The bob of the river boat made William sick. Planes. He liked planes better. They were smooth, solid, and the sound of the engines propeller was enpowering. The putter of the river boat reverbarated in his body, jostling that mornings toast and jerky in his stomach. It rumbled, threatening to be retched into the water.
William leered over his shoulder at his jungle guide. The Brazilian native grinned, his gums were covered in grime and three yellow teeth jutted upward. The native nodded affirmatively at William. Aggreeing to some assumed question. William shook his head in disgust and turned back to the river ahead.
The Amazon stretched out before him. It had been all he’d seen for the past three days. Miles of water surrounded them and thick jungle pressed in on either side. His path had taken him down a forgotten finger of the river. Large populations of Black Caimen lined the banks. And the jungle began to stretch out over the water, like a green giant closing his hand over a stream. The canopy overhead was growing thick, casting dark shadows over the little river boat.
Sergeant William Faucett, pushed down that mornings breakfast then pulled out a weathered map from the pouch of his large traveling pack. The path drawn on the map was seared into his brain from hours of pouring over it. But he continued to check it, just to be sure he hadn’t missed any detail. It had taken fiften years, ten different experts in linguistics, and too many man hours stuck in libraries across the world to dicipher the ancient language written on the scroll. It was his life’s work. A passion to discover what lay within the ancient ruin marked in red.
If the map was to be believed, the signs should be showing up soon. William looked between the map and river. His eyes wide and the protests of his stomach falling to the background. The small boat puttered around a large bend and into the darkness of a heavily canopied tunnel. Bird song and insect noise rose in pitch within the tight space. Overhead, William could see gathering of some type of small primate.
His eyes remained in the trees above. The image of a drawing on the map flashed in his mind. Deeper they traveled into the tunnel, swishing from side to side in the river. Then at last, almost imperceptible were a grouping of bones tied to one of the many limbs overhead. They resembled a small human, bound together by dried animal sinew. One arm stuck out straight; its index finger pointing into the thick of the jungle.
Sergeant William turned back to his guide, “Stop! Stop here,” he quickly put away the map into the pouch on his bag and began gathering his things. The guide only smiled a gummy grin and nodded, continuing their path forward. William looked to the man, waiting for him to stop, but they continued forward. William waved his arms in the man’s face. “I said stop here! I was told you spoke the Queen’s English!” he shouted, hoping the louder he was he would be understood.
But the guide continued on.
Anger seethed inside William. He could feel the heat gathering in his face. Standing up inside the boat, the waved his arms more wildly and pointed toward the shore. “Take me there, you savage!” The boat rocked under this feet with each swing of his hands. The guide’s face turned shocked and he yelled at William in his devil tongue.
“How dare you yell at me. I am a Sergeant in the Queen’s Navy. Now turn this boat around this instance.” William took another step toward the guide. The boat pitched left slowly, then suddenly reversed direction and threw William overboard. The sudden dump into the water panicked the Sergeant. Visions of caimen, piranha and other creatures of viloence attacking him played out in horrific detail in his mind. He screamed and began thrashing to get his head above water. The moment was quick, and Sergeant William popped up with a wail and splash.
Several meters ahead, the guide crouched within his boat staring back at William. He called out more gibberish as the boat disappeard around another bend. The faint spewing of the boat’s engine was quickly swallowed by the sounds of the jungle and William’s racing heart. Fear driven action consumed him, and he splashed haphazardly to the shore.
Sand clung to William’s wet clothes as he laid, panting for breath. Would his guide return? Should he wait? The site is so close though. Just a few meters more into the jungle. So the map said. Another lance of fear struck him in the stomach. William bolted up and pulled his sogging pack off his shoulder and reached into the outer pouch. In his hand, he withdrew the remains of his map. What ink had clung to the faded face now had washed away, and as he held it aloft it split into two pieces. William screamed in rage, then threw the two halves into the river.
No mater, he thought. “I know that map as I know my own face.” Standing, William took up his drenched bag and set off to find the marker. The last words written on the page played through his mind.
“The Boy of Bone points the way.
To the hardened face of gray.
Enter its gullet through gaping mouth wide,
There life eternally lies.”
Man, I’m having a hard time holding it to a single story per day. I’ll finish this up tomorrow and then get better at keeping them shorter for the future.