Tales of a Jungle Terror
The mid-afternoon sun in the town of Kutacane, Sumatra found Dan Zubriar sitting in bar sipping on a beer. The bar was almost empty with four people scattered around and a barkeep standing behind the counter. The door slammed open, and an olive-tinted Indonesian man walked in wearing tattered clothes and an ashen expression filled with terror. The man walked up to the bar and slapped down the equivalent of fifty US dollars. “Give me a bottle of hard Scotch and keep the change,” he ordered, his voice trembling.
“Yes, sir,” the barkeep replied, taking the money and handing the man a bottle of fifty-year old Scotch and a glass.
Dan watched the man go to a back table and start downing shots of liquor. “Do you know who he is?” Dan asked the barkeep.
“He’s a local prospector that goes by the name of Namil,” the barkeep answered. “He’s sort of a regular around here. But I haven’t seen him in over two weeks. The last time I saw him, he said he was heading into the mountains of the national park just west of here with a friend to do some prospecting. I haven’t seen him since.”
“Is that so?” Dan replied, glancing at Namil in the corner as he plowed through shot after shot of scotch. “He was aware of the hostile natives in the jungle of that area, wasn’t he?”
“Yeah,” the barkeep replied. “But he said he had a tip that said there was a major gold vein up in the mountains, so he ignored the danger posed by the natives and the government ban on prospecting in the park. I tried to talk him out of it but he ignored me.”
“Thanks for the info,” Dan said, plopping a fifty-dollar bill down on the counter.
“Sure,” the barkeep said, slipping the fifty into his pocket.
Dan picked up his beer walked over to Namil. After looking down at the man for a moment, Dan asked, “May I join you? I find it a lot nicer to drink with someone rather than alone.”
Namil downed another shot and glanced up at Dan with a look of genuine terror. “I’m afraid I’m not much good as a drinking buddy right now,” he mumbled sullenly.
“That’s all right,” Dan replied, smiling amiably. “Sometimes it’s not the drink that helps but a friendly ear. I can see something is really eating at you. Want to talk about it?”
“No,” Namil replied bluntly, pouring another shot as Dan sat down.
“That’s a nice year on the scotch,” Dan commented. “You’re Namil, aren’t you?”
Namil nodded, downing another shot. He grimaced and shuddered from the Scotch burning his throat, slamming the shot glass down on the table. “What’s it to you?” he snapped, half-drunk.
“Oh nothing,” Dan stated, sipping from his beer. “Word through the grapevine is that you went into the mountains just west of here looking for gold. Did you find any?”
Namil stared blankly at the bottle of Scotch. “There’s only death in those mountains,” he whispered in horror. “Only a fool would dare to tread that cursed ground.”
“You found something, but it wasn’t gold, was it?” Dan surmised, seeing Namil shaking. “What did you see that’s scared you this bad?”
“You don’t want to know,” Namil replied stonily. “No one in their right mind would want to see what I saw.”
“Well, I do,” Dan stated. “I’m considering going into those mountains and I’d like to know what I can expect.”
“You’re fucking crazy,” Namil hissed, “stark-raving mad! Do you want to die up there? Because that’s what’s up there; nothing but death!”
“Am I?” Dan asked, plopping down a hundred dollar bill on the table. “I’m serious. I need to know what’s out there…if anything.” Namil looked at the bill as Dan sat another hundred dollars on the table. “This is yours if you tell me what I want to know,” Dan offered.
“If you can get me off this god-forsaken island, you have a deal,” Namil countered.
“Deal,” Dan said firmly. “What did you see?”
Namil grabbed his bottle of Scotch and turned it up, guzzling roughly five shots worth of whiskey in one swallow. Slamming the bottle down on the table, he looked at Dan, terror shining in his eyes. “You have no idea what lies in those cursed mountains,” he began. “The devil lives up there.”
“Go on,” Dan urged softly, taking a sip of his beer.
“Carlos and I got wind of a major gold strike up near Gungun Leuser,” Namil stated, his voice trembling. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small gold bar an inch wide by three inches long by a quarter inch thick. Strange writing lay etched into the gold bar. “My source provided this as proof of his claim,” Namil continued in a whisper, tossing the gold bar on the table.
