Acrophobia (Fear of Heights)


The glare of the Yucatan sun shot its rays through the jungle canopy. The rare moments that they hit the jungle floor, the heat rose to the canopy and was trapped, causing the air to steam. This heat had no real effect on the few animals and birds that made their homes among the trees. The heavy leaves of the trees formed shade for those who knew how to seek it. The occasional bird call was the only noise heard, as if there had been anyone around to listen. For now, the jungle seemed only occupied by those who rested in the heat of the noonday sun.

Suddenly, even though none of the animals heard it, a twig snapped. Down on the jungle floor, some leaves moved but not by the stirring of the wind, since there was no wind to speak of. Manuac, a local hunter, was following the trail of a wild pig which would help feed his family. His steps were not exactly perfect in their quietude, but he knew that he was not far behind his prey. Manuac was about to take his next step in his pursuit, when he heard the sound of a macaw screaming to its mate. The loud screech caused Manuac to stop in his footsteps and stand completely still. He waited ten heartbeats before he resumed his hunt. Before he could pick up the next sign of the pig’s direction, a weighted net feel from a tree and knocked him to the ground. The jungle erupted in the sounds of victory chants as five men appeared out of seemingly nowhere. Manuac the hunter had just become the prey of the War God’s warriors. All of his attempts to get untangled from the net were futile once one of the warriors clubbed him.

The loud alarm from Edward Holman’s clock stabbed through his consciousness and

New York City Street Scene

New York City Street Scene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

caused him to leave the Mayan nightmare that sleep had locked him into. He rose from his pillow and shook his head when he realized that he was not in the Yucatan, but in his bed in New York City. He was not someone who believed in the power of dreams, but he had heard that dreams could be symbolic or they could just be the remnants of intense emotions from the previous day. He dismissed the symbolic aspects of his dream and marked it up to having watched Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypse” the night before. After having allotted his dream to its proper category, Edward went to the bathroom and took a shower.

Edward was a 29-year old, mousy-haired accountant who was also a bachelor. It’s not that he did not want to get married, he did, but it seemed to be impossible to find a decent woman who would find an accountant a desirable catch. Having quickly eaten his two pieces of buttered wheat toast and drunk his cup of decaffeinated black coffee, Edward ran out of his brownstone and caught a cab into work. When he entered the glass and steel building where he worked, he took the elevator to the 20th floor and went into his office. His desk faced the door while behind his chair was a row of oblong windows which looked out onto the canyon created by the building across the street. Since there was nothing of beauty or interest outside, Edward Holman never took advantage of the sights outside the windows. Edward Holman came in for his eight hours, did his accounts, left and went to a nearby bar and had a martini before going home to his apartment and making dinner. If he felt really adventurous, he would order out, but he only did this if he had had to stay for overtime. After dinner, he would mix himself another martini, watch the news, and, if there was a movie on that caught his attention, he would watch it. At the latest, Edward would be in bed by 10:30 P.M., no later. That night there was a special on the History channel that he had decided looked interesting. It was a documentary about the discovery of a new tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Edward had always had a fascination with ancient Egypt since he was a child. His parents had given him a book about ancient Egypt on Christmas when he was six.

When the documentary was over, Edward looked at his watch and saw that it was 10:00 P.M. Since it was a Friday night and he did not have to work the next day, he scanned through his copy of the Times that he had not had time to read during the day. He spent a couple minutes going through the front page section and then went to the Business section. These were the only two sections that interested him.

Manuac woke up quickly in the morning when one of his captors kicked him in the side. He, and the other people who had been captured, were given a root paste and water for breakfast before being lined up to resume their journey to the capital. The trip finally ended two days after Manuac had been captured. Manuac had never been to the capital city before, so when the caravan entered the suburbs, he was amazed at everything that he saw and heard. The surrounding crowds and the everyday noises were unimaginatively foreign. The noise of the people and caged animals would make hunting in the jungle impossible; the silence needed for hunting would have been decimated. The captives were finally brought to a tunnel which led down under a giant temple. Manuac had heard stories about the temple but he did not believe everything that he heard. The only thing that he wondered at this point was, would he be sold as a slave or would he be sacrificed to the gods. The thought of dying young and being sent to Xibalba frightened him.

