Previous Story Synopsis: Felix is on a time-traveling field trip to the Mayan town of Ixkun in 790AD. He sees a girl dancing, who grabs him and wants to know how much he saw. She sees the armband that he is uses as a translator and starts looking at it. She accidentally hits the Emergency Evacuation button, which is supposed to send them back to Felix’s school in the present. However, that is not where they appear.
Read the full chapter here: Bumbles in Time: The Mayan Girl
Bumbles in Time: The Berber Danger
Felix looked around them. The air was warm and spindly trees grew here and there on the rolling hills. He had watched the Mayan girl push the Emergency Evacuation button. It should have brought them back to the History Room at his school, but this was nowhere he had ever seen.
“Where are we?” the girl demanded. She smacked Felix on the top of his head. “Where did you take us?”
“I don’t know!” Felix said. He checked his armband. “We’re in Morocco, in 1911!” he said into the translator. “It’s in Africa,” he added at her confused look.
“What’s Africa?” she asked. It sounded like apricot when she said it.
Felix was tired and scared, and he did not want to explain world geography right then. “My name’s Felix.”
“I’m Ixchel,” the girl said after a minute. “I have to go home. Now.”
“I know, I know!” Felix said. “Me too. Just give me a minute.” He sat down on the crumbly dirt and tried to think.
The Emergency Evacuation button had not brought them back home, so either it was broken or taking Ixchel with him had messed something up. In any case, pushing it again would probably take them somewhere else random. Maybe the school could track him and would come to rescue him. But no, if they knew where he was, they would probably be there at that moment to get him.
Felix tried to think if they had ever had a field trip in this area at around this time in history. If so, he could go meet the field trip when it arrived and they could take him back. Then it hit him. He didn’t have to limit himself to just his class. Any field trip could help him. There were thousands of field trips back into history from people all over the world! And they were all registered since it was important that two field trips not overlap and cause undue attention.
Ixchel had walked away and was looking at the trees and picking up rocks. Felix went into the menu on his armband and found the field trip registry. He had never looked at it before. It showed all the field trips in his area with brighter dots for ones closer in time. There would be one 250 km away but that was also three years in the future. There was one in Spain only a month away, but that was 400 km away and they would have to take a boat there.
He noticed the battery indicator on the armband. It was at 80%. It had been at full power when they started the field trip. The Emergency Evacuation must have taken a lot of energy.
“I think I can get us home,” he said as Ixchel walked back towards him. “We just need to walk this way to meet some people.” He did not want to tell her right away just how long they would have to walk.
“I have to be home by tomorrow night,” Ixchel said as they started walking. “The king of Tikal is coming for an important visit. I was preparing a special dance for him which is why it was supposed to be a secret. I did not know the door was open when I was practicing. If I am not there, I will be in big trouble.”
“I am already in big trouble,” Felix said. “But don’t worry. If we can meet these people, they can bring you home before tomorrow night.” 1100 years ago, he added to himself.
They came over to the top of a hill and saw a city below them surrounded by a tall stone wall. Outside were lines of pointy white tents.
“This is the city of Fez,” Felix said, looking at the map on his armband. “It’s the capital of Morocco now. This says the oldest university in the world is here, even in my time.”
At that moment, there was a boom from down in front of the city. Felix saw a puff of smoke. It was followed by a handful of smaller pops. He had never heard guns in real life, but someone was fighting down there.
Felix looked at the Events button that listed things that happened at the wearer’s place and time. “It’s the French,” he said. “They’re fighting . . . well, there are a lot of different people fighting.”
Ixchel pointed to the side where a dozen horsemen had ridden out of the trees. “I think they are fighting them,” she said. The horsemen were dressed in dark robes with blue turbans around their heads. Before Felix could even think of hiding, the horsemen were all around them.
“What clan are you with?” the lead horseman asked. He was looking at Ixchel, but Felix heard the translation in his ear. He glanced at his armband. The man was speaking Berber. Ixchel just looked back at him steadily.
