2012 The Final Revelation – A novel by Lisa J Flaus
Palenque, Chiapas, Southern Mexico
One Year Later
Andrew Cunningham swigged warm water from his bottle, wiped his brow, and waved away a pesky mosquito. It was only mid-morning, yet already hot and humid. Rays of sunlight beamed down pockmarks of color, sparkling across the forest floor and dappling through the trees around him.
As Andrew stood, leaning up against his spade, something caught his attention. A light mist was forming. Andrew stared intently. As he watched, he began to see the figure of a man materializing.
Andrew felt an icy chill run through his body. His spade and water bottle dropped from his hands.
What the hell is that?
He cocked his head to the side and blinked twice in quick succession.
It was gone.
Andrew stayed absolutely still, searching, wholly alert.
Was that my imagination?
Eyes still glued to the scene, Andrew noticed an irregularity in the surface of the land, where the figure had been standing. There was a small raised area of earth, a foot or so higher than ground level, camouflaged amongst the carpet of green, tans, and browns of the forest floor.
Curious now, Andrew began walking toward the area. When he arrived, he squatted down and reached out his hand. He gently raked away the vegetation with his fingers, delicately moving the long decayed organic material around the periphery. He sat back on his heels and surveyed the emerging picture.
A flat portion of light gray stone was exposed.
What is this?
Brushing dirt from his hands, Andrew stood up and scanned the immediate vicinity. The lush tropical jungle was an almost unbroken fabric of green, linked by webs of hanging vines and huge towering tropical hardwoods, rising like living skyscrapers into the sky. High up in the canopy, the birds were singing a sweet melody; further in the distance, the loud calls of howler monkeys added to the symphony of sound.
Suddenly Andrew heard another noise, a sharp cracking sound ricocheting through the forest. Before he could register the thought, he felt the earth beneath him give way. The noise of falling debris was like thunder in his ears; he swore loudly, adding to the roar of sound. His body could not respond fast enough and his arms flailed up in a reflex of self preservation. Andrew fell through the earth and landed hard. Material fell around him, cascading down from the ground above.
He lay a moment, gasping for breath. His heart raced.
What just happened?
Finally, he opened his eyes. A huge dust cloud still permeated the air.
In the darkness, Andrew began to analyze the damage to his body. His left side had hit the ground first, grazing away layers of skin from his face and forearm. He rolled slowly onto his back and winced as his injured arm changed position and screamed its loud objection. He could feel warm blood trickling down his face.
Andrew lay motionless. He could smell the air, ancient, as if it had captured and bound up time inside it.
When the veil of dust finally settled, the fraction of light coming from the hole above illuminated the space in eerie glows and shadows. The structure had walls, one side painted a pale red.
Still lying on his back, Andrew turned to look at the other wall and his eyes widened in surprise. There was a large pictorial mural covering it. The faint image was of a kneeling man, central to the scene, surrounded by ancient symbols and hieroglyphics. Andrew recognized the painting style instantly. It was, most undeniably, Maya.
Slowly, Andrew sat up and looked around the chamber, peering into each of the dimly lit corners. The room appeared empty. He repositioned his body so he could see directly behind him.
Then he saw it.
Andrew’s head swung away in shock and he heard himself gasp. He swallowed painfully, the dust and dry air of the tomb caught in his throat.
There was a human being, long dead and decomposed, sitting behind him. Only the mummy’s face was exposed, a blackened skeletal shell, staring at Andrew through round orbs of darkness. The lower jaw had dropped, fallen by gravity and time, onto the chest, leaving the facial expression as if it was in mid scream. The rest of the remains were covered by a tattered woven cloth. On the ground beside the mummy were strange objects and fragments of pottery.
Andrew stared directly at the face. The orbits stared back their expectation of eternity.
“Was that you I saw up there?” Andrew whispered.
He closed his eyes and bowed his head, a sign of respect. “Ki’imak in wo’ol in wilikech. Andrew in k’aaba.” He spoke a formal greeting in the local Mayan language.
Andrew held the pose a moment then looked around the body, resisting the urge to make direct contact with its dark empty eye sockets. He understood the customs of the existing tribes of the ancient ones. Do not disturb our ancestors in their resting places; treat them with respect and honor.
Aware the possibility of breathing in mold spores, typical in a fresh tomb, Andrew painfully removed his dusty shirt and wrapped it around his nose and mouth.
As he gently maneuvered his injured arm to tie the sleeves behind his head, his eyes flicked up, and something caught his attention. It was a grooved out cavity in the wall, a few inches above the mummy’s head. A tiny fragment of cord extended out of the hole. From his angle on the ground, Andrew could make out something tucked inside it. He sat silently, his eyes straining to make it out in the dimness of the tomb.
After a few moments, Andrew rose to his feet to get a closer look. Small flakes of dust and debris fell off his body onto the ground. He took a few small steps around the side of the mummy, purposefully tucking away all knowledge of the rules about a fresh archaeological find. Disturbing the material remains before they have been properly recorded would be sacrilegious. The thought ricocheted around his brain but, at this moment in time, nothing could stop his overwhelming curiosity.
Andrew leaned over and peered into the hole. He could see an old worn object, aged by time. The top cover was painted with a very faint colored drawing. String-like fabric tied the object together, binding it.
It appeared to be a book.
It can’t be!
The object was impossible to assess without closer examination. Andrew tentatively reached out to touch it. His hand stopped in mid-air as his mind screamed back into reality.
Do not touch it.
Andrew’s body winced as if in incredible pain, not from his injuries, but from the trauma of suspense. His fingers flexed in his hand. He felt imprisoned by rules, held back by honor, like a deep and secret love that can never come to fruition, he craved the smallest touch.
Don’t touch it.
Andrew acknowledged the thought. He reluctantly walked back to where he had fallen and sat down again. He stayed still in the silence and tried to quiet his mind from the wave of thoughts.
He had fallen into an underground tomb. The room had a mummy, small artifacts, and a magnificent painting on one wall. There was another object, so rare that the very possibility of its existence caused a rollercoaster of emotions.
Only four such books were in existence in the world. Only one had ever been found in its original, archaeological context. The climate of the rainforest was so moist it was believed they could never survive. Fragments of the ancient books had been found in tombs but were so rotted and damaged they had the consistency of ash.
Andrew’s mind flooded with emotion. He closed his eyes and tried to calm.
Be still; take in the moment.
He could hear the familiar sounds of the rainforest echoing down into the tomb. Andrew listened intently. There was another sound, faint but close by. His eyes darted left and right as he focused in on the noise, trying to block out all other interference. It was running water. It was running somewhere beneath the tomb.
After a short time, he began to hear someone calling in the distance.
Andrew realized the team would have noticed his absence and sent out a search party.
“Andu,” the same familiar voice called.
“I’m down here Afi,” Andrew shouted. After a few seconds, he heard the voice call down in response.
“No. I’m not hurt. I’m good.” Andrew replied. He smiled. He was more than just good. There was no doubt in his mind that he had just discovered a Pre-Columbian civilization artifact. It was a priceless ancient book, written in hieroglyphic script.
Andrew Cunningham had found a Maya Codex.