Monday, May 8, 2017
Sneak Preview of Chapter 13 from The Rules of the Game
In 1957, Theodore Swanson was living the life. Unlike most academics and archaeologists, who are forced to discuss their past work and the work of other great scientists past with bratty and disinterested college students in old, dusty lecture halls in the forgotten parts of college campuses, he had just found himself moving to the dusty and forgotten parts of the world outside of Clovis, New Mexico, which is where he would try to figure out what was buried deep beneath the soil of the Land of Enchantment during a time long, long ago.
Driving across the barren American Southwest from Dallas, Texas, a personal choice that he had made so that he could slowly condition himself and his wife to the Wild West and the cowboy culture of this brand new world, Swanson wondered how he came about the job that had hit him like a lightning bolt from the sky. While many of his fellow archaeologists were dreaming for trips to the Fertile Crescent, other members of his professional circle were waxing intellectually on whether the Leaky’s quest for skulls would pay off in their work in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. However, neither of these scenarios worked for him.
“Piltdown Man and primate skulls aren’t worth my able-bodied years in the field, Elizabeth,” Theodore said when he told his wife about New Mexico. “A man of my stature was meant to live in a civilized way while discovering the answers to all of the questions never answered, let alone asked.”
Elizabeth nodded appropriately. She knew better to answer back like his colleagues would and did.
“But Teddy, that skull is fourteen to twenty-three million years old. That’s not some o-rang-uh-tang down the zoo.”
“If I’m going to dig into the earth, I want a new and unique civilization, not some foraging gorillas here and there. I want to see the tools and the treasures and learn about their lives. I want magic and ritual, not some combination of eat, shite, procreate, kill, and sleep before it repeats.”
“There’s big money in skulls.”
“It’s not all about money. It’s about knowledge, and with that, there’s power and prestige.”
“Maybe you should have been born in Berlin. You could have followed Hitler on his archaeological crusades, but you were born an Englishman.”
“What’s that Nietzsche said about your part of the lot, Terrance? ‘Man does not strive for happiness; only the Englishman does that.’”
“Go out and kill the gods, Teddy. Throw your life into your work’s flow. See where that gets you if you get your wish. You may get out of Cambridge, but you’ll always be old and crotchety.”
As his trophy wife, agreeing with him instead of challenging him like this was pretty much her job. She looked beautiful, held intellectual conversations, and generally supported her man. Her cooking wasn’t too bad either. What more could a 1950s man have wanted from life other than to go out in search of adventure?
While not familiar with New Mexico and its sites, she was familiar with regular Mexico and its jungles from Theodore’s previous adventure year studying the Aztecs and the couple of beach getaways that it afforded them when they weren’t covered in sweat in a thick tropical jungle filled with huge iguanas chasing them around the archaeological camp.
“So where will you go then, dear? I know there are digs that you talk about in the outback of Australia and the jungles of South America. Certainly, you will want to go somewhere the cannibals and the mosquitos aren’t. That would be so dreadful.”
“What? You don’t want to be chased by an iguana?”
“Of course not,” she laughed. “Though I might want to watch one nibble on your big toe.”
With this, he smiled and looked into her eyes as he pulled her close.
“America. I can hear it calling in my dreams.”
And it was true; he really could hear it calling. It was like fate intervened when he received that letter from his Dean.
“I don’t want this. Are you interested in adding to your CV and getting back out in the field, Teddy? I’d hate to see you waste your talent at dreary old Cambridge.”
Theodore hated to be called Teddy, but it wasn’t as much as he had begun to dread going into the classroom to teach the aging texts to a youth culture who no longer felt that the classics had meaning. That said, even going into the classrooms filled with all of the wannabe Arthur Evans and Gertrude Bell clones wasn’t as painful as putting up with Dean Arnold Rutherford, who seemed to want to be Howard Carter, though he didn’t know how to use a shovel.
“Yes, Arnold. I’ll take that.”
