December 24, 454 A.D.
The superheated air squeezed the last shred of comfort out of the dying Mexican light. All around him, Xolotl could hear people humming along, working and counting, contemplating, and factoring. Outside the ceremonial chamber, he could just make out the sound of children playing. Their world was small and their cares were few.
It was during what would become known as the Classical Period, when Mayan culture spread across the land and great cultural advances were made. On the Julian calendar, the time was 454 Anno Domini.
Xolotl, an astrologer for the kingdom, was named after the Mayan god of lightning. It was the mythical god Xolotl who guided the Aztec dead, guarded by the Lord of Mictlan, who was said to be jealous and violent and hoarded their bones.
Aztec legends identified Xolotl as the twin brother of Quetzalcoatl, lord of the evening star and personification of Venus, who pushed the sun at sunset towards the ocean and guarded her during the night on her dangerous journey through the underworld.
Xolotl the astrologer toiled anonymously in Teotihuacan, site of Kukulcan's palace. As the Mayan supreme god, Kukulcan had his palace in the Pyramid of the Sun, where Mayans celebrated their holy days. With the celebration of the Five Lost Days approaching, Xolotl was working extraordinarily long hours. One of the astrologer's tasks was charting the complicated calendar that would lead his people into the future, and it must be completed before the celebration, which would mark the end of the Mayan solar calendar.
When Mayans came together to celebrate these holy days, the calendar would be displayed in Kukulcan's ceremonial chamber. A few chosen Mayans who had served their god best would be allowed to walk through the chamber and experience the greatest scientific achievement in all history.
Xolotl could hear the sound of slaves even now hauling enormous stones into place for the unveiling to come. Sifting through those sounds, he could also make out the wicked slash of the whip and the stifled moans of its unfortunate victims.
Slaves who entered the pyramid to complete preparations for the festival would have their hearts cut out by the priests and burned in ceremonial fire. Only the chosen ones could enter the very core of Kukulcan's palace. All others must be purified by fire to satisfy the gods of the underworld. The cut of the lash was trivial in comparison.
Tasked with an important set of complicated equations, Xolotl had worked tirelessly, barely resting for 1,339 consecutive days to get to this point. The gargantuan task was finally almost finished. His last minute entries simply had to total up and carry over certain conclusions that would identify the last day.
His conclusions, based on complicated formulas, foretold cataclysmic events that would occur on December 21, 2012, which coincided with the end-date of the Mayan Long Count Calendar. The "Great Cycle" of the "Long Count" calendar equated to 5,125.36 years. The current Great Cycle completed on the winter solstice, December 21, 2012. So great Shaman had determined that the day the Great Cycle ended—December 21, 2012—time would end, and so the Earth must end.
Though disagreement was unheard of when serving Kukulcan, suggestions were made about other things that might occur at the end of time. Some said that Earth and its inhabitants would undergo massive, positive transformation. Some astrologers suggested Earth's collision with a nibiru, or black hole. Others argued the arrival of the great, solar maximum. Their discord never amounted to much. No one survived long in opposition to Kukulcan's will.
If only Xolotl had rested more, the error would never have been made. Had the completion not come so close to the Five Lost Days celebration, better fact checking would have corrected it. Without time for extensive verifications, however, the calendar and the last day would be forever off by roughly eighty-five hours.
Unaware of how explicitly he had changed history, Xolotl completed his task, presented the finished skin to his master, and slept without dreams for seventeen hours, awakening to the sounds of the first event of the great Five Lost Days celebration.