We’ve reached the third valley and have camped in a cave along the fringe of jungle that crams the valley floor wall to wall. It’s much worse here than I expected. Everything: the trees, bushes, rock, and soil beneath our feet, is stained charcoal black. Even the shadows seemed different, darker, like they were stretching, clinging together, and merging into a single great web.
The cave mouth was blended so well into the shadows Armbranch stumbled upon it by accident. It stretches back for about fifty feet and, though there’s no exits or signs it’s been used by anything, it didn’t ease the knot in my gut a bit. No. Sheltering in here is like sheltering in the shadow of a monster.
Something terrible happened in this valley, something that spilled out into the second valley because, for the final mile or so before we left it, the vegetation was so stunted and sparse we had to crouch to keep ourselves hidden. By the time we reached the end of the valley and started to climb again, there was no vegetation at all. Only rocks.
I’m almost afraid to look in on Maya now in case this darkness is contagious and somehow spreads back there. Armbranch hasn’t said much since we found the cave. He’s deep in thought about where we go next. Okay, so there’s still a trace of a path we can follow. But to where? The valley’s about ten or twelve miles long and runs straight into a rock wall.
Was the ‘wind above the trees’ correct about this route? From here, it’s impossible to know. All I see through the binoculars is that black, featureless rock. There’s nothing to suggest it’s anything other than a dead end.
We’re going to light a fire. The passage in through the rock is angled in such a way as to block any reflection from being seen from outside and Armbranch figures that the darkness will camouflage the smoke drifting out. Right now, I don’t really care if anything sees us. If there’s life out in that jungle (and I doubt it) it would probably have seen us already.
All I want is a fire.