You step from your cave and stand on the edge of the mountain slope. You stretch the sleep from your muscles as the sun climbs upward. Moment by moment, the sun burns away the morning fog and the island below is revealed.
The curtain of gray fog peels away. You stand at the island's highest point and look down into the valley. The river glimmers as it catches the first rays of the sun. The jungle is a mural of lush shades of green. Orchids, plump fruits, and multi-colored parrots lend pops of bright color to the canvas of vegetation.
You unhurriedly pick your way down the mountain to drink from the river's clear water. Then, in a single bound, you leap across the river to the banana grove on the other side. Standing at your full height, you reach forward and pluck a bushel of bananas from the top of the nearest tree.
When you have eaten your fill, you amble along the riverbank until you come upon your kin. They make room for you as you plunge into the river. Even at its deepest point, the water rises to just above your abdomen.
You are the biggest creature on the entire island. Three times the size of Old Silver, the largest of your kin and leader of the troop. Deep within yourself lives the impulse to challenge Old Silver. This is followed by the urge to find a mate. As you always do when these thoughts enter your mind, you push them aside. Old Silver may command the troop, but you hold dominion over the entire island.
Finished with your bath, you head deeper into the jungle. Snagging another fat bushel of bananas, you climb into the stout branches of the island's largest Kapok tree. You lay with your back against a high branch, lazily munching on bananas as scraps fall into the tree's twisted roots.
You fall into a light sleep, shielded from the heat of the day by the leaves' thick shade. You awaken to a distant thumping. It's not the villagers summoning you. It’s not late enough in the day for the chorus of their drums, the heat of sacred fires. It’s too early in the season for their yearly sacrifice. This sound is new and unfamiliar.
You climb higher up the tree and peer through the canopy. In the sky above, you see a large shining creature. On strange swirling wings, the creature descends. You leap from the tree and make your way through the jungle, weaving around tree trunks and tearing your way through the foliage. You move quickly in the direction of the creature as its odd, thumping cry grows ever louder.
Hidden in the shadows and masked by razor-tipped fern leaves, you watch as the creature lands. The creature is covered in a hard, dark shell. You remain hidden, sizing up the creature, gauging its weaknesses.
Suddenly, the sides of the creature open and two humans step out into the clearing. They are unlike the other humans you have seen on the island. Totally different from the natives who live on the island's far coast. The natives are small with dark, uncovered skin. These humans are tall, their skin light as the clouds in the sky. Only patches of their skin peek through the sand and river mud colored coverings they wear.
You watch as two men join a third in the shade at the other end of the clearing. They hold a flat square between them. It crinkles as they look over it, jabbing it occasionally with their pale fingers. That's when she steps around the side of the creature and moves further into the clearing.
Stunned by the sight of her, your breath catches in your throat. Her hair falls over one shoulder, shining in the tropical sun. Her lips a deep red, her eyes a vivid blue. She moves across the clearing like the breeze blows through the trees. She carries a small dark object. Occasionally, she lifts it to her eye. When her face is covered by the object, the world seems to dim as her beauty is obscured.
She turns toward where you stand in the shadows. She raises the object again, pointing it in your direction. You expect to hear the click the object has made every other time she has raised it. Instead, the woman holds it in place. Then she lets it hang from a strap around her neck and squints into the trees.
Your eyes meet hers and you hold your breath, sure you will see fear cloud her perfect features. The women the villagers offer you always scream and cry, but not this woman. She smiles at you and your heart leaps.
Moving slowly, you push fronds and branches out of your path as you approach the woman. You step into the clearing and stand before her. You are heartened to see that she seems as in awe of you as you are of her. You dip your head to better stare into her eyes and she bows hers slightly in return.
You sit on the ground in front of her and offer her your hand. She runs her fingers along the wrinkled skin on your palm and smiles. Her hand moves onward, stroking the soft black fur on your forearm. Her touch is soft and it sends a fiery heat coursing through your veins.
You are so enamored with the woman that at first, you don't notice a slight pinch in your shoulder. Using all your willpower, you pull your gaze away from the woman and glance at your arm. A strange barb sticks out of your shoulder. As you watch, two more barbs sink into your side.
You turn back to the woman and see that she has stepped back a few paces. Her attention is on the men. She waves her arms in their direction. You follow her gaze and see the three men have moved around to the other side of the flying creature. They hold long tubes that remind you of the natives’ spears.
You watch as the men raise the tubes and point them at you. You stand and roar at them. Your cry echoes through the jungle, sending birds scattering into the sky. You charge the men and puffs of smoke rise from the tubes they hold. Seconds later, you realize three more barbs have plunged into your chest.
You race toward the men but soon become unsteady. You wobble on your feet, your head swimming. Your vision blurs and burns, as if you have been staring into the sun. You turn toward the cover of the jungle as your limbs begin to feel heavy.
