Pacachuti’s Curse

PACHACUTI’S CURSE

By Charles E.J. Moulton

 

Timothy Jeffries grew up knowing that he was related to the incas. His mother lay the family tree on the table and told the boy to study it. As he studied it, she held a lecture. There was a test at the end of the period.

“See? The second cousin of the Inca king Pachacuti left Peru in the 16th century with a conquistador in order to live in Europe. This was due to a war between the the torn Inca empire and its rival tribe, the Chimor. The Inca boy grew up as a European and eventually had two children with an Italian noble woman. One of these children married the Duke of Kent and the rest was, as they say, history.”

The relation to the Incas a was given prominent place in the Jeffries’ archive. A picture of Pachacuti hung upon the wall right next to the photo of Queen Elisabeth II. A map of Peru hung over the Steinway next to the map of Oxford.

In effect, Pachacuti was as familiar to Timothy as any odd neighbour would be to his friends. He visited Peru many times and saw the statue of the great Inca king upon the great open place in Lima. He trekked with his parents down the pathways around Chachapoyas and researched the Karajia sarcophagi.

This fascinated him so much that he decided to make teaching history a profession.

Timothy became an Oxford graduate at age 30, receiving a doctorate in history with a thesis on ancient South American cultures.

Consequently of everyone in his family having spent their entire life at Oxford, Timothy Jeffries and his family were as British as it was possible to be and, although the relation was remote, it was finally something to be proud of in 21st century Oxford to be the great-grandson of a famous Inca king.

The Jeffries moved into a large house and became absolutely one to one with everything that Oxford stood for. Other than that, they lived and breathed University. Their entire family consisted of teachers. His mother Deirdre Lewiston–Jeffries was a professor of English at Lady Margret Hall and his father had taught Geography at Exeter. His wife Amanda Jeffries–Carruthers was a music teacher at the most prominent academy in town. Their son studied at a boy’s school that was regarded as a direct link to the University.

The home was filled with Sunday nights of Lord Byron recitation and trips to the Albert Hall proms were arranged every year. When Lady Di and Charles married the family were gathered around the telly and cried. When the princess died almost two decades later the family cried as well. There were discussions about the current effects of British politics on university life. Edward Elgar was regarded as vital a composer as Gustav Holst. George Friedrich Handel was mentioned only in connection with two works: The Messiah and The Water Music, because both had connection to English history.

This family was highly intellectual, but it was life based on knowledge on a theoretical basis. History would now catch up with Timothy and the wings of change would again flap its’ menace and challenge what the professor thought was evident.

That Ides of March, Caesar returned. Hail Caesar! Charon arrived with a message from a forgotten queen that wasn’t Cleopatra.

It was the 15th of March 2008. Timothy had been teaching scholars about the war of the roses. Shakespeare had been mentioned as had the BBC. He had prepared next day’s lectures and then telephoned with his daughter Emma in London, who was rehearsing the play “Much Ado About Nothing” at the London Drama School. She had given herself the stage name Smythe as an actress and this bothered Timothy.

Amanda and Timothy sat down with their teenage son Simon and watched a rerun of John Cleese in Fawlty Towers after dinner. It was business as usual. At ten thirty they all went to sleep, but Simon snuck into the PC room and googled some sites about glamour models.

It was two in the morning when Timothy woke up drenched in sweat. His heart was beating so fast that his wife, who sat up startled in bed next to him, thought she saw it beating through his pyjama shirt.

The nightmare had been thus vivid that his inner vision seemed saturated in hell. A skull had rolled around on a small wheel toward him, its’ long and black hair crowned with a gilded ruby crown. What he remembered most were the eyes. They had been glowing with such a menace that Timothy found it hard to calm down in his awakened state. The skull had opened its’ jaws and screamed that its’ name was Pachacuti and that she was a queen of the Chachapoyas. She told him that he soon would be dead if he didn’t watch his step.

In the dream, Timothy had fallen down somewhere on the lawn of a dinner party in his brother Roland’s estate. The skull chased him crawling over to a golf course and he had seen the head on the squeaking wheel approach him with steady and solemn menace.

Timothy’s wife put her hand on her husband’s back and gave it a gentle rub. She kissed his neck and played with his the hairs on the back of his hair. She knew he liked that.

“A skull on a wheel,” Timothy said, half laughing to himself and disbelieving what he was saying. “I was at a dinner party over at Roland’s and we were chatting about golf, when this blackened female skull with long hair and a golden crown came rolling up to me clicking its’ teeth at me. It said that it was Pachacuti. It had long hair and a golden crown.”

Amanda sniggered. “Pachacuti was a man, dear. You sure it was a woman?”

“Positive,” Timothy nodded. “It told me that it would kill me.”

Amanda sighed.

Timothy and Amanda sat there for a few minutes and watched the branches of the trees sway in the breeze, the light of the full moon throwing shadows on their floor and looking like arms reaching for their feet.

“I’m sure that it isn’t anything to be worried about,” she said.

“Have you been under stress lately?”

