Fulfillment: It's All About Power
Here are the first 4 chapters of Fulfillment: It’s All About Power
The e-book can be ordered from my Web site:www.insearchofaperfectworld.blogspot.com
for only $10.
Michael C. Sullivan
Author of In Search of a Perfect WorldPrologue
This novel, which I began writing during a sojourn in Belize, is a mystery/thriller with mystical overtones. The story evolved during time spent visiting Mayan ruins, talking to the local Maya and learning about the discovery of a mysterious - and allegedly mystical - crystal skull that supposedly was found in the ruins of Lubaantun, in Southern Belize, in 1924.
There's intrigue, narrow escapes from danger and many insights into the nature of the world and life as Tom Wolftone seeks to uncover the truth about the skull and discovers that others are also after the secret. The story takes Tom and his lady-friend, Rhonda Fuller, out of Belize and through Mexico as they return to the U.S.
Their journey continues to Mt. Shasta, California, where they investigate strange petroglyphs that may be Lemurian in origin, and to Anasazi ruins in New Mexico, where they discover ties to the Maya. There’s more to this adventure as Tom learns about the meaning of power and fulfillment.
If you enjoyed The Da Vinci Code
and The Celestine Prophecy
you'll enjoy Fulfillment - It’s All About Power, and I invite you to recognize and reflect upon its insights. You will find it rewarding.
Copyright © 2009 Michael C. Sullivan All Rights Reserved.
Published by Perfect World Bookswww.PerfectWorldBooks.comChapter 1
Why Am I Here?
The sea was providing no answers. Gently rolling waves licked the sand where Tom Wolftone sat, gazing at the horizon. Shimmering, turquoise and lime, as ancient as the planet itself, the Caribbean softly nibbled at the beach.
There was a time when the sea had spoken to Tom, whispering wise advice while he walked an Oregon beach. He had listened, followed the advice and later understood why. Now? Nothing.
Six weeks in this obscure country and his purpose there was still a mystery to him. Six weeks of perpetual sweating, a pox of insect bites and the consumption of quarts of the weak, over-priced local beer. Six weeks of visiting the remnants of Mayan cities and ceremonial sites, of trying to understand the decline of that once-mighty civilization and the current status of its humble descendants. How could he understand when the Maya, themselves, didn’t know?
Or did they?
Tom had been drawn to Belize in a way he didn’t understand. He felt there was work to do, that he had a purpose to fulfill in this tiny nation.
Six weeks later he was still mystified. Why was he here?
“Have you been waiting long?”
The voice behind Tom belonged to Jack Dunraven, who Tom was meeting for dinner.
The question had an immediate double-meaning for Tom but he answered the most-obvious one.
“Not long,” Tom said as he rose and slapped sand off the seat of his pants. “Maybe 15 minutes. That’s OK. I was enjoying the water.”
Punctuality was not crucial in this part of the world. Time was more abstract than in the U.S., the land of ubiquitous timepieces. Belizeans were not in a rush, ever. There was always plenty of time.
Jack, a British expatriate in his mid- to late-40s, had lived in Belize the past 15 years – long enough to become a citizen and to marry a Belizean woman. He was program director for SMACO, an acronym for the Santa Maria Archipelago Conservation Organization. SMACO, a non-governmental entity, managed a chain of 14 cays offshore.
Tom had first met Jack the day he arrived in Punta Gorda and an immediate bond formed. They quickly discovered not only a shared interest in protecting the natural world from excessive – and often unnecessary – exploitation but in metaphysics and mysticism. Tom didn’t share that side of himself with many people.
“Hungry?” Jack inquired, smiling.
“Well, let’s go then.”
The men strolled along the shoreline for about 100 yards toward a gray, three-story compound containing half a dozen apartments and a top-floor restaurant. Maria’s Bayshore Cafe was one of the few eateries in town that offered an alternative to the nation’s standard, ubiquitous “fry chicken” with rice and beans. As they climbed the stairs up from the courtyard, Tom noticed large patches of black mold spotting the building’s walls, typical of most concrete structures in this humid climate. No one seemed concerned about it, though, unlike the U.S. where black mold was considered a health hazard.
The restaurant, however, was clean and bright; the view of the Bahia de Amatique from the veranda was magnificent; and Maria’s food was exceptional.
Tom led the way to his favorite table, next to the railing above the water and close to the kitchen. The aroma of curry drifted toward them.
“How was the trip?” Tom asked.
“Fairly easy. The sea was calm all the way. Actually, it was quite beautiful.”
Broad in the chest and standing a little more than six feet tall, Jack was a robust defender of the cluster of tiny islands, 35 miles offshore. His passion for the site was so vigorous that he tended to alienate some of the natives he hoped to draw into his alliance. There was a strong environmental consciousness, manifesting in national protection of the long reef system and creation of several national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. But Belizeans did not like being pushed – especially by an outsider. And, most distressingly, many locals exhibited a sense of complacency about threats to the sea.
“Would it be possible to get out there with you sometime?”
Tom had already had enough of jungle living. He and Rhonda Fuller were renting a stilted house 20 miles inland, near the Mayan village of San Pedro Columbia. The heat, humidity, rain and hordes of biting and stinging insects there had made life unbearable. Here, in town, a steady breeze cooled the air a bit and kept mosquitoes at bay.
It was the sea that had lured him anyway. Tom looked again at the water. Colors were shifting, reflecting the rapidly changing moods of the sky. The sun was setting behind them, streaking the offshore clouds with bands of pink and orange. A patch of water about half a mile out glowed with a carnelian hue.
“I don’t see why not,” Jack replied. “But, I’ll have to clear it with Lenora. Sure, if it’s OK with her.”
Lenora Carranza and her husband, Mario, operated the main water taxi service across the bay to Guatemala from the downtown wharf, as well as arrangements for inland excursions to Mayan sites and national parks. The Carranzas were also the co-founders of SMACO.
Maria suddenly appeared next to their table.
“Good evening gentlemen. How are you?”
The round, middle-age, East Indian/Creole woman looked tired. Tom knew she worked long hours to make a go of her restaurant, which was open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. She, her husband and three daughters lived in a downstairs apartment, so Maria was always on call. Her two helpers were incapable of running the place without her, she had told Tom.
“Fresh from the sea and ravenous,” Jack answered.
“That’s good, because tonight we have fish fillets, fresh from the sea,” Maria said with a smile. “But not quite ready yet. Can I get you some drinks?”
“Sure. How about rum punches?” Tom asked Jack.
“Excellent. You’re talking about the one with pineapple squash and coconut juice?”
“Make it two,” Tom told Maria.
“And I’m ready to order dinner now,” Tom added. He remembered the three-entrée menu scribbled on a chalkboard behind the bar as they entered, as well as the length of time it always took for food to appear, even though he and Jack were the only customers.
Tom ordered curried chicken with steamed rice and vegetables, while Jack bit on the fish fillet.
“Why do you want to go out to the keys?” Jack asked.
