The Swamp (Part Five)
Hendricks spent the next few hours laying on his back, staring up at the constellation of what he was now convinced could only be diamonds. He could be wrong, he thought, but deep inside he knew he was not. Although, admittedly, it seemed too good to be true, these could be nothing other than real, rough diamonds imbedded into the rock, just waiting there for someone, no, that wasn't quite right, just waiting there for him to find. Of this he was dead certain on a deeper, more primal level.
He did not believe in accidents or happenstance. All of this was predetermined.
How many people had traveled over these same jungles over the years? How many people had gotten themselves lost here? How many of them would have fallen into that particular pool and how many would have seen a shaft of light from below, piercing the darkness? And just how many of those were like him, injured, starved, thirsty, and desperate? Would they too have been curious enough to dive back down and explore those murky depths?
No. This, he knew without having to analyze it further, was a miracle. He had been drawn down here by a greater force, an overriding intent that some would call Fate, others God.
Did diamond mines even exist in Panama? He had to be honest to himself and admit that he did not know the answer. He pushed back the notion that If there had been diamond exploration in Panama he would have heard of it somehow, especially since he prided himself on having knowledge regarding Panamanian history and general knowledge.
But none of that mattered. What he previously did or did not know was immaterial here. Because here in front of his very eyes was proof. A gigantic underground cavern literally encrusted with what he would swear were diamonds.
He knew what he had to do. He knew he had to remember exactly where the pool was and it seemed to him that it would be an almost impossible task since he had very little idea as to where exactly he was in Panama. This was also an assumption on his part that he was even in Panama. He could have been taken to Coiba, for instance, an island directly to the south, near the western end. If that were true, he would probably never be able to leave the island. Coiba was notorious for its prisons, but according to what he knew, all of those facilities had been shut down many, many years ago.
Even if he could somehow mark the spot, how could he possibly find his way back to it through a jungle in which he was completely and utterly lost?
Had he not been so exhausted he would have laughed at the irony of his predicament. The diamonds in this cave would make him by far the richest man in Panama, maybe the world, he thought, yet he might not be able to ever recover them.
He got up and went to one section of the wall where the diamonds stuck out a little more prominently. Picking up a large rock, Hendricks banged all around the diamond, freeing it. Hendricks picked up the irregular shape and cleaned it off as best as he could. He was no expert but the diamond that he held in his hand had to be at least five inches across and had to weigh at least a half pound. Once cleaned, polished and faceted, the finished diamond would weigh at least fifty karats. He stuffed it into his pocket. He broke off a few more smaller pieces knowing that if he ever got out there he would need something to use as currency.
With his pants stuffed with diamonds, Hendricks approached the edge of the water. He looked down. The dark water mirrored his image back at him, unfathomable. He prepared himself, took a deep breath, then dove in, pushing down into the dark depths. He reached the wall where he thought the tunnel entrance should have been, but could see very little. He felt the wall blindly, looking for the entrance. After a minute of this, he swam back to the surface and crawled out onto the bank again, tired and despondent.
He stayed there for a while, trying to regain some energy and find the will to continue. Again he stood up, breathed deeply, and dove. Once again he searched the walls, this time quicker, using up lots of energy.
Suddenly, he found it: a large, jagged hole in the wall. This had to be his tunnel and he swam into it, pushing forward blindly, feeling the slimy walls with his outstretched hands.
His lungs were bursting in his chest and it seemed that the tunnel went on much longer than it had when he had first swam through it. A wave of dizziness swept over him and he saw sparkles of light swimming in his vision like flourescent, runaway sperm.
Hendricks realized with a sickening certainty that he was at the Point of No Return. He had neither the energy nor air supply in his lungs to go back, and if he did not find the entrance on the other side, he would most likely die down here, his body never to be found.
He pushed on, refusing to give up, refusing to be beaten. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity he came to the end of the tunnel and kicked for the surface. His lungs did not make it to the top and he swallowed some water before breaching the mossy surface of the pool into the darkness of the jungle, sputtering and coughing. He managed to crawl and climb his way up the muddy, slippery steep banks, where he rolled onto his back gulping in great mouthfuls of dank air.
Once again, he heard the mosquitos droning overhead, criss crossing the air desperately, some landing on his face and arms. This time he did not swat them. This time he silently thanked God that he could hear them, that he had somehow managed to escape yet again, this time from a watery death.
He felt his pockets and knew that his treasure was safe. Hendricks got up slowly. It was dawn he realized and the orange glow of the sunrise could be seen coming from what had to be the eastern horizon. Now he knew his direction and where he must go.
Carefully, he walked around the area and noted as many landmarks as he could. Using a sharp rock, he carved symbols into the sides of trees. He would carve these personal markings as he made his way through the jungle. He would use these to lead him back here someday, if he ever got out of this jungle alive.
But somehow, he knew that he would survive, that he was destined to come back here one day. That this place was his and no one else's. He felt it in his marrow. This was no cosmic accident. It was Karma, of this he was dead certain. He held no fantasy that the remaining days and nights in the jungle were going to be anything but frought with danger and torturously difficult, but he knew that this was just part of the price that destiny would demand of him for showing him the way to this incredible treasure.
No matter, he thought. No matter. He would make it. And he would come back.
to be continued
Read Part Six of "The Swamp" by bludstream
- The Swamp (Part Six)
Hendricks spent the next two days and nights in the jungle. Even though he was constantly on the verge of passing out from hunger and exhaustion, at least he had solved the problem of thirst early on. ...
Read "The Thing in the Corner" by bludstream
- The Thing in the Corner (Part One)
Sam Hayes shuffled along Clay Street near Union Square in San Francisco. It was an unusually warm Indian Summer day and he was sweating as he trudged up the steep hills. Sam stopped at the top of the...
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