Turns out we need two more porters to carry the dynamite we might need. This is getting expensive.
Meet Castillo on edge of town; couple of trucks take us through Vega’s land to his trailhead, about 2 hours in. Rick doesn’t recognize any of these porters, but still chipper, happy to be coming along.
Road stops. Narrow path into jungle; dense wall. Another pickup abandoned, doors open. Castillo thinks it was looted, belonged to the other group. Evidence Collection: looks like another vehicle was here, left.
Castillo not so concerned about bandits… but clearly somebody came here. Did Dominguez come back?
Marching order: Castillo, V, E, the kid, Henry, the porters, me.
Marching through the jungle. It is miserable. Hot. Humid. Goddamn bugs. V and the kid are cheerful.
They oughta clear cut all of this. Pave it. Pave it all.
Half a day on, stop briefly on seeing a big Mayan rock. Castillo says it’s a landmark. The kid takes a rubbing of the marker. Says the Zozul would post it on their borders. Warriors, corpses with snakes come from their bodies, gross foreign stuff.
Continuing. H listens to porters, who are pretty quiet. Talking just about animal noises. Of which there are too damn many.
Make camp. V is all nostalgic about childhood camping trips, because of course, if something is awful then V enjoys it. E has been useful again, tells me about some plants that can help keep the bugs off. Wonderful young lady.
At supper, ask the kid about the Zozul. He relates what Cartwright said about ‘em—says the Chichen was a minor religious site, captured by the Zozul or mimicking the Mayans around. Zozul came from a place called Golxumal—says it was a nearby land controlled by the Zozul. But Mayans in area have never called anything Golxumal. Images in ruins show sea voyages. Ruins claim the Zozul “ransacked the isle of the gods”. Spanish conquered, but nobody knows what happened to the Zozul. Weird, because there’s still Mayans around.
Overnight, watch system, paired with porters.
Jungle sounds are awful. Hooting and shrieking and whistling in the night. And bugs everywhere, buzzing, crawling.
The porters sometimes stand up, clap, make noise. Tell H, E that there are a lot of animals around, important to make yourself look big, noisy, scary.
Awake too early. 17 days left. More marching. Three more days of this, and then four back.. And it would be hard to find our way out if we get lost. Henry has been leaving trail marks in hobo sign. Wonder what the hobo scratches are for “nobody here” and “desolate miserable jungle why are you even here you poor bastard?”
Long day. Deep into jungle. No idea which way we’re facing. All the trees look the same. All the tiny little streams look the same. All the vines and oozing mud pits look the same.
Oh, and now it’s raining. Wonderful.
V and H seem surprised, confused by the storm. Oh golly gosh, the jungle found a new way to be terrible? Who would have guessed!?
Have to make camp, can’t see. Everything wet and awful.
V slips and falls down a sharp drop, vanishes from sight with a yelp. Slams into another Zozul rock at the bottom. The kid tosses her a rope.
When we get her back up to camp she’s muddy, bruised, miserable. V says the rock had its top half, unlike the other one. Above the severed head held high is a creepy froglike creature with sharp-toothed mouth with long tongue.
Rain continues all night. Very wet camp. Cold and miserable. Henry seems awfully quiet.
Even Castillo is upset; we’ve lost half a day so far. V doesn’t think the weather is natural. Shouldn’t be changing this fast.
Morning comes, and it is still raining, just as heavy. 16 days left.
Henry asks the kid if he’s heard stories about this kind of rain. Says hard to predict weather here, but nothing helpful. Castillo says this is bad, but not unusual yet.
Rain lasts into the night.
Morning. Continuing rain. 15 days left.
Castillo getting frustrated. I go talk to him; he’d grudging go forward if we insist, but doesn’t recommend it. I talk to the rest of us: might as well be miserable and moving forward, but Viv concerned about losing footing, getting injured. Henry sees my point of view. Emma thinks moving on would be dangerous, but if Castillo thinks we can, she’s in favor of pressing on.
V argues us into waiting one more day, because we still have some time.
Still raining the next day. 14 days left after today. Everyone is miserable. Manage to piss V off which is about the only good thing in the last three days of rain.
We agree to leave, all holding a rope.
Going is hard. Very hard slog. Keep falling all the time. I slip, fall down a slope over rocks. Very painful; think I sprained my shoulder..
Rain finally clears up mid-afternoon! Only came about 2 miles in the whole morning. Everything still wet, but not actually raining. Though if that kid doesn’t shut his face with his good spirits I’m going to tie him to a tree and leave him here.
Castillo pushes us on later into the evening. Find a decent spot that’s a bit drier. We have a fire: I brought [preparedness!] a can of kerosene, so we have a hot meal and start to feel almost human again.
I’m on watch with Castillo late at night; he’s not talking. Wanders off into jungle to take a leak. After a while I get a bad feeling about his absence, but he comes back right after. Suspiciously fast.
Then tries to talk me into going to bed (don’t patronize me, kid!)
Then heads off to his tent. Says I should shout if I’m being eaten by a jaguar. Cocky shit.
I wake Vivienne up. She’s sarcastic and cheerful. Tell her about Castillo acting funny.
(short session, 20 Jan 16)
Vivian’s on watch. Keeping an eye on Castillo’s tent.
Hour or two in, sees movement in Castillo’s tent, peering out very cautiously. Then flap closes, no further movement.
Emma’s watch: V relates the shifty behavior to E, recommends keeping an eye on Castillo.
Late, E sees one of porters opening tent flap, peering out. When he notices E watching & hears her say “good morning!” cheerfully, ducks back inside.
Henry’s watch uneventful.
Castillo up before dawn, gets porters moving.