“Just to see what it’s like out there. I’m feeling penned up here. I need to get out on the water.”
“I hear you. I’m surprised you’ve taken life in the bush as well as you have. How’s your book coming?”
“Slowly,” Tom said, grimacing. “I really can’t get rolling on it. I dumped the original idea, so I’m off in a different direction.”
“It’s not going to be about the Maya then?” Jack looked surprised.
“It’s going to be a novel. I haven’t gotten many insights about the Maya here that I could turn into a book. Either they don’t know, or won’t say, what caused their civilization to collapse in the thirteenth century. So, no, it won’t be a scholarly work. I’m tired of that anyway. It’s one of the reasons I quit the newspaper.”
Maria quietly appeared and put their drinks on the table. Nothing fancy here. No paper umbrellas topping the small water glasses. Just the fine Belizean One Barrel rum and the mixes over purified ice cubes. The beach resorts at Placencia, San Pedro and Caye Caulker catered to tourists who were charmed by cute presentations. No one bothered with that in gritty Punta Gorda.
“Here’s to fiction then,” Jack said, raising his glass.
Tom clicked his glass against Jack’s.
“Sometimes fiction is the best way to put the truth across,” Tom said, smiling. The two men gladly sipped their drinks.
“Do you know anything about the crystal skull that supposedly was found at Lubaantun?” Tom asked.
“A bit,” Jack said, smiling. “It’s supposed to have mystical powers. The daughter of an archaeologist, Anna Mitchell-Hedges, said she found it in the ruins there in nineteen-twenty-four.”
“Right. There’s some question about whether that ever happened, but I guess the skull is real. Anna Mitchell-Hedges has taken it on tour with her, and I’ve seen photos of it. There apparently are several others. Most of them were supposedly found in Mexico and Central America, at Mayan and Aztec sites. You know, the funny thing is, I’ve known about that crystal skull for maybe the past ten years or so, but I had no idea it was found here until I visited Lubanntun about a month ago. What a coincidence, eh?”
They both laughed. Neither of them believed in coincidences.
Lubaantun was built and occupied by the Maya from the seventh through the 12th centuries, Tom had learned. Some estimates put the peak population at around 20,000 people, although there was little sign of that level of occupation. It’s estimated that approximately 300,000 Maya once lived in Belize – more than the nation’s current total, mixed population. Five main plazas and 13 smaller ones sprawl across the site, located less than two miles from San Pedro Columbia. The limestone structures were unique in several ways, including rounded corners. Unlike Maya sites on the Yucatan Peninsula, little restoration work had been done; so many of the ruins consisted mainly of rubble.
“I’ve been there several times,” Tom continued, savoring the warmth of the rum in his belly. “I’ve talked to the caretaker, Alberto, about the story. He was in on one of the later digs, back in the nineteen-sixties or seventies; he’s met Anna and seen the skull. He said it’s life-size and has a removable jaw. She gave him three different versions of the skull’s discovery, so I’ve got my doubts. Some people think it was manufactured in Germany and bought at an auction in England in nineteen-forty-three.”
“Yes, I’ve heard that,” Jack said, his expression turning serious. He looked intently at Tom. “I agree that it wasn’t found at Lubaantun, but I’m sure it wasn’t manufactured in Germany.”
“What’s your theory?”
“It’s not a theory. It’s a fact.”
“OK. I’m listening.”
Jack took another sip of his drink.
“Well, you know I’ve been involved in protecting the keys for the past few years and I spend quite a bit of time out there.”
“As a result, I’ve heard many stories about those keys. Pirates of course. They certainly were there. But did you know the Maya lived out there? It’s quite a journey by boat today, so it’s hard to conceive of it. They had an outpost, regulating trade along the coast, from the Yucatan to Honduras. “We’ve found lots of buried artifacts and trade goods. Obsidian blades, turquoise, things like that.”
“I knew that was the purpose of Tulum and Cerros, but I wasn’t aware of anything this far south, in the keys.”
“No. It isn’t well known. It seems no one spent much time digging out there because nothing was apparent. Actually, we’ve kept what we’ve discovered to ourselves.”
“Oh, people involved with this project. People with an interest in what we’ve found. That’s all I can say right now.”
“What else did you find?”
Tom looked up as he saw Maria approaching and was quiet.
“Would you like more drinks?” Maria asked, smiling.
“That’s a good idea,” Jack replied. “Certainly.”
When Maria walked back toward the bar, Jack continued.
“We found the remains of a city out there, underwater. For some reason, those islands never attracted much interest from divers or fishermen. Maybe because they’re so far out. In any case, one of our people was following up on a tale he’d heard some time back and started poking around out there. He had an idea of where to look and, by God, he found some ruins about twenty-five feet underwater.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“Not at all. If you don’t believe me, I’ll take you out there to see for yourself.”
Tom paused to absorb what Jack had just told him.
“I’d like that. Very much. So, where does the crystal skull fit into this?”
“That’s where it was found.”Chapter 2
Straight journalism had been exhausting for Tom … and confining. Nearly 40 years of reporting for, and editing, newspapers and magazines had burned him out. Observing and writing about dysfunctional human behavior had resulted in spirit-sapping cynicism 20 years earlier, so Tom had left a well-paying editor’s job with a mid-size daily in Idaho to start a free-lance career.
The subsequent financial poverty motivated him to return to newspapering 15 years later.
But, the last job, with The Post-Standard, finished it for Tom. After two years of witnessing politicians squabble and defame one another, of an endless parade of unrepentant criminals pass through the justice system in Arizona, and of yet another arrogant publisher micromanaging a newsroom, Tom also realized that he was no longer interested in news. Nothing really changed, in government or society. It was all just more of the same, with different characters. So, Tom abruptly quit – with 30 days notice, so that management had plenty of time to find a replacement. It wasn’t the first time he’d quit perfunctorily without having another job, but this time he didn’t torch the bridge behind him.
Tom had saved some money, by living simply, and was collecting enough Social Security to cover expenses.
Tom and Rhonda drove the length of Mexico to reach Belize, sticking to the excellent – and expensive – toll roads through Chihuahua, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, Queretaro, Mexico, Puebla, Veracruz and Tabasco en route to the Yucatan Peninsula, staying in cities that apparently saw few Anglos, judging by the curious stares of the citizens wherever they stayed. After dinner, they would walk to the nearest park, find a place to sit and watch the passing parade of people: families out for a stroll, friends, lovers. The mood was always relaxed.
Because they wanted to spend time absorbing the flavor of the cities, the drive took two weeks and included the Yucatan Mayan sites of Chichen Itza and Tulum.
Once across the border into Belize, they drove the length of the country in one day to reach the farm.
The rental was inexpensive, but the arrangement turned out to have hidden costs.
Water for domestic use came from two large storage tanks in the back yard that collected rainwater from the house’s zinc roof. Although the farm’s owners drank that water, Tom knew enough about rainwater harvesting to realize that zinc could leach into the water and result in health problems; so he and Rhonda bought gallons of purified water in town for drinking and cooking.
