Where is Captain Rook?

📅 Published on February 10, 2022

“Where is Captain Rook?”

Written by Jeff Provine
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

ESTIMATED READING TIME — 18 minutes

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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“He is dead, Senhor,” Paulo told him.

Mr. Jameson, a portly man, sat back in his chair, making a long, low squeaking sound as he did. He was a businessman.  His head was large and bald from too much thought, and his body was a soft, round pedestal to hold it.  His eyes were wide but weak, and he wore thick spectacles.

Only his hands were thin.  He tapped them on the open folder of documents, photographs and insurance policies.  “What do you mean, ‘he’s dead?’”

The room was hot with the kind of sticky heat only Chicago could produce in August, and 1938’s August seemed especially bad.  Mr. Jameson was soaked in sweat from his forehead and under his vest.  João Paulo Nativo sat across from him and didn’t sweat at all.  “The jungle took him.”

Mr. Jameson took off his glasses and rubbed his nose.  “What does that mean?  ‘The jungle took him’?”

Paulo closed his eyes.  He stroked the steel Caravaca cross around his neck with his index finger and thumb.  It held two crossbars in the middle of a central piece instead of the usual single cross.  Some might’ve considered it the edge of heresy.

“Mr. Nativo!” Mr. Jameson called from the dark.

Paulo opened his eyes again.  “The jungle is very dangerous.  Many men enter it and never return.”

Mr. Jameson sputtered.  “Obviously, but, Captain Rook, he was one of the best!  He has been on more than a dozen orchid hunts, four of them with you.  He wrote of you fondly as an excellent guide.  What went wrong this time?”

“He was taken,” Paulo repeated, “by the jungle.” For a moment, the room was quiet.  The only sound was a buzzing electric fan stirring the thick air around them.  Paulo missed the roar of nature, the symphony of a thousand insects, bird songs, shrill lizards, growling beasts, the sigh of plants as they grew.  Man created quiet, filling the world with the noise of trains, electricity, and furnaces.

Finally, Mr. Jameson broke the silence with a guttural cough.  He sat forward again and leaned over the life insurance policy.

“Tell me, precisely, Mr. Nativo,” Mr. Jameson said, slowly and clearly, “how exactly did the jungle take him?”

* * * * * *

Twelve weeks before, João Paulo Nativo had been standing on a pier in Manaus, the city that stood on the border of the jungle and the world.  It was the highest navigable point on the Rio Negro; anything the outside wanted from the jungle between Venezuela and the wide Amazon River to the south had to come through here.

The city rumbled with activity like ants over a deer’s corpse.  A few rusty automobiles, trucks mainly, drove down the paved streets, whose cracks showed signs where the jungle threatened to retake the town.  Horses and donkeys carried bundles over their backs.  Every so often, the electric tramway ground past, groaning as it headed up into the hills.  Even the river looked old, down by inches from where it had been thanks to drought in the past two years.

Once, the city had been grand.  It had been on par with the legendary capitals of Europe: an opera house to rival Paris, electric street lights where London still burned gas, plazas wider than Paris, Madrid, or Vienna.  Now the plazas were nearly empty, the electricity was precious, and the opera house slowly decayed.  Many of the warehouses that were once filled to overflowing with barrels of rubber had already collapsed.  The docks still remained, but Paulo could remember as a boy seeing the massive riverboats come in what seemed like every day.  Now, the boats came as slowly as the phases of the moon.

One arrived this morning, and already the locals crammed the beaches alongside the river in hopes of selling a few trinkets or snacks.  They sat patiently while the huge wheels drove the boat up to the shore, not moving until the men on the dock had caught the mooring ropes.  Then they sprang and climbed over one another, all holding out flowers, drinks, and dolls made of grass.

Paulo waited beside his own boat.  It was small, only a little deck and cabin with a diesel motor at the back, but it was his.  All he had to do was to wait for his passenger to appear.  While he waited, he sucked on a cigarette.  It had gone out hours before, but cigarettes were expensive, and he wanted to get every enjoyment out of it he could before tossing it away.