Timothy shook his head. “Just the same old give and take, correcting papers and preparing lectures.” Tim shrugged. “I mean, you know the work. There is always some stress, but I am so loved at the university that I would be silly to complain. It surprises me to have dream like this.”

Amanda sighed again and felt that she had to segue this conversation into something peaceful before it turned into something more sinister.

“Go back to sleep,” Amanda said and lay down on her beige pillow with matching hearts. “Come into my arms.”

Timothy lay down next to his wife and he willingly held her tight and tried to go back to sleep. He tried to sleep and although the feeling of terror subsided it would not go away.

After laying awake until about four in the morning, he managed to sleep. Putting on his suit and tie, he had Amanda serve him food while he leafed through The Times. As Timothy ate his eggs and bacon, Simon came in yawning and grabbed a piece of toast with jam.

Timothy recounted in nauseating detail how the skull had chased him across the lawn. There was a long silence, only interrupted by Amanda caressing Timothy’s face.

“Dad,” Simon finally said, “is the skull invited for breakfast?”

“No, not really,” Timothy said. “Let’s adjourn this, shall we?”

His wife cleaned up, Timothy drove Simon to school. Thinking about the dream, he drove in his Volvo over to Turl Street and attended a conference. Amanda took the Aston Martin to the music academy to teach her first student at ten o’clock. Perfect alumni existence continued, while the queen lurked around the corner.

Timothy kept seeing the skull everywhere, even in the restrooms. He even shrieked when he thought he saw the skull approaching him on a school yard, until he realized it was a soccer ball.

Why did a female tell him she was Pachacuti? He thought he knew everything about South American history. Here he was, the great-great-grandnephew of the king himself, dreaming of a woman claiming to be Pachacuti.

He telephoned with his brother Roland, who was taking a break between his lectures at Exeter. Roland laughed at the dream, saying that his brother had only had a silly hallucination. Timothy tried to believe his brother, but kept on persisting that there had been something real about it. Especially the part where the skull had threatened to kill him. Roland insisted that there was no curse. Pachacuti had put no curse on an Oxford professor of history for writing a bad thesis.

Timothy kept on jabbering, so Roland said he had held a lecture about hallucinations and their psychological aspects a year ago. Most certainly, Timothy was experiencing his own female side reacting to his Pachacuti complex. He had become history professor because of Pachacuti and now, settled down, he was realizing that Pachacuti had been a person as well and was coming to terms with this. Roland didn’t believe for a second that it was a signal from the underworld about some other queen actually being called Pachacuti.

Timothy had another theory. The meaning of that name Pachacuti was “the Earth-shaker”. Now, there could’ve been another Pachacuti during the 9th century Chachapoyas cult. The language of Quechua had 46 dialects and one version of it was bound not to have changed that much up until 1438. The name Pachacuti had most certainly meant the same thing back then in Chachapoyas. Too little was known about the cults during those days. The Kualpa palace, yes. That was famous. All the mummies and all the treasures. However, the hidden history was vast.

Maybe Exeter had some old books that entailed some stories that could help Timothy find out if he was right. Roland said that he could come over anytime and they would go over and check.

The idea was put on hold and so it didn’t take long for Timothy’s nightmares to return. This time, he saw the skull on the wheel break into his house and chew on his foot. It left Timothy waking up screaming.

At first, Timothy endured the nightmares. The skull would scream at him, haunting him to tears, panting in his ear. He was chased by the skull down the university hallways and it robbed him of the peace he so badly needed. At one point, the skull broke into a lecture hall and attacked the students.

Finally, Timothy’s wife Amanda insisted on psychotherapy in order to find out why these dreams were haunting him. Simon was getting tired of hearing about his dad’s encounters with the monster. He welcomed a change. Even Emma was worried. The weekend she wasn’t performing she drove over to Oxford and saw her father brooding in a corner. Her dad looked sick and pale.

On Timothy’s behalf Amanda called Roland. He promptly answered that he knew a very good therapist a two hour drive away who was a dream specialist. He was expensive, but was deemed one of the finest in the country.

The entire family decided to make it a family vacation. Three days on a farm ten minutes away from the therapist would be a fine thing. That would be the ticket away from the nightmares.

The therapist performed a hypnosis on Timothy that showed that he was worried about really being haunted by Pachacuti. All in all, the therapist said it was a misconception to talk him out of this. For a while the nightmares stopped, but once back in Oxford they grew worse.

As far as a family vacation was concerned, the trip was a success. Buying hours from the most expensive therapist in England was a flop. All he could say was that Timothy probably really was having some sort of premonition.

That did it. He knew that Exeter had an extensive library of historical documents. Roland offered to help him search the library. Many hours were spent among old historical books that wrote about the rise and fall of the Inca empire.

By this time, Timothy’s nightmares had grown much worse. They were more intense and more gruesome. They had no success in finding any other queen who had called herself Pachacuti.

The research was taking a lot out of Timothy. He spent the days in his own university and the evenings in Exeter. All this meant that he rarely was seen home. He was obsessed about finding the female Pachacuti.

