Thanks to Teela for the editing and suggestions to much improve the story. The most thanks to Danielle for making me write, even thought she hasn't read this story!!!
WARNING! Some reader's may be offended by content…
Ancient Mexico has a legend of Quetzalcoatl: the ancient god that was of such importance and power that no aspect of everyday life could go untouched without Quetzalcoatl. Old temples in the Aztec and Mayan cultures bore the image of the feathered serpent god of the old peoples. He is also known as Nine Wind and Kukulcan.
Drake Jennings awoke from his fitful sleep and lay listening to the jungle, wondering what he had heard. It was night and the moon was out, its brightness lighting up the stone temple. The sounds of the jungle had ceased except for the gentle rustling and scraping from the walls. He shifted his body and curled against the knapsack, adjusting it as a pillow, feeling the hard, cool stone beneath him. He pulled his jacket up around his shoulders, feeling very vulnerable against the night and the chills that keep stealing across his body and causing violent shaking. He knew that he had to stay awake, to keep watch… he had to be certain of what he suspected.
Something glittered amber in the darkness at the corner of the tent. He peered at it, trying to figure out what it was that he saw. Maybe it was the shiny surface of the rocks as the glittering was low to the ground. He couldn't break contact with the points of light as he tried to sit up. He was just so tired, he could feel weariness stealing over his body, draining him. Suddenly he was no longer cold, as the glowing pinpoints were drawing him into them. He allowed his mind to drift, as the lights turned into reptilian eye slits. His conscious drifted to them to be absorbed, as he fell into a deep sleep.
He wasn’t sure if he was dreaming, but the vines growing on the stones of the temple suddenly begin to stretch toward him. He tried to move away but found that he was lying, stripped to the waist, on the sacrificial stone at the apex of the temple. He was too weak to move so he could only watch in horrified fascination as the vines crept closer. The vines slithered along the floor of the temple in an undulating fashion, making their way to him. They began climbing upward to encircle his body, tightening and squeezing as fear gave him renewed strength to struggle against them. They were no thicker than rope, but each time he would struggle they would tighten, stretching to take more space from him, slowly squeezing and binding him to the stone. One particular vine was winding around his throat, sending out half-grown shoots that encircled his head forcing it back against the rock. Leaves and small florets were entangling in his hair as he was becoming part of the vine and forever fixed to the temple and the stone.
ThenJennings heard a sound, a rough scraping; something large moving against the stones below his feet. It was coming! Jennings tried to scream out, but the vines quickly grew, covering his mouth, muffling his cries. No, it wasn't supposed to be this way!! He was supposed to capture it!!
His arms and legs were engulfed as the vines continued to climb over the stone and fasten him against it. His limbs were slowly being crushed and he tried to cry, as the bones and joints snapped under the intense pressure of the vines. A thicker one wrapped around his chest and he could hear the rushing of the oxygen as it was being forced from his lungs. Every cell in his body screamed out for air or for mercy, but it wasn't to come to him yet.
His heartbeat grew louder, pounding in his ears and in every shattered joint. It blocked out every sound of the jungle and the birds, except for the scraping. Now even his fingers, hips and waist were circled by the vines and pressed into the cool, hard stone. There was no way that he could move or strike back against what was moving slowly toward him.
Suddenly, some of the vines fell away and he felt elated as he pulled against them. He was certain that he would get away and then something touched his foot, something warm and fluid. Lifting his head he saw it… the GIANT SNAKE!!! He had suspected that it existed, something that the village shaman had said to him.
She desired food! She was so hungry… it had been so long. She could feel his essence and needed it to rebuild her strength.
No one! No one! Fear invaded his mind, as he knew that no one was aware or would be aware that he had died. She had won! He could do nothing to fight it off as the vines secured him; the poison coursed through his body.
His heart was pounding and his chest was on the verge of explosion as he made one last desperate attempt to rise from the stone. Sobbing, he felt himself giving into the demon. Jennings' body was so cold and he could feel shivers building. His body fought to defeat the cold, as the numbness spread. Nightmares came of falling into a deep pit, as the strength was quickly leaving him.
Suddenly, his heart seized in his chest as darkness closed in over his brain. The cold engulfed everything and the world as he knew it ceased to be. He soul fled from his body only to be captured in to the maw of the great beast that lay waiting for it. Now he was with itforever.
A shadow moved across her and she saw the colorful plumage of a thousand birds in the headdress of a figure that stood over her. A mask of skins and bark hid the face of the figure and she found herself staring into a mask-face of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god of the Aztec. The god, helped by several men, reached over to lift her from the body that lay on the sacrificial stone. The snake god had claimed another trespasser in her temple. A half smile spread across the face of the great snake as the men laid her at the feet of the body on the stone.
It was a quiet morning as Lee Crane leaned against the bulkhead of the Seaview, gazing out of the view port. They were under sail, but on the surface and he could never tire of watching the water bounce off the plates as Seaview moved through the water. So lost in his thoughts, he was unaware that Admiral Nelson had come down the spiral steps and was talking to him.
"…Maybe you do need a tropical vacation?" Nelson was saying.
"Excuse me?" Lee said, noticing the man for the first time.
Nelson smiled. "I was talking to you."
"Oh, I'm sorry, kind of lost in my thoughts for a while," Crane replied. He walked over to join Nelson at the plotting table. "What was this you were saying about a tropical vacation?"
"I knew that would sink in. How about going to a small island off South America?"
"It will take a day or two to get there," Lee said. "Why are you concerned about a tropical vacation?"
"Just thought you needed one…" Nelson replied, grinning.
"Sure… what's the real reason?"
"Probably a broken radio. Have you heard of Drake Jennings?"
Lee crossed his arms and leaned against the plotting table. "Should I have heard about him?"
"Depends on if you like biology."
Lee looked at the Admiral. "Not really."
"Well, Drake Jennings is going to discover a cure for all the world's ailments in the rain forest of South America. He's working on a virgin tract now on a little island off Belize."
"Oh? You sound a bit sarcastic."
"Well, I think the man is half-crazy and has been in the jungle too long but friend at Southern Cal has asked me to check on him. Seems they lost contact with him about two months ago… probably a radio problem."
Chip Morton came into the Control Room, checking the clipboard that he was carrying. "We do have a spare radio that we can give him. Ski is checking it out now."
"Yes, I just told Lee that we are taking a much desired vacation."
Chip grinned at Lee. "Yes, it will have private deserted beaches… tropical plants… warm sand."
"Sounds good," Lee agreed. "I suppose we know where to find him at?"
"Lee, the island isn't much bigger than the sub is… just a couple square miles," Nelson replied. "But I also have a small map…" He spread out a legal sized sheet of paper. "See, this is all there is to it. A small harbor and an interior freshwater lake probably fed by a spring. The mountain is a dormant volcano."
"Oh, great… I knew there was a catch," Lee added.
Nelson laughed. "Lee, it's just a small volcano... very old. The odds of it becoming…"
"Talk to Pat about odds. He's the poker expert."
"I found that out," Nelson agreed. "He won a small fortune off me the last cruise out."
"You should have asked Chip or me first," Lee warned him. "We could have told you."
Nelson grinned as he pointed to the map, "That's Jennings' camp. He was a professor when I was in school… very brilliant but doesn't like to deal with people. We'll drop the radio off for him, take a couple days off on the beach and return to our study."
"That sounds good," Chip agreed. "I'm about tired of this inventory…"
Nelson looked over at the list, "Let Sharkey do that. You both deserve a break," Nelson laughed. " We'll leave him in charge of the sub while we are on the island. That will give him something to do since he the one who told me that Pat was an easy mark when it came to poker."
"How would Sharkey know that Pat is an easy mark?" Chip asked.
"Sharkey has never won a poker game in his life; my nephew could beat him at it."
Lee put him finger to his lips as Sharkey came forward the Control Room. He greeted the Admiral and then nodded to Crane. Lee noticed that he ignored Chip, who stood there smiling.
"Oh, Francis," the Admiral said. "I have the perfect project for you."
"Yes, sir!" Sharkey replied, smiling at the Admiral.
