The first instalment to the Mayan escape room story

Mayan altar room

A union flag ripples in the gentle breeze wind, atop a bold and striking archway. Blazing rays stream through the arch with stark oranges and reds. The streams of colour surge past an open window looking over the cobble-stone road leading up to the archway. A petite, slim blonde woman with stylish rounded glasses stood in the window. Her soft cheeks reflected the sunlight coming from the sun as it rose behind the ferry at the docks. Small creases lay at the edges of her eyes as small reminders of her of age as she brushed her hair with precision and intent. As she looked at the shoppers below, a welcoming and honest smile shone from her glowing face. Her eyes painted with pale blue. She had her father’s eyes. A collage of maps, cuttings, photos and memories were entrenched across the walls of her bedroom. India, Pakistan, Kenya, Israel, Peru and Senegal – just a few of the places that she had visited herself, but they would not be her last. She poured herself a cup of tea imported from an ancient tea-seller in rural India. She always liked Royal Daulton and was very fond of teas from around the world. The light burning incense of ginger and lemon, the bubbling stark flavours of liquorice and fennel, and the cool breeze of peppermint were all her favourites. This time she has gone for an unusual surprise redberry. She always found this tea to be rather cheeky, as it reminded her of the sweets her father used to bring her home after his archaeological digs. She pondered at the mirror, admiring her crisp shirt, custom-fit blazer and perfect hair. She picked up her fathers brooch and placed it on her breast pocket – she never left home without it. Dr Rita Dewberry always took pride in her appearance. A grandfather clock struck 8 behind her as she swiftly took a sip of her tea, recoiling when she realised it was too hot to drink. The maps and cuttings fluttered in her wake as she exited the room.

Rita looked at her notes. – “the most advanced ancient numerical system, and a strongly-held belief in the sun as a deity”. Rita looked out at the booming lecture theatre, as the slurps of drinks and squeaks of the chairs echoed around the room. She was not worried about this, she had done it before. “This civilisation invented one of the most advanced numerical systems of the ancient world, and with that the foundations for developing calendar systems. Understanding where the sun was in the sky enabled them to predict the comings and goings of the seasons. The sun was regarded as the main deity, with other Gods such Ah Puch and Quetzlcoatl being subservient to the sun god” – she exclaimed. A man with a crisp, dark suit and shaded glasses looks on with intent. Fixated. An immovable force. A wire exudes from his ear in a twisted, spring-like fashion. The left side of his neck was blistering and scabbed, branded with an insignia of a rounded emblem, laid out like a labyrinth with a silhouette of the globe in the middle. Rita squinted her eyes to make out the face behind the glasses, but struggled due to the distance. Her eyes aren’t as good as they used to be. She returned “…and the Mayan civilisation can teach us many things about our current lives – how we should live, how we shouldn’t live, what memories we should retain, how to perform complex calculations – all reasons why we must continue to study them. Thank you!”. A standing ovation. An overwhelming booming celebration of Rita’s scholarly works fills the room as pride beams from her face. The boom and cracks of the clapping begin to cease and the crowd begins to leave having learnt a wealth of information about the Mayans.

The crowd begin to dissipate as she collects together her notes from the lectern. One man remains in the audience. Rita glances up and he is a blur. She places on her glasses as the figure comes into view. She realises he is staring at her, not moving, not flinching; he was a statue of ice, frozen in place. She tentatively begins to walk up the stairs maintaining eye contact with him. Each step she takes up the solid, rigid steps, she begins to feel the thudding in her throat begin to increase in intensity. As she moves up the stairs his neck turns to ensure that she is fixated within his vision – a leopard about to pounce on his prey. His pale, expressionless face was as cold as glaciers as he started to crick and crack his neck in order to keep looking at her. “Who are you?!”. He shoots up out of his statuesque trance, removes his glasses, places them in their case and in the case in his jacket pocket in one fluid motion. He grabs her by the arm and looks dead into her eyes – “I am fourteen. You have been chosen”. Rita struggles to get free, twisting and turning to release his grasp. His vice-like grip clamps down on her arm harder and harder. “I am from a top secret agency that deals with the power and promises of ancient artefacts,” he asserted, quickly revealing his badge that reads: “Fourteen. Associate. The Syndicate.” “Come with me”, he professed as he drags her by the arm and marches her out of the room past two other similar-looking men guarding the doorway. They look on expressionless, faceless, lifeless.

