Julie and the Monkey Witch

Chapter3



A good night’s sleep was enough to make the effects of the Spirit Water go away. Julie’s trip on the stuff was over by the time she woke up in the morning and on her way to the research camp, with Kainak in tow, taking the jungle route.

While Julie walked, Kainak effortlessly climbed through the trees, very much looking like Mowgli (NOT the Disney version, but the original Kipling version) and Tarzan. She looked on, impressed at how effortless it was for her boyfriend—er, mate—could go from human to feral. It made her jump up into the trees and start doing what he was doing.

He was navigating them so effortlessly that should couldn’t keep her eyes off of him. She loved him, and she couldn’t quite describe how much. She’s here, after all. But she also loved the idea of him. He was wild and free, a real-life Tarzan/Mowgli, and he was successful at it. She didn’t have a sad, sob-story life, but let’s face it; modern civilization can be stressful. This was her escape.

For Kainak, it was survival. While the Teo adopted him, he spent much more time in the wild, becoming the real-life Tarzan and Mowgli. It would be easy for him to resent her for wanting to live out some girlhood fantasy, but his admiring expression, watching as she also successfully navigated the trees, told otherwise.

“What are you smiling at?” she asked.

“You,” he replied.

“Quit joking around,” she said, stopping on a branch but staying in her crouched stance. “Someone’s dead.”

“I was just trying to make it better,” he said, sitting down on the branch and watching her pull her knees up to her chest and look at the ground with the guiltiest expression he’d ever seen. “Hey, it’ll be alright, okay?”

“Then why do I feel guilty?” she asked.

“But you shouldn’t,” he replied. “I don’t know why you’d be guilty, but it’s not your fault. Whatever it is, something else is behind this. And we’ll figure it out, okay?”

She looked up and smiled at the Manitoban wild man before standing—er, crouching—back up. “You’re right,” she said. “Let’s keep going.”

Kainak nodded, and the two pressed onward from the trees. Julie wanted to stay in them so she could become as effortless as he was. She had some difficulty jumping from tree to tree, and she watched him do the same with a little bit of envy. But she found one tree and effortlessly jumped onto it, landing in a perfectly crouched stance. She sighed and jumped to the next tree, and climbed up to another. I’m getting the hang of this! She thought.

She’s getting the hang of this, Kainak thought proudly.

It took a few more minutes for the two to reach the research camp, where a researcher was waiting for them, holding some modern clothes. Julie groaned, but took the shorts, preferring to keep her animal-skin top. But Kainak gave the researcher an eye-pop, making him back down. At which point, Julie tossed the shorts aside.

“Not this time!” she said.

Prof. Ishida’s tent was cordoned off by police tape, and a forensics team had been flown in from American Samoa. Flashbulbs burst inside Prof. Ishida’s tent while people wearing hazmat suits walked in and out, carrying pieces of evidence. Some of the researchers were still going about their business, but others stood around to watch the proceedings. Many of them looked stiff and nervous, shifting their eyes around.

The whole place felt stiff and nervous. Julie could see it in their eyes; it was just like the Teo tribe yesterday. She could even feel the tension in the air, thick enough to cut it with the colloquial knife.

“Hello, Wild Children,” Gina said as she strode up to the both of them. It may have been a bit derisive-sounding, but Julie saw right through it.

“Gina, I’m so sorry,” Julie said, holding her hands out and trying to comfort the Kiwi researcher. “Especially for my Trip last night.”

“I’m not mad at you,” Gina said as she accepted Julie’s hug. “I’m just stunned. Prof. Ishida was a good man.”

“… But I barely knew him,” Kainak said, echoing the audience’s possible reaction.

“Trust me on this,” said Gina.

“Any idea on what might’ve happened?” Julie asked.

“No,” said Gina. “And unfortunately, we don’t have a forensics lab here, so they’ll have to fly back to Am-Sam—probably tonight—and we won’t find out who did it for at least a week, and since everyone was accounted for, I’m sure it wasn’t one of us. I mean, it’s not like some bloke can walk in and kill one of us, we had a bonfire going, the whole place is illuminated, and—UUUUGGGGGGGHHHHH! Did I ever tell you about the time I passed out on half a bottle of Jack Daniels? Because I could really use some right now.”

“And I thought I was stressed in college,” Julie said.

“No wonder you wanted to live with me,” said Kainak. “And I don’t blame you.”

“Who do you think could’ve done it?” Julie asked.

“I don’t know,” Gina said while wiping her forehead. “I just said no one can just walk in here.”

“And no one has a motive?”

“Not as far as I know!” Gina whined. “EVERYONE has an alibi, and NO ONE has a motive! For god’s sake, who killed him, a fucking MONKEY!? Oh god, I need an aspirin!”

