3

The day of the Harvest Fiesta had arrived in the Republic of Tulum. The heavy white sun crushed hard against the City of Chichitok. Once it finally set that evening, the customary heads of sacrificed women would be displayed on hooks, adorning the public buildings around the Plaza Mayor, and along elegant, palm tree lined Avenida Guiterrez. Karen, who was now 17, wondered if her head would be among them.

In the time since the Krendells arrived, Karen hadn't been hungry once. Now the day had come for her, to make sure things stayed that way.

Karen and six teenage Mundomayan girls stood in the 116 degree heat, atop a waist-high, circular stone platform. They wore calf-length skirts of shimmering red, orange, purple and gold threads embroidered into Mundomayan glyph patterns. They wore sandals and sequined belts. The girls were casually bare breasted, and had radiating crests of peacock viper plumes on their heads.

The platform was in a small plaza, in a district of whitewashed stucco buildings with red tile roofs. Thousands of revelers had crowded into the plaza to see which girls would get their heads chopped off, and their bodies barbecued that evening.

Karen stood beside Pilar Obregon, who had the brownish red skin, high cheekbones, long nose and smooth black hair of the native Mundomayan.

Karen's blonde hair hung to her shoulders. She had blue eyes.

They all wore necklaces carved from human knuckle bones. Their belt buckles, bracelets, earrings and hair clips were also carved from human bones.

Pilar asked, "So you've decided to take the risk?"

Karen told her, "This is required by law, to keep the population low. No one is permitted to get married and raise children until he or she has risked death in either war or human sacrifice. I think it's a good law. We should have had the same law on Earth."

"I agree." said Pilar, "but why do you talk about getting married? While Luis Vargas may have been fucking you for fun, I'm his betrothed, and everyone knows that; so why are you dancing this year?"

"It's required, for me and my family to be granted permanent residency status. That'll keep us from being returned to Earth."

Luis Vargas stood behind the line of girls, holding a machete with a four foot blade.

"You're blonde." said Pilar. "We don't get to see the heads of blonde women on the hooks very often. Everyone here'd be very disappointed if yours isn't; and I'm sure that Cacique Vargas wouldn't want to disappoint all these people."

"I'm sure he wouldn't either, but now we'll get to see, which one of us he loves the most."

Senor Carlos Coranado stood beside a table at the foot of the steps leading up to the platform. He reached into a basket on the table and drew out a slip of paper. He looked at it and called out.

"Five heads!"

Then the mariachi band on the side of the platform began blaring out a lively melody.

The seven young women spread out in a circle around Cacique Vargas, with their bare backs toward him.

The crowd started chanting, "Chop the blonde head off! Chop the blonde head off!"

Luis Vargas was a husky young man who moved the machete easily. He placed the blade on both shoulders of each girl, one by one, as the crowd continued cheerfully chanting.

"Chop the blonde head off! Chop the blonde head off! Chop the blonde head off!..."

Karen didn't flinch when she felt the heavy blade on her right shoulder. She held still when it touched her left shoulder.

Then, with great enthusiasm, the girls began a traditional foot stamping, hand clapping, whirling dance.

In the corner of her eye, Karen saw Luis slash with the machete.
She heard a loud, wet chop.

The first girl's head flew off into the crowd, with an ecstatic grin on her face. As her whirling body collapsed with a stream of sparkling red blood shooting up out of her neck stump, the crowd and the dancers all shouted.

"Ole!"

Karen continued dancing, without missing a beat. None of them missed a beat.

The blade slashed again.
Chop.

The second girl's head flew off.

"Ole!"

All over the City of Chichitok, and throughout the Republic of Tulum, the heads of thousands of young women and men were coming off. Thousands of others getting their beating hearts ripped out; all to keep conditions on Mundomaya from becoming like those on Earth. Karen was glad to help.

Chop.

"Ole!"

Chop.

"Ole!"

"Chop the blonde head off! Chop the blonde head off! Chop the blonde head off!..."

Now Pilar, Karen and one other girl were the only dancers still alive; trying not to stumble, as they danced around the bodies of their freshly killed compadres.

Karen called out "Pilar! My best wishes to you and Luis!"

The three girls whirled about, making their skirts flare out above their hips.

"Chop the blonde head off! Chop the blonde head off! Chop the blon..."

Chop.

The final girl's head flew off into the crowd, as her whirling body collapsed, with a stream of sparkling red blood shooting up out of her neck stump.

"Ole!"

When the sun rose the next morning, the heads of hundreds of young women were firmly set on the hooks, lining Avenida Guiterrez, and overlooking the Plaza Mayor. The heads of a few dozen immigrant Earth women were among them.

All was well in Chichitok.

Two years later, Karen and Luis were married. They raised their two sons and three daughters, to faithfully worship all the gods of Mundomaya. Karen made sure that they never went hungry and that they understood the importance of keeping the population low.

When their oldest daughter Amanda, was a healthy, well fed, sexually active, 16 year old high school student with good grades, she was among the bare breasted girls, whose heads came off and blood spurted high, as they danced before the cheering crowds, at that year's Harvest Fiesta.

Her mother was very proud of her.