Rita is shoved into a dimly lit room in the middle of the university campus. She looks strangely calm. A strongly-minded woman such as Rita was not going to stand for this. “How dare you take me against my will?!” she fired like a shot from a magnum. He places a number of rare ancient artefacts on the table in front of her. Perfectly hand-carved jade kept in mint condition and abyss-black obsidian. Depictions of leopards, snakes and lizards, beautifully shaped into carefully-measured pieces. “How did you get these?” she concerted. “Our associates obtained them as part of a mission – you are a world-leading researcher in Mayan artefacts” he whispered as if unaffected by her clear rage. She pauses for a few moments and glances at the artefacts. “Yes, what does this have to do with you?” she grits her teeth. He calmly says “it has everything to do with me, your students, your family, your father…”
“don’t talk about my father…” she bites. “You do not understand” he smirks. “As you are aware, the artefacts in front of you are pieces of an ancient Mayan calendar held in the depths of the ancient temple – Chichen Itza – they describe the release of pestilence, famine and death to all those who do not obtain the elixir of life. This is the promise of the Mayan God’s, and one written in stone by the Mayan people”. She looks up at the other two guards in the room who have been unflinchingly silent. “You have been chosen to find the elixir of life and save humankind from this promise” he explained. “But these are nothing more than folk legends, passed down through the ages, they do not mean anything – just a load of folklore of the time” she laughed timidly as she looks around the room at the two guards. Still. The man at the table locks eyes with her. His eyes change from blue to an invading, piercing poison green. “You will assemble a team and set out at 10am tomorrow morning for Mexico City” he responds angrily. “Do you want to see your father again?”. In one falcon-like swoop, he swiftly picks up the artefacts, exiting the room with purpose. The two unresponsive and lifeless guards follow shortly after as if being dragged by a higher power.

Rita sits and ponders for a moment as she looks at the dust left on the table from the artefacts. “…Father?” she thinks to herself as she remembers her adventures with her father as a young explorer. Kilimanjaro, Luxor, Temple of Amada, Tugnuth. After a few moments, she brings out her phone and starts to scan through her list of contacts, stops then places her phone face down on the table laughing to herself. She looks around the darkened and featureless room. “Where am I?” she thought to herself, as she had never seen this room before on campus. She stood up, clutching her side satchel, picking up her phone and proceeding toward the door. She nervously opened the door and revealed miles of rugged, moss-ridden land. No other buildings, no signs of civilisation. A whistling shuddering breeze blew across the desolate and unrecognizable landscape. Her phone began to vibrate in her hand. The caller ID showed alphanumeric digits randomly changing and answered. “Hello” Rita said timidly. “So, have you made up your mind?” the distorted voice calmly spoke. “About what?” she quickly responded. The voice replies; “don’t take too long”. The phone cuts out with a tonal flatline beep. She looks up at the sky and sees a dark and stormy clouds moving rapidly towards her small wooden hut. Rita slams the door and pushes against it with all her might. She is not very large but she is persistent and strong-willed.