The result was a very worried Amanda that found a tired and rather sweaty husband crawling into bed at eleven o’clock each night.

The nightmare that occurred during one of these nights took this worrying tale to a different level entirely.

He now saw a public execution. It was the woman, whose skull had chased him down the lawn and she was being killed on a public platform. The woman was beautiful and young, but there was something fanatic about her in that beauty. She was standing on a cliff held by three very strong, tall men that looked too pale to be South American Indians. On the other hand, the Inca tribes had spoken of the Chachapoyas as pale skinned and pale haired and so Timothy felt that this actually fit the historical description very well about the physical aspect of the tribe.

This woman had hair as black as coal and that probably made her exotic among these people. There was something about her eyes. They were glowing, but this wasn’t the glow of happiness. This was the glow of hatred. She hated everyone, including herself.

Timothy knew nothing about this woman, only that he didn’t want to know her. She was shouting at the crowd to be quiet, speaking in a language that must have been an obscure dialect of Quechua. Timothy had heard Quechua spoken in the mountains of Peru and even in Chachapoyas itself, but this dialect was different than anything he had heard. The strange thing was that he knew what the woman was saying. He understood her.

There were around thousand people standing around the cliff and they all were shouting “Pachacuti, Smira!” in rabid chants, which meant “Pachacuti, die!”

He didn’t know who was scarier, the queen or the crowd. Obviously, this was a revolt and the people were executing their oppressor. She was screaming at them and they were screaming back.

She told them that once she died she would come back to haunt them, that the head they were chopping off would end up rolling around the world on a wheel and killing every one that had stopped her. She would track down every one of the culprits and kill them.

There was a fourth, huge man among the people and he came with a huge bronze axe. He pushed away the other men and kicked the queen to the ground below the cliff. In one swift swoop the axe landed on her throat and cut off the queen’s head. The crowd cheered as the head flew across the hedges and landed in a tree.

When the killer ran to fetch the head, it was gone.

The crowd ended up frenetically looking for the head that was nowhere to be found.

Timothy saw the familiar skull rolling away from the village, its’ one wheel giving off that familiar squeak.

Timothy was never the same again.

He refused to speak of the dreams that he had had and he refused to speak to anyone. Amanda spent hours and hours trying to squeeze some information out of him as to what that last dream had been about.

The leading council of Jesus College knew under what strain Timothy had been. They assured Amanda that they would keep him in the staff and let him get over his problems before they took any drastic measures. They would hire a substitute and wait until Timothy Jeffries got well. He would receive his checks as he always had. They believed in his recovery. They believed Timothy would get well.

Amanda was afraid that Timothy was lost.

He started drinking quite heavily, literally emptying a bottle a day. There was no way of stopping him.

Instead of working, Timothy now spent the entire day in Exeter researching the archives and then going out and getting drunk. He would take the car and drive as far as London in order buy some expensive Kensington  escort girl and take her to a motel.

When he came back home at midnight, he stunk of cheap wine and cheap perfume. He reeked of sweat and tobacco and booze and dust from old beds. This was not the eloquent connoisseur that she had married twenty-two years ago. This was a crazy, obsessed drunk.

One morning when Timothy was too lazy to get up, Amanda demanded he tell her what was happening or she would file for a divorce. Timothy told her to go screw herself and disappeared into the pouring rain.

Amanda and the children spent the whole day searching for Timothy. They had the police and the entire neighbourhood on their feet trying to find him.

At ten o’clock in the evening, after having wandered in the wilderness for hours, Timothy barged into the Jeffries’ house in Oxford bloody and wet. He fell down on the hallway floor, cuts and bruises all over his body. What was even worse was that he had traces of something with one wheel having rolled over his body over and over again.

Amanda called the ambulance.

Upon arrival at the hospital, Timothy was diagnosed as being in a coma and this was a state in which he would stay indefinitely. Amanda didn’t know for sure, but it seemed to her that her husband would stay in this state until she found a solution to the problem.

Maybe there was something to this Pachacuti curse after all?

Wait a minute. Had she really said that? Was this a curse? Now, this thing had obviously attacked her husband.

The very next day, distraught to the bone, Amanda jumped into the Aston Martin and drove over to Roland’s estate. In tears, she asked him to help her search the archives for any trace of a Chachapoyas cult with a queen that had been beheaded in 9th century Peru.

Roland was frightened to hear her speak so openly about a thing that Timothy only could speak of in riddles. Roland did help her get access to the archives, but there was not much he could do other than help her search and act as moral support. After a week of assistance, Roland told her that he had been neglecting his work and needed to go back to his lectures. He would visit Timothy and pray for his recovery, but as far as the Pachacuti thing went Amanda was on her own.

For days and weeks, Amanda read about Inca cults and searched every possible nook and cranny for any trace of an earlier queen named Pachacuti. She felt she was getting nowhere. In fact, her children Emma and Simon were fearing for their mother’s life and decided to stop her. They made a mutual effort and went to the back room to find her and take her away before she, too, was going to fall into a coma. Amanda almost gave up and chucked the whole thing, leaving the library and telling herself that it was useless. She returned the same day a few hours later. Something was telling her that she was going to find the clue that day.