“May I see it?” Dan asked.
Namil nodded and Dan picked up the bar, fascinated by the writing on it. “Anyway,” Namil murmured. “After some persuasion, he told me where he found the gold. Thinking there may be more treasure like that up there, I convinced Carlos to go with me to find it, promising to split the find with him. Little did I realize I was walking into a world of shit by going up there.”
Dan sat the bar back on the table and slid it in front of Namil. “Okay, what happened next?” he asked.
“Well, we followed the river to where my source said to turn and go up the mountain,” Namil stated, his pale face trembling as he went into detail about his encounter with the devil.
Namil and Carlos pushed through the dense jungle undergrowth, climbing the ridge. “Are you sure this is the way?” Carlos asked.
“Yeah,” Namil replied. “This is the way he told me to go. We must be getting close. I can feel it.”
They crossed over the ridge and took a path parallel to the ridge, slowly descending into the valley below them. The jungle chattered with life as they moved on. Suddenly, an outcropping of rock caught Namil’s eye. A chill raced down his spine. “What is it?” Carlos asked as Namil stopped to examine the rock.
A huge smile crossed Namil’s face as he peeled back the moss, revealing a vein of pure gold seven inches wide running through the outcropping. “We’re fucking rich, Carlos!” he crowed.
Carlos stared at the gold with his mouth agape. Namil pulled out his knife and dug a golf ball sized chunk of gold out of the vein. He examined it, even biting down on it to make sure it was gold. “This is the good stuff too,” Namil chimed. “Not some ore, but pure gold. And just think, it’s been sitting here for God knows how long waiting for us to find it. We’re rich as god damned kings, Carlos!”
Only when Carlos touched the vein of gold did he believe it. His face exploded with delight and he bear-hugged Namil. “You crazy son of a bitch,” Carlos crowed. “You actually came through this time! We’re fucking rich!”
“Yeah,” Namil stated. “But this is not where that guy found the sample. Somewhere on this mountain is an ancient treasure horde that needs only to be picked up.”
“So what do we do about this gold?” Carlos asked. “I’m all for just staying right here and digging it all out.”
“Why settle for this when we can have a whole mountain of gold?” Namil asked...his greed showing. “Somewhere farther up this mountain is that treasure and I mean to find it. Are you with me or not?”
“Of course I’m with you, Namil,” Carlos replied. “Do you think we can remember where this vein is?”
“Not a problem,” Namil stated, pulling out a hand-held GPS unit. He punched a couple of buttons and said, “I’ve locked in these coordinates on my GPS so we can find our way back to it. Come on, Carlos. Let’s find the rest of that treasure.”
“Okay Namil,” Carlos replied. “I hope we don’t get lost in here or run into that pack of natives everyone told us about.”
“If we keep a low profile, there shouldn’t be any trouble,” Namil stated. “Come on.” He took up the lead after pocketing his GPS unit, pressing through the jungle with more fervor with Carlos following close behind.
As they slowly descended into the small valley below, Carlos became antsy. “Namil,” he murmured. “I’ve suddenly got a bad feeling about going this way.”
“Oh, put a sock in it,” Namil retorted. “We’re the only ones out here in this wilderness.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” Carlos returned. “I could swear someone or something is watching us.”
“You’re just being paranoid,” Namil declared. “Nothing bad is going to happen to us. It can’t because we’re rich now. Nothing bad ever happens to rich people.”
“I don’t think this jungle gives a shit whether we’re rich or not,” Carlos retorted. “It could care less.”
“Shut up your whining, Carlos,” Namil ordered. “If I knew you were going to act like this, I’d have left your ass behind.”
“I’m just saying that we should be careful, Namil,” Carlos pleaded. “There’s something very wrong in this part of the jungle. I can feel it. I think we should just turn around and go back to the outcropping. Some things are best left undisturbed.”
“Oh stop being a pussy,” Namil snorted with growing irritation. “There’s nothing going on…here.” He suddenly stopped in his tracks as the jungle fell dead silent. Even the insects stopped making noise.