Nelson jerked the clipboard from Morton and pushed it at Sharkey. "Here. Do the inventory for this month. Maybe you had better recheck Mr. Morton's figures too. We wouldn't want a mistake."
Nelson touched his head like he was deep in thought. "You might have to do it next month too…"
Sharkey turned to Chip, "What are YOU doing?"
Chip looked over at Lee. "Well, if it is acceptable to the Captain, I am going to join him for a cup of coffee." Chip started to walk off and then turned back to Sharkey, "Let me know if you find a variance in the figures. Will you, Francis?"
Sharkey turn to Admiral Nelson. "I have a lot to do…"
"Then get started," Nelson advised.
"Now look, Sir... if this is because of that poker game the other night… who would think that Patterson could play poker like that?"
"I knew it," Crane replied, smiling at the dirty look that Sharkey threw at him.
"I have things to do in my cabin. Francis, just do the inventory," Nelson growled, walking away. He had a smirk on his face that Sharkey didn't see.
Sharkey turned to looked at Crane, who just shrugged at him. Sharkey stomped off with the clipboard. "This isn't my job!" he muttered as he left the Control Room.
It didn't take him long to get to the Missile Room where he found Patterson cleaning out one of the storage lockers. The man was covered with oil and dirt from the machine parts that he was moving about.
"Go get cleaned up and get back here!" Sharkey barked out at the man. "I'll get someone else to do that. You need to get this inventory and make sure you check all the figures twice."
Patterson looked at the clipboard that Sharkey was holding out to him. It was already more than half-completed and certainly a lot easier than what he was doing.
"Don't just stare at it… go get cleaned up!"
"Sure!" Patterson agreed. He jumped up from the floor and left the Missile Room.
Sharkey kneeled down and started sorting through parts spread out on the drop cloth. He looked at the grease on his hands, No way am I going to do Mr. Morton's dirty work!!
"Now this is Paradise!" Chip stated as he and Lee walked along the beach.
"Yes, and no condos to have to deal with," Lee agreed as he turned to look into the jungle beyond the beach. The plants were thick but he could make out a well-kept trail disappearing into the green shadows. The sun was already beating down on the beach and the coolness of the jungle looked inviting.
They were waiting as Nelson gave further instruction to Ski, who was with Riley on the beach with the radio. "It's a short walk, we'll be right back." Nelson walked over to where the two officers stood, "Didn't I tell you it would be a nice break? Let's go find Jennings' camp and set up the radio for him… and then the next two days will be ours. You think that pool might have fish?"
Lee looked around the island. "I haven't heard anything, not even monkeys. It might be just that… very virgin. What's he been eating?"
"Take out pizza?" Chip suggested.
The men entered the trail and walked in the direction indicated on the little map that Nelson had pulled from his shirt pocket. The temperature drop from the beach to the thickness of the jungle was amazing and quite welcomed by the men. After they had walked about 20 minutes they came to the clearing where a tent stood. It looked as though someone had gone through the camp, searching and opening all the boxes that they could. Equipment was spilled on the ground and laid in piles, sorted and ripped apart like someone was searching for something.
"Not very tidy, is he?" Chip commented, pulling a handgun from its holster.
"This isn't recent," Lee answered, kneeling down at a pile of stuff on the ground.
Nelson noticed movement at the edge of the camp, "Gentlemen, we have company."
Lee looked up to see a native man standing partly away from the clearing watching them. He made no attempt to leave as they looked his way.
"Can you talk to him?" Nelson asked.
Crane called out a greeting to him in Spanish. The man nodded in return and took a couple steps forward. Lee continued to speak with him, gesturing to the clearing with his hand. The native man replied to him.
"What did he say?" Nelson asked.
"He has indicated something about Jennings having joined with the gods," Lee answered.
"Gods?" Chip repeated. He had made no attempt to put away his gun, "Is he saying that the man is dead? What happened to the camp?"
"He states that it is their area now and we are not welcomed," Lee continued.
Nelson walked up to Lee, "Tell him that this is mine and I am staying. Ask him where Jennings is."
Lee looked over at the Admiral. The native man had no weapon, but Lee saw no reason to risk a situation with him at this point so he relayed the information.
The man looked over at the Admiral as though he was sizing him up and then nodded once. He continued to talk to Crane and pointed out to the jungle. Turning, the man walked away, parting the leaves of some small palms before slipping into the green shadows.
"He said you are welcomed to the camp but the god in the jungle may not want you here. You will have to speak…" he paused. "The god is female apparently. She may not approve."
"Oh, really?" Nelson asked. "And where is the god?"
Lee looked where the man had slipped into the jungle. "He said, she's in the jungle… all around us."
"Oh, great! It started out as a broken radio. Now we have to go talk to a god and we have a man missing? So much for paradise… all we are missing is an apple tree and a snake!" Chip stated.
"Apparently," Nelson replied. "Let's get a backup team here," he turned to Chip. "Get some of the men to clean this up and get an idea what has happened here. Have Ramiriz come ashore, he speaks Spanish fluently. Get about 20 men to watch after things. Captain, we have a god to talk to."
"You said this was going to be a vacation," Lee reminded him as they started out into the jungle.
She heard them walking in her jungle as she peered at them from the lofty branches of the trees. It had been a long time since she had fed and she could smell new odors blowing in from the beach. For the first time in long weeks, she would feed again… there would be many to chose from.
They hadn't walked far when Nelson stopped. "There are no sounds."
"Yeah, I noticed that on the beach. It's too quiet. It could be our presence."
"I don't think so."
"So? What are we suppose to do about that?"
"Figure out what happened here and find Jennings," Nelson replied. "Then we can leave."
"I take it that our vacation on the beach is a thing of the past? I don't really think that this is going to turn out well. Do you think that he has been missing the entire time that they haven't heard from him? His stuff has been laying out for a long while."
"The two months you think? It kind of looks like it for now."
"Yeah, probably. I don't think we will find him, not alive anyway. Some of that stuff looked pretty expensive to be left just laying around."
"Well, we need to find out what happened." Nelson paused.
Ahead of them was a large squat temple made of gray weathered stone. The jungle was cleared away from it for a couple dozen feet from the base. It had a crude flight of stairs going up the front of there, where they were standing. There was something crumpled at the bottom of the flight of steps that caught Nelson's attention, "We might have an answer here."
"Oh, my god," Lee breathed. Before him lay the remains of a man, consisting of little more than white bleached bones and tatters of clothing. "Do you think he fell?"
Nelson went up the remains of the body. Since it had been two months since he had died, there was little remaining of the body. As Nelson kneeled at the remains, he looked over the area and then up the steep flight of steps to the top of the temple.
Nelson pointed to the rust marks on the remains of the clothing, "He was alive long enough for there to be bleeding."
Lee looked around the body and then pointed to the ground, "Someone knows something… there are prints of bare feet in this area here."
"Maybe the people of the village know… there's only one way to find out," Nelson stepped as he stood up. "We'll send some of the men back for a burial party. I'll get Ramiriz to go to the village with me to see what happened here."
Nelson and Lee returned to the camp. Nelson radioed the sub, waiting for more men including Ramiriz, while Crane led a burial party back to the body of Jennings. It did not take long for the dinghy to arrive from the sub as Ramiriz came ashore. He had joined the crew at the beginning of this tour and was being trained to replace Ski on sonar, when Ski was off duty.
"I need to go talk to the villagers," Nelson told Ramiriz when he had entered the camp. "I don't speak Spanish and Lee only speaks a little. I have some difficult questions that I need answers."
"It's no problem," the man answered. He was small in stature and had shaggy black hair that framed his oval face. He seemed to keep a permanent grin on his face and got along with everyone. That also included the Chief, which was something short of a miracle since Sharkey had taken over Chip's inventory.
Nelson turned to Chip, "Just take care of things here and get set up. I think we have a cat loose that might be dangerous by now. Arrange some search parties and make sure that they are well armed."
"Sure!" Chip agreed as he turned to the new men that had come ashore with the last dinghy. There were about 15 men available to help out with the search.
Nelson pulled the map from his pocket and looked over it. "According to the map, it's about a mile's walk through the jungle. We should be there in about an hour; it seems to be slow going. I also want to be on the look for tracks… a large cat."
