Hey Edward, guess what? I got another bone for ya!
Edward Coronado looked up from his work at where Victor Perez stood grinning,
holding up a human leg bone. Victor used to need education about respect for
ancestors. Now, he just needed to shut up. Put that thing back,
Victor laughed and tossed it aside to his pile of bones, further back where
they had already dug the tunnel for the new light rail underground extension.
Why did Edward get so mad whenever he found a bone in his dirt and had a little
fun with it?
It was just a bone, right? Not to Edward. He always had
something to go on about, how it was his ancestor or some story like that.
Hey, Edward, was that your grandma I just threw back there?
Victor's hyena laugh completed the aggravation.
Up yours, stupid! You know those are our ancestors! We're
, and this is a native burial ground we're boring through! At least show some
respect when we come across a grave - these are our brothers and sisters!
Victor came back, swinging. There you go again with the Indian crap.
Makes me laugh, Edward, makes me laugh. I'm
, Edward, not an Indian!
¿Puro Mexicano, sabes?
I told you there's no such thing! We're children of the Mexica and the
Spaniards, and more on the Mexica side than the
Oh yeah. Your fancy words again. You know you talk a lot of
for a guy who doesn't speak Spanish. Another barb. Neither one of them
spoke much Spanish, a sore spot for both in their families and communities. It
was a bruise on their consciences, one they would push on from time to time
because even though it hurt, it felt good when the endorphins kicked in. It was
their common pain, and they would curse themselves and each other with it to
remind themselves of who they were not.
Edward took it particularly hard because his family was more recently from
South Texas, and he was only two generations away from pure Spanish-speakers in
his family. When he was younger, he didn't want to be Mexican, or Spanish, or
anything else. He wanted to be just Edward, to be accepted by everyone else. He
wanted to blend in and be generically American.
Later, at the Science Magnet, he picked up a love for physics and studied
German to prepare himself for a career in that field. But always was the
pressure from his mother, his grandfather, his uncles, his little sister, even
his last girlfriend to be more Mexican and less trying to be someone else. His
family was all Mexican. They all had straight, dark hair, inside and out. They
didn't understand why Eduardo had to be a
on the inside when he looked just as Mexican as everyone else on the outside.
After his former girlfriend broke up with him and called him a coconut, he
decided it was time he became not just Mexican, but more Mexican than anyone he
knew, and he started dropping references to
. As he dug deeper into the past, he realized becoming more Mexican like his
family wasn't what he really wanted. He didn't want to speak Spanish, the
language of the conquering armies and oppressing missionaries. He wanted to
speak the Aztec tongue, Nahuatl, if he could. Even better would be to speak
like the people that crossed the Bering Straits thousands of years ago.
Ultimately, they were his oldest ancestors, the ones he longed to emulate most.
His family just thought he was crazy. Who would want to be an Indian? They
lived on reservations and had no money. First he's a white boy, now he's an
Aztec or a Comanche or whatever tribe he just read about. Why can't he be
Eduardo Coronado, Mexican? No matter where he searched, Edward always looked in
places far distant from his family.
Victor didn't care as much as Edward, but he still felt a pang when he made his
jab about not speaking much Spanish. His family had come to Dallas right as the
Mexican Revolution got underway, and hadn't really emphasized learning Spanish.
The patriarch of the Perez family dictated that English was the most important
thing to know in order to do proper business and get ahead: to be white, in
other words. That emphasis on English got his kids into Adamson High School
when most Mexicans either dropped out or got pushed out. The Mexicans didn't
really have separate schools in Dallas like the segregated blacks. They either
learned how to be white and stayed in school, or dropped out. Not that Victor
really knew or cared about all that history. He had dropped out of Sunset High
School in the 11th grade and felt like a second-class Hispanic for not knowing
as much Spanish as he was expected to.
He didn't search for his past like Edward did. He had enough on his hands
trying to figure out who he was now and who he was going to be. Construction
work was fine, for now. He just didn't want to be stuck doing it for the rest
of his life. He'd seen his friends' fathers come home, tired and sore from
sweating a hard day in the Texas heat. The worst off were the roofers. All day
long in the direct sun, slowly losing your knees in the positions you had to
sit in to put up the new roof. Roofing had to be the worst thing he could do.
He had recently made the decision digging up bones had to be the second worst
thing he could do, but it was a job, and a job paid money.
If only he could get a job doing something else
That would require a high
school diploma, and that was something he didn't have at the time. He
thought about going back to get his GED, but wouldn't do anything more about
that but think.
Man, Edward, these guys are
ancestors. Don't take it hard if I don't love them as much as you do.
Say what you want, Victor, they're still your family as much as
Now Dewino spoke up. Dewino
Curtis didn't speak any Spanish and didn't care. He knew who he was and felt
like Spanish had nothing to do with his history. He had his own version of the
history of the graves. How do you two know this wasn't a Freedman's
Victor rolled his eyes and made a leering grin, a little happier, now that he
could turn away from the pain he had created. Ah
no! Now we got Martin Luther King going!
Man, you guys need to learn to mind a man's heritage. Dewino
remained calm. He learned patience from constantly having to explain how to
pronounce his name (
deh-WHY-no, as in 'da wino in da
) and endure the questions of why in the name of all that
was good a mother would name her kid Dewino. He didn't know and didn't want to
know. He loved his mother even though she had given him a weird name and died
of AIDS before he graduated from South Oak Cliff High School. He just lived
with her legacy and asked that all his friends call him D.
Why do you think we're using these hand tools instead of the boring
equipment? It's because a crew hit bones along this route and the City Council
figured we should do right by them and get all the bones buried in a new
cemetery. It's just like the other Freedmen's Cemetery they found a while
Aw, D, I don't care
we're digging up, it's just more hard work for us. Victor hated the hand
tools. He wanted to get his hands on the power equipment used in normal tunneling operations.
Yeah, but it's steady and the money's good, so I don't care. Mike
Foster spoke up in the hope everyone else would just shut up and get back to
working after his comment. There was no chance these bones meant anything to
him. He was from Ohio, and had no idea where his family came from before that.
It could have been New York, maybe London, maybe Samarkand. He didn't care. He
just wanted to work in the quiet.
Victor Perez, therefore, existed as a constant irritant to Mike. D and Edward
could carry on quietly about the skeletons so he wouldn't be able to hear them.
Victor was just a loud, goofy half-wit, half-not-wit punter. Mike's favorite
moments were when the foreman, Booker T. Garvin, stepped into the job site and
told Victor to shut up and get back to work.
Mr. Garvin wasn't around, so Victor continued resting on his shovel and
expounded further on the nature of the bones. Hey, don't you guys think
it's weird we haven't found any heads? What's up with that, huh?
D shrugged his shoulders and muttered, Maybe the ground shifted funny or
something. I'm no expert on that.
Edward put forward his expertise. Maybe that's the way the tribe handled
their dead. Decapitation. Do something totally different with the body than
what they do with the head. We haven't found any other stuff buried with the
bodies, you know. I think they were just tossed to the side, or buried in
ground not as sacred as where they put the heads. This was the kernel of
his pet theory about the site.
You talkin' about that crazy dream again, Edward? Give it up and just
admit you were smokin'
. The way Victor put it made D and Mike chuckle quietly, even though they
didn't want to encourage Victor's jabbering any further.
This wasn't a trip; I saw it all. Everything. It was at night, on a
mound, and -
Mr. Garvin approached the men and cut the jabbering off. Edward, keep
digging, and Victor, before you say anything else, he turned, pointed a
finger in an accusatory pose, and caught Victor with an open mouth. He paused
just long enough so everyone could turn and see the clown caught in the act,
and Victor obliged because a clown always enjoys an audience for his act.
Garvin smiled and finished the sentence with the obligatory, Victor, shut
up and get back to work.
Hey, we're just havin' a little break, Mr. Garvin, we're working hard,
I'll bet. Garvin's rich bass voice boomed nicely in the man-made
cave. He liked the kids he had working on the project. Not a one of them was
over 23 and he was just into his fifties, so they were like children to him.
They didn't feel like his own children, but instead like the children of close
neighbors or cousins that you take an interest in raising, anyway, because the
community expected it of you.
He was a babysitter, and he knew it. If this were being done right, the city would have
real archaeologists in here in greater numbers to do the same work. That would wreck the schedule. The Freedmen's Cemetery set back the first tunnel project several years, blew the budget, and the top execs at DART swore that would never happen again. Much cheaper to kick off digging on a different tunnel and get a bunch of kids who don't know a grave from a hole in the ground to move the bones outta here. He had volunteered to be the
overseer of the project. It was dull at times, but was some of the easiest work
he ever had to do. Just yell at the kids if they get out of line and make sure
the skeletons didn't get jumbled together
As he sorted through the piles of bones, making sure they were kept neat and
orderly for him to later bag and tag, he remembered when he
was young like these boys and dealt with bones of a different kind.
Back in the early 70's, at the start of his 20-year career in the US Army,
Booker T. Garvin served in Vietnam, seeing carnage and man's inhumanity to man
just a few feet away from him. Sometimes it was only a few inches away from his
face, especially when he ran into a VC in one of those damned underground
burrows of theirs.
He shivered. That wasn't a good memory, but it came, anyway. The shouting,
followed by the blaze of fire from the guns, the bullet that hit the dirt
behind his ear, the bullet that hit the VC in the chest, exploding it in a mire
of dark crimson horror.
The thought only lasted a moment. Garvin knew how to get the thoughts, the
waking dreams, out of his mind. Either you learned how to put the demons of war
behind you or they ate you from within. Once he had the nightmare behind him,
he paused to reflect on how lucky these kids had been to not see combat. He
hoped they never had to face it.
