THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ
BOOK NINE: BOOK of the JAGUAR PRIEST
So, now, came this interruption to the vulture's afternoon; a squeaking door and the sound of voices... men speaking. The zopilote turned warily from its other in the mirror, there could be no men here for it had eaten them. The collapsing shanties of the territorial capital were rife with sagging hammocks of bones, most of these the small remains of orphans of plague, who'd drifted into the deserted city the way that twigs and small sticks fall into moving water and are carried downriver towards the rapids. There had been adults here too, men and woman who had felt the hand of Lord Blood Vomit grasp them in the night and, with the strength that remained to them, had gathered their hammocks and, with a little corn and water, had gone to the holy city that they die in grace, and not pass on the pestilence to their neighbors and family. For many weeks after the Mexicans left, Santa Cruz had been reborn as a necropolis, a city of the dead and dying; fabled, magic city of minds bent with fever who saw gods perched in trees and demons creeping between the stones. And, since Juan de la Cruz cared not whether one came whole or was afflicted, he blessed all visions equally and made them real for the time of apportioning... and gods and monsters fought with each other to possess the dying. They wrestled and tore their limbs off to batter their enemies or sat beneath the sour orange trees, weeping and conversing with the mazehualob who knew a place among the blessed dead awaited if they could but atone, in person, for having allowed the Mexicans to defile Chan Santa Cruz, womb of the Talking Cross, mother of the flesh and spirit.
Footsteps could now be heard below, mounting the stairs of Bravo's old quarters. The zopilote turned. The wind brought the voices of men speaking in hurried Mayan with a few Spanish and English terms and names unknown to the territory, but these speakers remained in the office below, sequestered with the dust and maps and ribbons of abandoned command.
"I understand your objections, Pedro, and the concern of the Oficiales. And perhaps, as you say, Pancho Villa is a good man."
"A great man, Tatoob. He does not run to war, nor fight it from a horse, but commands a great beast of iron. It is somewhat like the Decauville but, whereas that could only move in a straight line, making it a thing that could be easily derailed before the false peace was imposed on us, Pancho Villa rides his beast in circles, or from side to side. This is the chief who wants all Mexicans to have education, he has even sworn to execute all men who do not permit their sons to attend schools."
"Then we will fight him if he comes," the first voice answered, "like that Governor of Yucatan who came here, but saw better wisdom in leaving." The footsteps... which had ceased as the second man, the one called Pedro, was speaking... resumed and the zopilote turned warily, facing the door through which the intruders would come.
That first speaker, whom has been already named as the Tatoob, or Jefe, resumed speaking. "We shall support any Mexican who promotes education, so long as it is for the Mexicans. Education makes weakness, and it is easier to hold this territory against a diminished foe. Pancho Villa and Alvarado are Mexicans who work to the destruction of their own kind, however unknowingly, and, for that reason, we may give support to them... so long as it does not require our young people to be exposed to the dzulob and to their schools."
"All of these armies have made a condition of freedom that we have schools. But we need not open our schools to Mexicans, Tatoob, there is one of the mazehualob, a teacher, who will be our teacher of teachers."
"Him!" the Tatoob cursed, giving the door between the rooms a sharp kick. In one short, angry hop, the zopilote sprang to the windowsill and glared at the humans who had entered.
"That one was from my own village," said the Tatoob, "a useless boy with no future, one who finally was taken by one of the dzulob... not a Mexican, at least, but not English either. Should not a teacher know where to wait for the deer, and name the day the rains begin to fall. That is enough!" He raised his lean and pockmarked face and spied the buzzard.
Men are the stupidest of creatures, thought the zopilote, for they kill each other in the frightful way that rats, when enraged, devour their own young. And, though they are stronger than all... except, perhaps, the tiger... they kill one another with such abandon that, though they may dig holes to hide most of their deceased, there are always plenty of corpses left. The zopilote tested its claws against the rotting window should the men attack... humans were stupid creatures, almost as stupid as turkeys who opened their beaks to the sky when it rained, and did not even know enough to lower them when they filled their throats and, so, drowned. Yes it was hard to determine which was stupider, although men were unquestionably the uglier. Two more of them had entered behind the first pair... the Tatoob, larger than the others and with a scarred face from the talons of Santa Viruela, and an earring of rank in its right ear... and the Oficiale, Pedro, with his left earring signifying lower rank. The two newcomers, also ugly and entirely without rank, nodded at a word from the Oficiale and drew their machetes.
"Ugly men," the buzzard reasoned, "stupid, yet dangerous in their stupidity." And it took flight out of the office and settled casually in a tree beside the building, ready to fly again should one of the two- legged creatures poke a death stick through the broken window."
"That," the Tatoob pointed, "is Mexico." His toe prodded something and he looked down at the dried remnants of a small, dead viper with a vaguely human face. "Juan de la Cruz protect us in this place!"
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