Their smiling guide introduced himself as Thomas, though Jack and Georgina suspected he gave this name to make things easier for the English-speakers for whom he worked. Neither Georgina nor Jack didn’t want to pry, and risk upsetting and losing a such a good-natured and friendly guide over his real name.
The leader of the research team was Jack Cole, called Dr. Jack by Thomas, and Georgina alike. He was an older white man, and as the trio drove further and further inland, more and more people gawked, either intrigued or scared by the colour of his skin, even though it was darkened by years in the field.
As beautiful as the day, Jack’s research assistant Georgina Preston, was twenty years his junior, and months away from earning her PhD. The young woman and her parents had lived in the country all their lives until she moved to the States for university. Like Thomas, she could speak many of the languages, yet her skin was paler, and thus off-putting for some of the people they came across.
The researchers watched closely from the jeep, as Thomas conversed with some locals. As Jack looked on, so too did the villagers at him and Georgina. The road looked dense with vegetation, and from this point on, there almost certainly would be no more road signs, and eventually the road itself would end, so Jack insisted Thomas recruit a search party if the two did not return after three days, as well as collect directions to where Georgina hoped to locate a legendary tribe, but Jack hoped for something more valuable.
Thomas returned, still with a large grin on his face, but he had become more solemn as the hours passed. “Okay Georgina, Dr. Jack,” said the man with an accent, “we go on trail for three hour, or until it become too thick with tree.”
“It will be nightfall by then,” complained Jack.
“We’ll have a fresh start for morning, Dr. Jack,” Georgina replied, “We can take a walk through the jungle.”
Given that they had no choice in how long the journey would take, Jack sighed and nodded, forcing a smile to his face, “Drive on, Tom.” As Thomas revved the engine, the villagers continued to watch, before they disappeared into the bramble.
Early the next day, they gathered as much gear as they could manage, a bayonet among Thomas’ handful. They left the jeep behind, and hiked even deeper into the rainforest. Steadily, the land grew steeper the air cooler, and the trees shorter.
Jack took the lead, consulting a compass and an aged and torn map, and he watched Georgina holding onto her satellite GPS and topography maps for reference.
She was as silent as Thomas, though their guide was more so, possibly frightened by the ghost stories of his fellow countrymen, and certainly wondering how he and Georgina could dismiss those superstitions, and continue into the wild without fear. Jack smiled at the man to try and encourage him, but it seemed Thomas could only manage a grimace.
It was nearing two o’clock in the afternoon, Georgina was now warning, and while at first she had just suggested it, she now insisted, that the group must turn back before it became too dark to do so. Jack brushed it off for the umpteenth time, but promised they would, if he did not see a sign in the next two minutes.
He looked down at his map, and again at their position on the ridge over and over, wishing for more detail, yet he was certain, they had arrived at their destination. Then Jack was confirmed, when a creature who appeared half-rock, half-man stretched his arm.
The man had disguised himself well among the rocks, so well in fact, neither guide nor researcher had realised he had been standing and watching them the entire time they had been at the summit, and possibly longer. He was as naked as the day he was born, and his entire face and body was painted to camouflage into the surrounding mass of shrubs and stones, and now, in awe of Jack and his companions, possibly the colour of their skin, or style of dress, or that he was viewing another human being that didn’t belong to his tribe.
Georgina asked, with terror in her voice, “Dr. Jack,” and it startled the man so much, he fell backward. Sensing a question from his research assistant, but not wanting to scare the man away, Jack whispered, “Yes. I believe he is one of the Children of the Flesh.”