The Olmec village lay peacefully in the jungle under the sun of the fifth creation. It came to pass that the year was ending, and the Olmec wished to honor the gods, that the cycle would continue. The warriors were sent out to gather appropriate sacrifice. In addition to the usual captives, the ruler wished this time for the sacrifice of a jaguar, for he knew what lay ahead -- the eclipse of the sun from which the gods would need extra blood to recover. For the capturing of the jaguar, the ruler required not the services of the warriors, but of those in tune with the movements of the jaguars. These priests were called, and their task was named.
12 Imix went reluctantly to the ruler's quarters. He knew what the ruler wanted, and knew that the gods required it, but hated the thought of killing one of his own.
In the ruler's apartment 12 Imix and the other priests listened to the request. 12 Imix wondered whether the ruler knew that of all the priests gathered, 12 Imix was the only true jaguar-man.
12 Imix felt the fear of those other men, although they did not show it. If they had, they would not still be priests. But 12 Imix had no fear. He knew what the gods intended and he accepted this, however it may have disturbed him.
The priests were sent into the jungle to complete their task. Some of the men traveled together; 12 Imix preferred to go alone. He alone had the power, and he alone would bring a jaguar to the ruler. The other priests knew this, and respected it by leaving 12 Imix to himself. So 12 Imix went into the jungle. He would stay there into the might, when he would become a jaguar himself.
12 Imix set off down the path that led deep into the jungle which was little traveled; the others would be on the frequently traveled path where there would be little chance of encountering a jaguar.
12 Imix left the city at sundown. He went without a torch -- of this he would have no need.
12 Imix spoke with the trees, with the ground. He smoked from the ritual plant and continued walking. Soon he felt the transformation taking place. His body lengthened, his muscles strengthened. Claws sprung from his now fur covered paws. 12 Imix sleekly continued through the jungle.
Hours later, 12 Imix still had not found another jaguar. He was becoming concerned. The continuation of life in this creation depended on the ruler's offerings.
12 Imix distractedly wandered, growing increasingly involved in his own thoughts. So involved that he nearly did not hear it. 12 Imix was instantly still. Unmistakable this time, the noise came again. A tingling swept through his body and he began to stalk his prey. The other jaguar was now aware of 12 Imix's presence, and moved more warily. The jaguar could not yet see 12 Imix, and he used this to his advantage.
12 Imix sprang at the other jaguar, claws ripping flesh; fur flying. But the other jaguar was much bigger that 12 Imix, and gave a spin and a swat which sent 12 Imix crashing into the underbrush. The jaguar was quickly on top of 12 Imix. Now all advantage was lost. 12 Imix fought hard against the jaguar, who knew why 12 Imix was there, and did not wish to be sacrificed.
12 Imix did not want the sun to be swallowed by the underworld. He fought hard, as though fighting for his own life, and began to overcome the larger jaguar. Both had many cuts, and were spilling much blood on the earth. 12 Imix could hear the other jaguar's breath coming heavily. 12 Imix eventually felt his extra effort working to his advantage. The other jaguar was down, snarling viciously but more weakly than before. The opportunity came for 12 Imix to end it.
He didn't take it.
The other jaguar seized the moment of 12 Imix's indecision and lunged.
12 Imix dodged the strike, and knowing it was near the end, but not wanting to end it, 12 Imix ran. He dreaded what came next but he could bear it with less remorse than killing a full jaguar.
Once 12 Imix knew the other jaguar was not following, he stopped running and allowed his breath to come more easily. His strides were shortened by his injuries, so the return journey was slow.
12 Imix headed for the priests who, he knew, would be waiting outside the city for 12 Imix's return. This time, that return would be different.
As 12 Imix approached the priests, he began to circle them until his presence was felt. When 12 Imix revealed himself from the jungle, the priests drew back.
12 Imix slowly slinked from the forest, trying to ignore the pains from his body and instead concentrating of putting into the priests' minds what they should do.
Soon the priests surrounded him, and his front and back feet were bound. The priests left one awake to guard 12 Imix, and the rest settled down for the remainder of the night. For if they showed themselves in human form before morning, suspicions would be raised on the identity of the priests. 12 Imix tried to make himself comfortable despite his bonds and his wounds.
He listened to the whispers of the priests and tried to clear his mind of what was to come. The priests were excited and scared. They knew that 12 Imix had failed, but they were not sure that he was the jaguar they had captured.
One asked, if it was 12 Imix, wouldn't he become human at dawn? Another replied that he had learned from his grandfather that a priest injured as a jaguar would remain a jaguar until he was healed. Another concurred. 12 Imix closed his eyes and shut out the voices of the priests for sleep.
12 Imix was awakened by the dawn sunlight hitting his face. His body was cramped and sore, both from his injuries and the uncomfortable position of his sleep. But 12 Imix did not notice this, indeed did not move, but lay waiting for the priests to awaken.
Within minutes of the sun's first light, 12 Imix was being carried into the city. The priests were chanting an appropriate prayer to accompany their entrance. The people of the village were waiting for their return.
At first, the absence of 12 Imix's human presence was not noticed, but as the priests came closer to the ruler's entourage, exclamations were made regarding 12 Imix's absence. To the shouted queries the priests replied, "All we know is that 12 Imix gave himself for our rule, so that he may ensure the sun's return from the underworld."
12 Imix was mourned, but as a hero. 12 Imix still bound in ropes was laid over the ruler's sacrificial altar, and the ruler drew his ceremonial blade. Lifting it high, the ruler spoke words of offering for the gods. With these words, he plunged the knife into 12 Imix's chest and drew out the still beating heart. 12 Imix's conscious left with his blood, but as the blood pooled on the altar 12 Imix was satisfied that the creation would continue.