And he did, and that’s where his new life started. With it, at the end of the term in May 1957, he was packed up and heading to the New World in search of now extinct animal bones, ancient tools, and a welcome break from those cloudy English days. Yes, this journey would allow him to try to understand the culture that manufactured a unique type of arrowheads t0 accumulate food.
But these weren’t just any arrowheads. They were, in fact, the oldest arrowheads that were found in the United States. They were so old that they offered the potential to represent a new mode of arrival to America.
In those dusted-over and forgotten historical periods of long ago, the settlers of this new land weren’t ungrateful little bastards running from King and Country to try to start a land of religious freedom while refusing to respect their superiors with monetary tributes in the form of taxes that made their cross-continental excursions possible. Rather, these ancestral Americans were hearty people coming from Asia via a different route than the Siberian food run. Sure, the theory of an iced over bridge from Siberia to Alaska, which looked like it was going to become the forty-ninth state of America, was a manly conquest for hungry bellies and muscular arms poised to hurl tiny weapons through the thick wool of mammoths. However, as the only entry point to a continent, it just seemed so… lonely. Here, he wanted to be the guy who helped prove that there was another way and that even manlier men came through those passages and ocean ways.
Besides, if the theories of his fellow European Thor Heyerdahl were correct, there would have been journeys from the South Pacific as well. Who knows? Maybe there was also a site down in Chile or Argentina, which was even older than this New Mexican dig he was about to investigate. If he found reason and data to locate these voyages and journeys, then he could be the man to unleash archaeologists up and down the spine of the Rockies and the Andes.
Thoughts like this always made him think and dream, which is where his mind was as he took the wheel of the 1950 convertible Chevy Bel Air that he had purchased after arriving in Texas. Despite wearing his academic PHD crown with pride, there was still something macho and rugged in this thirty-five year old stodgy British man.
In Theodore’s mind, which was back in those days of 13,000 years ago, he could clearly see himself opining about how Clovis culture distinguished itself from Folsom culture.
“This was another older Native American society that had dominated much research study at the time. The major difference is that the Clovis people used a larger, fluted arrowhead. This weapon wiped out bison, mammoth, camels, saber-tooth cats, and horses in what would become the American southwest.”
To these words, he saw the tonsils hanging as the gaping yawns fell over the room.
“You don’t know what you’re missing,” he would think.
“When does the opportunity come to venture down into the pyramid’s darkened labyrinth?” their minds would ask.
When Theodore first had the chance to explore and learn about these historical events, he was amazed at the primitive talents and abilities of the men who struggled for their lives in such a harsh climate. As time went by, he became enamored with all that the Clovis culture did to survive in the unforgiving heat of the New Mexican desert.
Many times, he found himself imagining himself as one of these men, taking on the big game of this historical world while all the while displaying his rugged manhood against some monstrous beast that needed to end up in his belly. His dreams were always better than his written accounts, but this was no matter. He still had these vivid dreams that he saw every time that he sifted through the data and stared at the arrowheads, trinkets, and other artifacts.
More important than the quest for food was the fact that in these dreams, he saw a plurality of tribes coming together. Some of these men and women looked similar to one another, but other groups looked more unkempt, wild, and even physically different than the average group. There were smaller people, some four feet tall. Others didn’t even look human; they appeared to be so haggard. Additionally, some of these groups appeared to be traveling from the south while other groups traveled the Colorado Plateau. The local groups were small, but the southern groups always traveled in great numbers.
In the vision that came to him repeatedly over many nights, he remembered hearing stories of how these things were done. For instance, when his group came to the area, there were many people that traveled with them as well. This was because the tribes knew that some people would not make it that far. It would take many generations and many lives to come to this place. People couldn’t just walk straight through the deserts and mountains and expect to get there. Along the way, they would have to hunt for food, and they would need to protect themselves against the wild savage beasts and the other tribes that they would be passing to arrive at this same destination.
Here, it was clear from that first vision he had in 1952 when he was preparing to go to the Yucatan Jungle, this was a sacred place along the way to where he eventually needed to be.