Like D, he hoped the bones were from a previously unmarked Freedman's Cemetery,
such as the one discovered not too long ago when a construction crew turned it
up in the course of the Central Expressway expansion. He was proud to be an
African-American and loved history: finding a Freedman's Cemetery or something
like that would be a great honor to him. He saw himself giving a speech to the
local NAACP chapter, showboating his role in restoring the memory of his
Unlike D, he knew enough of the situation and history of Dallas to know this
probably wasn't a Freedman's Cemetery. It was in absolutely the wrong section
of town, a part of Oak Cliff somewhere near Westmoreland and Illinois, where no
historical concentration of African-Americans ever existed. Were they lynched
slaves? Garvin doubted that, too.
Cruel as the white men could be in Dallas, they weren't so ruthless as to
wrongly put to death. These skeletons, to a one, lacked their heads. Garvin
knew such a lack indicated this wasn't likely to be the resting ground of
beloved ancestors. He kept the vain little hope alive because it
Edward's theories about the place actually sounded the most plausible, but
Garvin kept them out of his head and told everyone else to keep them out. He
had learned in the jungles the lessons soldiers everywhere learn or die. One
lesson taught the value of not imagining things, ever. You only become a
nutcase when things get really red, gooey, and nasty and they start fueling
your active imagination to drive your brain places you don't want it to go.
Keep your mind clear and in a state of disuse, soldier, so your imagination
never gets to fire it up and make you crazy.
Keep digging, guys. Lunch break in about an hour. His own words and
Victor's goldbricking groans put his mind back at ease. He looked around the
cavern, making sure everyone was working hard. Edward and D were doing a great
job, Victor needed a kick in the rear, and Mike looked like his body was
working, but his mind was a million miles away.
Mike hadn't ever done underground construction work before, and he didn't want
to do it again, if he could avoid it. The gruesome nature of unearthing bones
haunted him constantly in the warm dampness of the cave. He didn't let his mind
wander like Edward or D did at times. But when they started talking out loud
about their thoughts, it would chill his veins and give him something
unpleasant to think about until he caught himself and managed to put it out of
He had almost gotten the last
bit of Edward-inspired grue out of his head when his pickaxe hit something in
the dirt that wasn't a bone. It sounded like rock. Mike chipped away carefully
at that section and revealed a sheer face of cut stone. The little bit of grue
hung around the back of his brain, just in case it would be needed again after
figuring out what the stone was doing there.
Mr. Garvin, sir? I think I hit something over here.
Had Mike lost his focus and broken a bone? When he saw how Mike didn't look
worried, he figured it must be something interesting.
Garvin ambled over to Mike's spot and looked long and hard at the stone. He
didn't know what to make of it, so he told Mike, Keep uncovering that
thing. See how big it is. We're not supposed to have rock down here, but I
don't know. Garvin shook his head as he stepped back so Mike could knock
more dirt away from the stone.
As he worked at clearing the face of the monolithic stone, Mike's stomach
knotted with anxiety. Seeing the cold, silent face of the stone sent him back
to when he was a seven year old child watching his grandfather's coffin go into
a mausoleum. When he had seen his grandfather's body at the viewing, Mike
thought he was still alive and sleeping - that's what everyone had pretty much
said, anyway. When his sleeping grandfather was put into the stone tomb, Mike
worried about what would happen when his grandfather woke up.
Mike had nightmares for months after seeing his grandfather interred, all
centering around being buried alive because he couldn't wake up. Seeing this
much stone up close in the presence of all those skeletons behind him brought
those nightmare visions to the front of his mind. He swallowed his fears and
worked on as the bitterness churned his body's chemistry in unpleasant ways. He
prayed quietly he wouldn't fall asleep, please God don't let me fall asleep.
Lunch was a terrific relief from the mental blackout he had gone into as he
fought off the hauntings of his sleeping grandfather.
When everyone started on their lunches, they all looked at the area Mike had
cleared. It had to be part of some primordial structure. D and Garvin realized
this definitely wasn't a Freedmen's Cemetery, and it would be foolish to go on
pretending it was. Victor thought it was trippin' and not much else. Edward had
You scratched it up some. You really should be careful with that stone.
It looks like part of a building or something and should be kept as
well-preserved as possible.
Mike saw a potential relief to his torture. Hey, Edward, if you wanna
switch jobs, that's fine by me.
Great. Mike turned to Garvin, who nodded approvingly.
If there's anything of historical significance here, Garvin said,
it behooves us to do as fine a job of preservation as we can, and I'm
sure Edward can do an excellent job in that respect.
Aw man, what a load! Victor made the others laugh with his keen
Just practicing for the supervisors, Garvin said. They're
supposed to be here later today. He thought some and said, You
boys know to be on your
behavior, right? No jokes or goofing around or anything else like that. Got
it? He looked directly at Victor as he finished his statement.
Yes sir, said Victor. He knew how to act in front of the brass hats
and muckety-mucks. Garvin was a good boss and Victor didn't want to screw
anything up with him, like he almost did at the start, the first time the guys from DART headquarters showed up. After that experience, Garvin made up some special Victor-only rules.
Victor knew the routine by heart: visitor shows up. Victor shuts up. If anyone
asks him to talk, he fakes a sore throat. He doesn't even breathe, if it's a
short visit; he can exhale when the guests leave. The plan was simple,
flawless, and had stood the test of time.
Everyone else knew the drill, as well, and chuckled quietly as Victor popped a
cough drop to add that menthol-scented detail to his brilliant disguise of mild
Garvin, meanwhile, knew how to do all the talking. Be polite, agree, offer to
go the extra mile every now and then. You don't put 20 years into the army
without learning how to treat an officer. Make him feel important and he won't
have to prove how much of a big shot he is to you or your men. There was a
reason the troops of the NCOs who were less personable always seemed to get the
worst work details.
About ten minutes after lunch, a pair of figures in suits appeared at the far end
of the tunnel. Garvin waved and waited for them to get within polite speaking
distance before saying anything. Well, we're digging away down here. Keeping a good schedule.
The tallest supervisor, a thin man in a bad suit, pushed up his glasses with his
left hand. His badge bore the name 'Brett'. Yeah, looks fine. Nobody else comes by here?
Good. He looked around.
The other supervisor, LaQuanah, a short woman with frazzling hair, did the same. She noticed one of the young men wasn't unearthing a skeleton. "What is going on over there?"
Garvin responded coolly. We hit some stone.
Brett stepped forward to squint at Edward's work. I'll be. There wasn't supposed to be no stone down here.
"Nope," said LaQuanah.
"Figger we oughta blow it up," said Brett.
"Yep," said LaQuanah.
They had everyone's attention now. Victor grinned, imagining the cool explosion. He was one hundred percent behind this whole blowing things up thing.
Edward wasn't so happy. "Excuse me, did you say you wanted to destroy this structure?"
LaQuanah was interested. "Structure? What do you mean?"
"It's not rough stone. It's been cut."
"Well, we don't know that for certain, Edward," said Garvin.
"Looks like cut stone to me," said Brett. "All the more reason to blast. Damned Indian burial ground would kill the whole project and we'd be out of a job for sure."
"Absolutely." LaQuanah folded her arms in resolution.
Edward couldn't believe what he was hearing. "You can't do that."
Brett shot a look at Garvin. Garvin understood. "Edward, enough of that. We're here to preserve the dead, not some old house. It's a compromise we have to make in this line of work."
"But Mister, that could be a temple or something for these people. We can't just trash it like it was a boulder."
"We can't do it."
"You're fired, Edward." Garvin felt real pain when he said that. He had to do it, no matter how much it hurt.
"Well, now, hold on there," said Brett. "No need to be so hasty. Why don't we discuss this, Mr. Garvin?" Garvin and the supervisors moved away from the young men, who were all in shock over Edward getting fired. They all figured it would be Victor who would get fired first.
Brett spoke quietly to Garvin. "You can't fire that boy."
"Media. He gets mad, he blabs. Even if it's only a low power Spanish AM station, it's way more attention than we want for this project."
"Well, what do we do now?"
LaQuanah answered that question. "Hire him back, keep uncovering it, we'll think of something."
"All right." Garvin went back to the others. "Edward! Come here."
Edward walked up to Garvin. "Edward, I talked it over with those guys. We decided not to blast the thing there. You can keep your job and keep uncovering it. There's a very good chance we can get something in to haul it up to the surface and rebuild it up there."
The supervisors liked Garvin's scenario. It made a good cover story while they decided how to get rid of the obstacle.
"All right, Mister. I'll stay." Edward was glad he could stay on. He couldn't wait to get back to the stone structure, to clean the centuries of dirt from its surface.
"Attaboy." Garvin gave Edward a pat on the back as he went back to work. "The rest of you, keep busy. This ain't a daisy farm." The others got back to work as Garvin went back to go over other project details with the supervisors.
Garvin went up to the surface to go over some more details with the supervisors. Victor knew what to do. "Hey, Edward, you think that's really a house or something?"
"Yeah. That. What do you think they did there?"
"Ritual burial of the dead or maybe sacrifices."
Probably. Why else would you remove a head so near a stone structure?
They could have been bloodthirsty thugs with a sadistic streak, but I'd like to
give them the benefit of a doubt.
Victor leaned on his shovel. This was getting interesting. If these were
prehistoric gangstas they were digging up, that would be so cool.
Edward continued. "There were mounds discovered in Illinois used for burial, with a few holding bodies that didn't have any heads. Maybe these peoples were connected."
