Departure – Short Story

Deep in the heart of the Amazon Basin the jungle is so dense, the canopy so thick, that a person could walk ten feet from a blaze orange battleship and never see it.

It was here that Sheldon Dayleon found himself perilously lost. His native guide had wandered off and misjudged the treacherous terrain. He was swallowed by quicksand with Sheldon clueless as to his whereabouts. For hours, Sheldon had called to no reply and eventually reached the grim conclusion that he had been deliberately abandoned.

Sheldon was no adventurer and it was to his credit he had survived this long, living off questionable-looking berries and insects and the flesh of snakes he was able to catch unawares and bludgeon with a stone.

His compass had disappeared when he tried to cross the river. Frantically scrambling for air, he was tossed about mercilessly by the current which was far more rapid than it had appeared from shore. It carried him a mile downstream before he was able to free himself from its clutches clawing his way to the opposite bank exhausted and relieved.

That was two days ago.

Still, Sheldon remained the blissful optimist hacking his way through the jungle with reckless abandon and whistling to keep his spirits up. After his unfortunate encounter with the river, he retained his machete, his canteen, and one waterproof canister of wooden matches. For the matches he was particularly grateful, fire kept night creatures at bay. Still, even sunny Sheldon had to admit, it was troubling that only five remained.

Unbeknownst to him, he was traveling in a loose, meandering oval. He tried to use the sun and stars to guide him but the earth spins and the sky changes and he had no idea how to adjust his path accordingly. Overhead, the vegetation was so lush that he often couldn’t see the sky at all. All the same, he crashed on telling himself that things would work out as they always do and willing away fearful voices when they whispered in his head.

But by Day 6 of his adventure he was ragged and stumbling and no longer able to whistle. It was impossible to sleep in the rain forest. Not daring to let his fire smolder out, he awoke frequently throughout the night. Each morning he was jolted to life by the loud chattering calls of unfamiliar birds and every day he walked and hacked and walked some more which he was physically ill-prepared for.  He was also eating very little which took its toll as his days in the jungle accumulated.

Sheldon’s tank was running dry.

Leaning against a tree, he found himself sweating and exhausted in the afternoon heat but unwilling to sit. If he left his feet, standing again would be difficult.

An object in motion.

Aimlessly, he lashed out with his machete but the blade struck something solid and ricocheted with such force that it flew end-over-end from his hand. He experienced a moment of panic but fortunately saw where it had flipped into the foliage and was able to retrieve it without much difficulty.

He fanned open the greenery and discovered behind it an insurmountable wall of gray stone. It climbed to the heavens, at least 150 feet, maybe higher. Stunned, he staggered backwards and stared, his mouth agape.

What on Earth?

He followed the wall slowly with his hands until it ended at a corner. Carefully, he rounded the bend feeling his away along the cool, flat surface until suddenly the foliage broke before him giving way to a clearing of perhaps fifty yards square. He wandered into the opening and beheld a massive structure that appeared very much like the Mayan ruins he had seen in Cancun.

Reeling, he stumbled several steps back almost as awed by the massive clearing as he was by the building itself. It had been almost a week since he had seen this much daylight.

At the center of the temple, steep steps laid before him leading to the top of the structure. Under normal circumstances, he would have ascended but he had used the last of his energy fighting his way through the brush to where he now stood and he sank to his knees and then to his side. Within seconds he was sleeping.

He awoke hours later judging by the receding daylight to find himself hungry and dumbfounded all over again by the massive structure that stood before him. As he sat there, legs stretched out before him, a male voice boomed from atop the temple startling him badly.


Sheldon scrambled to his feet eyes darting about trying to locate the speaker. He had learned a few key words when he was in Mexico but was hardly fluent and he had no idea what the voice was saying or if this tongue was even Spanish. It was the first voice he’d heard other than his own in days.

“Uh…no habla,” he croaked. “Me…American,” he said jabbing his thumb into his chest. “Sorry, I don’t know what you’re saying.”

“This is holy ground!” the voice replied in English without a trace of accent. “You are standing on holy ground!”

“I’m sorry, Sir,” Sheldon said backing away, “I’m lost. I…don’t know where I am.”

For long moments there was no response. Then a figure materialized at the top of the steps. It stood, bright and lithe, looking down at him and then descended as though it were floating, not taking the steps at all. Sheldon gawked.

When it reached the ground, Sheldon could see this was an ancient man who looked like a shaman or some sort of witch doctor. He was shirtless and wore a sort of loin cloth. He was draped with necklaces of beads and bones and feathers, his hair jet black and his face crisscrossed with so many wrinkles he may have been 100 years old. Still, he moved with the grace of an athlete and his eyes were bright and alert. He was standing before him in seconds.

“Sir, I’m sorry,” stammered Sheldon, “I didn’t know-”

The shaman cut him off with a wave of his hand and stood staring at him. Sheldon fidgeted uncomfortably.

“You are the one of whom the prophecies foretold,” the old man said finally. “You will come with us.”

“I think maybe you’ve got the wrong guy,” said Sheldon. “I’m an American…a tourist.”

The old man reached out and, obediently, Sheldon took his hand. Together, they floated back to the temple and up the stone stairs. When they reached the top, Sheldon saw a vertical circle of bright light hovering on the roof of the pyramid. The old man gestured towards it and Sheldon stepped in.

He vanished and the old man followed.

The light shimmered and disappeared.






Author: FredRock

Pulp fiction. Noir. Hardboiled.

2 thoughts on “Departure – Short Story”

  1. What a great opening sentence, Fred. That’s so important and I love the way you build up the tension throughout the story. The descriptions are so good that the reader finds himself immersed in the jungle. Great ending too. Nice job! Chris

    Liked by 1 person

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