The mother of Emma and Simon was sitting next a large mahogany table and reading a book, written in the 1980’s labelled Chachapoyas: The Hidden Truth. It had been written by a man named Luis Julio Riano. Her expression was one of a vacancy. She seemed as if in a time long before their own.

She had found the truth. Timothy’s dream had been a premonition.

Both children tried to convince her that this had gone far enough, that their father was in a coma and …

Amanda urged them to listen. Their father had been attacked by something with one wheel. Amanda had a feeling that he would only wake up if they really found the truth about this queen. They, as a family, were related to the original Inca king by 15 generations and maybe the earlier queen was an ancestor to the more famous Pachacuti. Maybe, just maybe, there was really a truth hidden here somewhere.

The children sat down and began listening. As the big wooden clock to the left of the Washington Irving section began playing the Big Ben melody, Amanda began telling them the story of the evil queen. The book in question was rather sensationalist, to say the least, but in regards of the situation, this book told them exactly what they needed to hear.

This occurred over a thousand years ago. A young girl named Nima had grown up around the Huabayacu river sometime in the 9th century. Her tribe was a peace loving tribe that rarely did anything else than sculpt animal figurines and harvest wheat and occasionally make bronze artefacts to sell at the local market.

The girl was rather exotic looking, her black hair and dark features different than her fellow people’s pale skin. Her temper was wild and her father was very strict as a result of this temper. Instead of soothing her, he began beating her up to succumb her rage. This resulted in even more hatred and the effect was that the father one day became the victim of a daughter’s anger. The father was dumped into the Huabayacu river, but as he surfaced a day later it became obvious that Nima had murdered the man.

The tribe had never known crime before and the girl was driven out of the village and became a recluse. She moved to the mountains into a cave and stayed there for years and so she became a tall and stately woman.

Watching the life in the village from a distance, she swore one day to take revenge on her tribe. Nima lived on the animals she learned to hunt with her bare hands and swore to hunt her enemies in the same way.

One day, there was a terrible earthquake and the only thing that was left intact was the hill where Nima lived. Her cave had been spared. As she walked down into the village, the tribe realized who she was. They also realized that she was the only one that had been spared. Half of the population was gone and all the houses were destroyed. Nima decided to help them rebuild their village, but only if  they agreed to make her queen.

A reign began that would again restore the village to a seldom seen grandeur, three of the most gruesome and horrible years in Chachapoya history.

Nima gave herself a new name: Queen Pachacuti. Inspired by the earthquake, meaning “the Earth-shaker”, she beheaded anyone with another opinion than her own. Soon enough, the people were so afraid of her that they began believing that she actually was a Goddess that had brought on the earthquake and would beget another one if they did something wrong.

Hundreds of people were tortured and whipped. Temples were built and the finest food prepared. Queen Pachacuti was in a constant state of intoxication and she would call for male slaves to please her in return for freedom. If they disagreed to succumb to her dominant and very menacing lust, they were whipped and sometimes even killed.

The catalyst for the revolt was her treatment of a young boy. He was a very tender boy, known in the village as one of the most gentle of people. During a week long session with queen, he fell victim to the most brutal of treatments and was then dumped bloody and beaten outside the main palace.

The boy was taken care of by his father, who fled with him into a neighbouring city and was never heard from again.

The queen’s vile treatment of the young boy started a chain reaction that had the villagers storming the castle with the aim of overthrowing her. Thousands of individuals grabbed whatever they got their hands on and broke down the gates. They ran into the queen’s throne hall, her and dragged her to the highest cliff in town. All the preceding executions had been held here and now the queen herself was about to suffer the same fate.

Shortly before her execution, Queen Pachacuti swore to return after her death to haunt the village.

The head that was cut off from her body that day was never found. It was reported to have been seen from time to time rolling on one wheel and killing its’ victims by rolling over them again and again. Timothy Jeffries was obviously the latest in a long line of victims. The headless body of the queen rested in a cave behind the Karajia sarcophagi and anyone who had suffered the fate of meeting the queen would only be awakened if the head would be brought to rest along with the body and sunk into the bowels of the underworld.

Emma and Simon didn’t want to admit it, but they really had thought all along that searching the internet would’ve been a better solution to research than leafing around mouldy books. Amanda said that she really had searched all she could, but found nothing that specified locations. If there had been a cult somewhere, it would’ve been good to know where this cult had been and if there were any current experts that knew where to look. If the author of this book still were alive, they could maybe find some clues as to what to do next.

Simon, ever the web expert at his young age, turned on the PC at home and started searching for an author called Luis Julio Riano. Drinking coke and eating Hershey bars on a stormy Friday evening, he looked like the perfect cliché of a crazy reporter trying to save the day, Emma called him “a modern Ernest Hemmingway” and “our own little Indiana Jones”.

Simon waved all that away with the pretext of saving their lives.

At eleven o’clock at night, he called his mum and Emma in to the headquarters with a sunny smile on his chops.