Victor speculated. "Or maybe these guys were like traitors or something, and had to pay the price for goin' against the tribe, huh?"
"I doubt it."
Dewino asked, "How do you know?"
"What do you mean?"
"How do you know Victor ain't right?"
"I had a dream where-"
"We all know about the dream. What real proof do you have?"
"The mound in Illinois-"
"The only Illinois we got here is the street above us. What proof do you have?"
"I don't care if I can satisfy you with proof or not. I know I'm right."
"So it's a religion for you?"
"I guess. In a way. I don't worship it, but I believe in my dream."
"That's wrong, man." Dewino shook his head. "The Bible warns about false prophets and stuff like that. You need to get your heart right with Jesus."
"You got proof about Jesus?"
"Sure do. More than what you got about this being an Indian temple."
"No you don't. All you have is a book and tradition."
"I have my faith and a witness from above."
"So do I. Where do you get off saying my beliefs are any less, when they're the same thing?"
"Because they're wrong."
"Yours are wrong to me."
"You're going down the wrong path, Edward."
"I'm not having this conversation any more. Callate lo hocico, pendejo."
Victor didn't know much Spanish, but he knew that phrase. He busted out laughing. "Daaaaaaang!"
"What did he just say?" Dewino didn't like being on the outside.
"Y'all need to talk English around here. This is America, not Mexico."
"You wanna step up, fool?"
"Maybe I do."
"Anytime. You wanna go right now?"
"It ain't worth it."
"You're chicken, that's it."
"I'm not losing my job over this. You wanna lose your job, you got an easier way than by mixing it up with me."
Victor didn't want to lose his job. "You watch yourself, vato. There's more of us Mexicans than anyone else in this town. You just watch yourself."
"Come on over to my side. We'll be happy to school you."
"Is that an invitation?"
"Anytime, like you said. We'll get you cookies and punch."
"Shut up you guys." Mike needed some quiet.
"Who asked you?" Dewino didn't appreciate the interruption.
"Yeah! Who asked you?"
Edward came back to the conversation. "We all did. We don't need all this."
Dewino mouthed at Victor, "Later," and went back to work. Victor motioned outwardly with his hands and brought his head back slightly in a challenging posture. Mike and Edward were already back on the job. Victor kept leaning on his shovel. The longer he stayed where he was, the sweeter his victory. He didn't get the last word in, just the last macho pose. Nobody messes with Mexicans. We own this town. Victor smiled as he surveyed his empire of dirt.
Garvin noticed Victor taking another unauthorized break and stepped quietly
over to his area. Garvin was only three feet away from him when he finally saw the big foreman.
Victor made his begging
puppy-dog face. He mouthed what looked to be please and
mister and aw, come on, but it was hard to tell, what
with all the other contortions he put his face through to convey his deep
desire to not work right now.
Garvin said nothing. He pursed his lips and opened his eyes wide to reveal the
anger rising within. He wasn't really angry, and Victor knew it. He just had to
look angry to get the process set in motion to get Victor back to work. One
more gesture would do it. In time, he would make that gesture.
Victor got ready. He knew what was coming, and wanted to meet it head-on. He
gripped his shovel and took a breath.
Garvin pointed back at the dirt in Victor's area and tipped his head slightly
to the right. That put an end to Victor's prehistoric gangsta vacation. As he
had done a thousand times before, Victor lifted his shovel and started moving
Victor remained defiant. He chose to exercise his freedom of speech. Mr. Garvin! Why
did Edward get to talk to them and I had to keep working?
Edward was airing his concerns on matters directly affecting his work.
But I wasn't gonna say nothing!
You wasn't gonna work nothing, either, which is why I got after you.
That ain't right, mister.
It doesn't have to be right. Now shut up, Victor- Garvin raised his
hand to motion a stop. Victor froze, mouth loaded with words, ready to fire.
-and get back to work. Victor put the safety back on and saved
shooting his mouth off for later.
Edward chuckled quietly.
A few seconds later, Victor tried another angle. Did you see that one
guy's rug? He kept digging slowly. He had to remember the appearance of
work was paramount, often more important than the work itself.
Yeah, he wasn't fooling anybody. Garvin approved. It's all
right to talk and work at the same time, so long as you at least look like
you're working. He was supervising, so he just had to look like he was thinking
Did you get a load of his suit? I thought stuff like that went out 20
years ago. Mike was glad to join in. Light chatter kept his mind from
going to its dark, bitter corners.
I believe it was out of style even then, said Garvin.
Was it ever in style? said D. You ought to know, Mr. G
you used to live with the dinosaurs, right?
Don't you forget it, either! I had to walk my Brontosaurus every morning.
Five miles in the snow, uphill
both ways! Garvin got a nice chorus
from Mike, D, and Victor on the last two words. Couldn't ever ride it on
account it had a bad back.
Got a bad back because your fat old momma rode it, said D. Good one.
She shoulda been picking on someone her own size. Et tu, Mike?
Like your momma? said Victor.
Aw, forget you! You were so ugly as a baby, your mom had to hang meat
around your neck so the dogs would play with you.
Yeah, well at least my mom didn't have to shave my butt and make me walk
backwards into church so I'd look presentable.
The conversation degenerated into slams so old, they were older than the
crusts on their grandmothers' underwear. It didn't matter who said what to who,
it just helped the time pass by. The only one who remained serious was Edward.
Edward's mind wandered into visions of tombs, as Mike's had done, but Edward
felt much more at home in them. He saw tall, proud men climbing a hill at
night, much as he had seen in his dreams. The men went to the top of the
earthen mound and entered a great stone building. The building glowed strangely
from within, the light suffusing through the walls of the structure. When the
men entered the place, there would be a period of silence followed by a
soul-shattering scream, then more silence. All but one of the men would emerge, silently and solemnly, but with expressions of inner wisdom and peace
on their faces.
Edward longed to see the insides of that place in his dreams, to see why there
was a scream and why all but one returned, peaceful and calm. In one dream, the
faces turned to him and acknowledged him before they turned and continued their
silent way. It was the happiest dream Edward ever had.
As he thought of his dreams, Edward felt a sense of familial
ancestry about the stone he was uncovering.
These are my people. This is what my ancestors made, long ago, before the Spaniards, before even
they left Aztlan.
He knew without any logical reason and beyond any doubt his ancestors were
responsible for the place. He studied one spot of the bare stone and noticed a
bit of dirt still clinging to it. Gently, he reached up and flaked it off with
The thought was in his mind, as surely as if he had thought it. But he hadn't thought it.
The thought spoke his name crudely, through a thick accent thousands of years old.
He saw with his heart for the very first time. He saw a tall, proud man wearing skins and feathers whose eyes burned a new language into his mind. He pointed at himself and the thought arrived in Edward's mind. Achtontli.
All the blood left Edward's extremities and stomach. He felt the cold and hunger of the dead. His skin raced with the wind of the prairie and he closed his eyes so he could see better with his heart. Again, the man pointed at himself. Again came the thought. Achtontli.
Edward began to cry a little. The man pointed at Edward. Part of the first thought returned. Conetl.
Edward wept as he realized the love of this man, his yearning to join Edward with his family. I am child. You are great-great-grandfather, Father Ancestor.
The man held his arms upward and looked to the sun directly overhead. A flower appeared in his hand and a hummingbird flew in to drink the nectar. I am huitzitzilin, thought Edward. The chill and hunger of the dead grew within Edward, bringing more unknown words to his mind, filling it with the language Achtontli's eyes burned into his mind.
Others appeared behind Achtontli. One by one, they filled the fields of short prairie grass behind Achtontli. Tlahtocayotlan. I am with my people. Tlahtocayotlan. Edward's clothes fell away, replaced by simple skins. Hummingbird feathers appeared in his hair, covering his head. He stepped forward and embraced Achtontli.
The sun burned white hot and the wind of the dead prairie blew black cold and all the flesh fell from all the bodies. Edward was left a spirit facing a spirit and a skull with no jawbone, hovering before him. It had no eyes, but it still watched him. It had no mind, yet it thought of him. It had no heart, yet it desired Edward to join the people. The cold and hunger of the dead completely engulfed Edward as the White Buffalo raced through him and a hummingbird drank nectar from the flowers that sprang up in the hoofprints of the White Buffalo.
Star-filled darkness surrounded Edward. The skull with no jaw, no eyes, and no mind told Edward a simple message as it faded into dream.
Edward wept as he returned to the waking world. He still felt the love of Achtontli and the words of his people.
He looked at the stone. Voices spoke quietly to him. Voices sang quietly to him. Edward did not understand a single word with his mind. The words had to enter his heart to have any meaning.
Edward opened his heart and let the words assemble there in council. The words looked at Edward and he looked back at them. The words acknowledged Edward and gave him secrets.
Edward wiped away his tears. He carried his dream in his heart and sheltered it from the heat of the living man's world.
Edward whispered, "Achtontli," and dug on in silence.
By the end of the day, Edward had uncovered a long stretch of stone: the full base of the building from one corner to another. There was much dirt upwards on the face of the inward-slanting stone, but the base was visible. In the dead center of the wall, a single monolith jutted forward. It had worn edges at its base.
Garvin went up to take a look at it. He didn't know what impressed him more, the revelation of the stone or the amount of work Edward had done.
Edward stood up and looked back and forth at Garvin and the monolith.
Garvin said, "That's a door."
"It swings upward. Men grab it at the base and swing it up."
Edward said, "Yes. It is the entrance to the temple."
