by Kay D. Ziegler
We traveled for many days - my husband, Atl, daughter, Izel, and I – down the mountains and through the sweltering rainforest to escape the smoke and excessive heat. When the earth started rumbling after the sacrifice, Atl declared that he’d angered the Gods, thus we must leave. We grabbed nothing – no food or clothes. All we had were the clothes on our backs and Atl’s spear for protection.
“Mama, hungry,” Izel whispered from behind me.
I looked over my shoulder at my daughter. In the semi-darkness, her hazel eyes shined fearfully. “Atl, it is late,” I said before sitting Izel on the ground. “Can we stop?”
“I suppose,” agreed my husband as he wiped the sweat from under the faceguard of his helmet. “But, only for a little while. The Gods are getting angrier. See how the earth shakes!”
Indeed, the earth shook! It was as abruptly violent like the worst summer thunderstorm. But, no lightning struck. No rain fell to cool the sweltering, smoke-filled air. There was no relief.
“Stay here, Papan. Watch over Izel. I hear water nearby. I’ll catch us a meal,” Atl said. His words roared like the voices of the mountain, but instead of sending fear into my heart and goose bumps all over my skin, his words were warm and comforting.
Grabbing Izel’s hand, I watched him head into the forest. Sitting there, alone with the toddler, I found myself shivering with each rumble. Every caw of bird or rustle of a branch made me jump and look around with eyes that were wide as a banana leaf.
I felt a tug on one of the blue feathers braided into my ebony tresses. Looking down, I saw my daughter fingering the plume. I smiled at the girl and she smiled back. My heart warmed at her loving gaze. It made me feel like all would okay. The feeling lasts only a moment as the world rumbles and shakes for the longest time. We held each other tightly
"Mama, I scared," Izel whispered as she pressed her face into my breast.
"I know," I replied as I stroke her soft hair.
Above the din of the rumbling earth, my husband shouted my name. When I raised my head and peered through the flecks of hot ash, I see him lurching towards us with a fish skewered on his spear.
"Oh, Izel, I didn’t think you’d return. The rumbles have lasted for so long. I thought the earth would just break open from all of the shaking and swallow us all up in one bite," I said.
"If we hurry, it won’t. Let’s eat fast before the Gods decide that’ll be our fate," he told me as he sat the speared fish down. "I'll get woods for fire."
Soon, Atl found kindling and started a small fire. In verbal silence, we sat and watched the fire cook the fish. My nose twitched and my mouth water as the scent of the cooking food filled my nostrils. All around us, there were noises of the rainforest. With the passing of time, the growl of the earth increased while the animal’s cries faded into the distance.
"The animals are wise. They retreat," my husband said as I tore the hot fish into three servings. "They know there’s no life left for them here."
Swallowing a bite of fish, I nodded before feeding Izel a bit of her serving. Just as I was about to stuff another chunk of meat into my mouth, the loam beneath me reeled and sent me falling forward. Before my face hit the foliage-covered ground, I put my hands out and brace myself.
Atl wrapped a strong arm around my waist. He lifted me from the ground and placed Izel on my back. "We must go!" he shouted, kicking dirt onto the fire.
Flee we do! Darting between the trees, we ran as hot ash and fire rained down on us. Sweat soaked my back, sticking my skirt and shirt to my umber skin. Sweat poured down my face and neck, slicking it to my cheeks and nape. Each breath burned my parched throat and I have a stitch in my side, but I kept going.
Unaware of where my feet planted themselves, I find my toes wedged underneath a root. I am stuck! Reeling forward, I grabbed a hold of Izel’s bottom so she doesn’t slip off. “Atl, help,” I exclaimed, righting myself.
Moments later, I felt his strong hands on my shoulders. He pushed, but that doesn’t free me. He shoved again. I still didn’t move forward. In fact, my foot sunk through decomposed leaves. Grunting, my husband tried again.
“Try a different way,” I groaned as the earth shuttered. I lurch forward and nearly lose Izel. I caught her just before she landed on the forest flood and pressed her against my hip.
“OK. OK,” Atl replied. I felt his feet against my legs and his back against my back. As he leans against me, we scream as molten rock engulfed us.
Diane looked up from reading some statistics about the excavation on her tablet. “What’ve we got, Ben?” she asked, stopping in front of what appeared to be a sculpture of a soldier, a toddler, and a woman.
“What you see’s what you’ve got. Jennings noticed the man’s head before anything else. He thought it was a boulder. I guess with all the rain and deforestation, the dirt just washed it away,” Ben replied.
“One good thing about it… I guess,” grumbled the woman.
“What do you think happened?”
“See the volcano?” Diane asked, as she pointed to the foliage covered mass looming in the distance.
“Yeah. What about it?”
“I’d say they were fleeing from the volcano. Rumor has it that the Mayan civilization was destroyed by a natural cause. What’s more natural than lava?”
“They wouldn’t have had a chance."
"No," confirmed Diane with the shake of her head. "But, man what a journey."
I was born running. On September 15, 1986 I was introduced to this world (foot first). I was early, but not small (good size and weight) and my father claimed I was blue-haired and black-eyed. Turns out, I was black-haired and blue-eyed. However, the former version sounds much more interesting! I’ve always been a unique person. I embrace that fact whole-heartedly. My quirks make me who I am. My mother realized early on that I was asperger autistic and started working with me. When I was a week old, I was making eye contact with a circle, which I started to trace with my finger. Then, when it was time for me to talk, my first words were ‘vacuum’ and ‘I-C-E, ice’. Indeed, I spelled the word before saying it. As I continued to speak, I created words and phrases of my own. ‘I’ll be bald’, ‘bye-brow’, ‘minger finger’, and ‘I oo’ were just a few of the interesting things I said in my youth. By the time I was school-aged, my mom home-schooled me. It wasn’t because of my autism (although I did benefit from the one-on-one work) that my mother taught me. The schools couldn’t promise I wouldn’t have milk (and I had a bit of a milk allergy). I did ballet, attempted to learn piano, and volunteered at the hospital, thus I had a well-rounded life. I even attempted going to Jr. High. The school lost me, I had to choose my own homeroom, and I learned nothing, plus I got bullied (although, I didn’t know it and the girls stopped). One good thing came out of Jr. High. I discovered I loved writing. I started creating stories with friends. We’d act out plays and work on all sorts of projects together. I believe that my autism helped shape my creativity and spurred my love of storytelling. However, I didn’t realize I could make a career out of writing at that time. It was during my undergraduate years, I realized I was passionate about this craft and wanted to be a professional writer, thus after I finished my B.S., I went on to get my MFA in creative writing.
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