Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Prompt Day #201: Bury someone alive in something other than soil.

Ok, look, I know there are a lot of crazy (yet already been commonly done) ways to bury someone; quicksand, blood, sewage, silage, other bodies, etc. So, while my story may seem a little mundane or “technically” soil, too bad. I like the story AND most importantly it is the first time EVER that my husband helped me come up with an idea. He asks me every day “So, what’s your prompt today?” and I read it to him every day. God love him, he reads cookbooks, how-to manuals and all sorts of scientific articles on everything under the sun…for fun! In the kitchen, his creativity is impressive, but in the realm of imagination—well, let’s just say he should stay in the kitchen. J, So when he asked me about today’s prompt and I told him and ran through a couple ideas I was playing with, he came up with this one and the rest of the story started to unfold in my mind. So this one is for my hubby, my supporter, my fan, and my just this once: collaborator.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

 

Henry: When they arrive at their cabins, he is disappointed. In his whole life, Henry has never had to “rough-it” and at 45, he isn’t thrilled to start a new tradition. Their income has always afforded his and Maria’s vacations to be lush and exotic. When she came to him with the brochure to tour the dark wilds of the Amazonian rain forest, he was less than pleased. Maria was not one to rough it either. So, he was shocked when she showed him the photos of the forest cabanas where they would be camped during the two week-long tour.

“But it will be like seeing all those nature shows live! We’ll see howler monkeys and toucans and sloths! Can you imagine? And a boat ride down the Amazon itself!” She was like a child on Santa’s knee. He’d never seen her so excited. How could he say no? But now, here they were standing in the center of a “cabana” that consisted of a cement floor, cement walls, a roof connected only by four posts—one in each corner. There are two rooms, the main room which holds a small bed with a mosquito net hanging from the ceiling that encompasses the tiny mattress. One stand with shelf sits against the wall. The bathroom is nothing more than a bucket sitting over a hole in the cement with a plastic seat glued to it and a copper pipe sticking out of the wall with a basic metal knob (only one he notes wondering if that meant hot or cold).

“Maria,” he says with just a smidge of condescension, “we cannot stay here. Honey, surely you see that. Two weeks? It seemed like such a good idea and I don’t blame you for it. But there is still time to get out of here. The bus is still unloading.” He rubs her shoulders, standing behind her as he speaks. She turns and faces him. The glow on her cheeks gives him the answer even before her mouth opens. He drops his hands off her. He knows he’s defeated. Might as well make the best of it. That’s what you get when you marry someone so much younger he supposes.

 

Maria: April 5, ’05: We arrived at camp today around 3pm. I’m exhausted from the travels but so excited to see everything there is to see, I simply can’t rest! It is hot here, much hotter than I imagined. The humidity takes your breath away. I suppose I won’t have much use for the make-up I packed. Tomorrow, we will board a riverboat for a trip down the river and tour the deep amazon. The noises in this jungle are so foreign to my ears, it is hard to imagine the creatures making them, especially those that sound almost human. Henry is telling me to put out my candle as it is attracting bugs to our net. But I find them beautiful and alien. The rain forest seems to allow for enormous growth. The bugs remind me of dinosaurs, primitive and grossly enlarged. Henry is impatient and doesn’t seem to like it here. He has gone for a walk. I’m sure he will enjoy the river trip though, that should change his mind. Goodnight Diary, I will have such stories to tell tomorrow.

 

Henry: He wishes she would put out the damn candle. It’s drawing so many moths and bugs to the net. Such an unsettling thing: to look up at the border between their bodies and those of the native species and see it crawling with those species. He hates it here almost as much as he loves her; that imbalance is the only reason he is still in this god-forsaken jungle.

The noises are ghostly. Howls that sound almost human; yips and hoots that could be animals but seem more familiar than the other insectile sounds certain to be non-human. God, she is still at it. That damn journal. Perhaps a walk; just around the cabanas while she finishes. Get out from under the crawling mass hovering three feet above his face. He grabs the headlamp they’d been given and kisses her cheek. “Be right back” he whispers and heads outside, shooing the bugs as he does so.

