This week's Story Dam Challenge is themed as follows:
Dam Burst - Write a piece in which you or your character takes a stand and then takes action. SHOW US YOU MEAN BUSINESS!
Wet Feet - You may not be an Alpha male or female, but you still have a boiling point. If taking a stand is too far outside of your comfort zone, write a short story in which your character is reaching the end of their rope. (NOT literally… please…unless you must…) Be sure to work extra hard on your character’s feelings, emotions, and the physical breakdown caused by them.
I offer the following in response: Jungle Fevered
Everything baked in the afternoon sun as invisible waves of heat distorted her vision. Ivy, sick and dismayed, gripped her camera. Butchered corpses, animal and human, lay intermingled in the village square; the sweet, sticky smell of blood clung to the heavy equatorial air. She stood frozen in the sea of death, fighting tears and the urge to vomit. Slowly, she adjusted the lens, swallowing the lump in her throat. Her finger twitched and the shutter fired as rapid as an automatic rifle.
Broken familiar faces had met their demises with terror and pain. The spark of life was long departed from their dull eyes, their mouths trapped in the last words of their screams. Through the lens she spied Etsula, her little hand still gripping tightly to the cornhusk doll Ivy had given her only a week ago.
“No,” she whispered, willing the nightmare to end, no longer able to contain the tears. “Who murders children?”
“This is the work of Tobago,” a deep voice rang out as a man emerged from the surrounding jungle. He sported army fatigues, but the pack on his back wasn’t military issue and neither was the double-barrel shotgun slung across his shoulders. “You hurt, Lady?” he asked, his tone lacking the concern his words implied.
“No,” she ventured hesitantly, unsure of his intentions. “I wasn’t here when…when this…”
He nodded, slowly approaching. “Name's Mitch. You Ivy Tanner, that reporter they were looking for?”
Her stomach lurched into her lungs. Was she the reason the whole village was massacred? Ivy dropped to her knees, no longer able to stand under the crushing weight of her emotions. “God,” she uttered. “Forgive me.”
“Look,” he rushed the last few steps to fetch her up. “I don’t mean to be an ass here but we’re too exposed. Tobago doesn’t abandon a hill he’s conquered. He’ll have men around here still.”
She held the unseeing gaze of the sweet little girl not even old enough to understand the evil that brought an end to her simple world. “This was my first foreign assignment,” she said, her voice broken. “My first and I br-brought doom to…”
The chopping sound of an approaching helicopter echoed in the distance. He grabbed her arm and dragged her to the undergrowth. “You didn’t do this,” he growled. “The devil did. We’ve got to get to that to that landing strip.”
Adrenaline kicked in, moving her legs when her heart couldn’t bear to leave. She ran after him across the jungle floor. The helicopter was uncomfortably loud even muffled from the leafy ceiling. Mitch gave it little pause, moving like a jaguar through the vegetation. She stumbled, a stick lacerating her leg, but she pressed onward as the distance between them grew rapidly.
Ivy tried to get her bearings as she lost sight of him completely. Her leg throbbed, distracting her concentration. She chided herself for being a clueless reporter lost in the middle of the jungle without a survival kit. She crouched near a massive tree trunk, wondering how sensible it was to hide when she had no idea where she was.
The helicopter eventually moved on, the percussive din dissipating rapidly. A chirp of her camera indicated imminent power down due to exhausted batteries. She didn’t have time to react, freezing at the sound of nearby gunfire. Peering out behind her trunk, she caught Mitch winning a standoff. Believing the coast was clear, she ran to him.
Someone grabbed her. She felt a blade’s cold sting at her chin. Mitch was instantly boxed in by materializing guerillas, and he looked pissed. Her camera bag was stripped from her shoulder as her captor threw her forward.
“Batteries dead,” said the man with her camera.
She made eye-contact with Mitch, willing an apology to be silently communicated in the gesture. Without warning, he took them all out, catching a bullet to his shoulder during the blitzkrieg of gunfire. She stood awkwardly, moving slowly in comparison to her savior, who had already looted a couple of his victims and was ascertaining the condition of her camera. “How did you…?” she breathed.
“Later,” he answered. “Here’s the SDcard?”
“Thanks,” she said, securing it in her pocket.
“Now let’s get you to that chopper.”
“Your shoulder,” she started.
“Isn’t important,” he cut her off. “Right now, your pictures are the only hardcore evidence we’ve got against Tobago. I want to bring him down, don’t you?”
She abandoned her protest and they raced to the rendezvous.