The sun was setting in the Peruvian jungle. Trees stood over two hundred feet tall and forty feet wide, their limbs crowded with orchids and other opportunistic plants fighting for sun and resources. On the ground, young trees struggled to reach the sun; vines and dense ferns vied for space among the fallen leaves and branches.
A flock of green macaws passed overhead as Sun Castel stepped out of the jungle into a clearing. His brother, Miguel, emerged from behind him and wiped the sweat from his forehead on his long sleeved shirt.
“It looks like the Awa tribe has kept the area open,” said Sun, lowering his machete.
Miguel nodded, pointing at the clearing with bright green grass, a towering pyramid, partly covered in the growth of the jungle, remnants of smaller buildings. Behind the larger pyramid were smaller pyramids chocked with dirt and jungle.
“They haven’t touched the main pyramid, though,” Miguel noted.
“They only use this open space for their camps when they move through. They don’t need to bother with the pyramid. It works out for us.”
They set up their campsite near the ruins of the largest pyramid. It brought back memories to the first time he and his brother had found the location, long since abandoned and only visited once before by outsiders. An impressive sight for the tourists who would get to see it, Sun thought, if he and his brother agreed to bring them this deep into the rainforest.
Miguel started the campfire and Sun skinned the fish he had caught in the river. They didn’t need to talk. Something that Sun appreciated about traveling in the Amazon with his brother.
Although it was hot today, the light from the fire would be welcome and the heat would help dry their clothes, wet from the extreme humidity. While the fire licked at the kindling, he looked around.
The place felt different. He knew there were millions of animals and bugs in the jungle, he could hear them pinging and chirping at every moment and could always spot something moving around him. But this was not the same. He could swear someone was watching them. His back tingled.
Sun looked over at the largest pyramid, a good six stories high. There was no opening, no door or window. The jungle around him was dark, as always, and getting darker.
“Yes?” Miguel looked up from the fire.
“Never mind,” Sun replied. Maybe he had spent too much time in the jungle, he thought. He handed over the fish to Miguel and started on the tents.
It cost them more weight to carry, but he preferred their separated tents with fully lined floors and zip tight doors. More than once, in their early days of exploring the Amazon, Sun had been bitten in the night by ants, the incessant mosquitoes, once by a snake, and many times by a dizzying variety of unknowns that had left welts. The bugs still got in somehow, but it was a lot less than before.
They watched the sun disappear as they shoveled down the fish. Sun wasn’t looking forward to the trip back to the eco-resort. It would take a day to get back to the river, then several days spending time in the canoe but having to get out and carry it when the river grew too shallow. However, they were about to be paid handsomely to bring tourists here in the high tech Toy of the Gods, and they had had to come out and ensure they could find it again.
Sun set out the GPS and ensured that it was working and connected. They hadn’t used it to get here, but having back-up wouldn’t hurt.
In the distance, the flash of lightening accentuated that they were in the rainy season. It promised rain for the evening. Sun pointed his fork at Miguel. “Now that we know we can definitely find this place again, we’ll need to leave first thing in the morning. It’s going to take us days to get back with all the rain.”
Miguel nodded and raised a hand in the air. “Ok. I know you are trying to tell me not to sleep in tomorrow. I get it.”
“I’m glad you understand.” Sun smiled. A clicking sound from the jungle made him jump. He scanned the darkness and the black outline of the pyramid.
“What’s wrong?” Miguel asked, his face flashing in the light from the fire.
Sun laughed. “Nothing. Just spooked.”
Miguel shrugged and disappeared into his tent. Minutes later Sun heard Miguel’s soft snoring. He went through his normal routine of cleaning up from dinner and getting things ready for the morning.
Sun was down on his knees, moving his shirt closer to the fire to dry it out, when he realized that the sounds around him had stopped.
Sun stood up from his campfire and surveyed the silent darkness. His brow furrowed and he reached for the machete now strapped to his leg. His wife always told him he worried too much. But he knew the jungle teemed with life at all hours. At a minimum, the cicadas should be filling the valley with staccato crooning. It was as if every wild animal and insect had disappeared from the area or been scared away.
I must be crazy to even think of bringing tourist here, he thought. Too many things could go wrong in the jungle. Not the least of which was this eerie, unnatural silence. Even the breeze that stirred the trees had stopped. He moved to call out to Miguel but realized he didn’t want to call attention to himself if this was a tribe of unfriendly natives approaching. Although he had never known the jungle to go silent for that.
He pulled the machete out of his scabbard and stepped out of the firelight. As soon as his eyes became accustomed to the dark, he could make out the pyramid temple against the cloudless and moonless night sky.
The fire crackled and the smell of burning cloth reached him.
Had he just seen a flash of red light? It had appeared near the largest pyramid if he wasn’t seeing things. It was just a pinpoint, perhaps the glint of the eye reflection of a jaguar approaching?
He stepped toward the ruins of the temple. The red light was weaving its way toward him on the ground. He could see it between the blades of thick grass.
It coalesced into a glowing, red boa constrictor. All thirteen feet of it.
It was coming at him fast. Sun slammed down his machete. He felt it hit the ground but didn’t hear the sound of it cutting through skin and bone. He leapt back, giving himself more space. He swung at it again, but the blade passed through it. He watched, open-mouthed, as the snake crawled through the solid machete as if nothing were in its way.
Too late he tried to move back again. The creeping, ghostly image of the boa was already wrapped around his feet. He was surprised to feel the substantial weight of it encircling his legs. He fell to his knees and grabbed at it with his hands. As quickly as it had come, the boa disappeared.
Sun looked around him warily, took deep breaths to calm his heart, and shook his head. There were no lights, red or otherwise.
He felt around his body for bite marks or any other injuries. Other than his heart pounding, and the copious amount of sweat that was dripping off him, he seemed to be fine.
The sounds around him were reinserting themselves into the world. Close by a grasshopper was beginning its violin act for a mate.
He had seen a shaman levitate, a small lizard that could spit poisonous tar five feet, and a giant, overly hairy caterpillar that could have doubled as a toupee, but this had to have been the strangest. Would his brother tell him he was crazy when he told him of the disappearing boa? He must be dreaming. If so, it seemed pretty damn real.
He pushed himself up from the ground and reached for his machete, but instead brought his hand up to his face. His hands were glowing a soft red. Then his bones glowed red heat through his skin.
Intense pain followed the burn spreading through his limbs. He screamed and fell back to his knees. It didn’t make sense to him that he was seeing the details of his bones, so bright through his skin.
As the pain and heat crept towards his face he hoped that if this was death, it would come soon. Then a strange thought filtered through his head, “Como lo quiere.”
He chokingly whispered the words back in his own language, “as you wish.”
Viracocha opened his eyes. The first time in over 500 years that he had seen out of the eyes of a mortal body. The other mortal was bending over him.
“Sun! Are you okay? What happened?” He was asking him.
Viracocha took a moment to absorb the memories from the man he inhabited. He considered killing the other, but if he was going to complete his new objective, he might need him.
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