When she awoke again there were many people in the room, most of them dressed like indian warriors of some sort. For some reason Fernando was there also, but it seemed much too real now to be a dream. Everything that had been hazy before was now all too real. There were lights in the room that she had not noticed before, more of those electric torches that she had seen in the tunnels earlier. The walls were similar to the walls of the pyramid outside, round stones stuck together with some kind of ancient concrete. There was no sign of the soldiers she had seen earlier, but one of the indians looked a little familiar, had they just changed costumes? The warriors were bare-chested with elaborate animal headdresses on, some with masks that covered almost the entire face with the snout of a wolf or puma. They each held a weapon of some kind or another, whether it be a battleaxe or long curved swords.
Fernando was dressed differently also, wearing a flowing blue gown that dragged the floor. To either side of him were the two girls One and Other, but instead of white robes they were now wearing matching orange dresses straight out of Sunday School. The whole scene was very surrealistic and made no sense at all. Angela looked at Fernando, questioningly, obviously confused. He laughed as if the whole thing was just some kind of elaborate joke.
"Well," he said, "I guess this is some coincidence, hmmm? When they told me that a young woman had broken into the pyramid, well, I don't know why but all I could think of was you. Imagine my surprise when it actually was you. I had no idea that you were going to come here. I have to say that it wasn't one of you better ideas."
Angela knew that something very bad was about to happen to her, and she became frantic that all the questions in her mind weren't going to be answered before it was too late. She reached over and snatched the white robe from One and tried her best to put it on and remain under the covers. Then she jumped out of bed and grabbed onto Fernando's robe even as the guards moved to protect him. "Please," she said. "I came because I had to know what was here. I don't know why but coming to Mexico has changed me. I'm no longer in control of what I do; it's as if I've become just a puppet on a string or something. Something has drawn me here from over a thousand miles away and I have to know why. I'm afraid, Fernando. Can I talk to you without all of ...this?" She gestured to include the rest of his entourage. "Is it too late? Do I have to go somewhere now? You know me, Fernando. You know what I think. You know that I am no threat to you and whatever is going on here. Are you their leader? Can't you get them to do what you say? Can't you let me go?"
Fernando smiled at her, but it was not a warm smile; it almost seemed forced. He said "There are things in this world that are beyond our control. I can maybe answer some of your questions as we walk, but we must go now. The ceremony will start soon and many people are waiting for us. Unfortunately you are the only person who can do it now; I don't have anyone to take your place, and we must do it now."
Angela had no idea what "it" was, but she didn't like the sound of it. She knew that she had to find some way to get out of here, some means of escaping this asylum. Why did there have to be so many guards? She counted at least ten of them milling about. What did they think she was going to do? What were they worried about? She wish she knew what they were afraid of, hoping that it was something that she could produce at will and use to scare them all away.
One and Other each took one of her hands and it was clear that whatever procession they were in was about to start. A sense of total dread filled Angela, and she could feel tears welling up in her eyes. Maybe if she could overpower Fernando, maybe he had hostage potential. She pictured herself holding him at knifepoint, dragging him along in front of her as she made her getaway, the guards powerless to stop her because they could not risk harm to The Great One or whatever he had convinced them he was. It seemed like a great plan except for the fact that she didn't have a knife of any sort, and it wasn't at all assured that she would be able to overpower him.
Fernando seemed to know what was running through her mind, because he said, "Let me make this clear if it is not evident. There is nothing you can do now. Don't you see you have done far too much already? Every possibility has been accounted for. This would be a good time for you to relax and let us take care of everything from here on out. Imagine that you are the princess of a great kingdom, and today is your wedding day. There is nothing left for you to do but join us in celebrating this day. If you have some questions that you must ask, I will do my best to answer them now. You can ask about this place, but there is no point in asking where we are going or what we will be doing because you will find out soon enough and there is no reason to worry."
For some reason this was not at all comforting to her. But she did want to know the truth, though even as that thought crossed her mind she remembered something Craig had said once about truth and she knew that there were no guarantees that anything that came out of Fernando's mouth was true. She was especially hoping that the part about not being able to escape was false. She would have to assume it was and find some weakness in their operation, something that they had not taken into consideration, despite Fernando's confidence in the contrary. If she gave up now it was guaranteed that she would have no chance and, it seemed, no future. She had to try.
"So," she started, "tell me about this place then. What's the story? Is it a kind of underground cult? How many people know about it? How did you get involved?"
