“Are we ever going to get out of this swamp?” asked Professor Avery. He stopped pushing into the muck with the long pole he had been using for hours and wiped sweat out of his eyes with a red bandanna. He looked at the other three men who, like himself, were nearly mad with exhaustion. His companions continued their arduous task of pushing blindly through the grass that waved fifteen feet above the water. The men’s shirts were torn and their torsos were bloody from being whipped by the blades of the finely-serrated saw grass. The team had been fighting their way through the swamp for five days. Two days ago, the day the steam engine had finally stalled for the last time, their compasses had mysteriously stopped working; and the men had continued on their journey using only the blistering sun as their guide. When the sun dropped past the horizon, they would lash the boat to clumps of weeds growing out of muddy hillocks choking the river, swallow minute amounts of their rations, wrap themselves in mosquito netting, and wait for the dawn.
Scott Chinaski exclaimed, “Whose bright idea was this, anyway?” Henry Dawson pushed a bottle of gin away from his sunburned lips and, sighting over the mouth of the bottle, focused on the questioner.
“You know, it’s crazy, but I can’t remember,” he muttered.
Doctor Matt Charbonneau rolled onto his back. His hazel-colored eyes stared up into the ochre sky that was fast fading to black. Forrest Avery, fever-ridden, sick with a headache and nausea, could not remember planning the expedition. His first clear recollection of anything, in fact, was the moment the needle on the ship’s compass began pointing straight to the southwest, towards their destination.
Chi-Ukwu sat up on the throne the natives had built it and it sniffed the air. The tiny slits surrounding its mouth opened and closed grotesquely. The white men were getting closer. The alien rose from the huge chair and slid down to the hard-packed dirt in the center of the village, the parade ground. It began slouching to the east and was soon lost from sight of the Urhobo.
In no time, it was wading, half-swimming, using its forty-foot-long tentacles to row through the murky backwater. Then, when it hit the deep water of the Forcados River, it let its legs rotate to the surface, and it began kicking with its huge froglike feet. It was moving at about twenty knots, against the current, when it saw them, the six men aboard the powerless river boat. They were in the center of the river, poling along, about a hundred yards away, when the monster dove downwards. Seconds later, Chi-Ukwu pushed against the rocky bottom of the river and grabbed the keel with its tentacles. In an instant, the bow of the small ship was twenty feet above the water and its occupants were thrown to the stern. With a deafening, birdlike screech, the creature shook the boat like it was a toy. Scott Chinaski and Matt Charbonneau flew into the air and splashed into the river. Chi-Ukwu sat the boat down gently, then plucked the two men out of the water and swallowed them.