As we neared the temple, a mist began to form around us. We were into the thick of it before we even realized it, but soon we stood at the base of the temple, shrouded, and barely able to see the top above the haze.
Do we go up, or do we go in? I looked from James to Rodrigo, but neither of them seemed certain, either. We can’t split up, I said, no one goes alone, so we have to stick together. They nodded, then James gasped and pointed to a block of stone at the base. It was the same scene that was everywhere – except no, it was different this time. There were only three figures, not four, standing at the base of the temple and looking up. The fourth was lying on a stone at the top. Red was running out of him.
We understood then: they weren’t depictions of stars or gods or any of the other things we’d pondered; they were blood sacrifices. Was it a coincidence, this new scene? Was it because of where it stood that it showed the scene it did, or was it because of where we stood? James seemed to answer the question when he pointed at the fourth figure and looked at us, demanding to know why it looked like Patrick, how it could look like Patrick, blond was not a color the ancient people here would have known. How was this possible? He pointed to the other three figures, naming us each, and it was uncanny how it was too easy to see ourselves in them.
The rational part of my mind began to stammer about how we were looking for patterns and explanations and seeing them but that didn’t mean it was true, but even I couldn’t keep it up for long. I think we all wished in that moment to wake up and find this a nightmare, that in waking it would at least be over.
Rodrigo finally had to point out the uncomfortably obvious, that if these stones were somehow prophetic – that they were indeed meant to be us – then that meant Patrick was… he looked up, and we all knew he was right. We began to climb the wide stairs cut into the temple’s face, the horror we were feeling growing with each new step.
We were almost to the top when I noticed it: the red drops on the stones. As we climbed the last few steps, it became a trickle, then a puddle. Gaining the top, we found ourselves facing a low sacrificial stone set between two pillars and directly before a doorway into the upper temple structure. It was stained with fresh spilled blood. I think that’s when James finally lost it. He began screaming; screaming about this being impossible, about how this just doesn’t happen and someone was fucking with us.
I stood glued to the spot, my eyes unable to leave the blood-stained stone before us. I couldn’t bring myself to comprehend what I was looking at. I certainly couldn’t allow myself to even entertain the possibility of what had happened here, or whose blood that might have been. I just stood, staring at it, my brain rejecting everything it saw.
Rodrigo was staring also, then he looked at us, looked at the wild madness in James’s eyes, and then walked into the temple. James screamed after him, where did he think he was going? Rodrigo’s only reply was to point at the blood and say that isn’t Patrick; that he was going to find Patrick.