Angkor

Thunder peeled across the sky as the rain battered the earth. Lightning lit up the jungle. The rainy season had begun. Yet that didn’t stop the predators. In fact, it brought one alive. A beast of myth, it boasted a blunt head, several rows of fangs, and four eyes. The Sat-Ronteah was a creature not to fool around with. And it was on the hunt.

A young boy ran through the undergrowth, moving swiftly to keep from sinking in the mud. He checked over his shoulder. No beast. That was good. He continued pushing foward. Already lost from his village while hunting for tarantulas, he hoped he travelled in one general direction. Rainwater matted his shoulder-length black hair against his tanned skin. At least it didn’t cover his eyes. A shriek momentarily drowed the thunder. The beast had discovered him. He didn’t waste time looking behind. Hopefully, he would find shelter soon.

As soon as he completed the thought, he fell face-first into the clay-like mud. The Sat-Ronteah shrieked again. This time, it was closer. Scrambling to his feet, he pressed on. Breaths coming fast. At least the soaking earth cooled him. The rain didn’t ease the stickiness. Lightning revealed crumbling structures. He picked his way among stones covered in lichen. Whatever lay here, nature had taken back over long ago. Nature would always find a way.

He gasped and backpedaled. Flashes backlit large statues. Two Sat-Ronteahs flanked a seven-headed cobra. The carvings along scared him, sending him further into the ancient city. Macaques hid amongst the numerous bridges, aquaducts, and fallen columns. These tan monkeys knew to remain silent. His bare feet slapped against the stone. Certainly these slippery runis provided some sort of shelter.

Temples rose above the palms, and one towered above the others. He could see it even through the storm. There was where he would rest. Once he reached the central temple, he did the rest. His lungs burned, and his legs prickled. He checked behind him. The beast could not be seen or heard. Dripping wet and exhausted, he ventured into the heart of the temple. Rain seeped through gaps. Pattered from cracks. His gaze remained alert. Invasive vines resembled many things in the patchy light.

Roofless, the main sanctuary came into view. He stuck his head into the expansive room. Froze. Not because of a creature. Because of the statue emerging with the slowing flashes of lightning. “Siva,” he whispered. The word leaving his lips, the Sat-Ronteah dropped in from a cracked outcropping of the roof. Colored in greens, blues, and reds, it could blend in well with the vivacious jungle.

The boy glanced at the monument. Siva could be gracious or malicious. Siva embodied life, death, and transformation. None knew when their time would end. Swallowing, he faced the four amber eyes studying him. Squarish jaws did nothing to hide fat teeth. He knew he needed to make a decision now. So he lept to the nearest clutch of vines. Clambered up to a hole in deteriorating carvings. He squeezed in. Pressed himself back. Praying he would live the night.

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