Black Petals Issue #73 Fall, 2015

Gift of the Anasazi
Home
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
A Journey Starts with a Flower-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Cold Surprise-Fiction by Paul Strickland
Final Run_Fiction by A. M. Stickel, Editor
Gift of the Anasazi-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Killer Deal-Fiction by Denny Marshall
Please Remember Me-Fiction by Charles C. Cole
Safe Haven, Part I-Fiction by Denis Bushlatov
Safe Haven, Part II-Fiction by Denis Bushtalov
The City-Fiction by Wayne Haroutunian
The Witch and the Rock-Fiction by Janet C. Ro
Roadside Accident-2 poems by Denny Marshall
Journey to the Devil's Shore-Poem by Grant Tarbard

Fiction by Kenneth James Crist

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Gift of the Anasazi

 

Kenneth James Crist

 

Heartfelt awakening

 

Harvey Long shivered in the wind and moonlight, standing a few feet from a lethal drop onto unforgiving rocks. He was in Mesa Verde National Park illegally, having hidden and waited until the rangers cleared out the last of the day’s tourists.

He’d never done anything like this before, didn’t really think he’d had it in him, until he’d already done it and it was too late to change his mind. He normally wouldn’t do anything to break the law—not consciously, anyway.

But when he was on the tour, getting the standard lecture from a bored-and-trying-so-hard-to-be-perky little rangerette, something had happened. He’d been standing near the back of the cave-like overhang, at the ruins, where they actually let you climb through some of the rooms and enter the restored kiva, when he’d heard chanting, far off it seemed, yet clear enough to know it was not English or any other language he recognized.

He had looked quickly around and it became very clear that no one else was hearing it. He had stepped farther back, nearer the back wall, where there was a small dish-like place in the floor of stone, where water accumulated and, pretending to bend over and examine this wet feature in an otherwise dry ruin, he was able to hear even more clearly. It sounded like the voices were coming from behind the wall, or—even more fantastic—inside the mountain.

And, right then, he made a decision that somehow he would stay the night.

The decision was not made lightly. Harvey’s most passionate hobby was ghost hunting. He’d stayed overnight in some of the most haunted locations in the country, from a haunted lighthouse in Maine to the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to the graveyard where Marie Laveau was entombed in New Orleans. He’d seen and heard exactly nothing, except in New Orleans, where he’d gotten his ass eaten alive by huge fucking mosquitos.

This was altogether different. He had heard the voices of the Anasazi, the Ancient Ones, he was sure…or so he convinced himself. So when it was time to load up and go, he went to the men’s room, stepped up on one of the stools, and then reached up and grabbed a rafter and swung himself up, and stayed up there for almost two hours. A ranger actually came in and gave the restroom a cursory check, but never bothered to look up. When Harvey was sure everyone was gone for the day, he swung down and dropped lightly to the floor and walked out to begin his adventure.

Now, he shivered and wished he had more adequate clothing. Building a fire was out of the question. That would surely bring the authorities on the run. The combination of the altitude and the dry, cool wind was making him very uncomfortable, but, by God, he’d just have to tough it out.

He moved away from the edge of the cliff and back closer to the wall. Here, there was less wind and he figured he would be better able to hear whatever was going on.

Three hours after dark, he was about to give up. But he had come in with a tour group and he really had no way out of the park, no car or other transport except for ‘riding shank’s mare’, his father’s term for hiking.

Finally, he crept quietly into the kiva, as much to get out of the wind and to be safe from whatever predators might be about. He didn’t know if there might be bears or mountain lions up here, but he also had no way to defend himself.

As he grew more tired, he finally lay down, curled on his right side, and shivered himself to sleep.

 

He found himself looking down through an opening in the center of the floor of the kiva, right where one would expect only darkness. But there was no darkness. He was seeing another world, bathed in sunshine, in which people were moving about—at a great distance, to be sure, but visible. And, once again he could hear the chanting. He could hear their music.

