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Little Isle Of Horrors

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"Are you sure that’s actually edible?" Oluwande asks, frowning at the mess of… whatever it is Jim’s just handed him, plated festively on a banana leaf with a twiggy sprig and a spray of dark berries that definitely look like members of the nightshade family.

“Yeah,” Jim says. “Probably. I dunno. Not like we got a lot else to choose from here.”

“You handed me this thing on a banana leaf.”

“There were plenty of plants, sure. Fruit, zip. Not even a single rock-hard green one.”

Oluwande looks up and down the beach the sudden storm washed them and their dinghy up on a couple of hours ago. It does look lush but absolutely deserted, and they haven’t heard any birdsongs or animal growls or even the peep-peep of a frog. Just the sullen buzz of insects and the wind through the leaves, of which there are a lot. This is without a doubt the greenest place he’s ever seen.

He tugs the nightshade-y twig off the gelatinous blob and for half a second he could swear the blob tugs back.

“Honestly, I’m really unsure about this.”

Jim glares at him. “Come ON, dude. I thought you trusted me.”

“To have my back in a knife fight, yeah, a hundred percent. But my guess is that never once in your life has anyone said, ‘Ah, that Jim. Very woodsy. Quite the forager.’”

“Hey! I survived on my own in the woods for weeks as a freaked-out little kid.”

“As a blacked-out little kid in a fugue state. You have no idea what you did or how you survived.”

Jim throws up their hands—hand, one hand; the other is still holding the other banana leaf with the other blob of whatsit. Is it pulsing slightly? “Where I come from, there’s a tree that looks like an apple tree and bears fruit that looks exactly like apples, but it will literally kill you if you TOUCH it. I’m not a moron.”

“All’s I’m saying is, you’re also not the most cautious person I’ve ever met.”

“Pfffft, I’m cautious enough,” says Jim, but now they’re looking at their banana leaf a little dubiously. “Worst comes to worst, I can puke like the wind.”

Oluwande pokes at his mass. It smells fruity enough—a little citrus, a little berry, a dense top note of something heavy and fleshy like a mango—but it just looks so shiny. Really, really shiny. He pulls his finger back and a long shiny string of goo stretches, and stretches, and then snaps back with an audible boiiiiing!

But it does smell like fruit, and he is mad hungry. He sighs. “What did it look like, the plant you got it from? What part of the plant is this even?”

“It was a big fuckin' thing the size of a tree, but not a tree. It had big ruffly leaves, and very fat vines all around it, and these big things that looked like cracked watermelons with the juice leaking out just a little, but when I cut one down it looked like it might be a seed pod because it was full of little tiny squishy fruity balls. Took forever to get it back here; the vines must’ve been strained as hell because the second I got the seed pod out they all went crack!, just flailing everywhere.”

Both their blobs are definitely wobbling, almost swaying. With intent. Seductive. The smell is so sweet that Oluwande still kind of wants to take a nibble, but he’s got this far in life without eating anything that was still moving and that’s not a streak he’s looking to break.

“But finally I got it all untangled and lugged the pod out here and pounded up the seeds on a rock to make a paste, and I added some garnish, and… fuck me, you might be right. This shit just looks wrong.”

“Someone’ll be out looking for us soon enough,” Oluwande says. “We can tough it out overnight. Just hang out on the sandbar, build a little fire for a signal, cuddle up, make our own fun. We won’t even notice we haven’t eaten.”

Jim frowns at their leaf. “You’re definitely right. Man, I can’t believe I let myself get bitchslapped by a vine to get this crap I don’t even want to eat. Look at this! Fell down and shredded my damn elbow.” They lift their free arm to show him their bloody elbow, and like lightning the shiny blob zaps itself off the banana leaf and gloms on.

They’re both frozen in absolute giddy horror as the little blorbo laps at Jim’s skinned elbow. Then Jim snaps out of it. “JesuCHRISTO get this thing off of me! What the fuck?”

And as they’re both peeling it off they hear it coo in a small but very distinct voice, “Feed me, Jimenez, feed me all night long, ‘cause if you feed me, I can grow up big and strong.”

Oluwande scrapes it off into the sand and Jim buries it and stomps hard to tamp it down and then they do the same to the other blorbo, both muttering, “Nope nope nope nope nope nope nope” under their breaths. The whole time they can hear the goo squeaking, “I can make it worth your while! Everything your secret greasy heart desires!” They don’t stop until they can’t hear anything anymore. Then they sprint for the dinghy.

“Sun won’t be down for a good twenty, twenty-five minutes yet, yeah?” Oluwande says.

“For sure,” Jim agrees. “I don’t need to eat. I’m all fired up and ready to row.”

Some distance behind them the beach starts to undulate and a reedy little voice calls, “Come on, Oluwande, don’t be a putz…”

They shove the dinghy out and launch themselves into it and row for their lives, and they don’t slow down until the entire island is a dot in the sunset. Off in the far distance, as the sea and sky darken, they can finally pick out a cluster of glowing lights, the familiar story hour lanterns and candles on the Revenge’s foredeck. “So,” Oluwande says at last, “when we get back, I just want to make it clear that I didn’t see a fucking thing.”

“Well, I definitely didn’t hear a fucking thing.”

“Not a thing. We got rained on, we got blown off course, and then it was all very very boring.”

“Agreed. And trying the local delicacies is fun and all every now and then but for the next little while I’m just gonna stick with oranges.”