landed with a splash in a huge pit of tepid water. Coming up to the surface
coughing and choking, Fiona called for the boy. “Tlaloc. Help us!”
Elspet and Callum popped to the surface. They
were forced to tread water. “Where are we? What’s this big hole?” Callum
wiped the green slime from his face.
Fiona looked around. “We’re in a cenote. I think
the Maya word for that is dzonot. They think it is the door to the watery
underworld, inhabited by rain gods and jaguar spirits. While you were
playing with your monkey friend, Tlaloc told me about them. They are huge
sinkholes and they’re formed when an underground limestone cave collapses.
They fill up with water and all sorts of things grow on top of it.”
“Did you say jaguar spirits?” Callum swam over
to the side and tried to climb out. He kept slipping back down into the
water. “I am getting really tired of jaguars. Now we have to deal with their
“This is so gross. It’s all slimy and
disgusting. Are there things in the water, like leeches, or crocodiles?”
Elspet’s eyes darted around her.
“What about piranha? They eat people and can
strip you down to the bones in just minutes,” Callum said.
“What are you talking about, Callum? Don’t be so
silly. There are no piranha in this water,” Fiona said. “At least I hope
there aren’t. I don’t think there are crocodiles. This cenote is huge. I
hate this green scum on top. The water seemed to be clean underneath it. I’m
going to dive down,” Fiona said. “Stay here.”
“Don’t worry about that. I’m not diving in
there.” Callum swam to the side to get out of the way.
Fiona drove under and quickly swam back up.
“They must have used this to sacrifice people in. There are tons of bones
lying on shelves of rock. I can’t see all the way to the bottom. It’s way
too deep. I saw a lot of tiny silvery fish and there’s a lot of gold and
jade and jewels too.”
“Skulls? Bones? How do we get out of this?”
Elspet grabbed hold of the wall and tried to pull herself out. She slipped
right back into the water.
“This is one of our traps. I can tell. It seems
hopeless. Fiona, it’s up to you. You’ll have to grow big and get us out of
here,” Callum said. Fiona was about to do as suggested when the three of
them saw a long, thick-bodied snake slide down from a tree and over the
edge. “It’s coming in here. It’s going to wrap its body around us and
squeeze us to death. It must be a python. Help! Fiona hurry and grow!”
Fiona closed her eyes. She shook with fear
knowing the snake was coming closer. She felt herself grow taller. “Keep
going, Fiona. Keep going.” Elspet’s eyes never left the snake. Fiona grew
until her head burst through the tree canopy. “She did it. Get us out of
here,” she shouted.
Fiona’s foot took up most of the space in the
cenote. She reached down and scooped Elspet and Callum out of the water, but
as she lifted them past the edge of the hole, the snake wrapped itself
around Callum’s leg. As they went higher, the snake wrapped itself tighter.
“Fiona, the snake. The snake! It’s squeezing my leg off.” He felt it sliding
up his leg toward his body. “I’m gonna die! I can’t breathe.” The snake
curled around him, it’s long, scaly body tightening.
Elspet screamed. The snake’s mouth was inches from her face. It had long
fangs and a red tongue that darted in and out. “You’ve got to help Callum.
He’s turning blue.”
Fiona put them down on a pile of leaves and shrunk down. Snake. Snake. Stop
doing that. He’s not an animal to eat. He’s my friend.
Hiss. Hiss. Hiss. He issss food. I will kill him.
No. He’s not food. Put him down. I command you to let go of him. The snake
uncoiled from Callum’s body. Pink rushed into his face, replacing the blue.
Thank you. We don’t mean you any harm. There are so many other animals in
this rainforest. Surely you can find something else to eat besides us
Yesss, there isss a lot of food here.
Can you help us?
What do you need?
Down in that pit, there is a lot of gold and jewels. Can you bring some up
so we can give it to Tlaloc. He told us the gods are angry with us because
Callum hit the head with a rock. If Tlaloc can offer them some gold and
stuff, they might leave us alone.
Asss you wisssh. The giant snake disappeared into the cenote.
Callum sat up, thankful to feel air in his
lungs. “It tried to kill me.”
“Just breathe, Callum. Fiona’s commanded it to
help us,” Elspet said.
The snake slithered out. It had necklaces and
golden urns strung around its body. It slipped out of them, leaving them in
a pile near their feet.
Tlaloc came running back. He stopped when he saw
the snake. “Fiona. Watch out. That snake will crush you and your friends.”