“I knew it!” Carlos breathed with his fear tripling. “This place really is cursed. We’re in over our heads here. Please Namil, let’s go back, and start digging the gold out of that outcropping. There’s enough gold there to make us filthy rich for the rest of our lives.”
A faint roaring echo drifted through the jungle undergrowth as even the wind died, sending chills down Namil’s spine. “You may be right,” Namil said fearfully. “Something about this place is all wrong.” He turned to the left and saw a fierce gargoyle statue seven feet tall grimacing at him. It so startled him that Namil squealed in fright and took off running in the direction he had been going, leaving Carlos behind.
“Namil, wait!” Carlos shouted. “Stop…not that way! Damn it!” He took up his pursuit of Namil, his concern for his friend overpowering his fear of the place. Carlos followed Namil’s path through the jungle for ten minutes, calling out to him. The farther he proceeded, the worse the feeling he had about the place got. Making a right at an enormous gum tree, he saw the trees suddenly thin a few yards away. “Namil!” he shouted, running through the brush toward the clear area. “Where the hell are you?” Within a few steps, Carlos stepped out onto a huge stone platform that was the size of a football field. He saw Namil literally shaking as he looked up the face of the mountain. “Damn it; don’t do that again, Namil,” Carlos wheezed from the run. “I almost lost you.”
Namil stood transfixed in terror, looking up. “What’s wrong, Namil?” Carlos asked, feeling an inexplicable icy terror penetrating his mind and heart. Only when he looked up at what Namil was staring at did Carlos understand. His fear blossomed out of control as he saw an enormous thirteen-headed draken colossus carved from the face of a two-thousand foot cliff. “Oh my god,” Carlos breathed, feeling he’d suddenly stepped into a nightmare. The heads of the draken colossus seemed to stare down at them as if it were alive. Carlos grabbed Namil by the arm and pleaded, “Namil; snap out of it! We have to get away from here! We’re not supposed to be here. This is a place of demons. We must flee!”
Namil suddenly turned to Carlos with an ashen look of primal terror. Before he could speak, a roar arose, seemingly coming from the colossus. Yellow and blue lightning started arcing over the draken statue as red ball lightning suddenly appeared on the platform around them, floating up to the heads. In seconds, the ball lightning aligned with the draken’s eyes and the ground began to shake violently. Both Namil and Carlos stared in primal terror when the statue appeared to move while the ground shook, seemingly coming alive before their eyes.
Carlos broke out of the paralyzing effects of his terror first. He grabbed Namil by the arm and dragged him off the platform. “For god’s sake, Namil,” he cried. “We have to get away from here or that thing is going to kill us!”
Namil abruptly came to his senses and bolted down through the jungle with Carlos, not going the way they had come in. As they fled, Namil said, “I’m so sorry I didn’t believe you, Carlos! If we get away from here, I’ll never doubt you again.”
“It’s okay,” Carlos answered, panting as they plowed through the jungle undergrowth despite the shaking of the ground.
Twenty minutes later, Namil and Carlos ran into a small village deep in the jungle. The natives descended upon the pair instantly, capturing, and separating them. “What’re you doing?” Namil railed at the natives. “Where are you taking Carlos? We have to get off this mountain or the monster will get us!” He watched the natives take Carlos into one of the huts as he was taken into the largest hut. In seconds, Namil stood before what he assumed was the leader of the village. “Please, let us go!” Namil begged. “We have to get away from the draken up there!”
The leader spoke to Namil in language he didn’t understand. “I don’t understand you,” Namil said, shaking in fear with his arms bound behind him. “But you have to let me and my friend leave before the draken comes after us.”
The leader spoke twice more to Namil, getting the same results as the first time. Finally, the leader realized Namil didn’t understand his speech so he stood and said in a language Namil could barely understand, “Don’t be afraid. We’re not going to hurt you.”
“Where’s Carlos? What did you do with him?” Namil demanded, terror filling his tone.
One of the burly guards around the leader whispered in the leader’s ear and the leader nodded, motioning to the guard, who left. “Your friend is safe,” the leader answered coolly. “He’s being brought here as I speak. Now, why did you barge into our village unannounced? Both of you were running like frightened hares.”
