Indiana Jones and the Serpent of Evil
Chapter 19: Serpent of Evil
The wall of fire drove the great cats into an immediate frenzy. They leapt from the burning wooden planks onto the floor of the pit and began to pace back and forth, hissing and screaming and occasionally swatting at one another.
Beyond the circle of flame, the people of Ula Thol began to chant. Their communal prayer grew into a roar dwarfing that of the burning oil. The jaguars turned towards Indy and his friends then, determining that the strange man-things before them must be the cause of the turmoil.
Indy recognized the look in the beasts' eyes as soon as it came. It reminded him of a lion he had once faced in his youth. "They're going to charge," he whispered, unheard by all but Angelina, who stood at his side. She moved behind him, choking back a frightened sob, and bunched her fists in the loose folds of his leather jacket. As she closed her eyes and bent her forehead down between his shoulder blades, Indy glanced towards Ix Mun, hoping the Mayan would indicate some avenue of prearranged escape. However, the big man simply stood there, chin out, arms at his sides.
Indy's mind raced. What could he possibly do? They had no defense, no weapons - not even his whip. They might have been able to jump to the edge of the pit and pull themselves to safety, but the fire prevented such....
The fire! It was an idea so obvious the archaeologist would chastise himself about it later. Indy shrugged out of his jacket - allowing it to hang limply from Angelinga's hands - and ripped off his shirt, sending buttons flying like tiddly-winks. The quick movement seemed to pull the final trigger on the anxious jaguars and they bolted across the pit toward them. As they closed, Indy retreated to the far edge and, grasping the shirt by a cuff, submerged the remaining sleeve in the burning liquid.
Angelina looked up from the loose jacket still grasped in her hands just as the nearest jaguar leapt, paws outstretched, claws extended. She found herself shocked into an eerie sense of calm, and a place where time seemed to slow. How tragic, she thought, to be killed by such an exquisite creature.
Suddenly, Indiana Jones pushed her aside and ran forward, roaring, to meet the great cat's charge with one of his own. Angelina gasped at the mad, desperate light brightening his eyes. She had only experienced this aspect of the archaeologist once before - in Spain - and it was a frightening thing indeed.
Jones swung his oil-soaked shirt like a wet towel and sidestepped at the last possible moment, slapping the fiery cloth down across the jaguar's muzzle and eyes. The beast screamed in pain as the sticky liquid ignited its fur and blinded it horribly. Doing the beast such harm wrenched Indy's heart as if a physical wound - but he had no choice. He snapped the end of the shirt down upon the cat's haunches and instinctively the blind feline leapt forward, away from the source of its pain, right into the moat of fire.
The brief but horrible death throes of the cat showered the nearest edge of the pit surface with blazing liquid. The accompanying howl was filled with such pain and fear the chanting crowd fell silent.
Indy turned from the moat to see Ix Mun wresting with one of the other two jaguars, his left forearm thrust deep between its jaws. The cat's front claws had gouged deep and bloody wounds across the man's shoulders and arms. Even so, the Mayan's feet dug furiously for purchase against the smooth floor of the pit, his tree trunk thighs quivering as he forced the deadly beast backwards. Such was the warrior's strength that he succeeded in driving it to the ground, where it thrashed about in surprise. Ix Mun sank his teeth into the cat's neck and instantly it released him, scampering several yards away and staring as if to reexamine its enemy. Indy could've sworn he saw Ix Mun grin briefly at this.
There was no time to dwell on such things however, as still another jaguar remained. It was at that moment Indy spotted Angelina behind him. Following his lead, she had pulled off her own shirt and ignited it, even now using it to hold the third and final feline at bay. Having observed the first cat's demise, however, this one chose to keep its distance. Unfortunately, both Indy and Angelina's shirts were growing more and more difficult to wield. Soon the fire would consume them entirely, rendering them useless.
The cat so recently manhandled by Ix Mun, decided to try and attack the Indian once again. Indy began to move toward them as the vicious battle resumed. It was at that moment the archaeologist thought he heard a scream of panic from one of the Maya beyond the ring of fire. He squinted into the darkness beyond the flames and noticed the Maya crowd begin to break apart and back away from the pit. What was happening?
