There were fifteen in the stick when they headed into the jungle.
Mikael was the first to go. He was walking tail-gunner when he disappeared in the brush. Ngawei and Arturo were next, their screams and bursts of gunfire setting the stick running. When they came to the clearing, they discovered only bullet casings and blood spatters.
And then they were twelve.
Sergeant Luz and Marco argued for the stick’s return to base but Captain Ordoñez refused. Three nights later, the two disappeared while on watch. Whether they were taken or they ran, no one could say. Hamadi was next, slipping off to piss and he didn’t return. The stick found his amulet hanging off a branch.
Now they were nine.
That night, the stick held council whether to continue. They were unanimous: the prospect of fortune in finding the rumoured temple was too tempting for the mercenaries to ignore. The stick would go on.
The next day, Geriksen discovered their hunter—or the hunter discovered Geriksen. White-yellow teeth stinking of decay snapped the soldier’s neck just as the stick opened fire. Afterwards, the medic o’Brian studied the beast’s corpse but couldn’t say what it was. It was reptilian, strong and fast, but walked upright like a man. Its massive tail had broken Alejandro’s leg in its death throes.
No one wanted to say that there could be more of the monsters in the jungle.