew that this story was a lot more sinister than A Knight’s Tale had been. I actually felt nervous about the book, nausea rising up inside me even though I fought to stay calm.
“Could this be the beginning of the book? Nothing is happening,” Emma whispered next to me.
“I don’t know, but the tension is driving me crazy,” I whispered back.
We were coming to a part of the jungle where there was a clearing, and I couldn’t help looking around us for anything suspicious. That’s when my eyes landed on a demonic looking figure in the tree a bit away from us. It seemed goat-like in appearance, with little horns protruding from the top of its head, and its whole body covered in brown fur. What really gave it a demonic look though were its wide, goat-like yellow eyes filled with hate. I jumped at the sight of it, slamming into Emma at the action.
“Oww! What the hell?” Emma growled out.
“Run! They’re already here,” I said.
Emma’s head whipped around to where I was looking and she screamed. More demonic figures in all kinds of different animal forms were coming now, all of them howling, screeching, and bleating angrily down at us. We ran towards the clearing, adrenaline pumping through my veins at every step I took. I heard them pounding after us, but I didn’t dare look back at them, and instead just kept running. Emma managed to run in step with me, but at glancing quickly at her, I saw her crying, tears rushing down her cheeks.
I almost stopped running at noticing her appearance, because it meant the worst for us. She knew what part of the story we ended up in, and if we didn’t lose them, I would have to relive one of my worst nightmares.
We made it to the clearing but I didn’t dare stop. The creatures were swarming around the clearing; we didn’t have much time left before we would be captured, but I still wanted to try and escape. Emma on the other hand looked about ready to give up, and had even stopped running to bury her face in her hands.
“Emma, we can’t stop now!” I yelled, running back to her. “You have to be brave.”
“I am brave. That’s not why I’m crying. I’m crying for you David, because I know what’s going to happen to you,” she sobbed.
I froze, the hairs on the back of my neck sticking up. Her words confirmed my already growing fears, and as I grabbed onto her arm to tug her forward, something slammed into my side. I flew forward from the hit, and slammed into the earth with tremendous force. Looking up at my attacker, I jumped in surprise. Trapped on top of me was another demonic figure, with this one’s body resembling a slimy, puke colored frog with large red eyes.
It grinned menacingly down at me, its long, slimy tongue darting out of its mouth to taste the air. Emma screamed as two cat-like demons grabbed onto her and started dragging her away.
“Help!” Emma cried, clawing at the ground.
She kept trying to kick them, but both of them had firm grips on her legs. I tried to get up to help her, but the demon frog held me firmly in place with one of its hands, its tongue continuing to flick the air.
“You’ll make a lovely treat for our chief,” it said to me, laughing at my struggle.
“Let me go,” I said.
It just continued to laugh at me. I was about to try and kick it off me when another demon approached us. My eyes widened when I saw it; it was the goat demon that hid in the trees.
“No! Get away from me!” I cried, glaring at it.
All it did in response was bend down to my eye level, and knock me unconscious with one swift punch to the face with its hoofs.
When I woke up my whole face felt puffy, and I definitely had a black eye. One of the demons propped me up against a pole, my hands and feet tied together by rope. Emma’s head rested on my shoulder, with her own arms and legs tied as well. Something had given her a huge cut on her arm, and there was a bruise forming on her cheek. I stared down at her, sadness welling up inside me.
Even though I knew this was all a dream, that this story we were forced to play out only existed in our minds, it felt so real. More real than anything I had ever experienced in my life. I felt pain, real emotions, all my senses so sharp. How could any of this be a dream? This was something I couldn’t just wake up from like normal dreams; this was something so horrific, so intense that I begged to be jolted awake from it. It didn’t help that I knew exactly what lay in store for me, unlike other dreams. This I couldn’t stand.