Garvin stared at the base of the door. For a brief moment, he saw a short, broad woman stand between him and the door. He shivered.
Edward looked at Garvin. "There's still a lot of dirt to move."
Garvin nodded. "I'll get D to help you tomorrow."
Edward didn't want to leave. The words in his heart told him to be patient. They told Edward anything can be waited for, if you have patience. Edward swallowed back a tear and said, "Yeah. I could use the help."
Garvin clapped Edward on the back. "Good work, man. No hard feelings?"
"None at all."
"Good. See you tomorrow, Edward."
"See you." Edward left. D, Mike, and Victor had already gone home. Garvin stood alone, staring at the base of the door. He shivered a few more times without knowing why and then went home.
D showed up a little early the next day. Edward and Garvin were already there, digging at the temple. He saw them, digging carefully and silently. Something about their work cast a spell on him and without being asked, he started moving dirt from the face of the temple walls.
Mike and Victor arrived at the same time and saw the others moving the earth. Both were astonished to see Garvin actually working. Something was up with that.
Mike found a spot in the tunnel as far away from the temple as he could get and dug for skeletons, the lesser of two terrors. Victor decided to dig over with Mike. He didn't feel comfortable about the way D, Edward, and Garvin were working so hard to clear the dirt. The temple was strange and beautiful, but was it really worth working for?
Victor took his place by Mike. "Looks like D and Edward settled up."
"Yeah." Mike wanted to talk, but felt too much fear to think of conversation.
"Too bad. I was hoping to see a fight today."
Mike's hands shook a little as he dug.
"What's with you, man, you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm OK."
"You look kinda sick, Mike."
"It's just the light down here. Everyone looks sick in this kind of light."
"Just you, Mike. You're so pale, anyway."
"Yeah, I guess." They dug a while in silence.
Mike actually found himself praying Victor would say something or get yelled at. It was way too quiet today. Victor kept looking over at the temple and said nothing.
Garvin was working so hard, he didn't even notice Victor's unathorized breaks. They were all working so hard, they broke late for lunch. After lunch, Victor found his tongue again and kept Mike company with talk of the heat and baseball as the others kept on digging in the silence.
It took two days to get all the dirt cleared from in front of the door. It was
3 feet wide and 6 feet tall, angled inward slightly. Edward and D
had to finish clearing off the top edges while perched precariously on the top of step
ladders in flagrant violations of workplace safety regulations. Garvin didn't
care. Those two young men had good heads on their shoulders and wouldn't do
anything goofy like what Victor could do if you turned your back on him for
more than half an hour.
When Garvin wasn't digging, he was his old normal self again. Garvin glanced over at Victor after he thought of him. Victor was just finishing a break and got back to work as
soon as Garvin shot him a mean, one-eyed glare. Garvin smiled when Victor got
back to work.
Edward and D weren't digging with the same intensity as before, now that the door was uncovered. They got off their stepladders and surveyed what they had done. Garvin walked up next to them.
Nice rock you boys uncovered. As perfect a rectangle as anything that
size has a right to be. Unbelievable.
D said, It's big all right. How does it stay open once you lift it up?
Edward answered, "You grab the door at the bottom and slide it up. There are timbers in there to support it."
Garvin felt uneasy about Edward's authoritative tone. No one had a right to be so sure about something so old and impenetrable. He shook off his unease and squinted at the stone above the door. "Is that different stone up there?"
D said, "No, it looks the same as the stuff on the bottom."
Garvin said, "Looks like glass. It's thicker at the bottom, but I swear that's glass."
Edward hadn't noticed before, but Garvin was right. "It sure looks like glass, but it felt like stone. Very strange."
Let me have a look-see. Garvin looked at the wall and made that funny look on his face again in
disbelief. That stuff is glass. You fellas weren't lying.
D nodded and looked at the glass. It wasn't polished or very clear, but more
like a translucent candleholder that gave off a smoky light through its sides
when its candle was lit. He had no idea how that much glass got to be there.
Garvin decided to experiment. Gimme a pick. Everyone looked at him
funny. Had everyone gone deaf? Give me a pick! Edward handed him
one. Garvin motioned for Edward to step
aside. Edward moved out of the way and Garvin went up to the base. He figured one place was as good as any for getting samples. He raised his pick to bring it down on the stone and get a few fragments.
Don't miss and split your head open, big guy! Just hearing Victor
made Garvin wobble and lose focus.
Garvin didn't bother turning around to yell at Victor. You just keep
breathing, pal. Keep breathing. You'll be where I am some day. Old and
Victor tried again. Yeah, but I won't be as fat as you.
Garvin steadied himself and half-turned his head. I've seen you drink
beer, Victor. You'll be twice as fat as me because you don't work out.
What do you think this is I'm doing here?
You're working now, but when you get a sitting job, you don't have enough
get up and go to get up and go work yourself out.
So why are you so out of shape? Victor had absolutely no innocence
whatsoever in his hyena voice.
I'm big boned and I can kick your butt so shut up and get back to work
before I show you what I learned in the army, Victor! Garvin's bearish
command did the trick and Victor was yes-sirring himself back onto Garvin's
Garvin shook his head and grinned. That boy was sure a handful, but he was all
right. Garvin took a hard swing and nearly fell over backwards
when the pick struck the glass. Victor brayed out loud and Mike chuckled
nervously. D and Edward jumped back in different directions so as to
be out of the pick's swing distance.
Once Garvin had recovered from his embarrassing stumble, he looked at the
glass where he had chipped it. Only a few small flecks came off of it. The rest
of the wall looked fine, with no shatter marks other than the few around where
Garvin had struck it. Garvin couldn't stop shaking his head and making his
funny face. How in the
he just shook his head as his sentence
trailed off. We're getting a geologist in here tomorrow. This is weird.
Garvin stepped back a few yards. In fact, we're
quitting today right now. Everybody go on home and I'll see you here
We still get a full day's pay?
For today? Yes you do, Victor. Or maybe everyone but you
The others laughed at Garvin's joke and Victor's initial serious reaction. When
Victor saw Garvin crack a smile, he realized the joke was on and appreciated
it, even if it was on him. Aw, you're just playin', Mr. Garvin! I hear
ya, though. I'll be here tomorrow so I can torture you some more!
They all walked out laughing as Garvin got on the phone to his boss to see
about getting a DART geologist to come by tomorrow.
Vitrified rock. The geologist's assessment of the glass was as
rapid as it was decisive.
What the hell is that? Garvin and the geologist were down on their knees, looking at the glass-like substance at the base of the temple.
Rock that got so hot, it turned to glass. Common in industry, not very
common at all in ancient cultures. The geologist began to stand up.
Garvin stood up as well. So what are you saying?
You've got something here no other culture in America ever produced, at
least from what we know about them today. Hardly anybody could get a bunch of
vitrified rock like this.
So who did?
Celtic peoples, mostly. There's a really good example of an entire fort
that got vitrified up in Scotland.
So how did those Scottish people get down here, Mr., uh
Krenytsky. Would you believe there's two of us in the phone book? Call me
Rob if it's easier for you.
OK, Rob, how did whoever did this get here? What are we dealing with?
Only one way to tell. Find out for ourselves.
Garvin furrowed his brow and cocked his head.
We just go in there, Rob pointed at the stone door, and step
into our 15 minutes of fame.
Victor spoke, giving the lie to his ersatz sore throat. You mean we'd be
on TV if we go in there?
Mike's face went paler. I am not going in there.
D and Edward looked back and forth between Garvin and Mr. Krenytsky for some
kind of response.
Rob spoke up. TV? Sure, pal. We just open it up and in we go. We just
have to get there today, before anyone else finds out and tries to take credit
for himself. Maitland would jump in here in a second and kick all you guys out
without a second thought. My way, you get your faces on your front page. Who
knows? Maybe it could open some doors for you?
Victor asked, We find out who made it and get all famous for it?
Sure thing. Rob smiled eagerly. He never had anything like
this before and felt like a kid in a candy store. It wasn't every day fame and fortune came knocking on his door.
Wow. Is it safe to go in, though? Victor turned to Garvin for an
Garvin was completely flustered. What the hell was Rob going on about television and fame? "Just a second, Edward."
"Whatever. Hang on." He took Rob aside for a brief conference.
"Where do you get off telling these boys about going on television? We're supposed to keep this thing hushed up!"
"There is no way we can tunnel on without acknowledging that structure. There's no way we can move it and I doubt this ground would be stable if we did what we needed to do to blast through it. We're going to have to come clean about this."
"What about the skeletons? We're gonna catch hell for those."
"Correction. No one catches hell. We rescued them from a worse fate. The bones were all kept together, so archaeologists won't mind."
"What about Indian groups? They'll be plenty pissed."
Rob smirked. "Who's an Indian these days? They're all off in Oklahoma and Montana and Alaska. DART was only worried about this being another Freedmen's Cemetery or a slave burial ground. We didn't want your people killing the project like they almost did the other underground line."
Garvin was aware of the political concerns, but they didn't excuse Rob's attitude. "Are you saying the respect paid to the freed slaves was too much to ask?"
"How much respect did you give these bones?"
Garvin felt that pain deep in his heart. Hypocrisy always stings when first discovered. He's got me there, damn it. We've defiled this place in the eyes of those who keep it sacred. I'm guilty. We're all guilty. Garvin dug with his heel for a few seconds while he mulled over his ethics. Might as well do it. It's too late to go back and undo what we've done. "What the hell. If the boys want it, why not?"
Rob smiled. Garvin walked over to the rest of the crew and said, "OK, we're going in."