Emma came rushing in first. Amanda came in with curlers in her hair and her nightgown slightly open. They carefully read what it said on the document.

Luis Julio Riano had written the thesis about his book about the cult and pointed out the exact place where the queen had been executed. Just like they had suspected, the body was hidden behind the Karajia sarcophagi. It was rumoured that the head returned to its’ mummified  body once a year on its’ death day 14th of August. If the legend really was true, the queen for one brief moment the dawn of that morning just before sunrise transformed into a real woman. If the spell really was to be broken, a real ancestor would have to be present at the transformation and push her into the coffin, this time entombing her for real and letting all the souls rest in peace.

They found no e-mail, just a phone number and a dated address of a probably not correct Lima apartment.

The very next morning, Amanda called that phone number and a woman answered the phone. In broken English, the woman answered that the man was not living there anymore and she had no way of finding out where he was. They left their home number with the woman just in case he would resurface.

They had hit a snag. Neither Amanda nor the children knew what to do. They were just about leave the house, when the phone rang. When Simon answered, a man spoke to him in a very thick accent and told him that his name was Luis Riano. They had called him, he said, and he asked them what they wanted.

The family began describing their own story of the encounter with the queen.

There was a long pause and for a while the three English intellectuals thought they had lost contact with Lima. Mister Riano cleared his throat. He was clearly moved or frightened, Maybe, he was sad or happy or maybe he was everything at once.

He said something to someone in the background. It seemed to be the woman that they had spoken to earlier.

“Uhhm,” Luis Riano began, “you must forgive me my mistrust. There is a lot of terror in my community concerning this –,“ another long pause occurred, “– woman. I have never met someone that can prove they are related to her.”

Amanda looked at her children and her children looked at her. They were startled and surprised and completely flabbergasted.

“What was that again?” Emma asked. “You are saying that we are related?”

Luis Julio Riano was rustling with paper at the other end. “This is costing you a fortune, but I guess it doesn’t matter under the circumstances. Gracias, Nora. Sorry, my wife just gave me Pachacuti’s family tree. You see, I have devoted my life to researching the whole business with the two Pachacuti rulers and have probably written ten books on the subject. I am an old man now, but once I started claiming that the Queen Pachacuti was related to the Inca King a few years ago my books have been banned from the book stores. Unfortunately, it is true.”

Amanda sat down on her beige couch. “Mr. Riano, you have to take this from the beginning. You are saying that the two Pachacuti’s are related?”

“Yes,” Riano went on, “I found this out while I was researching in an old vault with artefacts from the old Chachapoyas cult. The boy that was raped by the queen was her son and the father that saved him was her husband.”

Simon shook his head. “Wasn’t this queen young? The boy must’ve been at least twelve?”

“He was ten,” Luis Julio Riano corrected. “At least according to the document that I found. His name was Rupac Alaco and he fled the village with his father right before the execution. They settled down in what was to become Cuzco, the navel of what was to become the Inca empire. I followed his ancestors 15 generations to the founder of the Inca empire that you claim to be related to. Rupac Alaco was the younger Pachacuti’s ancestor.”

Now it was Amanda’s and the children’s turn to take a long break in communication.

“Take your time to respond,” Luis said. “This is a lot to take in at once. You probably know what I am going to ask next.”

Emma interrupted, her voice calmed down to a husky whisper.

“Are there other people that can prove being related to her?”

Luis cleared his throat. “I have to ask you to repeat that.”

Amanda filled in for her daughter.

“My daughter just asked you if you know anyone else that can prove having this woman as … well, how shall we put this …”

“No,” Luis interrupted. “I cannot claim to know anyone else. You are the only ones.” There was rustling of paper again and an obvious search for words. “I can also claim to be the only one to have researched the topic. This is not a popular story. People want to forget this. Pachacuti was the founder of a giant empire and it is not popular to connect him with a namesake that spread hate across the land. The whole problem is that people keep disappearing and some people remain for years in a coma. It has to end.”

Luis cleared his throat again.

“August 14th is in seven weeks.”

Emma laughed cynically. “Well, it would be good to get some sun. Oxford does get a trifle too cold in the summer and London is a bit far away.”

“We do have some savings,” Simon chirped.

“What about dad?” Amanda said.

“We would be saving his life,” Emma said. “And he has Roland, who will visit him every day. We know that dad will wake up if we solve this shit.”

Amanda shrugged. “I suppose my parents and his parents can visit him now and then. We will tell the doctors to keep him under surveillance and not do anything until we come back.”

“They will think we are nuts. I mean, leaving dad and going on a vacation,” Simon spat.

“May I say something?” Luis chimed in at the other end of the line. The family all agreed that he may. “This woman has been troubling people for over a millennium. It is time you put a stop to it. She will trap and trip you. She will lie and tell you to go against family. Family is not the culprit. Family is the friend and everyone in your family is your friend and will live twice as long, bit only if you kill this thing. Blood relations can kill it. I can’t.”

These words decided their fate.

The Jeffries were rich and they did have enough money in the bank. Amanda called the relatives and explained to them what was happening. Some of them sneered and shook their heads. Others, like Roland, told them to go ahead and do it and that what they did was a noble thing.