Passengers began to spill out of the riverboat, and the peddlers swarmed them.  It became a war with guides on the front line screaming at peasants to back away from the wealthy tourists and businessmen.  Many of the guides carried canes; others opted to give stern kicks with their boots. The whites, meanwhile, looked around in fearful awe at the remaining glamor of the city and the jungle beyond with forced-bored faces not unlike the horses that would soon be whisking them away to mansions behind rusted iron gates.

In the middle of the war, a tall, tanned, blonde man stepped out onto the wooden plank.  He wore the khakis of an experienced traveler yet the well-styled hair of a man whose head was still in civilization.  There was plenty of space around him, as if the foreign whites and the locals alike knew to stand back from his radiance.

Paulo flicked his cigarette into the river.  Usually he buried them, but he was in Manaus now.

He walked along the rotting boards that covered the muddy shore until he heard a mighty cry of, “Paulie!”

Before Paulo could compose himself, the blonde man descended upon him.  He was grinning like a bear.

“Paulie, you old devil,” the blonde man continued to call.  He caught Paulo by the hand and gave a powerful smack to Paulo’s back.  “How’s my favorite caboclo?”

“Capitão Rook,” Paulo greeted him.  He forced a smile onto his tan face.  “Welcome.” “Thanks, thanks,” Rook said.  He thrust a thumb behind him toward three men struggling with a stack of crates.  “The bearers have my things.  Are you ready to launch?” “Sim, Capitão,” Paulo said, waving a hand toward his boat.  “You seem eager for the journey.” “Oh, I am,” Rook told him as they began to walk.  His blue eyes became wide, and his loud voice grew soft without losing any amount of forceful seriousness.  “We’re hunting big game this season.” Paulo narrowed his eyes and whispered, “Are we going after Senhor Fosterman’s Village of the Demon Flowers again?” Legends of orchid hunters a generation ago told of an acre-wide valley where the brightest, most vivid orchids that had ever been witnessed by man existed.  They covered every inch of the jungle landscape: trees, vines, even rocks.  Only the rarest and most colorful orchids smell, but these proved to give a stench so powerful that it would literally kill a man.  When Fosterman’s expedition first stumbled upon what he called the Village, three of his men collapsed.  Fosterman and his guide crept forward with handkerchiefs to block out the terrible smell, but it stood like an awful wall that kept them out.  Before Fosterman’s death, he led another expedition to find the valley, and they did, but the smell again overwhelmed their equipment, and all they could do was look.

Paulo sniffed the air.  Manaus stank of hot brick, gasoline, and human sweat.  He couldn’t imagine any orchid worse.

“No, no,” Rook said, waving a hand dismissively.  “Not even our mustard-gas masks could deal with that, so I’m giving it up.”

Before Paulo could ask, Rook continued.  He reached into his shirt pocket and freed a piece of newspaper.  As the white man unfolded it, the paper gave no crinkle.  It had been unfolded, read, and toyed with so often, it had turned to cloth.

Rook held it up.  Paulo’s reading of Portuguese was fair thanks to the nuns of his father’s people, but only one word struck him.  He read aloud, “Mapinguari.”

“Precisely!” Rook said with a triumphant laugh.

“Capitão,” Paulo said slowly.  “Are you certain?” Rook rolled his shining blue eyes and tucked the clipping back into his pocket.  “Don’t tell me you’re superstitious about it, too, are you?”  He pointed his thumb back at the bearers again.  “I haven’t even told these bozos that’s what this trip’s all about.  They’d probably run off or, worse, ask for more pay.” Paulo planted his boots firmly on the pier boards.  “Capitão, Mapinguari is not a trophy to be hunted.  He is fearsome.” Rook waved his hand dismissively again.  He walked past Paulo.  “Nonsense.  It’s just an Indian legend trumping up what is essentially a mylodon.” Paulo followed after the white man.  “Mylo-don?” “Mylodon,” Rook confirmed.  He stopped at the edge of the pier where Paulo’s boat rested.

After a moment of surveying, he hopped inside, making the boat rock and the river swell.

