Pwerte ran frantically up the beach, the hot sub-tropical sun beating down on his ebony skin. Racing across the edge where the sands met the jungle, the young boy moved quickly and silently, as his tribe had done for thousands of years. But there was desperation in his flight. He "had" to tell grandfather what he'd just seen!
In a matter of minutes, Pwerte broke through the labyrinth of vines and palms into the clearing of his tribe's small village.
"Patau! Patau!" he cried, stumbling slightly as he sped for his family's hut. The other villagers snapped their gazes to the running Pwerte, and began to gather towards him. There was almost never any need for alarm in this place. A screaming child did not bode well.
Old and wise Jagamarra's white bearded face, carrying his eternal smile of laugh lines and wrinkles, popped out of the hut at Pwertes calls.
Pwerte ran into his grandfather's arms, the elder picking the frightened boy up and holding him tightly, trying to calm him.
"Little one, little one," Jagamarra consoled, "What is it? What has happened?"
"Patau," the child sobbed, "I was on the sands, looking for shells . . . when one of the metal rafts the Whites use came from behind the cliffs! It . . . it hit the reef! And there was fire! And men were screaming . . ." The boy's story was lost in a cacophony of shocked sobs and tears.
Jagamarra, the old and wise, cooed a comforting sound to the boy, cradling him over his shoulder. He looked around at the others that had gathered.
"Walangari, Marnte, both of you come with me. We will go to the sands and see what has happened . . ." Almost an an afterthought, but not one he was happy to add, Jagamarra spoke ominously, " . . . bring your spears."
Leaving the still sniffling Pwerte with his mother Janama, Jagamarra and the two strong tribesmen, Walangari and Marnte, set out with their best spears to investigate the boy's story. As Pwerte had, and as had generations of the Chaukel before them, the hunters stalked silently through the humid overgrowth of vines and trees, sliding like ghosts towards the shore.
The first sign that something was amiss came to them almost immediately: The closer and louder the sounds of the crashing waves were as they approached, the further away and quieter the sounds of the animals became. The Chaukel lived in harmony with all life on the island, and the creatures knew something was wrong. So now did the tribesmen.
The shaded green of the jungle soon gave way to the bright reflection of sun off of sand, and the dark azure of the ocean soothed their senses for a moment. But the inferno red of fire and the stench of the strange smoke filling the air quickly robbed the islanders of their calm.
It was as Pwerte had described: a metal raft, larger than any ten villages, colored gray with the Whites odd language drawn upon it, had hit the reef. It was now turned at an awkward angle on its side, fire and dark liquid pouring from it in places. There were no cries of any men. There were, however, many bodies floating in the water, which was quickly being tainted with the dark fluid from the raft.
The three Chaukel stood in abject wonder at the insanity of the scene before them. They had met Whites before, arriving in small paddleless rafts, and had spied their metal rafts from a distance, but never so close had one of the metal boats come to the island. The Chaukel had lived away from the outer tribes, like the Whites, for as long as they could remember.
"Jagamarra!", Walangari cried, pointing to the shore a few dozen feet away. Marnte and the wise one looked, and there lay the body of one of the Whites. The three tribesmen ran quickly to the man, and found him still moving.
"Help me lift him from the sand," Jagamarra said, and the three maneuvered to the sides of the man, dropping their spears.
At the first touch of the mens' hands upon his arms, the White's head snapped up! Glazed, deadened eyes flicked back and forth between the three natives, and an inhuman groan escaped its throat. The men dropped the White back to the sand in horror, bolting back to retrieve their spears.
The dead/alive White slumped back to the ground after being dropped, but slowly lifted himself up on his knees. The three tribesmen raised their spears in defense, and looked upon a monster.
The White, wearing tattered blue cloth that was charred black in places, was missing most of his right leg; the thigh thin and crisped by fire. His skin was pink, red, and black in places, and peeling flesh hung loosely from his arms and face. It hesitated for a moment, its nose appearing to sniff the air, and then it staggered to its feet, shambling towards the hunters.
Marnte, the youngest of the three, reacted first, thrusting his spear out in a strong jab. The razor-sharp stone spearhead penetrating the Whites stomach with a sickening squish!
To the tribesmens horror, the White not only shrugged off the normally fatal wound, but grabbed the spear that had pierced his body, and yanked it, pulling Marnte, still gripping the hunting weapon, along with it! Before the others could react, the White let out another horrible moan and fell upon Marnte, sinking its flame-blackened teeth into the young native's throat. Gushes of lifeblood spilled out and staining the golden sand to crimson.
Jagamarra and Walangari screamed in terror and rage. They rushed the White and tackled it, Marntes bleeding body falling aside in the attack! The tribesmen allowed their instincts to overtake them and savagely beat the White with the butts of their spears, banging the strong wooden poles against the W hites head again and again, mashing the already damaged flesh into an oozing pink/red paste.
After what seemed like hours, but had only been a few moments, the White stopped struggling, and lay motionless on the bright sand. Jagamarra and Walangari jumped away from the White, panting heavil y as their rage and some of their fear subsided.
Wise Jagamarra looked back to the body of their brother Marnte, lifeless and bloodied upon the sand. His mourning was broken by a sound that re-energized the fury and terror in his heart.
A chorus of moans, other-worldly and speaking of unending hunger, rose from the waters near the shore. The multitude of bodies that had been floating in the tainted water were now flailing about, the tide and their mindless paddling drawing them closer and closer to the sands.
Jagamarras vision became as red as the flames rising from the metal raft, and in a violent rage he reared back and let his spear fly, aiming absently at the nearest White -- its horrific skeletal arms waving about as its legs found traction on the underwater sands. The spear almost found its mark. The struggling White accidentally smacked the wooden shaft in mid-air, throwing it off course! The misdirected spearhead, not finding soft flesh, instead hit upon a hard stone near the waters edge, sending a single, potent burst of sparks outward and down to the water!
Both Walangaris and Jagamarras pupils dilated to pinpricks as the ocea n exploded in an apocalyptic conflagration. The fire spread over the whole of the floating Whites, their groans of hunger turning to monstrous screeches of pain and fear as the inferno engulfed and incinerated their bodies.
The two Chaukel stood in awe at the sight, as the water became fire, destroying the threat from beyond the waves. Old Jagamarra made a silent prayer of thanks to the Unseen Ones that they would take away those that would harm the people of the island.
Taking a moment more to watch the water-fire, the two turned to attend to Marnte . . . only to find him standing, watching the flames as well, and shivering as if in fear!
"Brother!," cried Jamarra and Walangari in unison.
Jamarra reached Marnte first, hugging him in love, relief, and confusion. The Elder tribesman pulled back, beaming his wrinkled smile into Marnte's face.
Cold, dead eyes met Jagamarras, and a moan of pure hunger filled the air once more, this time coming from the mangled throat of Marnte.
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