Jungle Dream

by Harry Johnson

Nick had a dream. At first it looked like a documentary on TV; a grainy picture from a hand-held camera walking through an uninhabited area of a foreign country, maybe in Central America somewhere. A group of rebel soldiers was trudging through the jungle. They were short, dark men with tense eyes and weary faces. They wore rag tag uniforms and carried a variety of weapons. Many wore bandanas and tattoos. They looked fatigued, but they seemed glad to be helping Nick to wherever they were going. Nobody spoke. He had no idea where he was or who the men were. Suddenly, they reached a small clearing surrounded by trees and thick brush with a primitive hut in the center. Nick’s dream still felt like watching TV, present, but detached. He sensed he was there, in the jungle, but also watching; like how things on TV seem to be there, seem to be real, but they’re not, they’re pictures, they’re dots on a screen. They’re not real. Nick watched a lot of television.

His whole life felt vicarious. There was no danger, there wasn’t even excitement. His life took place in his eyes and his mind. He sat on the sofa and experienced life on television - millions of electronic specks combined to form images on a screen planting the seeds of cancer and mental disease in his head. As he stared at the screen, he retreated further and further from the real world, one moving image at a time.

What convergence of experience, thoughts and psycho-wishes brought his mind to this point in space-time, Nick would never know, but there he was, dreaming he was walking through a jungle with soldiers who led him to a hut in a clearing. It was primitive yet efficiently fashioned of wood slats with a four-sided grass roof, like a Hawaiian kid's playhouse. It was about eight feet square and eight feet tall in the center, five feet at the sides where the roof met the walls. A hunk of burlap hung in the five-foot-high doorway. The rebel soldier who was clearly in charge beckoned Nick closer to the front of the hut. He pulled aside the burlap and revealed two people lying on the floor of the hut. The floor was actually just dirt, covered with a large piece of canvas, like a tarp. The people on the floor were naked. Nick wanted to back away, but he sensed that wa s a bad idea. These armed men had brought him there to see something and the urge to live told Nick he had better do what they wanted.

The naked man and woman on the floor were not moving. They were both dead. The man was lying on top of the woman, between her legs, in a pool of dried blood. These people had been killed while they were fucking. Nick felt disgust and revulsion. Again he wanted to turn away but he didn't. He couldn't. He was afraid and intensely curious. He remained in the doorway and breathed shallowly. The hut smelled awful, fetid. One of the small dead feet had a tattoo on the ankle. He tried to get a better look without moving. It looked like initials above a figure of some kind. Perhaps it was a symbol for one side in this war—the symbol that got them killed? Maybe their deaths had nothing to do with the war. They could have been murdered by the woman's husband, or her brother, or the man's wife. Two people killed in the act of having sex implies a myriad of motives.

Speculation aside, Nick wondered why the guerrilla rebels were grinning at him. What were they waiting for? Why were they forcing him to look at these bodies? He didn't speak their language and they didn't speak his. He wasn't even sure what his language was at that point. He was thinking in English, but it was mostly feelings, so he couldn’t be sure. Nick stood still for a brief moment, hoping a small delay might take the burden of responsibility off him. He certainly didn't want to do anything wrong. The penalty for mistakes in this neck of the woods seemed to be quite stiff (no pun intended). Suddenly, the leader prodded him into the hut with the stock of his American-made M16 rifle. Nick silently vowed never to pay taxes again if he lived through this. The other rebels jostled one another for a look through the doorway like kids looking through th e hole in the wall to the ladies room. Nick and the leader stood over the bodies. Two bullet holes close together on the left of the spine in the man's broad, hairy back stared up at them. He was probably in his late forties: she was much younger, probably early to mid-twenties. He had the upper body of a fat but strong man; like a Sumo wrestler or an opera singer. His haircut was expensive, urbane. There was a simple ring on the fourth finger of his right hand. It could have been a wedding ring. The bodies weren't stiff, but Nick didn’t know anything about rigor mortis to figure out how long they had been dead, not that it mattered. The soldier speared the man with his bayonet fixed on the end of his rifle, as if he was a large side of beef, and flipped him off the woman. The corpse rolled onto its back next to his former lover, mouth agape and eyes staring upward at nothing. He looked like people look when they're watching television. Dead.

