This story is by Daisy Tingen and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
She pulled her suitcase from the jeep and set it on the ground. Then she turned her gaze to take in the camp. The dig site had expanded greatly, and the Guatemalan jungle no longer encroached on the workspace. She had not expected this much change. That would make it more difficult.
“You still blame yourself, don’t you?” On hearing the familiar voice, she turned. She struggled not to allow tears of joy or sadness to fill her eyes and said nothing. He picked up the suitcase. The two of them walked silently to the small cabin that would be her home for the season. After entering, he set the suitcase next to the bed and turned to embrace her like a kindly grandfather.
“Blanca, I did not expect to see your name on the intern roster.” She gave no response. “I am so glad you are here.” He stared into her vacant eyes; then looked more closely. “But you are not here, are you?”
Although she did not speak, a tear rolled down her face. “I want to tell you everything but,” she thought, “how can I? You would not believe me. I could not believe it when Mamá told me. Even now I would not believe it myself if I had not lived it. But now, I know who I am. I know where I’m from, and I know it is all real. But I could not live with the consequences of telling the truth. Restricted and alone in a solitary room would not be living. I would prefer to be with my long dead family.”
“Blanca, where are you? Have I lost you, too?”
“No. I am here,” she said without enthusiasm.
“I know losing your mother and your twin brother was traumatizing. But there are still many people here who love you and want to be a part of your life. Do you remember anything more than when they found you in that cave? Are you well?”
“I think sometimes my memories return in dreams,” she lied. “But when I wake, they are not there.” She paused. “And, yes, I am well enough, Godfather” she said feigning a cheerfulness she did not feel. “I remember everything from the day we three left home. I knew before we left that Mamá would not return with us. But losing my brother was not a part of the plan. For a long while I lost myself, too,” she thought. “Not knowing his fate. . ..” She changed the subject, “When do we resume excavations?”
* * *
After three weeks of digging, Blanca began to plan for her departure. But she had had little free time to find the cave where her brother had fallen. Having uncovered a new structure that seemed promising, everyone was excited at the prospect of finding new artifacts. Blanca was excited, too, but she would not let it deter her from her goal. She worked with the other interns during the day and explored the caves at night. On the night she was certain she had found the right cave she returned quite late and found a shadow standing at her door.
“Did you find what you were looking for, Blanca?” he asked.
“Whatever do you mean, Godfather?” she responded.
“Blanca, my child, you are not just an intern. You are family. I’ve kept my eye on you since you stepped out of that jeep. You’ve gone out every night since we cleared the new structure. And before that you disappeared at least once every other day. Did you lose them in the caves?”
“I’m tired, Godfather, can we talk about this later?”
“I will hold you to that, child,” he said as he walked away.
A week later, at the end of the day, Blanca’s Godfather summoned her to his cabin.
“Come in, child, and close the door. I have something to show you.”
She did as he asked as he placed a folded cloth on the table. When she was settled, he unfolded it. She recognized it instantly and gasped. It was a 2-inch round metal disc with a soccer ball stamped in the center. Around the perimeter were stamped the words Chollo High School *Arizona State Champions 2015*. Her godfather picked it up and handed it to her. On the back was engraved the name Juni Cumari. This time Blanca was so overwhelmed that she could not keep the tears from falling.
“Oh, God–fath–er! —Where? –It’s—not—pos—si—ble! How?” she exclaimed between sobs.
It took several minutes before she regained a modicum of composure. When she had calmed enough to make complete sentences, she asked, “How is this possible? Where did you get this?”
“I thought perhaps you might be able to explain it to me,” he responded.
She stared silently at the disc for a long while.
“Where did you find it?” she asked in a whisper.
“Inside the new structure. Can you tell me how your brother’s high school soccer metal got there? We had not even discovered that building six years ago, the last time you and Juni were here. I know I did not put it in there when it was opened last month. And I know that you have not yet had the opportunity to enter, have you?”
“Blanca, I’ve known you since you and Juni were toddlers when we found you with Quiqui wandering half-starved in the jungle. Your mother always claimed that she couldn’t remember how you came to be there. But, after I came to know her well, I no longer believed her. And I don’t believe you lost your memory after the ‘accident’ six years ago either. Why won’t you tell me?” he pleaded.
“Because, Godfather, you won’t believe me,” she sighed. “You will think I am so traumatized by losing my family that I am crazy. I would rather be with them wherever they may be than spend my life in a mental hospital. That’s not life.”
“Have you ever lied to me, Blanca?”
“I know. I also know that you are a sensible person not given to tall tales and fantasy. I promise. I will believe you if you tell me what happened six years ago and how Juni’s soccer metal turned up in a Mayan structure over 1,000 years old.”
“You are a Mesoamerican archeologist, Godfather. Surely you are familiar with the Mayan legend of the hero twins, Hun Hunapuh and Xblanque?”
“Of course. From the codex Polpoh Vuh.”
“Legends are usually based on a kernel of truth. And there is an ancient magic that still exists in a certain cave in this area. Mamá knew where and how to use that magic.
“That sounds rather fantastic.” He seemed incredulous.
She drew back into her chair. “You sound like you don’t believe me, Godfather.”
“I suppose. But I do believe you, Blanca,” he reassured her truthfully.
“Well, Godfather, when Juni and I were born Mamá named me Xblanque after her mother and she named my twin brother, Hun Hunapuh after our father. Mamá, QuiQui, is really Xquic, daughter of the Lord of the Underworld. We had escaped from her father, who was also known as the Lord of Death, about three or four months before you found us.
“Mamá had never heard the legend of the hero twins until she worked for you. After much research she realized that Juni and I—,” she paused. “well, Godfather, we are the ‘hero twins’ of the legend. Mamá insisted that we return to our own time to claim our destiny and free our father and uncle from a fate worse than death.”
“How could you do that?” Godfather asked.
“Juni and I did not believe Mamá when she first told us. To be honest, if I had not lived the legend myself, I would not believe it.”
“What really happened six years ago, Blanca?”
“We all three went through the cave to a time before many of these buildings here were constructed.
“After freeing my father and uncle, Juni and I planned to return. But magic is dangerous, and we aren’t masters. There was an earthquake. I’m not sure exactly what happened with Juni. I saw him fall and the passage was gone. I returned to the dig this year to find out what happened.” She lifted the medallion in her hand. “But, since he left this where we could find it, I’m sure he survived long after I left.”
“I agree,” said Godfather.
“Because when I entered that new building the first day, I tripped on this.” He placed what looked like a small, thin, rectangular shaped rock on the table. “It’s not rock. It’s cement. The corner was scored, and it broke off when I fell on it.” He removed the broken corner and exposed a thin sheet of gold. Etched on the corner of the sheet was “Dear Sister Blanca, . . ..”