Amara determined the best place to start researching her story was at the school library. After the initial scare from the hackers wore off, she decided she would be true to her journalistic aspirations and continue to work on her story. Fortunately she had a backed up version of her vlog, so she was able to restore it without any problems.
Amara had high hopes walking into the building, and she smiled as she approached the student library assistant at the front desk. He was cute, with dimples and a nametag that read Grant.
“Hello, be with you in one minute.” A stack of books lay on the desk next to him, and he was busy stamping the inside covers. When he looked up and saw Amara, he stopped. “Can I help you?”
Amara’s heart fluttered for a second. Then she remembered her mission. “Yes, I’m writing a feature for The Eagle, about the Mayan end of the world predictions. Do you have any books about the Maya?”
“Cool, you’re a reporter.” Grant frowned as he thought. “Off the top of my head, I don’t think so.”
“Oh,” Amara said, disappointed.
“But wait a second.”
Amara watched as Grant dashed inside a small office behind the desk. After waiting for a few moments, she felt awkward standing alone.
Here you go.” Grant emerged from the office and handed her a book called The Myths of Mexico and Peru. “Flip through this. There’s probably something about the Mayans in there.”
Amara opened the book to the table of contents. At least two chapters were about the Maya. She turned to the first one and started reading. Then she felt Grant’s stare so she looked up. “I’ll take it.”
“Great,” Grant said. He gestured for her to follow him to the computer. “I’ll check you out right here.” He blushed. “I mean, the book.”
Amara nodded, trying to think of something clever to say, but she was also too eager to get back to her book. The first couple pages she had skimmed were about the Popul Vuh, the Mayan Book of the People that contained stories of creation and heroes. She wanted to learn more.
“Come back anytime,” Grant said.
“What?” Amara had been lost in her thoughts.
“Oh just—I’ll check to see if we have more stuff on the Maya. Here, why don’t you give me your email and I can let you know if I find anything else?” He tore off a piece of paper from a notebook sitting on the corner of the desk and handed Amara a pen. “I’m Grant, by the way.”
Amara was torn. She wanted to collect enough research to get the green light on her story so she could start getting recognition as a journalist, but she also wanted to stick around and talk to Grant some more.
She took the pen. “I’m Amara. Sometimes it takes me a while to check my email, so here’s my number too, just in case.” Willing herself not to blush, she gave the paper to Grant. “Text me anytime.”
“Great. I’ll let you know if I find anything.”
“Thanks.” Amara flashed him a smile as she left, happy she could use journalism as an excuse to flirt.
Once she was home, she decided to go online and do more research. She bought a couple ebooks, The Mayan Code and Maya 2012 Revealed, to read later on her tablet. Then she went to Wolfram Alpha, a fairly new search engine that relied on expert knowledge. Typing “Mayans” in the search box yielded some interesting results, mostly timelines, but nothing particularly useful. So she went back to Google.
“That looks promising,” Amara said, clicking on a link. It was for an article titled, “Experts meet to discuss Maya calendar, debunk end-of-world stories.” The article said that archaeologists and anthropologists had met at the beginning of October to talk about how the world would not end in December and how the Mayans had made some prophesies, but nothing fatalistic.
“Shoot,” Amara muttered. “Wish I had known about that sooner—maybe I could have gone.” Her eyes lit up as she read more. One of the experts was a Professor Brown, and he taught at Laguna State. Amara opened a new tab to her school’s website, and found Professor Brown’s email. She quickly wrote him a message, asking if she could have an interview.
“All right, one source down.” The unofficial rule of The Eagle was that stories needed to have at least three sources. Amara smiled and opened another tab to start a new search. The next website contained information on a Maya 2012 exhibit at the University of Pennsylvania Museum that debunked the myths. “Damn, that’s too far away,” Amara said. She continued her search.
The Royal Ontario also had an exhibit, but it had closed in April. Just as Amara was about to close that tab, she saw a link to some videos. She clicked on the one called, 2012: What did the Maya think? It was a short clip that explained part of the Mayan calendar. According to the video, the Maya used baktuns, which are calendar cycles equal to 394 years. Doing a little more research, Amara found that the Maya had multiple calendars and cycles. There were at least three different dating systems in parallel: the Tzolkin, the Haab, and the Long Count. The Long Count was the calendar that supposedly predicted the end of the world, and it was comprised of kin, the equivalent of a day. Twenty kin equaled an uinal, eighteen uinal equaled one tun—approximately 360 days or one year—twenty tun equaled one katun, and twenty katun equaled roughly one baktun. The Long Count lasted 5,125 years, and of course was due to end on December 21, 2012, which would also be the winter solstice. But what fascinated Amara the most was the fact that the calendar supposedly began on August 11, 3114 B.C., during the solar zenith passage in southern Maya latitudes, and the Maya had mysteriously stopped making carvings and calendars around 900 A.D.
