An Anthropologist Encounters the Tcho-Tcho (archive)
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By James Haughton

Priests and cannibals, prehistoric animals
Everybody happy as the dead come home
Big black nemesis, parthenogenesis
No one move a muscle as the dead come home

— Shriekback, "Nemesis"

Reynald waited curiously in the clearing. The young anthropologist noted with pride that he already sweated less than he had when he had arrived in Indochine. The tribe he had come to study had been most accommodating, and his doctoral research would undoubtedly be crowned by this, admission to a shamanic initiation ceremony. He hoped that the mysterious elder would not demand tattoos, circumcision or other such grisly procedures be carried out on him, though – there were limits to what one would endure in the name of science!

A sudden movement caught his eye, but it was just the crown of the clearing's chief tree swaying in a seemingly nonexistent breeze. The tree stood alone, and Reynald could see why primitives might consider it the domain of spirit beings – although tall, it bore a startling resemblance to a withered man, toes becoming roots curled deep into the earth – those knots there could be eyes and a mouth – even a phallic stump with a garland over it, thrust out! and the trunk forked off into lined boughs upholding its green canopy, just in the position where arms would be found…

Shaking off his reverie – the heat had almost had him thinking the tree was looking at him! – the scholar turned on his heel to survey the only track into the clearing. Where was the elder? The tribesmen had assured him he would not have long to wait.

Reynald managed one scream before the thick, fleshy green leaf sealed itself over his mouth and nose. Choking in panic, he thrashed helplessly as the branch which had swooped upon him dragged him relentlessly to the main trunk. The earth seethed and bubbled as pale root-tips emerged – there was a stab of pain, like stepping on a caltrop, from each foot as the roots pierced his shoes and then started growing up around his legs, under his skin mon Dieu!, then more ripping stabbing tearing pain as the phallus was forcing in violating him and then the root threads pulsed under his skin grew over his chest and the world was an explosion of red as they plungedinto his eyes

Down the trail, his guide grinned as he heard the muffled screams. The old man got hungry every few years – and the knowledge he ate would help them avoid any more intrusions by the French.

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