Paulo came after him, stepping lightly enough that the boat did not seem to notice him.  “What is a mylodon?”

“A giant ground sloth,” Rook said simply.

“Sloth?” Paulo had seen hundreds of sloths over his years in the jungle.  None of them looked as fearsome as Mapinguari.  They were furry, clumsy creatures, preferring the safety of branches to the ground except when food was in question.

“Giant ground sloth,” Rook replied.  “I talked with some egghead at the Field Museum about it. There’re skeletons all over Patagonia and all the way up to the Caribbean.  He said they went extinct ten thousand years ago, but that’s what they said about coelacanths, and they’re back swimming around Africa.”

“Capitão, please,” Paulo said.  He folded his hands.  “This is a fool’s choice.  If you find Mapinguari, and few ever have seen him, you will wish you never have.”

Rook looked down at him.  The white man stood about six inches taller than the caboclo boat-driver, and Paulo almost felt as if the blonde hair grew higher and higher.

Finally, Rook spoke.  His voice was firm.  “Start the boat.” Paulo bowed his head and quietly hurried to the boat’s engine.  He pulled the chain several times, finally engaging the motor.  It gave the rumbling purr of a giant cat.  Paulo looked up at the river and the sprawling, infinite jungle beyond.  He touched his Caravaca cross.

Meanwhile, the bearers loaded the crates onto the flat deck.  Where two of them lifted the crate, Captain Rook guided the crates to the wooden floor with a single arm.

After the three bearers had climbed aboard, Paulo pulled the mooring lines.  The boat floated freely into the river, lazily sliding backward, down to where the Amazon would take it back to civilization on the coast.  Paulo wouldn’t allow the boat its escape, just as Rook had ordered, and pushed forward.

The first day was easy.  Rook had planned the trip to coincide with the height of the rainy season, when the streams were swollen and what would’ve been a week’s march was merely a day’s sail.  Still, the last few years had been dry, and the streams were not as high as Paulo remembered them.  The bearers were at the front with long poles, pushing debris out of the way and clearing paths through half-sunken vines as Paulo guided the boat at the wheel.  Rook, meanwhile, sat atop one of the crates, sometimes reading, sometimes merely staring ahead. Once, when one of the bearers attempted to push a floating log out of the way, it dodged the pole.

“A caiman alligator, Capitão,” Paulo called, pointing to the camouflaged creature.

Rook looked up from a leather-bound journal.  “What of it?” “He is a deceptive creature,” Paulo said.  “He rests along the water’s edge, floating as still as any fallen limb.  His prey does not know it and comes to him willingly.” “It’s the natural order of things,” Rook told him, looking back at his journal.  “The clever feeds on those beneath him.” “So he must,” Paulo said.  He couldn’t help but feel pity for the little pig who wandered too near the water.  Still, it was the natural order of things.

That night they moored the boat and ate canned sausages from Paulo’s tiny cookstove.  After the exhausted bearers collapsed into a sleeping pile, Rook offered Paulo his flask.

Paulo accepted it.  The nip of whiskey was sweet after a salty meal and a long day.

“Obrigado, Capitão,” Paulo thanked him and passed the flask back.

Rook took another sip, concluding with a pleased sigh.  “Perfect stuff.  I can’t believe they tried to take it from us after the War.  I spent four months in the trenches only to get home and find that some old ladies wouldn’t let me celebrate.  Oh, we had our ways around the ‘Noble Experiment’ of course, but a man should have his nightcap, I say.”

Paulo said nothing and let the white man have his soliloquy.

“Paulie,” Rook said after a long pause, “you were born in the jungle, right?” Paulo made a single nod.  “Sim, Capitão.”

“How’d that work, then?”

“I don’t follow.”

“How’d you get out of the jungle and into civilization?” “Ah,” Paulo said.  He poked at the dying coals in the cookstove, hurrying them to die.  “Civilization came to the jungle, not the other way around.  When the Rubber Boom came, the barons needed workers, and so they began seizing them from the locals.  It was slavery, Capitão, much like what had been outlawed decades before, but the men with money needed labor, and so they took it.