The “shower” consisted of a garden hose connected to an overhead storage tank. Because there was no indoor plumbing other than a kitchen-sink drain, it was necessary to lug water upstairs in a 10-gallon bucket for washing dishes.
The toilet was yet another 10-gallon plastic bucket, equipped with a regulation toilet seat atop a wooden box, in an outbuilding. Sawdust, rice hulls and lime had to be added to dry up the feces and reduce the odor. The bucket had to be emptied into an underground tank every two or three days.
“Dump poop, carry water,” Tom thought to himself, recalling the Zen aphorism as he brought up the morning water. Rain had fallen all night and was still drumming on the roof, so Tom had stripped off his clothes to get the water.
“Did Jack say when you could go out to the keys with him?” Rhonda asked, as Tom plunked the heavy bucket onto the floor next to the sink.
“Just a minute, while I dry off and get dressed.” Tom grabbed a bath towel and dried his body, then slipped into a T-shirt and swimming trunks.
“He didn’t; but I think it’ll be soon. He hasn’t told anyone else about this, and he seems to be eager to share the information with me. I guess he trusts me.”
Tom and Rhonda had been together nearly two years, after meeting in Arizona. Both were in their early 60s, both had divested themselves of all unnecessary possessions, and both had hit the road separately, with open minds and open hearts, at roughly the same time. They came from widely distant points but happened to converge in Arizona. To Tom, Rhonda seemed much younger, partly because of her girlish laugh and the way the skin around her eyes crinkled when she smiled. She was one of the happiest people Tom had known, but the living arrangement was getting both of them down.
As Tom sat down at the small kitchen table, Rhonda poured him a cup of hearty Sumatran coffee from their French press. They had brought two bags with them from Arizona, not knowing what to expect in Belize. Tom added a teaspoon of honey and stirred it in. After pouring herself a cup, she sat down across the small table from Tom.
Water was splashing through the open wooden slats behind the sink. If anything, the rain was even harder now. As usual, they had sat in meditation for about 10 minutes before breakfast, so they were at peace with their circumstances.
“Do you think it’s the keys that brought you down here?” Rhonda asked.
“I can’t put my finger on any one thing but, sure, the sea was a big part of it. That’s why it’s so frustrating not to be able to get out there. I can’t afford to spend four-hundred bucks with Mario to charter his boat. With Jack, there probably wouldn’t be any charge. Maybe a little money for gas, but it would be on one of his regular trips. Not a special trip. The sea and the Maya. That’s what brought me here. Certainly not this damn jungle.”
“Yeah, I know there is; but that’s the part I can’t figure out.”
Rhonda’s eyes rose from Tom’s face to the wall above the table, widening as she stood up and backed away.
“What’s wrong?” Tom asked.
“There’s a scorpion on the wall, over your head!”
Tom jumped away from the table and turned to see a large, black scorpion motionless on the wall, about three feet up from where his head had been. Since they arrived, Tom and Rhonda had located and killed about half a dozen of the gruesome-looking beasts. Four had been in the bedroom. The farm’s owners had told them not to worry about scorpions; their stings wouldn’t be fatal, although they would feel some numbness in the face. That was small consolation. They hadn’t been stung yet, because they had been able to spot them first.
Tom picked up his coffee and honey jar and moved them to the sink. Rhonda did the same, keeping her eyes on the four-inch-long arachnid.
Tom walked across the kitchen and picked up a spray can of BOP insecticide, as Rhonda picked up the mop handle they were using to pin scorpions to the wall after spraying. Approaching to within four feet of the wall, Tom unleashed a blast of insecticide directly onto the scorpion, and then backed away.
After a couple seconds, the creature began to wobble, and then started scuttling upward. At that point, Rhonda quickly moved forward and pinned the critter to the wall with the bare metal end of the mop handle. The scorpion repeatedly stung the metal clip as Rhonda applied more pressure.
“OK. BOP and mop. Let it drop,” Tom said, with a laugh.
Rhonda pulled the handle away and the wounded monster fell to the floor next to the table. Using a broom and the mop handle, she scooped up the scorpion and walked over to the railing, dropping the fatally wounded pest over the side.
“I’m pretty tired of that,” Tom said, as they returned to the table with their coffee.
“It’s hard to find many positives about staying here,” Rhonda said. “Do you have any idea what the appearance of a scorpion means? In metaphysical terms?”
“Gee. I used to read about animal totems back in Missoula, but I’m not sure. Let me think … It seems there were a lot of meanings, but the one that stands out is protection. It’s a symbol for protecting yourself.”
With nothing to do at the farm, the following day being the Summer Solstice and a rare one without rain, Tom and Rhonda decided to walk over to the village and to the ruins called Lubaantun.
Located three miles up a rough, unpaved road from the farm, Lubaantun sprawls across a ridge top just outside San Pedro Columbia. Tom and Rhonda were accustomed to high-altitude hiking in Arizona, but they struggled with the trek up the road because of the high humidity, which probably equaled the 95-degree thermometer reading. After five minutes, they were both drenched with sweat. Rhonda brought along a large bandanna to wipe away the rivulets of sweat pouring down her face.
“You’re beautiful when you’re sweaty,” Tom said.
“Yeah, right,” Rhonda replied, laughing. “I don’t feel very beautiful.”
“Well, you are. I love you, you sweaty thing.”
Being able to speak candidly and joke with a woman who shared his love of new places and adventure was what sold Tom on Rhonda. Since meeting, they had been almost inseparable.
Stopping a few minutes later for a water break, the couple was joined by a young Maya boy pushing a battered one-speed Schwinn up the hill behind them. Bicycle and foot were the main modes of travel for the villagers, with an occasional well-worn pickup truck or bus rattling along the narrow road, laying down clouds of oil smoke.
“Where you going?” the boy asked.
“To Lubaantun,” Tom replied.
“Why you walking?”
Because of their frequent trips into the village to use the Internet hookup at the elementary school or to pick up something from the small grocery store, their car was well-known to many of the villagers. If you have a car, why walk?
“We like to walk,” Rhonda said. “It’s good exercise.”
Exercise for recreation was a strange concept for the Maya – aside from the young boys who swam in the cool, clear waters of the Columbia River, separating the village from the ruins.
Tom and Rhonda resumed their hike, with the boy walking his bicycle alongside. Tom estimated his age at around 12. Like most of the other children in and around the village, he was wide-eyed and curious about the white people.
“What’s your name?” Rhonda asked.
“Ricardo,” the boy said, proudly.
Asking the names of the people they met, from villagers to restaurant employees had been a sure icebreaker for Tom and Rhonda. It showed a genuine interest in the other person, letting them know they weren’t viewed as someone lesser.
“I’m Rhonda, and this is Tom.”
“Hello. Where you from?”
“Arizona,” Tom said. “Do you know where that is?”
“Right. Just over the Mexican border.”