“Is there anything we can do?” Kainak asked. “I think I heard some Teo tribesmen talking about you.”

“Let’s not get accusatory,” said Julie.

“I agree,” said Gina. “We may have angered them, but I don’t think they’re going to kill a zoologist over that girl. It’s counter-productive.”

“Very,” said Julie. “We’ll have to tell them.”

“I thought you already did,” said Gina.

“Oh yeah,” said Julie. “I guess it can help ease their suspicion?”

“Maybe it’ll help,” said Kainak. “I can’t guarantee it.”

“Just my luck,” said Gina. “Where the fuck is the Jack Daniels when you need it?” She sank to the ground, holding her head in her hands and moaning. “By the way, I forgot to mention—Juan said that Prof. Ishida suspects that monkeys killed Hani.”

“Monkeys?” Julie asked.

“You gotta be kidding me,” said Kainak.

“I wish,” said Gina. “They didn’t touch the computers, too. Either they’re stupid or technologically impaired, in the words of Weird Al.”

“So, what do you think happened?” Julie asked.

“I’m tempted to think that some evil monkeys like the one on Family Guy conspired to kill him to keep him silent,” said Gina. “Well, with all the crazy things happening on this island, I shouldn’t be too surprised.”

“At least you’re open-minded,” Kainak laughed.

“I never thought I’d ever say that in my life,” Gina moaned again. “FUCK this island!”

Well, Gina is entitled to her opinion, even if Julie and Kainak whole-heartedly disagree. “By the way, Julie, we have a present waiting for you at your treehouse.”

“What is it?” she asked.

“It’s a surprise.”

:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:

“So, the haloe do not suspect any of us?” Manti asked once Julie and Kainak returned to the village. “That is a relief. If only SOME of you could feel the same!” He looked and glared at some of the grumblers. They turned away.

“Thank you for being so understanding, Great Chief Manti,” Kainak said with a bow. “Unfortunately, the one who was murdered was helping to investigate Hani’s death.”

“Then this complicates things,” said Manti. “What was his name?”

“Ishida,” said Julie. “He is not the Maori; he is Japanese.”

“Then I do not believe I know who he is,” said Manti. “Unless one of our people know him.”

“Not that I know of,” said the medicine man, Kame. “Do not worry. I will find one who knows him.”

“And if not?”

“Well then, it will be difficult,” said Kame. “However, it is certainly possible one of us could have killed him at random.”

“That is a possibility,” said Kainak.

“Excuse me?” a weak voice called out from the crowd. Julie and Kainak turned around as Unaki gingerly walked up to them. “But did you say that monkeys killed Hani?”

“Yeah, we did,” said Julie. “Why?”

Unaki gasped when she heard those words. Years of abuse flooded back to her, and she nearly broke down. P’li rushed up to her, holding her back up.

“Unaki, I’m so sorry!” Julie said, rushing over to the member of the now-dead Paea tribe. “Just stay calm, okay? Take deep breaths.”

“I thought I was over her,” said Unaki.

“Take her back to her hut and calm her down, P’li,” said Manti.

P’li nodded and led the Paea girl away from the tribal meeting. Julie turned back to Manti, who was deep in thought. “We’ll need to figure out how we can assist the haoles,” he said.

“They have ways of determining who it is with their science,” said Kainak. “Although I’m sure they would appreciate it. They’re getting a little nervous at all the stares they got.”

“I will see what I can do,” Manti said. He turned again at his tribesmen, giving them all a look that made them turn away nervously. “Perhaps if I can help stem the tide of this hysteria. I’ll get to work. You two can go now.”

“Thank you, Chief Manti,” Kainak said as he and Julie bowed.

An hour later, the two departed for the jungle, carrying their weapons. Unaki watched from her hut, her mouth twisting and bending. Her eyes looked away and towards P’li, who was busy making herbal medicine for her.

:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:

It took a hearty individual to survive in Greystoke’s jungle. There were members of the Teo who lived in the wild over the years, and Julie and Kainak were, in essence, as honorary members of the tribe, taking part in this tradition. So no, it has nothing to do with them being “superior civilized folk.” That’s a… problematic reason, to say the least.

But the fact that they’ve not only survived, but thrived in this harsh environment is still praise-worthy. Tarzan and Mowgli would be proud.

They’d separated several minutes ago to go off on their own thing. Kainak went deeper into the brush. Julie made a bee-line for their treehouse. Yes, a treehouse. They may spend the occasional night out in the open, but it’s a good idea to have some shelter just in case — also part of the reason they spent time with the Tribe.

Holding onto her quiver of arrows, she climbed one of the taller trees. Now and then, her foot slipped. But she kept going. In her opinion, bare feet were better for climbing trees than shoes. Having done this in Northern California as a girl, going with and without shoes, she had reason for this preference.

