This story is by Jim Ruth and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Serpent Below the Surface
Kevin laid on his back with his feet dangling over the edge of Sac Ayum Cenote. Suddenly he felt something brush against his calves and the soles of the feet of the twelve-year old boy. “What the,” Kevin shouted as he sat up quickly. He looked down and around and did see anything. Kevin then saw a huge branch shoot up out of the water. Kevin dismissed his curiosity thinking that the branch must have loosened some dirt that rubbed his calves and feet as the branch fell to the surface of the water.
The following day was Tuesday, a day of heavy chores for Kevin if the south-central town of Texas. Most summer days were filled with chores, but Tuesday’s were the worst. Kevin had to dust all the furniture in the living room and his bedroom, vacuum the carpet in the living room, sweep his bedroom floor, and mow the front and back yard. Like most of his pre-teen friends rushed through his chores so he could go outside and play and explore. Each afternoon, Kevin could go to the local swimming pool for two hours between 4 and 6 pm but only after he mowed the yard. Russell got to Kevin’s at 2:00 in the afternoon and ran straight into the house without knocking. Kevin had just finished eating his bag of chips and was putting the finishing-touches on his ham sandwich; mustard and sliced pickles.
“Hurry up,” Russell told Kevin. “Mayap’s been spotted at Sac Ayum Cenote.”
“I still have to mow the back yard,” Kevin said, discouraged.
“Come on, let’s go,” shouted Russell.
Mayap, was the name given to the legendary serpent long believed to be living in the caves of the Sac Ayum Cenote. Legend had it that Mayap, the guardian of Sac Ayum, was at least 25 feet long, shiny black with 3-inch scales and 2 long feathers where the gills should be. With a head the size of an elephant and 4 rows of razor shark like teeth, Mayap devoured anyone that chanced swimming in Sac Ayum. Sac Ayum, the cenote in south central Texas had long been a place of mystery and suspense for the town of Cypress Creek and according to legend, Mayap, the long black serpent had lived below the surface of the water for more than 200 years.
As Kevin finished his sandwich, Russell said, “Let’s go, chicken.”
Kevin’s face turned red and he said angrily, “Okay, let’s go.”
The boys finally made way through the neighborhood and entered the Live Oak forest before reaching the limestone cliffs. Once they arrived at the Live Oak forest, they became excited as they saw small indications of the dark Magnolia trees on the other side of the limestone boulders. They ran as fast as they could towards the Magnolia trees knowing that the Magnolia’s surrounded the cenote opening that stretch as big as a football field. When they arrived at the opening of Sac Ayum, they could see no one, so they made their way to the edge of the cenote and peered down at the blue water.
“That is close enough,” said Kevin.
“Come on, let’s go climb down to the first ledge,” exclaimed Russell.
“No,” replied Kevin, “there is no one else here.”
Kevin was scared and excited at the same time. Since the day when Kevin felt something brush against his calves and feet, he wondered if Mayap, the serpent, might be real.
Russell and Kevin had spent many days at Sac Ayum and even made down to the first ledge below the lip twice on their hikes. When Kevin’s parents found out, they told him it was too dangerous, and the cenote was nothing but a bunch of limestone caverns and caves. They explained that if Kevin or Russell were to get lost in one of the caverns or caves, they may never be able to find him. Despite the warnings of his parents, Kevin did go to Sac Ayum every chance he got. Apart from the two times he and Russell climbed down to the first ledge below the lip, Kevin had never been below the lip of the cenote.
Kevin peered over the lip of Sac Ayum to see if he could see any indication of Mayap. The surface of the water was so still, Kevin could see the fish below the surface and even spotted a few of the limestone ledges under the surface of the water. Suddenly, Kevin became mesmerized by something on the still blue water. It looked like a long feather. He pointed the feather out to Russell who suggested it was from that big old barn owl from the Mulestein’s ranch.
“I’ve heard it calling from the Magnolia tree over there,” commented Russell as he pointed to the north face of the cenote.
Russell got up and started to walk over to the tree where he had spotted the barn owl previously. Russell reached up and grabbed one of the vines hanging past the lip of Sac Ayum and began to swing back and forth.
“Hey watch this,” Russell shouted.
Russell swung out over the opening of Sac Ayum and then back to the edge of the lip. Back and forth, back, and forth.
Kevin grabbed another vine also swinging back and forth. Suddenly, the branch holding Kevin’s vine began to creak, and Kevin went splat into the water.
“Get out of there,” screamed Russell.
“I can’t,” bellowed Kevin, “something has got my foot.”
“Kick it Kevin,” barked Russell, “kick it hard.”
Kevin kicked his feet back and forth and made his way to the limestone ledge.
The boys ran home. Kevin was extraordinarily quiet during dinner that night. Kevin could not stop thinking of Sac Ayum and what had grabbed his leg. Kevin’s barely slept that night and soon as his parents left for work Wednesday, Kevin ran back to Sac Ayum. Just as he reached the forest, he spotted the barn owl, hoovering over the Magnolia tree, just like Russell said. He ran as fast as he could toward the Magnolia tree and when he got there, Kevin grabbed the same vine that Russell swung from the previous day and made his way down the limestone jettison. Kevin peered over the lip of Sac Ayum and gazed at the surface of the water. In the morning sun, Kevin could see no fish below the surface nor could he see the limestone ledge.
Fascinated by the water’s surface, Kevin used the vine and climbed past the lip of the cenote and onto some of the limestone ledges that hovered over the water’s edge. Kevin poked his face just below the surface of the water and saw limestone ledges and caves and stalagmites reaching up towards the surface of the water. Limestone ledges looked like a ladder that went from the lip of the cenote down below the surface of the water. Kevin began to make his way down towards the surface as he climbed from one limestone ledge to the next.
Tired from the climb, Kevin dozed off on the limestone ledge below the lip of the cenote. Suddenly, in the middle of the cenote, Kevin woke to see it; Mayap was flying out of the surface of the still blue water. Kevin was sprayed with water as Mayap flapped against the surface of the water. Startled, Kevin began to climb up the now wet limestone. Kevin could not get his gripped and kept sliding closer to the water’s edge. Mayap again breached the surface of the water, this time looking like it was going to fly right out of Sac Ayum. As Mayap slapped the surface of the water, water sprayed the limestone ledges surrounding the surface of the water.
The huge head of Mayap, broke the surface of the water and glared at Kevin. Kevin could see the 4 rows of teeth as Mayap stared at him. Kevin was petrified and panicked as he tried to make his way up the limestone ledge. Once again, Mayap bolted out of the water and splashed against the surface. Trees next to the ledge Kevin was climbing began to give way and slid down the slope and into the water. Kevin was sliding and down into the water he went.
Kevin grasped for air, just as he slid below the surface of the water. Below the surface, Kevin found a ledge and made his way to the side. Mayap’s head rested on the side of the ledge staring at Kevin. Mayap used his feather to slide Kevin toward Mayap’s head. Just as Kevin grabbed on the Mayap’s feather, Mayap breached the surface of the water flew up to the lip of the cenote and slung Kevin to out of the Sac Ayum.
To this day, Kevin smiles as he thinks of Mayap and has been below the lip of Sac Ayum. He is convinced the Mayap’s message was clear—-leave me alone.