Ricardo looked puzzled. In talking to other children previously, Tom had learned they knew little about geography – and were not particularly interested in the United States. The small elementary school in the village was run by the Catholic Church, with government funding, and taught basic education – enough for the youngsters to get along in a life circumscribed by the boundaries of the district in which they lived. Few would go on to high school. Fewer still would attend college. If they were smart enough, and fortunate enough, they might find some work in Punta Gorda. The pay wouldn’t be much, but it would be more than they would earn on the small subsistence farms around the village.
Despite their apparent financial poverty, lack of opportunities and relatively low standard of living, the people Tom and Rhonda had met during their stay were uniformly cheerful and friendly. They may have envied the possessions of the visiting Americans, but they seemed OK with what they didn’t have.
“Why you go to Lubaantun?” Ricardo asked.
“We’re very interested in Mayan history,” Tom replied.
“Because the Maya once had a very great civilization. Do they teach you about that in school.”
“Yes. A little bit.”
“Do you know why people left the old cities?” Rhonda asked.
“Are you proud to be Maya?” Tom asked.
“Yes,” Ricardo said, smiling broadly.
The trio separated at the fork in the road leading to the ruins.
Alberto sat on the concrete porch outside the visitors center at Lubaantun, as usual, carving on a short stick. He wore his light-blue denim caretaker’s shirt, faded blue jeans and, like many of the Maya men, knee-high rubber boots. Alberto smiled as Tom and Rhonda approached the building. The site didn’t receive many visitors, probably because of its obscurity, and Alberto appreciated Tom and Rhonda’s keen interest in Mayan culture and the ruins. He had explained the artifacts inside the center, which had been found during excavations, and had personally guided them through the ruins.
Among the artifacts uncovered by archaeologists were fragments of clay whistles used by the Maya. Being resourceful, Alberto had studied the whistles after the fragments had been pieced together and taught himself to recreate them. He sold his reproductions out of a sack below the desk in his office. The whistles had two eerie pitches – high and low. Alberto surmised that the low whistle was for men and the higher for women.
“So, Alberto, how are you today?” Tom asked as they approached.
“Fine, fine. Not many visitors today. You’re the first … but there was some interesting people here yesterday.”
Like all the Maya Tom and Rhonda had met, Alberto spoke English. Because of his pronunciation of some words, it was necessary to listen carefully though.
“Interesting? How so?”
“They were Americans, dressed nice. Not like most visitors. Three of them. They said they knew about the Crystal Skull and wanted me to show them where it was found. So, I took them up by the old altar and showed them where Anna told me she found it. They asked if they could stay there for awhile. I said sure and headed back here. But, there was something about them that made me suspicious; so, I stopped behind one of the ruins where they couldn’t see me and watched them.”
Alfredo paused to carve a thin strip off his stick.
“What did they do?” Rhonda asked.
“One of them took out some kind of instrument from his backpack and started walking around, pointing it at the ground. He did that for a long time. When they started to leave, I came back here right away. I don’t think they saw me.”
“Did they say anything when they left?” Tom asked.
“Thanks and goodbye,” Alberto said, laughing.
“What do you think they were doing?” Rhonda asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t think they were archaeologists. I worked with Melvin Hammer when he dug here 20 years ago and he never used anything like that.”
“Do you think they were looking for oil?” Tom asked.
Oil exploration had become a huge, and controversial, issue in the district. An American firm was issued a permit by the national government to explore in a nearby ecological preserve, using explosives. They were also permitted to explore around the Mayan villages. Because the Maya are not allowed to own the land they’ve lived on for many generations, they have no rights in the matter. But there had been a couple of well-organized protests in Belize City and the capital city of Belmopan which gained some news media attention from the TV stations and the newspapers. The Belize Times, though, was a semi-official mouthpiece for the ruling People’s United Party and printed glowing, often anonymous, articles on how oil production would save the nation. The Times generally denigrated the protesters. Amandala and the Guardian reported the facts.
As with most environmentally damaging proposals around the world, the project was being sold to the local people as a cornucopia of good-paying jobs. Plus, local oil production would mean energy self-sufficiency, as all petroleum products now had to be imported.
Skeptics contended that the simple Maya weren’t likely to get any skilled drilling jobs, that well-placed government officials had been bribed to approve the project, that any tax revenues would probably be divided up among those officials and would never improve the lot of the Belizean people, and that most of the oil would probably be exported. What’s more, oil exploration – or any other development was specifically prohibited in the ecologically sensitive preserve, which was home to jaguars, peccary, deer, turkeys and several species of exotic birds.
“Oil?” Alberto said, raising his eyebrows. “I didn’t think of that. Maybe.”
“But this site is protected by the government, isn’t it?” Rhonda asked, sitting down on the porch next to Alberto.
Alberto laughed. “Protected? Sure. As long as nobody sees any value here except tourism. If there’s oil here, the government won’t prevent someone from taking it.”
“Wouldn’t the Maya do something to stop that?” Tom asked.
“Maybe. Some people think the oil would be good for the villages. The young ones don’t care. They’re just interested in TV and the … what you call it? The Internet.”
Both wonders of the modern world had recently been introduced to the village and had quickly captivated many of the boys and girls. Although no one had done any scientific research to prove a connection, Alberto said there now was more minor crime, drug and alcohol use and disrespect of elders – and less interest among the young people in maintaining the old ways.
“I’ll see if I can find out anything about those guys,” Tom told Alberto. “Do you know Jack Dunraven?”
“Yes, I know Jack. He comes here sometimes.”
“He seems pretty knowledgeable about this area and what’s going on with the oil exploration. I’ll check with him. But now, we’d like to go up to the altar area and observe the Summer Solstice. OK?”
“Sure. You have the place to yourselves.”
Alberto cut another slice out of the stick, which was beginning to resemble a snake.
“Do the local Maya still observe the solstices and equinoxes?” Tom asked as he and Rhonda walked away.
“No, hardly anybody does any more,” Alberto said, shaking his head sadly. “The ministers discourage that.”
Belize had become heavily Christianized, with new missionaries arriving constantly from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, Presbyterians, Methodists and other denominations – all determined to stamp out the old traditions and convert the natives to Christianity and the guilt of original sin. They had been very successful, largely through the religious management of the nation’s schools. Although funded by the government, the schools were managed by Catholics and the other denominations. Virtually every village had at least one Christian church.
“That’s too bad,” Tom said. “We’ll see you when we get back.”
“No wonder no one we’ve talked to, except Alberto, knows much about the past,” Rhonda said as they walked up the hill behind the visitors center.
“Yeah. I guess the idea is to keep them humble. It’s certainly not to empower them.” Power was an important principle to Tom. He thought about power and its many forms often.
Alberto had also told them of his frustration with his mother, who had refused to discuss the old ways. She had told him that it would like being naked in front of him. He still had no idea what that meant. Tom thought it might have had something to do with the old rituals, the old magic once performed in these places.
They walked up a short flight of ancient stone steps, past the fallen stones of a temple and through two narrow ball courts to reach a secluded area at the edge of the site. An altar had been rebuilt there, as part of the site’s restoration. The wall behind it, constructed of unmortared limestone bricks fit together so tightly a credit card could not penetrate the joints, was untouched by modern man.
