Sunlight pierced through the tree tops, casting thin beams of light onto the thick foliage below. A cacophony of chirps and squeaks and grunts filled the air as the many tiny inhabitants of this jungle went about their daily lives. Water droplets perpetually formed and fell from the leaves and flowers, providing not only a safe home for the jungle dwellers but also a constant stream of fresh, cool water. The air was still, the trees too thick and close together to allow the winds from the sea to pierce this tranquil haven. The creatures in this area lived in peace, spending their lives resting on branches and eating the fruits of the trees. One lizard, far larger than the others, rested upon a large branch, a branch far larger than the others. It was positioned right beneath a sun beam just wide enough to cover his body, and he lay there enjoying the warmth. On occasion, an ant or fly would wander too close and provide a small snack, and after snacking he would nap for a while until waking up and repeating the process.
A fly, one far larger than the others, happened to fly near the lizard just as it was waking from its nap, and seeing the opportunity for a snack, one far larger than the others, he lashed out his tongue, when cold sharp steel slashed through his body, and the branch, and the thick foliage. Piercing screams began to fill the air, and the steel continued to slash away until an opening formed, and through it came three people, two carrying a large chest and the front runner clearing a path way.
Panic now filled the air, as Imich tried to slash his way through the horribly thick plant life, his energy being sapped with every swing, and his fatigue being multiplied by the intense humidity. The sweat forming on his forehead stung his eyes as it cascaded down his face, and filled his mouth with a salty taste, only exasperating the intense thirst brought upon by the heat. The blade constantly slipped from his grasp regularly having to switch hands in order to wipe them on his clothes. On top of the heat and the rough terrain, the screams in the distance only furthered the desperation of the situation they were in. He glanced back to his two companions, both wearing equally weary faces as they struggled with the large chest and its contents.
The chest was heavy and awkward to carry, with no convenient handles or straps to hold onto, just rough wood that sliced into their hands. The two people carrying the chest, Folami and Ames, both much younger than Imich, were physically capable but the struggles to get the chest had began to show their signs, and blood trickled down Ames’ face, blinding him in one eye, and Folami’s arms struggled to bend round to grab the chest so that she was able to move forward, for moving backwards would be too slow and a danger was rapidly catching up to them. The rattle of the contents in the chest only made carrying it more strenuous, as they both struggled to find a centre of balance. Folami lost her footing and stumbled to her knees, cause the man behind her to fall over the chest.
“Get up!” roared Imich, running back and dragging both of them to their feet before returning to the job at hand.
The screams in the distance became louder and louder, to the point where drowned out all other sounds. Rusting and snapping could be heard as they tore their way through the jungle terrain with far more ease than Imich could ever hope to. This was their world, a world the three humans had been stupid enough to invade. The more intense and closer the screams were, the faster and harder he swung his blade, as the foliage began to slowly thin out the closer they got to the ocean. A boat was waiting for them if they could muster the strength to make it through this harsh place.
Slash. Hack. Switch hands. Slash. Hack. Switch hands. Like clockwork he continued to fight his way to the cool breeze and fresh ocean air that awaited them. The two behind him did their best to block out the pain in their arms and legs, and all three tried to ignore how close the deathly barrage of screams was behind them. The light piercing the leaves began to shoot wider and wider beams as the distances between the large jungle trees began to increase.
Slash. Hack. Switch hands.
The air began to stir ever so slightly, casting a wave of coolness across their foreheads, providing a hint of rest bit from the horrid atmosphere that was trying its best to drag them down. Hope began to rise in their souls.
Slash. Hack. Switch hands.
They could hear the waves of the ocean casting onto the sand, blissfully unaware of the chaos that was verging ever nearer.
Slash. Hack. Swi-before he could switch hands, the full strength of the sun burst its way through the trees and a rush of cool air enveloped their entire bodies. The relief was so great that it caused them to pause for a split second before the man at the back reminded them of the danger that was at this point was metres away. Imich could see the boat, and a forth man, Adil, waiting for his friends to return, ready to help lift the chest onto the boat, although he must have been unaware of the peril they were in as he was quite relaxed, enjoying the sun with a bottle of wine.
Imich shouted to him, telling his to prepare the boat, then turned and helpedFolani carry the front of the chest, freeing one of her arms and steadying the hefty weight of whatever was inside it. They looked at each other and smiled. They had finally fought their way to safety, and were going to reap the rewards. They looked back to Ames and smiled, and just as he smiled back, a large, snarling set of teeth sank into his shoulder, as two arms wrapped themselves around his chest, digging into his chest with claws as sharp as the blade Imich had used to cut their way through the jungle. Thick matted Grey hair covered its body, and it stood at around half the height of the man. Its feet dug into his waist, and the weight of it dragged Ames down, but he never let go of the chest.
