â€œDo I stay up all night?â€ the man asked.
â€œNo!â€ Gutierrez said. â€œAfter two hours you wake up one of the other men. No, make that four hours. After four hours wake up one of the other men, and go back to sleep, then he can wake up another man.â€
â€œThis is crazy, man,â€ Juarez said.
â€œItâ€™s for the good of the group.â€
â€œNo, itâ€™s for that fat cat thatâ€™s telling us all what to do. What is with him?â€
â€œLetâ€™s just do this thing and not make any trouble.â€
â€œOkay. Iâ€™m shooting first and asking questions later!â€
Juarez loaded the .22 rifle and kept it in his hands. He looked very nervous.
â€œMadre de Dios,â€ he muttered.
â€œIâ€™ll be right here, man,â€ Gutierrez said.
* * *
Michael Juarez kept watch until about 1 a.m. Then he woke JosÃ© Fernandez. It was the last time he would see the other man alive.
* * *
Their dreams were disturbing that night. In fact, everyone but JosÃ© and the workers had terrible dreams. Though they didnâ€™t realize it, they were all dreaming the same dream.
In it each of them seemed to see the town at dusk and the huge cloud of bats flying up into the sky over it. Then they each saw one of the tents with several cots within, presumably the tent of the workers brought along to set up the drill rig. The dream changed and there was a dark place where silent shapes hung suspended in a row. Next, something bent and misshapen moved through a corridor and down a stairway. Then it seemed to be crouched near the tents, impossible to completely make out but with a yellow blur of a face.
Dr. Chambers and Miss Rice both woke up at the same moment, though they were in tents across the camp from each other. Each of them could hear a strange whistling noise that seemed to come from somewhere outside. Eerie and sweet, it rose, not carrying any tune but piping shrill and melodious.
* * *
Roger Stanford awoke to find someone in his tent with him. A man stood over him.
â€œAmanda, itâ€™s 2 a.m.â€ he hissed.
Then he saw that whomever it was had what appeared to be a butcher knife in his hand.
â€œHelp!â€ he screamed.
He grabbed the nearest thing to his cot, which was his whiskey flask, and flung it at the manâ€™s face. The flask flew up, hit the canvas roof of the tent, and clattered to the ground somewhere behind the man. Stanford rolled off his cot and tried to tear through the canvas wall the tent. He only succeeded in knocking the tent askew, the poles starting to come down.
The man behind him swung at him with the knife in his hand, tearing through the canvass near him. Stanford screamed again. He looked over his shoulder in a panicked state and thought he recognized one of the workers theyâ€™d brought with them. He smelled blood and, in a frenzy, grabbed his cigar tin from where it had fallen to the ground near him and flung it at the manâ€™s face.
The sharp edge of the tin caught the man in his right eye but the man didnâ€™t even flinch. Stanford shrieked again.
* * *
All of the others woke up.
Dr. Chambers leapt up at the screaming that had started nearby and ran out of the tent. Gutierrez was up and after the man with the intent of checking on his men. Dr. Silverberg followed them, followed closely by Dr. Fry, who stopped at the flap in the tent and peeked out timidly.
It was very dark outside with only the very coals of the fire they had lit some time before still glowed.
Across the campsite, Miss Rice came out of her own tent wearing a robe and looking around, confused.
* * *
The worker brought his knife down on the form of Stanford once again, tearing at the manâ€™s clothing. Stanford could see that the man had a terribly dark stain on his shirt. He dodged to one side of the man and sprinted for the entrance to the tent. He was certain that the man was right behind him.
* * *
Dr. Chambers was heading for Stanfordâ€™s tent when the man sprinted out of it.
â€œBehind me!â€ Stanford yelled. â€œBehind me! Oh God!â€
Dr. Chambers grabbed the man.
â€œWhatâ€™s going on!?!â€ he yelled at the man. â€œTalk to me!â€
â€œWell get him away if thereâ€™s someone behind him!â€ Dr. Silverberg yelled.
Gutierrez reached one of the workerâ€™s tents and threw open the flap.
â€œMen, get up!â€ he said. â€œGet up!â€
He could see that several of them were already doing so.
Dr. Silverberg ran to the other worker tent across the campsite.
â€œMen, get up!â€ he yelled.
Dr. Fry, not wanting to get involved, left the tent and slipped around the side into the shadows there.
Miss Rice moved slowly towards the campfire.
The man who stepped out of the tent behind Stanford had a stained shirt and a large butcher knife in his hand. He brought the knife down on Stanfordâ€™s back but the man was already moving and the knife merely tore his clothing. Stanford shoved Dr. Chambers aside and ran away.
Gutierrez turned and recognized the man with the knife as JosÃ© Fernandez, one of the workers.
â€œJosÃ©!â€ he shouted.
He saw that the manâ€™s shirt was stained and there were several holes in it. He had a blank look on his face.
â€œJosÃ©!â€ he shouted again. â€œWhat has happened to you!?!â€
Dr. Chambers recognized that the man with the knife was one of the workers. He rushed the man and tried the grab the knife from his hand.
â€œJosÃ©, what the hell are you doing!?!â€ Gutierrez yelled.
