It wouldn’t have been possible to do it in any other way. Theo’s arm had to be cut off and his brother Gary was the one that had to do it, as he was the only one medically capable to do such a thing. Of course, Gary was could not bring himself up to do it. His hands were shaking too much, he cried and sobbed and he just couldn’t do anything in his state. Instead, it was Jennifer that did what had to be done. She had no training and no real talent for such a thing but she did have the balls to do what no one else could do as she had been through too much and she had passed all tests possible.
She refused to be a nurse to Theo and forced Amanda, who was Theo’s ex-wife after all, to do that job. Amanda was appalled that she had to be there to see that and to hear the person she had loved so much scream in agony and cry like he had never seen him cry before. He got close to him after Jennifer had put on the first bandage and cleaned the wound and put on bandages that were covered in the tree sap that they had found earlier. It was likely that the plants around them had some medicinal value and Theo should be the first one to take advantage of such valuable goods.
That night, they decided to protect their little camp all at the same time. They couldn’t ask just one of them to make a watch because they knew that Theo’s screams had lured many dangerous creatures nearby. It would have been a better idea just to leave that place altogether but decided to give the poor man a night to rest before starting to move again. Besides they had no stretcher to carry him, so it was better if he rested and walked by himself the next day.
However, he was still too weak to walk. He had vomited at least twice during the night and the tree sap had apparently not helped at all. Amanda decided to change the bandages, clean the wound, put on some new fabric over it and move along. She carried Theo with the help of Gary as Jennifer stood in front of the group with the rifle. She was very good with weapons and very skilled in hand-to-hand combat. They had seen her kill two men with her own hands, so they knew they had nothing to worry.
Advancing through the thick jungle was difficult, as they had to move from lower to higher and the to lower ground again quite often. It was obvious that Theo was slowing them down too much. Jennifer looked at him with contempt every time she could and Amanda knew that she was right to feel threatened by his presence. If a creature sprung out of the water and killed them, it would probably be his fault. Because he had decided to be the hero some days earlier. Because he had decided that he was better than any of the others that had been there before, with them.
Amanda knew what kind of man Theo was.
At the end of that day, they really hadn’t done too much. Jennifer went up a tree and, after coming back, she told them she had been unable to see any lights or fire nearby. So no one was there with them, or at least no one with the ability to make fire. They were lucky to have Gary, who was an avid smoker and always had a lighter on him. The lighter was half full but they only used it to lit up a small fire and night, with the help of some dry branches.
Of course, it wasn’t Gary who started their small campfire. It was Jennifer who did that as she had decided it was not the very best idea to let a person as unbalanced as Gary handle anything that could harm any other human being. He had been fucked in the head, or so said Jennifer every time she found Gary speaking alone and doing these annoying screeches. Amanda knew he had been hit in the head, at last that was what one of the guys that was with him and Theo told them. Besides, he had seen them all been eaten by one of the creatures of the swamp, so you couldn’t really blame him.
The sounds all around them announced the presence of several life forms near them. It was imperative to keep the fire alive, as it was the only thing keeping all the creatures away. Again, the two women had no sleep at all and Gary didn’t close his eyes either, as he was incapable of since he had since his brother go through so much. Theo, on the other hand, had now come back from the dead and asked for water. He still had to be helped when walking but only by one person so maybe they would be advancing faster.
As Amanda distributed a piece of power bar for each person, Jennifer ate her piece fast enough and went up a tree again. From there, she could see the eternal tapestry of the jungle: trees and trees and trees, forming a vast green carpet that covered a very good part of the entire planet. The other part was covered in water and there she knew colonists had at least one base, one place from which they could help them if they made it to the edge of the jungle, to the mangrove covered beach.
But as she watched the trees and thought of her survival, she saw something interesting. It was kind of a glimmer, kind of sparkle somewhere to the south. She knew they had to keep walking east if they wanted to find the ocean but whatever was shining there, in the middle of all those trees, had to be something interesting. She thought about telling them and just splitting up but she realized they would never agree with her, they were too scared to even move and they knew that without her and Theo, Amanda and Gary could easily be labeled swamp food.
When she came down, Jennifer redirected their stops towards the southeast, declaring she had seen smallest tress that way, so the path to the ocean could be easier through there. It was all a lie to cover her need to find out what was there with them, what did the swamp hide to them.
Theo felt much better by the end of the following day and was very enthusiastic about coming out of the jungle pretty soon. Gary understood his attitude and he started to be less of a nuisance at night, even if he still refused to sleep, even a few minutes.
Finally, one day they encountered what Jennifer had been wanting to find: it was a huge wall that penetrated into the water below them and rose several meters up. It curved and even if they were that close she knew it had to be some kind of dome. All of them touched the glass and it felt strange, not quite solid and its temperature seem to rise.
Amanda was the first to scream. The wall augmented its temperature very fast when someone touched it. So when the woman left her hand there, she was severely burned. Theo helped her by pouring water on her hand and telling her she should scrub it all off before pustules started to emerge. The former lovers went down the vines and reached the water. It was very dangerous but they had to do it to clean the wound properly. Amanda was brave and did not scream at all.
But that did not stop a gigantic monster to appear and try to eat her or, at least, her hand. It had lots of legs and eyes. Theo helped her going up the vines, as Jennifer prompted them to go faster and to follow them. They ran, as the creature broke several branches and slammed against the glass of the dome, which seemed not to raise its temperature when the creature touched it.
Theo and Amanda reached their companions and stopped to take a breath but that had been a mistake. The creature managed to get close to them and expelled a disgusting tongue out of its orange mouth. The tongue trapped Gary and the others held his hands in order to fight the monster, Jennifer shooting to push it away. But the swamp won the round. Theo slipped and fell and Amanda wasn’t strong enough. Gary was pulled into the creature’s mouth and down into the water. Jennifer shot twice more but then she stopped.
Theo pushed her and asked why she hadn’t fired faster and more times to which she answer they couldn’t waste bullets. Theo was on the verge of hitting her but then a loud sound interrupted them and their thoughts. The sound came from the dome. Suddenly, a part of the wall disappeared and they were allowed inside.
They all walked in unsure of what that would mean for their lives. Bu they couldn’t stay in one place for too long. The swamp was a nightmare and that dome was the only thing reminiscing humanity that could be found around them.
Maybe the dome was a trap and maybe they should have escaped faster. But, who knows, they may have survived to tell the most amazing story yet.