Today I get the pleasure of hosting a friend’s work. Kyle Morgan is someone I think is a pretty good writer, who specializes in adventure and “Setting the Hook,” as it were.
Good luck not getting caught with this one.
The sun reflected off the green of the river, giving Wes Hawkman the impression that he was rowing down a lake of emeralds. His bulging biceps struggled to dip his oar into the deep, entangled river, pushing the canoe ever forward into the unknown abyss that is the Amazon rain forest. He stole a glance behind him to see the figure of his beautiful wife of three weeks, asleep. Her thick red hair was covering her face, shading her eyes from the intense sun. Wes drew his shriveled, puffy lips into a smile, splitting them in multiple places. The two had run out of water three days ago, but he had told her there was clean water just a few miles ahead. But it was a lie to keep her spirits up. The truth was, Wes Hawkman, for all his navigational skills, was lost. And even though there was no clean water, the rain forest was full of creatures that provided tasty meals, and the fruit kept them hydrated just enough to keep death at bay. However, Wes began to worry about their mortality. He had pleaded with the Almighty for something. Anything, to help them on their way. Once again, he was about to lift his head to the sky, when the light disappeared, and a great cloud covered the sun. But it wasn’t a cloud. Wes looked up and smiled, forgetting the pain that the expression caused him. High above, a swarm of giant roaches flew across the sky, clicking their wings together in a strange symphony. A roach fell down from the sky, and Wes caught it with both hands. He cradled the bug, and gazed upon its enormous size. Angel stirred, moaning softly.
The giant roach was a foot long, and stood six inches high. Wes held the insect in his hands as if it were a puppy. “Angel, I have some good news and I have some bad news. The good news is, I just found us some breakfast.”
Angel’s eyes bulged at the sight of the insect, but she cut off a scream, for fear of it ripping her sore throat in two. “Giant roaches are the good news? I’m afraid to ask what the bad news is.”
Wes Hawkman’s voice was frail, but it still held a fighting spirit. “I think we found the hideout of our good friend Dr. Lincoln Boggs.”
Angel laid her head back against the wooden canoe and closed her eyes while Wes killed the roach. “Oh good. For a minute there I thought I was going to have to die from heat exhaustion or starvation. But being killed by a mad scientist is far more satisfying.”
Wes Hawkman ignored his wife’s sarcasm and steered the canoe toward the bank of the river. “Stay here, I’m gonna see if I can’t spot his camp.” He pointed to the dead roach in the canoe. “Just pretend it’s bacon and eggs.”
Angel pushed herself into a sitting position. “Won’t you be worried about me if I do?”
Wes slid his machete into the sheath which was strapped to his hip. He wrapped a jungle vine around his wrist and swung out of the canoe, and onto the bank of the river. His heart beat like a war drum, as he chopped his way through the thick jungle. A few more vines fell to the ground, and then the landscape opened up to a vast valley. Roads twisted and turned, leading to the metal huts that were built in a circle. Wes Hawkman laughed silently. “Hey Angel! Forget about breakfast. We have bigger fish to fry.” Wes heard Angels voice from behind him. “Fried fish sounds good.”
Dr. Lincoln Boggs looked up from his clipboard. His left eye squinted behind his monocle. The right eye was covered by a patch. His bushy gray eyebrows rose in astonishment. He scribbled a few notes on the clipboard and then turned to one of his guards, with a look of excitement. “We’re almost ready. In three hours time, we’ll know whether or not-” He was interrupted by a loud siren. The lights in the room shut off, and a circular red light in the corner, began to strobe. The guard’s eyes widened. He turned on his heels and ran out of the room, screaming “Containment failure! containment failure!”
Dr. Boggs looked through the two-way mirror into the other room. A man was tied to a chair, with cables attached to his bare chest. Dr. Boggs sat down and stared at the table of buttons, dials, and switches in front of him. His finger hovered over a large green button. He closed his eye, and took a deep breath. He mentally blocked out the blaring sound of the siren.
“Don’t do it Doc.”
The strange voice froze the doctor’s hand. He opened his eye to see Wes Hawkman standing in the doorway, holding a revolver. Dr. Boggs glared at Wes. “Didn’t you hear the siren? This whole camp is ruined. There will be radiation for decades, maybe centuries here. I’ll never get another chance like this again. Wes, I have to know.”
Wes Hawkman chuckled and drew up a folding chair that was leaning against the wall. “There’s no containment failure Doc. That’s Angel.”
Dr. Boggs grabbed a handkerchief from his jacket pocket and mopped his brow. “My own daughter betrayed me?”
“She’s not really your daughter, Doc.”
Dr. Boggs shot Wes a look.
“Yeah that’s right,” said Wes with bitterness in his voice. “She knows the truth.”