Ramiriz nodded as he picked up the rifle and started off, leading the way in the direction that the Admiral had pointed.
They entered the undergrowth of the jungle. A couple steps later, Ramiriz found a trail that seemed to be winding to the village that Jennings had marked on his map. "I think that this is the way," he told the Admiral.
"Good, I want to find out what happened to Jennings' body."
"What did happen?"
"I haven't the slightest idea," Nelson responded. "That's why we are going to the village. Lee found bare footprints and I want to find out what the villagers were doing at the temple."
They walked along the trail, both men checking the sides of the path for tracks that might give them a clue to what had been happening over the last few months. Not much was known about Drake Jenning's research in the jungle and his communications with his colleagues at Southern Cal were very limited. That in itself annoyed Nelson. How could they send a man so far into the jungle and not keep in touch with him, then let two months go by without any information… and then ask for help?
After about 45 minutes of walking and searching for tracks they came to the small village. It was small, consisting of about a dozen small huts. The hutshad thatched roofs and walls made of assorted wood materials. It seemed that some had been opened on the sides but planks and parts of old crates had quickly corrected the open sides. One or two of the inhabitants came out as they entered the village. Nelson paused as Ramiriz came up to his side.
"What does the village tell you?" Nelson asked, looking about.
"Native peoples," Ramiriz answered. "They either speak a dialect, Spanish or maybe Portuguese."
"I can handle the Spanish and a few dialects… maybe a few words of Portuguese," Ramiriz admitted.
One of the men walked out; it was the same man that they had seen at the camp. Ramiriz stepped forward and began speaking to him in Spanish but quickly changed to a dialect as the man responded in that dialect.
Ramiriz turned to the Admiral and said, "I can speak to him. What do you want me to ask him?"
"Ask him what happened to the professor," Nelson replied.
Ramiriz turned back to the man and continued to speak to him, then stopped and looked over at the Admiral, a puzzled look on his face. "He was taken by Quetzalcoatl. It is an honor that she came to him."
"She? This god is a she?" Nelson asked.
"Apparently," Ramiriz answered, as he continued to talk to the man as other villagers gathered around to hear them talking. A young woman came up to stand with the man to whom they were talking. She was completely nude but made no effort to conceal herself from the strangers. He spoke to Ramiriz and then turned to talk to the woman beside him. She made no response except to look at him and back to the strangers. She smiled slightly at the men.
"What are they saying?" Nelson asked.
"The man seems to be the leader of the people. The woman is his… wife, I suppose. He says that Jennings died an honorable death. He sought out the god and she came to him. This is a good thing that has happened," was the reply that Ramiriz gave him as the villagers turned and left the village square.
"We are not done talking to them," Nelson growled as the people walked away.
"Apparently, they are done talking to us," Ramiriz answered. "He is their spokesperson, he states who will talk to who."
"And if I find that unacceptable?" Nelson asked.
"It's not our choice," Ramiriz answered.
Chip Morton had broken the remaining men into groups of two, giving them different parts of the jungle to search. Nothing was found and the men wandered back to the camp as the sun began to see in the sky and the jungle came alive with the calling of animals.
Lee Crane and the burial party returned from the temple after burying Jennings. They had found nothing but Crane did want to go back and look at the temple. That would have to wait until another day.
The men had gathered around two fires to have dinner and to talk, but had moved away as it got dark. Johnson had finally called it a night.He got up from the fire and went into the tent. Crawling into bed, he was exhausted after a day of searching the jungle. They had found nothing and he had walked through miles of under growth and now he was tired. His tent mate had already turned in for the night. The man turned off the lantern and stripped down to his underwear, wanting to escape the heat of the jungle.
Dropping to the cot, it didn't take him long to fall into a deep slumber, and then the dream began. From our of the haze in his mind, a beautiful woman came to him, slipping into the bed to lay under the cover with him. Johnson turned to her, pleased to see that she was naked. Her copper skin glowed in the faint light as she moved into his arms allowing him to cradle her. He awoke realizing that she wasn't a dream as she cuddled up against him. Her amber eyes seemed to burn into his as she relaxed in his arms. He wanted to grab her but he was exhausted, a strange malaise traveled through his body as he looked into her eyes.
She kissed him lightly as he lay on the cot. He relaxed as his head swam, almost enveloped in a distant fog. She trembled slightly; moving closer as her arms went around his neck, holding him as she pulled him closer. He was certain that he would have the time of his life tonight with this beautiful woman, despite his exhaustion.
Her legs entwined with his, capturing him to her body. He tired to pull away from her as he felt her legs changing, dissolving into thick muscled coils. Johnson started to scream as bone shattered in his legs and pelvis but his throat was captured in a vise-like grip. His arms fell to his sides in spasms as the pain build in his throat. It seemed that draggers were plunging into him, rupturing the larynx as fire invaded his body. He could make no sound as her arms moved, cradling his chest, crushing the ribs with her strength.
She smiled as he tried to struggle against her as she placed her lips on his. Despite the pain, his last remembrance was her lips kissing him before she invaded him with her tongue. Suddenly, his world exploded in pain and then went dark. The long black serpent tongue entered his throat to capturethe last feeble beats of his heart as the sharp razor barb slicing the tissue to reach the heart before it quivered and died. He no longer cared as she suckled him, taking all the warmth of his life force that he had remaining. She mourned, he had died too suddenly and she did not enjoy this killing; the struggle was too brief. She would have to pick her victims more carefully. Repulsed by the lack of resistance, she released him and slithered from the cot to leave the tent.
His tent mate sighed, turning in his sleep, hearing nothing as a giant snake glided on the floor. The tent flap lifted slightly as she went out the opening. This was the sleeping man's lucky night; he had picked the bunk furthest from the open tent flap.
Someone was screaming. It took Lee several seconds to get oriented to where the scream had come from. He quickly slid from the cot and slipped on trousers. Chip Morton was still sleeping, unaware of what was happening. Lee made a mental note to check with Jamie on Chip's apparent condition but there was a more pressing problem now.
He went from the tent and noticed a crowd of men around one of the tents. Jamie and the Admiral were already there, and the screaming had stopped to be replaced by silence. This wasn't a good silence; it was the kind that people resort to when there is nothing to say. Lee moved through the crowd, stopping as he noticed that Jamie was pulling a sheet over a figure on the closer cot. Admiral Nelson was attending to one of the men, who was sitting on the opposite bunk. The young man had the look of pure horror on his face and was staring past the Admiral at the covered figure on the cot.
"My god…" the man whispered.
"Jamie…" Nelson called out quietly as Jamie was pulling a syringe from his bag. He moved over to the cot, talking to the man in a low voice.
The young man realized what Jamie had in his hand and whimpered as he tried to pull away from the Admiral's arm about his shoulders. "No…" he cried out as Jamie slipped the needle in his arm.
Lee moved over to the cot that was covered and lowered the sheet. He was shocked by the appearance of the man under the covers. His face showed complete agony and his eyes were wide open. His throat was badly torn and bruised. Moving the sheet further down, Lee noticed the mottled bluing of the skin and scratches and cuts on the chest. He pulled the cover back up and breathed deeply.
Nelson had dispersed the group of men that had gathered and Jamie was tucking the young man back into the cot.
"Pat, stay here for a while," Jamie suggested. He turned to Lee, "Can we move the body to the supply tent?"
Lee nodded dumbly.
"Lee, you okay?" Jamie asked.
"Shocked, I suppose," Lee answered. "What did this?"
"Right now… judging from the throat damage and the scratches… probably a cat of some kind," Jamie replied. Two of the men returned to carry the cot away from the tent. Patterson pulled up a camp chair to sit next to the bed.
"What do you want me to do?" Pat asked the doctor.
"Just be there when he wakes up. He may experience a strong reaction when he wakes and I don't want him upset again."
Lee watched as they lifted the cot and moved the body of the man from the tent. He turned to the Admiral, "This was suppose to be a vacation on the beach?"
Nelson shook his head. "I don't know what to say. I wasn't aware that we were going to have such a problem with cats here."
"Every reason to find out where it is. Maybe there are no large enough natural prey for them and we happen to be convenient?"
