Jane Porter was too young to die. She had her whole life ahead of her; a degree to finish, a house to buy, pictures to paint and books to read, places to travel to, children to have... She hadn't even fallen in love yet! She couldn't die here, she just couldn't. Life couldn't be that cruel.
Except she couldn't see how she was going to get out of this. She was running for her life from a pack of wild baboons, for christ's sake, and she didn't know how long she could keep running. One of her boots had come loose and she was bound to trip at any moment. Vines and branches were hitting her in the face and arms as she ran, furiously trying to push them out of her way. She didn't know where she was going, she couldn't recall where exactly she'd started running from or which direction her father and Clayton had gone. She was totally lost and all on her own, and she was well past the point of panic now.
She finally broke free of the thick jungle vines, only to find that just a few metres ahead the ground gave way to a gaping chasm. She chanced a glance behind her to see the baboons closing in. She heard herself scream, which just made her more panicked than ever. Her feet were moving faster than her mind, and before she even had time to think about what she was doing Jane was leaping across the canyon.
She threw her arms out in front of herself and closed her eyes, praying that she'd be able to grab a hold of the cliff face on the opposite side. The logical side of her mind told her that it was impossible to make a jump like that, and that any second now she was going to start falling.
She didn't fall, however. She just kept going impossibly forward. She peeped out, disbelieving, to see the ground still far, far below her.
"Oh! I'm flying! What on earth am I-"
She noticed a tension around her waist, where her belt was being pulled tight, and craned her neck around to see what was causing it. And there, right above her, was a near-naked man, holding onto her belt with one hand and a vine with the other.
And then she realised that there was a baboon chewing on her foot. "Get off! Get off!" she yelled, trying to hit the animal and failing. It was the boot with the undone laces, so she kicked her leg out as violently as possible until she managed to shake both the monkey and the shoe free. She watched them sail to the ground, which now wasn't too far below them. And then she was wrenched backwards suddenly, free-falling through the air and falling perfectly into the arms of the strange jungle man.
"Oh, put me down!" Just as quickly as she landed, she pushed herself out of his grasp, awkwardly trying to plant her feet on the tree branch he was standing on. "Put me down!"
He lowered his arms, allowing her to stand on her own, but just as she started to get her bearings the troop of baboons came storming onto the branch. She jumped straight back into his arms. "No! Pick me up, pick me up!"
Instantly, the man was off, leaping through the air from tree to tree with the ease of a monkey. Jane clung to him for dear life as he surfed the twisting branches, trying not to shriek at every sudden turn.
A group of the baboons cut them off, charging at them head on along one of the thicker branches. Thinking quickly, Jane clambered from the man's arms onto his back, swinging her backpack off her arms and around in front of his face as she went. He helped her brace the heavy bag in front of them and the two of them barreled through the oncoming baboons, pushing them out of the way as they went.
To her relief and surprise, the tactic worked! Jane laughed, because there was nothing else she could do in this situation, and she was kind of proud of herself anyway. Her laughter was cut short, however, when one lone baboon came charging up and caught the backpack, yanking it back over Jane's head and catching her hand in the strap as it went. She was jerked painfully backward and only managed to keep a grip on the man by hooking her legs around his shoulders.
"Let go of me!" she yelled at the baboon as she fought to get her hand untangled. The baboon tried to claw its way up towards her, but eventually it lost its grip and fell. At the same time, she just managed to loosen the knot and start to free her hand, but before she could even celebrate that the bag was caught on a low hanging vine and she was wrenched with it straight back, away from the jungle man.
Instead of fighting to let go of the bag she was now clinging to it for dear life. Below her was a terrifying drop to the jungle floor, invisible through all the plant life swaying beneath her feet, and above her the baboons swarmed from either side. They were getting closer now, and she debated which would be a nicer way to die - falling to the ground, or being mauled by crazed monkeys.
She let go of the backpack.
The man stopped her from falling again, this time grabbing a hold of her bare foot and using it to swing her after him through the tree tops. His hands were calloused against her skin, she thought, but he didn't hold onto her long enough for her to properly find out. Within seconds she was soaring up into the air again, and then falling straight back down into his arms.
He caught her with a jolt, and she didn't try to get out of his grasp this time. The baboons were advancing from every angle, and they had nowhere to go - except straight down. They slide down the inside of the hollow tree trunk they'd been standing atop, the horde of screaming baboons right behind them. They slid out the other end of the tree trunk with nothing there to stop them.
Jane screamed for her life as they free fell to the ground, going faster than she'd ever thought possible. The man's arm was still tight around her waist, and with nothing better to do she squeezed her eyes shut and held onto him just as tightly.