Then - a shot! Both jaguars looked towards the sound, low growls boiling up from deep within their throats. Indy strained to hear and soon the echo of a dozen or more gunshots rang throughout the temple square. Something big was happening and whatever it was could end up being their salvation.
The Maya warriors moved to the edge of the jungle from whence the report of firearms continued, while the remaining Indians scattered into the underbrush. Indy began to call to Angelina just as Ix Mun ran past him. The Mayan grabbed her around the waist and, the powerful muscles of his arms and shoulders bunching with the effort, threw her up and over the edge of the pit. So Herculean was this feat, Angelina cleared even the highest of the flames before landing roughly on the ground beyond.
As Indiana stood momentarily stunned, one of the jaguars leapt atop Ix Mun's back, savaging him from ribcage to thigh with its rear claws. The Indian bellowed in pain, reached over his head and grabbed the beast about its neck, pulling it over and forward into the pit of fire. He then collapsed to one knee, his blood streaming to the stone floor and spreading outward in an ever-widening pool.
Indy moved to the Mayan's side keeping the last portions of burning cloth between the Indian and the last great cat. At Ix Mun's side he glanced down to examine the damage and cringed. There was nothing he could do. The wounds were mortal, sure to kill the proud warrior in seconds.
The jaguar, maddened by the smell and sight of so much blood, yowled in anticipation. It settled back on its haunches, lowered its head and wriggled its tail - the final word of body language before launching forward for the kill.
Indy's shirt finally burned down to the cuff and he had to let it drop, knowing full well that it left him defenseless. He put a hand to Ix Mun's bloody shoulder and sighed. "Thank you for saving the woman," he said.
The warrior nodded and rose slowly to a standing position, the enormous effort to do so apparent in the ashen cast of his face. "A parting gift for you, Indy...my friend." He looked at the archaeologist and smiled.
"My friend," Indy repeated, just as the lone jaguar shot forward like a razor-edged cannonball.
Ix Mun sucked in a great breath of air and grabbed the archaeologist by the belt, spun him around and heaved just as the beast sunk its teeth into the back of the big Indian's neck. The action happened so fast, Indy had neither time to protest nor resist before he found himself flying through the air toward the edge of the pit. The Mayan had lost almost all of his strength, however, and Jones began to plunge downward far short of the safe ground beyond the wall of flame. With a desperate stretch, he grasped the precipice with his right hand, as his body passed through the flames and slammed against the wall. Immediately the cuffs and lower legs of Indy's pants burst into flame. He screamed in pain and panic. The earthen edge of the pit began to crumble away beneath his fingers and he knew then that the death he had cheated for so many years was imminent. It would be an ugly way to go.
As the last of his fingertips began to slip, a small hand shot down through the smoke and pulled mightily. It kept Indy from dying instantly even as his legs burned. Above him squatted Angelina. She wrapped her other hand around his wrist and leaned back, groaning.
Indy would not allow her effort to go unanswered. He grabbed a hold of the pit's lip with his left hand and pulled, ignoring the wrenching pain of his broken arm, and expended every last bit of energy he had hauling himself up and out of the pit. He collapsed to the ground beyond and, with Angelina's help, rolled over and over in an effort to extinguish the fire that had burned away the entirety of his pants below the knees.
When it was safe to stop, Indy sat up slowly and looked to the floor of the pit and the fate of his two-day-old friend. Atop Ix Mun's prostate body the last jaguar sat chewing. Indy looked away.
The remaining Maya had retreated into the safety of the jungle, leaving behind the bodies of those who had been shot in the surprise ambush. Indy looked to the southern edge of the clearing where the Indian warriors had managed to carry the fighting to a hand-to-hand level. The tide of battle seemed to turn, however, as several men dressed in modern-day clothing broke through their defensive line.
Indy grabbed Angelina by the hand and pulled her towards the jungle on the far side of the clearing. "If that's who I think it is," he gasped, "we don't want to be around if they win, and we certainly don't want to be in the mine."