Fernando sighed and motioned to the others that they were leaving now. He said something to the girls and they let go of Angela's hands. Everyone went out of the room into another tunnel like those she saw when she first entered this place. Five guards marched in front, after them were Fernando and Angela, and then One and Other just behind, followed by the other five guards. They started down the long tunnel, and Angela had the distinct feeling like she was a prisoner on death row who was now headed towards the chair or the gas chamber or whatever they were using these days. What about a last meal? What about a last request? Why wasn't Fernando answering her questions? Weren't they running out of time?
Fernando started finally. "Angela, I don't know how you found this place or how you got in, but the truth is that this place has been here ever since the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon were built, many hundreds of years ago. At the same time that the exterior stone temples were built, a vast network of underground tunnels were also built, and connected the two pyramids as well as the other buildings of the complex. After the height of the city of Teotihuacan, when the city seemed to be in its decline, the elders of the city decided that an elite group would be chosen to live in the underground tunnels and protect the treasures that were hidden inside the pyramids. These warriors would bring their families with them and live and procreate and build an underground city even as great as the upper Teotihuacan had been. A fresh source of water had been discovered, and they had actually found a way to grow crops underground using a mix of artificial light mixed with strategically placed shafts that let light in from above.
"These men that you see here guarding us are descendents of those first warriors who went underground. Though most of the entrances to the tunnels from the outside were sealed, there are still a couple of places where trucks with supplies can come and go without observation. Because the pyramids have become a tourist attraction it is necessary to allow people to come, but we operate the whole site with people from the underground city; we have infiltrated every government post that has any control over what goes on in the park. Even the vendors that you saw selling their souvenirs live here, underground. In this way we can make sure that no one finds out that this place exists. Even though thousands of tourists scramble around on the outside, not one of them has any clue as to the life going on under the ground. And why should they? There are plenty of things to see and do outside without need to ask for more. Most people are quite content to climb up to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun, climb back down, buy some obsidian trinkets and then leave." He eyed Angela as he said this, and his eyes twinkled.
She was barely listening to what he was saying to her. She felt suddenly as if her head had opened up on top and someone was pouring sweet honey directly into her mind. Something very strange was happening to her, but she did not know why, nothing had visibly happened to her in the past few minutes. It was as if someone was whispering to her, but she could not hear anything. Only the honey whisper remained and she knew what was said and she knew that it was true. She knew that somehow Fernando had cast a spell on her when he saw her in the bus station, he had gone there looking for a girl like her, not only to sleep with but mainly for a purpose much worse. Somehow he had gained control of her mind when he first saw her and that is why she left the place with him with no questions asked. Then he gained her trust and was basically able to do whatever he wanted with her. She had been manipulated from the inside, her own brain turning against her with his help.
At some point when they were together in Monterrey he cast another spell that pulled her like a magnet to this place. Although the whole time it had seemed to her like she was making decisions (though clearly not very rational ones), she was just following the path that he had set out for her. But how did she come to realize this? Why wasn't he controlling her mind now? Did he feel that there was no use now, now that everything had fallen into place? But who was helping her, who was letting her know all of this? She looked around and saw only the guards and the girls, though now Other was looking at her funny and reached up and touched Angela's hand. Angela knew it was Other who had let her know all this, and as she looked she could see Other's eyes glistening with tears. So if these people possessed some kind of mystical or magical powers, maybe she could be rescued with magic! Even as she thought this she felt like her life had turned into some kind of fantastic fairy tale. Surely she had completely lost her mind. None of this was possible, not any of it. But still...she looked at Other and wondered if there was some magic that could save her. The girl only shook her head, letting loose a tear across her cheek.
Fernando stopped suddenly, and asked Angela if she had been listening to a word he had been saying. She nodded, but inside she wanted to shake her head violently at him, at the guards, at everything that was happening to her. With the girl's tear she lost the little bit of hope that she had left. How could this have happened? How could this be a part of God's "philosophy", as Fernando had said before? She had to know what his story was. Maybe hearing that would help take her mind off of what was to come. The marriage of a princess? What kind of fool did he think she was? You're a fool, Fernando, she said in her head. And you're a lousy lover, too. But her efforts to mentally provoke the man showed no effect. Apparently the nod was enough, for him to continue the march forward through the Teotihuacan tunnels. Maybe she was imagining the whole telepathy/magic thing. There's no such thing as magic. This was all just one big tragic coincidence them both being here like this, some crazy synchronicity or something. Right about now, she would have believed any explanation as long as it contained some chance of her getting out of here alive, some possibility of her remaining on this crazy planet just a little while longer.
