Paradise Lost

Submitted into Contest #248 in response to: Write a story titled 'Paradise Lost'.... view prompt

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Fiction Crime Indigenous

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

He came for her in the early hours of the morning. 

Samsam Bujang parked his brand new ‘98 Range Rover Discovery on the border of the montane forest in the heart of Borneo, releasing his grip on the stirring wheel to clench and unclench his fingers repeatedly. He did not stop until the ache had passed and the crunching and clicking of his knuckles had ceased. 

Samsam eyed the rainforest for a moment, assessing his target, watching the mist roll through the thick trees and swarm his Discovery. He opened the car door and planted his feet firmly on the ground, the mist whirling away from where he had landed. When he laid his eyes on his Debby, on her wheels, he slammed the door shut. His rainforest guide, Imen Ahkam, shut the passenger door far more gently. 

They joined each other at the front of the car, the guide laying the map out on the hood of the car. As soon as Imen had stepped away from leaning over the map, Samsam barged in and flattened out the creases of the map until it was plastered to the Discovery’s hood. 

Imen took out the torn scrap paper from his pocket and peeled away the crumpled bits until he revealed the map coordinates written months ago. As he stroked the map to find a route through the rainforest, Samsam ran his thumb over the front of his car where it had taken the brunt of the damage. 

“Damn those dirt tracks,” he muttered. “When I get back to the city,” he declared to Imen, “I’m going to get my men to pave over those dirt death traps you call roads. I don’t need to be taking my darling Debby to the car wash every day.” 

“It is only a couple of miles to the coordinates,” Imen announced as he carefully folded up the map so that only their route was showing.  

“I think I’ll call her Samroze,” Samsam said, strutting over to the edge of the forest with his arms splayed wide. 

“A beautiful name for a beautiful forest,” Imen agreed, “full of beautiful things.” 

“It means fruitful tree. The rains stopped our work on her, but now she is replenished and will bear her many gifts to us.” 

“We’ll need to find where we left the vehicles. Then we can start getting our men in here to cut her down.” 

Samsam nodded and allowed Imen to guide him into the opening of the rainforest. He vowed to himself that when he came back to cut down the trees, he would soil the ground with salt so that none could grow back in their place. One day, this jungle of wood and creatures and oil reserves would be replaced by a jungle of concrete, people and electricity. He was sure of it. 

“Did you know that Johan asked for me?” Samsam asked the guide. “You were employed because they needed a forest guide; it could have been anyone but it happened to be you that got the job. Johan wanted me specifically.” 

Imen graciously floated through the rainforest with the map in his left hand. With his free hand, he brushed away branches and leaves that threatened to hit his face. “Why was that?” His arm moved like a bamboo stick in the wind, curving to the air’s will in sweeping arcs. 

“Johan wanted more than a man to take the forest down. He wanted a weapon. I told him what my name means.” He swung and swatted at the branches with his machete. “Samsam means sharp sword. I am the weapon Johan chose for this hunt.” 

Deeper into the forest they ventured, where Samsam found that the true damage of the rains was hidden under the canopy. He stomped from stones to half-rotten logs to freshly fallen leaves, avoiding the river of sodden mud. He would not ruin his brand-new combat boots with Samroze’s filth. 

Imen had said that the forest was full of beautiful things — and it was. The giant towering trees would become timber for log fires or pool tables. The fur of tigers, the horns of rhinos and the tusks of elephants would one day decorate the apartments built on the land once the forest had been cleared. Yes, it truly was beautiful and bountiful. 

“It’s a mess down here — all too natural and organic, left to infest and infect our land.” 

“We’re close.” 

“Just think of all the offerings she’ll give. I will reach my hand between her branches and take the fruit from her budding leaves. I will dig and drill and exact the oil from her depths.” 

With one last swing of his machete, the branches disappeared to reveal the clearing in the forest where they had abandoned their work when the rains had come. 

