21: Long live the king

The gun flashed, smoke and noise exploding across the clearing, scattering jungle wildlife in a flurry of shaking leaves and branches. The silverback turned away from Jack to the source of the disturbance, unhurt, understanding the sound of aggression.

Leo fired again, but no wound opened the ape’s broad chest. He blinked in disbelief, the worst shot couldn’t have failed that target. The hunter looked down at his rifle in now shaking hands, then discharged another round. His eyes widened with realisation that his bespoke silver weapon wasn’t loaded with bullets, he was unarmed.

The silverback charged towards his predator, now prey. Leo kept on firing, in vain hope not every shell was blank. With one mighty arm the ape wrenched the rifle, pulling Leo through the fork of the tree and high into the air, swinging him round above his head. With a sickening tear and splash of gore, Leo’s arm ripped free from his body at the shoulder, both flying in opposite directions. The arm landed in the grass, still holding the rifle, while its master fell back into the fork of the tree. Reflexively twitching fingers squeezed the trigger three more times with impotent cracks, jerking the gun and butchered arm along the ground in a marionette dance.

Leo’s mouth opened into a horrified O, although the shock that pinned him to the trunk of the tree also stole his voice. No scream emerged as he stared at the fountain sprung from his armless shoulder socket, bright red blood squirting the lush greenery, before rolling eyes moved back to his attacker. The ape was not finished with him yet.

It was not meant to be like this. The great white hunter was the hero in the colonial adventures of his youth, the lionheart never bested by the savage, a fiancee no betrayer of her paramour, only villains met such a grisly fate. It was all a misunderstanding, a grave miscalculation by a low rent novelist.

As no one is in their own life story, he could not be the villain of his. Heirs did not know defeat, and Leo had spent his life walking as a king. Now, he could not flee, nor even move. The ape bellowed in vitriolic anger, and the thunder brought the true horror of his situation, the knowledge he was the maker of his own end, wilful blindness and poor decisions writing this fatal act.

In his final moments, delusion was finally stripped away. He had sought to kill animals for personal glory, no-one forced his hand, and now his intended victim showed no sign of forgiveness. He had not even allowed his baitman Jack to carry a gun, believing only the hunter should kill, so there could be no eleventh hour escape, no salvation from the beast’s wrath. So foolish, the fantasy he had indulged.

The ape leapt into the air with a mighty roar, huge clenched fists raised high, swinging in an arc that smashed down onto the top of Leo’s skull. The rich man’s sweaty head propelled down into his chest with the force of the blow, splintering of bone followed by splashing of grue in an eruption from Leo’s groin, legs splitting out at right angles from the hashed torso. The king is dead, long live the king.

The silverback turned to Jack, but the baitman was already on his feet running. Frantically, he tore through the jungle, stumbling down the hillside, each frond and branch lashing out to slow his flight. Behind his free falling dash, the ape’s roar echoed down the mountain, a terrifying scream of just victory against the alien invader.

TO BE CONTINUED . . .

THIS IS THE TWENTY-FIRST CHAPTER OF ORIGINAL ADVENTURE SERIAL PROTECTED SPECIES. THE TWENTY-SECOND CHAPTER WILL BE POSTED ON FRIDAY 21st OCTOBER.

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