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The Crocodile

Jungle. Scales. Light.

By Matthew CurtisPublished about a year ago 13 min read
2
The Crocodile
Photo by Jeremy Allouche on Unsplash

The cabin in the woods had been abandoned for years, but one night, a candle burned in the window. And that is how, I have morbidly been taught, the boy lost his life. The ignition of a humble flame that flickered in solidarity with renewed hope. The promise of warmth, the faint notion of salvation. Naught but a rancid deceit and the very forgery that would almost claim the life of mine very own.

My name is Ellard Anderson. I am a formerly renowned zoologist and seasoned game-hunter from Walton, Florida. In the year 1890, I was commissioned among a group of nine others, each of whom I had never met nor had known of before, to journey to the Republic of Venezuela, on a mission of utmost secrecy and consequence. I was offered a choice; to embark upon the most significant expedition the natural sciences had ever conjured up, equally earning fame and favour across a troubled Latin America, or to remain in my home state and allow my studies of the local eco-systems to be crushed within the vacuum of political and monetary desertion, thus rendering my career unremarkable and stagnant. It was clear that I had as much authority over the matter as I do to permit the wind and rain an invitation on the event of the morning sunrise.

The details of the mission lingered unpublished up until my arrival in Caracas. I was to be sent in the company of a fellowship of ten, South of the Orinoco River, to the Western border of Colombia. There, a feeble and barbaric settlement awaited us, by the name of San Fernando de Atabapo. The inhabiting natives had become bewitched by a spell of hysteria, owing their fever to the spreading allusion of an abnormally giant crocodile espied at the jungle affixed to the edges of the encampment. The tale of the enormous reptile had transmitted beyond the neighbouring countries and had reached the newspapers in the deep south of the United States of America. The minutia of such reports were as wild and varied as the gargantuan biodiversity of the Amazon Rainforest, who’s infinite mystery and infernal condition we were soon to be making our extended acquaintance.

The beast had been been named in association with a string of disappearances along the Venezuelan-Colombian border and had been sighted repeatedly for years, though the case had been regrettably undocumented and treated with continuous neglectful disdain by local authorities. The most disturbing and damning evidence of all however was the body of an 8-year-old Venezuelan boy, that had been recovered along the boundary of the rainforest, who's injuries were as severe as they were baffling. Much of the child's flesh had been chewed away and the carcass was bestrewn with harsh concavities that perforated right the way down through the bone, specifics which had been deemed an irrefutable demonstration of not only the creature's abominable presence, but an unwavering bloodlust, by a newspaper in Missouri the very day of our accession into the jungle. Unable to allay fears that the monstrous reptile had struck again, local herpetologists and doctors sought answers, hence why we had been summoned.

Had I known what would discover me in the sweltering depths of the jungle, I would have chosen the destruction of my professions, save the destruction of my mind. The crusade expended me the confidence of my peers and the stability of my psyche. Soon too, it will have stolen my right to live unattended. There are people on their way to embezzle me into a life of seclusion, ensnared behind padded walls and left only with the torturous recollections of what stalked me in the belly of the Amazonian beast. I write this memoir in the hope that my misconstrued ravings might one day be granted elevation to that of scientific and historical artefact of great emphasis, or the very least, veritable documentation of an event lost to time. For my re-telling of the story of the hunt for the giant crocodile has earned me nothing thus far, but the status of a madman and the redundancy of collective despair and rejection.

Our journey began in high spirits. Excitement among the group was a fire that burned the kindling of our cumulative similarities, eerily reflected by the opposing terror that decayed betwixt the natives. To us, they appeared foolish and primitive, to be stricken ill by the apocryphal presence of a large animal, yet the locals were unrelenting in their admonishments. In their foreign tongue they begged that we instead spare ourselves and flee, much to our amusement. Heroes we would be, once we had tracked the behemoth and carried its harmless carcass back into the camp. Yet heroes, none of us became.

The jungle was vivid in its imagination. Great flowers blossomed with the hue of colours perceived by forces greater than man. The trees were assembled in colossal formations of mosaic deciduous carvings, that stretched up into the very sun like statues designed in worship of the natural world. Though the rainforest was filled to the brim with creatures of all manner of comprehension, after two days of continuous inquisition, we were yet to establish a symptom of the killer crocodile, which had befuddled and captivated the minds of the American press and public back home alike.

On the third day, darkness began to mount. We had ventured deeper into the emerald labyrinth and so my dreams had become agitated and unsettled. I envisioned the ruins of a palatial chamber, the centrepiece of which being a self-effacing cabin, constructed of wood, the nucleus of a defunct society encircled by blackened trunk and a featureless sky. The form of these ruins substantiated no feelings of comfort nor curiosity however, only a foreboding, a dread that robbed me of my much-needed rest. While awake, my body struggled onwards, but lacked the necessary components to keep pace with my unburdened kin. On the fourth day, I watched as each member of the group vanished one-by-one behind tightly packed vines ahead, and while attempting to hasten my stride, I fell. My ankle contorted into a false position and the pain caused me to howl. I felt my body spin as gravity took effect and I was pulled into an abyssal ravine far from the way-path carved out by our machete wielding leader at the front of the pack.

