Sacred Sacrificial Pyramid Grounds
Antarctica, 2,000 B.C.
The snake took hold of the large rat, the battle already won before it even began. The prey squirmed and wiggled, but the snake, coiled completely around it, held on tight. Seconds passed and the rat suffocated, its ribs crushed with the force of the snake’s body squeezing it with enormous strength. The snake, satisfied that its food was now dead and not a problem, unhinged its lower jaw and started eating. This was when it was most vulnerable.
Kontu was waiting for this exact moment, when the snake started to eat and would not put up a fight. The waiting had been hard; it seemed like forever when the hunting party started stalking the snake early that morning, and waiting for it to start eating something. It was hot and humid in the jungle; the sun was directly overhead now; trees and leaves encroached all around the hunters, making the ground hard to see where they stepped. But stepped carefully the three of them did, and soon enough after following the snake, the gods had rewarded them with their chance. He absently slapped at a mosquito on his face, feeling the sweat beading down. His hand came away with a large black mess. He knew the other two hunters had been putting up with the same harassment since early that morning.
Kontu stepped out of the bushes and, spear in hand, signaled his hunting party to step out and surround the snake. The reptile was an anaconda, and it was a fierce foe indeed. That was why they had to wait until it started to feed--fewer men died when that happened. It may not have been the way other tribesmen would have faced the snake, but the other tribesmen weren’t here. Kontu had his way; he was the leader, and the hunters in his party agreed unanimously on how to kill the large reptile.
Kontu signaled for Pupou, on his right, to get into position. It was only a matter of time before the snake would finish eating, and with the current animal it was consuming, the timeframe was less than a few moments or so. They had to act quickly.
On his left, Rontu readied his spear as well, preparing to jab.
Kontu gave the signal, and together as one, the three of them thrust outward, making deep wounds with their obsidian-tipped spears. They twisted and turned their weapons, making their wounds deeper and wider. The snake struggled under its pain, and it knew that it was done; once it started eating, it could not expel the body until it was done digesting. Fury burned in its eyes, they all saw; the tribe would be pleased that there would be a successful hunt today, though the method of how it was caught would remain within the hunting party. Kontu could see his reflection in the snake’s eyes as he thrust again and again, blood running down the creature’s patterned skin in rivulets.
They were about to go for the killing stroke when three red dots appeared on Pupou’s chest, and moved up onto his forehead. The hunters paused in their attack, including Pupou, having seen the dots on his body. Formed in a triangle like the great Sacrificial Pyramids, Pupou felt a glowing warmth from them. Somehow, the three of them knew this was not good, that the hunter’s life was forfeit.
There was a flash, and instantly Pupou’s head suddenly exploded. The hunter’s body propelled backwards, blood, brain matter, and skull spraying the jungle and the two shock-laden hunters. Blood spattered both their faces.
Forgetting the snake in an instant, they turned tail and fled into the underbrush. Branches whipped past them in their flight; they jumped over low bushes, fallen logs, low shrubbery. Kontu only heard the pitter-patter of his feet as he fled, not even realizing until he stopped minutes later that Rontu had disappeared.
Kontu looked around frantically. He knew that his time had come, and that the Gods were angry with him for picking on the snake at its most vulnerable time. The tribe frowned upon that sort of tactic; the way to hunt your prey was to face it and kill it, whether alone or with a hunting party. But Kontu had always gone his own way against the Chieftain and any elders who thought they knew better--traditions, hunting rituals, even courtships.
At that thought, a split-second image of his bride-to-be, Luta, the daughter of the village’s chieftain, flashed through his mind. He quickly dashed that thought and tucked it away in the furthest corner of his mind; now was not the time for pleasantries. He said a silent prayer to the gods that she would not be chosen for the Sacrifice that was to happen today; he had left on his hunt before the tournament commenced.
Kontu looked in all directions but still saw no sign of Rontu.
Something caught his attention near him. Something black and hideous. It grew from the tree nearest him; it unfurled itself from the branch above him and dropped down onto the foliage floor, like some nightmare suddenly growing arms and legs, as pitch as night. A large banana-shaped head with teeth dominated the place between its shoulders, turning from side to side, as if trying to gauge where Kontu was, for it had no eyes to speak of. Its hide seemed like a skeletal beetle of some kind: hard, gleaming, and insectile. A wicked tail ending in a point lashed out in the air behind it, and the nightmare chittered, hissing at him.
Kontu did not even know it was there.
Clawed hands reached forward to grab him. Kontu lost his balance and fell backwards, hitting the ground hard. He knew at once what this creature was that was reaching for him, knew from childhood stories that had been told to him from a very early age onward--
--Except he didn’t think they were true; they couldn’t be true. They were just stories!
Drool oozed down the creature’s silvery teeth. A glob of it dripped off its lower jaw and splashed onto Kontu’s face. He hardly noticed. It opened its mouth and inside Kontu saw a second mouth, this one smaller, but with just as many teeth as the first. He could only stare, his eyes widening with full-fledged terror that had wrapped around his body like a cold wet blanket, seeing that death was imminent--
The same three red dots that had appeared on Pupou now appeared on the Serpent’s chest. As if sensing this, the Serpent paused in its towering over the young hunter.
Kontu felt something in the air; it was electric. Static. Almost tangible. He frowned at what he suddenly saw, and thought his eyes were playing tricks on him.
The jungle leaves and bushes were alive for a moment. Kontu knew there were mushrooms in the jungle that could be deadly to a warrior or gatherer if they were not careful; eating one would make you see things that were not truly there. Although the term hallucinogenic was non-existent in the young hunter’s vocabulary, he knew with all certainty that no such mushroom could make this sort of mirage.
With a flurry of sparks and snaking blue coils, one of the gods suddenly appeared out of the jungle foliage! Kontu did not dare look at the eyes of the mask it wore; he feared that the eyes behind it would burn into his soul and see all the wrong-doing he had done in his hunting, all the defying he had done against traditions, elders, and the Chieftain. It would know that he was not fit to hunt or live.
If the god was anything similar to the feeble human, it would be that it was in a bi-pedal form and walked like a man.
But that was where the similarities ended.
The god stood up on two legs that were far more muscular compared to the human’s. The creature wore a kind of armor that covered part of its chest, the material not from this planet--a concept that was incomprehensible to the tribal hunter’s simple mind. Its hair hung down in dreadlocks that whipped this way and that when the god turned its head, with metal bands holding each strand together. A small turret swiveled on the god’s right shoulder, and whatever direction it looked, the weapon pointed. Mesh netting covered the creature’s legs, upper arms, upper torso, and underneath the armor. From a corner on its mask came the three red dots that had been seen on Pupou and the Serpent.
Now it was looking at him; the three red dots were cruising and scanning over his arms, his legs, his head.
There was a moment filled with dreadful waiting. Waiting for judgment. For the final cut.
But retribution never came.
Instead, it turned its attention to the Serpent. The three red dots disappeared and the shoulder gun sat back on its perch like a faithful parrot, as if the god had changed its mind about how to dispose of the Serpent. The god flexed its right wrist and two duel-twin blades popped out of their sheath, sunlight catching them with a shiny glint. A fierce howl echoed out from its throat, echoed up into the green canopy of trees overhead, and the two titans rushed each other to do battle.