Chapter 3: The Map to Paradise


Liberty never would have believed how much she and Al had in common. Now that he’d finally loosened up around her, they spent plenty of time getting to know each other. Al enjoyed reading, like her, and loved the idea of her becoming a writer. He came from a close-knit family, all of whom were crazy about music, like him. “My dad’s a police officer, but he plays weekend gigs with a bluegrass band,” he said. “He’s the one who taught me how to play guitar.”

“Does he know you’re hoping to become a full-time musician?” Liberty asked.

“Nah, he’d kill me if he found out that I was wasting my shiny, expensive business degree.” He frowned. “He thinks I’m going to look for a nice, stable desk job in a cubicle jungle after I finish my stint in this jungle.”


During their work days, they slaved away as usual, helping to improve the lives of the natives. On their free days, they sometimes stayed close to home, trying new foods in the village. Al often strummed songs on his guitar as Liberty sang along, or recited literary passages to the music. Other days, they explored the rain forest together, snapping photos of wildlife, examining ancient ruins, and pretending to be expert archaeologists.


They grew so close, that it felt completely natural when their relationship evolved to another level. When they kissed for the first time, the birds of the rain forest seemed to sing louder than usual, as though cheering for the couple.


During the nights, there was no longer any arguing over who would sleep where.

One warm, muggy day, they trekked further away from the village than they had ever ventured before. Marta, one of the village women, had told them about an amazing waterfall, and they were eager to find it. After a few hours of hiking, however, they realized that they must have missed a trail.

Al studied the crudely drawn map Marta had drawn for them. “I think we can find the trail if we circle around this way, he said, leading the way.



Instead of the trail to the waterfall, however, they discovered a hidden lagoon, with clear green waters that sparkled beneath the blazing sun.

Liberty flashed Al a mischievous grin. Then she slid off her clothes and slipped into the cool waters. “It feels sooo good!” she said. “Come on in!” Al shed his clothes, too, and joined her. They paddled around lazily, drinking in the sunshine and one another’s company.

“We’re like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden,” Al said.

“It sure feels like paradise.” Liberty said with a laugh. “If I see a talking serpent, I’ll be sure to stay away.”



After leaving the magical lagoon, they made another surprising discovery. An ancient pyramid, still standing in the middle of the rain forest.

“I don’t see this on Marta’s map,” said Al, puzzled.

“Maybe she doesn’t know about it.” Liberty stared in awe at the vine-covered structure. “Think we should check it out?”

“I don’t know…” Al hesitated. “Maybe we should tell someone about it first.”

“Oh come on. Where’s your sense of adventure?” Liberty forged ahead, with Al close behind. Inside the ruins, it was cool and dark, and smelled dank. Liberty let out a shriek as a colony of bats swirled overhead, their leather wings beating against the air before they flew out into the daylight.


“Hey look!” Al hurried across the chamber, where a row of skeletons stood, jewels sparkling in their rib cages. Each clutched a spear with a sharpened stone for a blade. As Al studied the skeletons, Liberty noticed other abandoned treasures scattered about the chamber.

“Do you think we’re the first people to discover this stuff?” she asked. “Maybe we shouldn’t touch anyth–”

But it was too late. At that moment, Al grasped one of the skeleton’s spears and gave a tug. The skeleton’s sapphire eyes began to glow.




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