Sleep overtakes you and you fall forward into the dirt.
You wake up in darkness. Your head is fuzzy. You stand and the ground rocks beneath you. You inhale and the air burns your nostrils. Sea salt mixed with dank wetness and a heavy, choking stench.
You walk forward and smack your face against an obstacle. You reach out and wrap your hand around something that feels like a vine but is harder than rock. You check your surroundings and find that you are surrounded. Hemmed in, you strike out, rattling the hard vines and slamming your fists against them. They prove too strong to be bent or broken.
Light floods the area, momentarily blinding you. As your eyes regain their focus, you see the woman standing in front of you. She speaks in soothing tones and although you cannot understand what she says, you are comforted by her soft voice.
Without the sun passing overhead, it’s impossible for you to measure time, so you have no idea how long you spend in the dark room. The woman visits you often and brings you food and water. When she's not around, you fight to keep anxiety from overtaking you. You become restless as you wait for the woman to reappear. Simply thinking of her fills your heart with warmth.
She is the first human who has ever been kind to you. She carries no weapons like the natives who once hunted your kin. She carries only warm tones and luminous smiles. The natives offered you their sacrifices out of fear. She offers you her attention out of love. Day after day, your devotion to the woman grows.
One day, the water she brings you tastes funny. The woman sits by your enclosure with a small rectangle in her lap. She looks down at the rectangle and the music of her voice washes over you as she speaks. Your eyes begin to droop, your muscles relax. Soon, you fall into a deep sleep.
You wake up to the whispered chorus of many different voices. You look around and notice that you are still in the enclosure of hard vines, but you are no longer in the dark, dank room. Hanging in front of you is a stationary waterfall. It is a deep red color. It ripples back and forth slightly, even though there is no breeze.
You hear murmurings from the other side of the waterfall. An unseen multitude of voices that puts you on edge. You smell unknown floral scents and unrecognizable musk. Without warning, a voice booms forth, assaulting your ears.
Your ears continue to ring as the voice fades away. The waterfall splits apart and you are blinded by bright light. It's as if the sun itself is shining directly onto your face. Your ears are assaulted by gasps, cries, and screams. Smaller lights add to the dazzling radiance. Brilliant flashes leave spots dancing in front of your eyes.
Desperate to escape the burning lights, you turn your head to the side. That's when you see the woman. You see that she is standing next to a man. He has his arm around her, but she keeps trying to pull away. He holds her tight against his body. He tries to kiss her and the woman squirms against his grip.
Rage overtakes you and you let loose a primal scream. Taking a few steps back, you launch yourself against the hardened vines. A horizontal bar gives way and a tall, rectangular section swings open. Free of your enclosure, you charge forward. With one mighty swing you knock the man against a wall. Then you kneel in front of the woman, looking her over to ensure she is unharmed.
A deafening blast rings out and searing pain flares across your back. Your gut fills with fear, not for yourself, but for the woman. Spotting an opening to your left, you scoop the woman under your arm and flee. You emerge into a world unlike anything you could have ever imagined.
Impossibly tall, sleek sided mountains rise up on all sides of you. Big as you are, you feel dwarfed by how the mountains obscure the sky. Strange, fast creatures speed past. Their eyes lighting round swaths in front of them as they hurtle onward.
Panicked, you run forward, still clutching the woman firmly but gently against your chest. You begin to scale the nearest mountain. Its sides are smooth, but you soon find you can climb the equidistant ledges that protrude from its surface. Gripping the ledges with your feet, you push off and grab the next ledge with your free hand.
Ever higher you climb. Finally, you reach the top.
You grip a thin spire at the mountain's peak and set the woman down on its summit. Now that you have a moment to rest, you become aware of the burning in your back. Blood seeps from your flesh and pools around your feet.
The woman looks at you and you are glad to see that she looks concerned but not scared. She pats your arm, strokes your fur. You allow yourself a few moments of calm. Then you hear a buzzing sound approaching in the distance.
Soon, large airborne creatures are whizzing by your perch. You swat at them, but they remain just out of reach. Minutes later, one of the buzzing creatures flies too close, dragging a strong gust of wind across the top of the mountain. The gust pulls the woman off the edge and she begins to fall.
Thinking of nothing but the woman, you leap forward. You catch her with one hand and grab the side of the mountain with the other. You hoist the woman back onto the mountaintop. Seeing she is once again safe; you try to pull yourself up beside her.
Your hand slips on the slick blood. You lash out desperately, but your hands come up empty. You stare into the woman's eyes as you plummet downward. Her face moves to the forefront of your mind as the wind rushes past your ears. It is the woman you are thinking of when your body slams into the ground. She is the last thing you see as everything fades to black.