He pulled up the flap of the tent.
â€œAndrew, Diego, Michael, get out here!â€ he said.
Silverberg reached the other tent and pulled back the flap.
â€œGuys, get up!â€ he yelled. â€œSomebodyâ€™s attacking the boss! Câ€™mon! Câ€™mon! Câ€™mon!â€
The two men in the tent got to their feet.
Dr. Fry jogged towards where the men were struggling with each other. Miss Rice moved slowly closer to the fight as well, but stayed on the far side of the campfire from the action.
JosÃ© Fernandez struggled to hold onto the knife and tried to stab Chambers without luck. Chambers swung a solid right hook at the man, striking him in the jaw. A burst of pain pounded onto his knuckles as his fist connected and, to his horror, he heard a snap and saw that heâ€™d hit the man so hard, his jaw had actually dislocated or perhaps even broken.
It didnâ€™t seem to bother the madman at all.
Chambers realized that the stain on Fernandezâ€™s chest was blood and his eyes looked dead to the man. He had a terrible wound on one eye, which actually looked torn open.
Gutierrez had a sudden, terrible thought as he saw Fernandez brush off the telling blow that Chambers had just lain upon him and go for the man with his knife once more: the man was possessed. Some evil spirit had taken over his body. He gestured to his men and the four of them rushed at Fernandez, but once the other three saw Fernandezâ€™s broken face, they stopped, terrified. Gutierrez leapt at the man and tried to bring him to the ground. He crashed into Fernandez, which knocked the man backwards and away from Dr. Chambers.
â€œHeâ€™s got a knife!â€ Dr. Silverberg yelled. â€œHelp me get it off of him!â€
He rushed Fernandez and knocked him down, the man crashing into one side of Stanfordâ€™s tent. He leapt onto the man, trying to hold him down, and realized that the man was very strong and his skin felt very cold.
Dr. Fry jogged towards where the other men were struggling with Fernandez. Miss Rice wondered where the other rifle was stored but was unsure where it might be. She wanted to help but didnâ€™t think anyone would appreciate a woman getting involved in the brawl.
Fernandez struggled in vain against Dr. Silverberg, who had put him into an wrestling hold.
Stanford looked over his shoulder and stopped when he saw the knot of men struggling with the worker.
â€œGet him!â€ he shouted.
â€œGet the knife out of his hand!â€ Dr. Silverberg shouted.
Dr. Chambers tried to get the knife out of Fernandezâ€™s hand without luck. His was terribly, almost inhumanly strong. Gutierrez got off the man and ran for the trucks with the intent of getting a shovel. Silverberg continued to hold the man down and tried to get the knife from him. He grabbed the manâ€™s hand and pulled the fingers back individually. The knuckles cracked loudly and one of the fingers went back too far, obviously breaking. He managed to get the knife and toss it aside.
â€œGet it!â€ he shouted.
It landed right at the feet of Dr. Fry, who bent over to pick it up. He stood back up and realized that the man had several stab wounds on his chest, all around his vital organs. He knew that the man could not possibly be alive. He decided that the information was not important at the moment and merely coughed. Miss Rice got a little closer to the fight while still keeping her distance. Fernandez pounded ineffectually at Dr. Silverbergâ€™s head and shoulders, the blows glancing off.
Stanford looked around for a gun but didnâ€™t see one anywhere around. He headed for the two trucks.
â€œJosÃ©!â€ he shouted as he ran. â€œWhere are the guns!?!â€
â€œItâ€™s in this truck!â€ Gutierrez shouted back, pointing to the far automobile.
â€œKeep him pinned down!â€ Dr. Chambers said to Dr. Silverberg.
He looked up at Dr. Fry.
â€œGo get some rope!â€ he said.
â€œAngel! JosÃ©ph! Get your lazy asses up!â€ Gutierrez yelled as he ran for the truck.
The two men left their tent and headed for the brawl.
â€œGet the guns!â€ Dr. Silverberg shouted at the top of his lungs. â€œRopes!â€
He noticed that Fernandez was struggling less.
Dr. Fry headed over to the trucks to look for rope. He dropped the knife when he reached them. Gutierrez turned from the trucks, shovel in his hand, and ran back towards the fight. He found Angel Gazolas and JosÃ©ph Aceves also holding down the struggling Fernandez. The two cursed in Spanish.
â€œMadre de Dios!â€ Gazolas said.
â€œLook at all the blood!â€ Aceves screamed. â€œThe blood! Thereâ€™s so much blood!â€
â€œCan you try to calm him down?â€ Dr. Chambers said to them.
The man they held down was moving less than he had been.
Stanford pulled the .22 rifle from the bed of the truck and worked the bolt action upon it. He cursed when he found that it was not loaded.
â€œJosÃ©! Whereâ€™s the bullets!â€ he yelled.
â€œThe bed of the truck!â€ Gutierrez called back.
Dr. Fry had retrieved some rope from the other truck bed and headed back.
Gutierrez reached the struggling men. He stepped over them all, put the blade of the shovel to Fernandezâ€™s neck and then put his foot and his entire weight down upon it, severing the manâ€™s head mostly from his body. There was actually not much blood; only a little oozed out of the manâ€™s severed neck. The four men holding down Fernandez leapt backwards on beholding the terrible murder.
