“Out there, in the wilderness, we discovered the bones of a god.”
Arthur couldn’t believe his luck. He never thought he would be given the grant from the beginning, and when the project had been approve to conduct a dig in the remote jungle of the Amazon rainforest. Most of it was protected, but the Brazilian government had given them a very small window of opportunity for him and other archaeologists and somehow Arthur had squeezed out ahead of his competitors. He didn’t even care that he didn’t have high expectations of what he might find, or that his moves were shadowed by men with guns. This project was a once in a lifetime opportunity and it gave him bragging rights over his peers, right he planned to invoke at every inopportune moment in the future.
While Arthur expected to find bits of pottery and tools of past civilizations, maybe even a few skeletons that were consumed by the voracious jungle, Arthur never thought he would find more. At first he thought he might have discovered the skeleton of a dinosaur, but as more and more of the bones were unearthed, it became clear that the skeleton was something else. It was almost human, almost. The feet were split with two toes on either side that appeared to be more prehensile than a man’s. The creature’s back curved forward and the torso produced four arms instead of two. The skull was disturbingly human aside from the fangs.
Arthur wanted to believe it was a hoax, but all the tests he ran showed that he was dealing with genuine bone. He began to grow afraid of his findings and he stopped making official reports and instead kept a journal with him at all times to record his thoughts. The men with guns didn’t seem phased by the findings and Arthur felt their attention more keenly as more bones were exposed to the humid jungle air. If he was allowed to leave the country alive, Arthur would be a lucky man indeed.
At night the jungle whispered outside of his tent. One night it became so loud that Arthur was certain he could make out words being passed back and forth between the trees. He took his flashlight and decided to tell off whoever was breaking curfew. He found the campsite asleep, but as his beam of light cut through the darkness he saw the figures in the trees. Natives, with their dark skin bared to the jungle, vanished into the jungle before he could count them. Arthur fled to the safety of his tent and kept his .38 Colt revolver in hand for the rest of the night.
In the morning Arthur told his co-workers about seeing the natives, but he was assured that they were no where near the tribes that practiced cannibalism. Arthur wasn’t wholly convinced, not when he looked upon the great skeleton in the ground with its sharp teeth meant for ripping apart flesh. The more they uncovered around the monster, as Arthur thought of it, the more it became clear that the people that lived in the jungle had known of its existence. A tomb-like structure had been build around it and there were pots found scattered around the edges like offerings.
No, Arthur thought as he walked the perimeter of the dig, a primitive man didn’t leave gifts for a monster, they left offerings for what they saw as a god. Arthur felt certain of his theory as he stared at the empty eye sockets of the man-like creature. It frightened him. Even dead, the bones lying inanimate, Arthur could help but feel the shakes that threatened to cascade down his arms and legs just from looking upon the past. He couldn’t even bring himself to touch it.
That night he didn’t sleep. Instead he sat on his cot, gun in his lap, and listened. The whispers came as soon as the moon was above them, its silver light filling their small clearing with a luminescence glow. Arthur closed his eyes and concentrated on the sounds. Tonight they sounded closer, and Arthur could only surmise that the natives were chanting. The words they spoke were unfamiliar, but they were repeated like a spell. Arthur worked his mouth around the strange words, repeating them slowly until he could say it in unison with the ghostly whispers outside of his tent.
He wrote them down, phonetically, when the sun rose high enough for him to see. He stood in front of the skull while he waited for their appointed translator to wake. The dig felt different that morning, prints of bare feet were tracked over the soled boots of the workers. Arthur studied them in the morning light, mentally drawing up how they had stood in a semi circle around the skull. This is where they had chanted, he thought to himself. He whispered the words to himself, causing his heart to race and his eyes to flick fearfully up at the lifeless eyes of the fallen god.
“Arthur?” Alvaro stepped over the ropes dividing the dig into sections. “Are you alright?”
The archaeologist drew himself away from the gaping maw of the god to blankly regard the translator.
Alvaro’s dark eyes swept over him in concern, “You do not look well.”
It took a great stint of will for Arthur to collect his thoughts enough to raise the piece of paper and read off the words he had chanted with the dark whisperers through the night.
“That is not Portuguese, Arthur.” Alvaro shrugged in apology. “It sounds a bit like tupi antigo.”
“Do you recognize any of it?”
Alvaro looked away, giving away his lie. “No. It is foreign to me.”
Arthur grabbed the smaller man and pushed him up against the skull so that the sharp teeth could be felt pressing against the flesh of his legs. “Do not lie to me.”
Alvaro squirmed, his hands scrambled across the bone to seek enough purchase to push away from the skull. He cut his palms on the sharp edges of bone and smear blood across the white expanse. Arthur released him, his eyes draw to the crimson streaked across old bones and suddenly knew what the natives were chanting. The translator scrambled away and Arthur let him. The archaeologist hover his palm over the fresh blood, his gaze drawn to the empty sockets of the god. Again he whispered the chant and he felt the god look upon him.
In that moment, Arther understood.
He waited until the sun retired but before the full moon could reach the climax of her dance across the sky. He slipped out of his tent while the rest of his companions were drifting off to sleep. Against his thigh he held the Colt revolver, next to it he had strapped a machete the men used to beat back at the forest that was always trying to encroach on their dig site, perhaps trying to cover up the behemoth. Their efforts were in vain. They had found it, and it had found Arthur.
Arthur slipped into Alvaro’s tent, clamped a hand over the man’s mouth and held the gun just before his eyes that snapped opened. “Come with me. Make a sound and I’ll shoot.”
When Arthur removed his hand, Alvaro began to plead for his life. Arthur smashed the butt of his gun into the man’s nose and the whimpering ceased. He forced Alvaro to his feet, pressed the gun to his ribs, and walked him to the dig. Alvaro struggled to escape him just before the pit, but Arthur was stronger and kicked him in the small of back. Alvaro fell in a graceless heap at the bottom and didn’t move. Arthur quickly descended the nearby ladder and picked the smaller man up by the arm and dragged him to kneel before the gaping maw of the hungry god. Alvaro swayed but Arthur held him still with one hand while he exchanged the gun for the blade with the other hand.
The moon began to peak over the top of the canopy and the whispers stirred with the breeze. Arthur joined them, his lips moving in foreign ways as he chanted with the night. The jungle moved around him, coming alive as his voice grew louder. Power resided here with the god, thrumming just below the surface and all it needed was a sacrifice. A little blood. It had rested here hungry for so long.
The moon glinted silver-blue against the machete as Arthur raised it above his head.
“Pára!” A man shouted from above.
Arthur didn’t lower his arm, but moved his head just enough to glance the gunman from the corner of his eyes. A maniacal smile spread across Arthur’s face and he swung the blade down at Alvaro’s unprotected neck. The blade bit deep and Arthur wretched it free, spraying blood across the great skull. He had time to swing a second time before a series of bullets too him across the arm and chest. He dropped the blade and fell into the dirt along side of Alvaro. Blood quickly pooled around them, mixing with the dirt and bone. As the world darkened around Arthur, he gazed up at the mighty skull. He smiled one last time as the empty eye sockets filled with a devilish red glow.