La Ciudad Muerta, Part VI

[Part V]

I called out again, telling Patrick to stop sulking and come and eat, but there was still no reply, no sign of him at all.  I yelled that this wasn’t funny, if he was just trying to get back at us for earlier.  Finally we let it sink in that this wasn’t his idea of a joke.

I asked if anyone noticed which way he went.  Rodrigo hadn’t, but that was to be expected.  James said he thought he saw him wander off across the avenue to the south half of the city again, but he didn’t watch him go all the way so he couldn’t be sure.  We looked at one another, an unspoken fear passing between us as all our eyes turned toward the temple.

He could have easily made it in twenty minutes.  It was a little less than a full mile, by my estimation, but as rash as Patrick could be at times, even I didn’t think he’d have run off without any gear at all.  That just made me all the more worried when I thought about it, because if he hadn’t run off… I didn’t let myself even finish the thought.  Rodrigo was already pulling his pack out of the tent, stripping some of the unnecessary gear and getting ready to head into the city to find him.  James and I wasted no time in following his example.

Though I felt the most likely goal would be the temple, the last direction James had seen Patrick heading was south, so it was decided we’d start there.  Maybe he had gone back to one of the places he and Rodrigo had been at yesterday.  Rodrigo said there had been one feature in particular that had caught Patrick’s interest, a circular room – or what would have been if the full walls and roof had been intact – with carved pillars around a sink-hole in the floor.

As Rodrigo described the hole, every hair on my body must have stood on end.  It sounded like exactly what I had found.  Rodrigo explained how Patrick had been taken by that room, so focused on it he barely wanted to see anything else after that.  He had found a small stone and dropped it, but neither of them could hear it land.  Patrick insisted the bottom was likely overgrown or mossy and had cushioned the fall, wanting to tie a rope off to the pillars and explore.  It was only the growing darkness that had turned him from the idea, insisting he would go back, go down that hole.

We had just started to head south when we heard a cry coming from the west, unless our ears deceived us.  We knew in that moment that, whatever his fascination may have been the day before, Patrick must have gone to the temple.  James shouted Patrick’s name a few times but we got no answer, though I swore I heard another cry.  The other two didn’t, but we set off at a run.

I tried to focus on what I hoped to be the most rational causes: he may have slipped and become injured, or was lost, but these wouldn’t account for him not returning our calls.  Maybe he hit his head and got knocked unconscious, but then we might not be able to find him at all if he couldn’t guide us.  My heart was trying to burst through my chest, fear pushing me faster than was safe on the slick carpet of moss over stones.  Something inside told me the answer was not going to be so simple.

[Part VII]

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