Rob was eager, but still had respect for safety. "We'll need to put on gas masks, just in case there's anything noxious in there or bats have gotten into it."
"Bats?" Victor had some concerns about safety, as well.
"Yeah, bats. They carry rabies. Don't want to catch that."
"Oh." Victor didn't sound very convinced.
"Just get your mask on and get busy with this. All of you." Garvin noticed how tense he was after he barked his order.
Everyone got their gas masks on. Garvin and Rob each took up a spot on opposite sides of the door. After several strong heaves, the door began to give a little. When they could get a finger-hold on the base, Edward and D moved in and helped lift it. The men strained upward and Victor wedged himself under the block and helped lift it up. Just as Edward had predicted, there were timbers awaiting the arrival of the stone. They slid it up into its berth without difficulty.
A fissure opened in the doorway. It was half an inch across and ran almost the length of the opening. Smoke rose out of it. Edward watched in awe as the smoke curled upward to perch in the high areas of the cavern, brushing and caressing the walls with its ethereal fingers that moved along invisible eddies and currents in the subterranean atmosphere. He heard the words in his heart speak in unison, Conetl.
The other men hung low as the smoke spread across the ceiling. It didn't look normal. It moved like an animal. There were moments where it seemed like it was preparing to reach down and touch them.
Edward heard Achtontli call him. The words in Edward's heart told him the time for patience was over. Conetl. Edward felt the hummingbird feathers flow from his scalp and back. His heart beat with joy. His fathers were calling him home.
"Let's go in there." Edward picked up a flashlight and a pick and waited for the others to get ready.
The men looked up at the smoke. It still moved about in a groping, tentative way, but was thinning out. Victor whispered, "What's up with that smoke?"
As it broke up, Garvin spoke his mind to calm his nerves. There's a
perfectly rational explanation for this. Something caused it to act like that,
and I'm sure it's nothing we can't figure out. As long as we got these things
on, he tugged at his oxygen mask, we got nothing to worry
Victor was awestruck. Suppose it's magical, huh, mister? Suppose there's
zombies and mummies and stuff down there controlling it? He fumbled
randomly with his equipment.
Garvin shook his head. No way, Victor. If there's folk buried in there,
they were worm food ten times over before we came along. There ain't no mummies
or stuff down there.
Victor wouldn't let go of his fears so easily. Well, I still think it
could be like that mummy movie with Billy Zane in it and all, where it like
started getting wicked on all those people.
Garvin furrowed his brow. What mummy movie are you talking about?
The one where Billy Zane played the mummy and it had that guy that was in
'George of the Jungle' in it, too.
Huh? You mean that Brendan what's his name?
Everyone except Mike laughed. Garvin was howling. Man, there wasn't any Billy
Zane in that movie!
Uh-huh! He played the mummy! He was bad, man!
No way was that Billy Zane. I know it wasn't him.
Betcha a hundred dollars it was, mister. Victor was extremely sure
of himself. I got it on video and we can watch the credits.
Garvin was never so sure of himself as he was when he accepted the bet with
Victor. You're on, Victor.
D spoke up. I'd like a piece of that, too.
Victor grinned deliriously. You see, mister! You're wrong! You're gonna
No way! I'm with Mr. Garvin, here. He's sure enough right more often than
you are. I got another hundred that says it ain't Billy Zane in that mummy
Victor cackled. You punks are gonna buy me a new pair of boots! He
shook D's hand and sealed the bet. He turned to Mike. You wanna buy me
Mike was dividing his attention between the dissipating smoke and the black
breach and had completely zoned out. He did not respond.
Everyone else was relieved at this lighter turn of conversation. They
laughed to mask the creeping fears welling up in their hearts, the fears that
came from places they knew little or nothing about.
To get things moving again, Garvin changed the subject slightly. Victor,
the only things lethal in that mummy movie were the special effects. And if
that, he pointed at the almost-gone smoke, is an example of the
special effects we're about to be treated to, then we're gonna be pretty
You think so, mister?
Damn skippy. Garvin bulged his eyes at Victor and smiled like a
first sergeant on the eve of battle.
Victor smiled and knocked fists with Garvin.
Rob tapped his watch. Come on, now. We only got to the end of the day to
make our discovery. You guys coming?
Edward was already across the fissure. "Come on! It's amazing in here!"
Everyone except Mike agreed and followed Edward into the cavern. Mike hung back, refusing to go
into the cavern, wishing he was back at home, above the ground, surrounded by
wallpapered drywall and hollow plywood doors. This place was putting him into a
stress worse than when he saw his grandfather buried. He knew that temple was no place for him. It was a place of the dead.
Mike gasped for air and looked nervously about as Dewino, the last in line,
vanished in the darkness of the cavern. Although not a religious man by nature,
he began to pray the way a child prays for deliverance when a wasp hovers over his head.
Inside the dark cave, Garvin asked Rob, Just a quick hit, right? In and
out after we take pictures?
Come on, Garvin, Rob said, where's your sense of
It's still in the Vietnam jungle where I left it. Garvin dug in his
heels. We're not going too far. I'm not risking lives in a hazardous
This place has stood fine for the last several thousand years. I hardly
think it's going to collapse on us because we're the first humans to set foot
in it since Columbus or earlier.
Never mind that. It's the air holding out that concerns me.
We got eight hours on these babies. You guys will be home and in bed
before your eight hours are up.
I'll make sure of that, Rob. I intend to keep breathing so I can see
another sunrise, and I think these guys here have similar plans.
Victor's yeah strengthened Garvin's position just enough to get Rob
to relent. OK, Garvin, in and out. We look this place over from right
where we are and we won't go down any side passages.
Cool. D sounded relieved.
And I'll take personal responsibility for anything that goes wrong. If someone's in trouble, I'll see
to it he gets back alive.
Garvin thought of how much Rob reminded him of the first time he saw a First Lieutenant in a combat
situation. He chuckled as he remembered how the guy tried to crawl into his
helmet and die there. The guy didn't last long. He got flown home on a
stretcher after losing a leg to an AP mine.
Strong words, Garvin said, Hope you can back them up with
What do you mean?
Only I've seen butter-bars like you talk a good game and fall apart when
the enemy started a live-fire exercise.
Hey, I've pulled people out of cave-ins, pal, I've been up to the task
before. I know the responsibilities of leadership. Rob fought the urge to
start pointing at Garvin's face.
Garvin looked aside and nodded.
Rob leaned to get into Garvin's field of vision. Hey, what is it with you? You don't know me, but I will back up every word I say.
This wasn't worth a fight in Garvin's opinion. No big deal. I've got
nothing against you. I just hope nobody has an opportunity to prove those
strong words of yours.
OK, no big deal. Let's take a look around, now. Neither man had
really resolved the conflict, but none wanted to pursue it any further.
The flashlights reflected strangely off the primitive glass-stone walls. Scorch
marks were evident in a number of places and the floor was covered in ashes.
The place had housed an infernally hot flame at one time.
The cave itself was roughly six feet high and covered a circular area ten
feet in diameter. Along the far edge of the cave, three rectangular openings
indicated secrets darker still lay within the recesses of the man-made cavern.
Rob and Edward cast tentative flashlight beams down their rough corridors.
Hey, you two. Don't be going in there. Garvin wasn't about to go
down another VC tunnel, even if ancient Americans dug it. He grunted
approvingly when Rob turned his attentions to some strange glyphs on the
wall near the main door.
Edward pointed at the tunnel on the left. "We should go there."
Garvin didn't believe Edward said that. "No we should not."
"Yes, Mister. We need to go that way."
Edward could hear the thousands of voices softly calling to their little conetl. The words in his heart prepared to escort him home.
"No." Garvin did not want to argue with Edward, but he knew in his mind exploration would be dangerous. His mind tried to move aside the images of the short, broad woman he kept seeing by that tunnel entrance. "We are not going down any tunnels."
The words in Edward's heart stopped moving. They told Edward not to worry. They would all be a little more patient. Edward would still get home. The others would need some convincing.
What was that? The hairs on the back of Garvin's neck stood to
attention. It happened again. Something was touching him.
Garvin turned and looked back down the tunnel. The lights flickered and went completely out.
Mike was standing up against the far side of the cave when the lights went down. Garvin shouted out to Mike, Get over here, now! That's an
order! Garvin shone his flashlight beam on Mike.
Mike shook his head.
Get in, NOW! That's an order, soldier!
Mike tried to back away into the wall. He needed to leave. Now. There was no way he could stay in this place and absolutely no way he could go into the temple. It was not his place.
The stone slid down. It lurched out of its berth and slammed into the ground. In an instant, Garvin's light shone on the inside of the temple and Mike was in complete, suffocating darkness.
Garvin cursed Mike for being so scared and hoped to whatever God there could possibly be that he
was somehow all right. They had to do something about the door right now.
"All right everyone, come over here and help lift this thing up." Garvin put his shoulder to the monolithic door. D and Rob moved over to the door. Victor held back, hoping they wouldn't need him to work very hard. If Edward would get over there, they wouldn't ask him to get in the mix.
Where was Edward, anyway? Victor looked around.
He saw Edward running down the left passage.
Victor took a few steps after him, then turned to the group at the door. "Edward's getting away! He's gone nuts!"
Garvin thought Victor was joking. "What?"
"Come on, Mister!" Victor ran after Edward.
D and Rob took off. Garvin followed.
They plunged into the tunnel, running past the paintings on the wall. They stopped behind Victor at a fork in the tunnel. It was impossible for Victor to tell which way Edward had gone. He stood, looking between the choices.
Garvin panted, then said, "Follow the footprints."