Once she found her footing, it was easy for her to climb up the tree and to the top, where she looked out over the green expanse of trees extending out for miles, ending at the blue of the Pacific Ocean and the grey cliffs in the distance. The treehouse, from what she could tell, was two kilometers to the northwest.

There we go!

She quickly but carefully climbed down. She’d slipped once on a shorter tree, but that adrenaline that coursed through her arteries was… not pleasant. It may have been a quick drop before Kainak caught her, but she’d never been more frightened in her life, and this was after being chased by a predatory cat that led her to being saved by Kainak—and thus how this whole thing started.

Once she got down, she pulled out her compass—no one was that stupid just to drop it—and found her way northwest. She adjusted her quiver and pressed on.

It took half an hour before she reached the treehouse. A rope ladder had been rolled up to discourage anyone. It just took a climb up to another tree to get up. She jumped off the thick branch and onto the porch of the treehouse.

It was a simple, two-story abode that was perfect for a jungle couple. It was stripped down, with only a few electronics, but no TV and no running refrigerator. There were two battery-powered radios, one to listen to music with and a HAM radio. It was also stocked with books, ranging from To Kill a Mockingbird to Tarzan to Harry Potter and several John Steinbeck novels. Kainak had kept these after the shipwreck that left him here on Greystoke.

Their bedroom, on the second story of this humble abode, is just as bare-boned, save for a bed and the bookcase, but a fantastic view of the rainforest. And there was something on this bed (covered by a mosquito net).

It was a sword. Now, technically, this is like bringing an invasive species into the game, what with nobody on the island even capable of making a sword except a researcher. Of course, the researchers also brought guns, so it’s not like she’s holding a nuke on her hands.

It was a hand-and-a-half sword with a three-foot wooden blade. Julie wanted it because after having to use a machete against monkeys and Oranta, she needed a new weapon. Indeed, the note tied to it told her only to use it in the case of an emergency.

And she’s not the kind of person to go back on that promise.

:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:

Kainak, meanwhile, returned to the trees, patrolling the area to check for any troublemakers or to find some food. He’d already eaten, so there wasn’t much of an appetite. And the way he moved, one could tell that he’d figured out a way to prowl through the trees and conserve energy.

He was, after all, built like a gymnast, not a bodybuilder like so many inaccurate pictures of Tarzan. And he wasn’t that big, to begin with! Though Bruce Lee, CM Punk, and Manny Pacquiao are all pretty small, so having a big mass of muscles like AHHH-NUUULLLD or Hulk Hogan is utterly meaningless, especially if you have skills.

He crept along the branches, moving like an ape, compared to Julie, who moved more like a cat. His eyes scanned through the leaves, looking for any movement. He licked his lips and carefully moved onto the next tree, although made a little difficult by the path used by Teo tribesmen.

He stood up and stretched, feeling the stress of the morning leaving him. Man, this felt good!

He climbed up the tree as well when he heard the leaves rustling. He turned, assuming it was just the wind, and another gust of wind—which felt great in this heat—confirmed this suspicion. So he kept climbing up.

He reached the middle of the tree and balanced on one of the branches to walk across. He could see much of the place, which was still obscured by the leaves and branches. He could see animals—islander rodents, birds, and bugs of various sizes—darting and going about their daily lives. Most people wouldn’t concern themselves with the lives of wild animals unless they were studying them or trying to preserve them (and some of those people have NO IDEA how the natural order works).

A cat, one that he recognized as the individual Julie called “Ginger” sneaked past him, creeping along the branches, and not even noticing him. “You are such a cat,” he said softly as Ginger walked past.

But behind Ginger, he could hear more rustling. He squinted, mouthing a “What?” as he strained his eyes to try and look.

And something told him to run.

In the jungle, it was best not to doubt your instincts, so he started to climb up the tree to get away. More adrenaline flowed, and his heart began to pound. In the jungle, you never know when the hunter becomes the hunted.

And that realization was hitting Kainak like George hitting a tree.

When he was far up enough, he looked back down, letting his bare foot dangling down from his perch. He could see a dark shape moving amongst the green, but the form itself was mysterious. He crouched in a primal stance, letting his wild instincts take over and froze in his spot.

The shape seemed to look around like it was searching for something. Kainak licked his lips, and his human thoughts cursed his heart for beating so loud. That thing could probably hear him. It was so loud. He fingered his knife, his sweaty palms slipping over it a bit, and it wasn’t just the heat and humidity causing that.

Finally, the thing left, and Kainak sighed in relief. He did watch it depart to be safe, but the shape moved away from him, and he sat down on the branch, relieved. “Was that thing looking for me?” he said to himself. He wasn’t about to stick around and find out, so he quickly stood up, grabbed a vine and swung away in the opposite direction to safety.

:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:


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