Blake Writes A Story #5

Usurpers of the Jungle Throne (horror)

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Not a lot to say about this one. A good example of a story that I may have been too reticent about restructuring while in the initial stages and, as a result, I went through about eight drafts (no, really) before I came to a half-satisfactory conclusion. Given the setting and some of the themes, it was hard to write this story and not think about Cast Away, Tom Hanks’ 2000 Oscar contender, but I felt the tonal differences were sufficient to distinguish the two so I went ahead with it anyway.

I mainly wanted to write a story featuring two characters with very distinct, opposed personalities, and I think I achieved that with the brutal taskmaster, Manuel, and Max, the hapless desk jockey trapped in Manuel’s world. Their island was inspired by the real-life Ilha da Queimada Grande, which was really the only other plot point I had from the start. When pen came to paper, I asked myself  what it would take to drive a spike between the two of them in a place like this, and my answer became the opening of a story which gradually transformed, in the writing, from an exercise in characterization between two opposing bodies, to a treatise on the savage self and the dissatisfaction of the everyman, which Palahniuk discussed in his Fight Club which, in retrospect, is a much closer sibling in concept than Cast Away ever was: so close a twin that I feel I must apologize to Mr. Palahniuk for my inept grift. If it is any consolation to Chuck, I’m putting it up for free.


Usurpers of the Jungle Throne

by Blake Vaughn


Max leapt up out of the sand with a whoop and a wail while the echoing thrum of the Cessna’s engines faded. The driftwood, reeking with the rotten corpses of snakes, popped and sizzled and hissed up an angry coil of black smoke. Max danced around it like a tribal shaman invoking a spirit from the land of the dead. He ran and he jumped until he could hardly breathe and he fell to the sand, giggling madly.

He watched the plane again in his mind, watched it shimmer on the surface of that far bluer ocean, watched it circle back around and watched it, unmistakably, wobble side to side.

The plane had flown by, it had come back, and it had tilted its wings.

They had circled back around again to signal him.

Max was going home…

©2013 by Blake Vaughn. The text of this story may be redistributed freely in its original form with attribution to the author, Blake Vaughn, and his website,, as under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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