The woman's face was visible now. Her eyes were shut tight, clenched. Her lips were pursed in anguish. She had a pretty face. Her features were strong: arrogant chin, high cheekbones, and a proud forehead. Her neck was long and feminine and yet sinewy and muscular. Her ears were pierced, but there was no sign of earrings. Her torso was smeared with their blood. The bullets that had killed the man had penetrated her rib cage just beneath her right breast. Nick’s mind whirred like a high-powered computer, calculating how he fit into this scene. He wanted to run, yet he wanted to stay. He stared. He was the original Peeping Tom. It excited him, thrilled him to see murder victims up close. The stimulation of the circumstances was beginning to turn him on. Except for his deathly fear of being their next victim, he might have had a hell of a time in the jun gle with his new amigos. As revolting as war and violence were to him, he was magnetically drawn to the men, to the death in the hut, to the imagined stories that had brought all of them together at this moment. Unfortunately, the language thing was keeping him in the dark as to the purpose and direction of his situation, and their muted behavior, no doubt honed by years of armed struggle, gave him no clues to their thinking.

The dead man's belly was enormous. He wore a Catholic-looking medal around his neck on a gold chain Nick hadn't noticed before. It had probably been hidden in the folds of his hairy neck. Apparently, the motive hadn’t been robbery or wartime looting. Maybe the killers left the medal out of respect. He couldn’t stop thinking about who killed these two lovers, and why? Was it a man or a woman? The men surrounding him were killers, but when sex is involved, women of all cultures have unlimited capabilities. As residual blood seeped out of the fresh bayonet hole in the man's chest, Nick looked at the woman's face. She was too pretty, too refined to be a whore. She could have been a rebel soldier. She could have been a wealthy city woman out in the bush for a weekend of lust and adventure.

The diminutive sergeant pointed to her with his bayonet and spoke rapidly. It was clear he was remarking on her beauty, but in far less civilized terms than Nick was thinking about it. Make no mistake, there was a certain amount of libido-level bonding going on between them. Any two men, anywhere in the world, savor a certain common reaction in the face of female pulchritude. They identify with each other as men, like it or not, in the presence of a beautiful woman (dead or alive). One may foam at the mouth and grab his crotch while the other might nod discreetly, imagining her in silk lingerie. But both of them are thinking with their other head at the same time - that's just the way it is. While Nick was creating a romantic life for this beautiful corpse on the canvas floor, his pock-faced guide was grinning like a mad dog, getting off on the taste of his own saliva.

She had a huge bush, filling her Venusian triangle with matted, black hair, but her legs were shaved. Nick preferred artfully shaved pubic hair, but was unable to take his eyes off this dead girl’s body. She had shapely, long legs and narrow, small feet. Her skin was smooth and creamy, the color of café latte. She must have done her sunbathing in the nude, as there were no unsightly bikini lines on this cadaver.

Nick wondered about their last hours together. He wanted her to be alive again. Her beauty so moved him that his mind was recreating her life so he could participate. He had only been in the hut for a minute or two at this point. And all these observations and calculations and imaginings took place during that brief time: seeing the two of them, noticing the details, guessing at the circumstances, fearing for his own life, imagining their final moments.

As Nick was pondering this inane fact, the leader leaned his rifle in the corner and abruptly reached down and jerked her foot high in the air. His smile was gone. He thrust her tattooed ankle in Nick’s face. He spoke rapidly and with great emotion about the tattoo and what it stood for; many of his words dissolved into growls of rage. He flung her foot back to the dirt floor and barked a command to the gawking grunts in the doorway. Two men ran off quickly while the others watched in nervous, eager anticipation. Nick couldn't quite pin down that look on their faces. They were clearly afraid of the sergeant, but there was an egalitarian feeling among them as well. This was a moment in which they were all equals - almost. The two who ran off quickly returned with a furniture-like contraption. It wasn’t quite a chair and not quite a table. It looked something like one of those walkers old people use, but mu ch bigger. It was fashioned crudely out of wood and nails and twine and was stained with dirt - or was that blood?

The men waited in the doorway for implicit permission to enter the hut. The leader smiled broadly, first at Nick and then at the men. He motioned for them to bring the device inside. Nick instantly guessed what was going on and felt sick to his stomach. His disgust caused him to flinch involuntarily and the leader saw it. He glared up at Nick, who immediately stood up straight. None of the others had seen his reaction. Nick knew he had better not ruin the Sarge’s good time or he might be the next man on the floor. He stifled the acid taste in his esophagus.

