“You know,” Luisa said. “This isn’t the only Mayan game that involves time travel.”
“It’s a Mayan game?” Beatriz said.
“From what we can tell,” said Diego.
“I would like to know more about these Maya people,” Columbus’ son said. “They must have been very smart if they were able to build such incredible structures.”
“I didn’t get to check out the other Mayan games,” said Diego.
Luisa swiped her fingers across the screen on her writs and began reading. “There was a PC game called Pitfall. Another one also called Tzolk’in.”
“Another Tzolk’in,” Diego said. He stood and began rubbing the skin around his eyes.
Christopher, his son, Isabel and Beatriz watched him.
“Yeah, this Tzolk’in uses the Maya’s 20 glyphs and 13 tones.”
“What is this Tozlk’in?” asked Christopher.
“Here, listen,” said Luisa.
Her Precis read, “Tzolk’in means count of days. The Mayans used it to determine the time of religious and ceremonial events. They used it for divination and to predict the future— ”
“Could they have used it to travel time?” asked Christopher.
“Apparently they did,” Diego said as he sat.
“People thought the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world?” Luisa said.
“The end of the world?” Christopher exclaimed. “When was that supposed to happen?”
“Yeah,” said Beatriz. “The end of the world?”
“It was supposed to happen December 21 2012.”
“But that was years ago,” Diego said, “and we’re still around. So they were wrong.”
“The end of the world,” Christopher repeated.
“Father, is it possible to predict the end of the world?”
Luisa brought her wrist to her mouth and said, “Google December 21, 2012.”
Diego watched her look at his sister, then at Beatriz.
“Wait,” Luisa said. “What did the Maya predict would happen on December 21, 2012.”
Her Precis answered, “The Mayan Long Count completed a 5,126 year cycle and predicted a grand astronomical alignment that only happens every 26,000 years.”
“An astronomical alignment,” said Christopher.”
“Where’d you get this game?” Beatriz asked.
“Our aunt in the Yucatan,” Isabel answered.
“Have you tried to contact her?” Luisa asked.
Diego nodded, then said, “Why don’t we go back to 2012 and figure out what happened.”
Luisa gave a little nod then said. “How about the day after the day the world was supposed to end.”
“December 22 2012?” Diego said, pulling the elastic of EyeStorms away from his neck. “Sure.”
“What about us?” Christopher asked.
“Just wait,” Diego said. “We’ll be right back.”
# # #
When Diego turned the outer wheel to 21.12.2012, he noticed the Mayan Long Count numbers were 126.96.36.199.0.
“That’s when the calendar reset,” Luisa said.
Toniatuh smiled and said, “I hate to see you make mistakes. But know that I’ll take you anywhere, as long as you understand you choose the date of dates and dance and travel back again. I’m going to have to warn you, your time is running out and soon you’ll have to stay here. Your time with me is running out and soon you’ll have to stay here unless you bring me the ones that belong here in the place that they belong in.”
“You hear that?” Luisa said. “It’s almost like he wants us to bring Christopher and Diego here.”
“You notice anything different?” Diego asked.
“There’s no stone wall blocking our path up the pyramid.”
“Alright, let me reset the clock,” Diego said. Very slowly, he moved the wheel so that the number changed to 188.8.131.52.1 and the numbers beneath read 22.12.2012.
“The day after the day the world was supposed to end,” Luisa said.
Diego studied the glyphs. A face that reminded him of a turtle, an eagle, a grinning skull, and a pipe-smoking indian looking skyward.
“I’ve seen that one before,” Diego said, pointing at the glyphs.
“I like that hand,” Luisa said, indicating the hand at the bottom right hand corner.
“Why do you think there’s eight of those icon things?” Diego said. “There’s only five digits for each day, right?”
“I don’t know,” Luisa said. “Let’s see where we end up.”
Toniatuh smiled, blinked, and ran his tongue over his lips.
“Yuck,” Luisa said.
“I know,” Diego answered.
As they ran up the pyramid, Toniatuh’s voice boomed, “You took a life from yesterday, and have had it here today, but if you take that life away, only four hours may it stay. Remember, when that sixth day is done and before or after the setting sun, then that yesterday will forever be burned away. So bring the ones that belong here to the place they belong.”
“A sixth day is four hours,” Luisa said. “How long have Columbus and Diego been here?”
“Three and a half hours,” Diego said.
“We’d better hurry.”
The upper platform of the pyramid opened onto a long, sandy beach just a few feet below them. No need for a long jump. Just a short hop.
Diego and Luisa landed softly on the sand facing sandstone cliffs, the ocean behind them. Up and down the beach, people were laying on towels, their heads toward the water.
“This is that same beach,” Diego said. “The one Christopher said was next to Palos. Moguer.”
“I’ve never seen people facing away from the beach,” Luisa said.
When they turned, they saw a long line of people in front of the blue-green water. Everyone was dressed in white and holding hands, a human chain that extended in both directions as far as they could see.
