Kanana: The Jungle Girl – Chapter 6 Excerpt

The swinging gate of the gigantic elephant, as it moved across the great plain, mimicked the motion of a small boat on the ocean.  It was almost hypnotizing.  I watched the many animals that we passed by.  Having been to Africa, I was no stranger to great herds of herbivores moving as one across the grassy landscape, but here I was able to view them from much closer than I had ever been before.  The huge deer, standing seven feet tall at the shoulder, but with antlers spanning twelve feet; gnus, almost identical to their African cousins except for their black fur; bison with horns that would have made any Texas longhorn envious; and a species of zebra that had stripes only around its face and front shoulders—all of these creatures allowed the pachyderm to approach much closer than they would have a walking human.  I saw more of the saber tooth cats, rhinoceros with no horn at all, brightly colored ostriches, and armadillos the size of a kitchen table.  It was an amazing expedition, but one can only stay amazed for so long. Eventually, between the general fatigue that I experienced, and the motion of my mount, I was lulled into a drowse.

“Henry Goode,” said Kanana.

I started awake.

“It is time to say goodbye to Giwa.”

Kanana slipped a leg over the great beast’s shoulder and slipped to the ground. Fortunately I didn’t have to perform the same acrobatics.  The elephant lowered itself just as it had done when we climbed aboard, and though it was still quite a drop, I managed it, sliding down its side.  Giving us a parting sniff with its trunk, Giwa turned and walked off across the savannah.

“Are we back home?” I asked, looking around.

“No no, Henry Goode.  We are… many far away.”

“Why did you send your elephant away then?”

“Giwa not… happy?”  Kanana looked for my confirmation of the word.  I nodded.

“Giwa not happy here.”

“This looks very much like the rest of the grassland to me,” I conceded. “More jungle off in that direction.”

“Smell,” she ordered.

I took a deep breath but couldn’t smell anything notable.

“What am I smelling?”

“Smell zuhu.”

“Doesn’t zuhu mean lion?”

A tremendous roar suddenly reverberated through the air, into my skin, and right down my spine.  Before I had realized what was happening, a pair of monstrous lions jumped out of the high grass, right at Kanana.  I was frozen in place, but my companion wasn’t.  With an equally ferocious roar of her own, she leapt forward, grasping one of the beasts around the middle, and knocking it from the air.  I suddenly remembered that I had a pistol and pulled it out, but by that time the girl and the two lions were one gigantic, growling pile. As I looked for a target amid the furry mess, the jungle girl let loose with a peel of laughter.  Jumping to her feet, she wrapped an arm around each of the great black-maned heads.

“Henry Goode,” she called.  “These are Kanusa and Katusa.  They are Kanana’s… brothers.”

I sucked in a mouthful of air, only now realizing that I had been holding my breath.  Then I realized that all around me were lions—maybe twenty of them, ranging in size from the two enormous males that now nosed Kanana’s stomach to females only slightly smaller, to a number of yearlings, any one of whom would have been a match for me.  None of them made a threatening move toward me, so I stuffed my pistol back in its holster and checked my pants to make sure I hadn’t soiled myself.

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Kanana: The Jungle Girl – Chapter 5 Excerpt

“Henry Goode,” I heard.

“Just Henry,” I heard myself reply, even though I wasn’t aware of where I was or to whom I was speaking.

Food was pushed into my mouth, and I managed, barely, to chew and swallow. Afterwards water was given to me and I drank.  I don’t know how long this continued, but eventually I found the strength and will to sit up.  I was still in the stone room where Kanana had tied me down.  She was there, slicing pieces of cooked meat and putting them on a wooden platter.  I jumped to my feet and immediately fell to the floor.  She rushed over.

“What have you done to me?” I shouted, shrugging her away.

I pulled up my shirt to look at the arrow wound, but all that remained was a slight scar.

“Good, Henry Goode.”

“Just Henry,” I replied, anger still tinting my words.

“Good, Henry,” she said, retrieving the plate and bringing it to me.  “Eat.”

“You seem to speak much better now.”

“Kanana… remember.”

I took the food offered, but I was far from mollified.