Unlike most other ancient Mayan sites, the Lubaantun ball courts were not the scene of life-and-death struggles, with the losers – or sometimes the victors – beheaded as tribute to the gods. The short and narrow courts could accommodate only a small number of players and may have been used for training or for local games, Alberto had told them. No evidence of human or animal sacrifice had been found around the altar area, or anywhere else.
Nearby lay scattered piles of limestone blocks that had fallen from their original locations. Alberto had explained to them that many of the old structures had been knocked apart by trees growing up through them. Archaeologists had done the painstaking work of figuring out where the stones came from and then rebuilding a few of the structures. Many of them still lay in ruins, surrounded by the sheltering jungle.
Tom slipped out of his backpack and began placing items inside the altar, which resembled a modern barbecue pit covered with a limestone slab. Inside, he set two crystals that he and Rhonda had brought with them, some unidentified bird feathers they had found, and a large snail shell they had picked up that morning on their way to the village. Rhonda lit a stick of Nag Champa incense and they stepped away from the altar and across the small plaza to sit on a low wall, facing the altar.
They each took out a whistle they’d bought from Alberto and sat quietly for a few minutes.
Tom said a silent prayer to himself, invoking the spirit of the place and a wish for a more-peaceful, loving, healthy and just world, one in which truth prevailed. Then he gently blew through the whistle, which was shaped in the form of Itzamna, the god of writing. A low, sweet tune floated up against the stone walls and into the surrounding palm trees.
Rhonda then blew a few, higher-pitched notes on her whistle, fashioned in the shape of an ancient Maya ruler.
They said nothing aloud, although Tom maintained his prayers and visualization of a more-harmonious world.
The only sound was the rustling of palm leaves above them, in a slight breeze, and an occasional bird call. The sweet fragrance of the incense drifted around them.
Tom suddenly began to feel dizzy. He became aware of a cold sweat forming on his back and exposed arms. He opened his eyes and saw that Rhonda’s eyes were still closed, so he said nothing. A feeling of nausea welled up from Tom’s gut. He slid to the ground next to the wall and stretched out his legs.
Rhonda heard Tom move and she looked up.
“What’s the matter?” she asked.
Tom explained what had just happened, adding that he was starting to feel better. After a few moments, Tom stood and they picked up their crystals, preparing to leave.
“That was really weird,” Tom said. “I don’t know what that was all about. It just came up all of a sudden. I feel fine now.”
“We both ate the same food today, and I feel OK,” Rhonda said. “Maybe you’re catching something.”
“After all these mosquito bites, I wouldn’t be surprised. Although, we’ve been taking the malaria pills.”
“Maybe it’s the curse of the Crystal Skull,” Rhonda said, with a mischievous grin.
“Who knows? But why me and not you?”Chapter 3
The Secret Power
The Punta Gorda Public Library, like all government buildings in town, was badly in need of renovation. Tom surmised that the last coat of paint or repair work had been done by the Brits, before the nation gained its independence in 1981. The concrete-block structure, measuring roughly 30-by-30-feet, was tucked back on a muddy lot behind the bank, near the open-air market on Front Street. The narrow, surrounding streets were full of pedestrians, cyclists, buses, trucks and an occasional vintage auto. Despite the traffic congestion, the townspeople were relaxed and generally cordial.
There were few books on the shelves, so Tom went there mainly to pick up old U.S. magazines, such as National Geographic and Atlantic Monthly, which could not be purchased anywhere in town. Reading helped pass the time at the farm. Vanessa, the librarian, was cheerful and helpful and Tom enjoyed visiting with her about life in the district.
A lithe, Black woman in her early to mid-20s, Vanessa had finished two years of college to qualify for the job. In this, she stood apart from the majority of the nation’s Garifuna population – a mélange of African-Carib Indians who were brought to the country as slaves by the British more than a century earlier. Like the other Garifuna Tom had spoken to, Vanessa was eager to get out of the district, maybe even out of the country, for a better-paying job.
“What would you like to do?” Tom asked, as he browsed the shelves next to Vanessa’s cramped work area.
“Something with computers,” Vanessa answered.
Although a computer sat on her desk, Vanessa kept track of checked-out books and magazines on slips of paper stuffed into a well-worn manila envelope. Tom wondered what the computer was used for but had never asked.
“It doesn’t look like there are many jobs here in that category,” Tom said.
Aside from units in the town’s two Internet cafes, the bank and at some of the lodging places, there was little visible evidence the computer age had reached Punta Gorda.
“No. Maybe in Belize City or Belmopan, But, I’d like to get out of Belize and maybe go to the U.S.”
“Why don’t you?”
“I don’t have the money.”
“Hah! If I waited until I had all the money I needed, I wouldn’t have done half the things I did,” Tom said, kindly. “If you wait for just the right time it may never come.”
Vanessa’s eyes widened. “I never thought of it that way. Thank you.”
Tom found what he was looking for: a large, hardcover book on the history of the Maya in Belize. He took it down from the shelf and walked over to a nearby table to examine it.
“I think this is what I want,” Tom said to Vanessa.
“Good. I’m happy you found it.”
The history of the Maya people in Belize dates back thousands of years, Tom read, with evidence of habitation around 10,000 BCE. Hundreds of cities were built over the ensuing centuries, as the Mayan civilization equaled – and even surpassed that of Europe. Most of the old cities remain covered in heavy jungle vegetation, back in the interior.
The Maya people throughout Central America and the Yucatan Peninsula demonstrated great architectural and construction skills, as well as an astonishing knowledge of astronomy. The well-known Mayan calendar, developed long before the Gregorian calendar used by European-based cultures, is also made up of 365 days and shows remarkable knowledge of celestial movements – especially that of Venus.
The “Long Count” of the Mayan calendar began on Aug. 11, 3114 BCE and ends on Dec. 21, 2012, which the Maya believed would be the end of the age they were living in and the dawn of a new world. Tom already knew all this, as well as the fact that the calendar of ancient India pegged the beginning of the current age at 3102 BCE and the end in 2012 – a startling “coincidence.”
Kali Yuga, one of four cyclical ages in the East Indian understanding of time and history, was described as a time of factionalism, darkness, corruption and immorality. This “Iron Age” tracks roughly with the recorded history of civilization and began around the time of the Battle of Kurukshetra in India, during the time of the Avatar Krishna. The battle had been about property rights.
The convergence of the two calendars, devised separately by people thousands of miles apart who probably were not even aware of the others’ existence, fascinated Tom and played a role in his mission in Belize.
As Tom flipped through the pages containing information he was already aware of, he came to something new.
The Kekchi Maya, who live in San Pedro Columbia, remained secluded from the rest of the nation for many years and traded with the village of Coban, across the border in Guatemala. With the recent paving of the Southern Highway into the district, the construction of Western-style schools in the villages, and the determined efforts of Christian missionaries, the Kekchi apparently lost many of their ties to the old traditions. The Mopan Maya, who live several miles to the northwest – in and around the village of San Antonio, somehow resisted the de-culturization. The Mopan, like many other indigenous people Christianized by the Roman Catholic Church, simply blended their native practices into their Catholicism.
