Mark and Anita marveled at the forests of the planet, Darwin IV. The plant life grew huge and in stunning variety. Up until recently, few people even knew about the backwater colony. Desperate financial straits for the primarily Australian settlers was being resolved by encouraging the tourist trade. Safaris booked up quickly. Their group was the fourth one hiking the path during the day.
Mark pointed to a balled up plant with apparent spokes. “Hey, that’s familiar at least. That’s a fern, right?”
The tour guide, Van Doonen veered slightly away from it. “Yeah, something like that, mate.”
Anita stared. “Maybe familiar, Hun, but it’s ten-feet tall!”
Mark worked in a bank as a loan officer. He watched everything with the glee of the uninitiated. By contrast, Anita worked for a military contractor as a project manager. She noticed their heavily armed escort more than anything else. The two men at the front and rear, and the two outliers on the flanks carried a lot of firepower. They made special forces operators on Earth look like pacifists.
Anita, with Mark in tow, trotted up to the lead guide. “That’s a Maublich ARK .50 cal, right?”
“Spot on, Miss,” said Van Doonen, offering an approving look. “Don’t meet a lot of sheilas that know their weaponry.”
Anita shrugged. “It’s my job. That’s a lot of weapon for the bush isn’t it? I mean, we’re safe here, right?”
“Oh Darwin is a perfectly safe place! We just have to carry this kit because of tourist safety laws.” His eyes never once stopped scanning the jungle. “Nothing can harm you here.”
Anita suddenly stopped as she stared at another of the rolled up pseudo-ferns. Mark hugged her as she shuddered. “Relax Sweety, we’re safe here.” In a patronly tone he said, “I’ll protect you!”
Anita didn’t have the heart to tell him.
Wrapped in the pseudo-fern, was a human arm.
Written for Matthew Wright’s weekly Short Story challenge. Look here for the original prompt: https://mjwrightnz.wordpress.com/2016/03/15/this-weeks-short-story-challenge-14/