In front of me, a fire pit had been made by the demons that eagerly made last minute adjustments to it. They all sounded excited, and many of them jumped around the pit, waiting for it to be lit. It wouldn’t be lit quite yet, because I knew that I would be the one forced on top of it. They were going to cook me alive, and wait until my skin peeled and blackened. The story started coming back to me then, more so than it already had.
The Jungle’s Wrath was about a village that became cursed and slowly began to turn animal-like. At first the villagers thought it was a sickness, but none of them realized until too late that their own chief caused all of it. He upset one of their gods, and in retaliation the gods made the villagers demonic and bloodthirsty. The two main characters of the story just had crummy luck, and found themselves stuck in the middle of the villagers’ misfortune. Sadly, the male protagonist died; he was burnt alive on the pit and eaten by the villagers, but the female protagonist did eventually escape, and destroyed the whole village in the process.
I knew all too well which character in this story I was. Groaning, I tried to push myself up, Emma’s head lolling as I moved. There had to be a way for us to escape; I really didn’t want to be eaten. My eyes darted around in every direction, desperately looking for something that could be used to break us out of the ropes. Emma’s eyes snapped open then, and her head rose off my shoulder to take everything in.
“They already made the pit. We have to act now,” Emma said, her eyes narrowed as she stared at the pit.
“You don’t have to tell me twice. Quick, look for something sharp,” I whispered.
Emma and I tried to search the ground the best we could with our hands tied, but we just managed to blow dust everywhere instead. This attracted the attention of a red and white fox-like demon that stopped what it was doing to nudge us.
“Hey! Don’t be getting any ideas! Just sit comfortably and wait for your turn on the pit,” it growled.
“Kiss my ass!” I snapped.
It hissed at me, kicking my side forcefully. I gasped, the pain spreading across my body. That would leave a bruise if I didn’t become demon food. It walked away from me as I coughed, Emma supporting me the best she could with her hands tied. By then the pit was complete and all the demons shrieked with joy. The more I heard their happy chanting, the more my body shook with fear; there was no escaping this.
Then a sudden realization came to me: this dream had no bounds. Anything and everything could happen to us here. We could be forced to fight a dragon, live out our worst fears, and do things that in the real world would be impossible. I knew that because it was boundless, even if I experienced this torment, it wasn’t close to over for me. Many more stories still awaited us; I knew this with every ounce of my being, and it terrified me.
What I wanted to know was if I had enough strength to survive this nightmare before it devoured Emma and me whole. Who really knew at that point? As I thought of all of this, the goat and frog demons approached us. They stared down at us with evil grins on their faces, and before either of us could respond, they grabbed me by my bound hands and dragged me forward.
“No, leave me alone!” I said, struggling against their hold.
Every movement I made caused more dust to be kicked into the air, but I didn’t care. The demons looked irritated though, which gave me some satisfaction.
“Don’t you realize your chief caused all of this? Why take it out on us when you can stop the one responsible for your misfortune?” Emma asked, dragging herself forward.
The village went into an uproar at that.
“Blasphemy! Our chief is a god. How dare you accuse him of such a crime!” A pig-like demon squealed in anger.
“He would never wish this upon us,” the goat demon said.
“If he really cared about all of you, he would have done whatever it took to stop this from happening instead of acting like a coward and making his followers do all of his dirty work,” I retorted.
The villagers howled their objections, and as I tried to protest further I was thrown onto the pit. My back hit the wood stacks hard, leaving me breathless. Emma cursed obscenities at them, and she even tried to approach the pit, but was restrained by the two demons. I struggled to get out of my bonds, knowing that in only a matter of minutes they would set the whole pit on fire. That’s when I saw a figure appear from the trees with a torch in its hand.
To my surprise, the figure didn’t look demon-like at all, and instead was a guy not much older than Emma and I. He looked an inch or two shorter than me, with messy brown hair and warm hazel eyes. His skin had a slightly tanned appearance, and he wore a plain blue shirt and baggy grey shorts. There were a couple of feathers in his hair that were kept in place by a blue headband, and a bracelet full of feathers tied to his wrist, but despite those accessories he seemed out of place with all the villagers. When the villagers saw him approaching they rushed up to meet him, adoration apparent on their faces.