The family decided on four weeks in Peru, invited to live in the Riano house. It turned out that Riano, in spite of having become a recluse over the last few years, was a very rich man.

Amanda even agreed to find a substitute for herself in the university. Her fill-in was a freelance pianist that had worked in another part of the county at the time and was very happy to be earning decent money for four weeks.

Emma cancelled her appointments in London and Simon put his studies on hold. This was family and family always comes first.

Luis Julio Riano was a seventy year old man, but remarkably fit for his age. Simon told him that he looked like a mixture between Anthony Quinn and Clark Gable. Luis laughed at this, claiming to be a big fan of both these actors.

Luis had a son. His name was Fernando just like the old king that sent Columbus on his journey. Just like Riano’s father, this 27-year old man was an expert on the subject of the Chachapoya cults and young enough to teach the Jeffries family a few tricks.

Luis’ wife Nora gave the family the meal of their lives. Simon loved spicy food. However, Amanda asked for the boring version of the meal. Luis joked: “Oh, the sissy alternative. You English women are incorrigible. You must learn how to dance Salsa.”

There was tomato soup with shrimps served with Martinis, Argentine Steak marinated in Barbados rum with Bolivian veggies served with local beer and Grenada cocoa bean stuffed nutmeg ice cream with Port wine. Since Simon was seventeen he was allowed to take part in the enjoyment of alcohol, but only under mum’s strict care.   It was a very fun evening with Luis teaching Amanda Salsa and Fernando teaching Emma Tango. Nora grabbed Simon and taught him Merengue.

Emma fell in love with Fernando. They spent the night on the porch getting drunk on Chilean red wine. The house was big and Amanda had no control over her daughter. She disappeared around midnight. The only thing she could hear were the groans coming from below.

It was the beginning of August and not much time was left to prepare for the expedition into the wasteland. The sturdy car was packed, the tents were folded, the camping equipment brought along, along with he compass, the ropes, the hooks, the boots, the sun glasses, the crème, the bug spray and the beef jerky.

Now, the first thing they had to know was that they could take the station wagon as far as Chachapoyas. Then, marching would take them many days. The drive from Lima would be long enough, but the stride would take the most of their strength. Luckily enough, there was always a piece of river to bathe in or a waterfall to jump into. Nevertheless, there was no mini bar to dive into and there were insects in the wilderness that they probably couldn’t even spell.

Timothy had taken his kids on one Peru trek. His own parents had brought him along three times, but still the Jeffries children had their own experience with wild life. Emma, Simon and their mother had already had their vaccinations and they knew about the malaria bugs and the ant eaters, the boas and the tapirs.

Not one word had been uttered about what they were getting into. Nora stayed at home and took care of the house. She seemed happy enough, but Amanda could see that she was afraid of what her two men were getting into: they were travelling into hell.

Luis kept saying that in Peru they were the lucky ones. Like in Bolivia, there was lots of poverty. The slums were vast. The unfinished cities were only not repaired in order to save the people from paying house tax. Certain places were not recommended for stops and a trip through the rough country was never wise without a guide. Timothy spoke Quechua. Luis thought as much. Amanda didn’t.

The relationship between Fernando and Emma was becoming intense and Emma was practicing more than just her Spanish.

Once the five adventurers embarked on their week long hike to the Karajia sarcophagi, Simon was tutored in what he was assigned to do when the queen decided to transform.

There was such a matter-of-fact tone of voice in Luis’ voice as he told Simon to push the queen back to hell that Simon really didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It was obvious that Simon, being the male ancestor in charge, had to take over and perform whatever task was there for him to do. Luis was not kidding. He was serious.

Simon couldn’t sleep. All he could hear was Fernando and Emma making hot love in the tent next to his. The bugs kept stinging him and he felt like he was going insane. Was it the Malaria or just the fact that he was about to wet his Johns?

The trek from Chachapoyas first went past a few villages that were so poor that they had no water and no electricity. The inhabitants regarded the well clad foreigners with a sceptic scrutiny that had Emma shiver. Amanda urged her to look away, but knew they were in luck when one of them offered them a meal.

Everything was all right until one of the villagers caressed her long and dark blond hair. Fernando defended her as well as told off the man that had flirted with her. He said that no one had seen hair like that before. Emma excused herself for screaming, where upon the man caressed her again. This time, rage was the result.

After sleeping on straw beds and trying to make love between bugs, Emma vowed never to return to this country again. She had forgotten how much she had hated it the first time.

The valleys and the mountains were quite demanding and everybody but Luis and Fernando had blisters on their feet. Not a word was being said. Fernando mostly took care of the provisions. He caught the fish, picked the fruit, shot the tapir and told Emma and the rest where they could wash off. If there was no place to wash off, a dry cloth would have to do.

Emma was told not to spray any perfume on her skin.

It would attract unwanted attention from the wild life.

Emma hated her own smell and longed for a bath.