“What did you do to me?  I had maggots crawling on me.  And you poisoned me.”

“Kanana give… um, medicine.  Kanana give… mags?”

“Maggots.”

“Kanana give maggots.  Maggots eat… um, dead Henry.  Not eat live Henry.”

I thought she was explaining that the maggots ate only the putrefying flesh and not the good, living flesh.  I was no doctor, but I wasn’t ready to buy into that proposition.  On the other hand, there was no denying that I seemed fine now.  Still, I couldn’t help the nagging fear that I would burst open, sprouting a horde of vile insects.

“Henry tell Kanana…” she pointed at the plate.

“Food, plate, meat, fruit.”  I supplied her with words which she eagerly repeated as I ate.

When I had finished, she motioned me to follow.  A door in the room led out onto a small balcony.  Beside it, flowing from somewhere in the mountain’s core, water shot forth from the rock face, creating a waterfall and cascading down to a beautiful blue pool some ten feet below.  Kanana jumped up onto the low stone wall that formed the balcony’s edge and then dived into the water below.  She surface and then waved at me to follow her.

“Is it deep enough?” I called, ignoring the fact that she had just dived in.

She gave me another wave.

“Water.  Henry…” She pinched her nose.

“I stink?  Yes, I do.”

I climbed up on the wall and with none of the gracefulness the jungle girl had shown, jumped into the water.  It was much cooler than the muggy air, but not too cold.  When I surfaced, I looked down.  The water was clear enough for me to see my feet and the pool’s bottom below them, but a cloud of dirt and filth began darkening the water around me.  I was embarrassed, but then I looked toward Kanana and found she was swimming in her own cloud as the mud that had coated her body as long as I had known her was washed away.

I forgot about myself as I watched the transformation of this wild creature into a lovely young woman with perfect skin and dark brown hair.  She had a cute button nose, and her widely spaced green eyes narrowed naturally into a squint when she smiled, as she did when she saw me watching her.  Swimming over, she tugged at the sleeve of my shirt.

“Off,” she said, and then gracefully swam away across the pool.

I peeled off my outer clothes only to find my underclothes even more disgusting. Once the last of my things were removed, I submerged myself and began scrubbing as best I could with both hands.

“Henry.”

Kanana was back with a handful of fronds from some forest succulent plant. Squeezing them in her palm, she created a sudsy lather.

“Soap.”

“Soap,” she repeated as she pushed them toward me.

Kanana: The Jungle Girl – Chapter 4 Excerpt

I started awake and for the life of me could not remember where I was or how I got there.  This wasn’t my home in Boston and I wasn’t propped against a tree near a river in the jungles of Elizagaea either.  I was lying on my back on something soft.  Feeling down, I found it was a pile of straw or hay.  Complete blackness surrounded me and looking up I could see neither stars nor moon.  I tried to sit up and immediately felt pain shooting through my side.  If that wasn’t an indication of where I was, it was at least a reminder of recent events.  The air felt cool, but I was drenched in sweat—most probably a result of fever.

Getting to my feet, I found that I was under a roof of some kind far above my head, but that I could see stars off to my left.  With great effort I walked in that direction, but had taken no more than five steps when someone grabbed me and jerked me back.

“No Henry Goode!” said a female voice.

“Kanana?”

“Kanana,” she confirmed.

“What is it?  What’s the matter?  Where are we?”

Though I don’t know whether she understood any of my questions, she guided my hand down to the ground and along a smooth stone floor beneath my feet. Just a few inches in front of me it ended.  I was standing on the edge of some great precipice and had been about to step off. Pulling me along by my shirt, she led me back to where I had started and guided me back down to the bed of straw.

My eyes were starting to adjust to the darkness but I could only make out her outline.  Kanana could evidently see just fine, for she pushed something into my hand.  I could feel that it was some kind of fruit and when I took a bite I recognized it as a plum.  While I ate, she left me where I was, and though I wanted her to stay with me, by the time I finished eating the plum I had drifted back to sleep.

