by Azure James
“It is in one’s soul to explore,” said the great scholar Henry William Buckle. “For in exploration one may discover new parts in himself as well as in the world surrounding him.”
However, I never considered myself much of an explorer until the night of September 14, 1923. I was down in a sparsely-inhabited part of Florida, visiting family who had moved there only recently. I had come down with my mother and father, and for about a week, we had a fairly enjoyable time eating socializing, and drinking in the sweltering Floridian heat.
On the eighth day of my excursion, I was talking to my uncle about the weather in Florida. Suddenly, all sound faded out and my uncle’s talking sounded like it was taking place a hundred feet away. He shook my shoulder but I could hardly feel it. His image was blurred in front of me, and I felt a strange sense of blankness inside.
A second later, everything more or less went back to normal and we both dismissed the episode as a trivial consequence of the change in climate from New Hampshire to the most tropical state in the Union.
The day dragged on, and at the setting of the sun most of my relatives went to bed. I gradually felt some strange feeling in me intensify. I couldn’t tell exactly what it was, but it felt like some pull in me to leave the ranch-house and head into the murky forest to the south. I walked out of the house and leaned on the wall, thinking.
The heat was more tolerable now, so that being outside was quite comfortable. Black dragonflies buzzed about overhead. A light grey mist hung over the tree-tops. There was a small patch of grass surrounding the house, but around that was a jungle that stretched on for miles. Huge swathes of it were unexplored and virgin. It was filled with wild beasts and all manner of bugs. My heart began to beat faster as I thought of slinking out into the trees and feeling the isolation and wilderness first-hand. I knew there was something out there, calling me to it. I could not, however, tell if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
I felt conflicted. I went back in the house and saw my young six-year-old cousin sitting in front of a bookshelf. He was the only one who was awake. I had nobody else to talk to.
“Billy, what are you doing? You shouldn’t be awake at this time of night.” Billy looked apologetic.
“Sorry. I just couldn’t get to sleep. It’s too hot for me.
“I understand…” I said. “Billy- do you ever feel like you want to go out there and… see what’s in that forest?” I asked bluntly. Billy looked surprised, but he nodded his head quickly.
“I do. It’s right there. But I know mama would yell at me. I shouldn’t.”
“Good choice. That might be a bad idea. It’s not safe out there,” I said. “Good night, Billy. I think I might go outside for a minute. See you tomorrow.”
“Good night,” said Billy, in his cute alto voice.
I walked back into my room, where I was bunking with my uncle whom I had talked to earlier. In my suitcase, there were several useful items. I found a belt knife, lantern, and bottle of water out of it. The force came over me again. My mind drifted out of my body for a few seconds, making what the wall in front of me look dreamy and blurred. I heard a slight droning, quiet but noticeable.
“It sure would have been great if I’d packed my revolver,” I mumbled. My idea was crazy. No-one in my family would ever approve of me doing what I was doing. Actually, my aunt had told me to stay around the house.
Still, the feelings I got were somehow telling me that I needed to get out and explore the wilderness. I put on my backpack and walked out of the house slowly, trying to delay my leaving as much as possible. There was a sadness in my heart at leaving the house, but also a somber responsibility.
Responsibility for what?
I felt the grass giving slightly under my boot. The trees loomed up like buildings. I brushed aside the vines and bushes and entered the dark underworld on nature. Crickets and cicadas sang, uninterrupted and loud. The smell was an overpowering mix of pine and rotting matter.
Slowly, I moved through the forest. The growth was so thick that I could hardly get through it, even if I tried my best. Still, I pressed on. I heard the ripping of my clothes from the sharp thorns, but my mind was set.
Time became ethereal as I blazed a path through the woods. I swatted at pesky bugs but on a few occasions felt a stinging pain when one escaped my hand.
Eventually, after hours of monotonous labor, I could make out a strange clearing in the tree-tops above me. I was miles away from habitation. My heart began to race again as I got closer and closer to the clearing ahead of me.
I broke through the trees, and what was in front of my eyes left me speechless.
Looming above the trees was a forgotten, colossal structure. Its size and bulk sent shivers down my spine. Darkness enveloped it, but I could tell that it was not new. No, my nose and instinct told me it was ancient. For the first time in hours, I felt like I could think again. But the feeling of some strange attraction towards the monument never ceased.
Who had created this stone building? To answer the question which burned like an open fire in my head, I walked towards the monument. The long grass creaked and sloshed under me like a swamped wooden house. My feet were soaking and numb. Soon, the thing loomed above me, cold and silent.
It was a gigantic, stepped obelisk. The closest thing to it would be the pyramids made by the Meso-American people in ancient times. However, it was tall and needle-like, unlike the broad and dull shape of the other pyramids. The color, also, was eerily different. It was a dark, coppery rust. I could not tell if it was made of metal or some unusual stone. Something about the obelisk was more off-putting than I’d ever imagined the Mayan pyramids to be.
I tried to count the steps on the building. It had many tiers, and they made the obelisk much thinner as it got higher. At the very top, it couldn’t be wider than a foot or two. The top was amazingly far away from me. I wondered if there was some ancient treasure hidden up there, silently calling me.
Out of curiosity, I walked around the circumference of the bottom. It was much wider at the base than at any other part. Still, the walls couldn’t be more than twenty feet in length.
I held the lantern up to the wall to get a better look at it. The wall was covered in some strange writings or hieroglyphs which I had no hope of understanding. My stomach started to tie itself in knots. I was the first person to see this building in… years. Maybe even centuries.
Not content to stop there, I slowly moved the lantern to the other side of the wall, looking for any interesting signs on the wall. All I could see was more and more pictographs.