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Signposts (part 2)

On this trip, however, the gods were not with us. It had been raining since we'd set foot on Swiss ground, and so far we hadn't seen one petal of interest to us, let alone a whole orchid. At least the rain kept the hikers out of our way. So if we did find something, chances were we could pick it without anybody noticing.

Higher and higher we climbed. I felt watched. No, it was more. Menace was the word that sprang to my mind, although the forest was silent. Even the birds seemed to avoid this place. It was hard to describe and yet almost tangible, and with every step the foreboding grew.

"The Swiss have strange legends about what happens to people who steal from the forest," I tried again. "Do you want your hand to grow out of the grave?"

Mike stopped and stared at me. "What's wrong with you? The rumours of a curse didn't stop you from cutting that orchid off the wall of a Maya temple."

"There's something wrong with this place," I answered. "Something tells me we shouldn't be here."

"You've read too much Schiller. And anyway, that legend concerns illicit wood chopping. We're going to leave the trees alone. Promise." Shaking his head, Mike trudged on.

It was then that I thought I heard a child laugh. A family on an outing? I looked around. Everything remained quiet though; not even a breath of wind in the canopy. The only noises were the rain pelting on our jackets, rustling in the dead leaves on the ground and chattering in the foliage.

"There!" Mike cried and made me jump.
(To be continued)