Papers Found in a Burnt-out Jeep

The first few pages of this entry come from a personal journal from Colonel [name redacted at descendant’s request] the journal was in poor condition, owing to the humidity of the tropical environment.

–so far South we practically had to swim for cover. What’s more, the ruddy natives around here are worse than the Poonjabs. Every attempt to communicate ends with a shower of spears. I’ve never met a people so intolerant of outside influence, almost as if they know why we’re here. If Eddington has been and gone before us I shall never hear the end of it.

Jan 1, 184(5? 7?)

We’ve managed to settle in, though lord only knows when they’ll discover us and flush us out again, like bloody partridges. We’ve tried every language in the book, even the valley tongue that Pelgrom picked up as a curiosity, but these people have no interest in talk. As soon as you open your mouth, they set to such a wailing as I have never heard before, like they’re trying to drown us out. Twist suggested creeping to their huts and setting fire in the middle of the night. Serve the mongrels right.

Jan 7, [years obscure]

I was right. They’ve been trying to keep us from the far shore. The little blighters even sabotaged the longboats, though they didn’t have the courage to do it in daylight this time. Thank God for Mssrs. Smith and Wesson. Upon closer viewing, yes, the farther shore does have dwellings on it, along with people. They already seem a friendlier bunch, waving to us from shore, almost entreating. They even wear clothes, like civilized men, though I’ll leave that conclusion to our first meeting.

January [numbers blotted out by a different ink than the body of text was written with]

Eddington may have been here, but he had only whet the native’s appetites. We were greeted as royalty when we landed, the few English words they had learned parroted back at us without thought to proper structure. They touched our guns and books and made a great show of friendliness, gave us a proper welcome. I may be able to unseat that redoubtable cad in their hearts, though they are a hungry bunch. They signed the contracts, no questions, only entreated us to speak and speak more. They took the bits and baubles we gave them, then, curiously, handed them back after only a day’s enjoyment. Twist unraveled the mystery when he dropped a trinket–lac! The clever little beasts had copied and cast their own. We took it all in good humour, the poor beasts seemed embarrassed on being found out.

The big man is called something that he casually translates to Flatwater. A fine gent, in his own way. He was very insistent on speaking only English, though when he heard Pelgrom possessed knowledge of the Dutch language he added that to the table. Eddington had a Dutchman, come to think of it. I will usurp that shiftless company man if it’s the last thing I do!

February[further date obscured]

[this entry is almost completely illegible, due to ink smear and what is certainly a questionable mental state by its writer]

Stood right over me. Yes. Likable fellow. Smiles all the time. Phibs(?) gone. Pelgrom gone. No more speaking in Dutch, my knowledge isn’t enough to keep up with Flatwater. He seems to be taking it well, and speaks English better than any given Yorkshireman. Good fellow, smiling(?) fellow. The other night I saw Janos by the fire, speaking rapidly as if under duress, while one of the Yaris tribesman roasted over coals. Flatwater woke me from that dream and told me the fever had taken my mind to a strange place. Bless him, likable fellow.

I know that the rest have all gone, probably killed by those Yaris bastards. Flatwater tells me their knowledge will live on. Small comfort, bringing civilization to these mountains. Yesterday, caught him taking a peek at my books. Cheeky fellow. Good man. Perhaps I will endeavor to teach him to read, when I feel more like myself.

[the next entry has been heavily obscured by ink. Radiographic imaging shows the entry to be one word: “FUCK”. Manufacture of the ink dates it at 1970, most likely from an American India ink producer]


Well, we’ve made it here, and save for a little censorship I have left Colonel [name redacted]’s journal intact. The jingoistic rhetoric present in his text serves as a pretty good depth maker for our progress here.

The Yaris are now much fewer in number than when the expedition made contact, European-bound tuberculosis is the main culprit. How sad that the first people responsible for discovery were also the downfall of these peaceful people?

Despite an initial hostility, we have made contact with the Yaris remnants. They agreed to assist in our study for a small stipend of food.


How odd. There is another, more advanced settlement not too far from our location, probably the Yaro described by the colonel. But when we pressed the Yaris to explain why they did not call upon their more prosperous neighbors for help, they went quiet. Our communication is not perfect, but I think the idiom they used closely translates to “tongue eaters.” We tried to convey that we have dealt with cannibal tribes in the past, but the chief used the chopping sign I have come to understand as “wrong.” Well, whatever the tribe’s personal prejudices, we have decided to initiate contact with the tribe across the lake.


Finally. After a period of coy courtship, the Yaro greeted us with open arms(not forks!) The Yaro chieftain, who asked us to call him Flatwater, said that a land dispute some generations ago fueled this feud. He expressed regret for the Yaris people but then again, one cannot offer help where none is wanted.

They are a friendly people, showed us around every inch of the village. It is very similar to the Yaris village, minus the squalor, and so clean. It’s almost a resort. The chief expressed great regret that we were leaving at the end of the day, and made us promise to return. In a cheap pulp novel, this would have been an ominous irony, but there was nothing but good cheer as we pushed away from the shore.


