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Finding the Treasure

A Story Using Jungle, Feat, and Map

By Alex CaseyPublished 12 months ago Updated 12 months ago 7 min read
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Finding the Treasure
Photo by Ivars Utināns on Unsplash

“Gah! Why are there so many frickin’ bugs here?” Horatio complained, attempting (and failing) to slap another mosquito.

“It’s the friggin’ jungle,” Rein quipped, cutting his way through the vines and overgrown plants.

“Still though.”

Rein sighed, already tired of Horatio’s whining. “Just think of the mission.”

“Yeah,” Horatio scoffed, “the mission.” He slapped his arm again. “I miss Rosetta.”

Rein stepped lightly around a trapping pit. “Rosie had better things to do than accompany you on this insanity.”

Remains of an elk pit at Storøya by Jeblad

“See!” Horatio yelled, also stepping around the trap. “Even you admit this is insanity.”

Rein stopped and slowly turned in a circle, surveying the canopy, then touching the trunks closest to him. “We’re lost.”

Horatio rolled his eyes. “We’re not lost.”

“We just walked in a friggin’ circle!”

“Yeah, that’s what you’re supposed to do. You walk in a circle three times, then take a left.”

“That’s absurd.” Rein yanked the map from his friend’s hands. “Are you reading this right?”

“Of course I am!”

“Maybe the map’s wrong.”

“The map’s not wrong. Sia always maps my future correctly. She’s the best oracle we have.”

“Uh huh.” Rein continued to stare at the worn paper. “But she’s not a cartographer, and she's not mapping the future, is she?”

“Well,” Horatio pondered this question for a moment. “Every moment is the future–the future of what was before.”

Rein sighed heavily. “Does this look like the future to you?”

“I mean, compared to cave people or dinosaurs, it definitely looks like the future.”

“Look, do you think Sia can draw a map of the past?”

Horatio scratched his head. “You think it was her first time?”

“Why would she possibly have us walk in a circle three times?”

“To open the secret passage?”

Rein raised his eyebrows. “A secret passage? In the jungle?”

“Maybe she thought it’d be funny.”

“Maybe she has no idea where we’re friggin’ going!”

Horatio sat on a rotting log and pushed his boots into the mud. “Also, I don’t want to be that guy, but I don’t think we’re technically in a jungle.”

By Gerrie van der Walt on Unsplash

Rein was feeling bark and smelling leaves. “What?”

“You said, ‘it’s the friggin’ jungle’, but I don’t think this is technically a jungle. It’s a rainforest, right? That would make it a forest, not a jungle.”

“Semantics.”

“Rosie would tell you semantics are important.”

Rein rolled his eyes. “Rosie thinks everything is important.”

“I miss her so much. If she were here right now, she’d give me a full glass of clean, cold water, and it would be delicious.”

Rein crouched and placed a handful of dirt in a glass tube before shaking it with a pink liquid. “Well, when we find what we’re looking for, you can go home and see her.”

Horatio leaned over and looked at the map. “What is it we’re looking for, again?”

“Treasure,” Rein replied absentmindedly, staring at the pink mud.

“Well, I treasure you, but I don’t think our friendship is tangible enough to bring back home. I’m going to need you to be a little more specific.”

Rein thrust the map at him. “Look for yourself. I’m trying to make sure we can make it out before the sun sets.”

Horatio took the map. “Oh, right, the sun still matters.” He studied the paper again. “A hyacinth macaw and pink river dolphin. A flying thing and a swimming thing this time. Great.”

“We’re going this way,” Rein declared, standing and pointing. “And stop complaining. You love the swimming things.”

Horatio smiled a little as he stood and began following Rein. “I do. I love swimming next to them and seeing the world through their eyes. There’s nothing like being in dihydrogen monoxide to remind you that something can be simultaneously serene and treacherous.”

“So, like usual, you’ll capture a piece of the swimming thing, and I’ll capture a piece of the flying thing.”

Horatio winced. “Do we have to use the word ‘capture’? It sounds like we’re poachers.”

“But we are not poachers. It is because of the poachers that we have to do these missions in the first place.”

Horatio rubbed his neck. “I just feel bad, you know? We’re invading their home.”

Rein stopped and turned to his friend. “That is not what we’re doing. And even if it is, it's a small price for them to pay. We're saving them."

"But not really though."