A text comes through to Rita’s phone reading: “if you try, you risk failure. If you don’t, you ensure it”. This was what they used to recite together when they were exploring dangerous unfamiliar lands in all corners of the world. “…Father?” Rita gasps and pauses falling to the ground in a slump appearing to sob. This wasn’t her. She didn’t cry. Rita shook her head seeming to flick away the tears like a bullmastiff first coming out of the water. Rita stands up with conviction and opens the door with force. All she could see was the inside of the university building. Busy as usual with the giggling of student women in the corridor. She looks puzzled and quickly scans the corridor to see if there is any sign of the man. Her phone vibrates as a new text comes in. “Get started. You have 23 hours and 14 minutes. We are watching”. “999” she typed into her phone keypad and begin to call as she put the phone earpiece to her ear. A deafening, piercing tonal sound like an untuned radio squeaks through the earpiece. She recoils and winces holding her ear checking her eardrum hadn’t burst from the noise. A light and persistent buzz is heard in her ear. A subtle voice comes through the static in an eerie manner “we are watching”. The phone call ends abruptly.

Rita runs to her office and throws her phone on her desk. She grabs a few scraps of paper and begins to quickly scan through the contact list on her phone. ‘Harry Bartlet’ – no, “Wendy Ford” – no, “Gustav Enriksson” – no. “Ah!” she exclaims. Frank Craven-Dunstable, a professor of Mayan history and culture – a very conservative and stubborn man that Rita was not too fond of. She thinks to herself: “he may be able to help with uncovering the truth”. She pauses and says to herself “well, I don’t think there is time to be selective now”. She quickly telephones him. He reluctantly agrees to help out. She also comes across James Brantley, a chief archaeologist, bit of a drunk and flirt with women, but an expert in his field. James is phoned and jumps at the chance. She continues to look through her phone contact list, finding Anna Wagner, a famous religious and spiritual artefact expert who has worked with Rita on a number of expeditions before. Anna is kind and caring, but with a meticulous attention to detail and a side to her that will cut through even the most stubborn of people. Rita arranges to meet them all in her office that afternoon to discuss the expedition.

19 hours and 35 minutes remaining. Rita and Frank are sat in her office. He is sat with his arms folded, bolt upright staring at her. He looks at his watch impatiently huffing. The room is silent apart from the sound of the clock ticking in the background. She looks at the clock and begins to sweat as the numbers appear to swish and spiral into depictions of the brand that she saw on Fourteen earlier that day. She can feel him watching her. Nothing is said as the sound of the clock begins to escalate, getting louder and louder. Suddenly, James enters the room looking dishevelled and stumbling. “Are you OK?” Rita questions. “Yep” James responds in a broad Scottish accent as he straightens out his tie and sits down to join the other two. Shortly after, Anna strolls in clutching a jet-black binder and an artefact depicting the Mayan god of death, Ah Puch. “Hello everyone!” exclaims Anna as she glances at the two men in the room and then at Rita confidently with a smirk that sends James into a well of giddyness. “Shall we get started?” Anna encourages.

Rita begins to tell the story of what happened to her in the morning. The two men look shocked, but Anna smirks to herself. “Is something funny?” Rita snarled. “No, but I have been approached by these people before and you must know that they do not mess around. If they want you to do something, you really have no choice in the matter. I was told to retrieve an ancient Hindu sceptre from the temple of Araknu in what is now Bhutan, and I tried to get away from doing it as I was rather busy and I wasn’t going to work for someone else without it being on my terms. Well, in short, they seemed to infect my dreams with obtaining this sceptre and I awoke with them standing over me, numerous times. They said to me – So, have you made up your mind?”. Rita gulped with fear of recognition of that question as it bounds around her head like a bull in a playground. “They will make you do what they want you to, and somehow your life changes when you succeed. Better or worse, I don’t know – I am still yet to find out”. “How?” Rita now engrossed with Anna’s every word.