His feelings shifted. He stopped caring about the soldier or his men or his life or anything. He had reached the point where he only wanted to be gone from there. He even thought that death might be the only way out, but that notion was fleeting. Darwin kicked in and Nick behaved himself. He stepped aside while two other rebels, on command from Sarge, picked up the girl's body and draped it over the wooden stand. Her head and arms hung down the front side, away from them, while her buttocks were propped up on the near side. Her legs were spread apart by two jutting pieces of wood and there were handles next to her ass, like some bizarre Nautilus machine in the devil’s gym. The men backed away, waiting for the boss man to give the word. Sweat gushed from Nick’s pores. The smell of death filled his sinuses. What if he had to go first? Was there a custom associated with this brutality? There's a custom for everyth ing, isn't there, even inhuman barbarism? He imagined the worst, that they were going to pull down his pants, see his shriveled, frightened little penis, cut if off right then and there, stuff it in his mouth and bury him alive with an army of jungle spiders. That's the way Nick’s mind worked. He used to drive down the highway and imagine trailer trucks loaded with gasoline careening over the center divider and crashing head-on into his windshield.

Nick prayed that Sarge would go first. He swore to himself that if he lived through this, he would always believe in God and never make fun of Him again. The Sarge stepped forward, ready to put on a show for him and the troops, sort of a psycho-pervert USO. Bob Hope may have brought Miss America to the jungle, but these guys get to kill her and fuck her! The little Sarge puffed out his chest and strutted around like Mussolini, talking to her as if she could hear him, putting on a performance for his troops. He was obviously used to dealing with passive women. He jerked her head up by the hair and spit epithets at her numb face. He made some patriotic gesture and raised his fist in the air as the boys cheered. It was pretty frenzied for a small crowd. They were cheering him on, clapping, whistling, and grunting words Nick couldn't understand but knew what th ey meant.

The boss pulled down his pants, unleashing the biggest hard-on Nick had ever seen - including the video, “Girls Who Crave Big Cocks.” This dude had to be ten inches long with the girth of a baseball bat. He stepped up to Miss Dead Body, grinned at his gang of drooling hooligans one more time and then jammed himself into her. The boys went wild. They were like a school of piranhas, their eyes glazed over with animal lust. While their leader was pumping away, they groped at themselves and punched each other and made thrusting motions with their hips. Nick stifled puke once again.

Then, with a scream that would have put Tarzan to shame, Señor Jefe made one final thrust with his gargantuan member and emptied his load inside the dead girl. Her head and arms bounced, as if she had felt it, like she was alive again. Nick thought, if she had been alive at this point, she would have wished herself dead. The boss man stepped back, drooling and smiling insanely as his dick crashed down and bounced against his leg. Nick wondered if they picked their leaders in this part of the world by the size of their cocks. How can these thoughts be constantly running through his head while he was afraid for his life? Sarge turned toward his gang, raised both fists in the air and they cheered for him as if he had just hit the home run that won the World Series. He acknowledged their accolades and backed away from his victim. The small crowd su rged forward and a couple of the boys began undoing their pants. The leader stepped in front of them and all movement stopped. It was so quiet you could hear his sperm dripping on the ground. Suddenly, he belched another command and Nick knew exactly what he said. Nick silently prayed, “Dear God, save me from this horrible nightmare of an existence. I'll never drink again. I swear. I'll be a nice person for the rest of my life. Just please get me out of here. Please let there be an air strike. Or an earthquake.” He hesitated, waiting without hope for his prayers to be answered. But God had other plans for Nick this day. The boys gathered 'round to watch their gringo guest partake of the day's kill. Nick could not move any part of his body. He had living rigor mortis. One of them reached around and opened his belt. He felt their scorn and their perverse delight at his predicament. They sniggered and talked in low, insulting tones about him. The leader barked at them to shut up in so many wor ds and finish getting whitey’s pants off. It occurred to Nick that if there was any doubt about his masculinity they might just kill him. If he didn't find a way to get on with this horror movie, they might think he was a homosexual or something - which is surely a capital crime in the jungle. Nick concentrated on the girl's vagina. She did have a gorgeous body. Her ass was firm and round. Her legs were shiny smooth and vaginas always turned him on - always have, always will. That's what saved his life.