Rein sighed. "Don’t lose sight of history, Horatio. These things don’t exist anymore.”

“They exist here.”

“No, they don’t. There’s only a handful in this time, and there won’t be any in a few years.” Rein placed his hands on Horatio’s shoulders. “This has already happened. They’re already gone.”

Horatio nodded. “Right.”

Rein hit Horatio’s shoulder. “Good. Now, come on. The river is just ahead.”

By Dave Hoefler on Unsplash

“Wow!” Horatio gasped as he stood on the shore. “Look at that. Have you seen anything so beautiful?”

“I bet it was even more beautiful before all the cows and bulldozers.”

Horatio pointed at the canopy. “There’s your flying thing.” He looked at Rein. “If something should happen–”

By James Lee on Unsplash

“We go through this every time,” Rein interjected. “Nothing is going to happen.” He quickly released his wings ran his hand along Horatio’s fin. “Everything will be fine. I’ll see you back home.”

He flapped his wings once and soared into the air, flying and gliding through the canopy so well, it seemed as though he had always been there.

Horatio stretched until he felt loose and relaxed. Then he dove into the winding river, letting the warm water take him into its embrace.

He sensed the parasites and at least a dozen creatures that would have deterred a sane human from spending too much time in these waters, but that didn’t matter to him. As if spineless, he jumped and twisted and rolled through the water and into the humid air.

He did hate these trips. And he did feel terrible for the animals. But he never felt as alive as he did in the water.

After several minutes, he spotted the dolphin, and he swam beside it, mirroring its movements. Although she certainly saw him, the dolphin seemed apathetic to her new companion.

He called to her, speaking her language easily. She turned toward him and called back to him.

“Please don’t make me net you. I hate netting.” He swam near her. “I just need a skin sample, just an epidermis sample. I don’t even have to injure you.”

He swam even closer, and she seemed to let him. “It’s traumatic, but not painful. My friend just has to pluck a feather, and he’s a hero, but I need actual cells. It's quite a feat, to be that cold--that removed--and, to be honest with you, I don't always have the emotional strength to accomplish it. I get too overwhelmed by the cruel history forcing me to be here.”

He hesitantly stretched his hand and touched her head. “But you and me? I think we can do this. You go with me to the surface, yeah?”

He could have sworn she nodded.

Together, they swam to the river’s surface, and as they jumped, he took a small scoop and swept it down her back, collected skin cells, and placed the scoop in the pouch connected to his fin. “And now, we’ll recreate you in our time.” He shook his head. “Well, it won’t be you for sure. You are incredible, majestic, and irreplaceable. But it will be close to you, a representation of you. You are now the mother of the future dolphins in the future river.”

Amazon River Dolphin by Diego Luiz

He sighed, continuing to pet the top of her head. “They’ll destroy your habitat soon. All of this will be gone, and the world will suffocate. Without the rainforests and the oceans, they’ll lose their oxygen and slowly asphyxiate.” He sighed again and rested his head against hers. “They did it to themselves and to you, and I’m so sorry.”

He leaned up and pressed his forehead against hers. “I’ll do my best to make sure the scientists understand just how special you were–” he blinked quickly, “how special you are.”

He smiled. “I wish you could have met Rosie. She’s our AI queen who loves us and animals–both extinct and recreated–very much. She would have liked you.”

He made sure the sample was safe before smiling and petting her again. “But I’m sure I’m boring you with all my future talk. This is your present, and you should enjoy it. Let’s swim.”

They dove back into the river with the rest of the wildlife and swam fearlessly through her home. He followed her for hours until he knew he barely had enough energy to make it back.

She followed him to the surface as he swam to the nearest shore. “Thank you for today. The world is quite different from your view, in your river, and I enjoyed every minute of it.” He smiled at her as he took a copy of the map from his pocket. "Sia was right; spending time with you was my treasure.”

As the dolphin pierced the surface, Horatio spun in a circle three times, touched the map, and felt himself swim through time. The currents of history’s mistakes nearly took him under, as they always did, but he fought with the last of his strength until he felt the smoothness of rapidless water return.

When he arrived, Rein was already waiting for him, the macaw’s blue feather in his hand.

But just to be completely certain he was in the right time, Horatio checked the date.

December 12, 2062.

By Adam Śmigielski on Unsplash

short story
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About the Creator

Alex Casey

I'm a full-time educator and part-time writer. My best ideas usually end up on Vocal.

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