D led the way down the left fork. They all ran a little way, then slowed down. Something about the atmosphere and spirit in that hall compelled them to use a more reverent pace.
Garvin remembered a line about how if you should hear a ghost following you, you shouldn't turn around and look at it or your face would take on the look of the ghost. Then a voice spoke to him, frail and in his mind, Any ghosts you see here are relatives of yours. Any ghosts you see here will help you. Why would your relatives want to kill you? Garvin was too afraid to turn around to see the short, broad woman following him.
Mike remained frozen in the complete darkness of the tunnel. He could not move. He could not see. He could not breathe. He tried closing his eyes to see if it would make things better, but they remained just as absolutely impenetrable as before. Mike hoped someone would get worried and come
looking for everyone when they didn't emerge from the cave at five o' clock. He hoped it was five o'clock by now, but was too afraid to check the time on his watch.
The darkness began to change. It changed from a flat curtain over his body and became alive in a way. It was void, formless, groping, trying to possess him. He tried to light up a cigarette. Having a smoke would steady his nerves. He had to steady his nerves. They were playing games with his mind. He got out his lighter and flicked out a flame. Before he could light his cigarette, fingers pinched the fire out. He dropped the lighter and preferred the terrors he could imagine to the ones he could see. He didn't count on his other senses being receptive to things in the dark and screamed as he felt something move into his shirt.
D stopped walking and let the others catch up. He turned to them and said, "We forgot completely about Mike."
I hope the boy's all right. Garvin's voice tripped over the lump of
fear in his throat.
Why don't we all say a prayer for him? D said.
What good is that going to do? Garvin felt like hitting D. Why
couldn't he just stay quiet at a time like this?
Rob asked Garvin, What good is it going to do? What do you mean?
I mean, it's not going to do any good and probably give us a false sense
of hope. Let's just try to focus and deal with reality.
You don't believe in God?
No. I don't. No heaven, no hell, when you die, you're worm food and
that's that. I hope Mike ain't dead, but there's nothing we can do about it if
he is. We got a cave-in just outside our door and no way of contacting the
Use your cell phone, mister, Victor said.
I wish I could, but it's on a workbench back out there.
Rob pulled one off his belt clip. Well I have mine. I'll use it after those of us that choose to offer a prayer on behalf of that poor guy out there finish it.
Whatever gets you through the night, man. Just pray short and get on that
phone pronto. Why this Rob guy had to be so high and mighty, Garvin
Rob and D each offered a brief, quiet prayer. Rob dialed 911. There was no answer, not even ringing on the other end.
Garvin spoke to D. You should have been praying for us, if anything was going
to work from it. All we got now is just more proof there ain't no God.
Hey! Lay off the guy, Garvin! He's got a belief and he's free to express
it. Rob shone his light straight in Garvin's face.
Get that outta my eyes now.
Sorry, sorry. Rob pointed the light downward. I didn't mean
I'll bet. You're a fine, upstanding citizen, Rob, I'm sure you didn't
I said I was sorry.
And I'm sure you really are sorry. Now if you can quit this foolishness,
please get quiet so I can think.
I'll get quiet, but this is not any sort of foolishness. I believe-
You believe nothing, as far as I'm concerned, now-
Victor cried out. Everyone's flashlight beams fell on him. He stood, pointing
down the hallway, deeper into the blackness of the temple.
By the time everyone turned their lights down the passage, there was nothing to
see but smoky blackness.
What was it? asked Rob.
A light. I swear I saw a light.
Garvin said, "It's not there now." Victor shook his head. "You were just over-excited and you're just seeing things. Calm down and it'll go away."
Garvin's manner-of-fact demeanor went a long way towards soothing the
nerves of his fellow prisoners. He wished secretly that someone would soothe his nerves, somehow. He was afraid the drilling equipment wouldn't get to them before the oxygen ran out. He looked over to Rob. Hey, Rob, try calling 911 again.
Rob didn't like taking orders like that, but dialed the number, anyway.
Nothing happened when he dialed. Can't get through
something's wrong with my phone. He tried dialing another number, and
another, all with the same result. Nothing! He was starting to
panic a little.
Garvin reached over and took the phone from Rob. Rob looked on, scowling a
little, as Garvin got the same results.
The phone's broken. Garvin's voice carried the smallest hint of
No? Do you think so? Rob grabbed his phone back. Any more
brilliant observations, chief?
Garvin saw this coming and was prepared. Scared men get combative. Fight or flight, and we sure ain't got any wings
Save it, Rob. We can kill each other later, once we get out of
here. For the second time, they both just let it go.
Garvin looked all around for any path that wasn't covered with strange paintings or led into pitch darkness. He felt surrounded. The woman who kept following him was back in the darkness. There were others with her. There were others ahead of them.
D asked Garvin, "Do you feel it, too? Do you feel like others are here?"
"This place is haunted, mister," said Victor.
Rob said, "You guys are taking this way outta proportion. It's dark, we're separated, and we're going down an unknown passage to get Edward. Let's get a hold of ourselves and focus. We get Edward, bring him back, and then go get Mike."
We bring you medicine. You are home.
"Who said that?" said Victor.
"You heard it too?" said D.
Rob looked at them. "Heard what?"
Garvin said to Rob, "I heard it too. We can't all be hallucinating the same thing."
Garvin, D, and Victor turned and looked ahead when they heard the slow beat of a distant drum. It beat slower than the heart of a living man. It called to them. They started walking toward it, not knowing precisely why.
Rob followed them. He became worried when he heard Garvin talking to himself, saying something about his grandmother and great-grandmother.
Edward entered the chamber at the end of the passage. Achtontli stood in the center, waiting for him. Edward did not need to see with his eyes because his heart was already open.
The words left his heart and took their places around the perimeter of the room. They stood proudly with no expression on their faces, acknowledging Edward with their eyes. Achtontli held his arms upward and turned his face in the direction of the stars.
Edward held his arms upwards and saw they were wings covered with shiny green-blue hummingbird feathers. He turned to the right and began to dance forward in a circle around Achtontli. The drum began to beat, slower than his heart, and he danced to that rhythm. He moved every muscle with every step of his dance. He was home.
Flowers sprouted from his footsteps as the beat accelerated. Colors flowed from his back as the beat accelerated. Thoughts from his mind pierced the air as the beat accelerated.
Achtontli remained in the center, arms upward to the stars.
Edward began to turn in circles in his dancing, shaking his left foot as he pivoted on the right. The drum beat faster and faster and Edward finished a revolution of turning dance and Achtontli joined in the circle, spinning and dancing behind Edward. Faster and faster they spun, faster and faster the flowers, colors, and thoughts filled the chamber where the words from Edward's heart watched, filling his heart with language. They filled his heart with the language he wanted to speak, a language older than Achtontli.
The beat was faster than life itself as Edward completed the last revolution. As he finished his last spin, he looked up, into the hallway he had entered from, and saw a tall, white demon in it.
He lunged at the demon. His feet left the earth and he flew through the air at the evil. It would not defile sacred ground.
Rob hung behind the others as they walked down the hall. He didn't like the way they were ignoring him. Victor and D were silent and Garvin kept whispering. He did not hear how the drumming was getting faster as they walked.
Victor, D, and Garvin stopped.
Rob asked, "Why are you stopping? Let's go!"
Garvin didn't turn around. He just raised his right hand to the square to signal a halt.
Rob tried to push past Garvin. "What is going on?"
Garvin whispered to Rob, "You don't want to go there. No one can go there."
Rob spoke in a normal tone. "What do you m-"
Now Rob whispered. "What do you mean?"
All Rob heard was the emptiness of the hallway. The others heard the rapid pounding of the ceremonial drum.
This was stupid. Rob pushed past Garvin and got behind D and Victor.
Victor turned a little to Rob. "Mister, you better not go in there. It's not for any of us right now."
"What isn't for us right now?"
"Didn't anyone tell you?"
"No. Nobody else is here."
"Don't get mad with me, man. There's a bunch of people here. I ain't playin wit'cha."
"Where are they?"
"In front. Behind. In there with Edward."
"You've all lost it." Rob moved between Victor and D.
D put a hand on Rob's shoulder. "Don't go there. Show respect. Give them time. It's not your place."
"I'm an American. Anywhere here is my place. It's a free country."
D shook his head. "If you stay here, you're an American. If you go there, you're dead."
Rob made a grimace and broke free from D's hand. He walked forward. His flashlight blazed a trail, bringing light to a place that had not seen light in over a thousand years.
"You tried. You all tried." The short, broad woman patted Garvin on the back. "He just didn't want to listen."
"I know, Grandma," said Garvin, "He just doesn't listen."
"He doesn't have the right kind of ears."
"Why is that?"
"He doesn't have the right kind of heart." Grandma rubbed the back of her Cherokee grandson as the drum beat faster than life.
Rob shone his light into the chamber at the end of the hall. Edward was dancing around naked in the room, moving and twitching in a bizarre fashion. "Edward, what are you doing? Snap out of it!"
Edward kept dancing, panting from the exertion. He said nothing as he moved around the room.
"Edward, it's me, Rob! Cut it out!"
Edward continued to move to the unheard beat. His motions were rapid, frenzied, unstoppable.
"Edward, for the last time, come on!"
Edward locked his gaze on Rob. He had no visible pupils. His eye sockets were empty and the flesh melted away from his skull as Rob watched.
The rest of Edward's body fell away as his jawless skull flew directly at Rob, hitting him directly in the chest, knocking him over.
Rob struggled to get off his back. Looking up, he saw hundreds, no thousands, of jawless skulls before him.
