It's here again! What are the guys getting up to in the big, wide world this week? Well read on to find out what I wrote, inspired by the prompt, "Welcome to the jungle."
Fortitude Part Seven
“Will!” Teddy’s eyes were huge.
“I see.” I’d considered personal protection and brought weapons and the portable perimeter warning system. We both carried food, and we had the tent. But I’d never anticipated a flying animal the size of a steam engine or water that’d become acid.
“You saved us,” Teddy said to the wildman.
“Stupid. You no go.” He pointed toward the old city we were headed to and shook his head. He knew it was there, even without a map. “You go.” The wildman pointed back to our city.
“We can’t. We’re not just out here for fun. I have a mission.” It was self-appointed, but I’d assessed the pollution in the city and the dwindling resources. Without Schvesla’s machine to create clean, consistent energy, the city was doomed. But the dangers were far greater than I’d anticipated. I knew the water was dangerous, but I thought that was only if we drank it. My data had been flawed; the old books on the area surrounding the city had been hard to get my hands on, and apparently woefully out of date. Maybe….
“If you help us, we’ll help you, too. We’ll help you get food, and share ours, equally.” He had to be getting game or foraging for something to be alive. What was a little hardship, in the face of winning the gratitude and glorification from the entire city? Besides, there was something about the wildman that drew me in.
He cocked his head, crouched by the water. “More food?” He licked his cracked lips.
Aha! We had him. “Yes.”
Wildman stood up and stalked up the bank and back into the trees. Teddy and I scrambled to grab our packs and follow him when he stopped and waited.
“I wish we could get a drink.” I’d rationed our intake since I’d known the water was contaminated, but Teddy looked back at the water regretfully. It looked nasty, but the temptation of all the fluid was there.
“Later, Teddy. We need to get across that water.” I turned to the wildman. “So, any ideas on how to cross?” I pointed at the opposite bank.
“Up.” Wildman started walking, weaving his way through the trees effortlessly.
“So much for getting out of this crap,” Teddy muttered. He shoved some big leaves out of the way as he ducked under some vines.
“Welcome to the jungle. It can’t go on forever, and it was definitely thinner across the river.” We climbed over and crawled under as obstacles as much as we walked, sweat dripping down our foreheads. Wildman’s short fur skirt thing looked a lot cooler than our trousers and shirts. We kept going, and I began to grow concerned we’d get too far off our path toward the city. Suspicion grew that we were maybe being led into a trap. I peered over my shoulder and all around us.
“Hey! Where’s he going now?” Teddy wiped at his forehead, pointing up.
“What?” My hand dropped to my pistol.
Scampering up a tree like a squirrel, Wildman was soon a good fifteen feet up. That’s when I saw it. “A bridge.” It barely qualified, but there were trees lashed together with vines, forming a rickety crossing over the narrowest part of the river we’d come across so far.
Getting up the tree was the first challenge. Luckily there were springy branches quite low to the ground to get us started. Getting across was another. I walked, one foot in front of the other with my arms outstretched to keep my balance, but Teddy balked after he wobbled on the first step.
“I’ll get dirty!” I shook my head, sighing in exasperation.
“Crawl or walk, but you have to get across that water without falling, and we don’t have all day. Come on, Teddy, you can do it.” Eventually he ended up crawling, but that took forever as he inched his way over.
He was very cross when he got to the bottom of the tree. His trousers had tears in both knees. “I hope there’s a better way back,” Teddy grumbled.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Teddy shot me a glare. I shrugged, grinning.
“Shh.” Wildman hushed us.
“What now?” Teddy grabbed my arm. I shook him off and dropped my hand to my pistol. The jungle sounds around us faded and the world grew silent. Whatever was out there was big. My mouth was as dry as a desert even as sweat burned my eyes. I blinked furiously, but didn’t move to wipe my forehead.
The sudden sound of branches breaking was as loud as a shot, but it moved away instead of closer. I leaned against the tree, and Teddy sagged into my side. I hugged him with one arm. Our new guide ignored us and started walking.
“Guess it’s safe now,” I said. “He sure isn’t much for talking. Wonder how long he’s been alone?”
I skirted some hanging vines with wicked-looking thorns, pointing them out to Teddy. He examined them but didn’t touch. “A long time, I’d guess. More important is why he’s out here.
“If he’d been exiled from our city, we’d know, right? I mean, they don’t do that, but if they did… people would talk. Maybe the other cities that went silent were overrun by the outside. Maybe he’s a survivor. If he lived, maybe others have, too. Maybe he knows where they are. We could bring the codex, and be able to share this news. Can you imagine how many papers it would sell? My dad would be ecstatic, and then maybe I could write my book.” Teddy looked excited for the first time all day. He pulled out his notebook and started scribbling.
“Hey, do that later, okay? Wildman is losing us.”
“There’s so much I want to write.” He reluctantly put away his paper. He wiped a handkerchief over his forehead. “I’ll never be able to capture this muggy heat, though.”
Okay, so... yeah, Wildman's back! Maybe they will get some answers about his background. If you're in the mood for some more flash, head on over to the Briefers' website or follow these links.