The ramshackle temple loomed over the two children; it’s strange shape breaking the pattern of the stars in the purple sky above. Quetzal followed her twin brother along the overgrown path, moss brushing her bare feet.
‘Hmmm?’ He murmured, eyes on the trees edging the clearing for any signs of movement.
‘Was it this dark when you were with the other boys?’
‘I can’t remember.’ He answered, walking as he’d been taught to when hunting unfamiliar forest. ‘If you’d have done the same rituals as us you’d understand.’
‘I don’t want to do your silly boy things. I don’t see why you have to fast or breath that smoke that makes you see things which aren’t there’ she said with distaste ‘I don’t know what those things have to do with you becoming a man anyway.’
‘Well it’d certainly take more than fasting and smoke to make you a man.’ He grinned. He edged past a path of loose stones on the walkway, his sister copying his movements with a look of annoyance that was lost in the gloom ‘All I know is that it was what chief Teotl said we had to do’.
‘Well if you did everything Teotl said you wouldn’t have brought me to see the temple would you?’ She said pouting.
I regret ignoring his great wisdom more with each passing moment.’
‘And if people always did what Teotl said I’d have been dead and buried years ago.’
Tepec sighed ‘Twins are forbidden, you know that, but mother persuaded him that the village needed more girls for the harvest so you’re alive.’ He said repeating the same well-worn words he used each time the subject came up. ‘And to think if I’d been an only child I wouldn’t be in the middle of the jungle at the dead of night to satisfy your stupid girl curiosity.’
‘Hmmf, I wonder why nobody thought it would’ve been a good idea to sacrifice you?’
‘Because boys grow up to be courageous warriors, while girls…’ a bat flittered from a hollow in the wall by Tepec’s head. He jumped back with a high-pitched shriek.
They climbed the temples giant steps with only Quetzal’s laughter breaking the silence.
The darkness in the open air was nothing compared to the pitch black that greeted them once inside. Tepec lit a torch and the twins walked the along the slanted walls of the temples inner corridor. The unsteady orange light of the torch picked out features from the scenes carved on the wall. Stone skulls, snakes, and panthers stared out of the shadows. Quetzal swallowed and smoothed the thick folds of the shawl on her shoulders ‘I don’t recognize any of these Gods.’
‘That’s because they’re not our Gods.’ Tepec replied keeping his steady pace. ‘This place is called a Co-at-eo-calli. It’s where we kept captured Gods.’
Quetzal touched her hand to a protruding jade fang. ‘How on Earth do you capture a God?’
‘Well once we were a mighty tribe with a great army of warriors.’ Answered Tepec, his chest puffed out in pride. ‘When we’d conquered another tribe, we’d take their Gods from their temples and bring them back here.’
‘Because it pleased our Gods, and because it showed how mighty our tribe was, and because, because… Just because.’ Tepec answered tartly. ‘You ask too many questions, that’s why none of the boys in the village want to marry you.’
Quetzal snorted. ‘None of the boys in the village want to marry me because I’m smarter than all of them put together.’ She looked ahead. The fierce stone faces seemed animated by the wavering orange torchlight.
‘And you know the reason you’re too smart, it’s because you ask too many questions.’
Quetzal ignored him, her gaze passing back and forth between the crowded walls. ‘Is it a good idea to steal a God?’
Tepec stopped and turned to meet her eye. ‘ These are old Gods from the world that came before ours. When the sun of our world was born it’s light turned the old Gods to stone.’ He said his voice steady and certain. ‘There’s no reason to be scared of a stone is there?’
From the shadows above a great inhuman voice rasped ‘Boy, we may be ssstone, but we do not sssleep.’