What a group of travellers hope is going to be an adventure in paradise twists into a thrilling sequence of events, forecast by a murderous member of the animal kingdom. Dump is the fourth book written by Bob Marshall-Andrews.
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‘Oh my God, look at that.’
All along the edge of the forest black figures emerged on to the white sand. From inside the lodge our view was restricted to an area of barely one hundred metres at the edge of the trees. It was beginning to fill with chimpanzees. Behind them, the branches swayed as more pushed forward into the sunlight. ‘Christ,’ said Jolyon Downside, ‘there are hundreds of them.’
Slowly they advanced on the lodge. Many, I saw, carried rocks in their hands, some had branches. The majority adopted the classic swinging walk of the primate, on hands and knuckles. Others, however, were slower moving, upright and walking on their hind legs. In a ragged line they advanced as far as the Sidewinders’ bodies. Here they came to a halt. So far they had come in silence. The only sound was from the movement of sand, churned and pushed by feet and hands. At that moment I heard from the forest the beginnings of a now familiar sound. At first it came from a single voice, ‘Humph, humph, humph.’ It then spread along the lines of chimpanzees. Within seconds the entire assembly had taken up the call and bodies began to move, barely perceptibly, to the repetition of the sound. ‘Humph, humph, humph.’
Then he came. The chimpanzees immediately surrounding the bodies on the beach fell back and he advanced out of the jungle. At first I did not recognise him. I had last seen him when he was thirteen years old. Big and ferocious he was but not then fully grown. Now at twenty-three years of age he was huge. At first he touched the ground lightly with his arms but then, when a pathway opened for him, he stood at full height and walked forward. He maintained the distinctive rolling motion of the walking ape but his shoulders were different. They were not hunched forward in the classic posture which allows for immediate charge or retreat. His shoulders were pulled back and his arms swung slowly by his side. Apart from his size, two things marked him immediately. His upper lip was drawn back, revealing a thin line of teeth. It was the expression that I had recorded ten years before. But I also recognised the wound inflicted by my own panga at that time. The slash of the blade had passed across his forehead. The copious blood which had then erupted from the cut had left a trail through the jungle that had persuaded us all of his death. Now I saw that it had healed but the hair had not fully returned. In order to compensate much longer hair had grown across the top of the temple. In the wind it floated outwards, giving the impression of a prominent peak jutting from the top of his head. It hung just above his eyes. As I watched him he raised a hand and swiped it aside, an irritated gesture as though swatting a troublesome insect from his sight. I stared at him and a tremor passed through my body. I felt Claire’s hand link through my arm. ‘Dump,’ I said, ‘it’s him.’
Beside me the camera of John Boxe clicked incessantly. I turned to him and nodded. ‘Go on, get it all or no one will believe it.’
Jolyon Downside said, ‘My God, he’s enormous, absolutely enormous.’
Dump made his way slowly towards the bodies on the sand. I noticed he was silent and did not join the surrounding orchestrated cacophony which now grew in pitch and volume. ‘Humph, humph, humph.’
When he reached the Sidewinders’ bodies he paused, straightened, then looked to his left and his right. It was a theatrical gesture. I glanced at Downside, who was shaking his head. ‘Shakespearean,’ he muttered.
Dump had yet to look directly at the lodge. Now, as part of the same elaborate gesture, he lifted his head and gazed straight at me.
Across fifteen metres of beach eye contact was maintained for fully half a minute before I saw his upper lip curl further away from his teeth. I could make out the grinding of his jaw. Suddenly he thrust out an arm and pointed directly at my head. Around him the chorus grew still greater in pitch and volume. He dropped his gaze and then peered downwards at the Sidewinders’ bodies. Hiram Sidewinder had fallen forward on to the sand. Dump lowered his own face until it reached a point two feet above Sidewinder’s back. Then, with apparent ease, he extended a hand under the body and flipped it over. He stared down, his eyes within inches of the dentist’s head. Beside me Claire closed her eyes.
‘Oh my God,’ she said, ‘this is going to be terrible.’
Beside her Jolyon Downside spoke, his voice thick with fear. ‘What is he going to do?’
On the beach Dump had taken hold of Sidewinder’s head. Gently, he pulled it backwards and forwards and the whole body jerked upwards. As we watched another two chimpanzees came forward and picked up the inert body.
‘God,’ said Edouard, ‘God, I can’t watch this.’
In that instant I knew precisely what we needed to do. I turned to Edouard and said: ‘Torch it, burn it.’
‘Pardon? Burn it? What?’
‘The lodge, burn the lodge, burn all of it.’
As Edouard shook his head, I said: ‘It’s the only way that we can make ourselves some time, don’t you see? As soon as he’s finished with the body, those chimpanzees are going to come for us. They are, Edouard, they are. But they will not enter a burning lodge. They are terrified of fire.’
Claire’s voice came from behind me. ‘But what about us? We will burn in here?’
‘It will take time. It gives us time; don’t you see? We need time. It will give us refuge at the back, and we can wait until the last minute.’
Claire looked at me. ‘And if the boat has not arrived by then?’
‘Then we must do all that we can. Run for the jetty. Don’t you see it’s our only chance?’
Downside was nodding his head. ‘He’s right. It’s our only chance.’