We woke up before dawn, excited to be reaching the last stretch of our long walk across the jungle. It was only Jacob and I now, Matilda had turned back the day before. We packed up our things and started hiking up a steep hill the natives called Ugara Dan, which roughly translates to Broken Neck.
To say hike is a bit of an understatement, as it is to call Ugara Dan a hill. These treacherous mountains are what has kept the ancient city of Akhmun-Ra lost for ages. You cannot drive a jeep up here, you cannot fly a helicopter in, and you cannot just walk up there. In fact, we had to climb a lot of the way up Ugara Dan. The place was so foreboding that even the native guides did not want to accompany us and they turned back a few days ago, at a charming little place called the Cliff of Death or something like that.
At least the views were great. From up here, you could not see the poisonous snakes, spiders, and ladybugs. All you could see was a calm canopy of green, sometimes shimmering in a gentle breeze, and above you nothing less than the most beautiful shade of blue you could imagine.
After nearly seven hours of arduous climbing, I heard Jacob scream and whoop above me.
“Is it the top?” I asked.
“You bet your ass it’s the top,” he shouted. “Come on, slowpoke.”
I mustered all the strength I could to get to the top. One of the last moves I had to make was jump up to grab a ledge and I almost fell all the way back down. But I made it.
When I finally reached the upper ledge, I rolled onto my back and fell asleep.
I woke up when the sun was getting ready to set. Jacob was resting next to me and we talked for a minute in low voices, recapping the hardships of the climb. Finally, he said:
“Are you ready to see it?”
“You can see it from here?” I sat up.
“Yeah,” Jacob got up and walked to the other end. I got up and followed.
Below us, in a shaded valley, lay the ruins of old buildings made out of white stone. A massive city with towers and a pyramid at the center. Jacob’s back was turned to me when he said:
“We should be there by noon tomorrow.”
I raised my hand to push him. One shove and his skull would surely crack on the rocks below. Just one shove and the priceless artifacts of the city would be mine and only mine.
I would tell Matilda he died trying to save me, give him a hero farewell, and take her to Venice to examine the findings. It would take her a while to get over Jacob, but she would get there eventually, and I would have been alongside all the time. Able to give her the luxuries she deserved, and finally being the man she deserved to be with.
I hesitated. The man she deserved to be with, I thought.
I put my hand on Jacob’s arm. “Tomorrow, my man,” I said, “Tomorrow we change history.”