Red Jaguar Rises Again

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Chapter Two

The Red Jaguar Calls

Cody and his mother squeeze through the tiny doorway of the gigantic pyramid. They find themselves inside a gray tunnel lost in the dark as it winds upward.

“Mom,” Cody says, with awe, “I counted seventy-three steps on the outside. So there’s probably the same number here inside here.”

The light’s so dim they can’t see much of anything around them. Only a light bulb dangles from a string of wire over their heads. Wide stones perform as stairs into the darkness.

Becca says, “I’ve gone up these steps before. Maybe I should go first.”

The light flickers. They stare at their feet as they slog up the jagged, tall and winding steps. Cody wonders if they should keep going up or turn and go back. The walls feel as if they are getting smaller.

They hear the faint voices of the man and woman who came in ahead of them. The man says something in Spanish. Becca still remembers Spanish and whispers back to him, “She doesn’t like being in here. She wants to go back.. Not us. The Red Jaguar is calling. He wants us to come to see him.”

Cody can’t make a decision. His mother seems farther ahead of him up the slimy steps. The lights go off, then quickly jerk back on.

There isn’t much air inside the tight space. It’s getting hard to breathe. There are no windows or air vents. Inside the pyramid, it feels just like a super hot Iowa summer afternoon. . . damp, hot, humid.

“It’s slow . . . going . . . “ Becca calls down. Cody can’t see her. And then, the lights go off. The tunnel-like space becomes very scary.

“Are you okay?” he shouts.

Becca calls down, “I’m fine. How are you?”

“Good. I’m good.”

“What are you thinking about?” she asks, standing still. “Let’s wait here until the lights come back on.”

“I was thinking about last night. In the morning, we left Iowa when snow was on the ground. Then last night we were in Mexico, swimming in a pool of warm water. The place we’re staying must be very old, yet it has a modern pool.”

“It’s an old hacienda, or big ranch, built in the fifteen hundreds, and made out of adobe bricks. I’m glad they put in a swimming pool. There wasn’t one when I was here. Isn’t their restaurant great?”

“Sure is. My class will never believe me when I tell them that in Mexico restaurants have no roofs overhead and there are big trees and water fountains inside of them as well as tables and chairs.”

“How did you like Mexican Milk Cake?”

Cody laughed and his sound echoed in the tight space. “I want to make one. Take it to class as a treat. You told me it’s easy.”

“Sure is,” said Becca. “You punch holes in a yellow cake mix when it comes out of the oven. Then you pour three kinds of milk over the top and put it in the refrigerator.” Becca pretends she’s not worried because so much time has passed now with the lights off. Will they come back on?

“The lights are back,” finally shouts Cody. “We can move up again.” Then he yells, “Mom, look! Have you seen that the ceiling’s painted green.”

Becca calls down, “It’s not paint. It’s condensation. The air is so damp inside this pyramid that it makes the surfaces appear green. By the way, when we get to the top, there are things called hieroglyphics . . . pictures cut into stone.”

“Are they like the snakes I saw carved on the sides of the pyramid?”

“Good eye,” she says.

“Just twenty more steps, Mom, and we’ll be at the top. I’ve already climbed fifty-three.”

“And then, you’ll see the Red Jaguar.” Becca moves faster. There is dim light showing ahead. Soon she yells down to him, “I’m here. I’ll give you a hand up.”

Once at the top, Cody discovers he is standing in a space about the size of his small bedroom. The man and woman who were ahead of them see the Clarks come in. The man says something to them they can’t understand. Then the couple hurries past them to disappear down the steps.

Now the Clarks are alone, unless, you count the Red Jaguar.

Cody rushes over to see it.

There it is . . . behind steel bars.

“It’s not as big as I thought it would be,” he says, somewhat disappointed. “Why is it behind bars? Would it come to life? I’d like to see it up closer.”

“It’s because there are thieves,” says Becca. “The bars keep them from taking any more objects from Chichen Itza than they’ve already stolen.”

“What kind of people would do that?”

“It started with the Spaniards who came to conquer Mexico. They were the first to loot these forgotten cities. They took anything made of gold or that had jewels in it. They robbed all the ancient Mayan cities. They worked their way up here from South America, just stealing and destroying. Others through the years have taken their place, even we Americans.”

“Bet that’s stopped now,” said Cody, who couldn’t take his eyes off the jaguar. “I’ve seen a lot of Mexican soldiers around here. They all carry rifles. They look fierce. I’ll bet they could stop anyone who’d try to steal this jaguar.”

Cody can’t stop staring at the jaguar’s green eyes. As he looks into them, they turn a brighter shade of green.. Suddenly the air turns thick and he finds it hard to breathe. A blast of fear goes from his heart to his stomach and he looks around for Becca.

She’s standing near the opening of the tunnel looking nervous. “We’d better get back down.” Becca rushes over to pull his hands off the bars.

“You go down first,” she says, almost pushing him through the opening. “Going down’s easier. It’ll be just like the time Dad was with us when we were inside the gold dome of the Iowa Capital building.”

But Cody isn’t thinking about the Iowa Capital. All his thoughts are upon the Red Jaguar. He’s certain he saw it open its eyes. Behind them was something like a video playing.

Then he remembers exactly what he’s seen and feels another shudder of fear. In the picture there were two big, stout men who wore weird skirts and wild headdress holding someone, yes, a pretty girl a little older than him, down on top of a pyramid. Another man dressed in animal skins was holding a knife in his hand. He was getting ready to plunge it into her chest.

Cody wants to scream for someone to help her.

The Deep Pool of Death

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