I have told the Yaris chief of our contact with the other tribe. His reaction was odd, but not unexpected. His warriors fell silent, while he himself turned to the wall and said a phrase which more or less translates to ‘you are death.’ I am unsure of the noun context, whether “death” and “dead” are interchangeable. But the message behind it is clear: we are no longer welcome. On leaving the chief’s hut, everyone, man, woman, and child, turned their heads away. After some deliberation, we have decided to cohabitate with the Yaro, as they have been much more accommodating.


Contact going swimmingly with the Yaro. The people are much more open to experience and share their own.

Something strange I noticed the other day. The Yaro have a common pattern that appears on clothing, baskets, even the walls of houses. It is almost exactly a duplicate of a similar pattern the Yaris use to label dangerous things, such as a patch of quicksand, or the mating path of a bear.


The Yaro speak English! I was eavesdropping on a farmer and his friend while tilling yams, and found a few English phrases mixed in here and there. When pressed the chief admitted that yes, they had had some previous European contact and was afraid that it would prejudice us towards them. I assured him that we already knew, and communication has picked up accordingly.


He’s dead. A young man from the Yaris village snuck over here, a guardsman mistook him for an enemy and left him dead from a throat wound. I told the chief we would return the body to the Yaris as a gesture of goodwill, despite his protests.


The Yaris did not seem surprised to see us. The chief assured us the victim was a headstrong young man, who thought he could reason us into leaving. He remained stone-faced as I regaled him of our exploits with the Yaro. He spoke only when I asked him about the pattern.

He said: long ago, there was a brilliantly-colored beetle that would lie in wait on the forest floor for a toad to come along. The toad would immediately eat the beetle on sight, but the beetle had a strange poison in its body that allowed it to survive being consumed. The beetle would eat the toad from the inside, working for days until the toad was only a skin-shell. Then it would crawl away and repeat the process.

When I remarked that we had seen no such beetle, the chief did not comment.


They’re picking up more English at an astonishing rate. American colloquialisms have worked their way in, no doubt to the lament of English explorers past. They have also constructed duplicates of some of our equipment through some kind of tree resin casting, how fun!


Phillips came to me this morning. He was waiting by my pillow as I slept.

He said he’d talked to the Yaris man when he came to the village. He’d actually been shot as he was leaving, according to Phillips. I was half asleep, so bear with my faulty recollection: the Yaris man warned Phillips that this was an impostor village, and that the Yaro had been waging a campaign of terror on his people for generations for they refused to speak in Yaro presence. He said the Yaro were not men, but low things that had not even looked like men in the time of his ancestors. They had been echo creatures, mimicking wildlife cries and the shouts of hunters, leading to the Yaris tradition of remaining silent during the hunt. He said the Europeans “fed” them, so that they matured into the people we see today.

Phillips wandered off as I tried to talk sense into him. I may speak with the chief my concern.


Philips is dead. He’d been gone for days, but they only just pulled his body from the water. The chief thinks he set out in a canoe for the other side and hit an eddy he couldn’t handle. The chief gave his condolences, but refused to let us leave until he could assure our safe passage.


The Yaris village is gone. Looks like it was razed to the ground. All of us got sick from last night’s dinner. I don’t feel safe here anymore.


well, THe dEcision to staY turned out to be Correct. Under The circumstances, Our Failing equipment Forcast ManY hardships LEGitimately Subsidizing our efforts to leave. HowEver, Lately oPinion has shifted My viEwpoints and i feel it safest to remain here.

english lessons have continued as normal. they still grasp idiomatic speech but have trouble with the written word. the tribe did not have a glyphic system, so this is not surprising. they grasp relatively well the expressions in written speech, but subtleties such as punctuation and capitalization ESCAPE them.

[There are impressions on the following pages, but the pages bearing further writing have been removed. Pencils rubbings reveal only gibberish.]


And there you have it. Written proof that European explorers have been to this remote area. We found no evidence of either tribe, the jungle has reclaimed the clearing that we estimate as the most likely site of the Yaris tribe. The coordinates of the Yaro tribe site match that of the government encampment, but Senior Officer Tasik assures us that this is coincidental and that no native displacement took place.

As soon as we are restored to wifi(something they assure us is forthcoming) I will upload these accounts to the internet, where it will be available at [school anonymity protected]’s database. In the meantime I will secure this and the documents before it in our camera case. The government workers offered the use of a briefcase, but what appeared to be metal turned out to be some kind of resin covered with metallic leaf.

As we wait for civilization, I practice my mother tongue with Tasik. Proost!

Per Thorson,

March 2011

1 Comment

Filed under fiction

One response to “Papers Found in a Burnt-out Jeep

  1. No! Mr. Thorson, it’s a trap! Those blasted Europeans… they can’t recognize a salient allegory when its literally cast in their faces! Pun intended.

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