The Lost City.

by Wolphin

I was amazed I actually got the job.  In fact, it was amazing I 
even heard about it at all.  I was backpacking across the US, when 
I happened to mention to a few friends that I would have liked to 
visit South America, but I didn't have the cash.  Someone had 
heard, from a friend of a friend, about this university professor 
who was mounting an expedition to find some lost tribe or 
something and they suggested I give them a call and see if they 
needed an assistant.

Anyway, I called the uni on the off chance I might be able to be 
squeezed in.  I was lucky.  The professor's personal assistant had 
to cancel at the last minute and there was an opening, but only if 
I could meet the team in Puru.  The next couple of hours was spent 
frantically phoning various airlines and booking a mixture of 
flights.  To cut a long story short, after missing the team in 
Puru, I caught up with them in a small village in Brazil in the 
heart of the Amazon Basin.

I'll admit, it wasn't what I expected.  I had seen expeditions in 
documentaries and they were never like this.  The team consisted 
of six people, the professor, one associate, myself, one 
translator and two locals.  The translator also acted as guide, 
while the locals were responsible for lugging our gear around.  I 
expected at least twenty people, with support cars, helicopters, 
the whole works.  I was a little disappointed.  We didn't even 
have a land rover.

From the small town, (I don't even know its name), we headed 
north-east, up a tributary of the Amazon.  Soon the river became 
narrower and more overgrown, it was looking like something out of 
the movies.  It took us two days to reach our destination, during 
which time I had a good chance to talk to the professor.  

Professor Peta Ryshek was not what I expected.  I was quite 
surprise when I found out the name was Peta and not Peter, but the 
prof just laughed when I mentioned it, saying most people expected 
her to be a man.  It turned out she was an expert in the Inca 
civilisation, but before he died, her father confided in her about 
a pet theory of another civilisation to the west of the Inca 
empire.  She went into detail about how other archaeologist 
shrugged it off, or thought it was the Aztecs or whatever.  (I had 
no idea what she was talking about, I just nodded a lot).  She 
liked her Father's theory, but had no way of following it up.

It wasn't until two years ago she got the break she needed.  An 
oil company had been conducting aerial exploration into the Amazon 
Basin.  Someone noticed some suspicious rock deposits and ordered 
further exploration.  After more tests, it turned out the rock 
formations were too regular to be natural, but did not conform to 
the architecture of any known civilisations.  This is when the 
professor got called in.  The oil company was financing her 
expedition to see exactly what was there.  The only problem was, 
they were keeping it very low key to prevent anyone else getting 
too suspicious.  Peta was to go in, see what was there and leave 
before anyone else could kick up a fuss about sacred sites and 
what-not.

Peta's associate was a quiet man named Henry.  He didn't say much 
and spent most of his time scribbling in a large spiral bound note 
book.  As for the translator, well, I'll say he tried hard, I'm 
just glad I didn't have to carry on a two sided conversation with 
him.

Early on the second day, we reached our destination.  It wasn't 
much.  Just a slight clearing on the bank of the river.  We 
unloaded our gear from the boat and immediately started to hack 
our way through the undergrowth.  According to the GPS, the first 
rock structure was about 500m away.  It still took us most of the 
afternoon to get there.  When we finally broke through the jungle, 
it was amazing.

We were in a small city of stone structures.  The growth which had 
hampered our progress petered out, leaving a carpet of moss over 
everything.  Each stone building looked like a miniature Aztec 
temple.  Four sides, with a central flight of stairs.  Most of 
them seemed to have a small room on top, the entire area was 
covered by a canopy of trees.  

I was ecstatic!  We had just found the sort of thing you only 
dream of!  I wanted to run around like a child, exploring and 
looking at everything.  However, Peta brought me back to reality.

"Wait", she called as I was disappearing around a corner.  "Its 
late, we'll set up camp now and explore in the morning.  These 
buildings have been around for a few hundred years at least, they 
won't go anywhere overnight."

Reluctantly, I agreed with her, set-up camp and waited out the 
night.

I awoke in the morning to a loud scream.  I quickly stumbled out 
of my tent and was greeted with Henry yelling at the top of his 
lungs.  His arms, neck and face were covered in large, puss filled 
blisters.  