"Why?" the woman asked.
"Vargario could care less about mythic gods and guardian spirits. We'll be safer in the jungle."
As they neared the northern edge of the clearing, a second party of invaders charged from the undergrowth, armed to the teeth. Indy skidded to a stop 50 feet in front of them and grimaced in irritation. The leader of the party advanced into the firelight and his eyes bulged at the sight of the battered and burned archaeologist before him.
"You..." Vargario said under his breath.
Indy gave him the finger.
"Kill them!" the Spaniard screamed. As the men about him raised their guns, Indy spun and pulled Angelina back towards the temple steps, bullets throwing up geysers of dirt at their heels.
"But Indy," Angelina said, "you said not to go into the temple-"
"I know, I know - just do it!"
They ran up the steps and through the black stone arch, Vargario and his men in close pursuit....
The temple was shallow inside, with only a few rooms branching off to either side of the main chamber. Torches flickered anxiously at several points about the walls illuminating a stunning collection of bas-reliefs and paintings in the style of the classic Maya period. Each appeared to be a representation of Itzama in one of his many forms. Man, cat and bird among others, but most terribly a snake. Indy grabbed one of the torches and continued forward past the artwork.
From outside, Vargario's voice could be heard shouting orders to his men. Once, Indy thought, he heard the Merida's voice as well. "The gang's all here," he whispered under his breath.
At the back of the main temple, a narrow staircase descended through the floor into darkness below. Indy looked down cautiously and then peered back toward the main entrance. The wide beams of flashlights and lanterns began to work their way through the arch - Vargario was following them. "Down it is honey," he said, leading Angelina by the hand. "We'll have to try and lose them in the mine and get into the jungle later."
In the clearing outside, Vargario and his men congregated at the foot of the temple steps. <"What did I tell you, men?"> the portly archaeologist crowed. <"These Indian savages are no match for modern weapons and men with the will to fight for what they want. At the top of this staircase lie riches undreamed of - and it's ours for the taking!"> At this a cheer went up from the mercenary crew.
<"And,"> Esteban Merida continued, <"to show your appreciation at the acquisition of such wealth, I would ask that you hunt down and destroy the man we have trapped inside - Indiana Jones!"> At this, a second cheer went up while Vargario and Merida worked their way to the top of the steps.
Suddenly, one of the mercenaries cried out. <"Señor Carlos!"> Vargario turned. The man on the steps below looked pale and frightened, his hand outstretched toward the jungle opposite, his finger rigidly pointed.
Vargario squinted against the darkness and shuddered at what he saw. There, amassed by the hundreds at the clearing's edge, stood a small army of Maya warriors, each one dressed in armor of dark leather and bone. Each man on the ground carried a sword or club of obsidian and a shield of fired wood. Others clung to the branches and boles of the trees like monkeys, grinning hideously.
A chill ran down Vargario's spine and a cold sweat broke out all over his body. <"Esteban,"> he said quietly, <"get the dynamite.">
Halfway down the staircase, Indy heard an immense roar. It sounded like a stampede tearing across the clearing outside, only it was accompanied by an eerie screaming, like that of the jungle cats he had so recently fought. Soon after, more gunshots ensued and the booming sound of what could only have come from his own pack of explosives. Above them, the land of the Maya had turned into a war zone.
He quickened his pace downward and soon after they reached the bottom - a large square chamber, completely unadorned accept for black paint on the walls. The paint appeared to spell out something in Mayan pictograms, but Indy had no time to determine what. Opposite him yawned a massive portal dug into the very wall of the ridge. It was the entrance to the Mine of Itzama.
A light flickered above them at the top of the stairs. Indy surmised that Vargario and his men had finally entered the temple and were descending after them. He pulled Angelina forward and they disappeared into the tunnel.
Merida had led a very brief battle against the charging Maya forces to no avail. Half of the Spanish mercenaries were slaughtered only seconds into the combat. Igniting the dynamite had only succeeded in enraging the advancing warriors. It was then that Vargario dropped any pretense of bravery and ran moaning into the temple. Merida and the other survivors soon followed.
