The wilds of the Amazon rainforest were a marvel to Dr. Stephen Dearing.
Ever since he was a little boy, he had dreamt of exploring its depths. To discover things unknown, creatures and plants that had never been seen by the human eye...it was a prospect that he would stop at nothing to accomplish. A goal that he swore he’d get to one day.
Now, that day was happening right before his eyes.
He stared in wonder at the majesty of the jungle around him, unable to hide his child-like excitement. It was humid, and beads of sweat were sticking to his forehead and cheeks, but he barely gave the discomfort any mind-nothing could ruin this day for him.
“So, where do you want to go first?” A man walked over to him. “I think we should stay on the outskirts, just in case something goes wrong and we can make a quick getaway.”
“Are you serious?” Dr. Dearing gave the man an incredulous look. “After all we’ve done to get here, you want to stay on the outskirts? Clark, where’s your sense of adventure?”
His childhood friend grinned-they had grown up through life together, attending the same high school and college, both majoring in their area of talent: biology. “My sense of adventure hasn’t gone anywhere. But I also know we should have a sense of safety, too. There’s animals in there that are extremely dangerous.”
“We have our guides to help us with that.” Dr. Dearing motioned to the small group of men gathered not too far away. “They know the paths well. We’ll be safe.”
“What about that Titan, though?” Clark questioned. “Behemoth or something. It’s been seen around here lately, and I don’t want to run into it.”
“The probability of running into it is zero to none.” Dr. Dearing adjusted his backpack and smoothed his spiky hair into his cap. “We’ll have more luck spotting an albino jaguar. Come on, Clark, don’t tell me your scared.”
Clark’s eyes glinted. “Me, scared?” he asked playfully. “Never. If I remember correctly, it was you who was terrified of the woods behind our neighborhood when we were kids.”
“We were ten, Clark.”
“Doesn’t matter, dude.” Clark gave him a friendly shove, then walked past him to their guides. “You were still scared.”
Dr. Dearing shook his head and followed with a smile. They always had a sort of rivalry, the two of them. And he was never one to back out of a challenge to prove he was the braver.
The group headed into the jungle, leaving the outside world behind. Dr. Dearing walked with a spring in his step, a smile on his face.
He had a feeling he was going to discover something no human had ever witnessed before.
It was getting dark when Clark told Dr. Dearing that they should start heading back. The little sunlight that was filtering through the thick canopy was almost completely gone now, leaving them with limited vision.
“Just a few more minutes,” he begged. “I still have some photos to take.”
“Come on, Steve, the guides are complaining.” Clark pointed to the grumbling men, some of them muttering angry profanities in a language he didn’t understand. “We can come back tomorrow. Remember, we’re still going to be here for another two days.”
Dr. Dearing sighed. He reluctantly shut off his camera and began to trail after his friend and their group.
Something to the right caught his eye.
He stopped and turned to look.
Glinting on the ground, just barely visible beneath the forest plants, was a silver disk.
Curious, he hesitantly went to pick it up. When it didn’t budge, he brushed away the dirt and leaves and shown his pocket flashlight upon it.
It appeared to be some sort of plate that was embedded into the ground. Etched into its surface was what looked to be some sort of divine insect.
“What is this?” he murmured to himself.
Another glint from further ahead made him look up. He held up his flashlight and took out his knife, cutting his way through the foliage.
Another disk, with the same exact symbol. And ahead, more. It appeared to be a path, leading deeper into the jungle.
All thoughts on Clark and the others were forgotten. Dr. Dearing followed the path.
He was out of breath by the time he reached the last plate. For a moment, he doubled over onto his knees, catching his breath.
He looked up to take in his surroundings, and his jaw dropped.
Nestled in the trees, covered in vines, was a huge temple.
“Oh my god,” he breathed.
The structure drew him closer like a moth to a light. Dr. Dearing snapped a few photos, his eyes wide with wonder. This was it. This was the fantastic finding he had been waiting for! He was going to be credited for the discovery of what could possibly be a previously unknown civilization!
Carefully, he made his way into the building. It was ancient, with low ceilings and slimy walls. He had trouble finding footing on the crumbling floor, nearly stumbling at moments as he continued down the narrow tunnel.
A few times, he took some photos. Numerous moments, he saw the symbol of the same insect from the disks on the walls. Underneath them were inscriptions, written in a language he didn’t recognize.
“Amazing,” he murmured to himself. He would be sure to ask Clark about the inscriptions later. His friend was a much better expert on ancient languages than he was.
The tunnel began to get wider, and soon, he found himself entering a huge chamber. The ceiling rose high above him, forming a sort of dome. In front of him, the floor sloped down into a drop, a deep pit with straight-leveled walls on all sides instead of the one he stood by. He bent down and examined the pit, taking photos. It reminded him of a kind of dug-up trap; whoever had created this had the intentions of trapping people in this chamber with no way to get out.
Dr. Dearing stood up. He took in the chamber, noticing for the first time a stone pedestal to his right. Curious, he went over to it.
More strange words, though this time they resembled English letters. Dr. Dearing ran his hand over the stone, mumbling them under his breath.
Something in the chamber rumbled.
Dr. Dearing froze.
The floor beneath him shook, and dust came raining down on his head. Dr. Dearing stumbled back, puzzlement quickly turning into fear at what he saw.
Across the pit, in a divot in the wall, something was moving. Something huge. Something alive.
“Who...dares...enter my temple…”
A chill ran down his spine. The voice was raspy, clawing at the air with angry contempt. It didn’t sound like it’s owner had spoken in a long, long time.
“A...human?” the voice growled. “In my home? Despicable...disgusting...insect! How dare you awaken me?”
“W-Who are you?” Dr. Dearing yelled. He turned in a circle, trying to spy if there was anyone else in the chamber with him. The temple shook again, and a strange, chittering hiss came from across the pit.
He turned and peered at the thing moving in the hole in the wall, not even noticing the words he had just spoken on the pedestal were glowing a sickly green.
Long, jagged forelegs extended slowly out of the darkness of the divot, gripping the lip. A gigantic creature moved into his sight, extending its fiery wings. “Who am I? I am the guardian of the Earth. The savior of creation. The planet’s Messiah, the judge and executioner, your kind’s doom.
Dr. Dearing fell, blown back by a gust of wind sent out by the creature’s wings as they flapped. Two dark red eyes opened to glare down at him, heated with rage.
“I am Battra.”