We pack up tents, get ready to go…V trying to share news with all of us. Starts by picking a fight with Murphy, uses that as cover. We’re going to try and compare notes w/the kid—are we going the right direction? Also will keep close watch every night.
On a game trail, was cleared by machete at some point, say Henry & Vivian. Because apparently there’s some difference between all of these vines that means something. I hate this. January is supposed to be cold, dammit!
Vivian checks in with the kid. By his “calculations” we’re on the right path, only a day’s march away. Clues him in that we mistrust Castillo and want him to keep an eye on him.
Half a day’s march, late morning lunch break. Castillo says he’s scouting ahead. V talks her way into following him, but he tries to ditch her. Hard to follow stealthily but quickly…but manages. Almost like grudging respect from Castillo.
The dame can slink about, I’ll grant her that. Even if you can smell her perfume coming from a mile away.
More sneaking, as Castillo spots signs of bandits. Sneaking around a clearing. Vivian follows as close as she can. Suddenly, Castillo looks at V, claps loudly twice, and vanishes into the jungle. V shouts for him to stop, takes a pot shot at him, he drops. V sneaks back to group, returns alone.
As we’re trying to recover, we hear rifle bolts. The kid is sure he knows where the ruins are. Porters bolting; E & I each persuade 2 to follow us into the jungle, after the kid. 3 shots ring out. Two porters go down, dead. I grab a pack with dynamite. V and I shoot off in the direction of the shots, one reply wings me. V and I run after the others, down the trail after the kid.
More shots ring out. Reminds me of Prohibition. But with a jungle instead of normal streets. So it’s worse.
Maybe 8 guns firing at us? But don’t seem to chase us.
Rushing forward, Luke and porters at edge of a clearing. Beyond clearing, a 5-story stone pyramid, half covered in jungle, but not on the front. Tumbled stone ruins all around—pillars, wall, old buildings.
Guess we’re here.
Were the guns driving us into a trap? Probably. Can we do anything about this? Nope.
Trying for cover: either through jungle, or through the grass. V tries to make her way into plaza sneakily. We notice this place was clearly a ceremonial place. Nobody ever lived here—not enough space. Not the right kind of buildings, not enough.
People have come through recently—broken grasses, trampled ground.
Me, E, porters, kid run quickly across plaza, towards ruins. Actual buildings, at last. Even if they are all tumbledown. Wall is maybe 15’ tall. Good stonework. Vines and plants everywhere. Nothing connectedV keeping eyes open, trying to stay in cover, poking about in grasses quietly. V finds human remains in long grass – lower torso, female. rotting in the weeds. Gets shaken by the sight.
I duck around the wall, into a courtyard. Filled with bodies. Headless. Arrows, broken spear. Tattered tent flaps. Blood, flies. Recent dead—couple of days.
Great, mexico. The jungle wasn’t bad enough. Now you’ve made cities terrible too.
Porters on the far side of the wall, nervous. The kid is obsessing over details in the stonework outside. V sees the bodies in the courtyard, is unshaken.
Looking more closely at the bodies, E & I identify: everyone’s from some recent expedition. Whites and Mexicans. Maybe 2 dozen bodies. Heads have all been torn off, or cut off, or bitten. V says this was a ball court (so even foreign sports are awful. Why does anyone ever travel?), Mayans and Aztecs were crazy about heads being magical, would play games with heads.
Walls full of carvings. More than this city should have, per V. Art shows heads being sacrificed to giant sphere in the sky. Bodies seem to have been attacked. Tribal weapons—arrows, spears. Not a sacrifice, V says.
The kid points out a bunch of spots where Mayan carvings were torn away, replaced by Zozul art. Cartwright book says the Zozul kicked out the Mayans.
I (& Henry?) go looking through bodies, find some guns, ammo that wasn’t used. Also a letter to Brooks, partial and unfinished about being ambushed on 4th day out from Merida, running to site, making camp. Letter cuts off, spattered with blood.
Then we hear a noise. Animal? Out on the jungle side of this courtyard. V pokes her head around the corner, then freezes. Turns back, white with terror. Very quietly says we need to move away.
Quietly, quickly, grab our stuff, porters, the kid. Across the courtyard and up the steps of the pyramid! Know there’s going to be a room at the top for the weirdo foreign cults. If we’re going to be trapped and ambushed, then at least we’ll be behind some walls.
The kid whispering about the glyphs. Back and forth Mayans and Zozul. Pyramid of a sorcerer. Something about mystic eternity. Door to Golxumal? Of course it is.
Up the stairs. At base of stairs, statues of gross lizard-cat head with teeth, mouths, eyes.
Stairs are terrible. Steep, narrow. Don’t look down. Tiring. Hard on the knees. At least it’ll be hard for people to follow us.
At the top, fifth level: two narrow slits on face of pyramid, alongside the stairs. Dark. I stop, shine flashlight in. Inside: shadows shifting, like someone inside? Somebody shoots at me! Bastard. Misses. I shout at them, rushing noise, but no response. We keep going.
V gets to top first, there’s a little room here, no windows, entrance not top of the stairs. We all join her. Walk around to far side of pyramid, where the jungle is. No windows. One large room. Dark inside. Single door, man-sized. V steps inside, just breathing, worried, in shock. E rushes to help, but reassurance doesn’t seem to take.
Room is dark; flashlight shows murals on walls. More sacrifices, Mayan kooks, blood and guts. Figures fighting underneath strange skies. Altar in center of room, carved to look like a man, on hands and knees. Warrior of some sort. Shallow bowl on his back, grooves for blood to flow. Floor has purple and blue stone disk at base of the altar. Strange design.