Indy and Angelina followed the tunnel for a good five minutes before it opened wide into a vast chamber, hundreds of yards long and perhaps half as wide. Fat ribbons of silver painted the walls with zebra-like stripes. Black holes stood gaping along the base of each wall at 50-foot intervals. Above the largest of these was carved an immense bas-relief of a snake flying across the sky. The look on its face was one of terrible anger and rage. It was Itzama the Protector, Itzama the Avenger - Itzama the Destroyer.
"I hate snakes," Indy whispered.
"What?" Angelina asked, glancing over at him.
"Nothing. Just...run for one of those caves across the way. We're going to have company soon and I want to be well ahead of them. If you smell anything funny, say something. I didn't come all this way to get asphyxiated."
They made their way towards one of several tunnel openings and ducked inside just as the lights from Vargario's party poured through the massive mine's entrance. His men whistled in amazement and they all slowed, challenged to take the overwhelming site in at a glance. Merida, however, stayed alert.
<"There,"> he said, pointing. <"I just saw another light. In that tunnel.">
Vargario looked to the entrance so recently entered by Indy and Angelina and chuckled. <"Fine,"> he said. <"First we kill Jones, then we worry about the Maya."> And they raced across the rocky ground, hot on Indy's trail.
Within minutes, Indy reached the end of the tunnel. It appeared to have collapsed, with rubble strewn so high as to block further progress. "Damn!" the archaeologist cursed. "This is bad."
His words couldn't have been truer. From back down the tunnel he heard the advance of Vargario's party and the increasing glow of their lights. He pushed his own torch into the rock floor and ground it out, hoping to hide in the shadows. It was no use. Vargario was coming all the way to the end.
Indy bent down and pulled away some of the rocks from the earlier collapse. Angelina moved to assist. They lifted and heaved with every last once of strength they could muster, moving as many rocks as possible. They knew Vargario was coming for the kill and nothing more.
And then, bright light and a chuckling voice brought their exertions to a halt. "Indiana Jones and Angelina Morales, indeed this is a surprise," Vargario laughed. "It seems that even though we've both found the silver, we'll all have a bit more trouble taking it than expected."
Indy placed his hand against one of the fallen stones and leaned over wearily. "How did you do it?" he asked. "How did you find the way?"
Vargario shrugged. "You showed us, my friend. My men pursued you following your flight from our camp and one of them - a tracker - spotted evidence of your passage to the river. One of you had cut a way in through the jungle growth. It was apparent by the marks along the riverbank that you had taken a canoe - I assume it belonged the Maya we...found the day before.
In any case, you could have only taken it downstream given the speed of the current. We followed along on both sides, looking for where you may have returned to shore. Imagine our surprise when we realized you hadn't bothered to get out before the waterfall. Within that grotto we found your canoe, but no tracks showing that you'd continued down river on foot. You were either dead or had gone somewhere else."
Indy interrupted. "So you searched around and stumbled upon the cave."
"Quite so. It took a day or two, but we did it. We exited on this side of the ridge, and imagine our surprise when we saw the firelight of an immense Indian migration moving through the trees below us."
"So you followed..."
"So we followed." Vargario smiled. "You know Indiana, you really are rather bright. But if you hadn't come to try and stop me, I'd never have found this land to begin with." He turned to his men. "Someone kill them please."
At that instant, Indy turned his back to Vargario in defiance and pulled one last rock from the crumbled wall with a heave. Several other rocks fell to the side, taking out the supports beneath one large stone that rolled backwards into the tunnel beyond. Indy looked past the opening in surprise, as a slight breeze wafted outward. It stank horribly prompting exclamations of disgust from everyone in the tunnel.
Quickly, the breeze picked up speed and turned into a full-blown wind. Indy tried to sneak a quick breath of fresh air before it was blown down the tunnel but he failed. The archaeologist choked miserably. "Poison gas!" he wheezed.
