They’d said the sacrifice would make the sun move again, but it hadn’t. Its once bright light had dimmed to ghostly transparency, little more than the glow of the fireflies dancing at the forest’s edge. The furnace heat all but gone.
Only two left to offer up. Only two left to reverse disaster.
We’ve failed again.
I’ve failed again.
The fifth sun is dying.
Everything has stopped. It’s as though the world no longer turns. Everything is silent save for the trickle and splash of their blood. It runs from the altar and down each stone step, pooling on the already saturated earth at the pyramid’s base.
I’m sweating from exertion. It pours down my face and back. The salty taste is in my mouth, mixing with a familiar metallic tang.
Upon the altar, he gives a rasping sigh: his final breath. His eyes glaze and darken. His head lolls back. I stare at him for a brief moment. He’d never been one of my favourites, nor I his, but seeing him like this causes a twist in my throat. It’s been the same for all of them.
I kick his empty vessel away. It slides free and follows the river of blood down the steps landing on the mounting pile with a sickening, wet crunch.
I don’t wish to think about them.
Another slithers forward with a hush of shuffling feet. Our eyes meet. He touches my shoulder. His feathered coat brushes against my cheek. I bite back tears while he prostrates himself on the stone. When he is ready, he gives a curt nod.
I raise the blade. It feels so heavy now. I look down at him through watery eyes. This has to be done. I know I have to do this but…
‘It’s okay, my brother,’ he tells me, always the brave one. The stronger twin. ‘I will see you again soon.’
I look away.
The blade comes down.
Hot blood sprays my face, hides my tears, and I do what needs to be done.
The sun doesn’t accept his sacrifice, doesn’t brighten. Now, there’s only one offering left.
I scream. No words, just release.
The flint slips into the flesh of my stomach. Blood threatens to scald my trembling hand. The hilt grows slick.
I grit my teeth and snarl at the ungrateful celestial orb. Pulling the blade requires more effort than I imagined it would. It tears through layers of skin, fat and muscle.
I hold my breath. My body shakes.
I can’t do this.
The knife hits the stone and shatters. Shards of flint strike my face.
My knees grow weak and I don’t fight them. I fall to the ground.
I need to do this.
My hand pushes deep into the wound, probing, reaching. I can feel it. It’s slick and wet. I’m not sure if I can grasp it.
My head swims. My eyes grow heavy.
The sun brightens, just a little.
X is for Xolotl
In Aztec mythology, Xolotl was the god of fire and death, the personification of Venus, the evening star. He was responsible for the safe passage of the sun through the underworld at night. He was the twin of Quetzalcoatl and, with him, journeyed into the underworld to recover the bones of humans so that the world could be repopulated in the fifth sun.
During the creation of the world, he was responsible for the execution of all the gods to the ailing sun god, ensuring that he would continue to rise and move across the heavens. In some stories, he fails to offer himself in sacrificed and it chased down and killed.