Survival of the Fittest

My wife and I went to the Galapagos Islands in September, 2001. We’d made made plans earlier in the year that we were going to fulfill that particular lifelong dream as a way to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Then came the events of 9/11. We were supposed to fly out of the Washington, D.C. area, where two of the three airports were still closed, only two weeks after the towers fell. But we had no intention of letting terrorism getting in the way of our trip. Not only did we figure that there would be no safer time to fly, but we also believed that at such a time, it was more urgent than ever to step outside the world we knew.

So we went, and I came as close as I’m ever going to get to visiting a prehistoric world. I was surrounded by dozens of species which exist nowhere else on Earth. The creatures among which I walked showed no fear, because they had never been hunted, at least not by man. And because they were not behind bars, caged in a zoo, instead of meeting them while they were trapped on my turf, I was meeting them on theirs, as equals. I not entirely sure whether it was the contrast between the nightmare of the real world and the calm of the islands that made the place seem so much like the Garden of Eden, but I suspect that it would have seemed that way whenever we happened to visit.

When I heard that Stephen Jones was looking for horror stories in vacation settings for his anthology Summer Chills (published May 2007), I knew it was finally time for me to get back to work on an idea I’d had for a story set there. A number of the story’s scenes have been snatched from memories of that trip. We did stand over a baby Albatross, watch as a newly born sea lion nursed, step gently over nesting blue-footed boobies who didn’t seem to mind at all, and meet Lonesome George. But we also snorkeled with turtles and sea lions, stepped up to branches to stare into the eyes of birds from only a few inches away, and wandered through the jungle seeking out wild giant tortoises.

As for the supernatural aspects of the tale, well, those belong to the story alone …