At that moment, a woman with punk hair, black bangles, dressed-in black walks in places herself down onto a spare chair in the room and places her feet up on the desk whilst folding her arms. “Excuse me!” Rita aggressed. “Yeah?” the rebellious-looking woman returned in a Dublin accent. “Who the hell are you? And what are you doing here?”. “I’m with you guys, got a call from some dude saying that he has an assignment for me. He explains the scenario. I say, sign me up and here I am” the woman replied confidently and nonchalantly. “And I am the best geologist you are ever gonna meet, so unless you lot know anything about digging holes without the roof caving in on your head, I suggest you give me some goddamn space” burst the woman as she stands over Rita with her hands firmly on the desk. She laughs and brushes herself off and sits down. “I am Tina O’Reilly, nice to meetcha”. Rita puzzled, sits back in her seat and fiddles with her pen whilst glaring at the unpalatable woman. She presses her pen harder and harder into the desk. Snap! The nib of the pen breaks as she continues. “OK… if this is the team, then this is the team. Even if there is a few frayed ends”. Rita utters as she glances over at Tina, who is now picking teeth with her fingers nail – shards of cooked pork fat escape from Tina’s mouth. Rita can feel the bubbling of bile in the bottom of her stomach and her throat beginning to dry up as her body heaves. Rita looks away sharply to stop herself and begrudgingly says “OK…let’s get started”. Rita brings out a blueprint of Chichen Itza and explains how they will enter into the centre of the temple. She points to the very top of the temple, where the elixir of life is thought to be held. “This is where we will be going, any questions”. Each of the others sit silently glancing at one another expecting more information than what was given to them.

12 hours and 13 minutes remaining. James is at the bar drinking shots of tequila with Anna. “I always find that it is best to put your stomach into practice before trying the better stuff out there in Mexico” he chortles as he picks up another shot of tequila. “James, we need to be careful. I have been on one of these expeditions before and they don’t always turn out as you plan. People get lost and others don’t ever recover from what they experience” she says with an air of panic in her voice. James looks back at Anna and places the shot glass back down on the bar still full with tequila. “What happened?” he inquires. “Well, I just want you to know that the Syndicate don’t let you go, once they target you. They know you better than you know yourself, and sometimes you forget who you are. They make you think you are playing a character and you have flash backs to times which you didn’t even live through, times way in the past that seem so real – times which seem more real than this reality…” Rita walks in at that moment and Anna pauses her sentence. James orders Rita a tequila – “better get warmed up”. Rita recoils and starts to feel faint. James and Anna’s voices start to slip away and fade into the distance. Rita’s nose starts to bleed as she falls back off her stool and hits her head on the bar floor.

9 hours and 34 minutes remaining. Rita wakes up to find Anna and James at the end of her hospital bed. James is holding balloons and a cheesecake. “I never know what to get people when they are sick, I hope these help”. “What happened?” says Rita in a voice that sounds like she took a whole nest of beestings to the throat. Anna responds promptly “they have picked you. This is how they make sure you know.” “Who?” Rita says quivering. Anna leans forward over the hospital bed and whispers “its them”. Rita begins to sweat again – “I cant go through with it”. “We do not have a choice. We are all on their list. We just have to wait our turn” Anna insights. Rita turns over in her bed and winces in pain as a result of the cut on the back of her head. She slowly falls to sleep. Anna quietly exits the ward, leaving the balloon and cheesecake.

Dreams of Rita’s father circle around her mind. She tries to grab his hand and pull him up as he slips down into blackness. Rita’s father jumps ahead through a crack in a wall that Rita can’t reach as a young explorer. Her father shouts from the other side of the wall “if you try, you risk failure…”. “… if you don’t, you ensure it” they recite together as a teenage Rita attempts to join him on the other side of the wall, but cannot reach the ledge to get through the wall. Her father goes silent. She is awoken by Tina slamming back on her plane seat and laughing out loud to a scary film she is watching. Rita holds her head where she hit the floor the night before, sighs and turns away to look out of the plane window. Chichen Itza emerges through a break in the clouds. Rita sits back in her chair as the stewardess approaches – “Can I get a double whiskey please?”. The stewardess nods and proceeds down the aisle with a waddle like she is starring in her own fashion show. Rita looks over at Tina who is now smiling, as the woman on the film is holding a carving knife and hiding around a corner as the killer approaches. Tina throws popcorn towards her gaping mouth but many of the kernels bounce off her cheeks and fall to the floor. Rita smiles and turns back to her screen showing Beethoven’s 5th symphony paused. The stewardess brings over the whiskey and places it carefully on the table in front of Rita with a radiating smile. Tina glares at the stewardess for her arm getting in the way of the screen. Rita says gleefully “thank you”. The stewardess asks “is there anything more that you wanted?”. Rita glances at Tina and smiles “no, thank you. I think I am going to be fine”. This is the first major adventure she has been on since she was a young explorer with her father. She is now in control, she is the leader. She grits her teeth with anticipation, knocks back the whiskey and slams it down on the table in front of her with a thud. The stewardess looks back to see the commotion noticing the determination emanating from Rita’s face as she looks dead-straight forward. Tina looks over in amazement as a wry smile begins to appear across her greasy mouth.