Edward woke up the next morning in a sweat. He didn’t know if it was possible to dream about the same person or subject two nights in a row. He decided that he would go to the library and read up on the significance of dreams. The taxi dropped him off at the library just as it was opening its doors. Edward went to a cubicle and went on line. After deciding on three books to check out, he went to one of the tables and skimmed through the chapter headings of the smallest book. It seemed to have been written by a person who dissected dreams without any real psychological education or rationale. Edward found a few things of interest, but nothing that he considered relevant to his situation. The second book had been written by a woman who had so many degrees after her name that he was sure that half of them had to be fake. After slowly reading the first two pages of this book, Edward felt like he would need a dozen more books just to understand the jargon. He quickly gave up on this book when he realized that the Index was just as useless as the chapter headings. The final book was written in a style that had more in common with the first book than the second but he felt more comfortable reading it. It did have a section which dealt with location in dreams and explained their significance in general terms. For instance, if one dreamed that you were in France, it could signify a desire to visit Europe or it could relate to a desire to be an artist. The closest thing that he found concerning Mexico, was if you were in a hot climate. The author suggested that this could relate to a premonition of illness or contracting a fever. Another section that related to his dream dealt with types of buildings someone was in. The closest thing that he found was if you dreamed that you were in a jail cell. The author wrote that this implied that you had trapped yourself, or someone else had trapped you, in an uncomfortable situation. When he read this, Edward thought about what had occurred in his life that would make him feel that he had been put into such a situation. He could not think of anything, so he decided to checkout the last book and finish reading it at home.

When he got home, Edward noticed that he had a message on his phone. He was surprised, since he rarely received phone calls, so he took off his jacket, laid the library book on the table and pushed the button.

“Hello, Edward, this is your mother. I decided that I would come into the city for a day of shopping and thought that we could get together for lunch. If you get this message in time, I will be at the Russian Tea Room at 11:30. I have recently bought a cell phone, so call me at (555) 392-6881.”

Edward checked the time and saw that he had enough time to change into something more fitting for the Tea Room and catch a cab to uptown. Edward was ambivalent about his feelings for his mother, but since he saw her only on Thanksgiving and Christmas, he was curious about her desire to get together with him. After changing his clothes and going down to the street to hail a taxi, Edward called his mother to let her know that he was on his way. His mother seemed cheerful enough and kept the conversation short. Edward arrived at the Tea Room twenty minutes later. His mother stood up from her table and waved him over.

“So how are things with you, Mother. Is Father well?”

“Oh, yes, he’s fine. I assume that you are still not seeing anyone.”

“No, I’m not. Don’t you think that I would tell you if I was, just so you wouldn’t have to bring it up in conversation?”

“Is that anyway to talk to your mother? I only ask out of concern for you, after all, your job isn’t that exciting. You should go out more.”

“I know, Mother. Now, what did you really want to talk about to me?”

“Well, as you know, your sister in California is getting married in a week, so since you can’t afford a ticket to be there, your father and I are offering to buy you one. Now, before you say no, since I know that you abhor being dependent on anyone for anything, I’ll make a deal with you. We’ll buy you the ticket and you can pay us back in installments. Would that be satisfactory?”

Edward thought about it for a few seconds and decided that it wouldn’t be much of a breach of his policy. He agreed on one condition: that it would not be on the same flight as his parents were on. His mother thought that this was a strange request, but she finally agreed. She told Edward that she would have the information sent to him as soon as everything had been arranged. Edward’s reasoning behind his request was that he dreaded being on the same plane as his parents for 8 plus hours, since he knew that his mother would not give him any relief about his personal life.

Manuac woke up as the first heat of the day was being felt by him and the other prisoners. Their jailer brought them a plate of tortillas and some jars of water. Manuac asked his jailer why they had been taken prisoner and what would happen to them.

“I suggest that you eat breakfast and don’t worry about it.”

Manuac turned away and took a tortilla and a jug of water and sat down in a corner. An older man walked over to Manuac and sat down beside him.

“Where are you from?” he asked Manuac.

“A small village called Ix Tikal.”

“Ah, then we are near neighbors. I am from Kanakul.”

“Do you know what they are going to do to us?”

The old man looked at him but didn’t said anything for a minute. “Do you not know what season it is?”

“It is summer. What does that mean?”

“It is also the time of Buluc Chabtan. I heard some whispers as we were being brought in. We are meant to be offered to the God of War as an offering for the god’s help for their warriors.”

“But why were we chosen?”

“Because we were either slow, like me, or at the wrong place at the wrong time. The gods choose who they will, you might as well accept your fate.”

Manuac set his jug down and withdrew within. The old man walked away. Manuac longed to be back at his village with his wife and son; he worried that they would not be able to accept his loss. His mother was still alive and would take them into her hut, but his mother would not live forever.