Fernando continued to talk as they continued to walk, and she wondered how much he had told her that she hadn't even heard. She also wondered how much farther they would be going. She was only wearing the white robe, and her feet hurt from the rough stone floor of the tunnel.
"So I was born here like the others," said Fernando, "but unlike the others I was restless. I wanted to be outside much more than just once a week or once a month. There are people living here who have never been outside at all. They are perfectly happy to go about their business in the underground city, and it is enough for them. But for some reason I needed fresh air, I wanted to run in open fields and I was tired of the constricting tunnels.
"It was all the fault of my grandmother. She loved to tell stories, and I guess it turned out that she told one story too many about what life was like up above. When she died, I had no more stories to console me and the desire swelled up inside of me until I felt that I would burst unless I could get out."
"But you said already that there were people working on the outside," interrupted Angela, "why couldn't you just take one of those jobs?"
Fernando seemed a bit annoyed with her interruption. "Unfortunately for me, the jobs aboveground are very difficult to get and there is very limited opportunity there. The average Teotihuacan must remain below ground where it is safe. Do you understand, we have maintained a civilization in secrecy completely safe from the dangers of the outside for the past fifteen hundred years? We have to do everything, absolutely everything we can to make sure that it remains safe. I don't think you have any idea of how big this city has become. Well, of course not, you have not yet been allowed to see any of it. Well, no significant part of it at least. Well, you will get a taste very soon of what we are protecting down here.
"Anyway the process to get a position on the outside is very long and drawn out and it takes many, many years, sometimes almost a whole lifetime. People on the outside have to learn new languages, they have to have extra years of schooling, and above all they have to be completely loyal and trustworthy. Regretfully, even though we have created a paradise down here, there are still some who for whatever reason like to cause trouble and cause harm and these people can never be given the opportunity to get outside and destroy everything we have built.
"I don't know," said Angela, "I guess I haven't seen anything yet, but your paradise does sound like a prison of sorts. It's a shame that you can't give people the choice of where they want to live." She got the feeling all of a sudden that she had found herself trapped in a lost episode of Star Trek. She didn't care about any of this. She did not care about Fernando and his desire to live outside. She was outside just a little while ago! He knew what it was like to feel trapped; why did he feel it necessary to trap her?
Fernando interrupted her thoughts. "We're almost there," he told her ominously. "I'll have to speed up my story a little bit. Anyway I could not wait to go through the entire process to get outside. I was going stir crazy thinking about everything I was missing. But I did have something going in my favor. My father was the mayor of Teotihuacan."
Angela felt like she was going to throw up. What was this bullshit? My father was the mayor. Fernando could have said that from the start and skipped the whole damn story! She had felt almost every emotion possible in the past few minutes, but now she bristled with anger at this idiot who was leading her to her doom. And he is the son of the Mayor of Teotihuacan, though upstairs he's Joe Blow, mexican medical student. She decided that the only thing to do was to attack him. Whatever happened to her if she did that could not be worse than whatever was already going to happen to her anyway. She knew that for a fact. She looked down at her nails, but they were too short to be a lethal weapon. Maybe if she could jump on his back and press her fingers into his eyes and...but they had already arrived.
The tunnel ended in a wall that opened up when Fernando ran his fingers along the left side, and Angela was not at all prepared for what was on the other side. Before her was a giant room, larger than any she had ever seen. In fact, the room was so large that there was another pyramid inside of it! The room itself was pyramid shaped, and she thought that the room was inside the Pyramid of the sun when she realized that the room was actually much larger than the Pyramid of the Sun itself. As she looked up she saw a line around the top of the room and finally she understood. Only the top of the room was above ground, inside the outer pyramid. Much like an iceberg, most of the room was below ground, making it many times bigger. She estimated the floor to be about a mile across. The size of the place was truly incredible, and the entire room was lit up with electric lights, which seemed to be a miracle in itself. The fact that she could see so far, that she could see the other side of this immense room instead of just darkness boggled her mind. Along the walls were giant trees that seemed to be growing out of a canal that ran all the way around the perimeter of the room. And all of this had survived for how long? In total secrecy? It was miracle after miraculous miracle. She was seeing something that no one from the outside ever saw or would ever see. And she had no doubt that she would pay dearly for this privilege. But to see this...it almost seemed worth any price.