Where I landed, I did not know. I found my partially broken body converted into a half subaqueous, half terrestrial fraction at the very core of a deep and boggy marshlands at the foot of a ravine. I cried out again for my comrades, but silent came the reply. Once up-righted, the muck-stained water hid my knees from all sight and I could scarcely rest any weight on my right leg. Immediately I noticed that the foliage around me had changed. No longer were the flowers bright and the trees monumental. They bore a harsh quality and gave me the inescapable feeling that I had arrived at a place I did not belong. The trees were jagged and bare, like the roots of the forest had been pulled out from their muddy, subterranean refuge against their will. Their crooked branches unnaturally obscured the sky in ways I cannot explain and the ashen bark seemed at odds with the sodden terrain below.

Here, the days grew longer and the night-time longer still. In vain I gazed up at the heavens and the stars above became my guide. I had quickly abandoned the thought of prosperity through triumph. My thoughts were not with the people of San Fernando de Atabapo, nor did I think of my contemporaries in pursuit of their prize. Survival became my ambition, for the supplies carried on my back would last only so long. The fifth day came and went, as I meandered through the wastelands. So passed the sixth day without civility in sight. By the seventh, I slept no more, partly due to the increasing agony in my water-logged ankle, but primarily as a response to the harrowing companionship of my dreams. My thoughts were consumed with the notion of the sepulchre of the jungle and I feared that the surrender of my conscious mind might afford my nightmares the opportunity to seize command. Eventually though, as exhaustion overwhelmed my weakened body, my efforts to retain functional cognisance proved unavailing and I collapsed while lost in the seemingly eternal swamp. This was the moment, I believe, where the battle for my mind had capitulated.

I languished into an excruciating and enduring slumber, where again the illustrations of a derelict metropolis enshrined within a courtyard of begrimed timber were made bold. Curiosity granted me the ludicrous courage to scrutinise the ruins I had only previously beheld from afar and I encroached upon the deepest recesses of the city which time had turned to stone, and found a nurturing resplendence held within. It was a gazebo, manufactured by a series of metamorphosed arbours in a pattern of a four, making a square. Inside this was the cabin. A juxtaposition of architecture, but something that soothed me as a familiar ally. The structure provided shelter from the punitive province in which it stood the heart and I greedily took up enthused residence. All that this cabin held within was a candle, housed in a golden cup. The wick ejected a soft smog that hinted at the memory of a lost flare. By sharp contrast, the complexity of sculpting of the supporting beams stole my attention, until I discovered the artistry adorning the ceiling, which was increasingly extravagant. Depictions of tall beings, human in shape, ran amok across my new-found empyrean. They danced and feasted in ceremonious delight around the very hall where I had taken asylum. A ballroom that had not yet been defaced by age and in ancient drawings had been captured therein a powerful magnificence that brought me to tears. There, I lingered awe-struck, unwilling to withdraw from my point of espial, for what for I hazily understood to be aeons.

Eventually, I awoke in a darkened version of the marsh in which I had made my bed. Nameless are the number of moons that must have passed in my stupor. The stars I had been using to navigate through the endless sludge and charred trees were hidden behind a formless shroud above. It mattered not however, as I had now arrested the wish to uncover the mysteries behind the forgotten temples of my dreams. A delusion had taken hold, which birthed with it an unspeakable instinct to travel astray from my path. A sentiment drove me onwards, in a direction that, to an outsider, might have appeared to be erratic and without foundation. The pain in my body had been numbed and the suffering in my mind had been choked. All I could sense was a desperation to venture deeper into the chasms of the jungle with a previously dormant and unspoken aptitude renewed in vigour.

My barbarous descent through the Amazon led me to a dense congregation of unearthly woodlands, which rose together to form a wall, as coarse and as cold as the rocks which roam the empty skies. An unnatural and shapely gap had been woven through the trees not far from where I stood and I felt the warmth of a welcome pierce through my skeleton. What I found when I ventured through the gate was an impeccable resolution to my visions. The walls encircled around an alluring borough, which glimmered in the light of a great white fire. All colour and shade had been bled from the world and yet the dazzling architecture stood mighty and illuminous compressed within its insidious cage. The fire ablaze at the innermost point was housed inside the cabin, restored to a greater conception, which I had so gladly received during my time in the forest and recognised the moment I laid my eyes upon it. It was just as it had appeared in the carvings. Though I cannot reliably recall the intricacies of its formation, I can tell you this; it was the most elegant and opulent thing I had ever observed and it filled me with an overwhelming sense of ease and succour.