His blood headed south as he concentrated on her body. It was a simple problem. He had to go through with this or die. He looked at nothing else in the hut except the girl's cunt. He ignored the dominating presence of the leader who stood less than two feet away watching Nick with exaggerated interest. The jeers and goading of the brainless pigs behind him faded from his awareness. He saw only a woman's body. He heard nothing but the sound of his heart pumping blood into his dick. Thank God, when his pants were pulled down he had a decent hard-on, far from the caveman club of his predecessor, but respectable. He always knew that, but men worry about those things.

Somebody nudged him from behind. He moved closer to her. He wished her legs could have been spread wider so he didn’t have to touch her. He was afraid. He was disgusted. He was afraid of being disgusted. He was disgusted that he was afraid. He knew he had to shut down his brain and get on with it. Thinking was the worst thing he could be doing at this point. They were all watching him, waiting. He had to keep himself hard to survive. Nick concentrated on her ass, took his cock in his hand and pushed himself into her. The boys cheered. Then they started clapping, trying to set a rhythm, to get him going. eHeHe started moving back and forth, in and out. He prayed he could come quickly, like when he was younger. He suppressed every decent urge in his being. He closed his ears to their cheering. He struggled not to smell the foul air, punctuated with swea t and decay. He needed to block out every sensation except his prick and get this over with. Jesus, it sounded like they were taking bets on how long he would last! He looked down at her perfect ass and pumped and pumped. The sickest part of it all you've probably already guessed; it felt good. Shit, man, how is a vagina supposed to feel? Could he help it if she was dead? He didn't ask to be there. He felt guilty for being turned on. He felt guilty for not feeling more guilty. When forced to choose between death and degradation, we always choose not to die.

Nick was trying to enjoy this fuck so he could get off and be accepted by these men to whom human life meant nothing. They killed with impunity. They probably felt little worth to their own lives. He was certain that his own life meant less to them than the corpse he was screwing. At least they could get a good fuck out of her. At that point he would have done anything, he would have fucked the fat guy to be spared by these savage, lust-crazed men.

He concentrated on the feminine curves of her butt and focused his mind's eye on the sensation of her vagina enveloping him. She had a stunning ass. He was feeling it. He was turned on. He hated himself. He hated these men. He hated God for putting him in this situation. His fear and low self-esteem transformed into fury and he began fucking the girl as hard as he could. He grabbed the handles angrily and fucked with a vengeance, screaming, “Fuck you, bitch! You whore! Fuck you, God! Fuck all of you! You pigs! You fucking low-life pigs!” Saliva sprayed from his mouth. He screamed so hard he hurt his throat. 'Fuuuuuuuuck'! And, bingo! He came. He thanked God. His body jerked involuntarily and came until he was spent. He pounded his fists on the handles. He was in a rage blackout. His brain was protecting itself from this repulsive information and had locked itself into its lowest functioning order. He had fucked a dead woman and made himself like it. Now, with the sexual urge gone, he was consumed by self-loathing. How could even a benevolent God forgive such a despicable act? He felt he didn't deserve to live. He prayed again to God to be delivered from this hell. If he could have grabbed a gun, he would have shot himself.

"Wait a minute,” he thought. “I could have hitched up my pants and run off. Maybe I would've gotten away! Maybe they would have shot me in the back and put me out of my misery.” That’s when he realized he wasn't all that disgusted with himself. The survival urge is pretty fucking strong. Even though his self-esteem was lower than slime, more than anything, he wanted to live.

Nick woke up in a pool of sweat, a stream of cum on his belly, and a throbbing migraine in his left temple. He took five aspirins, moved to the couch and stayed home for two days. He was shocked at the frightening realization that feelings of self-degradation were so accessible to him. These powerful feelings of horror, rage and disgust were somewhere in his brain, and he had no idea how they got there. Most of the time he felt normal but there were rare times when he felt100% evil, so he had to deduce that, somewhere in his brain, the devil was making himself at home. Nick feared that evil and he wanted to find it and disarm it.

