For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
September 12, 18XX
This Journal shall serve as a record for me as I commence my search for the fabled treasure of Nbabi, and should anything befall me in my adventure, shall go to Charlotte so she may know of my final days. I pray that I return to her whole and healthy, but I cannot forsake my quest regardless of risk to my person. For despite my family’s noble blood, my uncle’s financial speculation has consumed our wealth and left us little better than paupers living on the goodwill of our dear friends. I cannot countenance this state of affairs and will seek any means necessary to rectify the situation. When word of the African continent and its potential wealth came to my notice, I resolved immediately to set out to seek riches enough to restore my family’s good standing in society.
I have neither the time nor the inclination to chart my travels to deepest Africa, but in an Egyptian bazaar I obtained this notebook with its oilskin covering, for I had heard that beyond the desert, deep, wet jungle swaths much of Africa. I have found that, at least, to be true, and trust that my words will survive to chronicle the remainder of my search. In Egypt I also found a guide, whom I call James. He has faithfully led me through desert and savanna into the uncharted depths of the jungle. The natives here have never, perhaps, seen a white man; they approach cautiously but with great curiosity, and to my relief, James speaks a language they know. I fear treachery from these tribes, for I believe them headhunters and cannibals, and keep my guns loaded and at hand in all situations even though James has attempted to reassure me. Despite his faithfulness, I do not credit James with much intelligence.
In recent weeks, James has begun to hear rumors of a fabulous treasure, rumored to come from far Egypt although I cannot imagine how or why, not far from here. The natives are untrustworthy and deeply superstitious, and I doubt their word. What educated white man would credit their claims of a curse that guards the treasure and turns men into demons from beyond the grave? Yet I cannot but investigate, for if true, this treasure could bring about all I hope for and perhaps restore our family to its former place of honor among our peers.
September 27, 18XX
I have obtained another companion, aside from James and our recalcitrant donkeys: a young monkey. He fell from a tree not far outside our camp one evening and commenced howling and fussing so loudly I took my rifle to silence him. James accompanied me and became agitated when he saw the beast. He told me that killing a monkey of this kind was the worst bad luck, master, but that to heal it would virtually guarantee our success. Softhearted as I am, I relented and brought the creature back to camp despite its scratching, biting, and continued howling. In the last few weeks its leg seems to have healed remarkably quickly, so that now he scampers from limb to limb with nearly the same reckless abandon that broke its leg in the first place.
I had initially hoped that, once healed, the creature would vanish into the forest and consume no more of our resources. But James will insist on sharing our meals with it, almost as if it was a proper person, and its leg healed crooked, so I suspect it can no longer keep up with its former companions. Alas, my hopes proved groundless, for though the rascal’s leg is recovered as much as it ever will, it dogs our path with great persistence. It seems to particularly have adopted me as its favorite, although I have given it no evidence of affection and James takes care of feeding it. I admit that I have begun softening to its antics on occasion, as it hangs upside down by its tail chattering at us (a sound not unlike the speech of Lady Desingthorpe, whose powers of gossip, according to Charlotte, are renowned among all the women of breeding) almost as if it expected us to understand what it was saying.
We continue to follow the rumors of ancient Egyptian treasure into truly uncharted and unfathomable jungle deeps. The last natives we encountered did not speak any of James’ languages, and James had to resort to sign and grunting to communicate. Fortunately, such communication seems to come naturally to him, perhaps because he is—according to the latest theory from Darwin—more closely related to apes than more sophisticated whites such as myself.
I seem to have lost count of days, although I believe October has not yet fully passed. Our monkey companion, whom James has named Nagali, remains in attendance and is now most devoted to me. He brings me small animals, berries, and fruits, which I always let him consume in the end. He follows me closely when not hunting and shares my blankets at night, unfortunately also sharing some of his personal parasites as well. The allure of a hot, steamy bath and a thick, sudsy bar of soap seem overwhelming after these months of travel through this uncivilized, filthy country.
However, the travel may soon be justified. Our latest encounter with natives has led James to believe we are within only a few miles of this legendary treasure. Now, though, my guide has become recalcitrant and refuses to travel with me to the mother lode itself. He believes the natives’ numerous warnings of a curse, and nothing will induce him to risk suffering such a fate. I have decided to take all the donkeys, saddlebags empty, and obtain this treasure on my own while James waits at the camp with Nagali. At this juncture, nothing—certainly no rumors of a curse, which seem so prevalent in lower classes—could prevent me from seeing this adventure to fruition. I hope to write again soon.
Two Days Later
Following James’ instructions, Nagali and I have found the cave where the treasure resides. Nagali would, of course, follow despite my strenuous objections. Tying him up simply causes him to howl and chew through his ropes. I see no harm in his companionship and thus far he seems to have brought us excellent fortune in finding the riches I so crave.