Edward made arrangements at work for taking a week off so that he could attend his sister’s wedding in Los Angeles. Two days after having lunch with his mother, he received the information that he needed concerning his plane ticket. His dream from last night had caused him to loose some sleep and by the time that he had prepared to go to the airport, he was still feeling a bit sluggish. He had hoped that having a coffee while waiting for the taxi would help wake him up; it was only effective until he went through the scanning process. He told himself that since he would not have to switch planes, that he would be able to get some rest on the trip. The attendant directed him to his seat and, after putting his laptop in the carry on compartment, he sat down and looked out the window. Ten minutes later, the pilot made his announcements.

“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Moreno speaking. We will be taking off in five minutes, so be sure to have your seat belts on until directed otherwise. We will be flying at an altitude of 11,500 feet and should arrive in Los Angeles at 7:36 P.M. We hope that you will enjoy your flight and please acquaint yourselves with the emergency procedure card in the holder in front of you. Thank you for your attention.”

The flight attendants went down the aisles in order to make sure that all of the passengers had their seat belts on and to answer any questions. Soon, the passengers heard the engines start and felt the airplane rolling unto the runway. Fortunately for Edward (he thought it was fortunate), he had a window seat and the other two seats on his side were empty. Once the plane had reached its flight altitude, Edward tilted his seat back a little bit and closed his eyes. The steady hum of the airplane engines were like a tonic to Edward and he quickly fell asleep.

The prisoners had their hands tied behind their backs and were slowly being led towards the pyramid. As they walked along the Sacred Roadway, priests walked along side of the prisoners and, with reeds in their mouths, blew blue paint on their bodies. As soon as they reached the foot of the pyramid, they were guided up the one hundred step stairway by another priest. When the prisoners reached the platform of the pyramid, they were directed by the priest to a holding area. As Manuac dragged his feet to the holding area, he looked around and saw the high priest with his jade jewelry, leopard skin robes, and horrifyingly painted face. He saw other high born people standing on the platform, but the high priest horrified him more than any of the others. He could also hear the music of the drums and conch shells mingling with the prayers of the crowd at the base of the pyramid.

Manuac was the third person in line and as the two men before him were taken out to be sacrificed, he kept his eyes closed. Despite being in this situation, Manuac did not think that it was ironic that he found himself praying to Balan, asking the God to watch over his family. He had just finished muttering his prayer, when he felt the priest leading him by the rope around his neck. Manuac looked out to the horizon and saw the sun shining down on the city. He saw the people and musicians at the base of the pyramid roar as he was brought to the altar. Manuac saw the fresh blood on the altar and the bowl containing the ripped out hearts of those that went before him. Two warriors dressed in an eagle uniform and a jaguar uniform lifted Manuac by his arms and feet and set him down on the altar. They continued to hold his limbs so that he could not try to escape or cause the high priest to miss his mark. Manuac smelled a trace of incense and then saw the blood-smeared face of the high priest. A ray of sunlight danced on the facets of the raised obsidian blade and that was the last thing that Manuac thought that he would see.

The high priest severed the arteries from Manuac’s heart and the two warriors tossed his body down the temple staircase. Unfortunately, the obsidian blade was not the last thing that Manuac saw before finally dying. His last sight was of the world turning around and around as his body fell down the staircase. Now and then, he felt the pain from the hard stones on his body, but he felt very dizzy before losing consciousness.

Suddenly, a voice was heard screaming. It was a wild, continuous, animal-like cry. Like a panther’s scream in the jungles of Belize. Two of the flight attendants ran up the aisle to see who was making this horrible sound.

“Let me go! I don’t want to die! Let me go!!” Edward was screaming as he sat looking out the window. One of the attendants put her hand on his shoulder to try to calm him down. He just shoved it away and continued to yell. Fortunately, there was a doctor on board who gave him a couple of Xanax to calm him down. Edward fell back into sleep, but it was a restless sleep.

Edward slept the rest of the flight to Los Angeles without any more episodes. Since he did not cause any major problems, the pilot decided not to have Edward arrested when the plane landed. The rest of the passengers eventually calmed down after the incident.

By the time that Edward had arrived at the hotel, the incident, and embarrassment, had left his mind. He went up to the check- in counter and received his key card. He did not pay much attention to his surroundings and got on the elevator. As soon as he set his suitcase and laptop down on the floor of the elevator, he looked and saw that he was on a glass elevator. As it continued to climb, he looked down at the lobby and saw potted palm trees. All of a sudden, he felt sweat on his forehead and on his palms. The elevator was going slowly and Edward felt trapped even though there were only four other people on the elevator with him. He did not make it to his floor before falling to his knees and screaming. The other riders were terrified but not as terrified as the man whose vision of an obsidian knife was. They would never be that terrified.

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