So, if the Kekchi Tom had been talking to weren’t able to fill in the blanks for him, perhaps the Mopan might.
Tom and Rhonda had spent some time visiting with a Mopan woman from San Antonio, while waiting for the bus from Punta Gorda to the village a few weeks earlier. They learned that she and her husband produced 13 children and that she was now the sole breadwinner for the family, because her husband had been bitten on the foot by a fer-de-lance and was no longer unable to work in the cacao fields. From her story, it appeared the man was fortunate to still be alive. He had been healed by what she called a “bush doctor,” who applied a salve to the bite and kept him isolated from everyone for three days. So, like many other Maya women, she took a bus into town most days to sell her hand-woven baskets, handmade necklaces, embroidery and snacks of prepared cacao wrapped in aluminum foil at the open-air market on Front Street.
Tom bought a necklace of sea shells from Dondrida, mainly because he wanted to help her. In appreciation, she gave him an aluminum wrapper full of cacao, which was slightly bitter but enjoyable. He was a sucker for chocolate, a product of the cacao bean, which was so revered by the Maya that they once used the beans as money.
Was his love of chocolate a remembrance of a past life as a Maya? Tom didn’t completely dismiss the idea.
Rhonda was interested in visiting San Antonio, so she accompanied Tom on a drive toward the Guatemalan border, down a network of rutted and potholed roads weaving through the jungle and into the hills.
Even though rain had fallen almost daily, the roadway was firm, but studded with watery potholes. To avoid slamming into the holes, Tom crept the Toyota Camry sedan along at around 15 mph.
Dondrida had told them that if they ever visited the village they should ask around for her. It was small enough that everyone there was either related or acquainted, she said.
A weather-beaten wooden sign finally announced their arrival in San Antonio, although there were few signs of habitation among the cahune palms and other thick roadside vegetation. Driving a bit farther, Tom spotted a few buildings, then a large, concrete structure on the main street, housing the grocery store. He stopped the car in front and went inside.
“Hi, how’re you?” Tom said to the young girl behind the counter.
“I’m fine. Thank you,” the girl said softly, with a shy smile.
The greatest difficulty Tom encountered with the Maya was the tendency of the women to speak so softly he could barely hear them.
“I wonder if you can help me. I’m looking for a woman named Dondrida.”
“Yes, she lives here.”
“I know. Can you tell me where?”
The girl smiled and said nothing. Tom thought she might be thinking about how to give him directions. There obviously were no street signs in the village and no orderly layout of streets. Narrow, unpaved lanes ran off into the bush in various directions.
“I’m not sure,” the girl finally said.
“Does she come in here often?”
“But you don’t know where she lives?”
The girl looked over Tom’s shoulder at someone entering the store and turned her attention to the newcomer. A middle-age Maya woman, wearing a bright-pink, traditional house dress, emerged from glaring sunlight and walked to the counter.
“Hi Maria,” the woman said. “How are you?”
“I’m fine. What do you need?”
Seeing that he was getting nowhere, Tom turned and left the store.
This wasn’t the first time Tom had noticed the reluctance of the Maya to reveal much to outsiders. A young American woman had created a stir on two occasions in one of the Internet cafes in Punta Gorda when she attempted to discover the whereabouts of a Maya boy she was interested in. She was met with blank stares by the Maya woman monitoring the facility and the Creole man repairing computers in a back room. Finally, they both claimed they did not know the boy’s whereabouts, only that he had left. Tom suspected they were lying.
“What did you find out?” Rhonda asked when Tom slid back into the driver’s seat.
“Nothing. The clerk knows her but wouldn’t tell me where she lives.”
“Let’s ask someone else.”
An adolescent Maya boy was approaching the store, so Tom stepped out of the car and waited for him.
“Good morning,” Tom said.
The boy looked surprised but smiled and returned the greeting.
“I’m looking for a woman who lives here. Her name is Dondrida. Do you know her?”
“Dondrida? Yes. I know her.”
“Do you know where she lives?”
“Can you give me directions?”
“She isn’t there.”
“How do you know?”
“I saw her get on the bus this morning for Punta Gorda.”
Tom knew that meant she wouldn’t be back until about 2 p.m., at the earliest. He decided to take another approach.
“Is there a medicine man, or a bush doctor in the village?”
“Roberto is a shaman. Is that what you mean?
“Yes. Where does he live?”
“Over there,” the boy said, pointing at a narrow lane across the road.
“The little one over there, with the chickens in front.”
“Do you think he’d mind if I stopped by?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Thank you. Very much. Have a good day.”
“Thank you. You too.”
Tom conveyed the news to Rhonda, which excited her. They left the car and walked across the road and up the lane to the house the boy had identified.
Like many of the plain wooden houses in the village, the front and back doors were open for ventilation. This did little to diminish the darkness inside. No one was visible.
"Hello?" Tom called out. "Is anyone home?"
The sound of movement drifted forward from somewhere inside the structure.
"Who is it?" a friendly voice answered.
Tom addressed the darkness.
"Hi. My name is Tom. I'm here with my friend Rhonda. I'd like to talk to you."
The voice was closer now.
"The Crystal Skull."
Silence. Finally: "What do you want to know?"
"I have several questions. Can we come in?"
Tom heard a match strike and smelled sulfur. Gradually, a sweet, piney aroma drifted out the door. A man appeared at the doorway. Tom guessed his age as mid-70s. His face was weathered and his shoulders were slightly stooped, but his eyes were bright and alert.
"Hi. Are you Roberto?"
"Happy to meet you. I'm Tom. This is Rhonda," Tom said, gesturing toward her with his right arm.
"You can come in."
As they entered the darkened hut, Tom noticed a tall white candle burning on a table in a far corner and a cloud of smoke rising from the same table. He guessed Roberto was burning copal, the traditional Mayan incense.
"Sit down, please," Roberto said, pointing to two white, plastic lawn chairs next to his kitchen table.
"Thanks. I'm sorry to bother you, but I'm interested in knowing more about the Crystal Skull that supposedly was found at Lubaantun. I'm hoping you can help me."
Roberto sat down across the narrow table from Tom and Rhonda and scrutinized Tom's face. As Tom's eyes adjusted to the darkness, he was able to make out a white hammock hanging across a far corner of the one-room structure. He also saw a two-burner butane stove on a small wooden table. He scanned the thatched roof for scorpions and was relieved not to see any.
"Why do you want this knowledge?"
"Well, I want to know more about Mayan history, and culture and prophecies. I've known about the Crystal Skull for many years, but I didn't know it was found here until just recently. There are some stories about its power and about who made it. I guess I just want to know how much of it is true."
"What will you do with the information?"
"I'm not sure. Maybe write a book about it."
"Such books have already been written."
"I know; but maybe there's something that hasn't been written about. I wonder how much you know ... that you know to be true."