Imich and Folani had a choice to make. The boat was right there, but their friend was right here, being torn to pieces by this hairy monstrosity, its mouth oozing out a bubbly white foam and seemed to fizz even more violently when it came into contact with the blood on his head. They looked at each other, looked at the man, he looked back and the three nodded in silent agreement. Imich let Folani take the front of the chest herself, as he ran lurched forward to Ames, and kicked him away from the chest. The look on the mans face as he was pushed back into the trees with the creature still firmly attached to him seemed to suggest to the Imich that they had not come to the same agreement. A pit formed in his stomach as he met the gaze of his dying friend, betrayed by his companions in favour of gold. Folani looked back in horror as the man was bitten and ripped apart by the beast, as two more burst through the trees and descended upon him. Imich grabbed the back of the chest, and the two of them charged for the boat while the creatures were busy feasting on their friend, his horrible, pain filled screams drowning out even the sound of their own laboured breath and the loud rattling of the chest.
“Please don’t leave me!” was the scream from Ames as the creatures dug deeper and deeper into his chest and arms. They never looked back. They couldn’t look back. “Please...come back.” He continued to plead to his friends, but as they the grew further away, and his energy rapidly deteriorated, his screams lilted into desperate gasps before his throat filled with blood and his body completely ravaged.
Adil ran towards them, meeting them half way and helped Folani carry the front of the chest once more, allowing the three of them to make decent pace as they approached their sanctuary, gently swaying in the oceans waters. They were a few feet from the boat when two more of the creatures leaped from the trees and darted to the remaining three survivors. Adil dropped the chest in a panic, causing the chest to yank Folani’s arm down hard. She roared as her shoulder popped, and fell to her knees. Imich looked at the woman, and then at Ames. He grabbed Folani by the shoulder, and her the blood drained from her face.
“No! Please!” she pleaded, begging not to be fed to the animals. He picked her up, and dragged towards the boat. She stared at him, still unsure of his intentions, and then scrambled onto the deck of the boat. Running back to the fourth man, the tried to shake him out of his frozen state.
“Come on man! We need the chest!” he yelled in his face as he lifted one side of it. Adil desperately dragged the other side of the chest along the sand till it was next to the boat. Folani helped pull it onto the deck with the last few ounces of strength she had left in her good arm, then fell back, exhausted.
Adil broke down again, frozen in place as the creatures grew closer and closer. A decision had to be made, and Imich had no intention of dying today, or losing the chest. He seized him by his jacket, and flung him directly into the path of the creatures. They squealed with delight as they jumped onto their new prey, and Imich used this distraction to push the boat out, allowing the two remaining survivors to sail out to the waters, away from the death and violence occurring on the beach.
He looked back, watching the first three monsters, blood stained and matted, dragging what remained of Ames’ body back into the dense jungle they had just fought so desperately to escape from, and turned away as Adil’s was gorged to death in a similar fashion.
Folani sat with her knees up to her chest, allowing the blood to flow freely around her arms after the immense strain of carrying the chest. She moved her hand over them and felt all the nicks and lumps she had accrued from the hectic events just moments before, causing the blood to smear from her shoulder all the way to her wrist. She was sore, but she was alive, albeit at the expense of half the crew. The look their faces as their bodies were being eaten alive would never leave her mind. As the boat calmly rocked along with the waves of the ocean, she glanced over to Imich, who hadn’t stopped staring at the chest since they left the shore.
“I hope whatever is in that chest is worth it”. He briefly broke his stare to look over at her, then returned to examining every inch of the woodwork. She waited a few more seconds for a response, but sensing one wasn’t coming, she stared out at the waters, searching for signs of their ship, longing to return to her cabin and shut the world out for a while. She wasn’t looking forward to telling Captain Lieoner what had happened, who was reluctant to send the four out in the first place.
“What are you going to tell the Captain, Mich?” His body stiffened and his fist clenched when the captain was mentioned, but he refused to answer, opting to play with the large lock on the lid of the chest. “She’s not going to be happy that we lost people”, she continued to push for a response, growing annoyed at the lack of communication. He fidgeted, adjusting his feet and straightening his legs slightly, but remained silent. Annoyance was turning to anger as she was repeatedly ignored. “Hey, jackass. How are you going to explain-” Imich lifted a finger, and she stopped talking. She waited for a response, and after he held his finger in the air for 5 minutes, he responded,
“We tell her the truth. We got side swiped by the creatures, and they threw themselves in harms way to protect the chest that we were carrying. It’s win-win. They go on to be remembered as heroes, and no one knows what I did to make sure this whole thing wasn’t one big failure” He looked over to her, and she nodded in agreement. No reason to argue now, and it’s not like she had anything to argue about. She was alive, thanks to him, no matter how guilty she felt about the cost it took.
She straightened up when she caught a glimpse of their ship in the distance. Knocking the side of the boat to get Imichs’ attention, she pointed over the water. He stared at the ship, and remained in silence, playing with the lock of the chest all the while.
“I really hope whatever is in there was worth it”.