"Must of reacted to sap or something were cut through on our way 
here," the professor muttered as she calmed him down.  

We quickly established they didn't hurt, but they did require 
medical attention.  Clearly there was no option, he would have to 
go back down the river for help.  To do that he would need the 
translator and probably one local and the other local wasn't much 
help to us because we couldn't communicate.  So after breakfast, 
the four of them left, leaving just Peta and I.

I was still thrilled with seeing something no-one else had seen 
before and literally ran up the steps of the nearest building.  
Peta was more careful and she took her time, taking note of the 
number of steps and carving along the edges of each stair. 

It wasn't until I reached the top and yelled down what I saw, that 
she hurried up.  At the head of the stairs was a small room, about 
three metres square, with a single door and what could only be 
described as an alter in the middle.  I had my foot about the 
raised interior of the room, when Peta called for me to stop.  I 
quickly stepped back from the door, acting like a child caught in 
the act.

"Don't go in there, can't you read?" she said pointing to an 
inscription carved above the door.  

"No," I answered.  "And I didn't think you could either."

"I can't," she admitted.  "But it looks similar enough to Inca 
script to say something along the lines of 'Let those who enter 
incur the wrath of Buscold'.  At least, I think its Buscold.".

"Buscold?" I countered.  "Who is Buscold?"

"I've got no idea," she replied.  "But judging from the carvings, 
I'd say he was the local snake god."

I looked at where she was pointing and what I had thought were 
pretty patterns suddenly became scales of a very large snake which 
wounding itself around the stones of the temple.

"But that's only superstition," I countered.

"True," she replied.  "But a lot of these places are booby 
trapped, like in Raiders of the Lost Ark."

I looked at her sceptically, but she kept a straight face.  Well, 
she was the boss.  I stood aside and gave a theatrical wave.  

"Ladies first," I said with my best British accent.

She smiled at my feeble attempt at humour.

"Stay here," she ordered as she slowly eased herself into the 
room.

I was both relieved and disappointed not to have the floor 
suddenly sink below her or darts fly across the room.  In fact, 
her trip to the alter was quite uneventful.  I was about to step 
in and join her when she suddenly gasped in pain and staggered 
back towards me.

"What's wrong?" I asked aloud as she collapsed in my arms.

"I... don't... know," she said through gritted teeth.

I lowered myself into a sitting position with her draped across 
me, breathing heavily.

"Can't... breath..." she muttered.  "...hurts..."

I then noticed a strange thing.  Her arms were disappearing into 
her shirt.  I turned to tell her, but noticed her face.  It was 
changing,  it was growing longer.

As I watched, her neck extended and fine lines began to show 
beneath her skin.  Her waist, where I was holding her, was also 
getting smaller.  In panic, I glanced at the rest of her body, her 
arms had completely disappeared into her shirt and her legs had 
wrapped themselves around each other and were also growing longer.  
As I watched, her feet shrunk and withdrew from her shoes and 
started to stretch out in front of her.

I looked back at her head in time to see it wrenched back so her 
mouth was pointing skywards.  Her mouth and nose were pushed and 
combined into something like a snout.  At the same time, her eyes 
were forced to the sides of her head.  At the same time, her body 
kept stretching, it was now over twice her normal height and was 
still growing.

I felt her spine extending through her body as she was stretched 
impossibly thin.  The lines under her skin hardened, became more 
defined and were suddenly scales.  As I watched, they darkened 
from pink skin to drab olive greens and browns.  

Peta had become a snake.  A very big snake.  A very, very big 
snake.  The last thing I can clearly remember is looking at a huge 
snake's head with a human eye.  It blinked and was replaced with 
the cool, calculating stare of a reptile.  

The rest of the trip is a jumbled blur.  There was a forked tongue 
probing the air around me, the feel of cool scales upon my flesh.  
I remember screaming a lot, the interpreter, a boat trip.  There 
were some people.  Nice people, in white coats.  They gave me 
things to calm down and make me forget.

It took me a long time to get over it.  But I'm over it now.  In 
fact, I'm considered somewhat of an expert on the Lost City.  I've 
read all of Peta's notes and am leading an expedition back there 
in a few weeks.  Its the first the government has allowed in since 
the 'incident.'  I plan on conducting some detailed research into 
their horse god, or perhaps,  their jaguar god...