When they were thrown back up into the air, as though they'd just bungee jumped, she was startled into opening them again. They landed surprisingly lightly on a tree branch, but weren't out of danger yet.
Jane looked up just in time to see the hollow tree they'd surfed through before careening down towards them. If they didn't move, it was about to crush them.
She gripped the man's back as tightly as she could as he jumped from branch to branch down the mighty tree they were on, trying to get out of the path of the falling branch. He dropped her to her feet and pushed her back against the trunk, pinning her there with one arm either side of her head. She pressed herself as far away from him as possible and shielded her face as the branch - and all of the others it had taken out on its way down - finally fell to the ground.
She opened her eyes when she felt the man's presence shift away from her. He'd turned around, and seemed to be talking to the baby baboon who'd stolen her phone and started all this. It was floating down on the back of another baboon, who was holding her map above its head and using it as a parachute. No, that couldn't have been right - all of that sounded crazy. It was crazy.
But the baboons were floating down, and the man was making the exact same vocalisations, and gesturing just like the baby. Jane wanted to run but she was too terrified and confused to even move. When the man spun back around to face her she shrieked and pressed herself even further back into the tree trunk. She held her breath as his eyes scanned her up and down, coming to rest on the pockets of her shorts.
Her phone had miraculously survived that entire ordeal, but in one swift motion the strange man swiped it from her pocket and handed it over to the baboons.
Well, that was enough of that.
Startled into action by the absurdity of it, Jane took the man's moment of distraction to make her getaway. She edged around the side of the tree trunk and tried to stay calm.
"Oh, I'm in a tree with a man who talks to monkeys." It was the strangest thing she'd ever said. Her mind flashed back to the conversation they'd had that morning about the Great White Ape - could they have meant a white man who moved like an ape, instead? Had she just met one of Africa's myths? As curious as she was, she didn't particularly feel like sticking around to find out.
There was a gap between this tree and the next, but Jane thought that if she could just stretch she'd be able to bridge the gap and make it over there. And even if it was going to be a struggle, what other option did she have, really? She twisted around and stretched one leg over to the next branch. It was precarious, and she felt her clumsiness quite acutely at that moment.
"Ooh, I can't do this," she whined, struggling to get a good foothold. "I can't - Oh!" She managed to get her foot planted rather solidly, and quickly swung the other round to join it. "This is good! This is very good."
She tried to reach around to get the rest of her body to join her feet, but couldn't manage it. With her feet on one branch and her hands on the other, she was strung out horizontally between the two trees. "Okay, wait. I can do this. Come on, Jane." She steeled herself. "One, two, three!" She tried to push all of her weight back, but it was no use. She almost managed to stand, but she was too unbalanced. Her arms pinwheeled helplessly at her sides until she fell forwards again, ending up back in the exact same position.
She felt like she might cry. "It can't get any worse, can it?" And then, as if on cue, there was a rumble of thunder and it started to pour rain. Jane was unimpressed. "Obviously it can.
She closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths in, trying to think of how she was going to get out of here. When she re-opened her eyes, the face of the man who'd appeared from nowhere and saved her life was hovering just below hers, eyebrow quirked curiously and dark dreadlocks hanging back from his angular face.
Jane screamed, again, and propelled herself backwards with as much force as she could possibly muster. Just as her arms started to pinwheel again, the man climbed up the trunk and gently prodded her chest. The contact, while unwelcome, was just enough to redistribute her weight and send her falling ungracefully back onto her behind on the larger, more sheltered tree branch she'd been trying to get to.
She pushed herself up against the trunk as the man advanced, desperately trying to recall what she'd learnt in the self-defence classes she'd taken in her first year at university. "Stay back!" she warned, trying to sound as stern and strict as possible. The man kept coming towards her, walking on all fours. She realised with terrifying clarity that he probably didn't even speak English. She kept talking anyway. "No, don't. Don't come any closer. Please don't!"
She kicked him in the chest, forcing him back and away from her face. Startled but unharmed, he sat back and grabbed a hold of her toes. "What are - what are you doing?" Jane asked. He didn't even acknowledge the question; he just began wiggling her toes from side to side, which tickled so much that Jane couldn't stop laughing. "Please don't, that tickles!" she managed to say between giggles. "No, get off, get off-" He let go of her foot and moved his hand up above her kneecap. She kicked out again, this time hitting him in the jaw. "Get off!"
He jumped back and shook his head, sending droplets of rain flying from his dreadlocks. He looked confused, but Jane wasn't sorry for kicking him. "Serves you right," she said, huddling her knees up against her chest and turning sideways against the tree trunk.