Rita stands at the baggage collection and Frank sidles up to her. She looks over to see James and Anna chatting and laughing in the distance like a couple of school kids in a playground. Tina forced herself between them and looks at them from her high horse of disgust, grabbing her dark green army-style gym bag from the baggage collection and stomping to the border control. Chewing gun, Tina nods at the border guard and give him a wink whilst handing over her passport. He looks at the passport photo which shows a pristinely dressed young blonde girl, wearing pink and a headband in her hair. He then looks up at her who is now blowing a bubble with her chewing gum. He hands her back the passport and points her through the exit door. Frank collects his wheeled suitcase from the baggage belt and abruptly walks to the passport control silently as if walking through a hospital in the middle of the night. James and Anna are still laughing and flirting with each other as Rita walks over to take her baggage from the conveyor belt. “Are you two coming?” Rita shouts as she turns to them. “Sorry, yes” replies Anna as she quickly walks towards the baggage collection belt continuing to chuckle at a joke James said to her. James follows stumbling behind Anna; they pick up their bags and head toward the passport control. Rita turns back to take her baggage from the belt as a small jet-black obsidian sculpture falls from her adventure pack. A dishevelled and rounded man rushes over to pick it up, as she is walking away to the pristinely dressed customs officer standing at the passport control. “Madame!” he shouts, “this is yours?” he asks. She replies harshly grabbing it from him “of course it is”. She abruptly turns to walk to the passport control. “I know why you are here, Rita” the man bellows as she is stopped in her tracks – a cold shudder rushes down her spine – a sudden spike of ice.

Rita joins the others who are all waiting. Tina is snoring, sprawled over her bag, Frank is standing bolt upright and James and Anna are still chatting. Rita notices a man with branding on his neck the same as what she noticed in the lecture theatre. He is holding a sign at the end of the walkway that reads: Dr Rita Dewberry. He is wearing a black trilby hat, has dark sunglasses on and is wearing a jet-black suit. His skin is pale and featureless and his lips are a cold pastel pink. Rita approaches the man cautiously. “You are the one?” he asks. “Yes, I am, and these are my companions”, pointing at the 4 other unlikely followers dotted around the arrivals lounge. “Very well, proceed” he says sharply, as he heads towards the airport exit in an abrupt and rigid manner. “Let’s go!” She shouts to the rest of the team and they all start to follow, except for Tina who is still snoring like a Boeing 747. Rita grabs onto Tina’s shoulder as she is timidly walking towards the exit and points angrily in the direction which everyone is going. Tina wakes up and huffs carrying her bag to the exit.

The sun blazes down on Tina – crushing heat in the middle of the day. She rubs her eyes which take a few moments to focus in the bright light. The dishevelled man Rita encountered near the baggage collection exits the airport and watches all the followers get into a black unmarked car. Tina looks at him, scoffs and continues to the car. “Where we going then, weirdo” Tina shouts to the seemingly personalityless and generic looking man. He looks in the rear-view mirror straight at her. She shrugs at him to encourage him to answer her question. He looks back at the steering wheel and proceeds to reverse from the car parking space without saying a word. Tina looks across at James and they shrug at each other and Anna smiles knowingly. As they pull away from the airport Rita catches a glimpse of the dishevelled man on the pavement. They lock eyes and he waves to her like a lost kid having first found his mother. She turns to face forward as the car drives off into the dizzying heat. The dishevelled man takes his phone out of his pocket and opens up a phone application showing a flashing dot on a map moving in the direction that the car is going. He smiles to himself and proceeds to his bruised and beaten car.

