Yucatan State police Chief Jose Luis Contreras was considering calling in Federal troops. With Merida jammed to overflowing with strange tourists, people fighting over hotel rooms and restaurant tables, escalating criminal incidents and a general mood of near hysteria, things were getting out of hand. As much as he hated to ask for help, his job was to keep the people of Yucatan safe and his men were exhausted, not to mention disgusted, with all the goings on.
He was off duty, or as off duty as he ever was, walking down Calle 59 in a white guayabera and pressed jeans, chewing the hell out of two squares of nicotine gum. He was determined this time.
As Contreras approached the main square, he heard music and loud voices, foreign voices, not the familiar comfortable sounds of Yucatecans enjoying a concert on a Saturday night. Arguments were breaking out in several places, threatening to turn into full-blown incidents. He took his radio phone out of his pocket and called it in. He stood around for a few minutes until he saw the first police cars. By this time, there were almost no local people left in the main square. The odd, intense visitors made them nervous, as they did him.
The reason for the massive influx was because the date December 21, 2012 was fast approaching. From all over the world, groups were coming to town on spiritual quests, each group defining their quests differently. They were sleeping everywhere. The hotels were full to overflowing, some squeezing up to six people in rooms meant for two. Acrimonious, strange people, who he didn’t understand. There were people sleeping in the parks, using the corners as bathrooms, and people collapsed in doorways. He saw men and women walking down the street eating tuna fish from cans with plastic forks and others getting water from the taps outside the hotels and restaurants. Naturally, they all got sick, which added to the general uproar. But no matter what their level of discomfort, no matter how hot it was, or what they had to do to have gotten here, they were all determined to be at the center of the land of the Yucatec Maya. The Maya who had devised the sophisticated calendrical system with over twenty different coinciding elements, the largest of which was the Long Count Calendar, which ran for five thousand years. The five-thousand-year period ended in a few days. It was called the Thirteenth Baktun.
Apparently on December 21, 2012, later this week, the world was supposed to enter a new age, the Age of Aquarius, which to Contreras had always been a harmless American song. From what he could pick up, these folks were talking about the sun aligning with the earth on this day, whatever that meant. Wasn’t the sun always aligned with the earth? Aren’t two objects in space always aligned, so to speak? And then there was something else about the Milky Way that he couldn’t quite remember. He supposed he should make it his business to find out what the hell they were so excited about.
Apparently, millions of people all over the world felt that this date would mark a great transition of some kind – but these groups differed wildly about what that might be.
The most prevalent school of thought was that December 21 would mark the end of life as we know it. Or, we would all transcend into another consciousness, whatever that meant, a higher and more evolved form, more harmonious, more perfect. Whether our corporeal bodies would remain seemed insignificant to many of the seekers who were here in Merida. That way of thinking had the effect of making the crowds quite careless about consequences of their actions, since they felt they wouldn’t be around long enough for it to matter. This translated into a police problem.
They openly trespassed, helped themselves to food in the stores, and urinated in the zocalo, making the grass unusable for all the children who usually gathered there with their families on Sundays. A lot of them carried huge boom boxes and played hard rock music or music that wasn’t really music, but shimmering harmonies. The music was very loud and they often disagreed about whose sounds should prevail. Didn’t these people know about iPods?
After many meetings with the police authorities – federal, state and city, and the mayor of Merida and governor of the State of Yucatan, they had decided to take a laissez faire stance on the whole thing, and give up holding people to the letter of the law. They reasoned that the bizarre state of things would end on December 21st and all these odd folks would catch airplanes and busses or drive their cars – and get the hell out of there. And life would go on as before.
Contreras knew that some of the spiritual tourists thought nothing would happen on the fateful day. And some thought December 21 was Armageddon. The Christian speakers, barefoot and angry, were on every corner, warning of the Rapture and those who deserved and didn’t deserve to be taken to heaven by their god.
Today was December 19th and Contreras was looking forward to the arrival of his long-time American friend, Miriam Glass. She was flying in tonight from New York. Miriam’s friend Mary had given him her flight numbers when he ran into her in the mall the other day. He would surprise her and meet her at the airport.
Contreras and Miriam had a long, complex history together, which involved working together and sharing private moments. He could talk to her about anything. Anything but his feelings for her. He didn’t really know what they were – they had modulated over the years. Both he and Miriam were divorced and hurt, and had watched each other go through a series of ill-fated romances. There had always been an undercurrent of something else going on between them, but neither of them wanted to chance ruining an enduring friendship. But they had come close.
He smiled as he thought about how great it would be to talk to her about the situation in town. Devilishly, he’d reserved her usual room for her at the Hotel Caribe, which for some reason, seemed to be the center of the action right now. The usually staid, quiet downtown hotel was one of those that were shoving crowds of people into the small rooms, filling the place to way beyond its legal capacity. It was an unusually warm December, most of the rooms weren’t air conditioned, and tempers were strained. There were constant police calls to the Caribe, and last week two men had been stabbed and had to be rushed to Star Medica for surgery.
Miriam will get a tremendous kick out of this, he thought. And probably, with her ability to get anything out of anyone, learn a lot of things we should know to get ready for The Big Day.
Contreras walked into Santa Ana Park. Every seat was taken, and people were milling around – flirting, arguing, expounding. So far so good, he thought.
On the opposite side of the park, there was a tall black woman dressed in long orange and pink robes. She wore a turban made of woven Oaxacan fabric and chains of beads hung around her neck. He guessed her to be in her mid-forties, far older than most of those in the park. Enormous filigreed gold earrings framed her gorgeous face and her general air was positive and engaging. She had gathered quite a crowd, and she was talking to them about peace and harmony in the coming era.
“There’s no reason we have to argue about this,” she said. “What’s going to happen will happen, no matter what you think or what I think. Why is it important to make everyone believe as you do? All of your beliefs are valid…”
Contreras appreciated her point of view, and the people listening to her were smiling in agreement. She’s quite attractive, he thought. But probably taller than I am. Ever since his divorce seven years ago, Contreras did a lot of looking, but usually without much enthusiasm. However, he was entranced with this colorful, peaceful person, and drew closer to her gathering.
“We are all here in this wonderful place,” she continued. “We’re right in the center of the energy that has brought this day to our consciousnesses. Each of us can experience this gift in our own way. Me personally, I feel optimistic. I think that despite our flaws, humanity will see that the earth is too small for us to be messing up the environment or shooting each other over differences of opinion.”
“Right on, sister,” said a fat blond man, his hair cut close to the scalp. Contreras saw a look of distaste flit across the speaker’s face, quickly replaced by a warm smile.
“Thank you, sir,” she said demurely. And addressing the crowd, “My name is Lulu Starr. I’m staying at the Caribe in room 42 on the top floor and you are invited to talk to me if you want to, as long as the talk is peaceful.
Oh boy, Contreras chuckled to himself. He had put Miriam in the Caribe in room 43, right next door.
Contreras gave Lulu a little salute and she winked at him. He walked off smiling.
“I can feel the transformational energy here,” said a young woman dressed in white as she walked by Contreras with an earnest young man.
“I hope you and I can continue in some form after the transformation,” said the guy, fingering his new tie dyed t-shirt with “2012” emblazoned on the front.
“Think bigger, Mike,” the girl said. “This isn’t about us. We’re talking about the entire galaxy. We, you and I, are inconsequential.”
“Not to me,” he said sadly.
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