Serial Settings 1: Ubiquity ~ Week 19

This is the 19th installment of this year’s Serial Setting project; a tropical island setting in the South Pacific intended for use with Hollow Earth Expedition or Daring Tales of Adventure. Ostensibly a corporate holding off the usual shipping lanes, known to savvier career sailors in the region as a possible refuge between Pitcairn and French Polynesia, the Windlet Isles strangely represent both peaceful community living in an island paradise, and secrets perhaps best left unexplored. This series of entries reveals some of the landmarks on the islands, and continues to flesh out the many mysteries to be found in the interior.

19) The Edge of the Jungle, Coastline, Greater Windlet Island

One of the first major projects undertaken when it was decided to use Greater Windlet as a base of operations for the Company in the Pacific, was the fence. For residents it is a fact of life which for many has faded into the background. For newcomers its stark, reinforced, concrete and steel expanse, swathed in hardy creepers and vines, topped by guardposts, electric floodlights, and armed patrols, can be unsettling. In most cases, it impresses upon visitors the deadliness of the interior. In cases where it does not, regrets often form too late, as brutal death takes the foolhardy wanderer. Respect for nature’s power and hunger are among the very first things taught to infants born on the Windlet Isles.

Before the fence was completed, the island was deemed unsafe for community living, and the only inhabitants were well-trained survivalists carrying the latest sidearms, and receiving round the clock protection from heavily armed guards and huntsmen. No part of the jungle was safe. After the construction of the fence, the jungle around the coasts took on a more genial nature, but still has fangs hidden in its welcoming smile. For the religious, there are few greater reminders than these jungles that Man’s time in Eden is over.

The coastal sections of the jungle, now long separated from the interior, have been almost completely culled of larger predators, although some inevitably make it over, or under the fence, or through it via the river conduits, by virtue of their natural gifts.

Administrator Gast is fond of saying, “When we can no longer be baffled by Nature, how sad we will all be.”

Armed patrols, many now comprised of the Constabulary, take it as a primary mission to track and put down any such dangerous beasts on the wrong side of the fence. They also serve as a form of fast response team, equipped with first aid and snake bite kits. Of course, with all the poisonous snakes, arachnids, insects, plants, and fungi on the island, no team can be equipped for everything. To that end, caches are maintained at regular interval along the coast , at specific points along cleared trails, and along the fence.

The most common perils in the coastal jungle are from snakes and spiders, but in recent years there has been a rise in the millipede population. While not as virulently venomous as the spiders the millipedes’ venom is more than enough to kill an unwary child.

Plants of every description beckon hungry wanderers to nourish themselves, but most are toxic. The Company provides a thorough training program for employees, and posts signs along the trails. This has vastly reduced poisonings in past years.

The rivers and small bodies of fresh water are also habitats of peril. Voracious fish, and reptiles of a devious and rapacious nature lurk everywhere- many species of which have never been identified.

The terrain itself is treacherous with stretches of trail dissolving to thigh deep mud, quicksand, or swamps of unpredictable depth. Clouds of mosquitoes hover in wait near any open stretch of water, and deeper in the jungle, temperatures and humidity can soar to dangerous levels, becoming a threat on their own.

Death is the most usual suspect in the jungle – even the gentle face of the jungle on the safe side of the wall. One of its more famous aspects, is that of a wild boar – fast, tough, agile, and possessed of great intelligence: hunted by many, victim of none.

Usual Suspects:  Ol’ Tom

No one knows for sure if Ol’ Tom is one pig or many, but deep down, everyone wants to believe that this monster of the underbrush is the same one first respectfully described by world-renowned big game hunter Robert Trebek as, “The one that got away.”

“Bearing only one tusk, a hooked and cruel dagger of a tusk the size of my forearm, Ol’ Tom – you see I chased him so far and for so long I had to name him – is a grey and fearsome brute, scarred from battle and brutal in outlook. He’d as soon kill you as take a leak in the morning. After a day, it felt like he was hunting me. After two days, it was like he was teasing me. After three days, I began to lose hope of us ever getting out of the jungle alive…. and I guess for my bearers, that fear became reality. Ol’ Tom got two of them, and led the third into a nest of vipers so thick he sank out of sight in an instant. I swear I saw the old boar laugh at that…  Should any man hunt and bag that beast, I stand here today to tell you – he’s a better man than has yet lived.”

It is reported that Trebek not only had a tear in his eye as he raised that toast, he also gave up hunting not long after. The thrill, he said, was gone.

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