Our Sun God Needs You
By Armondo Garcia-Davila
Boom, boo-boo-boom. Boom, boo-boo-boom. Who could be drumming late at night out in the middle of nowhere? Hernando Francisco Cortez wondered. He closed his laptop, walked to the front door and looked out, but all he could see were the tall forest trees that surrounded the cabin.
Boom, boo-boo-boom. Boom, boo-boo-boom. They didn’t sound like drums from a rock band or wooden drums with animal hide like he’d seen at Indian powwows. These sounded even more primal.
Hernando showered and readied for bed. He looked at the clock on the nightstand; bright red numbers read 11:00 p.m. He tried sleeping but the curious drumming continued. Boom, boo-boo-boom. Boom, boo-boo-boom. He counted his breaths to occupy his mind and help him drift off—inhale, exhale, one, inhale, exhale, two. He usually fell asleep before reaching one hundred when he tried this sleeping exercise but when he reached a hundred, it hadn’t worked so he started a second count.
Boom, boo-boo-boom. Boom, boo-boo-boom.
Overcome by curiosity, he rose from bed. Hernando was on a month-long time-out to get away from his problems and figured he’d make up sleep in the morning. He added layers of clothing to protect him from the chill of late December, grabbed a flashlight on a shelf by the door, and stepped out.
Hernando had taken the getaway after his wife, Sandra, told him to leave. She said that she had put up with his verbal abuse for years, but when she learned that that he was having affairs with his students at the junior college where he taught, that it was “the last straw.”
He went into a rage and knocked her to the floor. His family lawyer arranged an out-of-court settlement for him to avoid doing jail time.
It vexed Sandra terribly that Hernando’s mother’s waggling tongue rumored that her son’s outbursts were due to Sandra not being attentive enough to him. It also irked her that Hernando’s parents were constantly spending a lot of money on him: paying for him to have liposuction, gifted him gold chains to wear around his neck, Rolex watches, Italian suits. When Hernando earned a master’s degree in ancient Mexican history, they rewarded him with a Humvee. Sandra called it “a pollution machine that only added to global warming.”
“It’s all a hoax,” Hernando replied.
When meeting someone, he never let the opportunity escape to inform them of his higher education. “Professor Hernando Francisco Cortez,” he’d say. If a woman, he’d bow, kiss her hand, and finish with, “At your service.” Hernando especially enjoyed how his young female students looked on him with admiration and with what ease he could bend them to his will.
His father earned a fortune importing curios from Mexico. Sandra once asked how he could make so much trading in such items and were there other goods that he brought in on his private airstrip tucked away on the far reaches of his 100,000-acre ranch. “Don’t ever ask about my family’s business!” Hernando raged. “Never!” Thereafter, Sandra kept her suspicions to herself. His parents paid for him to take a vacation after the separation. He had picked out a secluded cabin located in the mountains surrounding Mazamitla in Jalisco, Mexico.
Hernando entered the dark forest made darker by the canopy of trees that blocked moonlight. Boom, boo-boo-boom. Boom, boo-boo-boom. He pointed the flashlight to his front. The deeper he walked into the forest, the clearer became the sound of drumming. A golden luminescence appeared up ahead. He switched off the flashlight and stealthily made his way toward the aura of light, wondering who would be out on such a cold night. Could it be a pagan ritual involving naked girls? Hernando came upon a clearing in the forest, ducked behind a tree, and peered around the trunk.
At least twenty men and women with bronze-colored skin danced around a raging fire, flames reaching high over their heads. All had long shining black hair that hung covering their backs, all dressed in garments of a coarse cotton, tied in a knot at the shoulder and draped down to their ankles. They wore sandals with high backs covering the heels of the feet. Hernando recognized their clothing. It was from the ancient Aztecs.
The group looked up into the night sky, arms raised, taking a small step, followed by a skip, and then a hop—small step, skip, hop. Four men pounding heavy wooden clubs against a waist-high brightly painted hollowe- out log set the cadence. Next to the drummers sat an immense stone that had been chiseled into a round sort of tabletop the color of dry blood. The stone was covered with hieroglyphs that looked familiar, but they were too far away for Hernando to try and read. He shuddered when it came to him that the flat stone was an altar used by the Aztecs for human sacrifice. Aztec jaguar and eagle warriors captured men of neighboring tribes prior to festivals and took them to Tenochtitlan, the empire capital, where they held them captive until the day of the festival when they would be sacrificed to their gods. A priest, using an obsidian knife, made an incision across the victim’s chest under the rib cage, reached in, and cut out his heart. The last image that the man had before losing consciousness was that of his own heart held in the air pulsating blood.
A gray bearded man wearing an emperor’s headdress embedded with precious stones and a fan of blue-green feathers as long as a man’s arm stood next to the altar. Hernando recognized the feathers of the quetzal bird native to Mexican jungles. They were considered as valuable as gold among Mexican tribes.
Hernando stared in a fearful awestruck daze, wondering what they could be doing. He then realized that it was the winter solstice, the bottom of the year when the Aztecs beseeched their god of the sun, Huitzilopochtli, to return with his life-giving sunlight for growing maize to sustain the empire for another year.
Boom, boo-boo-boom. Boom, boo-boo …
Drummers ceased pounding, dancers around the fire stopped and lowered their arms. All turned to face Hernando. His blood ran cold. He turned to run but behind him stood two bronze-skinned men, one wearing the hide of a jaguar, the other clad in eagle feathers. Each held a warrior shield and a macuahuitl, a club made from oak with obsidian disks chipped into shards sharper than razors embedded on either side. Hernando knew of these weapons. They were heavy, solid, and sharp and lethal enough to decapitate a horse.
The gray bearded man looked into Hernando’s eyes and spoke calmly. “Temini Hernando, Huitzilopochtli moneki teuatl.”
Hernando had learned Nahuatl, language of the Aztecs—“Brother Hernando, Huitzilopochtli, our sun god needs you.”
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