Cayden had studied the map on the drive to Calakmul. Amara’s grandfather had etched a trail, so he was confident he could find the glyphs. Jorge had generously let them take the rubbings so Cayden could try to translate more of the story and match it up on the map. There were mentions of a secret room near the outside of the ruins of the ancient city, Ox Te- Tuun, now Calakmul.
Amara parked in a small dirt patch near where Cayden thought the secret cave would be. “All right, we’re here.”
Cayden followed the path Amara’s grandfather had drawn, and soon they were at an entrance to a tunnel.
Amara thought she heard a rustle in the brush near her. “What was that?”
Cayden was a feet few away, already making his descent into the tunnel. “It was probably some sort of animal. Come on, help me look.”
“Just a minute.” Amara stared at the vegetation, willing it to move. She saw nothing. Satisfied, she followed Cayden down the tunnel.
“It’s so dark in here.” Cayden held up his cellphone as a flashlight.
Amara shivered. “And cold.”
Cayden took her hand. “Here, follow me.”
Amara blushed, glad it was dark. They walked together around the room, trying to take it all in. There wasn’t much, mostly dirt.
“Let’s look over here.” Cayden led Amara towards one of the walls.
Amara touched it, amazed to be standing somewhere over one thousand years old. Her fingers caught on a piece of rock jutting out of the wall. “Cay, can you shine your light over here? I think I found something.”
Cayden peered at the wall. “There’s a weird shape here…hand me your arrowhead. It looks like the same shape.”
“Do you think it’s a key?” Amara fumbled for the arrowhead in her backpack. She gave it to Cayden.
He fit the arrowhead snugly into the wall. Then he heard a loud crack, and the wall started to move. It became a door that swiveled open to reveal a small, even darker room.
“Wow,” Amara said. “Let’s go.”
“Wait.” Cayden held her back. “We don’t know what’s in there. It could be dangerous.”
“Well we can’t go back empty-handed now.” Amara pushed her way through. “If anything happens, we’ll just run back, ok?”
Cayden groaned. “Fine.” He followed Amara into the room.
“What do you think these are?” Amara said, holding up Cayden’s cellphone. The room was dark, but she could see faint glyphs on the wall. One of the glyphs looked out of place, like it was attached to the wall instead of painted on.
“Hmm.” Cayden was right behind her. “That could be a god? It’s hard to read in the dark.”
“I’ll take it from here,” said a voice behind them.
Amara jumped. She turned to see a man holding a torch. “Professor Brown? What are you doing here?”
Brown chuckled. “I’ve been trying to find this place for years.” He stepped between Amara and Cayden, and touched the wall with the protruding glyph. He pulled the glyph off the wall. “You’ve been such a great help.”
“Have you been following us this whole time?” Amara raised her voice.
“A fair question,” Brown said. “If you must know, yes.” He held up the glyph. “This little piece of rock has power. Actually, a surprising amount of power.”
“I don’t understand,” Amara said. Her eyes darted around the room, looking for an escape.
“You see,” Brown said, still staring at the glyph, “this little piece here, representing the Maize God, is part of a Long Count Calendar. But not just any old Calendar—one with real power.”
“One of the Mayan kings was able to use it to conquer a whole kingdom. And after years of researching the ancient Maya, and searching, I finally have it. And I can use it for myself.”
“I knew getting you to Mexico would lead me to it,” he said, pocketing the glyph and facing Amara. “I’d heard of your arrowhead, years ago. But I had no idea where to find it, or how to use it. Then when you came to my office and mentioned an arrowhead, I knew it had to be the same one. So I started following you.”
Professor Brown waved his torch in Amara and Cayden’s faces. “Your feature story is bigger than you know. Too bad I can’t let you share it. Now,” he said, backing Amara and Cayden into a corner. “I have to get rid of you two and then find the rest of the Calendar.”
“Stop!” A group of four women came in. They were dressed in woven textiles.
Amara grabbed on to Cayden. She whispered in his ear, “Head for the door.” They tried to slowly inch past Professor Brown, but three of the women blocked the entrance to the room. Not wanting to attract too much attention from the women, Amara stopped and stood next to Brown.
“Who are you?” Brown said.
The tallest woman stepped forward. “We are part of a group sworn to protect what this room holds, so that history cannot repeat itself.”
She turned her head slowly towards Amara. “You should have stopped when we first warned you.”
Amara inhaled sharply.
Brown started backing in to a corner. “You misunderstand, I’m an academic. I’m here purely for research purposes…”
The woman moved closer. “Liar,” she said through clenched teeth. Then she punched him in the face.
The other three women moved to grab Amara and Cayden, but Amara was ready. She deflected a blow and sucker punched one of the women in the stomach, winding her and knocking her to the ground. Another woman hit Cayden in the nose, and he yelped in pain. Amara rushed over and head-butted Cayden’s attacker. As the third woman bent down to take care of her friends, Amara hooked her arm through Cayden’s and led them to the exit.
“Come on,” she yelled. “We have to get out of here.”
Professor Brown was a few feet behind them—somehow he had gotten away. Dust and dirt flew through the air as they ran. Amara panted, forcing herself to exert more energy even though her legs felt like jelly. She urged Cayden along, trying not to think of Brown and what might happen if he caught up with them.
She could hear a couple of the women chasing after them. They must have gotten up. The thought pushed her to run harder. She could see the light at the end of the tunnel, so she focused on making it back to the car. When they were near the entrance, Amara heard a cry of pain. She glanced back briefly, only to see two of the women fighting Professor Brown and trying to drag him back into the secret room.
In the car, Amara jammed the keys in the ignition and floored it. Cayden fell back in his seat, too busy tending to his nose to remember to put on his seatbelt.
“Sorry Cay.” Amara drove as fast as she could. “When we get back to Puerto Morelos, we can have someone look at your nose.”
“Why are we going there?” Cayden said in a pinched voice. “Why not just head to the airport and get the hell out of here?”
“Because,” Amara said, holding out the piece of rock with the glyph that she had stolen from Professor Brown’s pocket. “We need to figure out how to destroy this.”