Gift of the Anasazi
Kenneth James Crist
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,
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
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
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
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.
Kenneth Crist, email@example.com, 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