Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Prelude to Against Nature

Acolmiztli (Acohua Feline) - Mictlantecuhtli complex
acrylic on paper 23X35cm 30/07/99

Momacani swept back the material covering the entrance and suffered a churning within his gut, the sensation of something deeply wrong - a sudden, terrible awareness of the vacuum where what is and what should be had failed to connect. It was that blind instant of revulsion, worms clustered in an open wound.

A moment passed before he understood.

He would not be considered a familiar face in Lord Ahuizotl's court, although Ocotochtli had brought him here often enough, and he knew the layout of the palace with a degree of certitude. He knew this passage as host to the antechamber wherein scribes kept paint and bark paper, and also another space set aside for more general storage. Nothing else was found here but for these two rooms.

Ocotochtli stood in the lintelled entrance of the third and central chamber, the gravity of the situation bringing new wrinkles to his face. He was with two other men, both wearing colourful cloaks over white cotton robes - the Lord Ahuizotl and the Cihuacoatl, the first minister. A jaguar knight stood at attention nearby, face phlegmatic within the carved wooden maw of his helmet, but his posture spoke of obvious fear.

Ocotochtli beckoned to his apprentice. 'Step here. This is something you should see.'

Momacani went forward, hesitant, as much in the presence of royalty as the presence of mystery. He made to bow, reaching one hand towards the ground in prelude to the traditional greeting, but the ruler forestalled with a wave of dismissal.

'Be at ease, apprentice. I'm sure we can dispense with formalities on a day such as this.'

Momacani felt himself blush, although the embarrassment was forgotten as his eyes ventured across the threshold of the intrusive, improbable new room.

Ocotochtli stepped back. 'Please look closer. Your opinion is of value.'

He went forward as the priest and the ruler discussed him in muted tones - this is the fellow who you say has made himself so famous? and yes, I would say he has a polished eye for matters such as we see here. Momacani's thoughts were nevertheless entirely taken by the chamber interior.

All appeared as relics discovered within some ancient cavern. All took the form of life, yet fashioned as much by human hand as by nature; and all grown over with a patina of crystal. The reliefs upon the wall were of patently foreign design, and Momacani could make no sense of them; but the two bodies collapsed at the chamber's heart inspired unfamiliar ideas for no reason that he felt fully able to explain.

They had been a man and a woman, both young. Their garments appeared closer in weave to that of their surroundings than to anything worn in Tenochtitlan - dark armour formed from bone or perhaps a hard wood. Masks covered the upper part of their faces, animal skulls, although from what creature these were derived was not easily deduced. The entire tableau seemed a contradiction, like something very recently alive made subject to a dry lifespan of years within a single instant, ossified in the blink of an eye.

Ahuizotl gave voice, deep and pensive. 'Are these then spirits escaped from the dead lands, from the Place of Hares? What would you say, Momacani?'

The younger man stared at the corpses, wrestling with a thought that had no right to assail him with such familiarity. These were Mocolxiutecatl - Those of the Lineage of Time Twisted upon Itself, and this realisation bothered him no less than than did the matter of its origination.

How is it that I should know this, he wondered, yet lack recall of how I came by such information?

'I do not think they are spirits in a sense that would be understood by you or I, my Lord.' Momacani suffered a flutter of ill ease as he heard himself relating the inexplicable to the ruler of the known world. 'They arrived here by sorcerous means, I would say, but I do not think they truly understood the full detail of their transit. Whatever phantoms may have once guided them were weak, and lacking fame here at the heart of the world, they found no sustenance.'

The observation inspired further muttering: It is miraculous that he should know of such things, and then, sadly the child does not himself fully understand how he came by an intuition for such matters. He walks close to the sacred without properly divining his path.

A gentle old hand touching his arm, then Ocotochtli's voice of dry leaves. 'Come away now. It does no good to look upon such things for too long.'

Momacani stepped back in something of a daze.

The Cihuacoatl spoke at last. 'We must conclude that there is the world we see, and the world we do not see, and perhaps this is something born of a different place.'

Ocotochtli scratched angrily at his loincloth. 'That may be so, but this matter is beyond the scope of any conventional theological understanding.'

Ahuizotl stared gravely into the chamber. 'I say we must have People of Authority ready to deal with intrusions such as that which we see here today.' He set a hand to Momacani's shoulder, fixing the youth with a hard eye. 'I will speak with my Council of Four. Ocotochtli gifts us with shining testimony of your practical thoughts and clear sight. If it pleases, I would have you amongst this order of my Ixtilque.'

The apprentice nodded dumbly, humbled by the realisation that his Tlatoani had begged his favour as would a novice to a teacher. He once more turned his head to gaze upon the impossible. There was now only a stretch of wall set between two entrances - the scribes' chamber, and that in which palace officials kept wooden boxes and other materials. The Mocolxiutecatl had slipped from the surface of the earth like droplets from the back of a water bird. Whatever they were, it was as though they had never been here. Whatever province had birthed them, it was apparent that there must be a world which could not be understood by the ordinary terms of the sacred.

Something of the clouds and mist had visited itself upon Tenochtitlan...

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