Even more, there were people, each one finer and more beautiful than the last. Their tall, slim bodies swayed with effortless grace in unison and a strange noise filled the air, a noise more exceptional than the whistles of birdsong. They frolicked about their bonfire without a care for their remoteness and the sounds of their song and laughter lured my feet steadily forwards, out from under my concealment. What had at first started as a single flame under the cabin roof, had emboldened into the crux of an archaic event and the very seed of their festivity. What I did next, I will regret until the day my last breath leaves my lungs. A brazen fool, I dashed out into the open, right into the very core of their celebrations, so that all who were present could see me and I beckoned to them;

“Allow me to join you!”.

“Allow me to dance with you and feast with you!”.

“Allow me to become one with the ancients of the forest!”.

Only when the white fire dimmed grey did I notice the forest walls close in around me. The luxurious temple and grand towers were gone. So too were the sounds of rhythm and laughter. All joy had died and, on its corpse, had risen the devilish tongues of contempt and ridicule buried beneath the encroaching crepuscule on all sides. The people were out there somewhere, but I could not see through the pitch-blackness that had dawned. I could hear them whispering in a terrible language unfamiliar to me and they cackled at my bewilderment. I was only struck with fear once the dreadful manner of my circumstance was made plain. The cabin and its candle had gone and pointed branches had surrounded me into a room not fit for a dog. A small aperture was my only way out, though it was too cramped and uneven for me to squeeze through anything more than my hand. What revealed itself in that very window is too horrifying for me to tell, for even the attempts to re-create in words what I witnessed in person is enough for me to lose my feet.

It was a person, who was not, as we would acknowledge to be, entirely human. It was wide-eyed and without lips, baring wretched teeth straight from the skull. And that is all I can muster the courage to describe. It then loomed on me that the opening was not a means for one to get out, but for something else to get in. It was a breach awkward and meagre, through which a household cat might get stuck. Yet, the creature stared at me with the lust of a starving brute and contorted its monstrous and loathsome figure impossibly through the aperture. I fell backwards in consternated denial, but found the enclosed space too confined for me to reach the ground. I listened in revulsion as the being crawled indefinable above and around me. It toyed with me, teased me with the impending menace that my doom was soon to strike. Then it did. It capsized itself upon me and I was too fragile to arise resistance. Then another came, scrambling as the last one did, over wall and bone. I felt the puncture of too many teeth incommunicable on my near paralysed body. Then another came. And yet more. I do not know if I screamed, as the sounds of an inconceivable mass of feeding beasts swept over my frame and suffocated all sound from the thick, rancid air. I accept that I closed my eyes in the relief that soon this horror would pass and all feeling would dissipate into infinite absence.

Though I had endorsed my demise, death spat me back out. I know not how I escaped. I suspect I was let loose by the mercy of my captors. When my eyes re-opened, I was in a hospital bed in Bogota, with my arms and legs bound, where I learned that none of my fellowship had returned from the rainforest. As such, I was named as the sole survivor of the expedition; a madman who had been overcome both in body and mind at the downfall of my compatriots. My body, head-to-toe is vandalised with the scars of an attack. Like the surface of the moon, my skin is dotted with the craters left by the impact of foreign invaders in a number far beyond counting. The doctors assure me that I was preyed upon by any number of the predators that can be found in the rainforest. There are surviving fragments of my journey back that I have thus far kept to myself. I know that, in my lunacy I shouted and wept vociferously for days on end. In my more reticent moments, I clawed at the trees which mocked my credulity and I remember a crocodile, more than twenty feet in dimension, as long as the boat which carried me to Venezuela, which when having met my delirious gaze, turned and fled.

Many have heard my tale. There are none who are loyal to my version of the fable. I alone bear the burden of an abhorred and unwanted legitimacy. I am plagued by the anamnesis of the hideous visage and the abysmal sound of what skulks in the darkest recesses of the uncharted world and my consciousness is besieged with the threat of what might occur should the jungle-folk decide to venture forth from their dwellings, as we did, with a hunger for blood.

urban legendpsychologicalmonsterfictionHorror
2

About the Creator

Matthew Curtis

Queen Margaret University graduate (Theatre and Film studies).

Currently trying to write a book.

Lilywhite, Pokemon master, time-lord, vampire with a soul, Virgo.

Likes space and dinosaurs. And Binturongs. I'm very cool.

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  3. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

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Comments (2)

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  • Andrew Williamsabout a year ago

    Love this read❤️

  • Jasmine S.2 years ago

    Excellent story. Though this read as psychological more than horror. I couldn't tell if the cabin was a figment of his mind after being so long wandering the rainforest or if he actually encountered it. Also, some of the words used I found either difficult to pronounce or did not know the meaning of. Otherwise, it captured me from start to finish. Great job! :)

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