He wondered if other men were perplexed by nightmares and memories of things they never experienced. Nick didn’t have any real memories of horrible things. He had never been to Central America, had never been in a jungle with soldiers, nor had he witnessed or participated in horrors such as in his dream. How did they get into his brain?

The other side, the dark side of Nick got a thrill out of the dream. This was the part of him that was always scared people would think he was a lunatic and a pervert. At the same time, he didn’t care what anyone thought. His intelligence surmised that other ‘normal’ people probably got off on those kinds of stories, too. What is normal anyway? There are so many people in therapy today, and millions more who ought to be, that sickness is more normal than normal anymore.

There is a postscript to this story. Nick had what could be called an 'after' dream. Scientists call this phenomenon “lucid dreaming,” where people semi-consciously control their dreams. When Nick first awakened, his mind was still dreaming. He couldn't stop the pictures in his head. In this drowsy state he saw himself being led away from the hut by the leader, who placed a ceremonial garland around his neck as a kind of reward. The Sarge was making him one of them. He also presented Nick a chalice-like goblet filled with red wine. These items were just outside the hut, ready to be conferred on someone as a ritual badge of honor. This was the sort of thing that happened more than once in this jungle. He had been accepted, but into a pack of wild animals, like an unwilling gang banger.

As he watched, he became aware of the difference between his conscious mind that wanted to do the right thing, and the mind that was less inhibited, more animal, that wanted to do anything it could get away with. Rebel soldiers in the jungles of Central America don’t care about Western civilization or political correctness. They shoot first and ask questions later. They get drunk and fuck and scream and kill people. It shocked Nick to realize that he understood their feelings and the ways were expressed in the jungle. There was no one to judge these men but nature herself. They lived outside normal society and faced death every day. They answered only to tribal, jungle law, and The Sarge. Nick wondered, if he was forced to stay with these men for a time, would he become like them? After all, morality is molded by convention. Societies, small or large, simple or complex, decide what is right and punish those who don't conform. If you don't try to fit in, you don't get as much to eat, you don’t get a good seat at the rituals, the best women don’t go for you. Who wants to live like that? These guys were caught up in a jungle war by timing and circumstances beyond their control and their leader is a necrophiliac. What are they supposed to do? Take him aside and explain the difference between right and wrong? It’s always better for one’s health to go along with the crowd. If you theoretically isolated their society, what they are doing in their circumstances is not wrong. So they fuck dead girls and kill people. Killing people is the definition of a soldier’s life. Red-blooded, patriotic men do that every day, all around our planet.

As the rebel leader raised his glass and toasted their triumph, the level of hysteria rose in the hut nearby. Nick could see the men through the doorway as they continued to fuck the body of the dead woman, now two at a time. The cheers and clapping grew louder and louder. Some of the men were stabbing the dead man and cutting off his ears and fingers for souvenirs. Nick felt nausea rising in his throat again, yet he couldn't turn his eyes from the tent. He was appalled and disgusted, but he still wanted to watch their brutal, mindless cruelty. Why couldn’t he stop watching them? Was he jealous of their uninhibited freedom? They could do whatever they wanted and get away with it. Nick extended his goblet toward the Sarge for a refill.

When the dream was finally gone for good, he found himself wishing it hadn’t ended. He was still curious about the magnetic pull of human horror. Why couldn’t he tear himself away? How could he be disgusted and thrilled at the same time? He was sad it was over. He was already feeling nostalgic. It had probably been the most exciting thing that had ever happened to him – and it was only a dream.

© Harry Johnson 2008


Harry Johnson was born in New Jersey, has lived in Virginia, Boston, New York City, and currently Los Angeles. His hobbies include sailing, travel and photography. He earned his BA in Creative Writing at Antioch University in 2007. His short story, “Bobby Metz’s Headache,” is the lead piece in the current (2008) edition of The Clackamas Literary Review, available at Amazon.com. “Next Time, A Rabbit can be found in the current edition of 21 Stars Review. Other fiction has been published in Rain Farm Press’s Paradigm, The Aggregated Press, Flask and Pen, Ink Filled Page, and a new piece, “Molly,” appears in the current edition of the online journal, Apt. Harry’s poetry has been published in The Verse Marauder and Above Ground Testing. Two new poems are featured in the current edition of Locust Magazine, and a non-fiction piece, “An Army Story,” will shortly appear ‘down under’ in the Australian online journal, DotLit.





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