She also started hating Fernando, because he didn’t hate how she smelled. In fact, he wanted more of her. She wanted her old boyfriend back or at least the bloke she had kissed in class.

In fact, it seemed that her smelling like a bunch of rotten fish actually turned him on. Men are pigs, she said to herself.

The moist air and the heat made Amanda faint. Luis tried to revive her and it wasn’t until the sunset that they could wake her up. They decided to camp right there in the jungle.

The next morning, Simon felt a tickling sensation all over his body and woke up to discover that he was full of ants. As a result, he jumped right into the Huabayacu river in order to rinse off. He came out free of ants, but dirtier than before. Just by an inch, he had missed being eaten by a carnivore water beast.

Another day’s march had the entourage meet a very friendly tribe of Indians that only spoke an obscure dialect of Quechua. Luis and Fernando explained why they were here and the result was that the entire village started crying and showered them with gifts.

The food they were given had a very peculiar taste, but they were bursting when they left that next morning. Simon was kissed by a Quechua girl and Emma even started enjoying herself in spite of smelling like a garlic factory. Amanda tried to communicate a good bye to one of the elders and he gave her a feather from a condor as a present and called her “his ripe fruit”. She giggled the whole day after that. Luis kept asking her why and she told him that she would’ve fallen over sideways if Timothy had ever called her that.

The walk across two bridges lead to a waterfall that actually had them looking at the Karajia sarcophagi, where they camped three days prior to the transformation.

The family was prepared for the horror they were about to witness by Luis, who told them at length that he had researched this subject for decades and knew nothing of what to expect. On the eve of the third day, Luis announced that it was time to journey into the pit.

The walk into the cave beyond Karajia was among the hardest the family had experienced yet. The steep and dark pathways were only a bit worse than the wet swamps over big holes in the ground.

God bless flashlights, Simon said as he narrowly escaped death.

He kept hearing bats fly around the cave and Luis reassured him that they weren’t vampire bats. All the way into the darkness, Fernando told Simon that the queen would most probably challenge them once she noticed someone was in the cave with her.

The best way to encounter her was to pray and not listen to the lies she told them. She would manifest into carnal form and that would be the time to confront her and tell her what no one had before. That she had abused her own son.

That night, Simon wet his own pants and spent the entire time crying.

Once at the centre of the cave, the mummy of the queen appeared before them. The headless corpse waited there for its’ counterpart to arrive and there was only one way to find out if the whole tale was accurate or not. The waiting was torture and Amanda began feeling like a coal miner trapped in a hole.

She did it for Timothy. That’s all she could think about. After all, she had experienced too much to just wave it off as superstition. This bitch was going to be laid to rest.

Emma felt like she was in a film. She had seen a bunch of adventure movies about explorers chosen by her brother himself. Simon had forced her to see them and she really hadn’t expected to like them as much as she did. This, however, was everything that these people in hats and capes were, except this was real and might kill them. She didn’t like it one bit. She leaned against Fernando, who comforted her with the touch of his tender furnish.

Simon was reminded of comics he had read about Inca curses he had read. It scared him to think of being here after having read stories he believed were made up, but this scared him even more. He was about to meet a real ghost.

The assembled explorers only saw the contours of the mummy on the other side of the cave. There were artefacts around it, but the coffin itself was small. Emma asked Luis why this coffin had not been removed or why these artefacts were not in a museum.

He answered that in this country they respected their dead and this woman was kept away from society. This was a tale that people wanted to forget. There were very few people who actually dared to come here.

The distinction was family. Queen Pachacuti was afraid of family. The expression “blood is thicker than water” was really the precise pinnacle to utter at this juncture. Only family could put her to rest and in this case Simon was Queen Pachacuti’s closest relative. A boy had been raped and as a result of that rape he had founded a dynasty. Now, another boy was avenging that other child and a story was coming to close.

Simon spent the whole night shivering. There was one piece of beef jerky left and he was munching on that and farting like a champion. Under different circumstances everyone would’ve laughed. Now they were in the dark and shining flashlights on an open coffin with a headless corpse in it.

Amanda and the children all wanted to run and forget the whole thing, but then they remembered Timothy and the fact that this was the only way they could get Timothy back.

Bats circled the cave and bugs seemed to chew on their heads.

Just when Emma felt a spider climbed her back, there was the faint sound of a wheel ascending the steep tunnel. The familiar panting sound of the mouth of the queen turned into a shriek that had her yelling in staccato tones and she started shattering. She spoke in her own Quechua dialect.

“I see we have visitors,” she laughed. “You are as good as dead now. Bitches and bastards that will rot in hell.” There was a long pause, but now it was not the pause of fear. It was the pause of a beast looking forward to a bigger steak than it had expected. “Ah, I see. Family is here. Timothy is the last of the Mohicans, so to speak. I shall be ready for him. Oh, but he is in stasis. Too bad. The gent is here. Simon. I shall have to decide whether to grill you or eat you raw.”

Simon’s eyes were wide open with fear and so were everyone else’s. The entire assembly now saw the skull bump down the ascent toward the coffin. It was like a staircase made of stone leading to a puddle and a cliff where the coffin stood before a doorway to a bigger hole. The whole place was a labyrinth.

