The excavated ruins still gleamed in their rainforest surroundings. From where she sat atop the pyramid, she could see across the forest’s canopy roof but night was falling and its inhabitants were cloaked in darkness. She flicked the switch of the torch uselessly for she knew the battery was dead. She could have kicked herself for not replacing it back at the village when she had the chance. From within the shadows of the forest, a solitary shriek was uttered, a cry somewhere between human and animal.
Just a bird, she told herself.
Fingers trembling, she took her packet of cigarettes from the inside pocket of her jacket. The flame of her lighter flickered on and off. She pulled the thin denim about her shoulders and shivered. In the distance, she could just make out the silhouette of the hillside against the dusk sky and the lights of the town barely visible and she roughly calculated how long it would take her to get there. She knew she should wait til morning but the forest howled again, urging her to take a last drag of her cigarette and get unsteadily to her feet.
She turned and pressed both palms against the ancient stone, now cold and rough on her skin. Her fingers scraped for crevices and her knees buckled under the weight of her body. The last few metres she let herself drop and crashed to the stony ground, landing heavily on one ankle. She touched the scratches on her arms gently and winced. When she stood up and walked, she had to stifle a cry of pain.
She covered her eyes with one arm so as not to have to look at the body heaped at the foot of the ruins, lying exactly as it had fallen. She could not help but peek through her fingers anyway. His face was streaked with the dust that had been raised during the scuffle, his eyes were still open and stared up at the shining ruins rising above him, as if expecting some answer to his death to lie therein. He had a look of surprise on his face, unmarked by the creases crinkled about his unseeing eyes.
From this angle, she could almost make-believe he was just resting a little, lying like that with his head leaning against the foot of the pyramid, until they continued on their journey. He would get up any moment and lead her back out through the rainforest the way they had come. It would still be daytime but they would laugh about how dark it was in there and maybe he would point out the native birds and they would stop a while and listen to their cries, then they would pause by the waterfall as they had on the way in, ripples dappled in sunlight streaming through the latticed roof of the rainforest and they’d splash water on their faces and laugh again.
They would make their way back to the village and return to the restaurant where she had met him and she would thank him for the day and pay him and go back to her hotel, stretch out on her bed and rest. She would call her mother and tell her what a wonderful time she was having. She would look at her photos, the one of her smiling face posing in front of the ruins, the one that he had insisted on taking of her. Her smiling face.
Right before he…
She wiped the tears from her eyes with a dirty hand and slumped down next to him. She leant against the cold stone and looked away from the back of his head, crumpled from where the rock had smashed it, and out to the cavernous rainforest, lit only by the moonlight’s reflection on the ruins.
The ground around the ruins was speckled with accumulated trash thrown by tourists. Beside his corpse, the rotted garbage just lay there stinking.