Swanson’s wife Elizabeth understood his love of archaeology and anthropology. She too shared his love of history, and she even found herself growing to love the bones he dug up as well. She found herself feeling the same questioning sense of being when it came to figuring out how all of these bones pieced together with the genealogical tree that was now referred to as the American Southwest. What she didn’t understand was the dreams. They were just so unreal.
“Theodore, I think that we should keep them between us. You wouldn’t want people to think you strange would we?”
“Strange?” he asked. “Of course not.”
And strange was the best definition of what was going on. At first, she thought her husband was suffering from some sort of mental illness, but this wasn’t something that a proper woman, much less anyone, would bring up at that time and place in society.
Nevertheless, he was strange.
Theodore would go into states of mind that she couldn’t grasp, and this led her to wonder if he was suffering from schizophrenia. However, the truth was that it was something far greater as he had been having visions of some sort since he was a small boy. At first, he thought it was an active imagination, and then he found that these things were having a tendency to become real. The dreams showed him Elizabeth and the Yucatan. They also showed him a baby that he figured would be his future son. They predicted the death of his parents, and they showed him what he could only assume would be a future Great Britain and America. Additionally, they showed him worlds that had existed previously and the location of artifacts that he had found in both the Yucatan and his only other major archaeological dig, which was deep in the heart of Mesopotamia.
What’s more, they told him that someday, those artifacts that he had recovered in Iraq would be stolen, but he would be instrumental in bringing them back together. He had no idea what that meant, but he liked the sound of it.
He also liked the sound of a place called Blackrock Canyon. There were cliff dwellings and other undisturbed archaeological relics there. It was clear that he was meant to go there, but he had no idea where “there” was. When he asked his colleagues, nobody knew, so he chose not to push the issue, lest he be thought of as going out of his head.
Over time, Theodore found himself extensively using hallucinogenic drugs. In the beginning, he had been introduced to a colleague at Clovis named Davis Samuel, who was very interested in the more magical and mystical aspects of anthropology as well as the mind-altering substances of a growing American countercultural movement. Swanson had started out simply with the use of marijuana, but as time went by, he gained access to drugs that would completely alter his consciousness. Some of these were what would now be referred to as magic mushrooms, while others were substance like yage and peyote. Any time that the opportunity came to get high on these substances, Davis was always game. However, there were places that he drew the line, and that was with a substance, which his Native American companions called Our Lady of Guadalupe. That one was from Mexico, and it made him go into a deeper and more surreal trance than he had ever known before. Davis watched him do this, but he didn’t do it himself.
“I’ve been down that road. That journey is too hard to come back from.”
“More for me,” Theodore said, and he switched friends and suppliers as he abandoned all the commonplace hallucinogenic drugs for his new best friend and the things she could offer.
Our Lady, which was what Theodore called her, amplified his visions. Just like it was without them, these visions would also come true, but more so than his regular dreams, there was more color and incorporation of his conscious self into the unconscious states of where he was entering.
It was so new and unique, so unreal, and yet it was so dark and mysterious that he felt like he was destined to follow it out to a place of complete lucidity. However, as he journeyed into what he thought would be the new light, he instead ventured into utter darkness.
Elizabeth tried to reason with Theodore during these times. They were young and in love, she said, and she wanted to abandon the American Southwest to go back to Cambridge. This New Mexico was nothing like Mexico. There were no beaches at all. How she would have enjoyed the playful quality of the iguanas as compared to the ugly void that they seemed to be stuck in. As she spoke, her husband listened, but it was clear that his mind was somewhere else. Only months before, Theodore might have considered this, but at that moment, he completely balked at the opportunity. Proving these latest visions real just outweighed anything she could have proposed.
“I know you can’t understand this, but there is something fated in the things that I am seeing. There is a place that I am meant to be. This is only a stepping stone for me in the same way as it was for the Native American tribes that I am digging up. I must be here, Elizabeth. I must.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I don’t either, but we must give it time and patience. I know I can’t make you see like I do unless you choose to participate in one of these rituals with me.”
“You’re so sure?”
“I have to be. One of us must be based in our right mind. There are things happening to you. You can’t see them, but I do. I don’t like them. They are dark, scary, and evil.”