He did not exactly slip and fall into their world. It was more of a crawling sensation that seemed to go on for a while, but then he was there and his familiar world was left behind.

He kept to the shadows as much as he could as he approached the Anasazi settlement. It was built much like the ruins of the cliff-dwellers in Mesa Verde Park, only it was out in the open. He recalled that the cliff dwellers were small people who farmed as best they could and lived up in the cliffs to protect themselves from warring tribes that came down from the north. Apparently, there was nothing to fear in this place.

Harvey thought he was being sneaky and quiet, but it took them less than thirty minutes to catch him. They just seemed to come up out of the ground and surround him. They had no weapons, yet, compared to them, he was weak and easily taken. By sheer numbers, they overwhelmed and took him down. He was bound with some rough rope and placed in a small room made of stone. They fed him and gave him water while they decided what to do with him.

He found himself unable to look directly at their faces. Something was wrong here, some malformation he could not bring himself to admit, even though the people seemed to bear him no ill will. He was sure they were curious and maybe just a little afraid of him.

For the time being, he had no thoughts of escape. He was too interested in their culture and seeing everything he could from his tiny room. It had one small opening that served as a sort of window, and he would watch the comings and goings of their daily lives.

On the third night, they came for him. He had been hearing drums and chanting for almost an hour, but was unable to see anything from the tiny window. When they brought him out of his cell, they placed him in a cart half-filled with straw and drawn by a pair of very ordinary-looking oxen. They then proceeded to parade him through the streets of a good-sized city that he’d had no idea was there.

There were thousands of people, cheering and throwing flowers and, suddenly, Harvey was a celebrity. This went on for more than a mile, and then they arrived at the temple. It was pyramid-shaped, its surfaces clad in gold. It looked exactly like temples he’d seen in pictures he’d studied of Aztecs and Mayans. Soon the formerly rowdy crowd had gone silent.

Holy shit. The fucking Aztecs cut out people’s hearts! Am I gonna be sacrificed to some obscure god the people worship? This has got to be a dream! This can’t really be happening…

Harvey was pulled out of the cart and hustled up the many stairs to the top of the pyramid, where there was an altar, also covered in gold, bloodstained from others who had gone before him. Now he knew it was for real. He could smell the incense burning in two large braziers positioned on either side of the altar. The guards grabbed and lifted him, placing him on his back on the altar.

The knife in the priest’s hand was not made of metal but of obsidian and it looked incredibly sharp. Harvey’s thoughts whirled and he still had that feeling of unreality, even when the priest brought the knife down and he felt it penetrate his chest. Harvey at last looked the priest full in the face and screamed, and the crowd screamed back. Then he passed out.

He awoke back in his cell. He was no longer tied up, although his chest was bound with many strips of clean cloth. To his amazement, he was hungry as hell and not in much pain at all. The door of the cell stood slightly ajar and, when he pushed it open, a small woman saw he was awake and hurriedly put a meal together for him. As he ate, he looked upon her and her children and realized they were not as ugly as he had once thought. They were different, to be sure, but he could not bring himself to think of them as ugly…not anymore.

Later, when the sun had gone down, four of the tribal elders came and took him away from the families and to an area that was forbidden for the more common folk. There was a small fire and they sat together and a pipe was passed around. Whatever was in it was heady stuff. Harvey knew it was not tobacco and it was not marijuana, either. Soon, he was feeling no pain at all, and they took that opportunity to change his dressings and check the beginnings of the healing process. He briefly looked at the wound on his chest and the stitches that held it closed. There was no sign of infection or other difficulty, and he wondered just what they had done to him. At that point, he was too high to care.

As the night became darker and the moon rose, one of the elders produced a drum and they began to sing and chant. Harvey sat with them and was soon carried away with the rhythm and the repetitive nature of the tribal songs. Then, to his amazement, he was really carried away and found himself at first floating and then flying above the canyons, drenched in moonlight and silence.

