The trees grew thick; thicker than I had ever encountered. My machete dulled with each swing, tearing through enormous branches and clunking against trunks the size of my midsection. With crew in tow, I blazed a trail among the unchartered land. We had started just north of the bay; our landing spot from a 3-day sailing trip. The waves were rough, and while we lost a few untied containers, the essentials remained underneath, secured, and now on the backs of my men. Two knapsacks each, they hauled across each shoulder, following my every move. They had complained, of course, as they usually do. They wanted a few days’ rest at the beach, drinking rum, no doubt. I dismissed their please, staring down a long, 5-days’ trek to the waterfall. We were meant to secure the treasure of the medieval gold. Supposedly of Germanic origin, lost between the transition of the Roman Empire. I had read many tales growing up, and spent most of my adult life searching. It wasn’t until recently, upon further reading of historical documents for context of the early 500s, I found something peculiar. A mis-labeled map. I had come across a similar map before, but thought nothing of it. This one only caught my eye because of a rare detail; a labeled waterfall. Looking familiar, I nearly tossed the map, but was glad I didn’t. After having found almost no other reference to this particular spot, let alone this land, I decided it was a reasonable treasure location. I convinced my superiors to supply and fund the trip, and we set sail no later than 3 months after. I was determined to return the treasure within a month, so couldn’t waste any time with men drinking on the beach; we had to get going. I traced the map in my mind over and over again as I swatted away the thickets of the forest, beads of sweat dripping onto the moss-covered floor. I’d find a spot to rest, but only for the night, and then we’d be back on our way.
The men complained again. Little rest. Lots of bugs and animals. But I didn’t care. We pressed on. The second day was more difficult than the first. The trees somehow had grown thicker the deeper we got, and we had to stop almost every kilometer to sharpen a machete or change it out. My shirt had already soaked through by noon and the water reserves were already lower than expected. Morale decreased, so as the sun crossed a 45-degree angle between high noon and the horizon, I decided to pack it up for the day. We had come further than expected, and by my count, we would now only need 2 more days to arrive at the waterfall; a whole day ahead of schedule. Ideally, the trip back would be easier as the path was already clear. Much rum was had, and partying with the guitar that Nelson had snuck on board; much to my displeasure, it actually entertained the rowdy men. However, it backfired when the ruckus grew out of control and one of the men (Bruce, I’m almost sure, although I can’t prove it) kicked my satchel in the fire. When I retrieved it, most of the contents had thoroughly burned, including the map of the waterfall. I cursed all the men out and hauled off for the night, steaming and muttering under my breath. I knew there was nothing I could do, but luckily, I had studied it so much I felt I could re-create it in my head, which was exactly what we had to do now. Barely able to cope with my frustration, I slept very little that night.
Breakfast was eaten in silence. The men well aware of my seething discontent with them all. In their inebriated state, they had also managed to consume all of the rum we brought, meaning there was nothing for our eventual celebratory drink when we discovered the treasure. Regardless of their complaints and headaches and general poor showing in the morning, I trudged on through the massive tree clusters, swinging through branches even harder than before. The men complained again as I continued our trek well into the night. Torches were lit as we continued to hike for the treasure. I would not hear any complaints this time, as last time I had listened to the men, we ended up without a guiding map and all out of a precious commodity. I was in charge, and I was putting my foot down. I hiked until, off in the distance, just barely able to see in the moonlight, was a hill shaped like an elephant’s trunk. It was on the map, and many others I had studied. The waterfall was just south of the hill, and tomorrow, we’d reach it. With our extra distance today, it should be even earlier than expected; perhaps even before noon. I congratulated my men on a job well done, and found nothing but snarls and scowls. Clearly, they had been upset at my demeanor, but given our distance traveled for the day, I was right. I informed them we’d be leaving early in the morning, and that if we arrive at the treasure before noon, we would be able to take the rest of the day off.
The day began like all the others. Complaints, as usual, and then compliance, falling in line behind me, leading the way to the treasure that would change our lives. I regaled stories the whole morning. Stories about what I had heard about the treasure. Stories of the promised riches and fame that came with it. Stories about the history of the treasure, although I’m positive a significant portion of them were tall tales. The men wouldn’t know, as they hadn’t studied as hard as I had. They were merely the muscle for my search. When we arrived at the elephant trunk hill, I announced that we needed to head due south for 3,000 paces, and we would find a waterfall, whereupon the lost Germanic treasure would be located behind. It was promptly then announced back to me that the men would no longer need my services. They managed to tie me up to a nearby log and head south, to the treasure, without me. As the rope rubbed against my feet, and my wrists were constrained by one another, I watched them without being able to do much. I called out, in hopes they would identify they would need me, but as their bodies disappeared into the forest, I realized my hopes were lost. Luckily, they left my journal behind, which gave me some outlet for my rage. Please realize that all previous pages, and pages hereafter, were completed while I was unable to control myself. These last few entries are me finally reflecting on what transpired, in hopes that I can arrive to some reasonable conclusion about my future.
Day 5 and on
The men passed by, taunting me with their haul. Most knapsacks must have been left behind, as they were now hauling treasure chests. Some were donned with findings at the site; crowns, necklaces, rings. It was a site I had waited my whole life for, and I was grateful to confirm my suspicions. However, being unable to partake in the final stretch of the hunt, and unable to lay hands on it myself, I was left with a feeling of emptiness. As they passed, I cried out again. I continued to cry as they no doubt hiked all the way back to the ship, and then from the bay back home. I cried until I had no energy remaining. I cried, knowing I had lost my purpose in life.