The year is 2012. The place is sunny Guatemala. End Times threaten as the ancient Mayan calendar prepares to roll over to a new Great Age. Earthquakes have begun to shake apart the bones of the earth, splintering the boundaries that separate inner and outer worlds. World survival is at stake as creatures, never meant to know the light of day, step through from the Xibalban underworld into time. The only hope for transforming this time of destruction into a time of rebirth rests with an American teen and an unlikely group of shamanic allies, as they struggle to play this ballgame of life.
House of the Jaguar
December 17, 2012
13 CIB-Day of the Vulture (bird of transformation)
The idea of shamans no longer seemed as strange to me as it had in April, when I first met Chan. Sure, I had heard about them, from my archeologist father, but I had never actually met a real, live, practicing shaman. Now, hours of Internet research and tons of questions later, I felt a bit more comfortable with the idea of individuals who journey out of their bodies to parallel worlds for the purpose of communing with spirits. Still somewhat eerie, maybe, but the concept wasn’t all that different from disappearing into virtual reality—something I understood fully. I had no problem whatsoever calling Chan a shaman.
I need your help. Why turn to me now? I hadn’t heard from him in almost five months and had convinced myself that it was for the best; it was what he wanted. Why turn to me at all? I found myself wondering if Chan’s troubles had anything to do with me.
Please come quickly. What could he be thinking, asking me to rush down to Guatemala? Chan’s request was ridiculous. But a voice inside kept asking, Who makes reasonable requests when they are in trouble? I chose to ignore that question.
The more I considered the message, the angrier I got. How dare he? How dare he ignore me all this while, making me think our friendship was over, and then send such a request? Talk about nerve. What right did he have to treat me like this?
The anger dissolved as quickly as it had begun, honesty winning out over passion. Chan had every right. I owed him a great debt; I owed him my life. And as debts went, that one was extremely hard to repay.
The only thing I could think to do at the time was turn off the computer. Perhaps then I could forget the message that glared at me. Maybe even forget that a friend was in trouble. Right!
Before I could signal my voice-activated wizard to power-down, a warning beep from my instant messenger indicated that something important was attempting to come through from the media.
“Macbot, display on.”
A wall-sized screen came to life with its televised news transmission.
A series of tremors and quakes have just ripped across parts of southern Mexico and Central America. Luckily, the worst damage has been confined to the more remote regions of the Peten rain forest in Guatemala. Casualties, for now, are low, but there is still cause for concern. Experts say the area remains highly unstable with a strong likelihood of further quakes and aftershocks. Evacuation is strongly recommended for anyone remaining in the vicinity.
The visual images wavered, their edges unclear. I refocused. Pictures of an unrecognizable Guatemala gave way to those of a reporter standing in front of an unruly mob of people, a thousand thick, shouting and waving signs filled with apocalyptic warnings.
The destruction taking place in Guatemala has set off a chain reaction of millennial fever. A variety of sources point to ancient Mayan prophecies that claim the current world age is destined to come to an end on December 21, the end-times to be triggered by a series of earthquakes. A large number of people now appear to be taking these claims seriously.
Distraught, I turned from the screen, but the nightmare imagery tangled in my mind.
Please—tell me this isn’t happening.
I shivered, reliving the terror I had felt when I first heard, months ago, that the gods were not pleased, that a sacrifice was required. Was this the sacrifice about which they spoke?
I knew that Chan must be desperate. He would most likely be searching for some way, any way to set things right with his gods. But I still couldn’t understand why he was contacting me. I didn’t have any shamanic training. It made no sense. If he wanted American help, why not go to his archeologist friends? But then—maybe they, too, were gone. Maybe, like thousands of others, they had jumped on the first available flight out of Guatemala.
The email message might be Chan’s last resort, a frantic attempt to get someone, anyone, to listen.
A thousand questions bumped and banged around in my head. Should I contemplate going to Guatemala in this mess? How would I pull it off without my parents’ consent, something they would never give? What about school—how could I skip out without a reasonable excuse? But then, school was almost ready to let out for the Christmas holidays so I wouldn’t miss that much if I disappeared for a day or two.
My mind quickly ticked off the other roadblocks that stood in my way. First, the quakes. I was used to booking flights for my parents via the Internet, so I would have no problem booking one for myself. But would a flight to Guatemala even be available at such a time? Second, I really didn’t make a habit of gallivanting off by myself on joy rides to foreign countries. My parents would be furious. Even though they were both out of town, I expected them home for the holidays in only a few days.
I thought about leaving them a message and dealing with their anger later, but that wasn’t an option. All they needed was to hear that their teenage daughter had decided to spend her vacation in sunny Guatemala amongst the quake victims. I could just imagine their reaction. My ears rang from the thought of it.
The repercussions would be disastrous, especially for Pennae and Cassie, my so-called guardians. My parents would have a field day if they came home to an empty house, and a missing daughter. Heads would roll and most likely Pennae’s youth center, Mystecha, would be targeted as well. My parents could be downright unreasonable when pushed too far. And right now, I had enough things to worry about without including the demise of Mystecha.
So what should I do? No matter how hard I struggled with the question, there was no easy answer to a dilemma that rattled me more than I was brave enough to admit.