"I should think that a cat would eat whatever it wanted? The Shaman at the village didn't mention cats…"
"Any reason why he should have?" Lee asked. "If the cat prefers man to other prey, it will come after us and leave them alone. We are sitting right in the middle of the jungle here."
The tent flap opened and Chip stood at the entrance, "What happened?"
"We had a visitor last night," Lee replied. He was looking at Chip, concerned about his appearance. The blond man looked drawn and tired. He leaned against the tent pole as he looked about the tent.
"The cat?" he asked.
"Yeah," Nelson answered.
"Why don't you see Jamie," Lee suggested. "You don't look like you feel well."
Chip looked at the Captain, giving him a withering look. "I told you that I'm fine."
"Report to Dr. Jamieson," Nelson interrupted the staring contest.
Chip turned from the tent and walked off, saying nothing to the men.
"Okay, give… what's wrong with him?" Nelson asked.
"Tired, overheated… sick of the jungle," Lee replied. "The same that's wrong with all of us. Bugs, heat… the water is lukewarm. This isn't a good environment. You know how Chip is away from the sub."
"He'll have to make do…" Nelson replied.
"Yeah, it looks like that is all that we are all doing," Lee answered as he walked out of the tent. He noticed that Chip had not gone to the medical tent, but had stopped to get a cup of coffee. He walked up to Chip, holding out an empty cup as Chip filled his cup also. "This doesn't look like Jamie's tent."
Chip smiled, "No, but it is the next best thing. I'm okay, Lee. Just tired. It's so damned hot."
"Yeah, we get spoiled by the controlled environment of the Seaview at times." Lee took a sip of the bitter fluid. "We need to get Cookie here too. Who made the coffee?"
"Patterson," one of the men answered.
"Remind me to make Patterson spend time in the mess, if we are going to trust him with the coffee pot." He poured the rest of the coffee out on the ground, "I'm going to see what Jamie found out."
Lee entered the supply tent to find Jamie leaned over the body. "Well?"
"Primary cause of death… massive heart attack. There's damage to the throat, which wouldn't have been fatal if I had gotten to him in time. There are scratches and cuts on the body from claws… they wouldn't have been fatal either. " Jamie looked up at the Captain. "Lee… his lower body has been crushed."
"Crushed?" Lee repeated.
"Yes, massive bruising… he was still alive when it happened. It involves the legs, pelvis and ribs… the larynx was destroyed, he couldn't have screamed if he had wanted to…"
"What?" Lee asked. "What did this?"
"The wounds suggest a big cat… torn throat and cuts. The crushing… I don't know." Jamie pulled the cover over the body. "A cat can crush bones with its teeth… but there's no damage to suggest bite marks or chewing… I don't know what did this."
"So we are still looking for a cat?" Lee asked.
"I guess so… until I know otherwise," Jamie answered.
"Why didn't it wake up Perkins?"
Jamie shook his head. "I can't answer that either."
Both men looked to the open flap as Nelson came to the door of the tent. "What happened last night, Jamie?"
"You want it officially or off the cuff?"
"Officially," Nelson answered.
"Massive heart attack."
"And…" Nelson prompted.
"Heart attack, cuts, scratches, trauma to the throat, broken bones, crushed rib cage… I think that sums it up."
"Did he have heart trouble?"
"No, Admiral, he did not," Jamie answered. "He wouldn't have been on the sub."
She was aware that they were coming through the jungle. It was the man with the red hair and the short man with the dark hair that spoke the language of the people. She wasn't certain but she could sense something about the man with the red hair. He might bring trouble to her… she must watch him.
She opened her mind, willing that the vines respond to her, to protect her from these men… they always did her bidding.
At first Ramiriz thought that the village was deserted until the man walked out of one of the huts and stood there facing the other two men. He wasn't pleased to see them. He knew that she was restless since they had come, her hunger was growing and she would continue to kill.
"What do you want?" he asked the man who spoke their language.
"A man died last night," Ramiriz responded.
"All men die," was the answer.
"All men die… but in their time. This was not this man's time to die."
"It is not our concern."
Ramiriz turned to the Admiral and told him what the man had said. He then turned back to the man and continued, "We have come to find out information on a big cat."
"Jaguars have been here for many years, before we came."
"Is this the animal that is doing the killing?" Ramiriz asked.
"They are capable of killing," the man responded.
Nelson looked at his watch. "Find out what information you can find out. I have to get back to the camp to see what Lee has decided to do and to contact the Institute. We do need some answers."
"I understand," Ramiriz answered. He turned back to the man before him. "We need to talk about this cat. It's killing our men."
The man nodded. "Yes, we need to talk. Perhaps the gods will come."
Nelson turned to leave, watching Ramiriz walk off with the man. He wanted Dr. Jamieson to run some tests on the remaining body and he wanted to make sure that the men were well armed against this cat.
After Nelson had left, Ramiriz entered the hut with the man and sat on the floor as the man sat on the other side of the room. He began to tell the man about what had happened in the night and what they had found when the morning had come.
The man picked up a stick and begins to draw on the ground as Ramiriz leaned forward to watch what the man was drawing. He was so intent on the drawing that he did not notice the vine reaching out for him. It missed him the first time but stretched out a bit further to catch his arm. Ramiriz looked around, brushing the vine from his arm as a thicker vine snapped out and wrapped around his throat. Before Ramiriz could react, more vines stretched out to pull him against the pole that supported the side of the hut. The native man rose from the floor, watching as Ramiriz was quickly secured to the post. Ramiriz struggled; reaching out to the man who kicked his arm away. His free arm was seized and dragged back to his body. He was held tighter as vines encircled his head, and smaller ones pressed over his mouth sealing his lips against his teeth.
She went to the hut and entered it as the man held the opening clear for her. She said nothing to him but went to the man secured against the trunk. Turning, she watched the man leave the hut as she kneeled in front of the man secured to the post. He struggled against the vines but he was securely held and bound tightly by the throat. She watched the labored movement of his chest as he tried to breathe. Her fingers traced his face as she smiled at him.
He looked to the woman in front of him, imploring her silently for help from the vines. She was nude and bronzed from the sun but it was her eyes that attracted his attention. He was shocked to see her eyes, golden amber, and the slits like those of a snake. She moved closer to him, allowing her arms to go around his neck as she gazed deeply into his eyes.
Ramiriz felt himself relaxing, as he could not draw his attention from her eyes. He could feel the vines continuing to tighten but her eyes were drawing him in and he could not resist her. She leaned forward as the vines fell from his mouth, kissing him before he could react to the sudden freedom. Her fingers massaged his shoulders but quickly turned into claws that tore into his skin. He tried to scream, to pull away, but she increased the pressure of her kiss. Suddenly he relaxed, a warm feeling spreading over him as she slid into his lap.
His head lolled against the post as she continued her kisses, moving from his mouth to his face until she was kissing his throat. Her touch was gentle until suddenly his neck exploded in pain as dragger-like fangs entered his throat. He tried to cry out as fire invaded his body, burning him as she continued to bite at his neck. Malaise flooded his body as the poison entered his veins. She plunged the fangs into his throat again, deeper to inject more poison into his body.
She withdrew from his throat; her body trembling as it begins to change. Willing the vines to withdraw, she quickly replaced them with coils of her lower body. Once her prey was captured she pulled him from the pole to the earthen floor of the hut.
He was suddenly aware that he was in the clutches of a large snake, which dragged him to the center of the hut as she continued to hold him, moving the coils up on his body. Her face moved in front of his eyes, the fangs dripping poison as she nuzzled at his face. Her lips moved over his, the pressure increased to push his head into he dirt floor. Once pinned, she force her serpentine tongue into his mouth, tasting him as it moved to his throat. She allowed him to struggle against her, the last killing was too fast and she derived no pleasure from it. This was going to be better!
She lay on the earth, holding him to her as she continued to kiss him gently, delighting in the smell of fear from his body. Part of her pleasure was that her victim knew that he was going to die but there was always the desire to survive. She allowed him to fight against her as she held to him, her kiss becoming more insistent as he struggled to get away from her.