“We were up the mountain prospecting for gold and we came across this giant draken carved into a cliff,” Namil replied without thinking. “It came to life and chased us off the mountain. Please, you have to let us leave before it comes to kill us.”
The leader’s countenance darkened significantly and he called out in his native tongue. Seconds later, two burly guards entered the hut brandishing the largest swords Namil had ever seen. Namil’s fear quadrupled. “This does not bode well for you, my friend,” the leader stated severely. “You and your companion have transgressed the sacred ground of Tiamat and roused the great Chaos Goddess to wrath by your desecration of her sacred temple. There’s only one way to calm her fury and that’s to sacrifice those who desecrate her holy Temple at her feet. Your blood will purify the holy mountain and keep her asleep. Otherwise, she will rise and destroy the world as she did in ages past. You should have never trampled the sacred mountain under your heathen feet. Now you and your companion must perish to keep her from burning our world to ashes.” The leader spoke to the guards and they bracketed Namil as Carlos was brought in. Speaking to Namil, the leader declared, “For the good of this village and the world, you will be taken to the holy Tiamat’s feet and sacrificed to appease her blood lust. I am truly sorry but there is no other way to avert her wrath. Take them to the colossus.”
“No! No!” Namil shrieked as he was dragged away. “You can’t do this!”
“We can and we must if humanity is to survive,” the leader declared. “It’s our only hope. The Chaos Goddess must remain asleep at all costs.”
Two hours later at the feet of the draken colossus, Namil watched helplessly as the guards bound Carlos hand and foot with vines. “Please,” Carlos begged. “I didn’t want to come here. I didn’t know this was sacred land.”
“It’s doesn’t matter now,” the leader answered coldly. “You and your friend tread the holy ground under your heathen feet so it now has to be purified with your blood. If you worship a god, I suggest that you make your peace with him or her now.”
“He’s right!” Namil agreed. “I forced him to come. He’s innocent! Kill me, not him!”
“Innocent or not,” the leader stated frigidly, “He still transgressed the sacred ground, so he must die as do you.”
Carlos cast a hateful glare at Namil. “You killed me, Namil!” he railed. “You and your fucking greed have killed me. I’ll be waiting in hell for you so I can spend the rest of eternity kicking your ass for this! I’ll never forgive you!”
Carlos’ words pierced Namil’s heart. “I’m so sorry,” Namil replied.
“Sorry doesn’t cut it when I’m about to be sacrificed, you prick!” Carlos raged. “I hope they kill you slow!”
The guards threw Carlos over one of the toenails of the colossus, using it as a chopping block. “Any last words, infidel?” the executioner asked as the other guard held Carlos down.
“Just be quick. I don’t want to linger,” Carlos replied, tears dripping.
“You have courage, heathen,” the executioner said. “The Goddess respects that and so do we. You have your wish.” The executioner looked at the leader, who nodded.
Carlos looked down at the stone platform and closed his eyes. His life flashed in front of his eyes as he heard the whistling of the blade coming down. A brief excruciating pain hit his neck as his head fell to the platform. His eyes opened reflexively and he saw his own decapitated body spewing blood from the severed neck just before the darkness of death swallowed him a half second later.
“No!” Namil shrieked as he saw the sacrifice of his best friend.
The leader picked up Carlos’ head, placing it carefully on a pile of skulls between the feet of the colossus. “Let his blood sate your anger, my Goddess, so that you may sleep on,” he prayed. Turning to the guards, he ordered, “Throw the body into the pit.”
The guard holding Carlos down picked up his body, walked to the edge of the platform, and cast the body into a deep ravine. As the guard turned to come back, the ground started to rumble and then roar like an enraged beast. Seconds later the platform began to shake violently, so violently the guard who had cast Carlos’ body into the pit stumbled and fell headlong into the same ravine, breaking his neck. Before Namil realized it, the entire mountain was shaking. Trees swayed violently and the ground began to roll and split.
“The Goddess!” the leader cried with dismay. “She has awakened and is angry! Quickly, kill the other heathen or we are lost!”
