Amorphophallus Titanum

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“Jungle Clearing” by Michel Rondberg (2012)

This is a short horror/strange story about a man who finds himself lost in a jungle one night and what he encounters there.  Written on the 8th June 2016.


Amorphophallus Titanum

The explorer looked at his watch. He scolded himself for continuing to do it, he couldn’t read it anyway, it was far too dark. Onwards he struggled, through the dense thicket, over gnarled roots and aggressive vines, hoping for a path, hoping for a way out. He’d been lost for several hours now, the sun had long since departed and only made his task all the more difficult. Why had he wandered off alone like that? It wasn’t like him at all.

Suddenly, the man tripped over an invisible grasping hand, probably another root, and was sent headlong into a wall of branches, crashing through them before landing with a sickening thud on the other side. Cursing under his breath, he clambered to his feet, brushed himself off and looked around. And there it was.

The rotting corpse flower, Amorphophallus titanum, with its stench of a thousand putrefying bodies baking in hell’s infernal ovens, stood ominously in the middle of a small clearing. Its Latin name translated to something along the lines of “giant’s misshapen and erect penis”. The explorer knew what it was, knew the lore of these parts as well. He knew to turn and run. But curiosity is a strong hand, pushing inquisitive people forwards, towards the unknown. Towards the alluring unknown.

It was some time after midnight and the dense jungle had finally given respite to the lost soul in the form of the clearing. Above, he could finally make out the moon, liberating that which was hidden within dark shadows and the ominous recesses of blackness he had spent the last several hours navigating. The pale beams illuminated the patch of rough ground before him, save for a few roots and the odd rock, there was nothing there. Except the flower.

Despite its ungodly reek, it was undeniably magnificent. Being in full bloom, a state the explorer knew to be quite rare, sometimes taking up to a decade to reach, he felt blessed to be bearing witness to it. Its hues skewed in the moonlight, it emitted a strong presence quite unnatural for a mere plant. A presence which, though not exactly threatening, was inexplicably filling the man with a creeping sense of unease. A strange feeling of dread that was crawling its way up his spine, as if the alluring plant was well aware it was being gazed upon, and did not take too kindly to this interruption of its midnight meditation.

The air in the vast city of trees was changing now, the man felt it upon his agitated skin. A dry cool had descended around him, replacing the clammy heat he had spent the night trudging through with an electric cold which only heightened his anxiety. Strange indeed. The ambiance of the forest had changed too. An eerie silence had hushed the clearing, blotting out the vampiric insects and the rustling of jungle foliage. Very strange. There was nothing in the lost man’s world now, save for the sound of his own heart pounding in his ears and the vision of the blossoming flower, illuminated by the moon’s rays like a revered statue upon a pedestal.

Fear is a strange thing. Irrational fear, stranger still. Why did the explorer feel such terror in the presence of the corpse flower and its foul emissions? Why had the world died away around him? Why wasn’t he running away? There were no answers, only the plant’s ethereal grip on him that night in the clearing. The explorer began to feel himself being drawn towards it, almost hypnotised like a bee to a rose. Unable to stop himself, he began walking through the columns of luminescence. The rotting corpse flower was calling to him.

In the morning, the search party arrived. They had been tracking the missing man through the forest most of the night but had eventually stopped to rest, before resuming in the first rays of dawn. They were now standing within the clearing, gagging on the rotten air that infiltrated their lungs. They had found the lost explorer. He lay in the middle of that small, dank dominion, a few feet from the offensive flower. It was not blossoming. One of the guides said it had probably been several years since it had, and would probably be several more until it did again. The unfortunate man lay dead, his body emaciated and seemingly drained of all fluids. The gathered men were unable to account for the state of the remains; he had only gone missing the day before. In silence, they hurriedly collected the cadaver and made the hike back towards camp. Not a word was said between them the entire way.

Strange things happened out there in the forest. Strange things indeed.

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