As he walks, the hoots and yips seem to be getting closer to the camp. He walks closer to the edge of the clearing where the dense forest began again just as thick and impenetrable as if a clear partition had simply come down in the middle of it. He hears rustling just on the other side of the vegetal wall. He inches closer and feels a sting on his neck. “Damn bugs” he has time to think before dropping quickly into unconsciousness.

 

Maria: Something happened last night. Henry is missing! He got angry about my writing with the candle lit and went for a walk. He never came back! So today, instead of going for our boat ride, we are beginning a search for him. I can’t imagine what might have happened to him. Our tour leader says that while it is possible that he was attacked and eaten by an animal, it is unlikely as most animals would run away from a human and also, we haven’t seen any blood or signs of a struggle nearby. He is sure Henry wandered into the forest a bit too far and got lost. He seems to think that we’ll find him today; hungry and frightened but none the worse for wear. I’m sure we will too. Henry is smart and resourceful, he’ll probably find us before we find him.

 

Henry: Henry awakens to jostling and a sensation of floating. He opens his eyes and is confused to find the world inverted. It is then that he realizes it is his head hanging upside down and not the world after all. His wrists and ankles have been bound to a large wooden pole and he is being carried through the jungle a la the cartoonish “prey on the spit” technique. Allowing his head to fall back again he sees the bare legs and feet of his captors. Their small loin cloths do not cover their genitals which droop below the hem in the heat of the jungle. He struggles and his attempts to free himself bring the attention of his captors. They stop and one that has not been carrying the pole he is attached to comes around to look at him. The bowl cut and lip disk are a cliché and Henry laughs. This whole thing is a joke. It has to be. “Ok, very funny, let me down now.” He says. The Moe look alike clubs him upside the head with something and the world is blackness again.

Maria: We’ve met back at the camp after four long hours of searching. We’re eating a quick bite and packing more supplies. Mr. Granthy, our leader, thinks it best if we head down the river as planned. I told him that Henry is a very smart man and if he got lost, he would probably try to catch up with us. I told him Henry would go to the river and follow it. Mr. Granthy was a little worried about that, He says there are many dangerous animals lurking near the river’s edge. He says we better find him quickly. Mr. Granthy has radioed for help. He says what we need is some experienced searchers. He knows there are some local tribes in the area and mentioned perhaps asking them for help. He has never had any contact with them before but has seen them on the shore during other boat tours. Anyways, he feels that the boat is our best option. And although I am very worried about Henry, I really did want to do that boat tour and I’m sure the others in the tour want to do that as well. So I am happy to agree to the plan. I’m bring my journal and my camera of course. Try to get the most out of the trip. I’m sure Henry will be fine.

 

Henry: When Henry awakens this time, he is still hanging from the pole. His head is pounding, He isn’t sure if it is due to the hit on the head or from being hung like this for so long. He can see the tribesmen on their knees beside him. They are leaning into a large pit. It appears they’ve dug it out and are now filling it with sticks. They are busy and haven’t noticed that Henry is awake. He watches quietly but with concern as they add a layer of rocks and then light the kindling. He begins to work at the leather ties around his wrists and ankles. He must free himself soon. The heat coming from the pit is intense and he has to turn his face away from it. He can see their huts about ten yards away. Women and children bustling about. The women busy making food, pounding and mashing roots, stirring something over another fire. The children are running about, their little naked bodies with potbellies and piercings are like a picture from a National Geographic magazine. He thinks Maria would love this scene. One of the children see him and runs over. A few of his friends follow and soon, Henry is surrounded by little naked children. They are poking him with sticks and laughing. One shoves him so that he swings on the pole. “Hey! Hey!” he yells before he can stop himself. This time, he doesn’t see the blow coming from behind. He is simply there one moment and gone the next.

