Finally, Charlene careened to a stop in the middle of the jungle. I hopped off the cart, chasing her. We were near an old dock and I could hear the Samazon river rushing ahead.
“Stop this instance!” I shouted. Why was she running from me? This was insane!
“You stop being a pigheaded jerk!” she called behind her. “The archway is close by!”
And when she slowed down, my mouth dropped open. “My God,” was all I could sputter.
“Isn’t it amazing?” she said, dreamily.
Before I could catch my breath, she darted toward the glowing, shimmering archway.
“NO!” I yelled. “We don’t know what it’ll do!” But she wouldn’t listen.
Leaping into a quivering energy shield, her body disappeared.
“Shit!” I hollered.
And before I could stop myself, I followed her.
It was like I’d walked off the edge of a cliff, falling down with my stomach tickling, wind whipping around my body. Then suddenly the ground stopped and the sky was instantly bright. It was as if we’d traveled to the other side of the world.
And just as the legend had told, an ancient temple rose three stories ahead of us. “Don’t even think we’re going in there,” I warned. Temples were notorious for their traps. It should be excavated by a team of archaeologists with a precautionary, well thought out plan. “We’ll go back and reveal its location. That should be enough for you, Charlene.”
I searched for the archway we’d entered, but it wasn’t anywhere near here. How the hell were we ever going to get back to our villa?
She said in a huffy voice, “Well, you can stay here all you like, Dr. Day, but I’m an explorer. So yeah. Buh bye!”
Shaking my head, I followed because I couldn’t allow her to explore alone. Who knew what might happen to her? Charlene Darby was the most infuriating, headstrong woman I’d ever met.
The architecture was definitely 15th century, Selvadoradan citadel structure. Pretty basic, so maybe we were in the area. But why did the sun rise so quickly? “Hmm…” I said, scratching my chin, “we should be okay since I think we’re still in Selvadorada. Maybe we can explore a few rooms and take back an item to show.”
She shook her head. “No way. I want to see if there really is a genie living here. According to aliensrreal.com, people swear on their lives they’ve seen him. And he always gives a blessing, which, not gonna lie, I need.”
“Charlene, do you hear yourself? You get your information from aliensrreal.com? How can I take you seriously as an archaeologist? Maybe you should go into palm reading instead.”
“You’re funny, Dr. Day.” She put her hand into the entrance and I heard a zap. “OUCH!” she cried.
God, she wasn’t going to listen so I had to at least get her under control. “Will you stop for a second? I’ll help you explore, but you must promise to listen to me, otherwise, you’re not going to get anywhere, understand?”
Rubbing the burn on her hand, she winced and nodded.
I sighed and marched into the adjacent room. “Okay, then. These ancient people loved to use religious puzzles. Just stand there and observe. This will be a good experience for you. That is, unless we get ourselves killed.” I flashed her a harsh glare then went straight away with my usual procedures.
Oh God. I actually FOUND the freaking archway! But why did Dr. Deathday have to look at me like I was the stupidest person on the planet?
Probably because I was the stupidest person on the planet. We were stuck. In who knew where and who knew when. Aliensrreal.com didn’t say how the hell we were supposed to get back to where we started. There wasn’t an archway on this side and so we were freaking lost.
But then we had this amazing temple to explore. Problem was, it was full of puzzles and electrified shields. I hurt my hand thinking we could just pop through one like the archway. What a mistake.
Not gonna lie, even though Dr. Day was mad at me and a douchebag jerk, he was so nice to look at while he was scribbling down patterns and figuring out what to do.
I wanted to help, but everything I touched turned into a dumpster fire. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this. I just always dove in without looking for piranha first.
“That’s it,” he said, surveying one of the bowls. “Now according to these hieroglyphics, if I take some of this sand and place it in this ceremonial basin, it should release the shield.”
My heart froze as I watched sand spill from his hand into the golden bowl. Was he right? Would this be our ticket out of here?
A cold wind whipped around us as a red fire whooshed from the pot. “Damn,” he hissed.
We were never going to get out of here! And it was all my fault.
Not looking at me, he stormed ahead to the other open room. I helplessly followed like the idiot I was.
“Just as I thought,” he said, voice echoing off the ancient stone. “We have another chance. The other room gave clues to which oblelisk in this room to choose. Now all I have to do is move the blocks into the correct pattern and it should work.”
