The Death of Amy Long
I sat, hunched in the suffocating undergrowth, wondering about the eyes of lurking predators in the endless layers of green. How far off could those eyes be? And did they need to see me at all? I’d heard it said that animals knew the smell of fear, and that their keenest sense in pursuit of the hunt was the sense of smell.
The road was just below me, no more than a half mile down the hill. My skin was scratched and bloody from my frantic flight through the tangling jungle, and the mosquitoes continued their relentless assault. But to go back down to the road? Unthinkable. I’d seen a machete-wielding man cleave another man’s neck halfway through; now I too knew the smell of fear.
We separated in our retreat from the village. Everything happened so fast, and there was no way to know what they wanted, only that they had no compunction about killing another human being. It was the most shocking thing I’d ever seen—so unexpected. We all ran except Amy. To this day, I don’t know why she didn’t.
There was no network out here, and I was beyond the range of the others, so I had no idea whether they were safe. But Dr. Avery had her bag over her shoulder as we fled; my hope was that she had time to trigger a response via satellite. If I stayed hidden for a few hours, a rescue team would probably come from Jakarta, or perhaps even Guam. I kept my chips on for that reason, and Avery didn’t disappoint.
Buzzing from the mosquitoes; trills and shrieks from birds and other creatures; and the brief sound of raindrops in an afternoon shower had helped to quell the sense of terror from the attack. I’d kept as still as I could for those paralyzing few hours, listening for something. I heard nothing significant until that evening. The noise I heard then was the sound of a large animal, a man, or perhaps a jungle cat coming to finish the job a man had started. It was a frightening few moments.
“Dr. Early,” a voice came through the dark flora in the fading light. “I have you on infrared and have detected your signal. It’s safe to come out now.”
“Who are you?” I shouted back.
“I’m with a remote field infantry unit sent to rescue your party.”
“Yes, sir,” the robot’s voice assured me. “Out of Guam. The village is secure and transport is waiting. I’m about thirty yards below you. I’ll lead you back to safety; just be careful coming down the hill.”
The sight of the robot’s defined metal outline in the untamed setting of that jungle was a staggering contrast. If ever a thing seemed more out of place, I certainly couldn’t name it. Still though, it was a comfort to see something so familiar, an American hero in a titanium shell. But that comfort was short lived.
“Is everyone else okay?” I asked as I approached the robot.
“It is my burden to inform you that one your colleagues has passed, Dr. Early. The terrorists killed Dr. Long before we had a chance to intervene.”
The bot offered to carry me back to the town after I slipped a few times. I decided to keep walking though, as it was only a few hundred yards to the road. It wasn’t that I couldn’t walk, but more that the walk required concentration I couldn’t give. It was difficult trudging through such terrain, and I’d never done anything like it: obstacles everywhere—slippery roots and rocks, leaves and branches brushing against my face. There were also the tears obscuring my vision, but most of all, there was the ponderous sense that I should have done more: I should have done something to save Amy.