Monday, February 11, 2013

Web of Bloom

There are many mysterious things lurking among the trees. A man could live his whole life in a jungle and never stumble upon half of what exists there. Usually this is not a bad thing. Those which you cannot find are those which cannot eat you. Unless, of course, they find you first.

A web spans the length of the jungle floor, waiting patiently to trap its prey. On most days it catches stupid and unfortunate animals. Squirrels, mice, the occasional dumbstruck deer. Very rarely does it catch anything of note. Not because it can't, but because it prefers not to be seen. It blends so perfectly with the foliage that no creature has ever witnessed it.

It is aware of all beings which exist in the jungle. There is no creature which does not tickle its strings. All-seeing, and yet blind.

There are days, however, where no simple beast will do. These days are few and far between, but every century or so they do come. And when they do they bring often extiction. In the wake of these days are the rumors, the stories. Stories which Brrda, Savage Savior of the Secret Land, did not heed.

Brrda, his faithful tigress Retsis at his side, had just put an end to the charge of a quite angry Armored Rhino. The rhino, lured into crashing through a bush of bizarre pale-orange bell flowers, inhaled a puff of glittering pollen and almost at once collapsed into a deep slumber.

Retsis' gaze became hungry. She rubbed a wet nose in Brrda's hand, but he shook his head. The rhino had not earned death. Disappointed, Retsis slumped away and dozed upon a high branch.

Her nap was interrupted as an elephant's alarm trumpeted through the trees. All around there was the snapping of branches and the rustling of leaves. The forest came alive with the panic and shouts of its denizens. Squawks, chitters, chirps, roars, barks, all echoed beneath the canopy.

Confusion was not long lived. The vines sprang to life, tossing like tendrils from the trees and from the floor. They ensnared the slumbering rhinoceros, wrapping around the beast quite thoroughly and dragging its snoring bulk into the bushes. Before Brrda could understand what had happened the vines were upon him as well, coiling tight around his angers.

They yanked him to the ground. His jaw hit hard on his shoulder, bruising both. More vines roped around his body, pinning his muscular arms to his side and squeezing hard on his aching ribs. A ferocious and terrified reowr echoed off the tree above, and Brrda turned in time to see Retsis yanked down by her tail and cocooned by the vines. Her claws tore and slashed, but were ultimately trapped by the camouflaged constricors.

Branches snapped around him as Brrda was dragged at dizzying speeds across the forest floor. Through rivers and streams he had never seen. Miles and miles slipped away beneath him, for hours upon hours. Day became night and then day again, and still Brrda was being spirited away. Bleeding, bruised, and breathing badly, Brrda began to give in to the exhaustion. Weakly he flexed, but the effort only made the vines lock tighter. Retsis whimpered softly nearby.

The jungle tapered away, the trees gradually growing thinner and smaller until at last they were nothing more than shrubs. There was no forest beyond that, and no grass or field. Only the vines. A circular clearing filled to the brim writhing, wiggling vines. They slipped beneath him, slid over him. Blocked his view of the sky. But not of their master.

At the center of it all was a kind of pod. It was large, bulbous. It displayed four lips of a sort, each tinged red. They split away, fanning into large leaves and revealing a chasm of mesmerizing, dazzling purple. Yellow-tipped whiskers stood out of this maw, tasting the air for a suitable meal.

The meal was found, from all corners of the great gaping greenery. The alarmed elephant was tossed on the left while a small herd of jungle buffalo piled up on the right. Frogs, bats, and other smaller creatures filled up the space between larger morsels. When it was full the plant snapped shut, letting loose only the sickening squeals of the beasts as they boiled away in digestive juices.

In minutes the mouth was open again, being stuffed full from all sides. The vine carrying Retsis lifted into the air, and soon behind it rose Brrda. The plant breathed hot acid on his cheek, burning redness into his skin. The Armored Rhino, now awakened and panicked, thrashed in its bindings, but was soon stuffed deep into the purple throat.

The pod snapped shut. The thick vines held Brrda high for twenty minutes as the squeals of the other beasts, and the roars of the Armored Rhino, carried on steam through the blood-red lips. But when it came time for the next helping, the pod remained shut. The vines fell suddenly, collapsing to the ground like great, dead pillars. Brrda broke free, as did Retsis, together landing on a soft pile of the now limp limbs.

They stared at the plant which had gorged itself on the forest's fauna. It rumbled a sound not unlike that of a hungry and persistent belly. The leaf-mouths danced and clenched, as though fighting to keep something in. Brrda tensed, Retsis drew her claws.

The lips puckered, making an "O". Billions of tiny balls, each covered in brilliant white fluff, blasted into the air. They caught the wind and flew over the forst, settling for miles across the Secret Lands.

A yellow-brown shade came over the bulb. It coughed a few puffs too low to catch the win. They fell upon it, spilling into the browning vines. Tired, all energy spent after spewing its seed, the plant collapsed heavily to one side, where it was resigned to whither.

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