Ramiriz was exhausted, caught in the grip of the giant snake. His arms and legs were completely pinned by the coils that moved slowly upward on his body. Her lower body was the coils and her arms were around him, claws digging into his back and scalp as she kissed him. He struggled against her tongue, feeling it enter his throat to disappear into his gullet. There was a deep burning pain in his chest and then another deeper pain in his left side as his heart raced to keep up with the poison and the damage that the razor sharp barb was doing.
His mind was growing fuzzy and he was surrendering to the coldness that was moving slowly over his body. A quick thought passed in his conscious; there was no cat… this was the monster that was bringing death! This was Quetzalcoatl!
He could scarcely breath as the coils begin to tighten. He could hear bones breaking in his body, pain… as the rib cage collapsed, sending jagged bones into his lungs. He gasped from the pain as she held to him, capturing his life energy as it poured from his body. Then there was no more pain.
The great snake held to the body, capturing the last of his life force as it left his body. She released him, transforming back tot he body of the young woman as the man reentered the hut. She looked at the man before her and smiled, her hand stroked his face as she kissed him gently. It had been a good death, she was pleased and satisfied this time. He took her hand and kissed it as she lingered with him for a minute before leaving the hut.
Admiral Nelson wandered around the camp, waiting for Ramiriz to return from the village. It had been several hours and he should have been back by now. He went back to the medical tent and stood over Jamieson until he looked up to acknowledge the Admiral.
"Yes?" Jamie asked.
"Anything to add?" Nelson asked.
"No, nothing." Jamieson replied. "I'm waiting for Pat to bring me something over from the sub. I thought that I would run a few blood tests to see what shows up in the blood."
"What are you looking for?"
"Nothing… anything… everything," Jamieson replied. "I don't know."
"I'm going to get Chip to go to the village with me." Nelson stated. "I'm concerned that Ramiriz hasn't returned yet."
"It's getting dark," Jamieson observed looking up at the sky. "I wouldn't be out there late… cats hunt at night."
"Yeah, I know," Nelson answered as he left Jamieson's tent. He went and found Lee and Chip at the fire. Lee was talking over some things with some of the men, while Chip was checking the list and a map that they had of the island.
Torches lit the village as Chip Morton wandered around while waiting for Nelson to finish talking with the leader of the village. Nelson had entered one of the huts with the man and had been gone for several minutes. Most of the people did not come out, peering out of doors at him but they would quickly move if he turned towards them or started to them. The village was unusual in the sense that he could not see any children or older people.
He wandered around and decided that he should examine the huts closer to see what seemed to be the reason for no children or elders. He noticed at the entrance to one of the huts was a braided snake with colorful bird feathers around the head. It has hanging near the door and was braided out of green grasses. A charm perhaps?
There was no one inside so he stepped in, looking about the crude shelter. It contained almost nothing, a bit of pottery piled in the corner. There was something that could be a bed, perhaps a fire pit. Tossed and abandoned in the corner was a cradleboard. It had been gashed badly, the cloth batting ripped and torn open. It was badly stained. Oh, my god! Chip dropped the cradleboard back to the dirt floor and turned to leave the hut. There was something covered near the door and Chip stepped over to examine what he had found. He pulled down the worn textile and looked into the face of a very dead Ramiriz. Chip replaced the cloth and picked up the cradleboard. He was certain now that he had some truths that he needed to share with Nelson.
He stepped from the hut and went to the next hut. Chip walked around it until he came to the entrance and looked around the door. Reaching up he found another braided snake charm lying on one of the supports for the thatched roof. He reached up and yanked it down, stuffing it into his pocket.
Chip walked up the council hut and entered. Inside was the man, who seemed to be the leader of the people, and a young woman. She had moved close to the Admiral but stopped when Chip entered the hut. She looked over at the man before rising to walk out of the hut. Chip paused, watching her leave, then turned back to the Admiral to say something. He stopped when he saw the mask-face on the opposite wall. He pointed to it and asked Admiral Nelson, "What's that up there for?"
Nelson looked up at Chip, annoyed that he had interrupted his talk. "What does it matter?'
"What is it?" Morton demanded. "It may play a very important role in what we are doing here." He looked down at the Admiral, seated on the dirt floor. "I also found Ramiriz."
"Where is he?"
"In one of the huts… dead as all the others," Chip responded. "What is the purpose of the mask?" he asked again with a sinking feeling that he knew how it was used.
Nelson looked up at the object. "It's of Quetzalcoatl, feathered serpent-god of the Aztec".
"This isn't Aztec," Chip responded as he dropped the small braided snake down on the ground between the men. "Ask him what that is," Chip commanded. He watched the reactions on the faces around him as the native scooted back from the snake.
Nelson picked up the small toy-like item and looked it over. "I don't know what it is."
"The man here seems to know something about it," Chip responded as he saw the expression on the man's face.
Admiral Nelson held the braided snake out to the man before them. The native scowled and backed away from it, shaking his head.
"Ask him about it; ask him where the children and the old people are," Chip continued. He dropped the cradleboard down on the ground in front of Admiral Nelson. "Look at the gashes on that thing."
Nelson picked up the damaged cradleboard and turned it over as he examined it. "Where did you get this?" he asked rising to his feet.
"The same hut that they had placed Ramiriz's body," Chip responded. "The gashes on the wood are the same on the bodies of the men that were killed. They know what we are looking for." He looked at the man that Nelson had been talking to. "He knows what we are looking for."
"Is this true?" Nelson asked, rising to take the cradleboard. He held it carefully as he approached the man, speaking to him. The man shook his head as he continued to back away from Nelson. "He doesn't understand."
"He understands more than he is pretending that he does. What is this?" he asked scooping up the small snake from the dirt. He was holding it in the face of the man as he spoke.
The native looked to Nelson and spoke quietly to him in English, "It is for the goddess from the temple… to appease her. The children and the old people have joined with the goddess. It is an honor for them to go to her for protection."
"Damn!" Chip spat out the word. "You know English? Why didn't you tell us? Why didn't you tell us what was happening here? All this time we thought we were looking for a cat."
The man looked at him, "Does it matter if I speak your language? I speak her language also and it was she that desired that you would all join with her… it is your blessing from her."
"Her blessing will not happen," Nelson replied. He turned to Chip, "A giant snake? "We will have to get in touch with everyone and let them know. I think it's the temple where we found Jennings body. Who's checking that area?"
"Lee and Ski. Lee said something about wanting to go back to see the temple," Chip answered.
"Okay, "Nelson responded. "Let's go back to the camp. I want to check something out." He nodded to the man who stood before them. He still had the cradleboard, holding it against his chest. "No more children will die from the snake. We will see to that," Nelson told him.
The man looked at Nelson, "They have not died; they have joined with her strength. You cannot kill a god."
"Yes, we can kill this one," Nelson replied, leaving the hut.
She stood in the shadows, watching the two men leave the village. Now they knew the truth so they would all have to die. They were not invited here, this was her island and had been for many thousands of years. It would be a simple thing to kill them all as they went thought their activities at the camp. She would wait for them.
The blond one would have to die first, he was the one that knew the truth. He had seen her and it would only be a matter of time until he remembered. She had to stop him before he told the others. She walked behind them as they went through the jungle. It would be easy to get him and the older man. Her steps became faster as she gained on them. The vines started rustling in the trees as she summoned them to her aid. This would be simple.
The Admiral stopped as Pat and Riley came from the opposite direction, each of them carrying a rifle and a blazing torch.
"Dr. Jamieson sent us to meet you," Pat explained as he stopped and handed Chip one of the torches. "He was thinking that it was getting too late and he wanted you back at the camp. He also had up to put up torches around the camp also."
"The torches may not do us any good," Nelson answered. "I need Jamie to run some tests. It's not a cat that we are after."
"What are we after?" Riley asked.
"A snake…" Chip answered.
"Man, I had a pet snake when I was a kid… how can a snake do all this?"
Nelson looked over at the younger man. "Riley, I don't think you had one like this."
"No, but I used to feed her mice…" he paused and swallowed hard, "…we are the mice, right?"
"Something like that," Nelson replied as they returned to the camp.
