Normally I wouldn’t be doing my monthly Charity Sunday until next weekend, but the recent eruption of Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala is a crisis I can’t ignore. A poor country already, Guatemala has been devastated by the violent June 3rd eruption of one of the world’s most active volcanoes. The death toll is still rising, but meanwhile the survivors need urgent support. Hence, for every comment I get on this post, I will give $2 (not the usual $1) to the American Field Service Committee (AFSC), who are working with their local partners to get humanitarian aid out as quickly as possible.
According to AFSC, the disaster is compounded by a threatening combination of rainfall and ash, which increases the risk of mudslides and could contaminate valuable drinking water. Injured victims and volunteers are in desperate need of medical supplies, and families living in shelters seek necessities, such as mattresses and towels, for basic survival. AFSC is helping to meet the basic needs of the victims, including filters for clean drinking water, critical rescue equipment, and transportation of volunteers and supplies.
I hope you’ll leave me a comment, to increase the size of my donation. Given the urgency of the current situation, I will keep this post open only one week before I tally up the comments and send the money to AFSC.
Meanwhile, it turns out I actually have a book set in Guatemala, which has a scene on the slopes of Volcán de Fuego. Serpent’s Kiss is a paranormal erotic romance featuring a shapeshifting hero who is the reincarnation of the Mayan god Quetzlcoatl – the Feathered Serpent. As the volcano erupts, he meets his arch-enemy Tezcatlipoca, a were-jaguar, in a final apocalyptic battle.
The ground lurched under her feet, throwing her down on all fours. A deafening roar welled up from the earth. Thunder answered. Lightning shot through the cloudbank, painting the grey walls a lurid white before plunging everything into blackness. I’m too late, Elena thought, her body tossed about like a rag doll by the unsteady ground. It’s already the end.
Her knees and palms stung, lacerated by the coarse surface beneath her. She opened her eyes. A cloud of sparks exploded into the night sky. Hot ash rained down on her bare arms. The earth shook itself and bellowed like a wounded beast. Red and yellow tongues flared up, hissing, silhouetting the black edge of a ridge in front of her. The air reeked of sulphur.
Volcán de Fuego. She had made it.
She tried to stand, but the frenzied earth kept casting her down. She finally had to crawl to the lip of the crater, ignoring the sharp pumice that abraded her skin. An explosion tore at her eardrums. Flames snapped above her head. New sparks pelted down. Burning embers landed in her hair, but were smothered by her thick mane. Blisters rose on her skin.
Warily, she peered over the raised edge into the broad, shallow bowl of the caldera.
This depression, perhaps fifty metres across, was the remnant of an old eruption that had blown off the top of the mountain. At its centre, a cinder cone belched sparks and flame from the active vent. Clouds of steam and ash swirled above the basin, stained a dirty orange by the seething fires below. The sulphurous stink clung to her nostrils.
The concave space was paved with grey pumice and black ash, interrupted by basalt boulders metres high that had been ejected in past ages. It reminded Elena of a Roman amphitheatre. Within its confines, gladiators fought to the death.
They wore their beast forms. The enormous jaguar, orange as the volcanic flames, circled the winged snake. Quetzlcoatl hovered above the ground, his wing-beats sending sparks circling around them. The were-cat’s roar of challenge echoed across the basin; the earth growled in answer. He lashed out at the serpent with a vicious paw. Even from her distant vantage point, Elena saw the claws flash.
Jorge darted out of the way. The cat’s talons sliced through smoky air. Remorros roared again, this time in frustration. Meanwhile, Jorge drew back his massive head, then struck like lightning. The jaguar tried to evade the strike, but the snake’s fangs raked a pair of deep grooves across his flank. Blood gathered in an opaque pool on the glittering black sand.
Remorros backed away, not taking his eyes off his opponent. Jorge stilled his wings and settled to the ground, awaiting the next assault. The cat limped slightly. He bent to lick at his wounds. Suddenly, he gathered himself into a crouch and launched himself into the air, toward his opponent. His jaws closed on the serpent’s throat.
Elena struggled desperately not to cry out. She knew that distracting Jorge now could be fatal. The snake did not seem badly hurt, however, perhaps due to his scaly armour. He unfolded one of his bird-limbs and ripped into the jaguar’s belly with a dagger-like talon.
Remorros bellowed in agony. Jorge shook him off and whirled away to a safer distance. His wings beat slowly as he watched his antagonist. Elena did not see any wound, but it seemed from Jorge’s tentative movements that he too was in pain.
The jaguar lay on its side, panting. Had Jorge won?As she watched, hardly daring to hope, the cat-form blurred and shrank. The naked body of Teodoro Remorros stretched out on the floor of the caldera, a gaping hole in his abdomen.
He can’t possibly survive such an injury, thought Elena, rising to her knees in order to get a better view. This must be the end. But even as she watched, the man pushed himself to a sitting position, then to a hunched stand. He placed his hands over the terrible wound. Elena could see the blood seeping between his fingers. He began to chant in some alien tongue.
The volcano rumbled and belched cinders. The flow of blood slowed, then stopped. Remorros stood tall. He took his hands away from his belly. The wound was gone.
Remorros’ laugh rang out in the sulphurous air. “Kulkulcan! See my power! My god-flesh is indestructible. You cannot defeat me.”
Jorge still wore his serpent-form. As she watched, though, the towering column of scales and feathers began to whirl, coiling faster than the eye could follow. The wings faded into mist that swirled away. The green blur slowed and dwindled. Jorge’s tawny, muscled form emerged, apparently unscathed.
His long hair streamed behind him, carried by the hot winds from the vent. His eyes reflected the volcano’s fire. He held aloft the gleaming black sword. “Tezcatlipoca! You always were a braggart. Come meet your fate.”
The men rushed at each other. Jorge’s sword whistled through the air as he stabbed and slashed at the Remorros’ limbs. Remorros wielded an axe of some greenish stone. Elena remembered her dream of the sacrifice, the jade weapon that the priest had promised to use to cut out her heart.
Two powerful bodies crashed together. The earth shuddered and groaned. A wide crack opened at the far side of the caldera. It spewed new fire into the sky.
* * * *
Of course, the reality is nothing like the fantasy. Please comment, and do a bit to help ease the suffering of Fuego's victims.