“Are you French?” the man asked Felix, turning to him and switching to French.
Felix did not know what to say. His country of Piratini did not exist in 1911 and in any case, he did not want the men to see him talking to his arm. He just looked at the men as Ixchel had done.
The man growled in frustration. “We will take them back to camp. If they are spies, we will find out what they know. If not, we can ransom them.”
The men searched Felix and Ixchel, but neither of them had anything on them. Then one of the men plucked at Felix’s armband and before Felix could stop him, he was sliding the armband off his arm.
“No!” Felix shouted, but the man just smiled and put the armband on his own arm.
Two of the men put Felix and Ixchel on the backs of their horses and the group rode up into the hills, away from the city of Fez. Felix was starting to feel a bit stomach sick, as he did when he time-traveled. He had never been on a horse before. He looked over at Ixchel, bumping along behind the other rider. From the look on her face, she had never been on a horse either.
It was getting dark by the time they reached a group of tents in a tree-lined valley. A few women with brightly colored dresses and headdresses of metal disks were making food over the fire. The smell of roasting meat was heavenly.
Felix and Ixchel were put near the fire and one of the women gave them food and drink. Felix did not know how long it had been since the chicken and potatoes he had eaten for lunch. Hours? Hundreds of years? It was hard to tell with time-travel. There was barbecued meat and cheeses and couscous, which looked like tiny balls of pasta. Ixchel must have been hungry too since she ate everything in front of her and then stole a piece of Felix’s cheese.
Felix was trying not to panic. Not only had they lost their way home, but also the only way he had to communicate with anyone or even to find the way home now. Even if he got to the field trip location three years from then, without the armband, he might miss them by five minutes or by half a kilometer.
Ixchel leaned over and whispered something. Felix pointed miserably to his wrist and to his ear. “I can’t understand you,” he said, although he knew she could not understand that either.
Ixchel seemed to understand. She pointed with her eyes across the fire to the man still wearing Felix’s armband. Then she pointed to herself and moved a little as if dancing. Was she saying she would dance and go get the armband or she would make a distraction while he did?
One of the men started to sing a song, and Ixchel stood up and moved to an open place near the fire. She began to dance along with the music. That got their attention. They had never seen anything like a Mayan dance before. Two of the women stood up and started to dance on either side of Ixchel. Ixchel watched them and changed her steps a little and they moved their hands like she did. Felix would have loved to sit and watch the amazing mixture of Mayan and Berber art, but he had to get the armband back.
He stood up and moved behind the seated figures to where the man with the armband was sitting. He was still wearing it and clapping and singing along with the others. There was no way to just grab it off his arm.
Ixchel glanced over at him. Then she changed her dancing, bringing her arms low, then up so that her hands were pointing at the sky. The other women did it too. Ixchel moved to the man nearest her, continuing with her arm movements. He mimicked her and soon all the men were doing it too, imitating the dancers while seated.
It was then that Felix realized what she had been doing. She was so smart! Now that all the men were raising their arms, Felix could reach over and pull the armband straight up off the man’s wrist. But he had to do it quickly.
Felix reached over, grabbed the edge of the armband and yanked it upwards. He had it almost off in a split second, but the end snagged on the man’s thumb. The man jumped up with a roar of fury. Felix grabbed for it again but missed and caught hold of the man’s dagger that was stuck in his belt. He couldn’t reach the armband. All the other men were on their feet, too.
That was when Ixchel dodged around the man from the other side, snatching the armband from him as she did. She grabbed Felix’s hand and together they sprinted into the darkness.
The men were running for their horses to follow. There was no way they could escape and make it to where the field trip team would be, let alone survive in this place for years. Felix knew he had to push the Emergency Evacuation button again and hope for the best.
He pulled the armband on and saw the alert light go yellow. This was bad. They were in danger of changing time, if he hadn’t already. No time to worry about that now. He took Ixchel’s hand and scrolled to the bottom of the menu. He pushed the button and with a sizzle in his stomach, the Moroccan night faded away.
To be continued next week in The Malacca Meander