She lay up on the tree limb, realizing that she had lost her chance when the other men had come from the camp. She would have to go to the camp now, and get them one by one, as they were alone. It would be simple as they made so much noise that she could hunt them carefully. She trembled, turning into the hung snake as she glided through the tree branches, it was easy to make her way in the jungle, silently as she moved forward tot he camp.
It had been too hot during the day as they searched the jungle for signs of a large cat so he slipped away to the pool. He looked back, seeing the torches in the distance as they flickered around the perimeter of the camp. He slipped off his clothes and dove into the water, relishing the cool liquid on his skin. With the coming of night, that air had cooled some but it was still uncomfortable. He swam slowly over to the small waterfall, letting the water cascade down on his body. Closing his eyes, he leaned back, relaxing.
She paused, the great head rising from the ground as the tongue flicked from side to side smelling the aromas that were around the camp. She could sense the heat of the torches, but there were still shadows that she could travel in, silently as she wound her way pass the first tent. The blond man was there talking to another man who sat at a small table looking over something. It wasn't the older man.
She started forward, then stopped and turned, sensing something in the air. There was easier prey not far so she moved to the pool. It was far enough away from the camp and the torches, so it was right to take prey when it was available to her. The body of the great snake quivered as she rose up, changing into the form of the native woman. She walked up to the pool watching the man, seemly sleeping on the rocks ahead of her. Stepping into the pool, she dove, swimming toward him.
He heard a slight splash and opened his eyes and looked about. It was dark and the surface of the water rippled as a darker shape moved toward him. Someone was under the surface of the water swimming towards him. He sat up as the form rose from the water, water dripping from her body which was faintly lit by the torches. She seemed to glow golden in the night as she moved through the water silently towards him. As she came closer, he realized that she was naked and exceptionally beautiful.
She smiled at him as she stood in front of him. She pulled back her hair, exposing herself for his inspection and then stepped into his arms. He gathered up his prize, pulling her roughly to him, allowing his hands to slide down her back as he forced her to him. Turning, he pushed her to the rocks, his hands moving on her body. She offered no resistant to what he was doing and surprised him as she pulled him down to her. Kissing him gently on the lips, her arms went around his neck, forcefully holding him to her as she continued her kiss.
The serpent's tongue entered his mouth and he struggled and broke free from her. He pushed from the rock, surprised as he saw a small smile forming on her lips. "Stay back!" he cried out. "You're not right. What was that thing you put in my mouth?"
She continued to advance on him, smiling even though she said nothing. As she reached out to him, he slapped her hard across the face. She paused for a minute, a quizzical expression on her face and then she smiled again.
As he stood in the water, he felt something sliding about his feet. Looking down he saw large vines climbing up his bare legs. They moved swiftly and he could not move for fear of falling into the water. "What are you?" he asked in a shocked whisper. The amber eyes met his and he could feel her taking control of him as she stood watching him. He tried to turn his head, but her gaze held him as she stepped forward, touching him gently.
The vines continued to cover him, holding him to the spot. Taking his head into her hands, she forced a kiss on him. He tried to cry out, but he was muffled by her lips as she increased the pressure, sealing any sound from escaping his throat. The vines wound around the two bodies as she clung to him. She let him struggle, hitting her back with his fist until the vines finally captured him to her. She desired a plaything. The water was past their waist and he was completely under her control. She had plenty of time to enjoy him before the morning came.
The feeding urge was rising in her and she found it hard to resist it as she held to her new toy. Her face moved to his throat as she nuzzled it, watching the throbbing of the vein in his throat. She heard him moan, knowing that the effects of her kiss was wearing off and he was regaining control of his body. It was too late for him, she had to feed…
He felt her nuzzling the side of his throat, pausing before the nuzzling began again. He moaned as she jerked up his head, grasping it as her face swam before his eyes. He watched in horror as she opened her lips, stretching them back to reveal a cavernous pit. Long, slender fangs dropped from the roof of her mouth as she moved to his throat. His mind screamed in silent agony at the intense pain as she plunged them into his body. His throat would no longer work as the poison took quick effect, paralyzing the larynx as the liquid fire spread in his body. The poison had a narcotic effect on him as she continued the attack. His muscles stopped working as he could no longer stand, but the vines held… holding him to her as she continued her attack.
Clutching his throat, she waited until he slumped into her arms. The vines fell away from the bodies, receding back into the water. Satisfied that he was under her control she dove with him, cradling him to her as she swam deeper into the water. Her body trembled slightly as her legs begin to dissolve into the long fluid body of the snake. She quickly coiled about him, holding tightly to him as she moved out into the deeper water. Moving the coils upward on his body, she watched the small bubbles of life-giving oxygen being forced from his mouth.
The cold water began to revive him as she dragged him into the water. Being a diver, he tried to relax to save oxygen as he tried to find a way to escape from the demon. He fought against her, trying to prevent from being drowned. His fingers tried to pry the coils from around his legs as they moved up to his chest forcing the oxygen from his lungs. They reached the bottom and she settled into the thick mud, holding him tightly to her as he tried to struggle against her. She smiled as she heard bones breaking, a gurgling in his throat. He opened his mouth to scream; she attacked his throat again, delighting in the struggle as she ripped at the flesh.
The bubbles stopped and she moved to his mouth, suckling the warmth from him. Her tongue slip into his throat, moving down searching for his heart and the barb pierced it, killing it instantly as he ceased his struggle. She held to her toy, moving slowly in the mud as she fed. Blood poured from his ripped throat, staining the water.
Lee looked up from the map. "What was that?"
"What was what?" Chip asked.
"I thought that I heard something," Lee stated as he walked over to the opening of the tent and looked out into the darkness.
Chip joined him at the opening. "There's nothing to hear. Have you noticed how quiet it is out there now?"
"What are you saying?"
"I think it's out there… a snake."
"A snake?" Lee asked. "What are you talking about?"
"I think that I saw it that night in our tent," Chip answered. He continued to look out at the night. "I couldn't really remember anything until tonight in the village and when I was in one of the huts and saw the cradle board and Ramiriz's body, I seemed to remember something of a big snake."
Chip shook his head, "I'm not certain but it seemed really big in the beam of the penlight. It had amber eyes… There's a girl in the village with amber eyes. I told the Admiral on the way back and he's gone to talk to Jamie."
"What does the girl have to do with the snake?" Lee asked.
"You are probably going to send me back to Jamie, but I think that they are the same."
Jamie looked under the microscope one more time and then back at the Admiral. "After tests on Johnson's body showed one thing, I had them to dig up Jennings' body. It was there too… some kind of protein, like a neurotoxin. It could be a poison but I don't know where Jennings would have come in contact with it."
"What about a snake?" Admiral Nelson prompted.
"A snake… you think it's a snake that is killing people? To work that fast…"
"What about the Black Mamba?"
"Not here… and that wouldn't explain the cuts and the throat being… oh, my god," Jamie breathed as he stood up from the table. He walked over to the body lying a few feet away and pulled back the sheet. Turning to a side table, he picked up a few instruments and began to work on the throat of the cadaver. He returned to the microscope with a tiny piece of tissue and started preparing a slide. "Just let me check something here…"
"What are you looking for?"
Jamie leaned back in the chair, "If it is a snake, there would have to be an injection site where the poison entered the body. Black Mambas chew the tissue of their victims, increasing the amount of venom entering the prey, paralyzing the prey almost immediately. In humans it takes a bit longer, but the bite is fatal." He slide the slide under the eyepiece of the microscope. "If the snake is big…" Jamie's words stopped as he worked the dials, moving the slide around while he looked into the eyes piece. Suddenly he leaned back in the chair and looked up at the Admiral.
"It is a snake," Nelson stated, reading the expression on the man's face.
"It doesn't explain the cuts on the body…" Jamie continued.
"I'll let Lee know what we are looking for before he sends anyone out in the morning." Nelson turned from the tent and walked out into the night. He was surprised to find Lee and Chip standing at the opening, looking out into the campgrounds.
"What's wrong?" he asked the men.
"No sounds," Lee replied.
Nelson paused, looking around him at the black silhouette of the jungle. It was silent, not even the sound of any crickets, just the snapping of the fire as the logs burned lower.