Going straight to work, he adjusted the large blocks then pulled the jewel encrusted lever. It let out a groan and a rusty squeal.
And nothing happened. “I thought for sure…” Dr. Day said, looking above him.
Then all at once, I heard a maniacle laugh as fire shot out of the obelisk, engulfing Dr. Day! “Oh my God, are you okay?” I shouted.
Covered in soot, Dr. Day said, “No, Miss Darby, I am not fine. We are still here in this godforsaken temple and I’m all out of ideas. And if we never get out of here, I’ll tell you this. Do not ever speak to me again. Understand?”
He stalked away, muttering to himself.
But I wasn’t ready to give up. Maybe he didn’t have the pattern right. I matched together the different arrows and leaves, then turned the cubes until I felt things looked correct. Cranking back the squeaky lever, I said a dozen different prayers, hoping this would work.
But that laugh happened again and I got engulfed in a weird fire, too. It didn’t hurt, but left a stinky stench all over like a huge skunk decided he’d like to dunk us in spray for funsies.
“Are you okay, Charlene?” Dr. Day asked.
I was about to answer when I heard a loud clank.
We both looked at each other then bolted to the shielded doorway. It was opened!
Running into the room, my stomach did a flip flop! There at the back was a strange looking man sitting crosslegged.
It had to be the genie!
“Dr. Day!” Charlene shouted. “That’s him! The genie! Tell him who we are and ask for a blessing!”
I’d had about enough of Charlene Darby’s nonsense for one day. I didn’t believe in hocus pocus, curses, blessings, vampires, witches, mermaids, and I especially didn’t believe in genies. As an archeologist, I saw first hand so many different cultures and beliefs and all were made up in the peoples’ minds. “Miss Darby, for God’s sake, let me handle this.”
Seeing the man gave me hope he could give us directions to our villa. Or maybe he knew someone who could give us a lift back.
“I’m sorry to bother you, sir, but I wonder if you could help us.”
He stood up so quickly, I didn’t see him actually do it. But there he was standing eye to eye with me. “You dare wake the great Simllama without an invitation?”
Simllama? I’d heard that name but from where? “Listen, I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to disturb you. It’s just that my…f-friend and I are lost and we need some help getting back to our villa. If you wouldn’t mind…”
He cut me off, glaring. “You ask for a blessing? This is a very strange way to do such a thing. It is like you are a child, stumbling around in a pit of vipers, without knowledge of the steps to save you. No. You are not worthy. Be gone from me.”
“Look…I can pay you if only you could at least tell us where the nearest home is or even a trail back to the village, we’d be very happy to…”
Just then, Charlene nudged her body between us and blurted, “He isn’t worthy, Great Simllama, but I am. I know who you are. All we ask is to gain a blessing from your imminence. One that will make us both happy beyond measure. And we leave the how and when to you, oh Grand One.”
A smile swirled on the edge of his mouth. Was he really going to go along with this nonsense? The guy was so strange. But if it helped us get out of here, I wasn’t going to interfere.
The man seemed to drift back from us as he lifted his hand. “Very well, insignificant ones.
“You ask for a blessing and I’ll give you that. But first, you must endure a curse and my wrath for coming here without knowledge. And if you survive, I promise, you will gain happiness. Now, it starts with…pain.”
A burning sensation ripped through my flesh and pierced the pit of my gut. “Oof,” I gasped.
“What have I done?” Charlene whispered.
Every fiber in me screamed at me to flee. “Let’s get out of here, Charlene.” But my legs wouldn’t move.
“No, you city rats, you will not leave. Not before I give you this curse. It will be up to you whether you will receive the blessing. Now, my lovely snake, Asp, will spit on you and your fate will be sealed.”
A roaring fire seared through me and I cried out. What was happening to me? I could only hear a roar in my ears as I pulled away from my body.
The man chanted unintelligible words all the while that searing pain subsided. But now, everything floated below me. It was as if my body was hovering like a helicopter above him. Now I knew I must have been dreaming. I’d wake up. I just had to hold on.
And then the burning agony started back again. First in my mouth and then along my body.
I wanted to kill that guy. Moving toward him, I slowly inched my feet, but he jerked his hand, freezing me in the spot.
And then darkness swallowed me.