This story was written in answer to Fandango’s One Word Challenge. The word I had to use was ‘Edifice’
Edifice means: A large, imposing building. Or a complex system of beliefs.
Here’s what I came up with …
Everything had gone wrong. Having visited PumaPunku and Tiwanaku, I was to fly to Peru and visit more ancient archaeological sites including Machu Pichu. I drove to La Paz international airport for my private fight aboard a Piper M350 single-propeller plane. The white and midnight-blue aircraft was smart but it had a major fault. Almost an hour into the flight the engine died, failed to restart and we crashed into the jungle.
That’s how I found myself sweating buckets, hanging upside down in the remains of the fuselage. My safari shirt is torn from the twisted remains of the plane’s wall; shredding it and me. I always keep a survival knife with me. I cut myself free of my broken seat belt with a bleeding hand. I fall onto the roof and slide toward the gaping hole where the cockpit and engine used to be. Instead, I’m looking out and down to the ground thirty feet below. The pilot is down there. Unless heaven has an airport he’s never flying again.
With no choice, I leap out, catch a vine and use that to reach the ground. “S.T.O.P,” I say to myself remembering the old survival code. “Situation, Threats, Observations, Plan. My plane crashed into a dangerous jungle; everything is a threat … My pilot doesn’t have his head – I’m leaking from several places and I’m screwed. So, I have to start walking.”
I search the debris littering the undergrowth and consolidate some equipment. A machete, first aid kit, a little food and a couple bottles of water. I get all that into a rucksack. I find my Stetson and pull that onto my head. It alone makes me feel stronger.
The hot jungle soon swallows me. After a few minutes, I can’t navigate back to the plane if I want too. I feel drunk through blood loss and stumble over every damned vine, tree root, and rock I come across. Mosquitoes drone about in their millions as they feast upon my sweating flesh. All manner of creatures and birdlife can be heard moving about the high tree canopy full of bromeliad flowers and undergrowth.
Then the light begins to fade. I know I have to make camp before night properly arrives. Ignoring the howling of monkeys, I move around some of the largest trees I’ve ever seen and then I see it.
Towering out of the buddleias and fiscus is an edifice like no other. My heart races as I try to remember the geography and the map. There should be no ruins this way. Nothing exists in this part of the jungle and yet here is stone pyramid peeking from beneath centuries of undergrowth, vines and magnificent red heliconia lobster claw plants.
This could be my salvation. Wiping sweat from my face; I begin to climb the edifice in a state of wonder. A hiss causes me to freeze in my tracks. A lethal, green Fer-de-lance viper curled on the ledge to my right.
“Take it easy, pal,” I say. Using my hat to get his attention, I slowly back away and continue my ascent.
Reaching the top, I find myself on a small square plateau. I’m still within the damned canopy. My hopes of finding a patch of clear sky to signal from were dashed. The bloody jungle is too dense and suffocating. Even the most majestic red and blue macaws sitting in the branches up here don’t lift my gloom.
“Fire. I need fire to survive the night. Moving forward I step down the other side of the pyramid and fall. I drop maybe ten feet and slam into stone. Dazed and wracked with pain, I can do nothing but cough and wheeze for a while. Then I notice it; I’m sitting on the porch of a doorway into the pyramid. Very few pyramids I’ve seen in the Americas have ways inside beyond the ritual niche at the top; which this one didn’t have.
I hurriedly examine my first aid kit. It contains a flint and striker. Gathering wood and tinder, I use the flint to make sparks and soon have a fire going. I also find some bamboo. Using that, I make a flaming torch and enter the pyramid.
It’s a horror show, the walls are lined with enormous cave spiders and bats. Doing everything in my power to avoid the creepy creatures, I move deep inside. The only sound, my breathing and heartbeat trembling through my body. My torchlight flickers upon a pedestal. A skull sits upon it, surrounded by human bones. Approaching, I reach out a hand and an arm wraps around my neck.
Vice-like it squeezes against my trachea leaving me choking. The impossibly strong owner drags me from the pyramid, like a child. Outside, I’m dumped on the ground of the porch. No less than twelve native men wearing loincloths and white paint are standing around me. Each aiming a spear, no doubt tipped with poison, at my chest.
“My plane crashed. Can you help me?” I explain in English and Spanish.
“You should not have come here. You never come here again,” warns the one who grabbed me.
“I promise. Please take me back to civilisation.” I roll onto my knees and clasp my hands before me.
The leader rolls back his head and laughs. Uttering something to his companions; they too laugh. I assume he’s calling me a ‘white coward’ or something of that derogatory nature. But in this situation who wouldn’t be scared.
The chatter stops without warning.
“Come.” Says the leader jabbing me forward.
“Thank you.” I rise and we descend the pyramid. Within two minutes the forest breaks and becomes a riverside village of bamboo and logs. These villagers turn out to be some of the friendliest people I’ve met in the Americas. They give me food and water and treat my numerous wounds. I remain with them for two days. On the third, they again make me promise not to reveal what I’ve seen to the world. When I agree, they put me in one of their canoes and take me to the outskirts of the nearest city. By the time I turn t thank them, they’ve gone; melting back into the forest. I will honour my promise by never seeking them or the pyramid out again.
Have a great day!