“Maybe you need a hobby like knitting or crocheting.”
“I need my husband. I need to see you without “Your” Lady present.”
“If that’s how you’ll feel, then I’ll let it go.”
“Please do so.”
“I will for you, but this could be something bigger than even I have imagined it to be. Why not let it stay for a little longer?”
“It could also be something worse.”
“Then let it go.”
“Yes, dear,” he half-heartedly said.
But he didn’t let it go. Instead, he would casually ask her if she was still sure that abandoning this psychological research and avoiding this substance was her answer. Finally, after six months, she said yes, just to shut him up.
The ritual was held in the middle of the night. No other Americans were there. Instead, there were the three Native Americans that he had met through Davis Samuel and a Mexican woman named Maria, who was new to him, but well-acquainted with the Native Americans. While she was the only woman, it didn’t seem odd or out of place for her to be there with three strange men. Additionally, even though she seemed to be significantly younger than the other men, she didn’t seem out of place with Native American elders.
“Are you sure this is what you want?” Maria asked Elizabeth. “You look so out of place in this dance that we are about to do.”
Elizabeth looked back, stunned.
“Yes, yes, it is. I want to do this to be close with my husband.”
“You will never be close with your husband while doing this.”
Elizabeth once again seemed stunned.
“I don’t understand.”
“Your husband has crossed a threshold. It’s a place you wouldn’t be able to know even if you took Our Lady of Guadalupe.”
“But she wants to try,” Theodore responded.
The oldest of the Native Americans looked at the British couple.
“If she does this ceremony, she will not be close with Guadalupe. She will lose you altogether as you have lost your soul to it.”
“I’m perfectly fine and in total control of myself.”
“You are not, Mr. Swanson. However, we will help you be found again. However, I will not be responsible for helping to lose your wife.”
“I will pay you twice the amount to give her this experience,” he said fishing out a huge wad of money.
“I will not take your money,” Maria said as Elizabeth met her eyes in a display of sympathy and gratitude after feeling so lost as she looked around at all of the ghostly figures, which were looming around the campfire.
“You already have,” Theodore said.
“Watch your tone with Maria,” the oldest man said. You must listen to her. She has spoken. Please take your woman and leave. You are no longer welcome here.”
At this, Maria threw the money he had paid to his feet.
“But I don’t understand,” Theodore said while picking up the money.
“Maria understands. You have become dangerous with your love of this dark substance. You have seen the future, and you seek to know more that you should, but we can’t let you do this anymore. It isn’t right,” the man spoke again as his two companions stood up to move toward Theodore.
“But I have to find the light again. You brought me here? How can you take it away from me now?”
“You’re too lost. Besides, your body would reject it. I can see now how lost you are. Your eyes are burned out candles. You are a soulless husk,” Maria said as Elizabeth started shivering at the implications.
“If that’s how you want it,” Theodore replied. “Then we’ll leave.”
With that, they both left, and Theodore never mentioned that event or the substance to Elizabeth again. However, neither of them ever stopped thinking about it, despite Theodore losing all access to this drug.
With no access to substances, Theodore focused hard on his work to keep his mind off the dark dreams, which were still prevalent in the darkened recesses of his head. Sometimes, they were murderous. Other times, they were sexual. Most times, they held pagan and animistic overtones. On one hand, he liked the movie in his mind, but on the other hand, it frightened him to think about what the future was that these images predicted. However, that wasn’t enough to scare him away from sleep.
For all of the time that he gave to the archaeology of the region, he gave no time to Elizabeth except to get her pregnant with his one and only son Earnest, who would be born in late 1958. Once again, this was an event that seemed to pass over Theodore, who was very preoccupied in his archaeological work. For all he had dreamed about these exact moments, he never noticed how they matched up to the real life experience he was about to have.
For the next year, Theodore did everything he could to look at each layer of dirt and its remnants. Clovis was very busy these days, and the workers uncovered more dirt and rock to find more and more skeletons of these creatures that became food for the tribes that came to the region in the late Pleistocene. Occasionally, they would even find bones of these Pre-Columbian peoples. Of course, that was the days before NAGPRA, so it didn’t raise the eyebrows that some current findings did. Nevertheless, it was always exciting.
