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Albert Russo

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The spell of Mayaland
By Albert Russo
Posted: Monday, July 24, 2006
Last edited: Monday, July 24, 2006
This short story is rated "G" by the Author.
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           >> View all 7
brother and sister discover Chichen-Itza in Mexico and meet Maya ghosts

first appeared in the Dan River Anthology (USA)

Tania peered through the door left ajar into the main room of the hacienda suite to ascertain that her parents were asleep.
The bus journey from Merida had seemed never ending, what with the air-conditioning breaking down and the monotony of the landscape. Even now, the air which the large ceiling fan stirred was hot and sultry and the soft whirring sound of the blades lulled one into drowsiness. Tania's cheekbones hurt, yet she was too excited to rest. She tiptoed back into the children's bedroom and shook her brother out of a dream. "Hush!" she whispered, gagging him gently with the palm of her hand, lest he should yell.
"Get up!" she summoned him, "but be quiet. We're going to visit the pyramid, and if you're good, I'll tell you all about the Mayas."
Little Sasha's eyes sparkled in anticipation yet he couldn't repress a yawn. "Will you buy me some chicken pizza?" he drawled.
Silently Tania took hold of his hand, closed the door behind them and led him out of the hacienda.
Leaden clouds hovered above them and there was not so much as a breeze to stroke the downy spot on her nape. Before their gaze lay the same ubiquitous brush they'd encountered during the last three days of traveling. Little Sasha panted, feeling as if his lungs were suddenlv ablaze, so still and torrid was the atmosphere around them. The cooing of a bird reverberated from a desolate flamboyant tree, piercing the air with the sharpness of a needle and the quiet that followed was foreboding. Brother and sister walked a long narrow path that snaked inside the underbrush; they didn't exchange a word until they sighted a clearing. Little Sasha reiterated his question:
"When will I get my chicken pizza?"
"I've told you already, there's no chicken pizza in this country. What I'm about to show you is Chichen ltza. Repeat, Chi - chen It - za."
“Chicken tits."
“Oh, never mind," Tania said in resignation. It was too hot anyway to argue. They ambled along and emerged all at once onto a huge open space that revealed the awesome pyramid Tania had mentioned a while earlier. To the far left sprawled the Temple of the Thousand Columns and facing it, right across the grass-patched
esplanade, was the Ball Game Court. if you craned your neck you could see in the distance the dome of the Caracol Observatory.
Tania felt exhilarated, forgetting momentarily the unpleasantness of the climate, for here they stood, alone, she and her brother, amid the grand ruins of the mysterious Mayas and Toltecs.
Tania, whose favorite subjects at school were peoples and societies always made a point of studying the history and the legends of the places she would visit. Though he was still very young and did not grasp half the things his sister would tell him, little Sasha delighted in her lectures. She had a way of pronouncing those foreign names, it made his mouth water. For some reason he associated them with basketfuls of luscious fruit, exotic dishes and varicolored cookies. Yucatan conjured up in his mind the image of fantastic trees bearing animal-shaped marzipans in all the hues of the rainbow. How disappointed he was to find around them nothing but shrubbery and burnt grass, except for an odd jacaranda here and there or a colorin with its delicate buds resembling lipsticks.
"Let's go to the Ball Game Court," said Tania as she guided him towards the Juego de Pelota. "Look," she pointed at the base of a terrace all sculpted in low-relief. "There were two teams, standing in their respective row. Each player in turn had to throw the ball and aim it at the stone ring you see up there in the shape of two entwined serpents."
“And what did the winners get as a trophee?" asked little Sasha excitedly.
Tania was waiting for this moment. She stuck her tongue out and made a dramatic gesture with her forefinger, pressing it against her throat.
"No!" yelled little Sasha, terror stricken.
"Yes indeed," said Tania emphatically, and to prove she wasn't kidding, she pointed back at the sculpted scene before them. "The captain of the opposing team had his head cut off and blood that spurted out of his body turned into a tangle of snakes. Then the priest carved the victim's heart out with an obsidian dagger, offering it in sacrifice to the Chaac Mool.
Little Sasha's freckled face was dotted with sweat beads. He felt warm and cold alternatively as a humid thread coursed along his spine.
"Ch . . . ch . . . Chuck Mmmmmaul," he stuttered.
"It took the form of a jaguar," Tania said in a hushed growl, opening her eyes wide, "The Chaac Mool was the raingod and it only drank human blood."
At that very moment a lightning whipped the gray and rust tinted sky, followed by a loud crash of thunder. Caught at her own game, Tania stared at her kid brother equally petrified. "Moctezuma's curse," she thought, "might it be true after all?" Another tremendous din shook the atmosphere.
Little Sasilta began to scream. Heeding her instincts, Tania gripped him and ran for shelter. They went past the Wall of Skulls where warriors were portrayed holding eagles and decapitated heads. Soon curtains of rain were thrashing the ground as fiercely as squadrons of enraged bees. The two children reached the House of the Eagles just in time to make it into the oratory. It was a small dark room and its walls seemed to be coated with cinder.
"People probably picknick in here," Tania remarked. As her sight adjusted to the surrounding dimness she recognized a pair of eagle and jaguar devouring a human heart. "Shoo. . shooo," Tania whistled to scare away the evil spirits, for she was a brave girl and did not let herself be conquered by fear that easily. She put her arm around little Sasha who was still shivering like a leaf,
"It's going to be all over soon," she reassured her brother," look at me, I'm not scared any more." He was appeased though the rain continued to plummet unrelentingly. Tania suddenly felt very weary and within minutes she joined little Sasha into fantasyland.
"Yucatan. . Yu - ca - tan," a voice whispered into little Sasha's ears as a pair of white butterflies landed on his eyelids. Then a miracle took place. The boy saw himself standing in the center of the esplanade and out of his feet grew clusters of roots that dug deep into the Monster of the Earth. His body stretched skyward and spreadeagied. From his curly red hair and pale fingertips twigs sprouted which branched out in all directions and soon the most amazing tree began to blossom envelopping like a magic forest the Pyramid of Kukulkan under its dense polychromatic foliage. The stone eagles and Chaac Mools were smothered with huge flowers that filled their beaks and mouths so that they could no longer harm anyone. The tree was peopled with bright-colored macaws and toucans and a variety of smaller birds whose singing and chirps made the most soothing music man could hear. There were berries and mangoes hanging from the lower branches as well as marzipan and chocolate cookies. Towering over the magic tree like a conductor was Sasha, his green eyes as luminous as two beacons. His head was crowned with Quetzal's feathers. The serpent god had disappeared within the entrails of the Earth Monster, never to resurface.
"My goodness, it's almost 7 pm. And we've been here only two hours. Quick, we must go back to the hacienda. Mom and dad will be worrying to death."
But no sooner had they reached the middle of the esplanade than a voice boomed seemingly out of the pyramid. Tania and her kid brother froze.
"Chi - chen It - za" intoned the voice, and simultaneously the Great Pyramid emerged from the surrounding darkness like a monumental jewel case. A serpent glowed in emerald green at one angle, hugging the building from the crest down to the base where the head rested. A rolling of drums accompanied the illumination of the sanctuary which enclosed the purple Chaac Mool. Then as the voice recounted the story of the great Maya and Toltec civilization, the Temple of the Thousand Columns shone in a golden halo.
Little Sasha wished this new dream would go on forever but the Light and Sound show came to its conclusion and it was high time that he and Tania rejoined their parents. Dreams too have an end.

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