We had left the main river hours ago, soon after our early morning departure from the small village that was the last tentative outpost of so-called civilization. Since then, and it must have been noon by now, though the position of the sun could not be seen through the roof of the dense foliage above us, our boat drove through ever smaller and more meandering side arms and tributaries, following a course that only the two silent Indios could fathom. They sat together at the stern, dark-skinned and black-haired, small but strong, wearing only loin clothes, one of them steering the boat by the handle of its outboard engine, the other one with half-closed eyes, hardly moving at all. From time to time, they switched their roles.
I did not look at my watch – time meant little to me now, and I knew that we would reach the temple before the evening.
For a long time, no one spoke a word. It was Liz who first broke the silence.
"You will die," she said to me, and smiled.
"I know," I said.
She thought that I had not understood her. "You will die now, on this trip," she said.
"Yes, I know," I said.
"Since when do you know?" she asked, trying to keep her surprise from showing in her voice.
"Since before I agreed to join the expedition," I said.
"But how did you know?"
I looked at Paul who sat next to us, pretending not to be interested in our talk. Or maybe he really wasn't.
"Paul has never had any secrets from me." No, I could not say that. He had not told her that he had told me. He had not been open to her, and I could not brag that he had always been open with me, even after we had broken up.
"I read it in his eyes, when he asked me to join," I said.
"And you joined?" Liz said, surprised.
"He wanted me to," I said. His engagement present for her. The proof that he loved her more than me. In her eyes, at least, it would be the proof. It was what she wanted, what would make her happy, at least for a while.
"Oh my god, how I have always hated you," she said.
"I know," I said, once more.
"And I will not only watch you die at the temple," she said, "I will torture you myself."
"Not at the ceremony," I said. "The sacrifice belongs to the Goddess and her priests."
"Yes, your meat and your life." She licked her lips, her eyes were shining. "But there is still a lot I can do to you, and I will." Her face was radiant. She was beautiful when she was aroused, I could see what Paul saw in her. I could see the fascination with which he watched her now.
I took off my tee-shirt, my pants and my panties.
"Throw them into the water," Liz said, "they are too small for me."
I did. Turning around, I looked at the fifth person in our boat. Bob had always had a crush upon me, he had desired me since we met at the University, he had kept on telling me he loved me while I had been together with Paul, he had gotten his hopes up when Paul and I separated – poor Bob, he never got from me what he wanted. Lucky Bob, he would get it now. No, he had wanted my love, he wouldn't get that, but at least he'd get my body. I could see the excitement in his face.