"So it's here?" he asked looking at Chip. "The bodies contain a neurotoxin, much like snake venom. Gentlemen, we are after a snake… or maybe more appropriately, it is after us."
Lee nodded. "I'll get the men out as soon as it is light in the morning. I think we will stand a better chance in the day since we are looking for a snake."
Morning came quickly as none of the officers slept well that night. They would switch off standing guard over the camp, visiting the fire to have another cup of coffee. Jamie continued with his tests, pausing every so often to look around the tent.
Nelson came out of his tent, realizing that Jamie had never come to bed during the night. He saw him out at the fire, with the coffeepot, talking to Lee. The rest of the men were milling around, finishing breakfast and gathering together what supplies that they would need for the day.
"We are missing one man. No one has seem Adamson since last night," Chip announced, coming up the group. "They thought that he was with the search teams today but they are all back and he was not with any of them.
"No one was to leave camp on their own," Lee growled.
"Well, he's not here now…"
Lee turned to the Admiral. "We have set up search grids and I have the men assigned to grids. We will be looking for this snake as well as our missing man. Ski and I are going back to take a look at that temple."
Chip looked over the list. "My name's not on it."
"No, it's not," Lee agreed. "Neither is Patterson's… as it seems to only attack people in the camp… or in the village. I want you here, ready for it, as you seem to be the only one that has seen it and lived. Patterson is your backup." He took another sip of coffee. "There is a chance that when we leave camp it will come here… you will have to keep an eye out for the Admiral and Jamie too."
Lee bent over and picked up the rifle and turned to a group of men, "Ski, are you ready?"
Ski gulped down his coffee and handed the plate to Patterson, "Look after things, Pat!"
Lee and Ski walked into the jungle, watching the trees around them as they moved as quietly as they could.
"So how big is this snake?" Ski whispered to the Captain.
"Big, I don't know how big… maybe like an anaconda, except that it is poisonous. It seems to inject some type of chemical into the bodies of those it attacks," Lee answered.
"Why are we going to the temple?"
"Well, Ski, if you want to visit a god you go to the temple," Lee answered smiling. "It shouldn't be there as Admiral Nelson seems to think that it will go to the camp when we all leave. That's why we left Patterson and Chip there. I do think that there will be something there to give us a indication of what we are up against."
"You really think it's a god?"
Lee looked over that the man beside him, raising his eyebrows as they continued to walk, "The natives say that it is. If you want my person opinion, I would not be hunting a real god with a gun. We are after a large snake."
They had been walking for about 45 minutes when Lee stopped and pointed ahead. Ski could make out the rock of the temple. It rose off the jungle floor, well hidden except for a small circle that had been cleared around the base. The rock surface was well covered by thick green vines that climbed in and out the crevices of the rocks.
"How old is that thing?" Ski whispered.
Lee smiled at Ski's stage whisper. "Jennings' notes suggests that it is a couple thousand years old."
"We have to check that thing out," Ski continued. "I've always wanted to visit ruins like this."
"That's what I'm planning," Lee answered. "Shall we see if ruins a couple thousand years old can tell us anything?"
She hungered. A smell rose to her and she knew that someone had entered the temple. She slithered along the vines, moving to the center of the room. Below her was her next victim. The vines begin to rustle and move, growing as she waited for them to capture her prey…
Ski walked around the tiny room at the top of the temple, looking at the old vines that seemed to be everywhere on the structure. It looked old and smelled of decay. There were leaves at his feet, and pieces of the vines. Looking up at the ceiling, he was amazed at the mass of vines that grew above him. It would only be a matter of time until they destroyed the remains of the temple.
He walked over to the back wall, looking at the surface that seemed to be covered with etchings. He turned from the wall, his left hand tracing the drawings as he started toward the door. Suddenly, a vine snagged his hand, capturing it at the wrist. Ski turned as more vines grabbed at his legs, pulling him back against the wall. Ski struggled, dropping the gun as he tried to pull away. As he fought against them, they tightened around him, covering his body, holding him firmly against the wall.
He saw Lee turn at the sound of the gun hitting the floor, momentarily stunned by what he saw. "Skipper?" Ski called to him, his eyes pleading for Crane to help him.
Ski saw Lee had upholstered his gun. Vines slapping at his hands caused him to drop the gun to the floor as he moved forward to help Ski free himself from the vines. As Lee reached the center of the room something lashed out, wrapping around his throat, pulling at him. More vines dropped from the ceiling, engulfing his upper body. The quickly moving vines wrapped around him, tugging to lift him from the floor. As he struggled with them they quickly tightened, looping around his wrists and pulling them to his back. He was suspended inches off the floor unable to do anything as the vines continued to wrap around him. The ones on the floor reached up waving in the air, until they made contact with his shoes and raced up his legs, binding them together.
Something moved above Lee and Ski looked up at the ceiling as he struggled with the vines. The coils of the vines tighten on his throat, preventing him from crying out. Something glittered amber in the fading light as it slowly moved forward on the dark ceiling. The lack of light and the criss-crossing of the vines on the ceiling hid it from him until it moved closer. Fear of the unknown moved through his body as he realized that he was watching a huge reptilian body sliding through the vines. Kowalski froze, not resisting the vines, as he watched the movement on the ceiling; his heart started pounding. It was moving closer to the Skipper and Ski could do nothing to help the man.
Kowalski has always been afraid of snakes, but never admitted this to any one. He continued to stare at the huge reptile as it moved closer, its eyes glittering as it watched the two men struggling with the vines. The eyes fixed on Ski and he found himself relaxing against the vines as they tightened on his chest, forcing the air from his lungs. The pain was tremendous as the vines continue to tighten and the eyes bored into his mind. They wrapped tighter around his body, as they crushed his chest until the edge of his mind begin to get fuzzy from the lack of oxygen. Ski closed his eyes as darkness overtook his mind, oblivious to what was happening.
She turned her attentions to the man hanging in the middle of the room. The other was under the control of the vines, and would sleep until she got to him. She moved forward, delighted to see that he was struggling and fighting against his bonds. This would be a wonderful game… he still had not seen her.
Lee could not move his head well enough to see what Ski had seen. "Ski!" he barely managed to hiss. If he struggled, the vines moved faster, covering his body, pulling tighter as they stretched around him. Trying the opposite, Lee relaxed, hoping that the vines would stop their movement. To his horror, they did not, but took advantage of his stillness to tighten, spreading growing tendrils around his body. He heard something crack in his chest. His right side exploded with a piercing pain, he knew that ribs had broken under the pressure of the vines.
It was then that he realized what Ski had been watching move on the ceiling. The body of a huge snake dropped from the ceiling above him, moving massive coils over him. The coils whipped quickly into place, taking control of all movement. Lee shuddered as the huge head appeared, dancing before him. It moved closer to his face, the amber eyes mesmerizing. He stared into the eyes, finding himself growing weaker as they continued to bore into him. The amber eyes glistened with hints of gold, drawing him into their depths. He was exhausted and offered no resistance as a long thin tongue moved gently from the mouth, a razor sharp barb on the end probing as it explored his face.
Suddenly, the snake trembled, the head shimmering as its form fell away to be replaced by a native woman. Lee blinked back the pain, thinking that he was dreaming as her upper body formed, bronzed from the sun. Long black hair cascaded down her back, draping over her breasts. He could still feel the snake's muscled coils around his lower body.
Her long arms went around his neck, clinging to him as she kissed him. He was surprised at the strength of the woman as she clung to him; her arms holding him in a vise-like grip. Her lips were gentle on his, persistent as she continued the pressure on his lips. Revulsion filled him as she forced her tongue into his mouth. He pulled back trying to turn his head, choking as he realized it was the tongue of a serpent!
She stopped and pulled back, smiling at the man who tried to struggle in her arms. He had a strong will and great determination. She had found her victim for the night. She delighted in his resistance, as it added excitement to the killing. Withdrawing from his lips, she moved slowly to his throat.
He felt the light kissing as she nuzzled against his throat, then pain, a deep, stabbing pain! It grew in intensity as the pressure continued on his throat. She chewed the flesh, injecting more poison into the site, wanting to save him until she investigated the other man. He tried to cry out but no sound came from his throat. Burning agony slowly gave way to the injected narcotic as it raced through his body. He tried to resist the effect but he fell into a deep, drugged sleep that over took him as his mind went black.
