The year was 1433 in an ancient Aztec village. Many were out far away gathering stones for the new altar or working away constructing what would occur in tonight’s ceremony. Those who weren’t, though, were playing the ultimate game.
Echoes of frustration boomed in the distance behind the tall bare stone wall. It seemed even the stones were vibrating from the vigorous cheers and chants playing down the hill at the Ullamaliztli court. Ullamaliztli was a game of skill, with the objective being to get one small rubber ball into a stone shaped hole. Not only that, but players could not use their hands. They could only play with various body parts such as elbows, knees, feet, heads, and few others. It was a very important game to the Aztecs, politically and religiously. The players fought to win, and the audience often made bets on who would win. It was a sport involving the entire village, and those who didn’t show up without a valid reason were punished.
Today was the day of tonalpohualli, the end of the Aztecs two hundred and sixty day year. It would be significant for all, as it was approximately fifty years since the last disaster, and the whole society was on edge. The Aztecs worked hard to avoid disaster and lived in consistent fear of the end of the world and nature in general. Approximately every fifty or so years, a major disaster was supposed to strike, unless they had been pleasing the God’s.
Tonalpohualli made the Ullamaliztli games far more interesting, as more wagers were placed since many figured their lives were going to be altered significantly very soon.
Atl, a young commoner about twelve years old, was out wandering the expansive green fields with the tall grasses that met at his waist. The rest of his family was out spectating at the games, as he should be. But Atl never cared for such a thing, he never wanted to be there, never cared, and hated to feel forced to. So this morning he had come with a devious plan to leave their adobe home before the sun rose, being stealthy and sneaky so no one notice. He would run and hide in his favorite hiding place up high in one of the boundary trees, where no one would ever look. He knew his parents would be furious, but would have no choice but to attend the games and continue to search for him later.
It wasn’t until now, about a measly hour into the games, that he knew no one would be out looking for him. The entire community was at the games, and he was a fair distance in the empire away from anyone who could spot him. The tall brown grasses hugged his waist as he swam through it, careful to avoid any hissing snakes or biting bugs hiding beneath the camouflage of grass. The monstrous sun danced overhead, beaming in the bright of full day light. Its rays reached the earth filling the air with a buzzing nearly unbearable blistering heat. The sun beat down on his dark brown hair the stuck against his forehead due to the sweat. His emerald green eyes watered, as he blinked repeatedly to keep the sweat from creeping into his open eyes. Mosquitos and various insects shot through the air like darts pin pointing a board. A few pestering flies attached to his caramel skin like leeches. Atl sighed, continuing his consistent stride through the grasses en route to the tree, their sacred tree.
Atl was scared for today too, and so he figured today was the day to do what he wanted most. What he wanted was to do something bad for once, and sneak away from that horrid game. He also wanted to let his curiosity run rampant, and he was most curious about this confidential tree.
“Atl!” a voice screeched from a mere twenty yards away. Atl cursed under his breath and quickly ducked beneath the disguise of the foliage, hoping whoever’s voice it was hadn’t seen him.
“Atl,” the feminine voice hissed again with more vigor. “It’s Teiuc, you moron!”
Teiuc was Atl’s best friend, and she hated the games as much as he did. Their hatred for their own society’s culture was one secret that would forever bound them together.
Atl quickly jumped up from the grass, and motioned the girl closer with a finger on his lips to silence her. “What if someone were in ear shot? Could you even dare imagine our punishment? You’re the moron!”