“While the barons grew wealthy by bleeding the trees, the people suffered.  Many died, too many, and they had to find more.  My mother was a native of a very remote tribe, one that otherwise was never touched by the world.  A little after 1900, the expeditions desperate for fresh slaves finally found them and took her.  My father was a foreman who wished to marry my mother.  Soon, they had me.  Not long after, my mother died.

“My father attempted to raise me, but the boom died after 1912 when the British stole the rubber seeds.  Like most of the white men, my father left to find a new life.  He gave me to the orphanage, and nuns raised me up.”

“Quite a tale,” Rook said, nipping from his flask again.  He again offered it to Paulo.

Paulo took it.  “I am a man between two worlds, Capitão.  No man of civilization knows the jungle as I do.  No native has gone as far as I have into the cities.”

“So you became a guide,” Rook summed up for him.

Paulo winced, losing out on even his own story.

Rook changed the subject.  “Do you have much contact with the jungle tribes, then?” After a moment to think, Paulo nodded.

“I need you to confirm some legends about Mapinguari, then,” Rook told him.

Paulo felt his face pull into a grimace.  “I will confirm that nearly all who see Mapinguari never live to tell their story.”

Rook snorted.  “Not everybody.”

He reached into his shirt pocket again and removed the newspaper clipping.  As he unfolded it, he said as if reciting, “There was a wave of sightings last year in central Brazil.  Over one hundred cattle were killed, specifically for their tongues, which the creature ripped out and ate. That confirms a few legends about the creature being able to wipe out a whole herd.  Some people did spot it, and, when it saw them, it raised up on its back legs like a grizzly.  There are some disagreements about whether it had a tail or claws as opposed to long fingers, but they agreed that when people tried to shoot, bullets just bounced off it.”

Paulo felt himself shudder.  “Mapinguari is too strong simply to be shot.” “Yeah.  I read up on some conquistadors finding that out the hard way,” Rook said.  “Locals tried to tell them that arrows didn’t work, and the conquistadors tried their muskets.  Still nothing.” “What about you, Capitão?”

Rook gave a smug snort.  “Well, I’ve got a .45 caliber Colt M1911 on my belt, which is more than the conquistadors could say.”  He snorted again.  “Besides, I don’t want to kill it.  I want to capture it.”

Paulo felt his eyes spring open and his head drop.  “Capture Mapinguari?” “Right,” Rook confirmed.  “I brought along a case filled with gas bombs and syringes.  We’ll knock him out, keep him drugged up on sodium thiopental until we can reach Manaus and have a cage big enough built.” Paulo stared at the white man for a few minutes.  “You’re insane.” Rook merely shrugged.  “I’ve got it all figured out.” “They did this already years ago, Capitão,” Paulo said.  He had seen it himself on the silver screen.  “It was called King Kong.  Dozens of people were killed.” “We’re not going after a fifty-foot ape,” Rook told him.  “We’re going after a documented creature.” “Mapinguari is far more than a clipping out of a newspaper!” Paulo shouted.

One of the bearers stirred.  Rook held up a hand to quiet him.  Paulo shook his head but did not shout again.

Rook held up his leather-bound journal.  “We’ve got a sloth-like creature seven feet tall when standing, probably twelve at most while walking.  It has one eye, supposedly.  Its cries are like screams, and it smells terrible.  And, it’s supposed to have a mouth in its belly.”

Paulo only stared at him.

“I think modern man can handle that,” Rook told him.  “Let’s get some sleep and get an early start in the morning.”

Paulo nodded and went back to his chair at the back of the boat.  He sat there awake for a long while, listening to the jungle’s roars and holding his Caravaca cross.  Rook slept like a statue under his mosquito netting, and Paulo determined to watch over him.

They drove their way up the river day after day until even Paulo’s shallow boat began to scrape against the muddy floor of the jungle.  There, Rook had them leave the boat and march into the mountains that led to the impassable border with Columbia.  The bearers lugged the crates between them while Paulo led Rook ahead, scouting.  Paulo traveled as lightly as possible, making room in his pack for the starter he’d torn out of the boat to keep it safe but needed to replace to return them to Manaus.