This time, if I did return to that vile dream, I had no memory of it when I awoke. I opened my eyes to see bright daylight streaming into the room where I lay.  It was a stone room, or that is to say, it was most of a stone room. There was a ceiling and a floor and three walls, all constructed of massive stone blocks fitted together with brilliant precision.  Each of the three walls had windows.  Two of them looked out over the unbroken jungle below, revealing that this room along with whatever other parts of the complex existed, were built on a granite mountainside poking above the lush green country.  The third window revealed an enormous rock jutting into the sky. On the fourth side of the room, not only was the entire wall missing, a good portion of the mountain had fallen away in a landslide, leaving only a narrow winding path down to the ground hundreds of feet below.  I felt far too shaky in my current state to make the descent and wondered that I had ever been able to make it up here.

My jungle girl was nowhere to be seen but it was obvious that she made this her home, at least sometimes.  The mat where I had slept was on one side of the room, covered in a mattress I now recognized as savannah grasses.  On the other side was a similar bed, along with several pieces of ancient luggage. Opening them up I found clothing that might have come from America or Europe but that was some ten or fifteen years out of style, not that I kept up with such things.  There were a few very nice pieces of gold jewelry and a small personal journal.

I couldn’t read the book.  It was in a foreign language that I was able to identify as Russian only by the peculiar additions to the alphabet.  From the inside cover I determined that this was the journal of one Aleksandra Christyakova-Romanov.  I scanned the pages and found the names Robert James Haldane and Aleksandra Haldane.  From this scant evidence I pieced together a picture of a Russian woman who married an Englishman.  Perhaps he had visited Russia on business or in some diplomatic capacity, had met the young woman and married her.  I knew of course that Romanov was the family name of the Russian monarchy, but surely there were others as well with that surname.

Kanana: The Jungle Girl – Chapter 3 Excerpt

We continued on our way through the thick green jungle for another week.  It was quite beautiful, with flowers blossoming on vines and bushes all over.  I spotted many interesting animals too; animals that I had never heard of before. None of them inspired me to shoot them though.  There were numerous monkeys, mostly small, though I did spy one variety in the very tops of the threes that were almost three feet tall.  Tiny antelope, large rodents, and medium sized tapirs were also in evidence.  What I didn’t enjoy was the variety and the density of the insect life.  I was constantly brushing large creepy crawlies from my clothing, and the mosquitoes that buzzed in huge clouds near dawn and dusk bit me mercilessly.

Finally we came to the edge of a large river winding its way toward the north. The water was slow moving and appeared deep.  The first things that I noticed were the crocodiles lying in the sun on the far bank. I had heard of the prehistoric crocodiles, whose gigantic skeletons had been found in recent years by fossil hunters. None of these creatures approached the dimensions of those, but they seemed plenty big to me, with several well over twenty feet in length.  Then I saw that in addition to the crocs, the water was teeming with hippos.  I had been to Africa and had seen similar congregations of hippos and crocodiles in rivers there.  These hippos, while not smaller than those in Africa, seemed to be built on a lighter frame, with longer legs and slightly less bulbous heads.

“We will go this way,” said Saral, pointing to the north.  “There are rapids several miles away that we may cross. There will be no creatures to fear there.”

“Alright,” I said.  “Are there any people living around here?”

“No.  My people, the Tokayana once lived in these forests but we have all moved to the coast to trade with the Englishmen.  The Chikuyana live far to the north.”

“And how do your people and they get along?”

“A long time ago we were enemies.  There hasn’t been any fighting for many years.”

“That’s good.”

The trek north along the river was relatively easy because of numerous game trails and hippo wallows that pushed back the jungle growth, and before long we were at a spot where the river widened to series of rapids flowing between several piles of massive boulders.  Though in a few places the water looked both deep and swift, there seemed to be adequate footing to step from stone to stone and get across.  The difficult part would be for the bearers, carrying the trunks, one at each corner.  There were several places where two could not cross abreast.  Fortunately the trunks were waterproof.  I took out a coil of rope and cut lengths that could be fastened at each corner.  The trunks could then be floated in the water next to the people crossing on the rocks, held under control by the four men.