It was suddenly very quiet. Dr. Fry arrived with the now-useless rope. Fernandez had stopped moving completely.
They had time to catch their breath and, upon examining Ferandezâ€™s dead body, realized he had been stabbed repeatedly in the chest. There was no way a man could survive such a stabbing â€¦ yet he had been walking around. He had been dead for longer than they had been fighting him.
Stanford finally returned, loaded rifle in hand. Miss Rice also walked up and looked down at the dead man.
â€œJosÃ©,â€ Dr. Fry asked. â€œHombre, why did you do that?â€
â€œIt was already dead,â€ Gutierrez said.
â€œI suppose I saw that myself,â€ Dr. Fry said.
â€œHe would have done it to us if heâ€™d had the chance.â€
â€œI donâ€™t like this,â€ Dr. Fry said. â€œBut I wonâ€™t turn you in to the authorities for sure.â€
Dr. Chambers looked at the body, then pulled the shirt back from Fernandezâ€™s chest. There were terrible wounds there and there was no way the man could have lived. Then Chambers started screaming at the top of his lungs. Dr. Silverberg grabbed him and put his hand over the manâ€™s mouth. Chambers kept screaming and screaming for almost a minute before he stopped.
When Gutierrez started to dig a hole next to the corpse, the workers had had enough. They bolted for the two trucks.
â€œOh no!â€ Dr. Fry cried. â€œDonâ€™t leave us! No!â€
Angel Gazolas was the first to reach the nearest truck and slid into the driverâ€™s seat. Then he screamed and leapt back out with a scream.
â€œMadre de Dios!â€ he shrieked. â€œSnakes in the trucks. Thereâ€™s snakes in the trucks.â€
He gripped his arm. Gutierrez headed for the trucks, shovel in hand.
â€œWhat are you all doing!?!â€ Stanford screamed at the workers.
â€œGet away!â€ Gutierrez said.
He heard the hiss of the rattle from the cab. Gazolas stumbled away from the truck, still screaming. The other workers bolted in every direction.
â€œCome back!â€ Stanford screamed. â€œGet back here!â€
â€œAndrew! Diego! Michael! JosÃ©ph!â€ Gutierrez called. â€œGet back here!â€
Dr. Silverberg ran to the prone Angel Gazolas. He took off the manâ€™s belt and used it as a tourniquet on his stricken arm. Then he used his pocketknife to cut a small incision and tried to suck the poison out. The man still looked very ill. He guessed that he probably saved the manâ€™s life but he should still be gotten to a hospital.
â€œCome back here!â€ Stanford yelled. â€œThe nearest place is miles away!â€
When someone checked their watch, they found it was about 2 a.m.
The feeling of being watched intensified. There also seemed a lot of bats flying overhead. Stanford, in a fit of pique, shot at the bats but didnâ€™t hit any of them.
â€œWhy the hell did you just waste one of our bullets?â€ Gutierrez said.
â€œStupid bats!â€ Stanford shouted. â€œI am so angry!â€
Gutierrez tried to get the snake out of the truck but the animal had slipped into the darkness under the seat. A lantern was lit and put near one of the tents. Gutierrez called for someone to bring him the lantern. Dr. Chambers lit another lantern and went over to the trucks to try to help Gutierrez find the snake. Chambers thought it sounded like there was more than one rattle. He quickly shared the information with Gutierrez.
â€œYou can deal with the snake!â€ Stanford shouted at them. â€œIâ€™m going to bed. Itâ€™s two in the morning. I cannot handle this.â€
He strode into one of the workersâ€™ tents, putting one of the cots across the entrance to trip anyone who might come in. He lit the lantern in the tent and left it burning. Then he lay down on the cot with the rifle in his arms.
That jerk, Miss Rice thought.
She wanted a cigarette but was afraid that if there were snakes in the nearby trucks, there might be snakes in her tent as well.
Dr. Silverberg went back to his tent and lay down, shuddering in the darkness. He prayed for a long time.
Miss Rice asked if someone could make sure there were no shakes in her tent. Both Gutierrez and Dr. Chambers volunteered to help.
â€œYou hold the lantern, Iâ€™ll have the shovel,â€ Gutierrez said.
They didnâ€™t find any snakes in Miss Riceâ€™s tent.
â€œNo snakes in here,â€ Gutierrez said. â€œItâ€™s good. Itâ€™s safe.â€
She went back to bed, having a cigarette to calm herself down so she could get back to sleep.
The others were not really comfortable sleeping. Dr. Chambers, Gutierrez, and Dr. Fry were too nervous to go back to sleep. Dr. Fry built up the fire while Gutierrez and Dr. Chambers walked around the perimeter of the camp, hoping to find the rifle that Fernandez had been armed with. They saw nothing, however.
Gutierrez got a few picks and pieces of the miniature drill rig out of the back of one of the trucks and dropped them by the fire. Dr. Chambers picked up one of the picks. Angel Gazolas had lain down by the fire and fallen asleep.