I woke up to the smell of coffee. Patrick was still asleep next to me, we were sharing a tent, but I could just make out Rodrigo and James speaking quietly outside. Not quite ready to get up, I laid there listening and soon realized they were not keeping their voices low so as not to disturb us. James was talking about something odd he’d seen yesterday, after I had left. He said he didn’t want to say anything to the rest of us and sound crazy, but he had to get it off his chest. He was sure one of the images on the wall had changed yesterday. Not that he saw it move or anything, but he had left for a minute and when he came back, he was certain it was different.
Whatever Rodrigo said in reply, I could not catch it, and then they fell silent so I decided to go ahead and stop eavesdropping. I got up and out of the tent, shaking my boots as a matter of habit now. James watched me, then said something about there being none in his, either.
I stared down at what I was doing, shaking non-existent bugs out of my boots. I looked back at James and Rodrigo, who both had the same look on their faces of knowing it was not right. I noticed it yesterday, I told them, the lack of anything alive here. I tried to say something about the Dead City living up to its name, but I choked on the attempt at humor.
James finally poured another cup of coffee and handed it over. I mumbled a thanks and sat down. I opened my mouth, then shut it again, but Rodrigo saved me the effort of having to figure out what to say. He suggested maybe it was better to leave now. We had the position on the GPS, we could easily return, but something about being here did not feel right. Even more today than it had yesterday when we first entered, there was a malice about the place. I was already about to agree with him, but what he said next froze my blood.
It’s as if something here wants us to be here, and I’m not sure I want to stick around to find out why. Those were his exact words, I can still hear them in my head.
No one said another word until Patrick came out, but he seemed oblivious to the gloom that clung to the rest of us. He got some coffee, joked about it looking like rain and asked how we all slept. Rather than answer, I got up to go relieve myself. I’m not sure what anyone else said.
When I came back there was already a disagreement brewing about what we should do next. Patrick insisted on staying the full day like we had agreed yesterday, while James was trying to calmly talk him into what we all felt was reason. There was nothing here that wouldn’t be here next year, nothing that couldn’t wait. But Patrick didn’t want to listen to superstitious nonsense, raising his voice about how long we’d all planned this, how long we’d all dreamt of it, and he wasn’t going to give that up just because we’d let our imaginations get the better of our heads.
Rodrigo finally spoke up. If Patrick wanted to be a fool and stay, then stay, but he was packing in and heading out within the hour. I kept my hands in my pockets and my mouth shut the entire time. The only thing I could have said was what I had heard and felt yesterday, and I didn’t want to even remind myself of what that had been, let alone try to tell anyone else.
James, always the cooler headed among us, acted as the diplomat and suggesting we all have some breakfast, calm down a bit and think it over before anyone did anything rash. Patrick snarled something about being up in the Andes with a bunch of pussies and stormed off; Rodrigo muttered in Spanish under his breath and went into his tent to pack, and James started to cook breakfast. I finally pulled my hands out of my pockets to help him.
It was about twenty minutes before we had a nice little meal ready. Rodrigo came out and apologized, but we had mostly agreed with him so we just accepted it and handed him his plate. Then we hollered for Patrick that breakfast was ready. Only, Patrick wasn’t there.