We were in the middle of the one hundred yard crossing before there was any hint of trouble.  Suddenly one of the bearers cried out in pain and I saw an arrow piercing his chest before he toppled into the churning rapids.  Then the air was thick with stone-tipped missiles.  Two more men fell into the water after being shot, and a couple dived in to escape that fate.  By this time I could see that our attackers were firing from the far side of the river.

“Go back!” I shouted and the men were attempting to do so, but between the deadly arrows and the panic, most were falling rather than making a successful retreat.  Saral was on a large flat rock just ahead of me, next to an upright boulder.  He seemed to be frozen in his spot from fear or indecision, so I jumped forward and grabbed hold of him, turning so that between the boulder and my body, he was shielded from attack.  Then I felt a horrible pain in my side and looked down to see a stone-tipped shaft protruding from my abdomen.

“Run!” I shouted at the boy, but he was still frozen.

Kanana: The Jungle Girl – Chapter 2 Excerpt

Abbeyport was made up of some twenty-five or twenty-six businesses, and as far as I could tell fifteen of them were saloons of some sort.  Among the few others, besides the single hotel, were a couple of general stores, at least two launderers, and an import/export office.  All the others were trading posts specializing in selling to the natives, using a barter system with which they could purchase European or American goods. There were none of the sorts of shops I had seen in cities like New York or San Francisco, which catered to the finer things in life.  The streets were all simple packed dirt affairs and one couldn’t help but kick up a great deal of dust just walking from here to there.  The large colonial style homes sitting around these clapboard stores and saloons looked totally out of place, with their carefully tended gardens, white picket fences, and brightly painted verandas.  Some of the inhabitants sat in chairs or beneath the shade fanning themselves and drinking cool beverages; the men dressed in white suits and the ladies in long dark dresses and white long-sleeved blouses, their hair piled high in carefully constructed stacks.

I didn’t stray too far beyond these houses, examining the native dwellings without wandering out among them.  They were square constructions made by carefully intertwining twigs together and then topping the home off with very large leaves.  I can only assume the roofs had to be replaced fairly often because most of them were still quite green.

Wandering back to the hotel, I hadn’t taken nearly as much time as I had expected to make an entire circuit of the area.  When I stepped into my room, I was surprised to find a native man bent over one of my steamer trunks, which had been laid flat on the floor.  I gave a shout as he plowed into me on his way out the door.  I didn’t try too hard to stop him, and doubt if I could easily have done so, because he was quite a large fellow.  I resolved then that I wouldn’t leave my possessions unguarded if I could help it. The thief had been unable to gain access to my belongings due to a complex locking mechanism that required not only a four-digit combination, but also the throwing of two secret switches hidden on either side of the luggage.

I went to what passed for the dining room in the hotel only long enough to grab a bowl of soup and a couple of slices of bread.  Then I retired to my room and went to bed at an early hour, though darkness had firmly settled before I did.

That night the dream returned for the first time since I had left the United States, though before that it had plagued me for many nights.  I found myself outside the door of my home in Boston. I turned the key in the lock, opened the door, and entered.  Though I tried to move quickly, I felt as if the air was thick syrup.  I stepped through the foyer and heard the voices coming from the parlor beyond.  In my dream I couldn’t recognize the voices, though my waking self knew who they were.

In the morning, I had just washed, shaved, and dressed when the native boy, Saral, arrived at my door.

“Someone tried to break into my things yesterday.”

“Yes, there are many thieves.  Not to worry. I will see your room guarded.”

“It has to be someone capable.  This fellow was bigger than I am.”

“Not to worry.  I will get my cousin Asika to guard your room.”

“As you think best,” I said, handing him another dollar.  “Who can I see about arranging an expedition into the wilderness?  I need bearers and… well, I don’t know what you call them here.  Men with guns.”

“Guards yes?  I can take care of all this for you.  It will not be easy to find all the men you need.  The great Roosevelt expedition has hired two hundred men.”