Nevertheless, for all that Theodore was enjoying, Elizabeth wasn’t happy in her life at all. For one, she didn’t like the distance between them, but she had Earnest to take care of, so it kept her mind off of some of the things that she was expecting were starting to occur. She rationalized that in six months, his time here would be up, and then maybe, they could go back to Cambridge and parlay this work into better teaching opportunities if there was anything left of his life.
Then, just like that, things changed. It seemed like the old Theodore was back. He was kind, loving, and attentive. Everything made so much sense that Elizabeth took it all for granted. What she didn’t know was that during this time the dreams stopped. With quiet, restful sleep and a dedication to the purpose of just working on the site, this kept Theodore far enough away from the dark world.
But as all things do, these days ended when in early 1959, he vanished with his archaeological notebooks and certain artifacts that were recently found at the dig site.
At the time, he left no note to explain his exodus, but there were clues to another event that also happened the night after he left: the death of the three Native Americans. These were the exact same three men who were with the couple when they were dismissed for denigrating the Our Lady of Guadalupe ritual.
A few days after Theodore’s vanishing act, their bodies were found in the waters of the Grulla National Wildlife Refuge, and because they weren’t honorable and / or white, they were considered to be a non-issue by the local newspapers who dutifully reported on their murders until one of these men was also directly connected to the Blackwater Draw archaeological site.
At the time, Elizabeth was questioned by local and tribal police about this, but she didn’t know much about anything that had happened. Why would she? She was a dainty housewife from a different era. The only name she knew was Maria, which was also the only name her husband had known her by. Other than his Native American contact, William “Two Feathers” Harrison, this was a cold trail. Harrison was the man who worked at the archaeological site, but other than that, most of the crew at Blackwater Draw knew nothing more about him other than he was quiet, but hardworking, though he seemed to be mentally slow a lot of the time. However, he was always “respectful” or “hardworking” in their comments.
The men at the site and on the reservation knew even less of Maria, who had also vanished after a feeling of these men’s deaths passed over her. With that premonition of doom in her soul and clairvoyant visions, she quickly passed back through the borders of the Rio Grande River and assimilated into the ghettos of Juarez, just another living ghost in a town full of so many specters passing through life.
In the towns of Clovis and Portales, the local communities, the police, and the academics were all shocked as to what happened with regard to the grisly strangulations. With that, their eyes turned to the wife of the chief suspect in the crime. Elizabeth Swanson was embarrassed, and so when there was nothing left to be done, she took her infant son with her to go back to Cambridge. There, she remained with her family, living off the academic royalties of her husband until they dried up and forced her to have to find a way to survive and to allow her to help support her son through his own academic interests.
As for the missing archaeologist, he hadn’t left without a trace. Unfortunately, the person he told of his troubles with the dreams and visions was too young to comprehend it. Earnest Swanson knew nothing of artifacts, migraines, murderous thoughts, and ghostly images and visions appearing to him.
“There is something in me that has changed. I no longer feel like myself, Earnest. Not that I know anything about who I am anymore or that I ever did, but something is fighting in me, wrestling with my mind. I can’t explain it, which makes no sense since I am a PHD, and I have learned so much about human minds, cultures, history, and experiences and how to express this hermeneutic phenomenology, but this thing I feel is so foreign, and dare I say it, but it’s evil. It isn’t something of substance like you and me, but it is something tangible and powerful. I have seen it. It has touched me, and because of that, I need to leave you and your mother. I wish I didn’t. I’ve enjoyed these last few weeks, but this thing inside of me hasn’t felt the same way toward them. This isn’t about my lack of love for you; rather, it is about your safety as a person. Now I must obey it, or it will destroy all three of us. This is what happens when the thing gets up close, stares in your eyes, and marks you for all of eternity. I hope you forgive me for all that I am about to do.”
And with that, he gave the baby a kiss on his forehead and was gone.
