(This is a re-write of a previous story.)
The jungle was hot and damp and overrun with bugs. Noises made by unseen animals filled the air. Shapes would flash just out of your vision as you turned your head to see where the last loud screech came from. The two men were tired, soaked with sweat, and on edge.
“Are you sure this is the right way?” asked Eddie as he hacked his way through another thick vine.
“Yes, yes,” answered Professor Treelane. “The manuscript is quite clear. The Temple of Wochlakat of the Jamundi people is in this direction. We follow the river to it’s source then keep going north and turn towards the sun at noon and it should be along our path.”
Eddie hacked through a couple of branches and as they fell away the temple was revealed, sitting in the middle of a large clearing. It was huge and vaguely Aztec in design with odd carvings across its surface. A grand set of steps led to the top of the temple where there appeared to be a small stone hut or shelter of some kind.
“Hah! I knew we were on the right path!” declared Eddie. “Now how do we get in? Or doesn’t your precious manuscript cover that part?”
“According to the manuscript there should be a jaguar carving near the base of the stairs,” said the Professor.
They walked over to the steps and began searching for the carving of the jaguar amongst all the others.
“God, these are ugly,” said Eddie. “What are they supposed to be?”
“Various animals, snakes, insects and humans. Possibly even what they thought their gods looked like,” answered Treelane while running his hands over the carvings. “Aren’t they exquisite?”
“Right. Whatever you say, Doc.”
“Ah. Here we are!”
Professor Treelane was standing in front of a carving of a grotesque looking cat-like creature.
“That’s supposed to be a jaguar?”
“According to the manuscript we need to manipulate it in a certain way, something about being swift is mentioned, and a door will open into the interior of the temple.”
“That’s all you got? Just “manipulate it in a certain way”? Could you be a little more vague?” asked Eddie.
“If the answers to everything were all written down, someone else would have been here already. Now shut up and let me think.”
They stood there in the hot sun and stared at the carving for a few minutes. Just as the Professor was about to suggest they take a break for lunch Eddie stepped up to the carving.
“I got it!” said Eddie. Leaning forward he pushed on all four feet of the jaguar.
There was a grinding and a portion of the steps slid away revealing a hallway that lead into the depths of the temple.
“How did you manage that?” asked Treelane.
“Easy,” said Eddie with a wide grin. “Jaguars run fast, right? Fast is the same as being swift. Plus we wanted in, right? Both actions use feet, right? So I pushed them.”
“That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard. Here, take a flashlight, let’s go.”
They carefully walked down the hallway, shining their flashlights ahead of them on walls, floor and ceiling to be sure they got a good look at everything before they passed by, over or under it. The walls inside were covered in carvings of odd animals and insects. After about fifteen minutes they came to a door at the end of the hallway which seemed to glow from within.
“Turn your flashlight off,” said the Professor.
The door was indeed radiant with a warm yellow light.
“Wouldya look at that,” exclaimed Eddie. “I can almost see right through it.”
Professor Treelane took a step forward and studied the door. It was plain stone, no carvings, just glowing from within.
“Now what Doc?”
“This is not in the manuscript.”
“Great! Just great! We get all the way in here and now we’re bloody stuck because you haven’t done your damn homework!”
As Eddie was ranting, the light in the door had gone from yellow to orange to almost a red color.
“Calm down you fool! Although I find your outburst annoying, this time I believe it was somewhat useful. We have to become calm. As calm as we possibly can.”
“Just sit down and clear your mind of all thought. That should be easy enough for you.”
“Oh. Ha. Ha.”
They sat on the floor in front of the door and tried to relax. They took deep breaths, in and out. In and out. The light in the door began to lighten from yellow to white, then to a pale blue. Then it went out. Treelane turned on his flashlight.
“Extraordinary! The door is gone! Look!”
The hallway now simply continued deeper into the temple.
“I don’t get it, but let’s go,” said Eddie. “After all this there has got to be something good in there!”
As they walked on more of the now familiar carvings covered the walls. After a few minutes the hall ended in a large room with a dais in the middle. Three steps led up to the top and there, suspended in the air, was a great golden axe.
“Wow!” exclaimed Eddie.
“Wow indeed. But let’s be cautious, shall we?”
They shone their flashlights around the room. The carvings on the walls here depicted the same animals and insects they’d seen before but in greater detail.
“I believe this is where you come in my young friend,” said Treelane.
“What do you mean?”
“The manuscript clearly says that only men under the age of thirty cycles may enter the inner sanctuary. I am clearly too old. Go ahead and retrieve our golden prize.”
“You believe that?”
“Young man we just witnessed a glowing solid rock door disappear so I am willing to extend my belief at the moment, yes.”
“Good point Professor.”
Eddie walked carefully towards the dais, each step careful and measured as he went. When he made it to the bottom of the dais he turned back to the Professor, gave him a thumbs up and started up the steps. Ever so carefully he climbed the three stairs. Nothing happened. He set down his flashlight on the top of the dais and reached up with both hands to grab the golden axe as it hung in the air. Wrapping his hands around the handle he gave a great tug. It disappeared.
“What the hell?”
A roaring filled the room and a great wind began to blow. Tendrils of black smoke emerged from the intricate carvings on the walls and started to blend together in the wind. The roar turned into a howl as the wind grew stronger, whipping around the room sucking up all the smoke until a whirlwind of blackness encased Eddie on the dais, making it difficult for the Professor to see him.
There was a noise like a thunderclap and the air sucked into the center of the room, on the top of the dais where Eddie was, taking all of the black smoke there with it. Eddie screamed once and was gone. In his place was a being made of darkness. It was constantly changing form, from one animal to the next, one insect to the next. The only constant aspect was its fiery red eyes. It locked its gaze on the Professor and spoke in a deep and gravelly voice.
“You have once more fulfilled your part of our bargain, human. We are pleased. You may take one item from the next room for yourself as a reward. We expect to see you again in twelve lunar cycles.”
A portion of the wall slid into the ceiling revealing a room filled with golden treasures. Then it dissipated into tendrils black smoke which floated back into the carvings in the walls.
“Of course my dear Wochlakat, of course. Have a nice nap,” said Professor Treelane as he happily went to pick out something nice for himself.