“But my family will never know what’s happened to me,” murmured the voice from beyond the static. There was a reply somewhere in the background, but it was incomprehensible as it was spoken in a language that hadn’t been used in over five thousand years.
It had taken Richard three hours just to clean up the recording so that he could make out what the first man was saying. Now that he’d managed it, his suspicions were confirmed. The man in the recording was speaking modern English. Another aberration and one of many.
Maybe I’m losing my mind, he thought to himself. What would a flash drive be doing in a Mesoamerican temple? The Mayans were an advanced people but not that advanced. And he knew he hadn’t dropped it. He’d never seen it before in his life. The ones he always used were the Incatel brand. The most likely explanation was that someone had been snooping. Maybe this was an effort to discredit his work. He probably ought to set up a network of perimeter cameras again.
The longer he spent analysing the recording the less his explanation seemed to fit. From the moment he’d come to on the cold hard floor of the temple this afternoon, he’d felt that something was just a bit off kilter. How had the Emacron flash drive gotten into his hand? And why couldn’t he remember the events that led up to it? It was all a bit of a mystery.
He wrote his findings in his journal so that he could puzzle over them in his bunk, poring over every little detail into the small hours. No one could ever justly question his diligence. He gave it one hundred percent twenty four hours a day three hundred and sixty five days a year. He ate, slept and breathed archaeology. It was all he had left since his wife Nicole had died and his family had fledged the nest. Given his dedication then, one might think that his position amongst his peers would be assured. But sadly that wasn’t the case. Over the years people had begun to doubt his credibility as a serious archaeologist. It was his obsessive nature that had proved to be his undoing. Still, the opinions of others did not count for much in Richard’s eyes. All that mattered were the Mayans and their legacy.
He stood and stretched trying to release the numerous knots and kinks in his neck. He’d sat for far too long trying to make sense of it. Perhaps a little walk might loosen him up, he thought. He had to do something else he’d never sleep at all.
He went outside and discovered the moon above the valley to be full and bright, coasting smoothly like a ship between cloud and stars. He gazed at it in wonder, knowing that the mighty luminary had also cast its light upon the Mayans. What a pity it could not talk. Then he really would discover some secrets! Yet the moment he thought that, he knew he would not want it. He didn’t want the answers to be simply handed him on a plate. Richard Tobias Hodgkins loved the hunt.
He followed the ancient paving across what would have been a city square, until he reached the temple of Quetzalcoatl’s Gate. The majesty of this enormous building never ceased to amaze him with its well-worn steps and lofty position at the entrance to the Mesocam valley. From where it stood there was a very narrow view of the night sky as if the builders themselves were saying “All we need is the Belt of Orion, Pleiades and the constellation Cassiopeia. These are our god’s and we require no other.” Of course this wasn’t true, because the Mayans were keen astronomers of the entire night sky and they also had an awesomely diverse pantheon of gods. As Richard understood it, the temple was positioned that way because this was where the god Quetzalcoatl was said to have landed. Here lay his portal between heaven and earth. Somewhere in the city of Yuchaki was his landing pad. Supposedly.
Richard smiled to himself. Even he knew that was all hooey. Still, it was an interesting story that garnered much interest from the UFO fanatics. Suddenly his smile faded. At the top of the steps a bluish light fell through a fissure in the fresco wall. His blood ran cold as his mind struggled to come up with an explanation.
Quickly he retraced his steps and made his way back to base camp. There he fished about frantically in his bedside draw until his madly flapping hands happened upon an antique revolver. He clumsily loaded it with several tarnished bullets hoping he wouldn’t have to use it. If he was lucky the sight of it alone would be enough to convince the intruders that they had made a poor choice entering Richard Hodgkin’s territory. Just to be on the safe side he decided he would record any exchange that occurred – so he bought along his Dictaphone.
However, as he was about to leave he noticed its micro flash drive was missing. He looked around for another, purposefully ignoring the one from the temple that was still lying on his desk. That was probably too big and he wasn’t even sure it would work properly.
Another bright flash of light from the direction of the temple caused him to take desperate measures. He must stop the vandals before they caused untold damage. Heedless of danger, he snatched up the Emacron flash drive from his desk and ran through the door. Amazingly it seemed to be still working and it did indeed fit.
Out of breath he stumbled up the steps, gun in hand and eyes popping. The light was still there only now it was falling in a wide swath from where the wall relief had fallen away and smashed.
Someone was going to pay for this! Destroying history was unconscionable.
“Come out now with your hands in the air! I will not tolerate the destruction of my site in this manner,” he shouted boldly.
Suddenly a massive gust of wind blew outwards and knocked him clean off his feet. Dazed he sat up and held his hand out to the light. It dazzled him, making it difficult to see.
“What’s going on in there?”
No one answered. He had no choice but to go in and find out. Cautiously he made his way forward unsure of what awaited him…
It was just another chamber. Thankfully, no one was there and he could see nothing remotely sinister. Richard sighed with relief and did something he would never have done as a rule. He plonked himself down on a stone edifice in the centre of the room.
A short time later, when his pulse had returned to normal he began to take note of his surroundings. He desperately needed to sleep but curiosity was gaining the upper hand. He leaned forward to examine a jade tablet that was part of the strange stone structure he was sitting on. Suddenly it depressed beneath his fingers. With a terrifying jolt the whole thing levitated off the ground and started to spin round with a terrible hissing sound that rose and fell in intensity.
Light flooded the chamber. There was no way he could get off. He was far too dizzy to be able to keep his balance. Faster and faster the stone contraption rotated. His face distorted as the g-force kicked in. If it wasn’t for the stone upright at his back he’d have been pasted to the wall like a layer of gloopy emulsion. All he could do was hold on.
Just as he was about to lose consciousness the whole thing ceased with an explosive bang. He felt it drop to the floor sending his teeth through his upper lip.
Richard shook his head and spat hard to remove the tang of blood from his mouth. For a second or two he lost consciousness and woke to the sound of buzzing in his ears.
Someone had just fired a gun!
He opened his eyes and found himself looking down the barrel of his antique revolver. A Mayan Indian was at the other end.
“SHIT!” exclaimed Richard. Shocked by his outburst, the Indian pulled the trigger. The bullet scorched through the air, tearing its way through skin, flesh and skull.
Still conscious Richard lay bleeding on the floor.
“But my family will never know what happened to me,” he murmured.
The Mayan had several companions whom Richard had not noticed before. These approached him, obviously scolding the first. One of them knocked the revolver from his hand where it fell beside his broken Dictaphone. It was just an accident Richard realised. They genuinely had no idea that a gun could kill, or even what a gun was.
Absently Richard noted that the flash drive was gone. His blood pooled on the ground as his dimming eyes searched for it. Wherever it had gone, it was lost for good. The time for finding things was over.
Just before his eyes slammed shut he felt the stone contraption lurch into action once more. As he travelled through time, his memories of the event faded and his injuries disappeared to the point where they’d never even happened.
Moments later he found himself outside the chamber lying on the temple floor. The sun was shining, the fresco wall was complete and in his hand was an Emacron flash drive.
He frowned and got to his feet, deciding he absolutely must get to the bottom of this mystery.