"Within the depths of a heart of darkness, human kind builds a city of stone."



Toltaca called the dark wood graver. Toltaca called the hard stone hammers. Toltaca called the corn wife-mothers. Toltaca called the round ball players. Toltaca called the fierce jade warriors. Toltaca called the sacred priest-animals.

From the forest, hacked they broad, round plazas. In the plazas, built they great stone towers. Through the city, laid they straight paved avenues. Along the avenues, made they square box houses. Around it all, raised a sheer, high wall. Atop the wall stood watching children tasked to guard. In their company kept they sleek, fast dogs.

Outside the city brooded a vast, eternal forest. Without the forest and its many streams, the city could not be. Without the city, the forest would not be known.

Out of the forest, then, Toltaca called her people. In numbers vast as the trees, the people listened to her. The people journeyed through the jungles, unafraid of powerful jaguars, undeterred by mumbling shamans, who warned against the city and its strangeness made of stone. Toltaca called her people and they came before her walls, beseeching sacred entrance, begging to know their goddess, and bowing to accept her favors. So the city filled with people, and the people came to know her.

Her nightfall brought the moon-face, who watched through flickered firelight, as holy men practiced sacred games of rubber, hip and stone after all their daily work was done. Long into the moon's realm, their hearthstones reeked of seed cakes, of boiled or broiled meat bones, of dry-roasted fish flesh, of charcoal left to softly glow long into the night. Children could be heard playing raucous games of pretend-wars and of old man speak, as they made black rituals from children's playthings.

Her day rise brought the fire-face, which demanded constant sacrifice, which required the blood of mankind to keep him in the sky. From the forest, the people scarcely knew him as sunbeams made of silver, of bright patches on the broad leaf, of dancing fairies revealed within the invisible air. In the city, he stood high over them, he watched their backs, relentless, and he kept constant count of their endeavors. The deviant might hide from him in the shadows of the temples, in the shades of her high towers, in the darkness of their homes, but the fire-face was ever eternal and must somehow come to see them, slothful in their daydreams, lazy in their respite, neglectful in their sleep. While all around them labored her people, righteous in their duty, ever diligent at their looms and ovens and stone quarries, too. Thus, her people built her higher with every passing day, or they pressed her reaches farther into the forest far away.

In the beginning called Toltaca her people into her shelter. Though it was a long walk from the forest, it was a short walk before the walls. Then much time passed, and Toltaca chewed the jungle into bits and scraps and pieces. Through the hunger of her people and for the new ones born each year, Toltaca demanded more of the jungle with every passing season. In the beginning, her walls stood high to face down nature's wall of trees, and the two stood nose-to-nose, each gripping the other at the throat, each struggling for control of the people.

In the end, Toltaca ruled her mother, the ever-brooding dark woods, the ever-threatening jungle, which would consume her if she let it, which would overpower her if she stumbled. Then, the walk from her high walls into the remnants of the forest stretched a day long and sometimes more depending upon the destination of their journey. They must walk farther and farther each season to fetch the things they needed from Toltaca's mother, who abandoned her by her dried streambeds, so fouled and maligned by Toltaca's children.

They dug wells for her sacred water and they sowed seeds to force corn from her sacred dust. They sent her children away as hunters, who returned with shoulders laden, though their hunts required many days and the flesh was always rotten.

Of the last days, hear this tale, of Toltaca's age at last come upon her, of her death at the forest's absence and the flight of all her people. For a great sickness came upon them, a curse from the angry fire-face, who watched with one vast, burning eye, but who would not stoop to save them. The water drawn from holy cenotes, which they poured across their tongues, with which they filled their parched, dry bellies, brought with it the touch of death released from theier elders' anuses. From the eldest to the youngest, then, Toltaca killed her children.

She refused their seeds in the springtime and baked them long through summer. In the autumn she denied their harvest, and starved them through the winter when the forest dripped with water and kept her stingy, life-blood bounty. Though the shamans called for mercy and practiced sacrificial rites, though the ball-players killed themselves in the black bosoms of the nights, though the children huddled silent in their ever present hunger, and the dogs went missing from the walls as her people fed upon them, though they begged for her forgiveness, Toltaca turned her back against them and would hear their pleas no longer.

Then the people rose against her, and they burned her wooden rooftops. They upturned her paving stones and pushed down her high walls. They charged against the temples and raced up sacred stairways to get their hands upon their false priests and tear them to bloody pieces. They toppled Toltaca's god-faces, breaking them against the earth, and they looted her treasures of skulls, tossing them into the streets, releasing the spirits of the city to flee into the dark woods with her people following after.

Though a hundred years had built her, a single mad night would undo her. Her people left her rotting beneath the merciless anger of her father, who burned her stones as bones, white amid the grass. So the brooding, vengeful forest crept ever closer to her, its tendrils and vines slinking through her former fields grown wild with maize and tubers. Years her mother spent in sulking sanction of her, punishing her for her wisdom and her brazen rising over. That she called the people to her from their happy homes within the jungle, that she set them to building walls and to caging the flow of rivers, her mother would admonish her and beat her for her wicked fever.

Time at last would undo her, would bury her beneath the forest, which pulled the earth up over her, hiding her from forever. There, Toltaca's rotting corpse keeps her place in sullen silence, her temple steps stained from blood letting and her avenues paved with bones.

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