I woke up and coughed the nasty dirty wet sand out of the mouth. Then I looked around to find none of my friends at the camp. No Chel, no Miguel and not even the horse.
Then I saw bubbles coming up on the surface of the lake. Those bubbles belonged to Chel who popped up for a gasp of breath.
“Having a morning swim?” I called to her.
She walked out of the lake, carrying a spear full of fish. “Actually, I’ve been catching us some breakfast.”
“Right!” I smiled. “Now where are Miguel, the horse and the logs?”
Then logs were dropped near me. I turned around to see Altivo smiling at me. I was annoyed at him for nearly hurting my feet, but it was more logs than Miguel ever brought back last night.
Soon, Altivo, Chel and I were eating the fish that I cooked on the fire that I made and lit.
“I wonder where Miguel is,” I said to Chel. “When you came back, did he come back? And what happened to last night’s food?”
“I couldn’t find anything,” replied Chel. “Besides, you and Altivo were fast asleep, so I didn’t have anything to worry about.”
“Do you think anything’s happened to him?” I asked her.
“Nah, you know him, Tulio,” she said. “He probably just wants to explore the land and make the most out of it before he has to get on the raft and be out to sea for days again.”
“But he’s never been long this long,” I said. Even during our time in El Dorado, Miguel would only discover the city for about three or four hours before coming back to the temple. But this time he had been gone for nine or ten hours and still hadn’t come back. “He’s missing! I just know it!”
Chel giggled. “Oh, you’re worrying too much. Miguel can take care of himself.”
Ten hours of not coming back and he can still take care of himself? I don’t think so. I knew him since childhood and this was not like him at all.
After breakfast, we waited and waited.
“Oh, I can’t take this any more!” I moaned.
“It’s only been ten minutes,” said Chel.
“Let’s just get on the horse and find Miguel,” I said.
So I got onto Altivo and Chel got on behind me. Then we rode off into the nearest forest.
The forest was quite dark and very big. It was like going through a very big never-ending maze.
“Wait a minute,” I said, pulling the reins to halt Altivo. “I remember seeing that horn bush before.”
“Me too,” said Chel. “I think we’re going to circles.”
“More like rectangles,” I said.
Then Altivo neighed hysterically and started running very fast. Chel and I could barely hold on.
“Slow down, boy!” I shouted. “I said slow down!”
Then Altivo finally halted and I fell off, landing upside-down next to a big bush. I saw my friends laughing.
“What were you trying to do, kill me?” I snapped at the horse.
Altivo came closer to me and then he sniffed something above me.
I could feel the air come out of his nostrils. “What are you trying to do now, cool me down with that smelly nose of yours?
“Tulio, stop messing about and look at this,” said Chel.
I got up and saw where the horse was looking at. On the bush, I found a piece of red thread hanging on one of the branches. I took it.
“This is from Miguel’s shirt,” I said, as I studied it. “He was here!”
Then Altivo neighed again.
“Tulio, look!” cried Chel, pointing to the ground.
I looked down to see wheel tracks and strange footprints on the ground.
“What did I tell you?” I said to Chel and Altivo. “I knew something was wrong!”
“Well, stop worrying and let’s go and look for him!” snapped Chel, who sounded like she was getting a little frustrated with me.
“You’re right!” I said. Then I got in front of Chel onto Altivo. “Let’s go!”
And we followed the tracks on the road.