Chasing down a ghost
“You remember the Runaway …?”
The chief had returned. Standing in front of the Tarzan. His gaze roaming over Tarzan’s front .. eagerly dissecting him. Somehow it felt like his vision was exploring Tarzan below the skin. Searching. Investigating.
The chief wasn’t addressing his captive, that priest had joined him. The man was perfectly built, not like the witch doctors Tarzan usually found. A warrior, striking physique. Hard chest, muscle-bellied. No scholar. A fighter. Cruelly he had extracted Wright’s seed. There was nothing lenient about this priest.
Without turning to his priest, the chief’s eyes kept coasting over Tarzan’s physique .. scouring him from head to toe. Tarzan continued to stare him firmly back. Returning the look .. muscular and strong.
What was that question. About some Runaway?
The priest scowled.
“That memory is forever burned on our hearts.”
Spoken with rancour, Tarzan felt. His focus, though, remained with the chief. Still staring at him. The chief nodded with equal gravity to the priest. Eyes probing every inch of Tarzan’s muscle-hard physique. The chief’s look was slitted with raw concentration .. as if recalling some past painful event.
“That Runaway fled. Bringing upon us ruin. He escaped. And the wrath of Mzanka rained down devastation.”
Tarzan did not have the first idea what the chief was going on about. Some captive had runaway? Someone called Mzanka had lost his temper with them for that. Devastation! But he had not the chance to think. Caught in the harsh glare of the chief. He could swear that he could feel his hands like talon scoring sharp claws down his chest. This chief might have recalled Tarzan’s name. But it had only seemed to make things worse.
“But before he ran off .. before he brought down disaster .. that Runaway .. he had talked of a man. A great man. Formidable. The Runaway called him Tarzan.”
At the mention of Runaway, something now twisted in Tarzan’s mind .. deep at the back of his head. He was remembering something. But still .. distracted by his own predicament .. he struggled to put his finger on it. Tarzan felt he had to counter the chief’s harsher demeanour. Claws gouged at the toughness of his muscled belly. Memories of the Runaway were bringing out the harshness in the man. Tarzan returned the feelings in a like-minded glower.
The chief was pointing aggressively at Tarzan’s broad front. He scowled .. angry with memories. For the escape of the Runaway. And the disaster that had followed.
“This one …. “
The finger jabbed in the air again. To Tarzan it felt like a stab with a spear at Tarzan’s hard-packed chest.
“THIS .. this is that Tarzan ….”
The chief was indicating at the captive. Tarzan was held still down by the grips on his shoulders. An eager pair of meaty warriors holding on to him.
“The man the Runaway exalted. Praised.”
Tarzan was not flattered by these words. Some stranger had been talking him up. And this chief’s gaze was greedily eating up his muscular torso. He saw the priest nodding slowly. His eyes too were traveling hungrily over Tarzan’s physique.
The priest’s words heightened the exaggeration as he too recalled the past.
“Greater than himself, the Runaway said. He venerated him, this Tarzan.”
Tarzan suddenly felt like a giant hand had him in its grip. It was the priest. Staring at him. Ravenous. Squeezing him. Almost like a great ape hugging Tarzan around his chest. A crush that clasped at his whole being. But it was only a look! The priest hadn’t moved. But his presence HAD moved in on Tarzan. He shook his head. Casting off that odd feeling.
The priest was snorting him. Like an animal scenting prey. Sniffing at the air .. towards Tarzan. As by inhaling he could possess the prey. To Tarzan it felt like the priest had him clutched in an inescapable grip. But it was only a look! He stood yards away.
“Tarzan. The Runaway’s idol. Tarzan.”
The chief was jabbing at Tarzan. His eyes bright, elate. Jabbing at the air. But oddly Tarzan could feel the sharpness of the stab against his chest. What was happening?
What were they on about? Some stranger had praised Tarzan to the skies. And now their eyes were aflame with excitement. Not aroused …. Unaccountably Tarzan felt trapped, something strange was happening here, things he could not explain. Like there was a power taking hold of him.
Was he dreaming. Or had that witch-doctor seemingly puffed himself up? Inflated with weird inexplicable powers? Unnatural. Supernatural. No, that was mad.
Uncomfortable, unable to explain what he was feeling, Tarzan shifted his gaze moved back to the chief. Evading this unnatural force the priest seemed to be throwing over him. Like a lion net. Trapping him .. capturing his inner spirit. But it felt no better looking at the chief. Him too. It was like the chief’s eyes were burrowing into him. Digging deep. A powerful silent force that was prising a way through his muscled flesh. Down to his soul. Unmissable. And very real. And a physical power that held Tarzan transfixed.
“KING of the jungle.”
It was the priest hissing out the words.
The chief broke off the intensity of his silence. An arm extended towards Tarzan, down on his knees. Confused. Feeling increasingly uncomfortable at this mumbo-jumbo. This feeling about supernatural forces.
The chief’s hand seemingly seized Tarzan’s whole being in one symbolic grasp.
“This is Tarzan. KING of the jungle.”
Tarzan saw the chief’s eyes were wild with excitement. His nostrils flared. Like some she-cat on heat. Passionate. But unaccountable. Tarzan could not make out what the hell they were getting worked up about.
Addressing the priest the chief blurted it out.
Tarzan could not understand the wild looks he was getting. Or why his name evoked such arousal. The chief’s eyes were raging .. wild with greed. Like a ravenous predator breathing over the trapped body of a helpless prey.
“What better? KING OF THE JUNGLE.”
The chief raised his hands .. towards Tarzan .. as if his arms could encompass Tarzan’s whole being. Trap him. Capture him.
“THINK! What better …..?”
To Tarzan this felt eerie. Creepy. He felt eyes of intense greed swamping his muscular physique. The chief’s wild gaze almost swallowing him whole. Alive.
“WHO better? To plead for his return? To win Mzanka back?”