The others arrive outside The Lodge hotel at Chichen Itza. The temple shines through the vapour evaporating from the top of the hotel, as the sun sets behind the temple. The five team members step out of the car and gasp at the awe of the temple seen in the distance. The stone glimmers with the orange hue of the sun and the wind drops completely. All five of them stop, gazing up at the might and prowess of the temple. A thing of beauty, marvel and mystery. They have never seen anything so beautiful in their lives. Thud!… Thud! Thud! Their bags are thrown onto the hotel entrance floor without care for the belongings inside and the man quickly heads off into the distance out of sight, seeming to escape from a bank robbery heist. “Man, he needs to get laid or something” Tina laughs slinging her bag onto her back and stomping towards the hotel entrance. Frank sidles up to Rita and says “do we really need her? She is disruptive, disrespectful and a downright fool”. She replies “she is the best we got, and from what I have heard, the only one that can do what she is doing, so buckle yourself up, Frank, you have quite a ride ahead of you”. Anna and Rita walk in together leaving the two men standing on the driveway of the hotel. “You have worked with her before, right? Is she always like this?” questions Frank. “Oh, Frank! You don’t know the half of it!” chuckles James as he pats the elderly man on the back and picks up his bag. James chases after Anna like a lamb to the slaughter. Frank timidly picks up his bag and follows the others.

As he enters the hotel, a beaten car is seen parked across the road reflecting the beams of sunlight across the road. The man sat in the car turns off his engine and starts to look through a binder containing photos of all of the team. He starts to scan through all of the information in the binder, but begins to fall asleep as the sun sets in the distance. Meanwhile, inside the hotel Rita is sat at the bar with Tina and Anna. “I’m surprised James isn’t here for two reasons, firstly he seems to have turned into an alcoholic, and secondly…” Rita turns and looks at Anna. Anna looks back shyly. “Yeah I like him, a bit rough around the edges, but he is very nice and funny”. “Yeah I’d do him,” says Tina crudely. They all laugh, as James appears from what seems to be thin air. “What’s funny?” he questions. They all fall silent for a few moments until Tina pipes up and says “Anna wants to screw you, so hurry up before I do!” playfully tapping him on the nose. She laughs and shoots back three tequilas lined and slams them onto the bar with a sound that can be heard from the other side of the lobby. Anna begins to look angry. Tina looks at James with a knowing wink. “Good look tiger” Tina chuckles as she slaps James and the bum and stomps off towards her room. “She cannot be part of this team, she is going to ruin everything!” Anna screams. Tina walks away miming her middle finger back to Anna. The three remaining fall silent knowing that Tina heard Anna. Breaking the silence, Rita sips the final bit of her whiskey – “I am going to bed too, goodnight”.

Rita heads into her room and places her brooch on the windowsill. As she opens the curtains she notices a car parked opposite the hotel on the other side of the road. She squints her eyes to make out who is sat in the car, but she cannot make the person out. Startled she quickly closes the curtains and brings out a dog-eared diary with scribblings and writings with every day meticulously detailed and illustrated. She heads over to the bed and places the diary on her pillow. She grabs her adventure pack from the floor and begins to take an inventory of its contents: rope, a digital camera, a torch, sting and bite spray, the obsidian statue, a compass, a pocket watch, the blueprint of the Chichen Itza, matches and a photo of her father. She turns to her diary and starts to pack it in the bag with force as the bag is now booming at the seams. She pauses to think for a few seconds and instead begins to open the diary. She turns to May 19th 1979 and starts to read. “Today would be the second time that I have climbed Kilimanjaro with father and I cant wait. The sun is shining and there is a light breeze in the air. This is perfect climbing weather. Dad always said any day is perfect climbing weather. Rain, wind or storm, its all part of the adventure. He can be a bit crazy some times but he is indestructible…”. Tears begin to form in the corners of her eyes. She shakes her head to throw away the tears and begins to fall asleep.