By the time that the Blackwater Draw Museum opened in 1969, Theodore Swanson was officially erased from all contributions to the history of Clovis, something which also caused his previously-respected works to stop being taken seriously. With no outlet to make money by publishing, Theodore was considered dead broke and in an imminent state of having to come up for air.
However, he was still buried deep beneath the eyes that were on alert for him anywhere that he might turn up. Sure, he was still on the radar of Interpol, the FBI, and MI6 as well as other agencies like Mossad, but even the best minds of the criminal justice world didn’t have the slightest idea where he was or what he was doing.
For most bookish archaeologists, even one as ruggedly handsome as Theodore Swanson, it would seem impossible to think that his life in 1955, the year he accepted the job at Blackwater Draw, could ever become so interesting infamous as to warrant the legal and espionage attention that he was receiving, but with his finding of that ancient skull that he came to unearth, he came to realize that he was in completely different waters with the real behind the scenes power players.
Especially when the skull didn’t look human.
This skull existed in one of his Our Lady of Guadalupe visions. Amazingly enough, it ended up being exactly where the dream told him it would be. It wasn’t like this surprised him since he had many dreams of the future come true before, but this clairvoyant reality unleashed something different in him.
In that vision, he walked to the place where the skull was located, and the thing with the horns and bony evil face handed him the shovel to commence his excavation. Instantly, he did as he was told, quietly and carefully shifting the dirt away until he saw the bones. Then, he grew more meticulous as he finished pulling it out of the ground. When he was done, he stared into the monstrous form’s eye sockets. With a smile on his face, he closed his eyes and thought about what the discovery would mean. With a beaming smile on his face, he opened his eyes to see the wendigo in front of him. Its snarl immediately scared Theodore as he shifted back, but he couldn’t escape. Instead, the thing pounced on top of him and got inches from his face. As it breathed and drooled on him, Theodore screamed himself awake from his dream.
“Are you all right, dear?” Elizabeth asked, obviously fearing for her husband’s life.
Theodore looked at himself and saw bloody scratch marks all over his chest and felt wet from saliva on his face and chest.
“What happened, Theodore?”
Silence filled the room, but nothing could disguise how something awful just happened.
“Why don’t you take a hot shower and clean yourself off? Get into some new clothes or something,” Elizabeth told her husband. “It’s clear you’ve been working really hard. I know you haven’t slept well in ages, but this is something really different. I’m worried about you.”
“Yes, I am, too. So yeah… yes, dear, I’ll definitely do that” he answered, doing what he was told and came back talking about other things.
However, even with the warmth of the shower, it was impossible for him to escape all of this that had transpired in his dream. At first, he thought this feeling coming over him was just like the intense congestion from a seasonal allergy, but then he came to wonder if he, like those men at King Tutankhamen’s tomb, has descended upon some curse since this thing inside of him was getting worse and carrying with it more intense symptoms. Was he Lord Carnarvon about to die from his own mosquito bite?
Initially, upon finding the skull in real life, he stood proud, but shocked. Holding the skull up to the first light of day, he realized that he was always meant to see the skull and to be its rightful owner. This thrilled him, but the “curse” feelings he was enduring from the skull, the dream, and the awakening worried him senseless. Then came the voice in his head, the one that told him to leave the area and to kill all those who knew about his dreams and his work. This scared him senseless. As the monstrous form’s omnipotent hold crushed his mind, he had no choice but to obey it, and so he walked away from Earnest and went off to kill the Native Americans who had supplied him with Our Lady of Guadalupe in the first place.
This initial act of beying the voices saved his family while condemning him to a permanent life of pain. Nevertheless, it wasn’t all bad since the creature allowed him to gain fuel for more clairvoyant visions when he ransacked their possessions to find more of the drug.
There was a part of him that hated having to kill at all. Nothing he could think of could salve his mind of the guilt he felt over the blood he had shed. Then, the voice from the skull rationalized the situational ethics of the moment to him.