It was hours later that he awoke, stiff and cold. Night had fallen and he was lying, secured by the vines, to a large rock that projected up from the top level of the temple. He was outside looking up at the stars; the pinpoints of light were blinding as he tried to focus on them. His right rib cage flared in agony and intense pain was in his throat. He tried to call out but his throat would not cooperate.
Lee's joints were was numb from the pressure of the vines. He moved feebly against the vines trying to get up from the stone. With his movement the vines jerked to life, tightening and encircling his body, pulling tightly to insure that he wasn't able to move. The narcotic in his system prevented him from being able to respond to anything. His body wanted sleep. Lee tried to remember what had happened but he was too tired.
She heard the prey behind her stirring as she caressed the cheek of the man that stood before her. He seemed frightened by her… frozen and unable to resist her as she touched him. She was delighted by this power that she had over him. She could feel his heart was pounding in his chest, his breathing coming in ragged gasps as she touched him. He would make a wonderful toy that she could play with after she fed on the other man.
She kissed his neck, before plunging the fangs into him, injecting him with her poison. It did not act swiftly enough as he cried out... His cry sounded over the jungle. She released him, letting him drop to the stone floor. It was too late for anyone to aid him, she would return to him later…
Lee had drifted in a twilight sleep until the Ski's scream woke him again. He was too secured by the vines to see what was happening nor could he really remember anything. Suddenly, the woman appeared over him and the memories came flooding back into his mind. Her finger ripped at his shirt and she smiled as she raked her nails into the tissue of his chest. He could only gasp from the pain.
Revulsion filled his body as she smiled at him. She climbed up on the stone, crouching over his body as she smile down at him. It was the smile that a beast of prey had for a small animal. He watched her mouth transforming into a maw, opening wide to expose long slender fangs that flexed out from her throat. She forcefully held his face, nuzzling against him, as he felt her body beginning to tremble. He could feel her legs moving, transforming into the thick, well-muscled body of the snake. The vines pulled back, releasing him as she gained control by wrapping the coils around his lower body. There was nothing he could do as the coils flowed tightly on his body and the crushing pain began.
Squeezing him as she nuzzled against his chest and throat, she searched for the right spot. Her hunger was so great that it drove her forward, moving her mouth to the muscle of his throat. She could feel his pulse at his bruised neck and she knew that she had found the right spot. She mustn't kill too fast this time. Opening her mouth, she captured his throat, driving the fangs deep into the artery, injecting more poison as she withdrew and plunged the fangs in again.
Lee tried to cry out with the pain, but his throat would not respond and there was no way that he could fight her. Her nails ripped at his flesh, as she sought to hold to him while chewing at his throat. Pain flowed over him as the long nails impaled his chest and the coils began to crush his body. He gave up. He did not have the strength to continue to try to resist her; she was far too strong.
She felt his body go limp as she held to him. Her body undulated as she moved the coils up, crushing to prevent him from drawing deep breaths. She heard him gasping for air as she released his throat.
He felt her release his throat as her mouth moved to his, kissing him firmly. The coils were at his chest, and continuing to tighten as she increased the pressure of her kiss. The pain was overpowering but begin to ease off as the poison quickly took effect. Lee was no longer aware at this point as he sank deeper into a drugged existence. Ice flooded into his veins and all sense of pain stopped. The remaining warmth of his body was drawn to her. She continued to suckle, slipping the fine black tongue between his teeth. There was no resistance as it moved down his throat, searching as his heart struggled to beat against the pressure on his chest from the coils. Nothing existed beyond this minute as he surrendered to her and darkness entered his world.
PAIN! A new sensation flooded her as something plunged into her body. Awareness returned as she realized it was not coming from the man that she was feeding on. She released her prey to turn on the creature, transforming into the giant body of the snake.
Someone was yelling at her as she tried to locate the source of the attack. Her prey was pulled from her as she turned her to attention to her attacker. She lashed out, the great tail whipping at the man. Again more pain as she felt him struggling to pull her away from the stone where she was coiled.
Chip struggled with the great snake, dropping the machete that was causing little damageas Jamie and Patterson pulled Lee's body from her. She continued to strike at Chip, lashing at him with her tail. Her fangs sank into his forearm as he cried out in pain. Immediately it went limp, no feeling as he backed away for the huge creature.
The tail struck out, knocking Jamie to his knees as he tried to shelter the Skipper from the blows of the tail. Patterson had gotten the rope around the giant head, pulling at it, trying to get some control over her. Jerking her body, she threw him off balance, sending him tumbling half way down the stone stairs as she slipped from the rope. Chip continued to wrestle with the huge body as she finally slipped to the edge, falling over into the deep grass below.
Chip started after her, but paused to help the Admiral ease Ski to a sitting position. Jamie was plundering in the bag that he had brought with him, pulling out a long syringe to plunge it into Lee's left chest area. He continued by plunging another needle into Lee's arm before leaving him to administer the same shot to Ski. He turned to Chip, pushing him to a sitting position on the stone as he readied another needle.
"Something to counteract the effects of the poison. We need to get them back to the camp immediately."
Chip turned to gaze down the side of the temple, the snake had disappeared into the jungle. "Admiral…"
"One thing at a time, Chip."
Pain! He struggled against the pain; her hand was on his shoulder…
"No, Captain. Let me give you something!" It was a male voice speaking to him. Somehow his mind registered that it was Jamie, talking to him in a soothing manner. He relaxed, letting Jamie slip something sharp into his inner elbow and his mind drifted. He could still hear voices fading in the background; Admiral Nelson was talking, his voice fading until it was gone.
Jamie turned from his patient to the Admiral. "He'll sleep for several hours."
Nelson turned to the other bed and saw Ski sleeping. Patterson was sitting in a chair by the bed, his feet propped up, flipping through pages of a magazine. He walked over to the bed. "How's the arm, son?"
Patterson nodded. His arm and shoulder was bound up in tape and a heavy cast from where he took a tumble from the top of the temple. "You think that they will be okay?"
"Jamie said that they will," Nelson promised, looking back at Jamie.
The Doctor nodded; this was one thing that he was certain of the outcome. What he couldn't explain was the fact that such a creature existed and what had become of her.
Nelson walked out of the room with Jamieson following him, "So how are you going to write this up?"
"Snake bite," Jamieson replied with no hesitation. "How else would you explain it, Admiral?"
Nelson looked at his friend and then walked to the door. He paused, looking back at Jamie. "I don't know. Did we find a snake or did we stumble on a temple of the ancient gods. Who knows?"
"And is she dead?" Jamie asked.
"I don't know the answer to that either," Nelson replied. "I don't know if we will ever know what we were up against. Jennings appears to have known something about it as his journal refers to 'she' several times. The villagers have disappeared and we found no remain of the snake or of the woman."
Nelson walked down the corridor and returned to the Control Room. He felt very comfortable in the room with the sounds of technology all around him, not the silence of the jungle. As he entered the room, Chip looked up from the plotting table.
"How are Lee and Ski?" Chip asked.
"They will be fine in time. They are both sleeping and Pat's shoulder is all right." Nelson looked at the man before him. "And what about you? Are you all right, Chip?"
Chip looked down at the plotting table, studying the map before him. "Yeah, I'm fine."
Nelson looked at the young man. "Are you sure, Chip?"
"I don't think I understand what we saw there," he admitted to the Admiral.
"I don't think I understand what we saw either," Nelson replied as he walked over to the viewport… his front porch… and collapsed into one of the chairs. 'No, I don't understand what we saw,' he admitted to himself.
The man rowed the canoe towards the mainland, with smooth strong strokes so it knifed swiftly through the water. The sun was coming up and he would be on dry land before long then into the thick coverage of the jungle.
He heard her moan and he reached over to pull the blanket from her body. The paste of the leaves had stopped the bleeding from the wounds and she slept fitfully. He reached over to check her, pleased to see that the worse of the wounds were already healing. He lifted her head and gave her a drink of water before recovering her with the blanket. He picked up the paddle and began to push the canoe forward in the water.
The End… or is it?