The Lost Diaries - Book Two
Sarawak Sojourn - service in the Brooke Raj, being volume 2 of Captain Arjun Khan's diaries.Chapter 2: Dr Doomeira
After much thought Major Chard and Captain Cavor decided to continue on with our mission, for we were now close to Dr Doomeira’s station. The next morning we steamed up the river and soon afterwards arrived at the landing point at the station without incident. The station was curiously quiet. In my heart I thought Dr Doomeira must already be dead, murdered by those savages which waylaid our boat yesterday.
The station itself consisted of a hut upon stilts which was built in the usual native manner. Near the hut a small clearing had been made, and surrounding it several trees have been stripped bare of their leaves, yet large fruits resembling the native coconuts hung upon the naked branches.
Just before the hut stood a tall figure, which even from this distance we realized from his height that he must be a European. We disembarked at strode up to the hut, eager to meet this curious personage, whom we all hoped was the famous man himself. When we got close enough we were certain that he was Dr Doomeira, for he fit the very description given to us by the Rajah.
‘Dr Doomeira, I presume?’ asked Major Chard.
But the man did not answer his question, but said only: ‘You are not supposed to be here!’
We were all taken aback by this strange reply. But before we could ask a second question, there was a loud hissing of steam from behind the hut, and two dark figures stepped out. We froze for a moment, uncertain of what to expect next.
Then Captain Cavor turned towards the river and yelled to the crew: ‘Man the guns!’
We were like men released from a binding spell, and turned and fled pell-mell for the boat. As we ran I turned back to look at the hut, and realized that the fruits upon the trees were not what I had thought they were after all: they were heads; not the shrunken heads kept by the Dayaks, but freshly ‘hunted’ ones. Oh the horror!
Presently the loud din of gongs filled the jungle air, and a band of Dayak warriors burst out of the jungle and rushed at the boat. The crew kept up a fire on the two steam-powered mechanical horrors and the savages. We managed to gain the boat before the Dayak warriors, and Captain Cavor set to stoking the engines. We watched with baited breath as the mechanical men lumbered towards the boat.
I surmised they must have been miner-machines constructed by Dr Doomeira, for in place of hands these contraptions had giant claws at the end of one arm, and a saw-blade on the other. If they came to grips with the hull of the boat I was certain they would tear it apart like it was a child’s toy!
The steady fire from the Gatling gun broke up the Dayak warriors, but their chieftain leapt upon the deck and struck a crewman down with his spear, before he was himself dispatched by Mr Korzeniowski.
As the steam-miners reached the riverbank the boat lurched into life as the engine started, and we narrowly escaped an evil fate. As we drifted away from the banks we gazed once more upon the hut. The mysterious figure had vanished. The currents of the river bore us to the sea twice as fast as our upward progress. We remained silent for much of the journey, yet each one of us must have wanted to ask a thousand questions. Who was the strange man? Was he Dr Doomeira? If so, why had he attacked us?
A month later we returned with a steamship and a larger crew, but found the station abandoned. No trace remained of Dr Doomeira, or indeed of our assailants at all, except for the death-heads which still hung upon the trees, now shrunken. Their dry lips exposed their teeth in a grotesque grin, as if (in the words of Mr Korzeniowski) they were mocking our bewilderment.
. . . .