Poll Results and Where We Are

Last month I had a poll on which book should come next.  The results were as follows:

His Robot Wife: Patience Under Fire 71.43%

82 Eridani: Voyage 14.29%

Senta and the Steel Dragon: For King and Country 7.14%

Rolo: time Traveler at Large 7.14%

Nova Dancer 0%

Astrid Maxxim and her High-Rise Air Purifier 0%

I think we had 14 people vote.  Well, right now, it looks like I’ll manage to publish three books this year.  Patience Under Fire is definitely one.  As for the other two… I’m not sure. I’ve written parts of all of them except for Astrid Maxxim.

I picked up Nova Dancer the other day and realized that I it was halfway done.  82 Eridani is about half don too, but it’s a 125,000 word book, and Nova Dancer is a 40,000 word book.  Senta is 2/3 done, but it’s probably going to be well over 150,000 words.  So there you go.  Watch this space for more information on which books will be coming when.

Kanana: The Jungle Girl – Chapter 1 Excerpt

We stood on the deck of the S.S. Louisa May and watched the coastline roll gently past.  Beyond the flawless stretch of white sand overhanging with coconut trees was a thick growth of jungle brush and more exotic trees stretching up for the sky—big leaf mahogany trees, Brazil nut trees, giant kapoks, and massive capironas.  Wisps of morning mist still hung in the air, undisturbed by any breeze.  Buzzing through these vapors like airplanes dodging through the clouds were six-inch dragonflies.  Except for the low chugging of the ship’s engine, there was no sound, until the air was suddenly rent by a deep throaty roar of some unknown creature inside that dark and haunting primeval forest.  Colonel Roosevelt clapped a hand on my shoulder.

“What do you think, my boy, of your first close-up view of a new world?”

I looked at him and said something, I no longer remember what, but I turned immediately back to the emerald panorama gliding swiftly by.  It had been a horrible series of events that had conspired to bring me to this distant spot, early this Monday morning April seventh, the year of our Lord 1913.

I had fully expected that by my thirty-third year, that halfway point in a man’s life, I would be settled down with a pretty wife and two or three above average children.  But providence did not see fit to make this easy for me.  Becoming a man in the height of battle on the slopes of Kettle Hill created a burning desire for adventure in my heart that the brief conflict with the Empire of Spain failed to quench.  I traveled to South America and saw much of that land, and then to Africa and even to Southeast Asia.  I then spent five years in Europe, working for my keep as I toured the ancient lands of Greece and Rome and their successors.  When I at last found my way back to the good old US of A, I was more than ready to settle down, to find that pretty wife, and to start that family. Luck was with me.  I found a new job and a beautiful girl.  For two years everything went my way.  Then it all fell apart.

“Henry… Henry.”  The hand on my shoulder shook me back to the present.

“I’m sorry sir.  What was that?”

“I was just saying that we should go aft and enjoy a cup of coffee.”

I turned and followed him down the length of the ship.  “I wanted to say Colonel, that I voted for you in November.”

“I had no doubt.”  He grinned.  “A good many people did, but the electorate has spoken.  That is not to say that I might not make a similar run sometime in the future.  I am still fit as a bull moose.”

“Indeed sir, you are the youngest former President that I have ever heard of.”

“The secret to youth is a vigorous life.  I have no need to tell you that.  Look at you. You are a strapping man of heroic proportions.  Why, I recall you as a rather scrawny boy when I think back to our days in Cuba. Private Henry Goode—no, he did not look at all promising.”

“I can’t believe that you remembered me at all,” I said, thinking back to three weeks before, when I booked passage on the Louisa May in San Francisco.

“I remember all the men of our volunteer regiment,” he replied sincerely, “and a good number of the Tenth’s Buffalo Soldiers as well.  There is a bond forged in such situations that is not easily to be set aside.”

A steward handed each of us a cup of coffee and we sat down in a couple of sturdy folding chairs.  My eyes again sought the rainforest moving smoothly past us.  Roosevelt leaned over, bringing my attention back to him.

“It is quite an interesting coincidence that we both find ourselves on the same vessel sailing into foreign waters.”  I started to protest, but he held up his hand.  “I take you at your word that you didn’t know I was aboard, despite the fact that Kermit and I have hardly been secretive in our planning. No, what I want to know is why, if you are not planning on joining our quest, are you are on your way to Elizagaea.”