James stood on his tiptoes in order to see the third face on the totem pole. He liked this one the most, it depicted a face with round eyes and mouth with a bulbous nose, it reminded him of an English teacher he had back in junior high. Even back then, James had been known for his tenacious nature, it was this trait that got him to graduate a year early in high school, and wrap up a degree in Archeology in just under five semesters. Now here he was in the dense jungles of South America, fulfilling his dream of studying newly found tribal grounds that had long been deserted. The only things remaining were hundreds of totem poles; it was probably a religious sight. Many of these poles were remarkably preserved.
There had been some minor setbacks, well major setbacks; several members of his team had gone missing since the team had arrived three days ago. This left James alone with two other members: Daphne and Tim, both of whom he had known for nearly two years now. This was longer than he had ever known anybody.
“Professor East?” Tim asked, from behind him.
“What is it now?” James asked, kneeling down to scribble some notes in his journal.
“Have you seen Daphne?”
“Do I look like I’ve seen Daphne?” James replied taking a few steps back to take a better look at the pole.
“No, you look like you have you head shoved up your own ass.”
“Excuse me?” James asked, looking up. Tim was a quiet person by nature, and not prone to out breaks.
“Daphne is missing.”
“How would you know that?” James asked.
“Because I can’t find her.”
“Exactly, you can’t find her, don’t let us jump to conclusions.” James made another note.
“No, let’s just pretend everything is alright and that every member of this team isn’t disappearing without a trace.”
“Nothing disappears ‘without a trace’ Tim, except in the moves.” James looked at him, “Honestly and you call yourself a scientist. ‘Without a trace,' indeed.”
Tim walked away in a huff.
James shrugged and returned to his notes.
Later that night James returned to camp and Tim was nowhere in sight.
He must have returned to collecting water samples from the river. James thought. Good, that’ll calm his mind.
Several hours went by and James finished making dinner and Tim did not return. James took out a flashlight and headed to river.
“Tim!” James called out as he neared the river. “Are you close to a breakthrough on that mystery mineral in the water? Either way you’re going to have to call it a day: it is dinner time.”
“Tim,” James pointed his flashlight beam up and down the bank there was no sight of his companion. Raising the light to look across the bank he saw a figure just beyond the opposite river bank.
“Did you find something?” James asked, thinking it was Tim.
When there wasn’t an answer, James guessed the noise of the river was drowning his voice. Finding a shallow place, he crossed the river. Upon approaching the figure, he found it wasn’t Tim, but another totem pole. Directing the light at the face that was at his height he thought it looked a lot like Daphne. As the light shined higher and higher on the pole, to James’ horror, he realized that all of the faces resembled his fellow professors and scientists. When he brought the light back down to the very bottom face, which looked the newest, it looked precisely like Tim. James tried to scream but he couldn’t, open his mouth. He watched in terrified as the hand holding the flashlight turned, not into stone, but wood.