"Not much," Roberto said, shrugging his shoulders. "Would you like a cool drink?"
"That would be nice," Rhonda said, wiping sweat from her forehead. Glistening beads were dripping from her chin.
In his focus on Roberto, Tom hadn't noticed that he also was drenched in sweat. His light-gray polo shirt was dark around the arm pits and chest.
Roberto rose from the table and walked into a dark corner, where he opened the door of a small refrigerator and pulled out a plastic pitcher. He filled three plastic glasses and returned to the table.
"Thanks," Rhonda said, lifting the glass to her lips. "Is this Kool Aid?"
"Yes. I like it," Roberto said, smiling.
Waiting for Roberto to take the next step, Tom said nothing more. An awkward silence followed, during which the old Maya closed his eyes as though he was meditating.
"There are others who want to know about this," Roberto finally said. "Do you know why?"
"The skull has great power, but that power can be dangerous. It can be used the wrong way."
"Have other people visited you to talk about this?"
"No. You are the first."
"What can you tell me?"
"I can tell you this," Roberto said firmly. "In the wrong hands this can be trouble."
"What kind of trouble?"
"And in the right hands?"
Roberto was silent and looked out the door.
"Did you see the cord coming into this hut?" Roberto finally asked.
"I didn't really notice."
"Well, if the skull's power is used in a correct way, such cords aren't needed."
"I don't understand."
As though talking to a child, Roberto said, "At the end of this cord there is a place where the electricity is made. Is there not?"
"Such places are not necessary. If a person knows the way, this skull -- and the other ones -- can release power so that no cords are needed and no one needs to pay the people who make the electricity."
"You mean free energy?"
"Just so," Roberto said, smiling again.
"But these skulls have been around since the nineteen-twenties and I've never heard of anyone using them that way."
"Because they have no knowledge of how to do this. They have been mostly interested in silly things. Predicting the future, seeing the past, and such. Telling wild stories of what the skulls did for them. Getting shocks from the skull and rolling around on the floor."
Tom had heard those stories.
"How do you know about that?"
"I know,” he said firmly. “Such people are fools. I don’t know why I should tell you anything about this. You people have always done the wrong thing in this world.”
“Whites. Starting with the Spaniards. And even today. They chop down the bush looking for oil here, looking for power. They have no real power, just dominance. The oil is going away. Then what will they want? I’ll tell you this: We’re coming to the end of the cycle that let the White people dominate everyone else. Do you know about the nine cycles of fifty-two years? Of the fifty-two hells?”
“Yes, a little.”
“The Spaniards came during the first cycle. Then came the British, the Dutch and some other pirates. Then Americans. They all came for what they could steal from us. Do you know about the calendar?”
This excited Tom.
“Then you must know that there was an opening in the sky during the month of August in nineteen-eighty-seven.”
“The Harmonic Convergence. Yes, I know about that. I actually participated in it.”
Tom recalled the effect his participation had on him after August 16, 1987. Millions of people around the world had gathered in groups at sunrise to meditate upon the nature of the current world, their relationship with the world, and how they envisioned a better world. The date was significant in the Mayan calendar. A celestial “opening” was predicted in which humanity had an opportunity to actively participate in creating a new world. The effect upon Tom was, at first, subtle. He felt somehow cleansed and clear. Shortly afterwards, he began meditating regularly and doing yoga. His world began changing. Old “friends” fell away and new ones appeared. He entered a realm of mysticism and paranormal events. The world may not have changed but Tom’s relationship with it definitely had.
“Since that time, the materialistic world has been disappearing,” Roberto continued. “Soon, at the end of this cycle and the calendar, the ancient prophecy will be fulfilled. There will be peace like no one alive today can believe. The new people will live in harmony with Mother Earth. Not like today, when the civilized people destroy the land, the water and the air. The ones who have been doing this will pay for it. There will be consequences. We are passing from the World of the Fourth Sun into the World of the Fifth Sun. During this transition, there is a big convergence of social disorder, wars and Earth changes.”
“I’ve heard this. And many people in India have the same understanding. They also see this period as the end of an age. Their calendar also ends in twenty-twelve.”
“Just so. I see you know these things. That’s good. I don’t think you are like the rest. So, what more do you want to know?”
"Who made the skulls?"
"Ah," Roberto laughed. "Now we get to the heart of it."
Smoke from the incense had become thick now, slightly obscuring Roberto’s features in the dim natural light from the doorway.
"The skull they say was found in the ruins was not found there," Roberto said. "It came from the sea."
"Do you mean the keys?"
"It was there, yes, but it was not made there. It came across the sea from another place. A very old place that is no longer seen."
"What was that place?"
"Some people call it Atlantis."Chapter 4
City in the Sea
As was true with many of the people Tom had known during the past two decades, since he woke up and became aware of who he truly was, Atlantis was more than a far-fetched, dreamy myth. He knew, somewhere within his deepest memory, that there had truly once been a vast land in the Atlantic Ocean, inhabited by a technologically evolved race of beings, which vanished millennia ago, following episodes of violent volcanic, tectonic and tidal activity.
Tom had heard that the Crystal Skull had Atlantean origins but had discounted the idea as just more hooey from pseudo-mystics trying to earn a buck from the story. After all, small replicas of the skull were being sold on the Internet.
Hearing the story now, from an obscure Maya shaman, lent more weight to the possibility.
“Another beautiful day in paradise,” Jack observed, as he steered his weathered, 20-foot skiff at the eastern horizon.
Jack’s comment woke Tom from his thoughts, causing him to look ahead of the bow where a dim outline of land crossed the boat’s course.
“Indeed,” Tom replied.
A few high, thin stratus clouds did little to mitigate the sun’s intensity aboard the open craft. The weak blueness of the sky reflected in a deeper blue off the sea, sprinkled with glittering diamonds of sunlight. The breeze created by the boat’s movement ahead made the heat bearable.
In a few more minutes they would land on one of the larger cayes, located near the top of a J-shaped string stretching for several miles, Jack had explained.
Only a few of the islands were visited on a regular basis, mostly by divers and snorkelers wanting to view the gaudy undersea life and magnificent coral ridges, or by solitude-seeking sun worshipers lured by the white, coral-sand beaches.
Much of that activity happened around the southern cayes, where the water was sometimes just 15 feet deep. Up north the bottom dropped off sharply and there was less for divers to explore.
Tom recalled his last boat ride off the coast, the previous autumn. He and Rhonda had flown in from Houston to San Pedro, on Ambergris Caye, for a four-day vacation. He immediately fell in love with the island’s ambiance, a large part of which was the extraordinary friendliness of the natives. They snorkeled at the offshore reef, swimming with nurse sharks and rays, then signed up for an all-day boat excursion to the Mayan ruins at Lamanai, on the mainland. The sky was threatening that morning and the hotel desk clerk said a tropical storm was brewing out to sea. But, they would not be going far, so everyone concluded there was little risk. The rain began as the tour group was descending the great pyramid at Lamanai and gained strength, motivating their guide to quickly lead them back to the boat in which they had come up the New River. The party of eight excursionists and guide retraced their route quickly, transferring from their boat to a battered old school bus for the return to Northern River village of Bomba, over the old, potholed Northern Highway. By the time they reached the first boat for their return to the island, the sky had darkened and the wind-driven rain was falling horizontally. Tropical Storm Gamma had moved in.