Dr. Boggs let his head fall back and he let out a loud sigh. He slowly walked over to the red light and yanked the wire, silencing the siren. The room was dark for a moment before the fluorescent lights kicked back on. Dr. Boggs smiled. “You just wanted to evacuate the camp.”
Wes played with the gun in his hand. “Sorry Doc. I thought we needed some alone time. You and I, we go way back. And I’ve stood by you from time to time. But this? You’ve gone too far this time.”
Dr. Boggs drew a sharp breath. “You don’t understand Wes. I took a once inch cockroach, and now it’s a foot long. Do you realize what I’m on the brink of here? Cockroaches the size of cats. Cats the size of dogs. And man?” Dr. Boggs looked into the other room. His voice was strange and soft. “Imagine what man will be.”
Wes stood up from the chair. “Doc, roaches are tough little guys. Strong. You stomp on them twice and they pop right back up and laugh in your face. But humans? How do you know they’ll live?”
A wicked smile spread across Dr. Boggs’ face. “Oh you know me Wes. Never question: always experiment.” Dr. Boggs’ hand grasped a lever, his one eye twitched.
Wes cocked the revolver. “Don’t do it Doc. Don’t make me stop you.”
Dr. Boggs’ laughed. His voice rose. “You’ve always stood in the way of science Wes. Well this is the last time!”
A hand jerked. The gun went off. And Dr. Boggs was dead. But as his body began to fall to the ground, his cold, dead hand pulled down the lever. A timer began counting down. Wes looked at the man who was strapped to the chair. His head was down, but Wes recognized him. Why did Boggs have to test on the poor natives? Wes tried the door, but it was bolted. He returned to the other room and fired two shots into the two-way mirror, shattering the glass. He hopped into the other room and began cutting the ropes, and ripping the cables off the man.
Wes helped him to his feet and called for Angel. “Let’s get you out of here Mbenji.”
Mbenji forced a smile. “Mr. Hawkman, you’ve come back.”
Wes sighed, as he helped the man onto his feet. “I never should have left.”
Mbenji held his hand to his ear. “What’s that counting down?”
Wes gave Mbenji a pat on the shoulder. “Doc was gonna experiment on you Mbenji. I stopped him.”
Mbenji’s eyes widened. “Doc’s dead?”
Mbenji ran a hand through his hair. “Oh this is bad. This is bad.”
Wes ran into the other room. The timer had ten minutes left. “Mbenji, what did the Doc do?”
Mbenji licked his lips and swallowed hard. “That wasn’t the experiment lever. That’s the self destruct lever.”
Angel took one glance at the dead body of Dr. Boggs and went straight into sobbing.
Wes Hawkman looked around frantically. “Self destruct? As in..?”
Mbenji made an explosion sound. “Atomic bomb. Everything goes up in a mushroom cloud, and the place becomes a radioactive wasteland for who knows how long?”
Wes Hawkman grabbed Angels shoulders. “Pull yourself together Angel. We got to get out of here before we vaporize.”
Angel’s eyes widened. “I saw an airstrip down further in the jungle!”
Wes snapped his fingers. “That’s got to be the Doctor’s escape!” He turned to Mbenji. “Do you know where Dr. Boggs’ plane is?”
Mbenji took in a shaky breath, his eyes sunken, and his once proud shoulders, now slouched. “If it’s where I think it is, we’ll have to run fast.”
Wes placed a hand on Mbenji’s arm. “Can you make it?”
Mbenji forced a smile. “I can try.”
The plane was Dr. Boggs’ own design. It was streamlined, small, and lined with lead all around, making it safe from any radiation. It’s wheels sat on a metal railing like a train cart. Wes gazed down the railway, which curved up in a ramp at the end. Then, he turned to the plane itself. His eyes were moist, and his voice was tender, as if he was gazing upon an old friend. “He really built it.” Wes opened the hatch and climbed into the cockpit, admiring the controls. Angel called from outside. “Wes, we didn’t come here to admire the plane, we came here to fly it.” In the far distance another siren went off, reminding them all of what they were running away from. Angel helped Mbenji inside, as Wes prepared the plane for takeoff. He flipped the controls, held onto the wheel, and grinned. “Mbenji, I hope you haven’t had breakfast yet.” The engines began to roar. Then it jerked, flames shot out, and the plane flew across the railway like a rocket. The wheels scraped against the metal, sending sparks everywhere as it slowly began to lift. Mbenji was silent, as he refused to let his mind understand what was going to happen. The plane lifted off the ground and began to fly away, into safety. Angel sighed, happily. “We’re safe.”
She had barely uttered the words, when it happened. First the brilliant flash of light, and then the shock wave rocked the plane as if it were a boat on the water. Mbenji looked back to see his old home. A giant mushroom cloud covered the area. Mbenji touched the plane’s window with his hand, and let a tear fall down his face. It was all gone. Ruined. His civilization, forgotten by history. His language would become extinct. And his old land would become just a valley of roaches.