The Mayan Threat

By

Nathan Boole

 

Allen stumbled from the trees toward the research base’s dirt yard, Jill’s limp form slung over his shoulders in a fireman’s carry.

His thighs burned with fatigue, and his knees threatened to give way before he reached the small bungalow. He forced himself to take one more step, and then another. He looked up at the bungalow. Although it appeared undisturbed from where he stood, he had no way of knowing if someone hid inside. He tripped on a creeper buried in brown leaves and almost fell. He focused on the ground and kept walking.

The strange warriors, the ones who ambushed Jill at the temple, had fled after Jill shot one through the head with her father’s old revolver. Allen still worried they might be following. He resisted the urge to look back. No time anyway. He didn’t have the strength to do anything but get to the bungalow.

He glanced up again. Only fifty yards to go. He looked back down and tried to increase his speed. He had no idea how long it would take the poison in Jill’s system to do its work. Her breathing was shallow, and he didn’t know when rescue would arrive.

The underbrush thinned and vanished, and Allen looked up.

“We made it!” He hissed under his breath, and wished Jill was awake.

The steps up to the bungalow’s thin porch almost killed him, but he stumbled to the door and carefully let Jill down. He drew the Colt revolver from the holster he’d appropriated and opened the screen door, then cracked the inner door.

It was dark inside, compared to the sunlit yard. Allen squinted into the room and waited for his eyes to adjust. Nothing moved. He pushed the door open and stepped in, checked right and left, then behind the door. It never hurt to be careful.

He stepped back outside and looked toward the jungle. No movement visible at the tree line. Of course warriors could be crouched in the shadows, waiting to skewer him with blowgun darts. Allen slipped outside, holstered the gun and dragged Jill into the bungalow, his eyes on the trees.

He got her up on the low cot against the back wall, then went to the radio on the table near the window. He found the emergency frequency and put in a call to the coast guard. He shifted aside the curtain and watched the jungle while he gave the emergency operator the bungalow’s coordinates.

No warriors emerged from the shade under the trees, and no darts thwacked into the bungalow wall. Their leader’s death must have been enough to send the warriors running back to their village, somewhere deep in the island jungle.

After the coast guard assured Allen they would arrive within two hours, he went to the first aid kit and looked through it. It contained anti-venom for common snake bites, wasp stings, killer bees, and even for a species of swarming ant.

Damn. He thought. No way to know what kind of poison they hit her with.

He settled for applying damp cloths to Jill’s forehead, and looking out the window at the treeline.

After the longest two hours of his life, a helicopter’s staccato chop broke the mid-afternoon silence. Allen cheered and, after a final look through the window, ran into the yard and waited until the chopper flew into sight. He waved both hands until they started down, then he ran back to the porch and waited for them to land.

 

Jill woke up for a short time as the helicopter lifted off, and she gripped Allen’s hand.

“How are you feeling?” He shouted over the engine roar. He brushed hair back from her sweaty forehead.

“Been better.” She said. He had to lean close. Her words slurred as if she’d had too much to drink. “Feel sick.”

“You got hit with some kind of poison dart. You’re gonna be okay though.”

She squeezed his hand. He smiled at her, then looked out the window as the chopper tilted forward and accelerated away from the jungle island.

From up here it looks peaceful. Almost pretty. He thought. The sun, large and orange on the horizon, made the jungle look like it burned with slow, docile fire, warm and inviting. Still can’t believe there’s a damn supervolcano down there.

 

Three days later, Jill checked out of the hospital in Cancun, and joined Allen in a taxi. They remained silent on the ride to the Avalon Grand Hotel, and the driver seemed to know they wanted quiet.

After they got to their room, Allen called room service and ordered steak dinners with champagne. Jill raised an eyebrow.

Allen smiled, “You saved the world. Seems like we should celebrate.”

Jill grinned back, “Saved the world huh? That seems a little grandiose. All I actually did was keep Central America from having a really bad day. And they’ll never even know it.”

“I suppose that’s true.” Allen said. Then his smile disappeared. “You should have told me where you were going before you left.”

“You just would have wanted to stop me. And there was no time to explain. The Mayans didn’t leave much of a trail.”

“Why was there a trail at all? You’d think that if they wanted the world to end at a specific time, they’d want to keep it secret.”

Jill frowned. “You’d think.” She hesitated for a moment, “Honestly, I think it was the priests’ ego. It had to be hard to find that crack, let alone set up an extinction level eruption.”

“Did they even know what they were doing?”

“For the most part, I think they did. They definitely knew the kind of devastation a volcano could cause.”

“Crazy bastards.”

Jill grinned, and raised her glass. “Here’s to not boiling to death!”

Alan laughed and drank. Then he pushed open the door to the balcony and took the champagne bottle outside so they could sit and watch the ocean while they talked.

Shouts and laughter drifted up from the beach, and fresh salt air tickled Allen’s nose.

They sat at the little table on the balcony, and Allen refilled their champagne glasses. For a time they watched in silence as the ocean changed color beneath the sunset.

“Thank you for coming after me.”

Allen looked across the table at her, but she was gazing toward the orange-crested waves.

“I had to come. I know you can handle yourself, and I knew you didn’t need my help to find what you were looking for, but I kept picturing you falling into a crack in the earth or getting eaten by some jungle animal. I couldn’t stay and keep teaching without knowing if I’d ever see you again.”

Jill met Allen’s eyes, “Ever since… well, ever since my dad passed on, I’ve felt like I was completely on my own. I mean, you’ve been there for me, but I didn’t realize how much until the temple.”

Her tears twinkled in the warm sunlight, and Allen’s eyes stung as he blinked. He looked into her soft, brown eyes. Something stirred behind them, and his heart sped up.

He forced his voice to stay steady and light, “Well, it’s obvious I’m going to have to keep a closer eye on you.”

He stood up from the table and went to the balcony’s railing. He took the small ring from his pocket and held it so Jill couldn’t see. The ruby glinted in the sunlight, so deep red it almost looked black.

Allen forced down sudden butterflies. He turned and knelt before Jill, and presented the ring.

“Will you marry me?”

Jill just stared at him, tears still filling her eyes.

“I know it’s not a diamond, not traditional, but I thought…”

“Allen, I love rubies.” Her voice strained with emotion held in check. “And I love you.”

She slipped from the chair and buried her face in his neck. Allen pulled her close and settled back against the balcony wall, cheeks wet.

After a few minutes, she wiped her eyes and looked up at him, “Yes.”

The butterflies inside went wild, and he couldn’t stop an exultant grin. He slipped the ring onto Jill’s finger, and the ruby sparkled, bright against her skin.