More days followed, and Paulo began to think they would never cross paths with the legendary creature.  He guided as best he could up cliff trails, looking for footprints, scat, tufts of strange fur, anything that would give a hint of Mapinguari.

At last, while settling into camp at nightfall, Rook announced to the howling jungle, “I don’t believe this!”

Paulo made a long, slow shrug, stretching his weary shoulders.  The bearers looked at one another and worked to translate into Portuguese.  After a moment, they gave up and went back to scrounging for firewood.

Rook returned to the camp and sat on the edge of a crate.  He balled his left hand into a fist and leaned his forehead on it to think.  “We should have found at least something of the creature by now.”

As he cooked the guinea pig they had caught and killed for dinner, Paulo said, “You said the attacks had been in central Brazil.  We were already in the North.  Why are we heading north yet?”

“Because,” Rook said, his voice harried, almost rasping.  “Because someone told me to.” Paulo blinked.  “What do you mean?”

Rook pulled out his newspaper clipping again.  He reached further into his pocket and removed a slip of white butcher’s paper.  Unfolding it, he held it up to Paulo in the firelight.

“The same person who mailed me the newspaper clipping also mailed me a map.  Mylodons are supposed to have been all over the Americas.  Cripes, there might even have been some living in Cuba up to the time Columbus found the place.”

“So?”

“So, the reason we’re only seeing them now is because of the drought,” Rook told him.

“The legends say Mapinguari stays away from water.”

“Right, so it means the mapinguaris are coming out of the highlands.  Less water means less food, but it also means more room for them to hunt.  We’re headed where it’s worst, giving us the best chance to find one.” Paulo nodded.  He knew the poor rainfall better than most.

Before he could speak, though, a bearer interrupted them.  “Senhores.” The bearer held up a stone spearpoint.  “We are followed.” Rook immediately jumped to his feet and yanked his automatic pistol from its holster.  He ducked as low as the tall man could and looked every direction into the shadowy jungle.

Paulo sat by the fire.  “It would be no good fighting them.  They outnumber us by more bullets than your gun carries.”

Rook looked back at him and lowered his gun.  “You know about this?”

“Of course,” Paulo said simply.  “What guide would I be if I didn’t know natives were about?”

“How long?”

“They’ve been following us since we left the boat,” Paulo told him.

Rook made a growling sound of frustration.  “And you’re just now telling me this?  What if we had been ambushed?”

“Then we would have been dead,” Paulo said.  “They want us here, trust me.” Without breaking eye-contact with Paulo, Rook put away his gun.

Paulo smiled.  “Now, have some dinner.”

They marched two more days until they heard the first scream of the mapinguari.  It was midmorning on a Sunday, and it seemed to erupt out of nowhere.  The jungle had continued to whistle and call as it did without end.  Then, with the first cry of the creature, the entire Amazon seemed to go silent.

“What was that?” Rook whispered.  He stood frozen with his hand gripping his pistol.

Paulo said simply, “Mapinguari.”

Another cry rang out.  It was piercing and high, like the sound of an old man with a chortling, evil laugh.  The hairs on Paulo’s neck and arms stood despite the oppressive heat.

“It’s time,” Rook said softly.  He made an uneasy snort and turned to bark at the bearers.

They had all dropped their crates and were visibly shaking where they stood.  One of them clutched another, and they were all holding out the crucifixes around their necks.  Paulo held his own Caravaca cross.

Rook shouted at the bearers until they snapped out of the stunning fear of the mapinguari’s cry. They unbuckled the middle crate, the one loaded down with Rook’s hunting equipment.

The blonde giant hustled through the bags, pulling out earplugs and noseplugs.  Breathing noisily through his mouth, he affixed a tank of oxygen, like a mountain climber, through a gas mask.  He carried the tank over one shoulder and hefted a duffel bag marked “DANGER – GAS” over the other.