It was perverse to see the skull hop down and up and back and forth up to its’ body. It laughed the whole way over there. Now it turned around and the group of travellers saw Pachacuti’s eyes glow in the dark with a hatred that left their oral cavity open. It was the long haired skull of a pirate. The golden crown shone in the darkness. Now the skull lifted off the ground. On a given signal, the coffin swung open and shut again. The coffin opened again and when it did the body inside came alive and shredded its’ bandages, finally adjoining with the head. Now, the entire cave turned into the scene from her execution 1111 years ago. The queen was dragged onto the cliff by a bloodthirsty mob.

Simon remembered. He wasn’t Simon anymore. He was the little boy that had been abused by his mother. He was standing with his father behind a bush and being urged to leave. Before the execution, he did leave and never came back until this day. Simon was about to finish a long tale, saving the Inca empire the children of his children had founded. He was a reincarnated spirit of a very troubled soul.

Now, Simon was working on instinct alone. He grabbed a flashlight and shot like a bullet down the slope. Queen Pachacuti saw him and recognized who he was. She shook her head, realizing that her son was now having his revenge at last instead of just leaving with his father and saying nothing.

The queen grabbed Simon by his chest and threw him into the coffin. The boy was gone. Luis, Amanda, Emma and Fernando stood up and screamed. All of them rushed toward the queen and it was as if the souls that replayed this event all did the same. They were about to finish off a demon that had been too powerful for too long. There was one single hand sticking out of the coffin and it was way to obvious that Simon was stuck between worlds.

Pachacuti now fought to keep him there and started wrestling with the four adventurers. She aimed to eat them, but Fernando took his airgun and shot a big hole in her head. She started bleeding and looked up at him with big empty eyes. She had become mortal.          Amanda rushed to the coffin and pulled Simon out of the other world. At the same time, Fernando threw in the entire body of the queen into the coffin and shut the lid. The crowd of souls that had witnessed this cheered and disappeared into the heavenly spheres.

It was the most beautiful sight to see these glowing souls sway and glitter as they were summoned back to the heavenly Lord.

When Luis a second later opened the coffin the entire body of the queen rested right there in its mummified tomb. The head was on its’ body as if it always had been there and a light rose toward heaven. Maybe, after all, the queen had found peace.

The dawn arrived and the five explorers found themselves by a campfire eating breakfast. Walking back through the jungle was tiresome. Fernando and Emma kept on making love and Simon kept on being bugged by ants. Luis was making passes at Amanda and the gents of the tribe kept touching Emma’s hair.

Once back in Lima, Nora had received word from Oxford.

Timothy was awake and, as far as he had heard, other victims of Pachacuti’s curse being lifted were waking up as well.

It was a glorious homecoming.

Fernando promised to come to Oxford one day. If not, then Luis would insist on inviting them to Lima for another bowl of chilli flavoured tomato soup and Chilenean wine. Peru was not around the corner. Emma had had a sexy fling with an Antonio Banderas look-a-like, but she knew that her place was in London. Besides, as good a lover as he was – that Fernando guy – there were plenty of nice colleagues to cuddle in Kensington. The nicest cuddle was Mister Drama himself and the career that he promised to offer.

Timothy was in rehabilitation for many months to learn to use his muscles again. Once he was back at work, it seemed so remote that he had been so desperate and, very soon, he started to teach again. He rarely drank wine anymore, he cooked traditional English food without any spices. Now and then, Simon, Amanda and himself enjoyed game of Monopoly and laughed at John Cleese and his very classy wit. Every Friday evening they watched Fawlty Towers together and the Saturday evening was reserved for Elgar, Britten and Holst. Well, Simon disappeared into his room and listened to the Sex Pistols on his MP3 player. It had never been so British.

In that dark corner of his mind, Timothy remembered having walked the paths of Hades. He had been caught between worlds and he had known that his son was being used as the ultimate weapon against a very old ruler.

One thing disappeared from the home altogether: the picture of Pachacuti. He was a part of their lives, but anything with that name was not peaceable enough to be a component of their ideal existence. Oh, and one more thing: any squeaking wheel was immediately fixed with a bottle of oil that was kept handy in the garage at all times.

At least until he was strong enough to remember his origins.

Better being bored than petrified was his motto and so Timothy Jeffries felt that there was no place like home. What had he searched for? The exotic. What had he found? That the peace of having a family could give you a fulfilment that the exotic could not provide.

In effect, there had been enough adventures for a life time.

Inca in all glory, being English really did mean having won first prize in the lottery of life.

Cecil Rhodes had been right about that.

Timothy vowed to concentrate on British history from now on.

At least, Queen Victoria didn’t chew on her subject’s feet.

She went crazy when somebody mentioned having been kissed, but there was no harm in that.

Mrs. Brown had her pride. Rule Britannia, chap. We Britons rule the waves.

Within the bowels of the Karijia Sarcophagi, though, a little sound echoed through the vaults.

The sound of one wheel turning.

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