This is the last picture of my friend Julie. She was an anthropologist by profession, and an adventurer by choice. This the last time I saw her. Just a casual photo of her while she was photographing a mysterious hieroglyphic she spotted on the ceiling of this cave. Julie was always a curious sort and when she asked me to accompany her on this new adventure, I was happy to do so. I didn’t have her same spirit of adventure, but I thought I would learn some history and meet new people, maybe even friends. We had known each other since college, and this would be our first vacation together.
This day started out early, as the trek through the desert was a long one, and the guide was gruff and impatient. He was our only choice as we asked around to be taken to this area. He stepped up right away when he heard where we wanted to go. Julie had researched this particular cave, but no one seemed to know just where it was except this old man. We climbed in, settled our gear and left the hotel. Julie had most of her camera equipment so there wasn’t room for much else. We didn’t receive any help from the guide. We were jostling along when we noticed a few odd homemade signs along the way. Julie took pictures of them, but the old man just muttered when we asked them what they said.
We arrived near the cave location and Julie practically flew out of the jeep. I unloaded the rest of our stuff and followed, carrying all but her camera gear. I was also anxious to see the inside after Julie told me the stories she had heard about it. I was just entering the cave when I heard an engine and the old man drove off, giving us a rude gesture as he left. I turned to Julie in desperation. Here we were in the middle of nowhere, and she didn’t even seem to notice. I yelled at her, asking what will we do now? She seemed disinterested, eyeing the cave walls. I again asked her, but she ignored me. I sat the gear down and went over to her.
Julie was now completely engrossed in the cave walls and what she saw there. She started telling me the story of the pictures drawn and carved. It was straight out of a cheap science fiction novel about alien creatures landing on earth. I was about to say take me to your leader in a weird voice, when she gasped. I tried to see what she saw, but couldn’t. I asked if she was okay and she just started snapping photo after photo. It was as if she saw something I didn’t.
I walked back to the pile of gear I had unloaded and got out my own small camera. I stood back and tried to capture a lot of the cave with Julie in the middle. That’s the picture above. After my flash went off I looked in the camera to see if the digital flash worked or if I had to retake. I looked back and Julie was gone. She and her camera had disappeared. I ran around to see how I could have missed her walking out by me, but she wasn’t outside either. I ran back in and looked again at the drawings that captivated her. I couldn’t really decipher them. I looked up where she must have taken the last photo, but it was blank.
I pulled out my cell phone and dialed her number. It had been disconnected. I called 911 and they sent someone out to pick me up. I tried finding the old man who drove us out to the cave. No one remembered seeing him. His vehicle was never found. The cave has since been blocked off by the local authorities. If the hotel people hadn’t noticed both of us being there, I would probably have been arrested. I went home alone.