“These Native Americans harmed you. We both knew you couldn’t kill your wife, your son, and your fellow archaeologists either. Friends and family, you called them, but really, they would have killed you for a chance to be rich and famous if it meant that the opportunity was only for them and not for you. You did what you had to do. You killed these Indians for me, and you were rewarded with your life’s blood. You longed for it so badly. Now take some of their life force from them and see the future clearly for the first time in your life.”
At that moment, he did just that and saw a world almost sixty years into the future.
“This is where you are going. Pay careful attention. All of this will be coming back to you before you know it.”
When the deed was done, he took off to New Orleans, which was where he hid himself away with a new name and life. This life called itself Earl Carter, and it lost the English accent of Theodore altogether. Additionally, he took to acting as American as he could, even growing a big thick beard and working out with weights as much as he could when he returned from working on the ships and docks. Not only did this proud British man begin losing his accent and embracing a culture he never really felt a part of, but he began transitioning into someone who fearlessly walked the streets with his new identity and identification to feel comfortable enough to exist as this new individual all over again.
Over time, he grew at home as the voices and visions told him he would.
“Live your life,” the skull said to him. “Forget about Elizabeth. Enjoy the jazz and the bars. Make yourself comfortable here. Grow strong in body and mind. Never stop training. If you do that, then the true culture of Bourbon Street world will be your friend. Besides, you will hear from others soon.”
“Who are these men?”
“The first will call himself Marwan.”
“What’s his real name?”
“It matters as much as what your real name is. The only thing that matters is skills. You both have some of the things I need, but neither of you alone have enough things to win this war.”
And so it was that in 1975, he met Marwan, who was a muscular, though wiry Haitian man. He looked to be about thirty five years old at the time, though it was hard to tell for sure. In addition, Marwan brought his brother with him, but that man was silent the whole time. Just like Marwan, the brother was strong, though not as wiry as his sibling. Had Marwan not referred to him as he brother Theophilus, a name Theodore also assumed was fake, Theodore would have assumed that he was just hired muscle.
“We share interests in Our Lady of Guadalupe.”
“What do you know about ‘Our Lady?’”
“I know many things, my friend. However, the greater meaning of these things will be revealed to both of us over time. Just know that I am at this phone number waiting for you when our friend chooses to speak.”
The Haitian passed a small piece of paper to him.
“504-555-6270,” it read.
“I shall do this, but are you aware of when this will be? I’ve waited over fifteen years to meet you.”
“Be patient, my friend,” Theophilus said. “All things come in time.”
“Yes, but how can I be sure that nothing happens to you?”
“We should worry more about you, old man. Were it not for this barrel chest that you possess, we would have thought you were more comfortable sitting in an office than fighting for this cause,” Theophilus added.
“Just know that he walks with us. Until he needs us, nothing will happen to us. We are, how do you say this? Protected,” Marwan explained.
Then Theophilus spoke.
“We are also insured against concerns. My sons Jean and Ty are part of this process as well. Do you have any insurance in how your life will go on after it ceases?”
“Where is he?” Marwan asked.
“Somewhere with his mother.”
Marwan continued with his line of questioning.
“She took him from you?”
“No, I had to leave him there. He gave me choices,” Theodore said, staring at the skull on an end table across the room. “I did what I needed to do.”
“I would say that was a tough break, my friend, but He has a way of getting things back for us.”
“I would like very much to see Earnest again.”
“One way or another, we are all here for that future moment.”
“Yes, I would guess we are.”
And with that response, Marwan and Theophilus got up.
“It was nice to meet you, Carter. Hopefully, we will meet again soon,” Marwan stated.
“If the fates allow.”
“The fates have allowed this,” Marwan replied. “Don’t be so pessimistic about them doing this again. All things will happen as they will.”
At that, the Haitian men were out the door and gone from the immediate reality of Theodore’s life.
That night, for the first time in ages, Theodore took a hit of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the skull spoke to him again as he drifted through a series of visions as Charles Mingus drifted out to him from his phonograph player.
“Just wait, my friend. You’ll hear from us again. This next time, you will meet an American. His name will be Benson. You will help him, and he will help you. He’s a lot like you could have been. You must instruct him in the art of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Until then, be patient and wait.”