He greeted them all with a nod, and approached the pit. The villagers then surrounded the pit, all of them chanting to the sky. My struggling increased, sweat already dripping down my face before the fire even started. The chief–who I really didn’t think was the real chief—stared down at me with an unfathomable expression on his face, the torch raised above his head. Emma kept screaming, but when the chief’s gaze moved from me to her, she froze. She looked shocked to see the chief, her mouth dropping open in surprise and tears filling her eyes.
The chief’s expression turned dark, and he turned away from her, lowering the torch onto the pit. My eyes widened as I saw the fire, and I stared up at him in disbelief.
“Please, please don’t do this,” I begged.
He just raised an eyebrow at me. “It has to be done.”
That’s when he threw the torch onto the pit, and the wood caught fire. I yelled, trying to squirm away from it. The villagers rejoiced at the sight of the pit ablaze, lusting for my death. Emma appeared paralyzed, just staring at the pit with tears rolling down her cheeks. With her gaze still fixed on the chief, one word managed to escape her lips.
The fire spread, with me already feeling its heat on my back. When I felt a flame wrap around my legs I cried out.
“Stop! Stop! PLEASE STOP!”
Of course the villagers ignored me, continuing their chants. More flames licked my body, the blistering pain of my skin being sheared off becoming too much for me. All the while the chief stared down at me, not taking his eyes off of me once. I couldn’t stand him staring at me as the flames consumed my body, so I turned towards Emma and yelled out to her.
“EMMA! EMMA SNAP OUT OF IT!”
The sound of my voice did seem to snap her out of her trance, but I could already feel myself becoming unconscious from all the smoke and heat. I could feel my skin peeling away and the blood flowing freely from my wounds; it was all so unbearable. All I wanted to do was escape or die already, just so it could stop. My body decided to put me out of my misery by letting me fade to blackness.
I don’t know how much time passed before I woke up again, my head resting on Emma’s lap. We were in the bookstore again, with Emma back in her dress, and my own clothes restored as well. It felt good to be in my own clothes again. Who knew something as simple as clothes could comfort someone? I moved myself into a sitting position next to Emma, leaning my back against the shelf.
To my surprise, I felt perfectly fine, and when I felt around my body, there were no burns; no open wounds anywhere.
“What happened? How did we end up back here?” I asked, frowning.
“I threw myself on the fire to stop the story from continuing, and we ended up back here,” she said, staring down at the carpet.
I stared at her, baffled by what she did. “You threw yourself on the fire? Why?”
“Isn’t it obvious? You were in pain, and I couldn’t stand it. That story was doomed from the start, and I just…wanted to get away as soon as possible,” Emma said, meeting my gaze.
I could see the sadness in her eyes, and my expression softened.
“Thank you then. By the way, I have to ask. What was up with that chief? I don’t think he was actually from the story, and it looked like you knew him,” I said.
Emma turned away from me then, staring off into the distance. “That’s because he wasn’t from the story. He’s my ex boyfriend.”
My eyes widened. I wasn’t expecting her to say that. “Your ex boyfriend? How the hell did he end up in your dream?”
“I don’t know, but seeing him just…hurt,” she whispered.
“Did your relationship end badly?”
Emma laughed mirthlessly. “You could say that. Mark died two years ago. He was a very impulsive guy, and one day he decided to go bungee jumping off a bridge. The rope snapped…and he ended up falling to his death.”
Something about that story didn’t seem right to me, and also didn’t make sense, but I decided not to say anything about it. I was too tired and disturbed from what just happened to me to want to get into an argument with Emma.
“How about we just rest for a while okay?” I suggested, noticing how tired she looked as well.
“That sounds good. I don’t really feel like going into another story right now anyways,” Emma said, closing her eyes.
I copied her actions, and soon enough we were both fast asleep.