My first participating entry in the Bluebell Thursday Short Story Slam... Not really sure what the rules are, if there are any (except for the inclusion of four of the words in the Wordle above, of course), so your feedback is much appreciated. Hope you enjoy this tale at least as much as I enjoyed writing it!
“Did you see that?” Her voice was shrill. “That monkey threw a coconut at me!”
“He didn’t. Or she. Can’t really tell from here,” I squinted up at the jungle canopy. The light barely filtered through in patterns that made me think of the dappled surface of the summerhouse pond.
“He did, Chris! I saw him look at me right before he threw it, like he was taking aim.”
“Monkeys don’t do that, Sheila. The coconut probably just slipped from his, or her, hands.” I chanced a glance in her direction. She was staring at me, arms crossed over her chest. I was glad, for the first time since she’d bought them at the duty-free minutes before we boarded, she’d found these ridiculously huge sunglasses. Their lenses shielded me from the sting of her glare, but still I looked away.
“Listen,” I tried for conciliatory, secretly aching to throttle her, “why don’t you try throwing it to her? She’s probably trying to figure out how to get her lunch back.” In truth, the monkey in the trees was as nonchalant as I was not, its attention already caught by something more interesting than overdressed safari tourists, but I hadn’t given up trying to get Sheila to care.
“I just might try that.” She bent her head, but not before I caught a corner of the smirk I’d come to hate, and looked for the coconut on the ground. It wasn’t really a coconut, but it was some kind of hard-shelled fruit, and it had landed close — too close — by Sheila’s feet with a solid thwack. Glad it hadn’t hit her. Imagine the drama.
“What are you snorting at?” She’d found the coconut — not a coconut, whatever — and was hefting it in both hands. What are you, I wanted to say, a pro not-coconut pitcher? But I swallowed and just shook my head.
Flinging her blonde ponytail in my direction, she turned towards the monkey’s perch.
“There you are, little sucker. Take this!”
She let fly, hard, and for an instant I had a vision of the not-coconut blasting the monkey out of the treetops. With agonizing clarity I saw the monkey land with a thump, blood already staining its tawny coat. I imagined rushing to it, a cry stuck in my throat, kneeling just in time to see the intelligence in its eyes, now twisted in a grimace of pain, fade to blank.
But Sheila wasn’t a good shot. The not-coconut landed far off its mark, disappearing into the underbrush with a bounce.
“Dammit!” She looked around for something else to throw.
“Sheila, let’s move on. The group is already out of sight.”
“Not letting him get away with it,” she muttered, eyes on the ground.
“Here,” she picked up a rock about the size of a baseball. “This’ll do it.”
I caught her arm before she could pitch it, holding it above her head.
“Stop it. Enough.”
Her mouth opened in protest, but instead of words only a grunt and a whimper came out. I frowned, uncomprehending, until I felt movement at my feet. A branch — yes, it looked like a branch, maybe a root — was snaking up Sheila’s leg. I backed up, out of its reach, as the rock in Sheila’s hand dropped to the ground. It made the same noise I’d imagined the monkey would make as it fell.
The sunglasses covered her eyes, but I stared anyway. Her body, up to the waist, was encased in bark, and the branch snapped faster with every turn. Then I realized it wasn’t the branch — it was Sheila’s bones snapping and I wanted to look away, didn’t want to see this, but I had to, just couldn’t tear my eyes off Sheila disappearing into a root, for the love of God, a root that grew out of the ground and swallowed her whole.
She never made a sound, except for the snap of her crushed bones and a wet pop that I imagined (because it was mercifully out of my sight by then) was her skull imploding. There was absolute silence as I tried to think, to move, to scream — at least scream. But I couldn’t, not until I heard the scream of the monkey above — a howler monkey, yes, now I recognized it — and its scream swallowed my own.