"Stay away from me," she warned as he started approaching her again. Reverting to hand signals and single words, she repeated , "You, stay." He didn't listen to her and she began to panic again. "I'm warning you! I don't take very kindly to -" she was going to say, 'people invading my personal space', but by now the man was right in front of her, his face just centimetres from hers, and she thought that ship had long since sailed. "No, that's - Now, that's close enough." He cupped her face in his palm, and Jane decided she had had enough. "How dare you?!" she asked indignantly, moving to slap him.
He caught her hand, however, and her breath caught in her throat. "What…"
He stared at her hand as though it was the most awe-inspiring thing he'd ever seen. His gaze was focused on a small tear on the finger-tip of the protective gloves she'd been wearing. Jane could only watch in silence as he held her wrist in one hand and removed the glove with the other, exposing her hand to the humid jungle air. He unfurled his own fingers against hers, splaying his palm out so that they were mirroring each other. When Jane looked into his eyes, she saw something totally new - he was looking at her in a way no one ever had before, as though she were something that he'd been waiting to see his entire life. His stare was intense and focused and it made Jane feel miraculous. She'd never seen eyes like his before.
Keeping his hand against hers, he slowly approached again. Jane lifted her hands on either side of her head and squeezed her eyes shut, trying to ignore how uncomfortable she felt as he pressed his ear to her breast. Next thing she knew he'd gently cupped her face in his hands and was pulling her down so she could put her ear to his chest. "Oh, god," she said as he guided her. "Oh, god, oh god."
His skin was warm, and stretched taut over chiseled muscles. There was a very faint scar running down one of his pectoral muscles. Jane allowed him to put her ear against his heart. She listened for a few beats before pushing back. "Yeah, thank you," she said, shuffling back again. "That's a lovely heartbeat. Very nice."
She began pulling her hair back up into a bun, trying to get some air onto the back of her neck, when the man said, "Very nice."
"Oh, thank you, I can't do a thing with it in this humidity though. It's -" and then she realised what had just happened. She dropped her hair and turned to face the strange man. "You do speak! And all this time I thought you were just a big, wild, quiet, silent, person-thing." She chuckled, embarrassed. "Why didn't you tell me? I mean I'm very curious about who you are, I mean I'd love to-"
He held a finger to her lips, silencing her. He stepped back, crouching, and pressed the knuckles of his two hands against his chest. "Tarzan," he said. She stared at him, uncomprehending. He slowly moved closer, gesturing again to himself and repeating the same syllables but at a slower pace. "Tar-zan."
"Tar-zan," she repeated, trying to figure out what it meant.
He seemed extremely happy with that, bouncing slightly and jutting his chin out as though it were now her turn to speak. When it dawned on her that he was telling her his name, she spoke without thinking. "Oh I see!"
"Oh I see!" he repeated. He gestured to himself, and then put his hands on her shoulders. "Tarzan, Oh I see!"
Oh, god, and now he thought that was her name.
She shook her head. "No, no no no," she said, trying to make him understand. "I'm Jane."
He mimicked her again, in a higher voice and with the same hand gestures she hadn't noticed she'd been making. "No, no no no. I'm Jane."
"No. No," she repeated, deciding she'd need to simplify. She pointed to herself, "Jane," and then to him, "Tarzan," and then back to herself, "Jane."
He lifted her chin up so that she looking right into his eyes. "Jane," he murmured.
"Exactly," she breathed as a thrill ran up her spine.
The sound of a gunshot broke the moment. "Clayton!" she cried, wondering how long she'd been gone for and how worried her father and their guide were.
Tarzan leaned off the edge of the branch, hanging lazily onto a thick green vine dangling there. There was another shot, and Tarzan repeated, "Clayton."
"Extraordinary," Jane breathed, mind racing with wonder at who Tarzan was and where he'd come from. She stood up and held tight to the vine for balance as she pointed in the direction the noise had come from. "Uhm, please, can you take me to my camp?" she asked, enunciating every word slowly.
Tarzan made the noise of a gunshot, which Jane took to mean he could take her to the source of the sound.
"Yes, Clayton, wonderful!" she said.
Tarzan climbed higher up the vine and swept her up into his arms even as she tried to back away. "Uhm, can't we walk?" she asked as he swung the two of them off the branch and out into the air, so her question dropped away half way through.
"Can't we walk?" Tarzan mimicked as they swung into the jungle.
a.n. i'm so glad so many people are enjoying this story! working at walt disney world means i don't have much free time to write but i'm still chugging away with this story and all my others, so don't worry. also, not many changes from the movie to this chapter, just because i didn't want to touch the perfection of their first meeting. but the differences made by the modern setting will kick in over the next few chapters, so look forward to that! thanks for reading, please leave a review letting me know what you think/what you want more or less of/anything at all!