The city was deserted. Everyone cleaned the sweat of their heads as they began walking through the empty stone yards that were covered in moss and roots. Most houses were made of solid rock but had crumbled centuries ago due to earthquakes and the growth of plant life. It was a beautiful but eerie sight, to see so many buildings all empty, no sign of life. They were covered in beautifully done “bas reliefs” depicting various images from the people that had apparently built the city.
Every member of the expedition was now working, no longer trekking through the jungle to get nowhere. They had arrived and this was their price. The camp was built very fast, consisting of sleeping bags for everyone and mosquito nets to prevent people from getting sick during their sleep. They also one tent for meetings only where they held several weird apparatus and various maps of the region.
When they began really exploring the city, they discovered it was much bigger than anything they had imagined and that they need to have more people in to help them with the cause. They asked one of the younger members of the party to go back to the town on the coast they departed from in order to call for more people to help them. The kid complied and left fast, on one of three donkeys they had brought with them.
An entire day passed before they realized most of the art in the city depicted a fantastic creature: they were birds, in a flock. But, according to the drawings, the flock could transform into a bigger, gigantic bird that could sleep in the sun or have the power of the sun. That last part wasn’t very clear yet, as there were only images and no alphabet in any of the houses. The whole site was just about the imagining and the architecture, which consisted in at least a hundred houses in a roughly cube like form.
Meanwhile, others decided to make a map out of the city and discovered the city was even bigger. Maybe it had been a very large city in the past but had shrunk before finally falling to time or some other reason. Some rocks looked older, and more affected by time. The site were they slept, with the houses still holding on in most of their structure, had apparently been abandoned. Some of the members of the team were sure this had happened only a few centuries ago, maybe even only a hundred of years ago. Others were not so sure.
The more ancient parts of the city were difficult to recognize as the trees and the ground had quickly eroded the stone floor. The specialists did some testing and discovered something strange: the rocks on the “older” part of the city were actually not older than the rest. Tests found out the whole city was only a few hundred years old, at most. So something strange had happened were the center of the old town had not been as affected as the rest of the city.
Two more days passed and some were already worried about the boy. The trip back to the port should have only taken him a day and he had been away for three. Some thought that maybe something bad had happened to him but the strange thing was that, in their way there, they had not encountered any ferocious animals or difficulties to surpass. They had cut through the jungle and had to stand the mosquitoes and the heat but nothing else. They realized they had never thought about it and decided, the ones that were botanists and biologists, to make a tour around the ancient city to find which species lived there.
The search was useless as they found only some insects and a couple of bird species. Something was very wrong, as close by regions were known because of their rich fauna and flora. And this place seemed almost dead. Only the trees were really living there. Besides them, only some ants seemed to play a role in the environment. The following day, they decided to widen their range: they would walk a whole kilometer and then circle the city. But again, nothing appeared. There were no mammals or big reptilians, no frogs or big birds. They weren’t even nests in the trees. The botanists took some tree bark and decided to do tests on it to see if they jungle floor was somehow toxic.
By the fifth day, the team was a little bit hopeless. They had traveled half way around the world and the place they had arrived to seemed dead, with nothing that interesting to see. All the bas-reliefs had been accounted for, not that it made any difference. In every house or building, there were exactly the same drawing of the flock of birds and the one of the gigantic bird attacking people with fire. For all intents and purposes, the people that had lived there had been dead for only a hundred years but had not made any real advancement except for their architecture.
Some scientists, in the meeting held late at night, thought it was possible that the people that lived there had come from some other region and had quickly left after realizing the area was, somehow, toxic. But the tree bark’s tests didn’t show any massive toxicity. It was very normal although its cells looked strange in the microscope. They looked like the cells of a younger tree and not as big as one of those who grew there. They decided one night to stay only three more nights, in order to arrive at the port at the same time that the boat that took them to the capital city and then to their home.
The thought of home was interrupted the following day, when one of the few women in the group yelled desperately. Many came to her aid and realized she had discovered something awful: the kid they had sent to the port had been found hanging inside one of the houses of the old city. The woman had woken up early to check the art there again and had found the poor creature. They took him down from there and realized he had a big splinter on each eye, almost used as a stake.
The child was buried that afternoon but then, something else happened. It rained. But it wasn’t normal rain. It felt cold at the start, like normal rain, but then turned warm and strange. They soon realized it wasn’t water coming down from the sky but blood. Hot, red blood dripped from the trees and onto everything they had around. When it finally ended, all their clothes were tainted red, and so were their faces. Some of the members of the group were really scared, wanting to live the place as soon as possible. But that couldn’t be done just like that because they had to prepare, organize and that would take a while with so much to pack.
They started the following day, after cleaning the blood of most of the clothes. But then, other people started to feel sick. They vomited and were tainted green. Their face grew even greener as they got worst. They had to delay their journey back as half of the scientists were sick in just a few hours. They had all eaten the same thing and had been careful only to drink water from their personal stash. They could only blame the blood rain, that had maybe poured into their mouths or eyes and then had contaminated them.
Soon, only the leading expeditionary was fine. The rest were all sick and vomiting. The ones that had become sick first, were the same tone of green than the surrounding forest. That had become sort of paralyzed, unable to move at all. The man that had led them all there was not feeling sick but guilty. He had convinced personally everyone there to come with him to explore this jungle, promising them fame and glory, as well as a best name in the scientific community He had traced every one of them, had asked for the money and had paid many of their expenses with his own savings.
And now, everyone was dying. It was hard for him to sleep the last night, before leaving, but when he finally did, his sleep was soon filled with nightmares and sweat. He woke up in the middle of the night and realized there were thousands of birds flying over the jungle. They were circling the center of the city. He stood up fast and tried to find his fellow expeditionary men but they were nowhere to be found. Somehow, they had disappeared.
The man didn’t stood by and decided to run out of the forest, that had become thicker all of a sudden. He felt the presence of the birds and stumbled upon roots and rocks as he ran. When he fell again to the ground, he helped himself up with a tree and then screamed, like no one had screamed in the jungle before. The birds then flew down onto him and formed a bigger creature, or so it seemed. They attacked him viciously and killed him, drinking his blood and the flying away. Where the remaining of the scientist where, there was a young tree and, between the bark, there was the shape of a face, a screaming face.