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1

Branches lash against his face, supple stems clawing, entangling, holding him back. Thorns rip at his clothing, leaving a khaki trail spattered with blood. He stumbles through a vine-choked stream, a shower of crystal water sparkles into the humid air. Dim sunlight shines intermittently down through the forest canopy, thin tendrils of light reaching down to splash against the leaf litter jumbling the treacherous ground. With each step, leech filled mud oozes further into his worn and ripped boots. A stray root, reaching out across the rough game path, snags his swollen foot sending him flying headlong into a metre deep drift of leaves and mud. Coughing and choking, he manages to scramble to his feet, and continues to crash aimlessly through the merciless jungle.

A lazy jaguar watches his progress from its perch high in a vine-laced tree. Swinging from branch to branch, a small group of monkeys chatter their way through the jungle. Far above the green carpet of the canopy, a lone eagle surveys its world. The man runs on.

3

The huge jet thundered down the runway, hot exhaust and rubber smoke marking its passage. He watched it over the white porcelain rim of his coffee, sitting at a small table in a busy food court. Hundreds of people bustled around him; strands of conversation wafted by, the weather, the flight, the food. But they wafted by deaf ears. He simply sat, staring into nothing, his mind wandering far from the petty distractions of the terminal.

2

The temple loomed ahead of him, crouching beneath the encroaching jungle, hiding from prying eyes and minds. He walked slowly towards this ancient site, his heart beating uncountably fast with pent up excitement. He stepped carefully over to the crumbling stone steps, as if he might disturb the centuries long sleep of the stone behemoth. Here it had lain undisturbed since the Spanish conquistadors came and shattered the people responsible for its construction. Here, hidden deep in a seemingly impenetrable jungle fortress, it had awaited his coming, so that he might unlock the secrets held within. He paced gingerly about the circumference, measuring dimensions, distance. His foot displaced small pebbles from their resting place of centuries, sending them tumbling away into the depths of the jungle. He had walked nearly halfway around before reaching several monstrous trees, laced with vines, blocking his path. He tried clambering around them, but soon found himself far from the temple, sheer luck guiding him back. He sat down on the ancient stone steps, and leaned back against his pack, considering his next move. He sat forward and brought his pack around in front of him, and bent to undoing the clasp. He reached inside and fumbled around, eventually bringing out a small package. The damp paper peeled back to reveal a meal of sorts, a small sandwich, accompanied by a small plastic bottle, it’s faded label proclaiming the contents to promote good health. He sat in silence, taking the occasional bite or sip, contemplating.

1

He runs along an ancient log, boots scrabbling for grip on the mossy surface. Thousands of ants cover the log, climbing up his legs and into his shoes, fierce jaws working feverishly on his already well bitten skin. He barely notices, concentrating only on running far, far away.

3

The last call for his flight barely registered on his mind as he peered over his coffee. With a start he realised, and downing the last of his cold dregs in one gulp, he shuddered, and gathered his things: a medium sized, khaki backpack, and a feverish assortment of papers and crudely drawn maps. He took one last look out the window, and then hurried off to the departure lounge, gate 4.

2

Halfway up the crumbling stairway, he stopped and sat down, catching his breath long enough to get his first view of the sweeping green carpet, extending a million miles in every direction. He looked down briefly, and then turned once more to the heights of the temple.

3

A tinny voice crackled into life. “This is your captain. We have reached a height of 20,000 feet, and will be reaching our destination in approximately 11 hours” He sighed, and stared absent-mindedly out the window at the fluffy blanket of clouds beneath him.

2

His foot slammed down on the last step, sending clouds of dust swarming up. He came to a breathless halt, and took a look at his surroundings. The jungle canopy stretched away far below him, while above, he caught sight of a lonely black dot, circling on a thermal. In front of him stood a flat stone, sheltered beneath a stone roof. He walked slowly around the rim of the small plateau, sending a myriad small insects scurrying for safety in the creeping vegetation, reaching up to even these great heights. On the far side the stone had crumbled away, leaving a gaping hole reaching down into blackness beneath. He reached into his backpack, and removed a torch.

1

His foot slams down, landing awry and twisting his ankle with a sickening crunch. He ignores it, and runs on, driven on by sheer terror.

3

He stepped groggily out of the airport, looking sleepily around at the dusty scene before him. A small wiry man surrounded by a squawking flock of scrawny chickens argued noisily with another man in an odd red uniform, seated uncomfortably behind a desk. A group of dirty children played a complicated game with sticks and rocks on the dusty floor, while a small brown terrier slunk around, casting a fleeting glance his way, before hurrying on. Ahead of him, the wall was missing, exposing a hot, dusty road bustling with activity; with the scurrying back and forth of a large number of ancient vehicles. He had arrived.

2

The light of the torch cut through the thick, choking dust as he walked awestruck through the heart of the temple. The circle of light climbed up the walls and across the floor, playing over a huge variety of strange statues, pottery and frescoes. The deeds of a savage warrior race were depicted in great detail, here showing a man being flayed alive in some kind of ceremony, there telling the tale of a bloody victory against a hopeless enemy, a neighbouring tribe perhaps. At the height of its power, this civilisation collected tribute from half the continent, and dealt viciously with any that refused payment. He absent-mindedly kicked a small rock, sending it skittering across the floor. It cast up a wave of dust before coming to rest in the deep shadows of a dark recess in the wall. He shone his torch in, the bright light cutting back at the shadows.

1

He splashes into a chocolate brown river, surging ahead with great sweeping arm movements, making desperate headway through the sluggish waters.

3

He sat in the back of an ancient taxi, half-listening to the never ending babble of the driver in front. He stared lazily out the window, when the driver indicated in shaky English that they had arrived. He shoved a handful of creased and dirty notes into the driver’s hand, and stepped out on to the road. The taxi roared off amidst a cloud of smoke and dust. He stared ahead. The vast, unending vista of the jungle was spread out before him, as far as he could see in either direction. He shouldered his pack, and walked forward.

2

He crawled through the black hole, until it opened out into a vast subterranean cavern, easily the size of a football field. He started walking towards the centre.

1

He struggles out of the river, and continues his scramble through the jungle, beating aside the vines clawing at him, holding him back.

2

He walked steadily towards the centre of the cavern. He could see, now, a pedestal in the centre, and quickened his pace towards it.

1

The sleek, black form of the jaguar watches him with interest as he stumbles through the jungle, and glides down off its branch to follow at a discreet distance.

2

He had reached the pedestal now, and stood peering at the curious object on top. Rearranging the position of the torch, he tentatively reached forward and picked it up, turning it in his hands, looking at it first this way and that. He saw a small opening on the side, and shined the torch inside.

1

He feels his strength waning, his reserves drying up. But he thinks he can hear, far in the distance, the sound of a rattly car. The road! He strives forward with renewed energy.

2

A bloodcurdling scream echoed throughout the cavern, sending tendrils of dust floating lazily towards the floor. He dropped everything and ran blindly forward, eventually encountering a wall of vegetation. He battled through it, and after what seemed like hours, broke free into the light of day, far from the temple. He plunged recklessly into the jungle.

1

He runs forward, ever forward, not daring to contemplate what is backward, each breath tearing at his throat. His foot lands badly on a rock, and he slips and falls. He rolls forward, carried on by momentum, until he reaches a small cliff. He goes tumbling down, sharp rocks cutting him bloody in a thousand places, until at last he lies still. The jaguar climbs carefully down the cliff, and reaches the body.

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