'nuff said

"All of us learn to write in the second grade. Most of us go on to greater things."
Bobby Knight (1940 - )


Rosetta 21

By Lloyd Hawes


Scotty Aberdeen just wanted to cry. He stood in a jungle clearing, staring at the thousand steps leading to the top of a Mayan pyramid. Sweat soaked the adventure outfit he had purchased just a few days previously. The straps of the heavy pack cut into his shoulders. Crushing heat and humidity made it difficult to breath with its sauna-like quality. Scotty heard the voice in his head say, no wonder 95 percent of the population of this little country tucked under the Yucatan peninsula huddled on the coast. At least they could dive into the ocean before they melted.

Why couldn’t I have majored in Astronomy? Scotty thought. Then, I would have been sitting in a nice air conditioned room looking at computer screens. “Math is the key to success,” Scotty remembered his father bellowing as he attempted to help Scotty with his grade school homework. The connections between the numbers and formulas and how they worked together to reach the answer, he could never figure out.

Scotty continued with his thoughts: Oh yeah, Astronomy required a lot of math. So, here I am, dying in the god forsaken jungle. Dad was right.

About three quarters of the way to the top of the pyramid, Scotty saw the figure of Dr. Jeremy Vail climbing up. The good professor’s shoulder length hair was similar in shade to the grey of the pyramid’s stone. He started his own ascent up the stairway. As he moved his chubby frame up one painful step at a time, Scotty cursed himself for not doing better in his Graduate school courses, for not doing better on his preliminary field work, for not submitting his application for the other field study programs on time. He thought of the other students in his class going to France or Greece or anywhere else where there was civilization close to the dig. He envisioned the team at a local pub, downing beers after a leisurely day of examining ruins. And, they didn’t have to worry about insects that could kill you.

Halfway up the climb of hell, Scotty sat for a breather attributing his wave of nausea to the exertion and unfamiliar food he had for breakfast. He was not quite above the canopy line, but he caught a glimpse of the tops of several other pyramids poking through. He was stunned. Scotty couldn’t fathom why humans would want to live in this wretched place, let alone build so many monuments. He took a swig of water and resumed his ascent.

At the top of the pyramid, Scotty raised his view from his feet. A monstrous stone carving of a Mayan god with large teeth and a wicked snarl startled him. The heavy pack pulled him backwards, and Scotty felt his balance slipping. He recovered just in time. He quickly turned around and sat on the stone platform. The pack was against the wall with the dragon carving. Looking across the top of the jungle, he saw the crowns of at least a dozen other pyramids. There was something familiar with the arrangement, but he couldn’t make any connection to what it was.

Scotty extracted his arms from the pack’s shoulder straps, and looked behind him. He realized the monster was part of a wall that ringed the top of the pyramid. His professor’s head pop out from the corner to the right of Scotty.

“Come on, man,” the ‘expedition’ leader urged. And just as quickly as it appeared, the head disappeared.

He took a drink of water and then dragged the overstuffed pack in the direction of the whack-a-mole head. Upon turning the corner, he saw Dr. Vail place a flask in the back pocket of his shorts. The professor was wearing a Hawaiin shirt, looking as if he was on Spring break. The man then took out a notebook from the other back pocket and flipped through it, looking for the right page of notes. He stopped, looked at the stone wall in front of him, and proclaimed, “A ha!”

“Scotty, come here and place your hands here and here,” the professor exclaimed as he pointed to spots on the grotesque carvings in the stone: the eye of Itzamnaaj and a location between the legs of the moon goddess. The beings were intertwined, captured playing an ancient game of Twister. Scotty looked at the carving of the Mayan king and his holy concubine, turned, and sat down with a harrumph.

“Aren’t we supposed to have sherpas or something?” Scotty whined.

“That’s the Himalaya’s. This is an easy walk in comparison,” The professor said.

Scotty turned his head and gave Dr. Vail a look that said, ‘Don’t push me.’ The professor removed the flask from his back pocket and sat down next to exhausted graduate student.

“I guess it can wait for a few minutes. Want a taste?” Dr. Vail waved the flask in Scotty’s direction.

Scotty retorted, “What kind of professor are you?”

“Suit yourself.” Dr. Vail had a taste himself.

Sitting and catching his breath, Scotty thought again of his classmates. He could see them on a beach in Corfu. They were laughing while they sipped their drinks and listened to the native Greek music. He interjected himself into his daydream, and saw himself telling the others what a sucker that one kid was to go with Dr. Vail on his field study trip - into the jungles of Central America, holy Christ!

Scotty used his thumb and index finger to make an ‘L’ and placed it on his forehead.

“Is that some kind of prayer thing?” Dr. Vail asked.

Embarrassed, Scotty quickly retrieved his arm. “Uh, no, just trying to get the sun out of my eyes.” Scotty blurted out before considering that the sun was positioned on his back.

“Ok, enough rest. Let’s open this thing,” Dr. Vail said as he raised himself unto his feet.

Scotty got up with a moan, and placed his hands on the carving as prescribed by Dr. Vail. Dr. Vail leaned over Scotty and placed his hands on two d ifferent locations. Their four hands positioned in the corners of a square, each hand equidistance from the others. They looked like they were participating in the same game of Twister as the carvings. In his funky position Scotty, could feel the chafed skin of his thighs ever more acutely rub against the stiff material of his adventure shorts.

“Now push,” Dr. Vail exhaled.

Scotty thought, you can’t mistake the smell of good cheap bourbon. He pushed anyway. He felt his feet losing their grip on the stone flooring and he tried a slow running motion in order to secure his position. But, it wasn’t his feet that were slipping. His hands were sinking into the eyeball of the Mayan King and the moon goddess’ vagina. Or, rather, a circle of stone where each hand was placed was receding into holes in the carving. He felt and heard stone scraping against stone as the wall started moving. Well, not the whole wall. A portion of it about the size of his apartment door slowly swung open into darkness.

The smell from a thousand years of stale air, intermixed with rotting rodents and vegetation, assaulted Scotty’s nose. He felt his gag reflex engage. He dropped to his hands and knees and quickly crawled to the edge of the platform. Like a speeding train, Scotty watched his breakfast shoot out of his mouth and run down the temple’s slope.

“Yeah, I remember opening my first crypt,” Dr. Vail said.

“The smell made you sick?” Scotty asked.

“Oh, no, no. Smells like victory to me,” Dr. Vail said.

Dr. Vail riffled through his pack and extracted a big flashlight. He then shone the beam into the black portal. A set of stairs leading downward were visible, but nothing else could be seen within the void. He looked at Scotty, smiled with what Scotty thought was the smile of a mad scientist, then peered back into the opening, took a step, and Scotty watched as the darkness consumed his professor.