Everyone put on rain slickers that had been stowed under the bench seats, then the paying customers huddled together for warmth and protection as the open boat raced downriver, through the lagoon and back out to sea. Crossing the channel toward San Pedro, the boat repeatedly bucked its passengers into the air as it skipped from wave to wave in the fading light. Suddenly, they were surrounded by blackness. In the dim light rising from the binnacle, Tom was able to see concern on the face of the captain and his mate. It was not until Tom and Rhonda climbed off onto the hotel dock that they learned the boat’s compass had malfunctioned and they had been off course for quite a while in the total blackness. The adventure had so unnerved Rhonda that she totally lost faith in the competence of local guides. Tom was more sanguine about the experience, although he was never comfortable in deep water. The next day, they learned that a fishing boat had gone down in the storm, taking five lives, and that a light plane had crashed into the sea en route to the movie director Francis Ford Coppola’s resort in Guatemala. They felt fortunate to have survived the trip.
The arching sweep of palm trees was now visible on a broad stretch of beach directly ahead. A wooden dock came into view on the starboard side of the boat. Jack pulled back on the power, and the boat slowly drifted up to the dock. After tying the bow and stern lines to the dock, the two men stepped off the boat and walked onto the beach.
“After we walk around a bit, I’ll take you over to where we found the ruins,” Jack said. “But first, I wanted to show you this.”
Jack produced an envelope from his jacket pocket and pulled out several photographs. One by one, he handed them to Tom.
“The first one was taken by an underwater camera operated from the boat,” Jack said. “It will give you a pretty good idea of what we discovered by cruising around here.”
The photo, although somewhat distorted by the water, clearly showed what appeared to be a typical Mayan pyramid, with a flight of stone steps descending from the top.
“The next photos were taken by a diver exploring the site,” Jack said.
The photos revealed details not only of the pyramid but of smaller stone buildings – some with elaborate scrollwork on the sides in what appeared to be Mayan hieroglyphics.
Tom’s response was a mixture of stunned silence and elation. The photos confirmed Jack’s story. Now, he had to see for himself.
“Let’s go over this way for a minute,” Jack said, heading into a grove of palm trees.
After walking about 100 yards inland, Jack stopped in the middle of a ring of palms and pointed to the ground. As Tom walked closer he saw a limestone slab, measuring about five feet by three feet, lying on its side. It was inscribed with hieroglyphics that appeared to be a mixture of Mayan and something else. The other glyphs seemed familiar, but Tom was unable to identify them. He had seen many of these slabs, called stelae, at mainland Mayan sites – where the stones were laboriously hauled some distance from where they originated. How did this stele get so far out to sea, given the watercraft of ancient times?
“You’re wondering about the other language,” Jack observed.
“I am. It looks familiar, but I can’t place it.”
“We believe it’s Atlantean,” Jack replied. “It’s similar to the ornate scrollwork on the sides of some of the structures underwater. Our theory is that this was an Atlantean outpost that eventually morphed into Mayan. We believe that the Atlanteans colonized this entire region, down as far as the northern tip of South America – as well as the British Isles, North Africa and the Mediterranean Basin. They intermarried, for lack of a better term, with the indigenous people and passed on their highly sophisticated knowledge and technologies.”
“So, how old do you think this site is?”
“Well, we know for sure that there’s evidence the Maya have lived in this region at least ten-thousand years. So, that would be around eight-thousand B.C. It’s generally believed that Atlantis was destroyed and finally submerged sometime before that. Maybe nine-thousand B.C. So, we theorize that this is at least eleven-thousand years old.”
“That’s amazing. If it’s true, this would be the first solid evidence of the existence of Atlantis. Plus, it would throw cold water on the idea that this region was gradually inhabited by Asians who crossed a land bridge across the Bering Strait and kept migrating south.”
“Yes, that idea is nonsense. The Atlanteans were reputed to be great seafarers, so it’s more likely that’s how this area became civilized. They just kept traveling along the coastlines.”
“You keep talking about ‘we’; I’m wondering who you’re referring to.”
“Ah! Yes.” Jack pushed a shock of sandy hair away from his forehead. “Well, briefly, I’ve been involved for some time with a group of partners back in Merry Old England. What we share is an interest in metaphysics, a fascination with Atlantis, a strong desire to protect what’s left of the natural world and a belief that there’s an unlimited supply of natural energy available to everyone in this world – without charge. We believe that this knowledge dates back to the Atlanteans and is known today – thanks to the work of Nikola Tesla, but is kept under wraps by the power companies. Our goal is to understand this energy and to make it available.”
“So your work here with SMACO?”
“I wouldn’t call it a cover, because I really enjoy what I’m doing; but this put me in a position to investigate all this without calling attention to myself. I’ve been here for a long time and have done other things. I’ve fished for a living, farmed for a living, processed foods and sold products in the market place. I’ve been a tour guide and a sailor. I also ran the ferry to Puerto Barrios for awhile. Prior to all of that, I was an entrepreneur, marketer and salesman for high-tech companies. I was also a dancer, an aircraft electrician, and I’m a builder.”
“Sort of a Renaissance man, eh?”
“I suppose you might say that. Now, are you ready for another surprise?”
“Are you kidding? I’m still digesting all this.”
“This will blow your mind too.”
“What is it?”
“Do you see that thick cluster of palms over there?” Jack pointed to Tom’s right.
Aside from the swaying palms, Tom could see nothing special.
“Let’s go over there,” Jack said.
After a few steps, Jack pushed back some thick vegetation and stepped into a small opening. An outcropping of rock was barely visible, which surprised Tom. He didn’t know there were any rocks on the islands, other than the possibility of volcanic basalt. But this looked like limestone.
“This is the entrance to a cave,” Jack explained. “More than a cave, actually. It enters into an enormous cavern that extends back to the mainland. Among other things, there’s limestone here. That stele we just saw, and the blocks for the buildings, weren’t hauled over by boat. It was quarried from this cavern. We’ve explored it all the way back to the mainland. To Lubaantun. A river runs through it, into the sea. The cavern is also accessible from underwater. We think this outcropping is the top of an undersea mountain. So, the Maya had a safe, secret and secure way to travel back and forth. As a fortress, if that’s what it was, it would have been impregnable.”
Tom was stunned, again.
“How does the Crystal Skull fit into all this?”
“My. You have a lot of questions. I’ll tell you this: We found large blocks of crystal in the cavern. Some of it had been carved with great precision, like the skull. We have no idea how. It’s carved across the grain and that would normally shatter crystal. But, be patient and it will all be explained. Now, let’s get back in the boat and visit the ruins.”