Vargario, Merida and their men began coughing uncontrollably and turned to flee back up to the tunnel exit. Indy grabbed Angelina by the arm and followed as quickly as he could, dizziness already beginning to overtake his senses.
As they ran, Indy felt his heart begin to pound, a feeling of dread overwhelming his senses. They broke from the confines of the tunnel to find Vargario and his men wandering aimlessly about the cavern. Some had fallen to their knees, weeping. What the hell was going on, the archaeologist thought. The stench was all about them now, the wind from the mine invading the larger cave.
Indy, racked with a sense of growing anxiety, forced himself to march forward towards the exit. Unexpectedly, Angelina pulled her wrist from his hand and put her palms to her face and screamed. Indy turned toward her cautiously, his fear growing to an almost unbearable level. She sank to her knees, weeping and crying out for her mother, asking for her protection.
Indy's mind began to swim and it became difficult to tell exactly what was happening. Men seemed to be running or collapsing all about him, some tearing their clothes, others physically wounding themselves with their own knives and guns.
In the middle of the chamber, Indy spotted Carlos Vargario and Esteban Merida, facing each other, their eyes wide with terror, lips drawn back to expose teeth and gum. Slowly, as Indy watched, each man drew his weapon....
Vargario's heart pounded furiously. He'd never been as frightened in his entire life. Before him stood an unholy beast unlike anything he'd ever seen or imagined. With great claws and a hideously deformed head from which finger-length fangs protruded, the creature howled, tensing for a leap at the Spaniard's throat. Vargario's bladder failed him then, but he didn't even notice. As if driven by instinct alone, he drew his gun and aimed it at the monster's heart.
Merida stood motionless. The...thing before him should not have been alive. It couldn't have been! It appeared to be some sort of massive wolf, but it had been turned inside out, its pink skin slick with blood. Merida's gorge began to rise, but with a fierce effort he forced it back down again and drew his machete from the sheath at his thigh.
Indy watched as the two men circled one another slowly, and then, as if by some common signal, they attacked one another. Vargario raised his gun with a cry and fired it into Merida's hip. The lawman savagely backhanded Vargairo with his machete in response, lopping off the curator's hand, sending the gun flying. Both bellowed in fear and rage, ignoring their horrible wounds in order to battle the hideous things each man saw before him. Vargario, his legs unsteady, drew his own machete. There was a brief pause, each man looking sadly at the other before falling to.
Indy turned away from the bloody carnage and bent down to pick up Angelina, who still spasmed and wept, unbearably afraid. As he did so, his eyes fell upon the mouth of the largest mine tunnel and the great serpent carved into the stone wall above it. The eye of the creature seemed to stare directly at Indy and he froze.
"Mu...mu...mu," he stuttered, his body grown stiff as if paralyzed. The massive snake hissed and tore itself from the wall, taking on three dimensions, fully-formed and uncannily real. Its silver scales gleamed in the firelight and venom dripped from its jaws. Indy closed his eyes tightly. "It's a hallucination, it's just a hallucination," he repeated to himself like a mantra.
He cracked open one eye to find the beast's head hanging just above his own. It breathed heavily in his face, acid spittle eating tiny pits in the surface of Indy's flesh. He closed his eyes again as uncontrollable tears ran down his cheeks. His heart pounded so hard that it ached and he began to have trouble breathing. He was going to have a heart attack! Then, the creature touched his face with its tongue and Indy screamed.
Cursing and praying at the same time, he fell to the ground and threw up his arms defensively. His heart pounded faster and faster, nearing the point where it would eventually burst. Indy opened his eyes one last time to say a prayer to his long-dead mother Anna, but his view of the ceiling was blocked by the thick cast on his arm.
The image startled him. Something about it reminded him of the snake, the snake from his dreams. Like the snake before him now - a waking dream! As he fought to make the connection, fear once more overwhelmed him and he screamed again. But this time he screamed in fury. What was he trying to remember?
And then, with a wave of insight, it came to him. His recent dreams had told him to "fear not the serpent." Why? Was it a message? A premonition? Snakes were his greatest fear - how could he not be afraid?