The shaking became so violent that the guards holding Namil stumbled, letting him go. Namil bolted into the jungle, knowing this was his only chance to survive. “Stop him!” the leader cried out desperately, holding on to the feet of the colossus as the pile of skulls collapsed.
Namil raced down through the jungle until the tremor violence made him stumble. He fell against a sharp rock next to a tree that cut his bindings. The roaring and tremor violence continued to increase as Namil got to his feet, holding on to the tree for dear life. As Namil looked back to the platform, his blood ran cold as he saw something he couldn’t explain. The entire platform and colossus glowed in a purple to scarlet hue as lightning suddenly erupted from the colossus, arcing like a massive Van de Graff generator. A massive, multipronged lightning bolt erupted from the largest of the draken heads, striking the leader and the guards, vaporizing them. Next, the colossus heads moved as a dreadful roar rose from the statue itself. In seconds, Namil saw the lifeless stone colossus come to life, pulling off the cliff. It lumbered forward in an unholy rage, apparently looking for something. Namil’s whole body became numbed with terror, but his self-preservation instincts kicked in, sending him fleeing the impossible stone draken through the jungle without looking back.
Namil paused in his account, finishing the bottle of scotch. When his composure returned, he said to Dan “After that thing came to life, I ran for my life without looking back. I didn’t stop until I was out of the jungle at the edge of Kutacane. I don’t even know how long it took me. I just had to get out of there and I’m not going to feel safe until I leave this fucking island forever.”
“That’s quite a tale,” Dan murmured, captivated by Namil’s details of the incident.
“It’s no tale,” Namil retorted, slamming his fist on the table. “I saw that demon and I’m not going back.”
“I didn’t mean to say you were making it up,” Dan apologized. “I meant it’s such a vivid account that I don’t believe you’re making it up. I can see by the look on your face that you’re still scared to death of what’s up there.”
“And so should you,” Namil returned. “It’s the habitation of monsters and demons. Only a fool would go there.”
“Then damn me for a fool,” Dan stated humorously, trying to lighten Namil’s mood. “Do you still have the piece of gold you dug out of that outcropping?”
Namil reached into his pocket and pulled out the chunk of gold, slapping it down on the table. “This should prove to you that I’m not making this shit up,” he hissed.
“May I?” Dan asked. Namil nodded and Dan examined the lump of gold. “This is exceptionally pure gold,” Dan stated. “That’s very rare. It’s indeed a great strike.” He sat the gold back in front of Namil.
“It makes no difference now,” Namil growled, his ashen face still quivering from the fright. “It could be a whole mountain of gold up there, but I’m not going back for it. What’s the point of being rich if you’re dead? I lost my best friend up there because of my fucking greed. I’m leaving this cursed island and never coming back.”
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” Dan cooed. “I really do feel for you. But you have provided a very valuable piece of a puzzle my boss has spent eight years looking for. Can you point out on a map exactly where you found the colossus? My boss suspects that place may be an incredibly important archaeological find; maybe the greatest one since the discovery of King Tut’s tomb.”
“You’re absolutely out of your mind!” Namil balked. “Didn’t you hear a word of what I said? That’s a place of monsters you cannot fathom. Only someone completely insane would even consider going to such a cursed place.”
“I did hear what you said,” Dan answered, not fazed by Namil’s rebuke. “That’s why it’s of such interest to me and my boss. We’re equipped to handle anything that may be there.”
“Trust me,” Namil retorted. “There’s no way in hell that you can deal with what I saw. That statue came to life and tried to kill me twice. I can’t explain how such a thing could happen, but it did.”
“Please,” Dan said softly. “We can make it worth your while if you share this information with us.”
“And how are you going to do that?” Namil countered. “I saw the impossible come to life and try to kill me. I was an atheist before I went up there. Now I know there’s something real beyond my understanding that can get me anytime it wants as long as I’m on this island. How is me telling you where that damned cursed place is going to help me?”