Paulo watched him, glancing back at the jungle where the cries of the mapinguari continued. They came closer and closer with each one.  It had caught their scent, and now the hunter had become the prey.  Paulo backed himself slowly against a tree.

Rook marched forward in his impressive warrior’s gear.  Behind him, the bearers huddled together and took several steps backward.

The smell of the mapinguari suddenly struck Paulo.  His whole face seemed to cringe, and he buried his nose in the pit of his elbow.  The stinking, sweat-mixed muck of his shirt was almost refreshing after the horrid rot that clung to Mapinguari’s fur.

Without much sound at all, Mapinguari appeared through the jungle brush.  A branch fell before him, pushed out of the way by a huge paw filled with claws.

It slumped back onto four legs, ambling slowly forward.  Its fur was matted and heavy with decaying plant fibers and swarms of parasites feasting on scattered bits of flesh.  Rather than one eye, it had two, but they were placed so closely together in a black patch of hair that the mapinguari seemed a cyclops.  Its hind feet were round and had short spurs; they almost looked like they were on backward, like a demon’s.

Despite having pictured the monster for such a long time, Paulo could not help but close his eyes.  Its horrid image hung there, floating in the darkness behind his eyelids, and he decided it best to see the beast in reality rather than nightmares.  He forced his eyes open and looked over the beast from its sniffing nose to the end of its thick tail.

Rook raised himself up and bellowed at the creature.  “Hey!” The mapinguari looked lazily at him.

Paulo could see the white man shiver underneath his gear.  Still, Rook called out, “Over here!” Rook set his bag of grenades down, traded his handgun into his offhand, and slipped his good hand into the duffel.  The mapinguari let out a horrifying scream.  Paulo cupped a hand over one ear and dug the other into his shoulder.

Rook pulled a cylindrical grenade out, flicked the pin with his thumb, and threw it.  The fat metal rod immediately spewed white mist, leaving a trail of smoke through the thick jungle air.

It fell into the foliage at the clawed front feet of the mapinguari.

The beast sniffed the smoke, made a sick huffing noise, and turned back to Rook, who was already priming his second grenade.

Mapinguari suddenly rose into the air, standing up on his back freakish legs.  It showed its belly, which had a long, vertical fold in it that looked almost like a mouth.  Paulo wasn’t quite sure what it was from where he stood and did not want to go any closer to see.

It let out a cry: a long, loud, piercing shriek that made Paulo’s lungs hurt just to be near it.  The bearers screamed in return.  Two of them turned and began to run.  The third fainted dead away.

Rook stood his ground and threw the second grenade.  This one quaked in the air as it went and actually hit the mapinguari.

The creature roared more deeply this time, fell onto its front legs, and charged at Rook.

Paulo heard a muffled string of swearing escape Rook’s gasmask.  The white man dropped his oxygen tank and scooped up his gun into his right hand.

The automatic pistol shot off every round it had as the mapinguari rushed at Rook.  The monster moved slowly, but the bullets didn’t seem to make any impact.  Its thick hide beneath its heavy fur carried bony plates, not seen on other creatures for thousands of years.  The carapace could deflect arrows, stop musketballs, and even block modern ammunition.

A steady man might’ve hit it in the eye, but Rook was shaking.  No man could stand before the mapinguari.  It was a horrid beast that used its foul stench and overwhelming shriek to stupefy enemies.  Though it was slow, it was unstoppable.  Now it bore down on Rook.

The mapinguari hit the white man with its shoulder, throwing him to the jungle floor.  Then it lunged on top of him, using its huge claws to tear through Rook’s chest.  Paulo could hear screaming from under the gasmask.  It was not long before the screams ended.

Mapinguari fed a little on the white man but soon moved on.  The rest of the jungle could have him, as was Mapinguari’s way.  He simply took the best, thickest parts: the tongue, the heart, and the leather of Rook’s belt and boots.

After the creature had moved on, disappearing into the underbrush with an unnatural silence for a beast so large, Paulo finally left the tree.  He looked over Rook’s remains and winced.  It was a terrible end, but the white man had chosen it.