He looked at his cast again. What was the connection? The cast - the serpent. One covering, shielding, protecting...hiding. Like the snake rod from Australia. It too was silver, its outer form concealing a great secret, knowledge within. How could that possibly relate to the here and now? Except that...Itzama had many forms. His most terrifying was that of the
Protector, the snake. His most true form, however, was that of a kind...
The serpent before Indy began to waver, its dimensions becoming unclear, hazy about the edges.
The form grew smaller and yet more complex.
It came slowly into focus, glowing with a soft, silver light.
Indy looked up to see an elderly male Indian standing above him, a look of contentment and pride on his face. He seemed to radiate warmth and peace. As the beat of Indy's heart began to slow and his breathing returned to normal, the old man inclined his head and dissolved into the mist.
Although the stench of the fumes from the tunnel still hung heavy in the chamber, Indy found himself able to move about and function normally. Whatever the strange gas did, whatever that...thing was, Indy had beaten it.
All about him lay the remains of Vargario's men. Directly to his right rested the corpse of the curator himself and his twisted partner Esteban Merida. One lay atop the other, each man hacked to death by his friend. It was an ironic and just end for the two villains - each one a true serpent of evil.
Indy ignored the bodies and ran to Angelina's side, supporting her head and chest with his good arm. "Indy?" she whispered.
"Yeah, honey, I'm here. You're gonna be okay, I just need to get you out of here."
She shook her head weakly. "I'm sorry," she murmured. "So sorr-"
She went limp in Indy's arms and he gently lowered her head to the floor where he sat by her side until dawn. Angelina Morales was dead.
As the early morning sun burned away the jungle mist, Indy staggered from the entrance of the temple, Angelina held tightly in his arms like a child. At the base of the main staircase stood the three Maya priests and several elders, all watching him closely. Indy nodded toward them and began his decent, ready to accept whatever curse...or blessing...they might have to offer.
The road back to civilization was a long and difficult one. The Maya had allowed Indy to go free claiming that his survival of Itzama's wrath showed him to be one of the god's favored. They had given Angelina a proper Maya burial, which Indy imagined she would've liked, and had disposed of the other bodies in a fashion the archaeologist begged to be kept ignorant of.
They sent him from the hidden city with a small escort of warriors who paddled him far down river to the nearest large town, one with a hospital that might be capable of tending to his numerous wounds.
In Cancun, the last stop on his journey before returning to the States, Indy collapsed onto the bed of his tiny hotel room and yawned. He had showered, shaved and eaten a large meal. A brand new cast, white as snow, encased his left arm while salves and bandages comforted the other wounds on his body. As he closed his eyes, a surprising sense of peace washed over him, and in seconds, before he could slip out of his clothes, Indy fell into a deep, deep sleep.
It was a dream that began in Australia.
Indy slept at the base of Ayers Rock, a small cozy fire burning gently beside him. He opened his eyes briefly and stretched, a cool wind playing with his hair. Half a dozen snakes lay positioned about him protectively; their heads turned out toward the darkness. Indy smiled at the sight of their graceful forms and closed his eyes, allowing himself to sleep once more. For the fourth time in as many weeks he had dreamed of snakes - but this time he was not afraid.
Epilogue IIIAt the base of Ayers Rock, a campfire burned within a circle of stones. A lone aborigine sat on a rock next to it, quietly humming to himself, the occasional pop and crackle of wood his only companion.
Some time later, an unnatural sound began, a whirring noise, rough and soothing at the same time. The air about the fire began to cloud over, the flames themselves turning to a cool mist. Within, the hazy forms of six men began to take shape, several of them spinning bull-roarers. As the definition of their bodies solidified, they stepped from the mist, each one clearly an Aborigine. The one sitting by the fire addressed them in their native tongue.
<"Our friend is well?">
The men nodded.
<"Good. Then Indiana Jones has passed the test of Yurlunggur - and our debt to him is paid....">
Site Author: Micah Johnson
Page Author: walker
Created: Oct. 2, 1999
Last modified: October 2, 1999