“My boss has the capability to send you anywhere you want on the planet,” Dan stated. “How’s that for starters. Plus, when we send you to wherever you want to go, we’ll send you with enough money so you can make a fresh start. And to prove I’m not just blowing smoke….” Dan reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet; a wallet that Namil noticed was crammed with cash. “I will pay you five thousand US dollars for the little gold bar with the writing on it and three thousand for the gold you dug out of the vein,” he declared, starting to count out the money in front of Namil.
Namil’s eyes grew wide as Dan counted out eight grand in US dollars on the table. “You’re serious about this, aren’t you?” Namil asked.
“As serious as a heart attack,” Dan stated as he counted the cash out. “You do this for us and you can leave this place forever and start over. Do we have a deal?”
Namil saw the cash on the table and his mouth watered. “Okay,” he finally said. “You have a deal.” Namil pushed the gold bar and nugget to Dan and Dan pushed to cash to Namil. “Get me a first class ticket to the US and help me start over and I’ll tell you what you want to know,” Namil declared.
Dan smiled at Namil. “You have my word,” Dan declared, holding out his hand. “We’ll get you off this island and help you start a new life if you show me where you saw this draken colossus on the map. You can consider that eight grand a down-payment for our deal.”
“Thank you. You don’t know what it means to me to be able to get away from here,” Namil said with obvious relief in his voice as he shook Dan’s hand.
“Now how about telling me where you found the colossus?” Dan asked. At that, Namil gave Dan the directions.
Hannibal paused in his account about Dan’s encounter with Namil for a moment to gather his thoughts. In the interlude, Harry asked, “How did Dan know this guy Namil was telling the truth?”
“A good question,” Hannibal replied. “Dan might have dismissed it as a hoax or hallucination from drugs except for three incontestable facts: number one, the gold bar Namil showed Dan had ancient writing on it, the same type of writing that’s on the amulet I found. Second, at the time Namil said the ground shook, a particularly powerful yet highly localized earthquake hit western Sumatra with its epicenter very near to where he said he saw the draken. Dan said it was felt all over the island, and was particularly violent on the western end; however, because of its remoteness, there was little loss of life and the damage was limited. The quake itself exhibited very strange properties that no one can clearly explain. It seemed to have a moving epicenter, but the epicenter stayed confined in that general area. And third: Dan has seen many people who were drunk, high, or stoned and knew what to look for in a person who is in that condition. When Namil ran into that bar, Dan immediately noticed Namil was not drunk, high or stoned; he was genuinely scared out of his wits. He also said that Namil kept looking toward the door, as if he were expecting something to come after him.
“Eventually, as I said before, Dan finally managed to convince Namil to provide an approximate location and directions to the draken. His directions were coarse but close enough. The last thing Namil said to Dan when he left was this: ‘Go there if you dare. But I warn you, the Devil lives there. As for me, I’m leaving this fucking cursed isle and am going to get as far away from that thing as I can.’ I agreed with Dan’s deal and provided Namil with airfare and a hefty wad of cash so he could start over, which was the last time Dan saw Namil.
“Word came to Dan later that Namil had been killed under the most unusual of circumstances before he could leave Sumatra. It’s said that he was found in a motel room down in Banda Aceh where he was waiting for his flight with the door locked from the inside. He had been literally torn to pieces by what was thought to be some kind of wild animal. On the mirror in Namil’s room was a single word scrawled on the mirror in his blood: Tiamat. Dan said that police had a hard time stomaching that they found. The official report was it was a gangland killing by the Yakuza because he owed them money. That’s the official report, even though it’s deliberate misinformation. If it were a Yakuza killing, the twenty grand we gave him would have been taken and it was still there in his room when he was found. Dan’s friends in the police department passed on the info about the killing to him and were completely baffled at the gruesome nature of the murder, having no clues as to what happened. The only fingerprints that were found were Namil’s along with huge claw marks on the walls and floor and a bunch of unidentified three-toed footprints where the killer walked through Namil’s blood. DNA testing found reptilian DNA at the crime scene associated with the claw marks and footprints. Because of the bizarre nature of the killing, the police covered it up with the Yakuza story, according to Dan’s friends in the police department there. But to be sure, Namil’s murder has the supernatural written all over it.” Hannibal paused for a moment once again to gather his thoughts before continuing.