When he looked up, Paulo was surrounded by Amazonian natives.  They wore leather waistbands, paint, feathers, and little else.  Many of them carried bows.  Others had dart guns.

All of them had stone necklaces with the sign of Mapinguari: a long central bar for its head, body, and tail with two crossbars showing its four legs.

For a long moment, no one said anything.

When the appropriate amount of silence had passed, the leader of the hunting party said, “Greetings and health.”

“Greetings and health,” Paulo replied.  He extended a hand, as did the leader, but neither touched.  Backslaps and hand-gripping were the ways of wild civilized man.  The jungle was peaceful and proper.

Behind the leader, two other warriors dragged the unconscious bodies of the two bearers who had run.  Darts stuck out of their necks and shoulders.  They flopped them alongside the bearer who had fainted.

“What of them?” Paulo asked.

“We will sacrifice them to Mapinguari as well.  They shall not be as acceptable as the white man, but every sacrifice can help us bring back the rains.”

Paulo took in a breath.  The stench of Mapinguari still hung in the air, along with the chemical stink of the gas grenades.  He waved a hand toward what was left of Rook.  “The sacrifice is acceptable?”

The leader made an agreeable clicking sound.  “Our shaman believes so.  We shall see if the season rains further.”

“Let us hope,” Paulo said.  The natives agreed.

“We thank you, brother,” the leader told him.

Paulo gave a bowing nod, then remembered his manners and clicked his tongue.  He touched his Caravaca cross.  “I am pleased to help my people.”

The tribesmen left him then, dragging the three bearers.  They followed Mapinguari’s trail, nearly invisible amid the brush.

Paulo rummaged through what was left in the crates, taking food, drinking water, and some cash Rook had tucked away.  Venturing back to Rook’s body, he removed the blood-stained newspaper clipping and letter he had written months ago under an assumed name.  Scooping a hole in the dirt, he buried them and ensured the jungle would take them as it would soon take what was left of Rook.

Paulo turned back to the jungle and began his long journey back to collect his own reward. Before marching too far, he stroked his Caravaca cross for safe travels.

* * * * * *

“Well?”

Paulo looked up from his thoughts.

“Well?” Mr. Jameson repeated.  He tapped his fingers in civilized impatience on the forms in front of him.

“Malaria,” Paulo said.  “We suffered vicious attacks by the mosquitoes brought on by the stagnant puddles of the poor rains.  Only I survived to return to Manaus.  Then I came here to follow up on Capitão Rook’s final wishes.”

Mr. Jameson stared at him a moment before finally looking away.  “Very well.  Sign this affidavit.”

Paulo signed the paperwork.

“As you know,” Mr. Jameson said, scrawling on a large check, “Rook had no family, believing a life of adventure more fulfilling.  His life insurance policy was to be granted as an endowment for exploration upon the event of his untimely demise.”

“Sim, Senhor,” Paulo replied.  “I have here my documentation as a licensed guide.  The money will be put to good use ensuring transport to future explorers at limited charge.”

Mr. Jameson took the official-looking booklet filled with Portuguese, squinted at it, and handed it back.  “Fine, fine.  Here is the check for Captain Rook’s policy.  I’ll bid you good day as I’m very busy.”

Paulo kept the check safe as he navigated the treacherous concrete and wires of the city.  He would use the money to buy a bigger and better boat, as was his word.  The rains had come again, and the rivers were full.  Perhaps Mapinguari would even return the wealth of the rubber trade if a few more sacrifices were made.  There were rumors of war in Europe, and wars needed rubber.  Paulo wondered how far Mapinguari’s reach could go.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Written by Jeff Provine
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Jeff Provine


Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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The Salem Horror
Average Rating:
10

The Salem Horror

Don’t Let It In
Average Rating:
9.14

Don’t Let It In

Recommended Reading:

The Complete Knifepoint Horror
Neverlight: A Father Darkness Collection
The Art of Fear: How to Write Scary Ghost Stories that Terrify Your Readers
Midnight Men: The Supernatural Adventures of Earl and Dale

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