Now Rob heard the voices. Now Rob saw the spirits. Now Rob realized why he should not have entered the chamber.
You were not supposed to see what you saw. The voice in Rob's mind was Edward's. It made him cold, hungry, and thirsty.
"I'm- I'm sorry, Edward. Please forgive me."
You were not supposed to stand in that place.
"Again, I'm sorry. I didn't mean-"
You will speak of this to others of your heart. That can not happen.
"I promise I won't tell anyone!"
As long as the grass shall grow?
As long as the rivers shall run?
Then so it shall be.
The skulls formed a wall in front of Rob. They retained their
composure. They were all upright, purposeful, and jawless.
They moved. They moved steadily forward, in rough formation, filling the entire
passage. They did not glow or cackle or shine, for theirs was a world of
perfect darkness and silence. They bore down hard, catching up to Rob, who
crawled backwards in quiet, terrified panic.
The pealing screams from Rob's throat ripped the silence apart. As the
skulls touched him, his clothes first began to dissolve and fall away, then his
flesh became altered.
It boiled and bubbled, then left his bones and clothed the skulls nearest him
in unnaturally-gained skin, this skin spreading outward on the surface and
slurping inward to the rest of the mass of skulls, covering all the skulls in
an indescribable reddish-pink, pulpy mass.
He shrieked louder as the rest of his body left him and began to clothe the
skulls. Streaks of white appeared in the mass as bones, too, now joined the
gelatinous procession across the skulls of Edward's ancestors. They moved on,
covering where Rob's body should have been.
Rob ceased his screams as his lungs were annihilated, leaving him only able to
choke out a few desperate gurgles as he and the others watched on in helpless
The skulls finally covered his head and continued their advance, stopping just before D, Garvin, and Victor. When they
stopped, one skull was pushed out and let to roll about on the dead floor under
its own power. No one said anything, but all knew whom it once belonged to. No
one dared touch it. No one dared move any closer to the guardians of the
passage and the mysteries beyond.
Silence reigned as the three men looked into the eyeless, jawless
skulls. The fleshy coating on the skulls remained for a while, then began to
sublimate in a strange, brackish steam. The three men did not speak a single
word as they tried to come to inner terms with this stark embassy from the
realm of the ancient dead.
Grandma told them, "Time to come home, children. Let us go with them." Her form became a skull and took its place among those that formed the wall. The skulls turned and moved back to the chamber.
The three men stood and saw the skulls become people. Garvin saw his Cherokee grandmother and great-grandmother again. D saw his Choctaw great-grandfather and mother. Victor saw his mother's parents and his father's grandparents, all descendents of Mixtecs from Guerrero. It did not matter if they were part or whole in life: as spirits they were all whole.
The other skulls took on forms, all familiar in some way. Edward stood in the middle, naked but for his loincloth and hummingbird feathers covering his head, back, and arms. "Icniuhtin." He opened his arms in a greeting. "Macamo xitequipacho."
The men became cold, hungry, and thirsty. The only heat in their bodies came from Edward's words, which burned a new language in their hearts. A pillar of white fire entered their opening minds.
The images in their minds became the scenes before their eyes. Edward and his tribe of the spirits gave way to a new setting.
They saw, suspended and glowing in the blackness, the stern visages of eyes
that watched from billowing smoke. Great fires burned in the holy place, changing the stone into dream-rock. The eyes had great medicine and called all the children to the place of gathering. They had waited with patience these many years, waited for their children to recover from the destructions of old, to recover from having forgotten their family. They had waited with patience for their children to begin to return, first in dreams, then in visions, then in spirit, then in body.
The faces emerged from the smoke. These were faces of the people from Edward's tribe of spirits, but not all were ones the men had seen before. The men looked deep into their eyes and learned what they had to teach him. The eyes spoke a language they never
before so much as dreamt of, but spoke that language with clarity and authority
so they understood every nuance, every detail.
The eyes spoke of great mounds, terrible sacrifices accompanied by wild dancing and
ululations into the night. The eyes spoke of sacred secrets their grandchildren had
abandoned. The eyes spoke of rituals, chants, and motions for the preservation of
certain things in this world for time far beyond their mundane allotment. The eyes
spoke of ancient power, sacred and terrible, holy and nightmarish. The eyes spoke
of a desire to see their children again, to bring them back to the ancestral
secrets and glories. Their words were vivid and bold, kindling the fires of
enlightenment in the minds of the three men.
The men saw themselves, standing before a great mound with a building on top. They saw the great stone door lift, and entered into a chamber with three further paths to follow, the left path for the initiates. They saw themselves walking in the darkness to the
first chamber, taking every step with joy, for every step brought them closer to
freedom and joy. Each saw himself, naked on an altar, surrounded by scorching
flames, a priest's knife hovering tantalizingly over his neck, threatening the
freedom it was about to unleash on its welcoming victim.
The visages commanded them to open their eyes, but remain silent. They
When they opened their eyes, they saw the material avatars of those visages: ten
jawless skulls in the air in front of them. The skulls moved backwards, into the chamber. Garvin whispered, "Grandma, I'm coming," and followed the skulls. Garvin entered the chamber. The smoke of dreams parted to let him enter, then closed behind him. He began to
remove his mask, clothing, and boots. He knew what would happen next and no
longer felt a need for things of the world above. He was returning home to his
people. Garvin now understood what Edward had talked about and smiled with the inner peace that belonged to the men
who served in the glowing stone building on top of the great earthen mound.
Victor's vision changed. He saw the skulls in the air, hosts of spirits behind them, Garvin stripping, and D standing in a daze.
Victor didn't move. His heartbeat matched the rhythm of Garvin's dancing. His hands were covered in freezing sweat. Redness tinged all he saw.
Garvin danced on in circles, spinning wildly. Victor heard the drumbeat after one pass. The pounding became more frenzied as Garvin leapt and spun, building to a climax of silence as Garvin entered the center of the circle. He was naked no more, but covered in a bearskin robe. He arched backward.
A knife appeared over his chest. Garvin smiled.
Victor could not watch, but heard the scream. When he turned back, Garvin's body was gone. A skull floated in the air where Garvin had been. The skull called to its brothers, D and Victor.
Victor took a step backward. He was not ready for this.
D entered the room. The drumbeat began and D danced as Garvin did. Crow feathers grew out of his body. Victor moved forward to stop the dance.
Edward, covered in hummingbird feathers, put his arm in Victor's way and shook his head. "Macaticalacatzalan!" Victor stayed back.
Victor turned his eyes and covered his ears when D submitted to the knife, but still heard the scream. He did not look again, but the skulls still called to him. Edward said, "Ticalacatazlan, Victor. Ticalacatazlan, icniuhtli."
"I have no idea what you're saying, Edward. I don't even know if it's you."
"Cah Edward, cah huitzitzilin."
"I don't know what you mean, Edward."
A man wearing a coyote skin stepped forward. He was old. He smiled. His voice was raspy, but kind. "He doesn't want to use any other language. He can not use any other language."
"Who are you?"
"I am Coyote. Who are you?"
Victor stood quietly. Coyote waited, then spoke again. "You have seen many things. You have felt many things. You stand in wonder. You stand in shock. You stand in disbelief.
"I understand, Victor."
Edward moved back, next to the skulls. Coyote watched as he moved. He turned back to Victor.
"They want you to enter. They want you to join them."
"I can't do that."
"You are not ready to be with your family. You are not ready to pass over."
Victor shook his head. Coyote nodded and his smile remained kind. "Victor, I am not anyone to fear. I am your relative. I do not want to hurt you. I can help you."
"I can give you answers. I can tell you what you want to know."
"What happened to Edward?"
"He passed over, like your other friends."
"What about that white guy?"
"He entered the holy place. He sought to take what could not be taken. Edward drove him from the holy place. We drove him from this earth. We purified the holy place."
"Why did Mister Garvin and D go in? Why did they die?"
"They passed over to be with us. They passed over to be in our family. They passed over to be in your family."
"We are all in a family, Victor. Our ancestors long for our return. They gather at this holy place to bring together the family. It is time to call the family together."
"I don't get it."
"You will be made to understand. You will always hear what you need to hear."
"What do you mean?"
"Go back to the world of the sun, Victor. Go back to the world of the living bodies. You will hear what you need to hear."
Coyote turned and walked into the room and faded from sight. The skulls faded, too. Only Edward stood in the room.
"Ma xipatinemi, Victor."
"Goodbye, Edward." Victor started to cry.
Edward faded from view and Victor was left in the darkness of the world not of dreams.
Victor fumbled for his flashlight. He found it and turned it on. He shone the light into the chamber of the transformations. Nothing remained in it. No bones, no bodies, no clothes, no dust. He stepped backwards, then turned and walked up the passage.
Every step Victor took exploded the silence of the hallway. He kept his focus on the floor, walking against the current of footsteps heading toward the chamber. He could not look at the paintings. If he did, he was afraid they would speak to him.
Victor did not look over his shoulder. He did not look behind. What would be there if he did? Either a complete void or a host of spirits. Victor did not want to see either.
The walk back to the stone door did not take as long as it took to run after Edward. The door remained shut. Victor tried to open it, but it would not budge. Edward's voice spoke in Victor's mind. Amo tlahuilli.
Coyote's voice translated. Turn off your light. Victor turned off the light and the worlds of living bodies and dreaming spirits merged in the darkness.
Light shone from under the door. Something struck and clawed the door from the other side. Victor shut his eyes as the ghosts pulled the door open. The stone door groaned with age and groaned with the pain of the years it had remained shut before it was opened this day. It did not like opening twice in one day.
