chapter 2 – mother and daughter
Henrietta and Naiobi entered into the abandoned laboratory in search of supplies. Henrietta, the mother, watched her sixteen year old daughter, Naiobi, as the girl tip-toed into the silent halls of the tatter building. The shattered windows alarmed Henrietta; she imagined grave civil disobedience and other alarming happenings. Naiobi had little care in her; she merely tip-toed to patronize her mother.
The women had traveled through the forest all day in hopes of coming across something in the way of help. Their boat had run ashore in the night and now they were stuck in the middle of nowhere with dwindling supplies. The two were not very fond of each other, but made it an annual habit of coming together for a trip. Naiobi blamed her mother for everything.
Henrietta became restless waiting outside for her daughter to return. The mind of the jungle was harmful and convinced many of murder, beauty too. Henrietta called out her daughter’s name. The stillness of the place was oddly comforting. Its unnatural presence amidst the chaotic luster of the jungle was all that kept Henrietta from popping out of her skin. It wasn’t easy for her, feeling responsible and guilty about the ship, and of things long gone before this vacation went awry. She called her daughter’s name again, growing nervous. Naiobi emerged from behind her mother and giggled. She was holding bottles of water and some old food rations. Henrietta glanced upon her daughter’s frail skin and let loose an exasperated smile. The two made way fast through jungle clutter and returned to their ship. The thing had come loose in the regular events of a day’s river stream, and was ready once more to embark down the exotic. The two women threw a cheer, each immediately hushing it, and boarded their ship.
After cooking a bit of rice and eating a tin of peaches, Naiobi quickly swigged from a bottle of water. Henrietta, more doubting, glanced over the plastic bottle, then drank some herself. She fell ill almost immediately. Her skin tightened. Naiobi grunted and moaned. The dark night overtook them. Before blacking out, Henrietta noticed that her daughter had passed out onto her empty plate of food. Then the good mother’s legs gave out and she collapsed as well.
Mother and daughter woke as the sun was rising. Henrietta's
vision was blurry and the shadows of the dawn weren't making
things any easier. She looked up and stretched her neck. She
glanced at Naiobi. Naiobi was stirring and groaning. Both
women had horrendous headaches. Naiobi was the first to gather
her thoughts. She felt cold. Henrietta had come to, the wind burned
her cheeks. Naiobi starred at Henrietta.
"What are you looking at?" Henrietta said.
"You little brat. What the hell is it?"
Henrietta's face was covered in tumors. She had puss all over her lips.
Her hair was gone. Naiobi felt sick and wrapped her arms around her
torso. Her waist was goo. Her ribs were visible. Naiobi looked down
and noticed her entire midriff gone. Flesh dangled from what was left
of her middle. Henrietta now understood that her body was covered in
disease and could feel death oozing from every pour on her body. Her
clothes had become so soaked in fluids that they clung to her. She
looked like a slaughtered cow. Mother and daughter writhed in grotesque
The pair of women had nothing left to do. They saw in each other stretched visions of past and future. The present – as anything in the jungle – was nowhere to be found. They made to embrace, but hesitated. The anger from previous days seemed to heighten their degradation. The ship jostled. It became caught upon mild, jagged rocks. The stream became their song, pushing and pushing forth.
In the distance of tree canopies and dead husks of leopard hides, the soldier was waiting, peering through binoculars. His stomach turned. He imagined the bottles of water bubbling with indigo hue, snapping and frothing. Even from such distance, he could make out the tumors visible on the bodies of the women. It was time, he decided, and he came down from the trees and branches.
The boat began to whirl and spin in place. One of the women uttered mother and the other uttered nothing. They began to hiss and spit. Slowly they edged their way to the ship’s railing. They dreamed then, a moment each, of a sunny field and a picnic. They were hugging and holding hands and joking with each other. Then the ship took another jolt from the rocks below and Henrietta and Naiobi were gone.
The soldier jumped aboard the ship. Sweat ran down his back. He began to call out for the women. He had no guns, just a knife and some syringes. He ran from the prow to the mast and saw slick stains upon the rail. He examined the maroon colored mess, then glanced over the side. He saw the two women below, poised on the rocks, the water slowly pulling at them, dragging them apart. The soldier wanted to jump down there and put them out of their misery. But it was too late. He turned and headed back to the laboratory. He knew nothing of the scientist, then, and hardly wanted to.
A Plumbers Nightmare
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