Canto 80 – Jungle Darkness and Damnthings (The Green Thread)
Running and sweating in the jungle darkness had begun to get very old.
“Climb a tree!” ordered King, pounding down the jungle path behind Hooey and Culver. The damnthing, a huge, smelly pig-dog sort of predator, was close on their heels and all three men were beginning to tire.
A large, gnarled tree loomed straight ahead. King leaped and caught its lower branches, swinging himself up into the lower branches like Johnny Weissmuller playing Tarzan on steroids. Dr. Hooey imitated him to the very best of his ability, meaning he was as graceful as a hundred pounds of chopped liver being flung through the air by a baboon that had drunk three too many cups of coffee. The good doctor managed to lodge himself on a branch just above the apex of the damnthing’s leap, though he was hanging upside down by one knee hooked over the branch.
“Help me! I’m the expendable one!” cried Willie Culver as he missed the branches and tumbled butt first into the undergrowth.
“Dang it!” swore King Killer, “I told you that we were ALL going to make it!” He leaped down from the branch that held him directly in front of Willie Culver. “You do not have permission to die right now!” he swore.
Unfortunately, directly behind King, the snorting damnthing lumbered up and came to a gum-gnashing, teeth-grinding halt so close that its spittle ran down into the back of King’s collar.
“Oh, Gawd…” prayed Willie. The pale expendable sidekick scrambled out from under King and used his fingernails to claw his way up the side of a foul-smelling babuti tree. Babutis were an exotic form of alien tree that existed on several jungle planets which sprouted gorgeous orange and yellow flowers, but smelled so bad they made your eyes water like raging rivers. The damnthing moved first to grab Willie, but the smell wrinkled its big pignose and resulted in the damnthing turning its attention to the Corsair King of Killing.
King, partly frozen in place by the vague hope that the thing’s vision was based on movement like he’d seen in an ancient Earther video about a dinosaur park, and partly winding up his interior springs for the leap of his life, slowly turned his head to stare right down the slavering gullet of the huge, nasty pig-dog thingy.
“King, old buddy, you can’t die here either, you know,” admonished Hooey from his upside-down perch.
“I’m working on it,” said King. His legs were taut with stored energy, ready to leap. He vaulted forward at the same instant that the damnthing struck with its big-piggy chompers. The beast growled. King screamed. Big pig teeth pierced the flesh of his shoulder.
“King! My gawd!”
Just as it seemed that the damnthing would devour the King, a sudden flesh-colored flash came blazing out of the canopy on a sort of bungee vine. It was a relatively small boy wearing nothing but some furry animal skins tied around his delicate parts. He grabbed on to King with a grip of steel, and then the bungee pulled them both back up into the canopy, ripping King’s flesh out of the very mouth of death and dismemberment.
The damnthing, stunned in its piggy surprise, blinked twice, and abruptly walked away into the jungle.
“What was that?” asked Willie, clinging to the bark of his smelly tree.
“That would have to be Randy the Jungle Boy,” said Hooey, without missing a beat. “He’s not the only weird character we are about to meet in this jungle.”
“You knew what was going to happen?”
“Well, some of it. I read about it in Googol Marou’s book, which I read in the future. Of course, the timeline has been altered again, so I can’t predict anything with certainty.”
“Why? What’s changed?”
“You were supposed to be the pig-dog’s lunch. So, I guess you have to write your own destiny from here on, Willie Culver.”
Willie’s eyes grew round with sudden fearful gratitude to King Killer. And it would only take another chapter or two for his heart to actually start beating again.