They plodded on and on before the torch began to give out. They’d left the hostel at eight this morning and it was beginning to get dark. The rapid sound of birds flying through the jungle canopy, a distant beating of some kind of drum. A monotonous humming, was that just in her head?
“This is bullshit, Julio,” she complained. “You have no clue how to get us out of here.” Her worst nightmare was getting lost. Before she’d moved to Manhattan to attend freshman year at NYU, she’d memorized the grid: avenues are north and south, numbered streets run east and west, 5th Avenue divides the island in half. New friends assumed she grew up there, and she embellished their fantasies.
But out here, in this inhospitable backcountry of Costa Rica, she felt clueless and her apathy began to turn to anger. Her blood felt as if it was beginning to boil. If she hadn’t opted to go hiking on their only day off. A group of students were there on a field trip, and their teacher asked if anyone was interested in a virtual tour of the national forest. To include the jungle: machete, packed lunch on the beach. Crossing rainforest streams. It sounded like a fantasy, but she was surprised. Not one other student raised a hand. She’d go solo? No, there’d be a guide, the teacher assured her.
Then last night, lying in bed, she’d wondered about Julio’s credentials.
I mean, who the fuck IS THIS GUY?
“Julio?” She’d stopped on the trail. His small, wiry frame turned in the dark. The torch cast a ghoulish glow to his face. She felt like they’d been going in circles for hours. Every sound around them caused her heart to race, the smell of wet leaves and damp earth made her dizzy.
“What?” he whispered.
Was he grinning? Her heart raced. She tried to swallow. Her mouth felt wooden. The canopy of tall trees made her feel miniscule. No one would even miss her.
He took a step toward her and the torch flickered, as if it would extinguish.