On one side of the room was a pyramid, at least as big as the Pyramid of the Sun above. Unlike the Pyramid of the Sun, this one still had an elaborate wooden temple on top. All around the pyramid there were people seated in neat rows on the floor, many not wearing much more than a loincloth. Upon their arrival in the room, a drum beat began, and all the thousands of people on the floor stood and turned towards the doorway the Craig and Angela entered. There were pathways to the pyramid that were kept clear by more warriors with swords and axes, and the small group started making their way on the diagonal path from the corner of the room where they had entered towards the closest corner of the temple. As they walked past the people of the city, the citizens smiled and waved at them, as if they were watching a parade and Angela, in her white gown and bare feet was some sort of Teotihuacan Homecoming Queen. She remembered what Fernando had said about a wedding and considered the fact that maybe she had been overreacting the whole time. She really didn't know for sure what was going to happen, maybe she had just leapt to one too many conclusions. Maybe this was like Fernando's story, hyped up for melodramatic effect, but without any kind of appreciable catharsis. Maybe this was to be a wedding between her and Fernando. After all, he was dressed in a robe as well, maybe these were the traditional wedding costumes of the Teotihuacan people. Although being married to Fernando would be bad, she could not honestly say that it would be a fate worse than death. But wait a minute...wasn't he already married?
As they neared the pyramid she could see now that it had been painted with red and yellow stripes. They moved towards of the middle of the front side of the pyramid and as the warriors fanned out into a line along the front of the pyramid, Fernando and Angela started their long ascent towards the temple at the top. Looking up, Angela could see a very large man dressed as if he was some kind of Aztec religious figure. He seemed to be holding something small in one of his hands, maybe a ceremonial scroll of some sort. Wedding rites? Maybe here it was legal to have more than one wife. Angela glanced behind her and saw the crowd of people on the ground watching the proceedings carefully, almost as if they were in complete awe of everything that was happening. Remaining on the ground below them were One and Other in their orange dresses, and Other waved up to her.
Angela had to stop to catch her breath because the steps were so steep. Fernando waited patiently, and then the two continued again. As they neared the man at the top, Angela saw with horror that what she had presumed was a scroll or other innocuous object was in actuality a green sacrificial dagger. She had to run away! The guards were no longer around, so surely she could get away from these two jokers. Maybe these people would think twice about these ceremonies if the victim didn't go willingly and instead gave the priests an embarrassing run around the top of the pyramid. But then where would she go after that? She was completely trapped and surrounded and she had no idea how to get back to the outside. And who knows what the punishment for messing up a ceremony was, maybe she would be tortured or torn limb from limb by the angry mob. No it was best just to grin and bear it and not cause any trouble...Wait a minute! What was she saying? She had to fight!
She could feel the subversive pressure of Fernando's mind upon her own, he was trying to force her to calm down! Well, that wasn't going to work! She opened her mouth to scream and to her astonishment, a Monarch butterfly flew out. She had completely lost her mind. Or else Fernando had turned her scream into the beautiful orange and black butterfly. What other tricks did he have up his sleeve? She felt defeated, like there was nothing she could do. He was right, they had accounted for everything.
"Noooo!," she screamed at the top of her lungs, a shriek that somehow seemed to fill the entire chamber and reverberate off the massive trapezoidal walls. She had done it, she had fooled Fernando into thinking she had given in. But what had she done? Suddenly the entire place became completely quiet and it seemed that everyone was waiting to see what she was going to do next, even Angela herself. She realized that these people probably didn't even know what she had said, they probably didn't even know what the word 'no' meant. How could they all just stand there watching? How many human sacrifices had they witnessed in their lifetime? Was this a weekly ritual? Or a daily ritual perhaps? They probably needed some way to limit their population. Why not have a human sacrifice on the hour? God knows they probably didn't get very good TV reception down here; they needed something to take their minds off their dull boring lives. Look at them, they were pale and for all intensive purposes blind to what was going on around them. They were like cave fish swimming around in a pond that had grown much too crowded. And with each sacrifice there was a little more room, at least temporarily, and they got their regular dose of violence so that they did not feel pressure to create any violence themselves. And so everything worked out, perfectly.
Fernando turned her towards the priest so that the people below could get a better view. At this point the crowd began to chant something low and repetitive, but Angela did not understand what they were saying. She knew that she had to fight or run away but she felt like she was paralyzed and had lost all control over her body. She watched, helpless, tears streaming down her face -- they couldn't stop the tears -- as the priest pulled off her robe and put the dagger into her. Then he followed with his hand and she could see her heart beating in his hand in front of her eyes. The heart beat in time to the chant at first but then slowed as the chant sped up and reached a frenzy. Angela felt as if she was falling, but as if to help her the priest picked her up and suddenly she was flying, flying down towards the corner of the pyramid and then her body came completely apart. The crowd cheered.
Chapter 35 was first written November 30, 2001
It was last edited December 31, 2001