“It tried, Tlaloc. Where did you go? We nearly
died when we fell in that cenote,” Fiona said.
“We must leave here quickly, before the
hechicera gets us,” Tlaloc said.
“Hechi who?” Callum picked pieces of slime off
his body and tossed it on the ground.
“Hechicera. Tell them she is a monstrous witch.
There is a story that she was once a Maya princess who could not marry the
man she loved. If you go to close to the cenote, she will take you into her
cave and burn you into an aluxob,” Tlaloc said.
“A what?” Fiona squeezed the water out of her
“An aluxob. Aluxob are small people, like forest
elves or leprechauns. During the harvest time farmers leave their first ears
of corn in tiny huts to feed the aluxob. If you do, they will help the corn
“That doesn’t sound that bad, but still, I don’t
want to be caught by any witch and I definitely don’t want to go to another
cave. Let’s get out of here,” Fiona said. “Come on, Callum and Elspet. We
have to leave now before the hechicera finds us and turns us into an elf.”
“But what about all these jewels and gold? Will
the hechicera be angry because we touched her gold and stuff?” Elspet kicked
an emerald back into the cenote. “Let’s give it back.”
“Good idea. We don’t need any other curses on
us,” Fiona said. They quickly tossed everything back in the water. Sorry
snake for wasting your time. I didn’t know about the witch.
Jussst go away and leave me in peassse. The
snake slithered up a tree, waiting for the next victim to fall into the
depths of the cenote.
They’d only gone a short distance from the pool
of water when a dark shadow appeared in their path, blocking their way. It
turned into a young, beautiful woman. “Hechicera?” Tlaloc pointed at her.
“She doesn’t look that scary,” Callum said.
“We’ve seen things much worse than this.”
The hechicera wore a long flowing dress of
bright red, orange, yellow and lime green. Her dark hair was pulled back off
her face in a bun and she wore a cluster of white flowers behind her ear.
She smiled, showing her dimples.
“In fact, I think she’s rather pretty.” Callum
smiled back at the witch. “She can’t be a witch. Witches are ugly and have
warts on their noses and dress in black.”
“Callum, I have a bad feeling about this. Don’t
let her fool you. Remember, she isn’t happy because she wasn’t allowed to
marry the man she loved. She’s trying to trick you so she can turn you into
an aluxob,” Fiona warned.
“Don’t be ridiculous. I’m going to try to be
friendly to her.” Callum stepped toward her.
Tlaloc grabbed him by the arm. “No!”
Callum pried his arm off. “Leave me alone. I
like her. She’s not a witch.” The hechicera put out her hand, calling to
Callum. “See. She likes me.” He slipped his hand into hers and stuck out his
tongue at the others. The witch stroked his hair and caressed his face.
“She thinks he’s her long lost boyfriend,”
“Callum, come back here. She’s really a witch.
She’s not as she seems,” Fiona shouted.
Callum didn’t hear. He was hypnotized by her
beauty. Without warning, the hechicera grabbed Callum by the shoulders and
pulled him close to her. She transformed from a beautiful Maya woman into an
ugly crone. Her clothes changed to a dirty gray robe, her hair went stringy
and matted and her face turned leathery and marked with sores and scars.
“Callum! Run!” Elspet screamed.
Callum looked down at the hands wrapped around
him and tried to pull himself away. “Help! Help! It’s a witch. She tricked
The hechicera cackled. Sharp teeth, like wolf
fangs, grew from her gums. “He is mine now. He will stay with me forever!”
The witch ran into the jungle, dragging Callum along with her.
“The witch is going to keep Callum. She thinks
he’s really the man she loved long ago. We’ve got to save him,” Fiona said.
“But Callum’s only a boy. He’s not a man.”
Elspet jumped up and down in fear. “How can we save him from her. She’s a
“Let’s find them first,” Fiona said. They ran
“She will probably take him to her cave and turn
him into an aluxob. He’ll be forced to go into the maize fields. That will
be his life. We must save him,” Tlaloc said.
“A cave? Why do they all have caves? It seems
that witches, trolls and evil wizards like to hide in caves. All right.
Let’s find the cave,” Fiona said.
“What are you two saying to each other, “Elspet
said. “I can’t understand one word.”
“You’re not going to like it. The hechicera is
taking Callum to her cave and going to turn him into a forest elf and force
him to live in fields of maize for the rest of his life.” Fiona kept running
“My thoughts exactly.” Fiona ran faster. “Come
on. They’re not that far ahead of us.”