A note slips under the hotel room door. Rita is alerted by the sound as it jolts her awake before she drops into a deep sleep. She walks over to the door and looks down to see a crisp, clean and brilliant white note placed on the floor with care. It says “Rita” on it with a stamped insignia of her family crest covering the opening of the envelope in a dark, crimson red. She instantly recognises this to be from her father and quickly opens the door. The long corridors are desolate, a small reminder of how she felt when her father went missing. No one is to be seen or heard apart from the faint giggle of Anna still at the bar with James. Rita returns back to her room closing the door and begins to open the letter. Rita reads “My darling, Rita. You have been set this important task as you are the best person for it. You are tenacious, tough, intelligent and wont take no for answer. I know you want me to be there, but you know that I can’t. This is how it has to be. If you complete this task, I will be with you once again. Remember: if you try, you risk failure. If you don’t, you ensure it. I know you can do it. Love, Father”. Tears start to drip onto the paper and smudge the ink. Rita returns to bed grasping the letter and begins to enter the world of slumber. There is a sudden knock at the door, which wakes Rita up in shock and panic. She looks at the time and realises that she is late. She quickly grabs her brooch, and her adventure pack and exits the room to reveal Tina, and the others waiting at her door. “What’s next boss?” Tina asks laughing as she notices Rita dressed in her nightly trying to conceal herself behind the door. “Let’s go” Rita responds “but before, I must get dressed. Give me 2 minutes”.

They all walk towards the lobby where the driver from yesterday is waiting for them. As they approach him, he walks towards the exit of the hotel. They all follow and Rita’s heart sinks as she remembers that she has left her letter and diary at the room. “Go ahead, I’ll catch up” Rita yells to the others. “You know this guy won’t wait” replies James. “I’ll be quick, stall him, if you can”. She runs back to her room with haste picking up the letter and diary and turning abruptly to exit the hotel. As she run hastily towards the car she notices the same beaten car parked across the road as she did yesterday. She pauses whilst looking at the car with fear and dread. “Is this one of the protectors of the Maya” she mutters to herself. The others shout from the black car to get her in before the driver leaves without her. Rita snaps out of her trance. “Yes, I’m coming” she bellows as she gets in the car. As they pull away, she notices the car parked across the road starting to follow them. She slumps down in her seat and looks out at the road ahead knowing that something isn’t quite right.

There it was, Chichen Itza. The sun reflected off the asphalt brightening the Mayan temple as they approached its entrance. The strange car that is following them pulls off sharply to the right before they enter the temples grounds. Rita sighs with relief, even though there remains a small but significant worry in the back of her mind. “Isn’t that a thing of beauty” exclaims James. They all slowly exit the black car looking up at the gargantuan size of the temple. The stone is battered and bruised from centuries of weathering leaving a grey cracked structure of turmoil, terror and tyranny. The temple’s gigantic steps ran all the way to the top leading to an altar. The sun beats down onto the altar like a sinister reminder of the tragic events that took place in that very place. It provides a false sense of security, a small glimmer of bright light in the ruthless and murderous past of the Mayan. “That is where they performed human sacrifices. They would cut out the heart of the living, or chop off their head, and throw the rest of the body down the stairs whilst thousands watched and revelled in the sacrifice to the God’s” Frank explained. “Some even say that the high kings would eat the still beating heart of the sacrifice whilst the sacrifice is still alive” Frank utters like he is getting his kicks out of putting fear into the others. “And we are going in there” James trembles. Frank nods begrudgingly. “Sweet, let’s go” Tina spouted as Frank’s summary does not seem to phase her at all as she skips to the temple entrance. Anna quickly follows still clutching her lucky folder. Rita and James look at each other smile and start to run as well. Frank turns to looks back to find that the black-suited man only to be welcomed by an empty courtyard in front of him, a solemn graveyard of sacrifices, an relentless ringing of death and murder.