I have stopped short of collecting this treasure, which I trust is within the dark recesses before me, because I noticed a strange thing: skeletons, many with their skulls crushed or shattered in the back, strewn liberally around the portal. I believe they were perhaps slaves who transported the treasure and were killed to maintain the secret of its whereabouts. Nagali seems anxious and skittish, clinging to my side and then darting back along our trail, as if to urge me away from the cave. I cannot imagine the skeletons cause him alarm, for they are not of his race, and there are no predators that I can discern nearby.
Indeed, in all my jungle travels, I have rarely heard such a silent patch of woods. No birds or insects chirrup and a hush pervades the place like a blessing. Such a holy silence can only bode well; it is God showing His approval at my task by silencing even the beasts of the field. I go now to fulfill my quest. Should I succeed, I will use a portion of my wealth to feed and clothe those less fortunate than myself, as a way of thanking the Good Lord for His provision.
One Day Later
The treasure is beyond imagining and far beyond my donkeys’ ability to carry. It is buried deep within the cave in many small, separate caverns that one must crawl through on hands and knees or even wriggle through like a snake on it
s belly. But this difficult access hides wealth untold. Some of the entrances show evidence of previous explorers, and at first I feared I had come too late, that some previous explorer had seized my prize. To my joy, though, only a few of the caches had been emptied, leaving what appears to be the vast majority of the treasure intact. I have emptied several caches myself, loading the donkeys to groaning and even filling my own haversack to bursting with glittering gems and golden baubles of incomparable worth.
The treasure! Who could imagine it? How to even begin to describe it? Gold ornaments, masks, cups, crowns, jewelry of a thousand types vie with piles of finely-cut precious stones in catching my torch’s light. I confess that I spent no small time simply gazing in awe at this hoard, which remains undimmed by time and virtually untouched by mankind. I well now see the wisdom of spreading a rumor among the natives that a curse protects the treasure: Nothing else would have kept them from emptying this cave long ago. Who put this gold here and spread word of its fearful invisible guardian? I cannot guess, for these pieces look unlike any ancient treasure I have seen or heard tell of before. It resembles the Egyptian style but departs from it in many places, making me think that it came from some other, unknown civilization that has since vanished from the face of the earth. Atlantean treasure, perhaps? –though I hardly credit the likelihood of a real Atlantis, I cannot but begin to wonder as I gaze at the workmanship of such clearly ancient pieces.
I have decided to return to civilization with what treasure the donkeys can bear, and continue to return as often as our finances should require. Prudently doled out, this find could finance our family for generations to come. Perhaps, some day, I will return with a full team and ultimately convert the entire trove into safer storage: coin of the realm.
Addendum: Nagani has been behaving oddly. I fear he may be succumbing to some strange jungle disease, for he has spent most of the last day moving sluggishly, resting often, and refusing my touch. When I do catch him (still difficult, as he has taken to hiding in high branches), he feels hot and feverish, if his kind can catch fevers.
One Day Later
Nagani has died. I can hardly believe how quickly this strange illness took him, progressing from fevers to shaking and vomiting until he became comatose. I can no longer detect any sign of breath or heartbeat in his little body and must assume the worst, a sorry loss. When I rescued him, I had no desire for a pet in this wilderness, but his affection and attention have won my heart so that now I mourn him as if he had been one of my hounds. I considered burying him, as I would a beloved hound, but in this festering land I know that some other creature would quickly uncover his body. Instead, I have chosen to leave his body in the branches of a tree, his favorite playground, and allow nature to take its course. Rest in peace, little friend.
I, meanwhile, have begun to feel slightly unwell myself. Though I doubt Nagali’s affliction could touch me, I suspect that the malaria I contracted earlier in this journey has begun to reassert itself. If so, I must hasten to reach James and our quinine supply… but I feel weak, and before I travel on, I must rest. The donkeys and treasure are secure for the time being, and I shall keep a rifle and knife close to hand. Never has the trunk of a tree felt so luxurious or the deep, mushy loam of the forest floor felt more like a feather bed. Rest. Yes. And soon I will travel on, never giving up on my quest for brains. I mean treasures.
I have awoken to find the donkeys gone, not vanished but dead. Some creature came upon them and consumed them in the night. Their carcasses are bloody and terrible, but I am desperately hungry and their heads seem mostly intact. For some reason, the prospect of consuming their brains fills me with an unaccountable and disturbing euphoria…but since little meat remains on their bones, I can justifiably eat their brains. Oh, delicious brains! I have never loved to consume an animal’s organs before, but since I slept—and clearly I must have slept a long time and deeply, for the donkeys to have died and my hunger to have grown so demanding—I can hardly wait for the brains.
What am I thinking? No man eats another creature’s brains, save only the desperate or those unable to afford better. Why should I so desire brains? And why doesn’t their death bother me? How long did I sleep? What has happened to me and my priorities? How long did I sleep? My body seems emaciated, my skin clammy and grayish as if from long convalescence. But how could I survive a long convalescence here unattended in the jungle? Vicious creatures have attempted to attack me before, and clearly they were near to kill the donkeys, but I remain unscathed, avoided by even ants and crawling creatures.
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