Excited, Amara typed up some notes and sent them to Makenna, telling her she already had one potential interview.
“What are you doing?”
Amara jumped out of her seat. She turned to glare at Cayden. “You scared me half to death.”
Cayden chuckled. “Sorry, you just looked so intense, staring at your screen…I couldn’t resist.” He peeked over her shoulder. “So more Mayans, huh?”
“Yes, more Mayans.” Amara clicked on another link. “It’s actually really interesting.”
“That looks cool.” Cayden pointed to the screen. PBS had an interactive site corresponding to a NOVA program they had done, called Cracking the Maya Code. “Move over, I want to see.” Cayden took Amara’s seat and started trying to read the stela.
“Hey, I was doing something,” Amara said.
“Sorry, the linguistics major in me is taking over.” He turned briefly and grinned at Amara. “You’ll just have to wait.” He looked around the site some more. “Can I help you with your research? This stuff is actually pretty interesting.”
“Yeah, sure, whatever,” Amara said. Then she saw the clock on her laptop. “Shoot, I’m late for my history midterm. Gotta go!”
Amara ducked into the room and started her test right away. Class was already more than halfway over, so she had to rush. She scribbled as fast as she could, but in her haste she ended up making up some of her answers. Embarrassed that she had been so late, she turned in her paper without looking at her professor and ran out the door.
She decided to walk home instead of taking her bike, so that she would have time to think of ways to make up her grade for the midterm she had probably just failed. Her phone vibrated, alerting her to two new emails. She swiped her screen, and saw the first one was from Makenna, giving her the go-ahead for her feature and setting a deadline for it. She had two weeks. Amara had to resist jumping up and down; she was so excited.
The second email was from Professor Brown. He said he’d be happy to meet with Amara, but that he’d have to meet her right away in his office before he left for home. Amara checked the email’s time stamp—it had been sent ten minutes ago. In her adrenaline rush, Amara called Cayden.
“Cay, guess what!”
“I don’t know, you tell me.”
“Got my first interview for my story! It’s with Professor Brown—he’s a history teacher here who knows about the Maya Calendar. But I have to go to his office right now, before he leaves for the day.”
“Where is it? I’ll meet you.”
They met in front of the library. On the way to Professor Brown’s office, Amara’s phone vibrated again.
“What’s that?” Cayden said.
Amara checked her phone and rolled her eyes. “Just a stupid text from Ace. He’s the features editor, so technically I have to report to him. He’s being a douche and demanding updates on my story, even though Makenna just emailed me saying they won’t run it for two weeks. I’ll tell him I’ll email him later.”
Amara typed as quickly as she could before they got to Professor Brown’s door. “Ok done,” she said. “Ready?”
Cayden nodded, and Amara knocked.
“Yes?” Professor Brown said when he answered. He was a large, wheezy man, and his office was cramped and full of books and loose stacks of paper. “How can I help you?”
“Hi, I’m Amara—the reporter who emailed you earlier? And this is my colleague, Cayden. We came as soon as I got your email—I didn’t want to risk missing you.”
Professor Brown furrowed his brow. “Hm, I wasn’t expecting you. I thought I just read an email from you that said you wouldn’t be able to make it? That’s odd.”
“No, I don’t think so.” Amara felt a knot in her stomach. She wondered if the hackers had gotten into her email account too. Wanting to be professional, she tried to forget her paranoia and concentrate on the task at hand. “Sorry if there’s any confusion, but I’d definitely like to interview you today.”
Professor Brown gestured them in. “All right then, let’s get started.”
An hour later, Amara had ten pages of notes and a little better idea of the Maya Calendar. Unfortunately, Professor Brown had been overzealous in sharing his knowledge of Mayan rituals and habits and culture, so she didn’t have much new information on the Calendar. Amara comforted herself with the thought that she had at least gotten a recipe for balchė, an ancient alcoholic drink made from bark and sweetened with honey. She made a mental note to try it later.
“Well that was kind of a waste,” Amara said to Cayden as they walked home. “Sorry.”
“What are you talking about?” Cayden said. “That was cool. We learned all kinds of stuff, and now maybe I can make more sense of their language.”
Amara finished locking up her bike before Cayden, so she was first to the door. Taped to the doorknob was a strange note, on aging yellow paper with barely legible scribbling. Amara squinted to read it.
“These secrets aren’t yours to tell,” it said. “Stop now or we will be forced to harm Cayden.” The rest of the note contained a series of strange symbols:
“What’s that?” Cayden asked, coming up behind her.
“Oh, nothing.” Amara crumpled up the paper and shoved it in her jacket pocket.