“They’re gone,” Samsam rasped. 

In his mind’s eye, Samsam could see the crane in the centre of the clearing as it had been months ago when they had left. The truck with its trailer half-filled with chopped tree trunks was there, but only in ghost form, a memory from the past. What was left of the diggers were only echoes of its imprint, its shadow of a footprint marked on the forest floor. 

The truck, the digger, the crane - they had all gone. 

“They’ve been stolen,” he whispered and turned to Imen. “They’ve been stolen.” 

“The machines were too big to be driven through the rainforest so they would have had to be stripped for parts. But you can see that nothing is left. Not even the carcasses of the machinery.” 

“So where have they gone?” 

“Must have been the rains making the mud so soft that the heavy machinery was engulfed by the forest floor, swallowed whole and buried beneath us.” 

Samsam took in the clearing empty of machines. The ghost figures of the machines now faded, falling like rain, disappearing into the ground. They returned to their graves as if the vehicles were being drowned again. 

When he focused on the empty forest floor, he noticed that it was not as empty as he had originally thought. There, erupting from the centre of the clearing and trailing along the earth like a snake, was a wire. At the end, instead of a forked tongue, was the hook of the crane. Over to the left, he thought he saw the antenna of the truck — but then again it could have just been a dark stick stuck upright in the ground. 

The machinery had been stolen from him, just not by the people he had thought. Nature had stolen his time, months of it. It had stolen his workmen away from him, it had stolen his machinery from him. If he did not do anything about it, nature would steal his promotion away from him. 

Nature had battled him with tactics. It was a battle that Samsam had not realised he had been a part of. But now he knew his opponent. He knew himself. Samsam was not supposed to be a weapon, because he could not take her by himself. He was the commander of weapons. He would bring his army men and take her down by her roots. 

Nature had battled him with winds and rains and the earth. As he stormed away from the wreckage of sunken machinery, Samsam wondered how the rainforest would fair with chainsaws and fire. 

He would come for her again. It was Samsam versus the montane forest. 


Samsam Bujang strode away from the clearing, no longer worrying about his walking boots getting smothered in dirt and rotten leaves. He thought of all the ways he could be more ruthless with the forest. He vowed that he would defeat the forest. He swore that he would conquer the land and steal its riches. He promised himself that he would get his promotion. 

But Samsam had underestimated the forest’s might and he slunk away from the clearing, back through the mud and the skeleton leaves and the new saplings of grass. 

Imen Akham followed after the other man, thinking of ways to get the vehicles out from under the ground. This time he did not need to raise his hand to brush away the branches. He did, however, touch a fingertip to one of the branches that Samsam had cut through and a droplet of blood formed on the pad, pouring out in all directions like a blossoming poppy. The rainforest guide was too enraptured by the blood coating his finger to notice that Samsam had stopped, his combat boots stuck in the mud. 

The rainforest guide bumped into Samsam and they both fell to the ground. Imen was instantly knocked out from falling on a stone and the blood poured out of his head and down the side of the rock, watering the tufts of grass below. If Samsam had not fallen face-first into the mud, I imagine he would have cursed at the dirt getting on his boots and iron-pressed clothes. 

Samsam Bujang could not find the strength to lift his head from where it had sunken into the ground from his heavy fall. His weak arms and thin legs had already disappeared under the earth and were only recognisable by the vibrating ripples of mud as he struggled. 

Imen sunk motionless into the mud until not even the tips of his toes were visible beneath the earth. Samsam’s body jerked as he drowned in the mud, the ground pumping like a heart fighting for life. 

Both men were too blind to acknowledge my power and might. They thought that they could defeat a being that has endured all times and worlds and peoples — and each time emerged victoriously, the raining champion. 

To this day, no one has been able to find the hidden grave of the defeated Samsam.

April 30, 2024 12:54

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1 comment

Rachel Shailer
18:42 May 12, 2024

Very gripping. Great idea and use of the title.


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