“Some thing’s different,” Luisa said. “Do you think we can find out where we are exactly?”
“I don’t know. The first time I played, I don’t think Columbus and his son saw me. Wasn’t until I—“
Diego watched as Luisa walked up to the human chain and began chatting with an older woman in a white dress. The old woman didn’t respond.
“Can you hear me?” Luisa’s voice said, growing louder.
The woman didn’t react.
“Estamos haciendo historia,” the woman said to the man next to her.
“La cameras deben estar aqui,” the man said. He wore pressed white shorts and an unbuttoned white shirt.
“They’re talking in Spanish,” Luisa said to Diego.
“It’s the same place just a different day,” Diego said. He walked over to the man and waved his hands in front of the man’s face. The man didn’t react.
“Pero lo importante es que la historia recomienza hoy,” the man said.
Diego placed his hands on the man’s shoulders but the man didn’t react.
“Let’s get out of here,” Luisa said, her voice suddenly urgent.
“Back?” Diego said. “To where?”
“To the park. I don’t like this. It doesn’t feel right.”
“They’re all here. I mean look at them. They haven’t noticed us. They won’t notice us.”
“I don’t like it,” Luisa said again.
“Come on,” Diego said, impatient. “We can’t go back just yet. There’s a clue here. Has to be.”
He started walking down the line of people, Luisa followed several steps behind him. Then, all at once, they saw the same thing. A young girl holding the hand of an older woman – her mother? – on her left and a bearded man on her right. She was singing to herself, not really singing a song but just adding words to a rhythm she must’ve heard somewhere. The melody was clear even though the words were not.
“No estamos listos pa’ verlos todavia, el mundo no va acabar.”
Her left arm jerked up and her mother looked down at her, then she saw Diego and Luisa, put her hand to her mouth, as if to stifle a scream, grabbed the little girl’s arm and stared straight ahead at the cliffs. Behind her the beach broke in small waves.
“Let’s ask her,” Diego said. “See what she says.”
Luisa pulled his arm. “Let’s go back now.”
“But it’s like she saw us.”
“C’mon,” Luisa said firmly. “I won’t leave until you do.”
“We’re in a different year, in the same place,” Diego said as he approached the woman. He stood in front of her. She stared straight ahead as if they weren’t there. Then Luisa tapped the woman on the shoulder.
“What do you want?” the woman asked in Spanish. “We’re where we paid to be. We’ve all joined hands. We paid to be here. I think everything should be fine.”
“The song your little girl was singing,” Diego said, indicating the girl.
The woman pulled on the little girl’s arm. “Oh no! She wasn’t singing. We’ve been standing here, just holding hands the way we have all been. Waiting.”
Up and down the line of people, there was no motion. Just a little fidgeting here and there.
Luisa moved closer to the woman then crouched down to look at her daughter. The little girl was maybe 8 or 9, small for her age but focused on holding her father’s hand.
“She doesn’t see us,” Luisa said.
“No she can’t,” the woman said. “I’m not sure why I can and it doesn’t matter. A lot of strange things have happened in the last few days. I don’t want to talk about them.”
Diego held his hand out so the little girl could see it. Quick as a flash, she leaped forward and grabbed his hand. The woman went white, opened her mouth as though to say something, then closed her eyes.
“Why doesn’t she speak?” Luisa asked.
“I don’t know?” the woman said. “Please go.”
Diego moved very close to the woman and asked, “Can you at least tell us when we are?”
She closed her eyes. Her lips tightened and she shook her head. “El 22 de diciembre 2012.”
“Diego,” Luisa said. “Let’s go back now.”
Diego ignored her and began walking down the line of people, examining each one.
After standing in front of a man for a moment, listening to him and the woman converse about history and waiting for the cameras, Diego realized he wasn’t going to learn anything so he began walking in the direction opposite Luisa. He passed several women, men, children, and a long line of girls. All of them dressed in white. Two old ladies with pink sunburned skin spoke to each other in German. The Spanish-speaking men on either side had stopped talking to listen, trying to understand what they were saying. Diego didn’t have a clue.
He turned. The distance to Luisa had grown. She was now much further away. He looked over the arms of a man holding the hands of a boy about his age out into the green-blue ocean. The waves were breaking very small.
He started walking backward, examining each face and hoping to find some clues.
Then he saw it. A blonde girl wore a loose white t-shirt that read: I SURVIVED 2012. PLAYA DE MOGUER. December 22, 2012.
“The beaches of Spain,” he yelled at Luisa.
She didn’t hear him, so he began running toward her.
“Luisa,” he called.
As he ran, the distance to Luisa grew.
His feet began to drag.
The air turned to water.
He could barely move.
For a moment, Diego felt afraid. He wouldn’t reach Luisa. He wouldn’t make it back to Central Park. Why hadn’t he listened to her? As he closed his eyes, he felt something bad was going to happen and remembered reading about people dying while playing games but he’d always thought that couldn’t be true.
“LUISA!” he screamed.
# # #