“I will,” his mind said in the same language this voice spoke in. What else could he do, disobey his master?
Years later, Theodore would be sitting in the living room of an apartment house watching television. It was early in the morning, and he couldn’t sleep. On the channel would be one of those made for television alien programs, and he would see an image of the grays on the screen in front of him. As his mind connected this image to the image of the skull that once sat on his end table. After his visit from the Haitians, he kept it safely packed away in his duffel bag so that their stares would never be repeated. Until this time, it was stored safely away, but now, he ran to grab it so that he could bring it back to compare the two images.
Over all of these years, Theodore had glanced upon this artifact and reflected how it had come to look so beautiful, so perfect and well-preserved despite the sun bleaching in through the rocks and dirt all of these years. This thought boggled Theodore completely, and it made him want to experience Guadalupe all over again. Nevertheless, he found himself restraining his desires since there was only so much of it left, and he needed to wait for Benson to use more.
Sure, the powder was there, and yes, it still worked, but it was a finite quantity until he found a way to get more of it. However, maybe if he just took a little, he could find out who this Benson was and where he was. Then, he could keep the rest safe until the real time came.
With this, he prepared it, and he drifted into visions.
Instead of clarity, he heard a cacophony of sounds. Most of the words were spoken over the sounds of loud crashing rock music played out on drums and distorted guitars. The only words he could make out were something to the effect of a lot of people will die and a place called Awatovi. However, just as he was about to scream out at the painful migraine coming over him, he drifted off into a haze. When he awoke, he heard the same singer screaming about the plane crash that Theodore was now watching. Right in front of him, the New York skyline was collapsing to the ground. At first, Theodore couldn’t tell if it was part of the vision or a movie that was playing on television. As he looked at it, he wanted to scream, but he couldn’t. Instead, he heard the screams of men and women in every different quadrant of downtown Manhattan as the clouds of smoke, fire, and building debris engulfed the screen.
Theodore stopped everything else in time as he froze in place to listen to the words that the man was singing.
“A lot of people will die, and we will cry for their loss and our loss and the sudden end of all of the energy that made them and gave them so much potential in life. As with all things, sometimes, there are higher powers that determine the kinetic nature of our lives’ energy. When that happens, we must be aware that there was nothing we could do to stop the events that have transpired and that are occurring. So why cry? Why feel a sense of guilt in the complicity of our responsibilities for the supposed evil of the moment? Instead rejoice because we are alive and though so many so-called innocent by-standers have suffered so much pain, we have been chosen to carry on and to be part of the solution. And though a lot of people die, not everyone will. We shall continue on as we always have until we are dead, buried and dust in our tombs.”
The rest of the vision was painful and felt like some kind of a heroin high. Theodore hated it all, and he just wanted it to end, but it didn’t. Rather, it seemed to go on forever as he watched clips of bodies jumping out of windows into the air in some hope of sprouting wings and surviving the horrendous evil of the moment.
But none of them did, and in the horror of that moment, Theodore realized that when his time to escape came, he wouldn’t have wings either.
In another corner of the world, sitting in a dusty office that hadn’t changed since Margaret Thatcher’s days, Ernest Swanson, who was disobeying his mother to follow in his father’s archaeological footsteps, would reflect how it seemed amazing, if not insane, to think that even the heartiest species of “blokes” would travel roughly 4,000 miles over constant mountains without having an REI store to outfit the tribe for the adventure.
There was something very true in that, but in the same way that this was true that it takes time to move things into place, Earnest Swanson had no idea how important his father’s steps on this journey were in getting Earnest to accomplish his own travel plans.
When the right time came, Theodore finally met Benson Villaneuva. What’s more, the young man had connections to get him Our Lady of Guadalupe. With regard to his immediate needs, the elder archaeologist could regain his clairvoyant visions. What’s more, the time would finally arrive, soon, where Theodore would learn what it meant for “a lot of people to die.” In the meantime, all he had to do was hope that the young man could deliver on the bargain he would follow through with later that spring.
But just like with all of these years since he first ran away, his patience was never his strong suit.