As soon as she stepped out of her car, she felt her presence. It was all new to her, because she had never felt someone so intensely. She closed her eyes and had a vision. Within a split second she had seen the full story of the woman she was supposed to meet: tall, slim, blond long hair, freckles on her cheeks.
In that moment, it all became clear to her. The mysterious woman in her vision was her purpose and she had to ensure she stayed alive. She was a sister, just like her.
From the parking lot to the sacred grounds there were two miles of hiking through the forest, in the dark. They were bale to hear the howling monkeys from there. Amy opened her trunk and picked up the three tactical lights and her hiking boots. She handed the flashlights to the two men who came out from the car and were stretching their backs.
She noted they were wearing the same brand of hiking shoes:Hi-Tec Altitude V. She recognized the brand because she had looked at the same model last year but had found them too pricey. She had settled for her Merrell, which she was currently wearing.
"Half an hour from here?" asked Silvanus while opening a bottle of water he had grabbed from the car. Vano was quietly scouting the surroundings. He stopped in front of the trail and looked at his watch as if he was trying to time himself. He lit a cigarette and started to smoke.
Her first instinct was to remind him about the retreat`s diet plan and its restrictions. Smoking was definitely a no-no, along with alcohol, drugs, pork and so on... She refrained from saying anything. It would have been futile.
As soon as their eyes met, he threw the cigarette on the ground and put it out with his left foot. The expression on his face it looked as if he was aware that he had committed a mistake able to reveal his true nature.
Amy picked up her backpack, closed the car and they all headed on the trail. As it was just getting dark outside, they turned on their lights. Amy was leading the way on the narrow muddy trail.
They were able to see footprints in the wet mud. "The shaman and the other people from the group" she thought. She wondered which ones were those of her sister.
"Have you ever hiked into the jungle before?" she asked the two men without turning towards them.
"Just once." replied Silvanus. "Long time ago", he added.
"Then you know that you must watch your every step. This year I hear that the locals have seen far more snakes on the trails than usual." she said while questioning herself why she had not bring her machete.
It would have been useful in case things turn sour and she had the perfect excuse to bring it along. Though they had already walked about fifteen minutes on the trail and it made no sense going back to car for it without raising any suspicions.
"Snakes? Yikes!" said Vano. "I hate them! Stupid creatures!" he continued and shrug his shoulders with an expression of profound disgust.
Amy was surprised to finally hear him talking. He had a strong Romany accent. She tried to figure out which Eastern European country they were from.
"Is that a Croatian accent?" she inquired. "Are you guys Croatians? I have a friend in Dubrovnik." she added.
"No! Serbians." answered Silvanus, cutting her off. His tone did not seem too friendly and he gave her the impression that chit chatting was done.
Seeing her assumptions about her hiking companions were not wrong, her thoughts went back to her vision. She wondered if her protegee knew she was in trouble. She was sure that the woman had shared her vision. "What an odd way to meet and save a sister!" she thought.
Amy made a quick mental inventory of her backpack`s content: batteries for the lights, a long sleeve fleece, her air pods, Tylenol, a bottle of water, her old Swiss knife and a small box with two poisonous darts she had been given by one of her indigenous friends whose daughter she was tutoring.
When she got the gift she was amused by it. She even made a joke about her killing someone with a poisonous dart and going to jail. Then her friend explained that the arrows were meant only to put to sleep someone within a matter of seconds and not to kill. The poison used for the arrows was not as potent as the one extracted from the Brazilian dart frog.
She was aware that the two of the men walking behind her were not who they pretended to be. She felt they were troublemakers as soon as she had laid her eyes on them in the airport. At the beginning she could not understand what interest they would have in the circle. They did not seem to be like the regular folks that wandered in the sacred valley. Less talkative, athletic and no baggage other than a black backpack.
The enlightenment received during the vision provided her the answer. They were not there for the circle. They were there because of her. Her protegee. They were there to get rid of her.
In the last part of hike, the trail was far more abrupt then before. It went from a relaxed walk on the path to an uphill rock climbing. The sacred grounds were placed on the plateau above.
Suddenly one of them sneezed loudly. The sound startled her. Within seconds, a voice said: “Noroc!”. That was the clue she was looking for.
Right away she understood that the two men were talking Romanian. "Serbians, my ass!" she thought. The only Romanian she knew was the Sorcerer’s apprentice, a gypsy that had his hands involved in everything that moved, from drugs, prostitution, murder and dark magic.
While she was trying to come up with a plan to save her newly discovered sister, she realized that they were getting closer to the ceremony`s grounds. She was able to see the shimmering lights up on the mountain, into the distance. They were maybe twenty minutes away from the camp.
She stopped for a second and they all came to a halt. She turned and said: “We’re almost there. Only twenty minutes away!” Silvanus who was right behind her sighted. He seemed to be relieved that the camp was near. The other man did not utter a sound. He really gave her the creeps.
You may want to read the previous parts of this story, otherwise this post won`t make much sense to you.