It is the heat that awakens him this time. Intense, wet heat. He himself feels sticky and looks up at his arms and sees that he has been rubbed with lard and seasonings. The smell coming from the pit reminds him of steamed asparagus. His pole is being lifted and carried towards the pit. He begins to writhe and squirm on the pole. Hanging now, over the pit, they cut his leather bounds. The fall isn’t far. The pit can only be about four feet deep, but he lands on a soft bedding of vegetable leaves which cover several large stones. The searing, burning pain overtakes the bruised and broken pain of the fall upon the rocks. He rolls around in the pit trying to relieve the exquisite agony, clawing at the steep sides of the pit. The men standing around the edge of the pit, most of them poke at him with their spears and the others lay woven mats of banana leaves over him. He attempts to push them away but the stabs of the spears keep him down. The rocks come next. More and more until he is pressed to the steaming stones beneath him. He screams, but the sound is muffles by the sheets of vegetation now smothering his face under the pressure of the material being piled on top of it. He can’t determine what the next material that is piled on. He guesses it doesn’t matter. He can feel the flesh beneath him cooking and the edges of his vision are greying as the oxygen. The pain is gone, he assumes because the skin on his back has been fully cooked. The lack of oxygen helps make it easier. He thinks maybe that net-full of bugs back in their room wasn’t so bad after all. He wonders if he has ruined Maria’s fun. He hopes she’ll get to see that Toucan.

Maria: I’ve seen a howler monkey and a toucan! Mr. Granthy says that sloths are difficult to see because the algae on their backs makes them blend into the trees. We haven’t seen any sign of Henry though. Just a moment ago, we saw some tribal women at the river back collecting water. They stood and watched us and then one ran off. The rest followed us as we drifted along. The one who ran off came back to join the group with a few men. The men looked just like I imagined they would. They had those plates in their lips and the hair on their head reminded me of a monk without the bald spot in the middle. They wore only loin cloths and they had red paint on their faces. Mr. Granthy thought they might be of some help in finding Henry so he steered the boat to the edge and they tribesmen were kind enough to help us bring it up on the shore. Now we are sitting as Mr. Granthy tries to communicate with them. They seem to be trying to understand.

 

Maria: Mr. Granthy and the tribesmen have gone on a search for Henry. Many of the men in our group have gone along as well. We have been taken back to the village with the women and children. They seem to be preparing a feast. One can only assume it is a sort of Thanksgiving in honor of our visit. They smile at us and offer tastes now and then. They are very kind and their little children can’t stop touching us. They run their hands up and down our arms and legs and giggle. I suspect they have never seen a white person before. It has been several hours that the men have been gone. What a wonderful celebration we could have if they return with my husband.

 

Maria: Oh Dear God what have I done? The men returned soon after my last entry. Henry wasn’t with them unfortunately. The women had started to bring all their foods together, we believed they were still planning to feed us. I assumed they felt badly and were trying to aid us in every way they could. While the women prepared for the feast, the men went off to an area behind the village. There, we watched as they dug into what appeared to be a freshly dug hole. We saw them peel back a large piece of woven leaves like a mat and then they gathered round each corner of the hole and at once hoisted another mat out of the hole. At first it appeared to be a large cooked animal upon the mat but as they carried it closer, we all saw that it was a human body! The children were cheering and the men began to sing. When they finally lay the mat down in the center of the ring we’d made sitting there, I saw immediately that the frozen scream of agony on the body’s face was that of my darling husband’s. I screamed and leaped back. Mr. Granthy stood and said “Now, see here!” I heard others screaming but I ran. I did not stop. I heard the sounds of physical fighting, I heard screams of pain from women in my group and those of the tribe. I did not slow down. I reached the boat and pushed it off into the water with the help of a couple of others who had managed to keep up with me. We all leaped onto the boat and pushed with our oars until it caught in the current. The other woman, Lucy, I believe, and I have taken shelter down below while Lucy’s husband, Daniel is on deck keeping watch. I only pray that we escape those cannibals and that the others we left behind do not suffer as my poor Henry must have. Oh why did I insist on such a dangerous adventure? If I survive this ordeal and make it home, if I should want to see a sloth, I will visit the zoological gardens. Meanwhile, I must focus on erasing the image of my dear one’s cooked face and the odor of his meat that has permeated all my thoughts and dreams.

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