I was in the forest of Mexico as part of a research team. Each night for the last two weeks one of us has disappeared, only to be found mangled and bloodied in the light of the following day. Each night it was the same, no trace, no sign, no struggle. Just an empty bed found in the dawn. Who would it be tonight? What could we possibly try this time to make the pattern stop. Some of us have seen her. She was a gray shadow, an afterthought of life, a lingering of death. She showed herself to me-only three feet tall, half here, half not. You can put your hand through her, yet she the power to lure us out one by one, using the jungle as her weapon to kill. Always bloody.
There were only five of us left. Night descended, fear and sadness hanging in the thick, moist air of the green jungle. Somehow, sleep wins the battle and silence falls on our camp. We each share a thatched roof hut, traditional of the Maya in the area.
When the first light of morning peeked under the door and through the cracks of each small building we called home, I was amazed, thankful and sick knowing that I was still alive. Wondering if we would have to find, yet another, mangled body.
I heard someone say, "Narid is missing." My body quickly moved me over to his hut, investigating the scene with a mix of horror while pleading for a clue to show that he just went for a morning walk. Or was using the bathroom. Or, or, or...
Narid was a graduate student from India who was meticulous about everything, including his phenomenal ability to stick to the scientific method and never taint any test subjects or environments. Some saw it as annoying, but if you wanted some proof of how an experiment really went or observations of what really happened, Narid was the first person everyone on the team went to first.
Just like his science, his shoes were placed side by side next to the bed, covers turned down, sheets looking as though he had just put an iron to them. Everything we exactly how had left it...whenever he had left. If he left. But why wasn't he wearing his shoes? Maybe he had his mud boot on? I glanced to the right of the thin wooden door to see his black mud boots resting on the cleanest towel I had seen for months. Mud the color of black coffee still wet from the day before.
"He's down here!"
The shout came from the small river shooting off of the mini waterfall in the ravine 15 meters down. A familiar feeling of hysteria clamped all my muscles into a ball as nausea crept up my throat. My body propelled me the fifty feet to the edge of the ravine. As I looked down I saw him. Or what I assumed to be him, his face gone, only bright raw flesh in it's place. His arm was gone, which was found down stream 100 meters. One leg had been ripped off from the knee down. Gone. Jaguar claw marks created criss-cross patterns where part of his ear still remained and down the remaining exposed leg, shoe-less. Blood was splattered on the leaves and pooled in between various rocks. This was not a rain forest, this was a blood forest.