The Uprights

Dec 3, 2012 by     2 Comments    Posted under: Fiction

Once upon a time, I was sitting on a tree, a slight breeze refreshingly replaced the stagnant air bringing along with it fresh scents and sounds. Instinctively, my ears perked and after a couple of deep sniffs, I yawned, “Nothing interesting.” I thought to myself. Shafts of sunlight pierced the thick over head canopy made by the trees, creating an ever-moving interplay of light and shadow on the dark forest floor. My stomach made a faint growling noise but I ignored it, perched high up on a thick branch I scoured the dense underbrush waiting to ambush some unwary quarry that happened to pass by.

As evening fell, the forest began to transform, the irksome monkeys had retreated higher up the trees and like the birds, had fallen silent. Crickets and other nocturnal insects took over, punctuating the silence with their chirpy mating calls. The Sun had dipped behind the mountains to the West and darkness blanketed the night sky.

I was now in my element, stretching my back, I prepared to leap down and shift closer to the water hole where I’d probably have more luck and could soothe my parched throat when suddenly, a twig crackled somewhere close by. I froze, every muscle grew taut and my senses raced on edge, I scanned the darkness for some sign of movement, ready to spring at the first hint of danger or sustenance. A gruff voice broke the silence, “You won’t have much luck around these parts, especially when you’re downwind.” I relaxed, releasing my breath and retracting my claws. A pair of gleaming eyes, seemingly suspended in the darkness peered at me from the forest floor. “Oh, it’s just you Chagah.” I said nonchalantly, “What are you doing around here?” I asked, leaping down to face him.

Silhouetted against the dense foliage, Chagah stepped out into a small clearing. Though once a fearsome sight, he was now in the twilight of his prime. No longer able to fend off young, marauding males from his territory, he chose to leave with his dignity intact rather than get mauled in fights which were becoming increasingly difficult to win. His coat no longer gleamed and was lined with battle scars but his amber eyes still burned with an unsettling menace in the silvery moonlight. Now, unburdened by the possession of his dominion, he spent his time mentoring me in the ways of the jaguar. “The Uprights are here, they’ve settled next to the water hole.” He said grimly. The Uprights were foreign beasts that had recently made their presence felt, stories of what they had done to the forest and its inhabitants permeated through the dense jungle instilling a sickening fear that infected even the apex residents of the vast habitat. A cold lump formed in the pit of my stomach, making it hard to breathe as I grappled with this ominous news. Appalling thoughts began swirling in my mind but before I could splutter any words, Chagah’s curt voice broke my trance. “Move towards the mountains, and make haste, there are others I must warn.” And without pausing to gauge my reaction he took off, instantly swallowed by the ebony surroundings.

Intrigue mingled with pride and apprehension as I considered fleeing before an adversary I had merely heard about but not yet seen. Shaking off the dread that had ensnared my senses, I decided in that moment that I would not tuck tail and run without at least catching a glimpse of these aliens and advanced towards their settlement. Eerie sounds and smells greeted me as I neared the site. Creeping within eye-shot  I peered through the undergrowth. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. A blazing inferno of light surrounded by creatures, standing on their hind legs, their upper limbs clutching pieces of wood that ended in a sharp tip. Their heads and shoulders were covered with the skins of jaguars and feathers of eagles. Guttural voices drowned out the nocturnal melodies of the forest as they bared their teeth and chanted rhythmically, stomping their feet and pirouetting in unison. Horrified, I began to retreat when suddenly there was a cracking sound under my paw and I was lifted off the ground in what seemed to be a spider’s web, only much stronger. The Uprights stopped their ritual and rushed around me, hooting in derision and clapping each other on the back. I struggled in the web, frantically shifting my weight and gnawing in what was seemingly a futile attempt. One of them stepped forward and prodded me with the sharp end of his stick, I spat and roared as a thin trickle of blood flowed from the resulting wound but they simply jeered callously at my powerlessness. A deep voice called out and carried over the raucous group that surrounded me, abruptly they all fell silent and parted as one who seemed to be the leader stepped forward, brandishing a thick, circular piece of wood. His face and body were adorned by red markings and the underside of his nose was pierced with a bone. His eyes bore into mine, glittering with malice and contempt as he stared up at me and then gestured with his upper limb to the others. One of them clambered up the tree and cut the bond with a sharp flint as I fell to the ground with a thud, still entangled.

Once again, they resumed baring their teeth at one another and making those guttural sounds, apparently bickering about something. Exhausted by the struggle I lay still, expecting to be left unnoticed when they began dragging me towards the inferno. Heat washed over me, as my instinct compelled me to desperately summon my remaining strength and scramble towards the dense thicket, the combined strength of the Uprights causing me to collapse, panting for breath. Gazing longingly towards my home and regretting not listening to Chagah, I never saw the blow that sent me hurtling into oblivion.

Story by Hassan Arif
Second Prize Winner – of the short story competition titled “Once upon a time, I was sitting on a tree…” organized by SZABIST Literary Club.

The Author

To promote the importance of literature in day to day life, to encourage the study of literature and to collaborate with societies abroad and within Pakistan who share the same views. To appreciate the mere existence of the literary word, to preserve its essence and to invite young individuals to a world that only literature can open up.

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2 Comments + Add Comment

  • A unique and innovative piece of work. Impressive indeed!

  • Congrats! It’s such a discriptive piece of writing, and I enjoyed reading it.

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