A quick glance around showed they were surrounded by trees, trees, and even more trees. Adam looked up. The gigantic trees formed a thick green canopy overhead, with an occasional brief glimpse of blue sky. Long creepers and lianas hung down from the branches. Monkeys screamed and chattered above their heads, while brightly colored birds whooped with strange cries. Something crashed through the undergrowth nearby. It sounded like a large animal. James had mentioned the wild animals that inhabited the Lacandon jungle. Jaguars, wild pigs, crocodiles, and deadly snakes instantly sprang to mind, not to mention the large variety of poisonous insects and spiders, including tarantulas, scorpions, and bird-eating spiders. How big could that spider be? As big as a side plate or a dinner plate? He tried to remember which size scorpion James had said was the poisonous one: was it the small one or the big one?
Just thinking about these wild creatures gave Adam the shivers, especially the jaguar, which was an apex predator. When he had asked James what that meant, James looked serious and said, “It’s at the top of the jungle food chain with no predators of its own. Man is its only enemy.”
Man, not three helpless kids with no weapons who had just crash-landed in the jungle, many miles away from civilization. Then Adam remembered the stalk and ambush part of James’ lecture, and the fact that jaguars had an exceptionally powerful bite. They also had a way of crushing their prey’s skull bones with one bite. Maybe it was better not to worry about jaguars, even though one might be stalking them at that very moment.
The big leafy plants all around looked menacing. Moss and lichen grew on the tree trunks and branches, giving them a creepy look. Something moved … a brightly patterned snake lazily uncoiled from a nearby low branch and slithered away. Insects buzzed incessantly. Everything was so loud. This was no Disney movie jungle with friendly talking, singing, and dancing animals like Baloo and Bagheera from The Jungle Book. The undergrowth consisted of lots of bushes and ferns, with no sign of a path, a beaten track, or any shred of evidence that people might be nearby. It was hot and muggy. Although they’d felt the heat the minute they arrived in Mexico, it seemed to be even hotter in the jungle with all the trees and vegetation creating a dense green mass. Sweat rolled down Adam’s forehead in warm drops and his damp shirt clung to his back like a clammy second skin. He felt suffocated.
Justin wiped his forehead with one arm, leaving wet patches on the sleeve of his khaki shirt. “I’m dying of heat here. I’m sweating like a pig, too.”
Adam wondered if pigs actually sweated. He’d used the same expression often before, but hearing it now, in the middle of a vast jungle, Justin’s words sounded weird. In fact, the whole situation was so weird that he wondered if he was dreaming. Maybe he was still back in the hotel room, in the middle of an awful nightmare, and all this was unreal. He pinched his arm hard, digging his nails into his skin so that he felt pain. He looked down. His nails made white half moon dents that slowly faded. Nothing changed. He didn’t wake up because he was already awake and this hot, scary jungle was real.
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