The marker was not hard to find again. A bird, full of bright plumage, rested upon the arm of the small skeleton. The bird preened itself, squawked down at William, then flew off deeper into the jungle following the skeletal direction. Sergeant William looked back to the river. Now I have a proper guide, he thought, and followed after the bird.
Inside the deep jungle, the foilage was thick and tangled William’s feet beneath him. He crashed loudly through the underbrush, his hatchet lost to the river. William crushed down small trees and bushes beneath his boots to clear a path. Several times, unable to push through the dense jungle, he worked his way around. He was relatively sure he was heading in a straight path.
It was the bird above that gave him that hope. Staying just ahead, it landed from limb to limb. Waiting until William reached it before flying to the next spot. Excitement had taken root in William’s stomach. With each step the fire was stoked and spurred him forward.
Hours had passed and the sun dipped down into the horizon. Overhead the canopy caused the jungle to be thrown into darkness sooner than the explorer had anticipated. He had lost count of the times he had to stop and search for the bird’s next perch. William caught up with the bird and watched it fly west into the black jungle. When would he get there? Had he been following this animal for no reason? The questions ran through his mind as he fought against snagging branches and tripping roots.
He kept his eyes up at all times, looking for the bird, but unease set in. He should have seen it by now, he thought. It had not been so long as this before. William turned in a slow circle, looking for the bird. But it was no where to be found. Then a rustling above and behind him caught his ear.
He spun, but so nothing.
Again the rustling but now to his left.
William turned to it and darted forward, hoping to see the bird.
Another rustling but to his right.
Running after it he cried out to the bird.
The jungle fell out from beneath him.
Sergeant William tumbled down a steep ravine and landed hard on an outcropping of roots. A sharp pop echoed from his left shoulder and the fire of pain lanced down his arm. He let out a scream of agony. William flopped onto his back, his left arm was stiff and stuck to his side. The explorer breathed deeply, escaping into his own mind to shut out the pain. He should have waited for his guide. How stupid he was to follow a bird.
The sounds of the jungle were ominous as the sun dropped behind the horizon. He would need to rest. Then find his way back to the river.
A bird worrbled behind him. Its song echoed and bounced. William looked back. A cave opening, naturally within the side of the ravine, gaped wide. Large rock formations, pointed and fierce, jutted from the top and bottom of the opening. Just above the opening, the gray rock was carved to appear as if it had eyes and a blocky, hooked nose.
“The hardened face of gray.”
William pushed himself to his feet, and stumbled into the dark opening. Unable to see, he fumbled within his pants pocket and retrieved a metal square. With his thumb, he flipped open the top then struck the wheel, hoping for a spark. The lighter stayed dark. He shook the lighter vigorously then struck the wheel again. It sparked and caught fire. The small orange glow illuminated the tight cave. William licked his parched lips, and descended down.
He took the uneven surface carefully. Each step sending a shock of pain through his shoulder. The cave twist and turned. Ahead, he swore he heard the flutter of wings. More time passed as the delirious man walked further down.
Time had ceased to be comprehensible to William. Only the lyrics kept him company.
He could not tell how long he had hear it, but his cloudy mind snapped into focus when he caught the sound of rushing water. William stumbled over his own feet as he rushed forward.
“There life eternally lies.”
Sergeant William Faucett stumbled into a large cave. A torrent of water poured out from the ceiling above, filling a large pool. It sparkled and appeared to be illuminated from within by a soft blue light.
“It is here. I have found it after all these years.” William cast down his lighter and with reverence, slowly made his way to the pool. The mist of the falling water cooled his hot skin. His mouth fell open, ready to drink its fill. The pain of his arm ebbed away with each step closer to the water.
The pool rippled and waved from the crashing water above. Sergeant William bent down and reached a dirt covered hand into the pool. He cupped his palm and dipped it in.
From the water, a bloated arm shot from the roiling water and latched onto the explorer. William’s eyes went wide. He pulled hard against the hand but could not break it’s grip. With a hard jerk, the algae covered arm pulled William into the pool.
Beneath the water, a dozen bloated bodies surrounded the sergeant. They all turned to him, their eyes glowing a faint blue. More hands wrapped themselves around William as he struggled to break free. But they were strong. So strong. And the water was so cool and refreshing.
Perhaps. Perhaps he could just stay within the water. Yes. Beneath the water. Forever.