Victor had his eyes closed tightly, but light still shone through his lids. He saw patterns of shapes and animals. He saw patterns of demonic faces among the shapes and animals. He saw patterns of tall, proud ancestors among the demonic faces and shapes and animals.
Victor knew what opened the door was not human. He knew he should not look upon it. He could not breathe as the stone slab was pushed up into the place for it above the door. Victor heard the sound of bare feet walking on the floor past him after the door was opened and he knew he should not open his eyes. Victor heard the sounds of bare feet walking far away from him and the light completely faded.
It was safe to look again.
Victor opened his eyes and did not look into the middle passage where a faint glimmer of light remained. He did not look into the left passage where he had been earlier. He did not look into the right passage where a darkness darker than naturally possible guarded a pathway to a world Victor dared not enter. He lunged toward where he knew the way out was. He dashed out the doorway and into the place of the bones. He dashed into the place of the headless bones and panted, gasping for unenchanted air.
He heard breathing nearby.
Victor did not know where to run or what to do. His skin froze and his stomach prayed to empty itself. He feared what he would see if he turned on his flashlight, but knew he had to.
He turned on his flashlight. He saw Mike. Mike was breathing, but that was all the life Mike had left.
Mike's face had been changed because he saw what opened the door. Mike saw the light made by what opened the door. Mike saw the things Victor knew he should not have seen.
Victor did not want to speak, but knew he had to. "Mike?"
A flash of light transformed the place, casting a wicked shadow from Victor's body on to the wall near Mike's position. Mike stiffened and screamed with all his life. The door slammed shut again. The light went away, except for a bit which shone under the door. Victor could not look at that light for any length of time. Mike's face was twisted further. His eyelids would not shut and his mouth kept a position men who have not seen ghosts cannot make.
Mike did not breathe.
Victor went forward to see what he could do, and Mike's body crumbled into the black Dallas dirt before Victor could get there.
Victor swallowed hard. His mouth was completely dry. He looked all around him, his light slicing arcs across the ground, landing finally upon three bodies. The bodies were at the door of the temple, laid out straight and calm. The bodies had familiar shapes and clothes.
Victor stepped up to them and saw they had no heads. There were no heads on those bodies outside the temple, just as there never had been any heads on any dead body outside the walls of the holy place.
The bodies entered the ground. They sank slowly into the inviting dirt. After they completely disappeared, Victor heard more noise. This noise he heard with his natural ears. The noise was of several people, far away, talking.
He shot a light to the exit, to where a rescue team would be coming, but there was nothing there.
That made sense, though. The sound wasn't coming from that direction. The sound came from the temple.
Victor dared not look, but he looked anyway. The drums beat again, but he heard these with his ears. The voices spoke again, but he heard these with his ears. Then the light started.
Brilliant and violent, the light shone through the vitrified stone. The light filled the tunnel. The light filled Victor's mind.
Victor heard the dancing and singing and talking of men who lived long before their descendants would be called Indians. The language they used sounded like the one Edward spoke, but Victor did not understand any word of it.
Victor could not stand being there any more. He ran down the tunnel to the exit. He clambered up the ladder to the surface. He struggled to be free of the hole in the ground and rose from the pit.
There were too many stars in the sky above him. There were too many trees around him. The grass was too tall under him. There was no car exhaust or tar in the air.
Victor heard the chanting of the night insects. The moon looked at him from above. Victor knew he was not alone. He stepped forward and waited to see who would come out of the hole.
He saw a tall, proud man dressed in skins and feathers emerge from the hole. He saw Edward emerge from the hole. He saw Coyote emerge from the hole.
The tall, proud man looked Edward directly into his eyes. He held both hands to his chest and said, "Achtontli. Cah Achtontli."
Victor answered him, "Cah Victor." He did not know where the words came from, but he said them.
No one spoke a word of any language after that, but Victor heard all he needed to hear.
Many hours of the wordless conversation passed, and Victor returned to the hole. He went back to the temple.
He knew what he had to do. No one could live and know of this place. It had to remain a secret. Victor went to where the explosives were kept. The boxes were unlocked and open. Victor took the high explosives and molded them around the support timbers in the tunnel. Coyote told him how to do this. Coyote had been a demolitions expert in World War Two.
Victor set up the detonation wires and the blasting caps. He got down behind an overturned desk and set off the explosions. The high-velocity blasts made their cracking sounds and the timbers splintered in unison and brought the tunnel down. The desk protected Victor from the blast in his mind, but in his heart he knew it was Achtontli who stood over him that time.
The cave-in complete, Victor stood up and wiped the tears from his eyes and started the long walk to the nearest tunnel exit, a half-mile away.
Victor disappeared into the population of Dallas and nobody noticed him missing. Nobody looked for him after the rescue crews succeeded only in recovering partial remains from the cave-in. DART never finished the tunnel on that route, but picked another path further to the south.
The families of those assumed to be deceased collected the accidental death benefits and struggled to get on with their lives, with one less person to be at their sides to comfort them and share in their pains and sorrows. Things were done in memory of Rob, D, Mike, Garvin, Edward, and Victor and Victor attended every one of those ceremonies.
Seasons passed and Victor found a new name. With that new name, Victor found new fortunes. More seasons passed and Achtontli came to Victor to tell him how to use the fortunes of the living men.
The money meant nothing to the dreaming spirits. To them, it was only a tool to enable living men to help them.
Victor purchased the undeveloped area over the temple and had a small house built on the property. It was a pleasant spot on the surface, near a park. Victor would tend a garden on one edge of his land, where he could watch the children play during the day. Victor was kind with his money and would often pay the man selling paletas for his entire cart and have him hand them out free to the children in the park. Victor's only condition was that the man not tell the children who paid for them.
Victor found joy as long as he saw children. When he sat alone in his home, there were too many sounds and too many shifting shadows for an empty house. Victor grew accustomed to the presence of the sounds and the shadows, but he never got over feeling cold, hungry, and thirsty in their presence.
The shadows would come to his home on their way to the temple. They were going to be with their family. They were old, young, middle-aged, all ages, male and female. Many spoke English and Victor could understand them when they spoke. Victor had learned more Spanish and could have short conversations with those shadows. He felt proud of that, even though the conversations themselves were ones he wished he could avoid. Then there were those who only spoke a tribal language, those who Victor would listen to for hours on end without understanding a word of what they said.
In the end, they all needed the same thing. Victor would walk to a spot on his property he had marked with stones and say a few words Achtontli had taught him. The shadows would enter the earth, thankful Victor had shown them the way.
One night, Victor noticed a light he had seen once before coming from the place of the stones. He told the shadows in his house they would have to wait a night before they could go down. He told them there were things there he should not look upon. Many of the shadows were angry with Victor and broke things in his house. The more patient shadows calmed them down and told the angry ones patience was the way of the dead. The angry ones then repented and apologized to Victor and helped him clean things up in his home.
The next night, after Victor had taken the shadows to the place of the stones, Coyote came to visit Victor.
"Hello, Coyote." Victor waved at him as he walked up to his back porch. Nobody was sitting in the lawn chair on his porch, but Victor knew that's where Coyote was. Victor got another lawn chair and sat down next to him.
"Hello, Victor. I have a name for you."
Victor looked out into his yard and saw a badger. He turned to Coyote and said, "Thank you."
"Night Badger, I came here to give you a name and to tell you the time has come for other things."
Victor dreaded this time, had dreaded it since he first learned of it in the time before dreams from the eyes of Achtontli. He felt colder than dead when Coyote told him it was time for those things.
"It is the way it is to be, Night Badger. Living men are to go there once again. It is the way it is to be."
"I know, Coyote. Knowing the way it is to be does not make it any easier to bear."
"That is true, Night Badger. But knowing who you are does."
Coyote rose and went back into the woods, back to the place of the stones. The ground near the stones had been freshly patted down and the pile of stones Victor had made had been taken apart and re-assembled. Victor did not know exactly who or what had done it, but knew it had significance.
Coyote had visited Victor during a new moon. Two weeks later, when the moon was full, a group of men came to visit Victor in the evening.
When the sun had gone down, Victor took them to the place of stones. They stood and watched as Victor moved them aside, revealing a patch of ground. Victor took a shovel and broke through the dirt to a freshly-dug hole. The men entered the hole silently. Victor waited at the surface.
Victor heard every step they took. Victor heard every beat of the drum as they danced. Victor heard every scream as the dance finished. All but one of the men would return and walk quietly past Victor. Victor would then put his stones back in place and return home to a haunted sleep.
The living men came by many times after that, sometimes as often as once a week. Each time, Victor went to the place of the stones and moved them. Each time, Victor dug through a shallow layer of earth to a hole beneath. Each time, Victor heard the sounds he had to hear.
On the nights the living men came, no shadows were in Victor's house. On nights just before or just after a visit from the living men, the shadows would be very reverent and quiet.
Seasons passed, and Coyote told Victor to go down the hole one night. Victor did and then Coyote told him to go back up. Then, Victor stepped into the land as it was before dreams. Coyote was there, waiting for him, along with Achtontli, Edward, Dewino, and Garvin. Victor's relatives came later. Victor found happiness with them and wept as he returned to the land after dreams, where living men dwelt. He still heard the steps and dancing and screaming there, but it was easier to bear in the company of friends.
Every time he went digging there, he came back a grayer, older man. He was not saddened, only aged. He knew he could join
them when his time came. He knew he could go into the temple and do the dance of transformation after his work was done. It comforted him to know his people accepted him and were waiting patiently for his return at the end of his days.