Sunday, January 4, 2015

"The Sting of Death" by Anonymous/Unknown

The Sting of Death

"Don't touch that," Steve Kent yelled, as he pushed John Waters to the ground. "It's the Golden Orchid and it means trouble."

Carefully picking himself out of the bed of ferns, Waters adjusted his monocle and stared coldly at his guide. "Have you gone completely crazy?" he shouted at Steve. "I hired you to guide me and not advise me as to what specimens I should take and what not!" Waters reached for the huge orchid again. "It's worth at least five hundred pounds — and I'm..." That's as far as he got. The strong grip of Steve Kent stopped him.

"As long as anyone's with me they don't pick that flower," Steve barked. "It's meant death to some — but others it drives mad, raving mad!"

That night, Steve and Waters sat around the campfire. They listened to the strange jungle sounds. Kent identified each one for his friend. Soon, the conversation drifted to the life they had left behind in London. Kent studied Waters and sensed his mind had wandered — it had drifted to the Golden Orchid. Steve tensed. "I suppose you're angry because I kept you from picking that flower?" he said, smacking straight into the subject.

Before Waters could answer, Kent continued. "I've knocked around all over the world and there are some things I can't understand and never will. That Golden Orchid is one. The natives say that he who picks one will never leave the jungle alive."

"Stupid superstition," Waters scoffed. "You're civilized, man, you can't believe such nonsense. Did you ever know of any one who picked one and died?"

"Once." Steve hesitated, then continued. "The natives warned him just as I did you. The man laughed in their faces and picked the blossom. I watched him as he fondled it like a little child. I watched him hold it to his face and gaze into its golden petals as he raved over the shape and size. He talked of the glory and fame the Academy would award him for bringing back such an unknown treasure."

"But what happened? I never saw it on exhibit!" John interrupted impatiently.

"I'm coming to that," Steve said slowly. "The next morning in his tent we found the body. It was a dark blue color — he had died during the night."

"Dead," Waters whispered in an awed voice.

"Yeah," Steve nodded. "The natives called it the sting of the Golden Orchid."

"What about the flower?" Waters asked.

"It lay beside him on the bed where he had placed it," Kent replied. "The natives piled the tent with brush and burned the body of the man and the orchid." With that, Steve got up and stretched lazily. "I'm turning in for the night," he said, as he walked off to the tent.

Kent lay on the cot. His eyelids grew heavier and heavier... Suddenly, his semi-conscious mind caught the sound of cracking brush. Instantly he was on his feet and out of the tent. Through the slowly dying campfire he saw the figure of John Waters, in his hand the Golden Orchid.

With sparkling eyes, John held the prize so Kent could see its full beauty. "Those silly stories couldn't scare me," he said proudly. "I've got it and I'm going to take it back to civilization with me. It's mine — they'll call it John Waters' Golden Orchid!"

Swiftly, Steve leaped forward, grabbed the flower and threw it into the fire.

Furiously, Waters aimed his fist at Steve's jaw. Kent ducked the blow and with a short right sent Waters sprawling to the ground. In an instant, he was astride him.

"Why did you do it, why did you do it?" John sobbed anguishedly. "I'll never have a chance to get another!"

Steve released his grip. "That orchid," he began slowly, "has been known to always harbor a nest of vipers within its leaves. The viper, colored the same as the plant, is very seldom found — that was the thing that killed the other man! Its sting is filled with venom — and the viper strikes at night."

"But why didn't you tell me the truth about it?" Waters demanded.

"Because," Steve said slowly, "you'd have decided to look for the deadly reptile, to kill it — by that time it would have injected you with its poison."

Waters gripped Steve's hand and said, "And to think, all this time I thought you made up that story to scare me away so you could have the orchid for yourself."

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