Harvey’s merest thought seemed to propel him. He soared over Four Corners and then south to circle Shiprock, his speed increasing until it seemed he would break the sound barrier at any moment. Soon, he found himself tired and chilled, slowly dropping back into the canyon at Mesa Verde. The fire had gone out and everyone appeared to be asleep. He found his own small cell. He had been furnished with new blankets of rough wool, finely woven in bright patterns. He curled up and slept once more.

Days passed and he continued to heal. His time was spent learning. There was a whole new world of language and customs to learn. Far from being an outsider, he found he was now accepted by the people. He even began to notice some of the women giving him the hot eye and reckoned it wouldn’t be long before he was involved, if not married.

He began to notice physical changes in his own body, which at one time would have caused him alarm, but not now. He was getting smaller. When he had crossed over into the Anasazi world he had been about five-ten. Now he was no more than five-seven and getting shorter. At the same time, his frame was becoming sturdier and more muscular. His face was changing, too, into one more like those of his new tribe. Harvey was changing, but he preferred to think of it as “becoming.”

He soon gave up the clothing he had come over with, as the shirt he had worn was mostly in rags and the jeans were not much better. He began wearing the breechcloth, as the other men of the tribe did, and the high-altitude sun soon burned him to a dark copper. The scar on his chest showed pink against his tan. His hair had darkened and he got one of the women to cut it in the style of their tribe. If one were to come upon Harvey now, they would be hard-pressed to tell him from a native.

In a few more days, the tribal elders came to Harvey and explained that there would soon be a huge celebration, with much feasting and music and dancing. It was all in honor of him, they explained, because they had given him a special gift —a gift of the gods. He would be the guest of honor and they would dress him appropriately and help him through all the rituals.

As the special day approached, Harvey wondered what the special gift they had given might be. He certainly didn’t feel any different, although he knew he had changed, the better to fit into their society. Maybe that was the gift. He felt like he belonged here more than anywhere he’d ever been before. To return to his own modern world would be unthinkable.

On the special day, there was definitely a holiday feeling in the air. Everywhere Harvey went, he was smiled upon and warmly greeted. As evening came, a huge bonfire was built and the dancers and drummers assembled. Harvey was fed and feted, celebrated and favored until he felt almost worshipped. The feeling was much like when he had first come here, and had flown through the night unencumbered by his natural body.

As the moon rose, he found himself standing once more at the canyon rim, and, as he had done in his dreams, he pushed off into space and flew!

 

Rangers Terri Donnell and Richard Murphy found Harvey within an hour of opening the park on an otherwise normal Wednesday morning. Federal investigators were called, and the body was quickly removed to the coroner’s office in Cortez, Colorado. Harvey’s fingerprints were on file from his military service years before, but when identification was made, the coroner was mystified. The body appeared to be that of a small, Native American man, much younger than Harvey’s forty-five years. His face was not anything like his military photos. The shape of his head was all wrong, and, at first, the doctor thought it might be due to injuries to the skull from the considerable fall off the cliff. But postmortem examination showed no fractures, and the elongation of the skull and the heavy, prognathous jaw could not be readily explained. Nor could the evidence of a heart transplant.

It appeared that the heart of a much older man had been transplanted into Harvey’s chest. The purpose of this was a mystery to the coroner and, of course, Harvey took the gift of the Anasazi to his grave.

The End

 

Kenneth Crist, blkptls@cox.net, www.blackpetals.net, of Wichita, Kansas, wrote “Gift of the Anasazi” for BP #73 (+ “The Weeping Man” for BP #72, “Pebbles” for BP #71, “The Diner” for BP #67, “New Glasses” for BP #61, “Ones and Zeros” for BP #50, the novelette Joshua) and has edited BP for many years, continuing as Editor Emeritus, then Coeditor/Webmaster. Widely published, esp. in Hardboiled and on Yellow Mama, he also has four chapbooks currently for sale in Kindle format on Amazon.com: Dreaming of Mirages, The Gazing Ball, Joshua and Groaning for Burial, his latest zombie fiction.

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