They all arrive at the prominent, rounded doorway to the temple. The weathered door is scattered with symbols and carvings cataloguing the triumph and turmoil of the Maya. An inscription written across the archway. Rita starts to read “those who enter must be certain of their quest. If you are not, you will perish and will become the sacrifice to our God’s. If you are the righteous ones, place your hands upon the temple door and enter at your peril”. They all pause. Everyone places their hands on the door and stone shards start to fall on their heads. Frank gets hit with a large sharp shard that cuts into his eyebrow. Frank winces and holds his hands to his face. “Keep your hands on the door!” screams Rita as Frank quickly puts his hands back on the door, vermilion now streaming down his face from his cut. A slow grating sound is heard from either side of the temple doorway. The door starts to move and they quickly take away their hands so as to avoid getting them trapped in the sides. The door opens to reveal a tight stairwell leading up to a room inside the temple. Frank brings out a tissue from his pocket, pressing against the wound to stop the bleeding. They begin to walk up the stairs. The door quickly slides closed behind them booming at the two doors slam together. The room becomes black and silent, an abyss of light and sound. All that can be heard is the heavy breath from Frank as attempts to stop the bleeding. “It is cold” James states as his breath starts to condense and perform an ethereal dance in front of him.

Anna bashes her torch a few times with the flicker lighting the way for a fraction of a second. It eventually turns on and she shines it up the tall dark stairwell – an endless stretch of climbing laid in front of them. The others turn on their torches scouring the walls of the claustrophobic stairwell. Tina finds a series of deep scratches in the wall all forming a swooping motion towards the top of the stairwell as if someone was dragged against their will up the stairwell. A dark reminder of what happened all those millennia ago. Anna touches the scratch marks and dust begins to fall away lightly. James notices a dead beetle on the floor then turns his torch to the wall to the right of him to reveal a wall covered in dead beetles. He then sees a plague of the beetles on the ceiling. “Were they crushed to death?” he asks himself rhetorically, as the blood from one of the beetles drips onto his nose. He brushes it off with disgust and fear. He runs forward to catch up with the rest of the team who halfway up some of the stairway already. Rita looks back with her torch noticing that James is panicking. “You OK, James?”. James nods and notices that there is no blood on him at all. He pauses, then looks back to check for beetles. He cannot see any. “Must have been in my mind. Woah! That tequila was strong” gulps James.

The team proceed to the top of the stairs to a large spacious room with inscriptions written on the walls, ceiling and floor. “It would take years to translate all of this” Rita gasps as she peruses the huge archaic and crumbling room. She goes into her adventure pack and pulls out a digital camera and looks up. Suddenly, there is a man standing in front of her. Rita jumps and drops her torch smashing the bulb. The man is now a silhouette. “Who are you?” Rita screamed as the others shine the light over toward her revealing the man standing in front of her. She recognises him as the man she met at the airport baggage collection. “I am Sebastian Alamos-Fiera, and you need me. I have been watching you since you arrived and know why you are here”. A booming sound suddenly comes from the upper-echelons of the temple. Sebastian translates “Ah Puch wants you to enter his temple, there are traps and codes that await you”. There is a pause of silence. All that can be heard is a slight scuttle in the far distance as it echoes through the large room they are standing in. Rita looks at the others in the group concerned. “I guess we don’t really have a choice” James states. They all look to the end of the room to reveal another set of stairs leading further up inside the temple. Rita’s phone starts to ring. She notices that the caller ID is constantly changing again. She answers the phone. “Go to the top floor. Humanity is waiting”.

To be continued at the escape room…