SAGA OF DARKNESS VISION OF LIGHT
Chapter Four - Mysterious Altar
by Dennis R. Cook
Old Blackgoat had already
begun his Sunday morning service when Steven and I arrived, but when we tried to
sneak in and take our seats in the back, he stopped his sermon delivery as
though to inform us as a matter of point that he didn't like being
interrupted. I was relieved when he, along with
the rest of the congregation, began to smile and laugh a little. I
realized he knew the perfect way to break the ice for me. Steven and I sat
down, and the rest of the service was filled with warmth and peace, as hearts
filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit worshiped God in the oneness of love.
After church we shook hands
alongside Old Blackgoat and received continuous ribbing
about our running on Navajo time; that is, late; but we
took it well. All the smiling faces made me feel so good
I was beaming all over. However, as soon as the
last parishioner had departed, both Steven and Blackgoat
cautioned me that the Navajo sometimes put on a show for
visitors, and that I needn't expect such emotional
support every service. That unnerved me a tad.
However, I put aside my perplexity when I overheard
Steven and Old Blackgoat discussing an afternoon fact-
finding mission back to the gorge and cave where they
had discovered the passageway of the serpent.
"Not in broad daylight," I
heard Steven say. This he did in a harsh whisper,
before accompanying Old Blackgoat into a small office at
the back of the church. "The fewer people that
know we know about the passageway, the better."
"What are you afraid of?" Old Blackgoat said.
"Shall we sneak about in the
shadows like the serpent? We can't hide from the
enemy forever. Sooner or later we must take up our
"Ok, Ok," Steven conceded,
holding hands in the air to signify agreement and
submission, "I'll do whatever it takes to keep peace."
I was amazed. Was
that instance of conciliation a first for Steven?
We climbed into Blackgoat's
camper and began to navigate the pot-holed, wheel rutted
dirt road toward pavement. Steven's large frame
squished me against the door, and with all the jostling
from the terrain, it was difficult for me to reflect
back on the sight of Old Blackgoat's country church.
To be honest, the old church
reminded me of one of my grandfather's old weathered,
white-washed cow sheds, but I wasn't terribly bothered
by the sight of it. I knew the building of a
church was the work of God, and that the work of God was
carried on inside people, not on the outside of a
structure. They say even Shakespeare produced his
plays in a barnyard. As for the prospect of
confronting satanists and devils, and demons and dark
angels, to be honest, I was terrified! I longed for my
boardroom and the safe confines of my chalet!
The red rock basin walls arched
northward along our highway. Although picturesque, they
did not seem to welcome us that Sunday afternoon.
We were intruders. Even so, I could sense a timeless
Indian spirit watching over us. He sat with benign
sovereignty from atop a woven blanket, always ready to
dispense the freedom and grace he had been given by a
Spirit so great, His glory could only be perfected by
the praise from the lips of a babe.
Some ten miles later the red rock began to diminish
toward the eastern sky. Old Furry loomed before us,
then vanished with an abrupt change in topography that
left me dazed. What began as red rock, sparse
grass, and a few pinion trees, had been transformed into
the lush meadows lined by high mountain greenery.
We had been heading north since leaving the church road
behind. Old Blackgoat flicked on a blinker. We would
make a right turn, east, toward our destination.
I felt the onset of tension. My neck muscles
tightened. My heart thumped within my chest. My mouth
became dry. I couldn't swallow.
"Nervous?" Steven asked, sensing my uneasiness. I
nodded, then replied, "Yes, I seem to be."
Old Blackgoat fumbled around in his pocket and brought
out a few lint marked lemon drops and some tiny pinion
nuts and offered them to Ike and me.
"Don't mind if I do," Ike said.
"Thanks so much!" I said.
"Happy to help," Ol' Blackgoat said, popping a lemon
drop in his mouth.
As our pathway began to ascend, I caught sight of
chipmunks scurrying about by the side of the road. Great
pines stretched as far as the eye could see, even
arching over the backs of some of the lower mountain
crests. Patches of carpet soft fescue filled
winter moistened gulleys and gulches with other shades
of green, and in total with vines and moss, the combined
wonders of the landscape melted away my anxiety, and
replaced it with admiration for the Navajo and their
I caught sight of the high-flying tail of a buck bolting
over a fallen tree. The staccato sound of a
determined woodpecker filled the woodland solitude with
his promise that spring had come.
Old Blackgoat brought the camper to a stop. I
couldn't wait to get out, stretch my legs, and breath in
the crisp, cool, mountain valley air. As I did so,
Steven retrieved his lantern from the rear storage
compartment. Old Blackgoat waited patiently.
Trekking downward toward the
gorge, shadowed by the mighty forest arrows that were
the landscape's good fortune, I couldn't help feeling
that they, too, though unable to voice their opinion,
were offended, even appalled by the rite of ritual
sacrifice that had been performed within the belly of
the mountain. Nature had provided the cave for refuge,
not carnage. My peace was gone. My anxiety,
The gorge was much as Steven
had described it. White, water washed rocks and
boulders of all kinds and sizes lined the valley floor
right up to the sheer face of the escarpment.
Walking across water washed,
flattened and rounded rocks was not easy. But our
entranceway into the gorge left only a short distance to
the base of the cliff. There, we found the cavern
"What God opens stays open
until He wants it closed," Steven said, beaming.
"Hush!" Old Blackgoat hissed,
his face showing alarm as he cocked his head like a wild
buck sniffing the air. "Let's get inside the
cave," he whispered, tugging at our shirt sleeves while
continuing to look above the escarpment face.
"Quick! Now we must hurry!"
Rushing down the incline into the cavern I understood
Blackgoat's abrupt tone of urgency. A ton of rock
and debris came crashing down around the mouth of the
tunnel leaving us little room for escape. When the dust
had settled, however, and we could see there wouldn't be
trouble getting out, we all sat down, rather shaken.
"Well, Steven," I mocked, "do you still think God wants
this cavern open, or was that rock-slide an omen or
"Hey, it's open, isn't it?" Steven shot back as he rose
and began dusting himself off.
Old Blackgoat began to laugh. "Indians have always
had to save white man's butt with his ears. Did I ever
tell you about the time my great grandfather saved Kit
Steven and I just ignored him. That was our way
telling him we didn't think the landslide was funny, but
I'm sure Old Blackgoat didn't take it too hard.
After regaining some composure, Steven, having finished
dusting himself off, addressed us. "Well, what is
the consensus? Do we head down the tunnel, or do
we go up and investigate?"
"For my two cents," I began, "I'd feel quite a bit more
comfortable knowing whether the landslide was accidental
or a deliberate attempt at murder."
"My sentiments exactly," Steven said.
"If we must," Ol' Blackgoat said. "But it was only
a buck, spooked by our scent."
"But, to be sure...," Steven said.
"Ya, I think that's best," I said.
"I guess the white eyes have outnumbered the Indian
again," Old Blackgoat lamented, tongue in cheek.
We had to plod through the debris that had fallen in
order to get out of the tunnel. The good news was,
there wasn't much to move out of the way. The
debris was a mishmash of tree branches and leaves washed
down the mountainside. Unfortunately, the debris had
stopped short of the gorge, and come to rest atop the
cliff along with a
few rock fragments already broken by continuous
We made our way back up the
trail the way we had come, then veered off the beaten
path and made our way upward, fending off tree limbs and
brush as we went.
Our investigation didn't reveal
much at first, but soon Steven found deer tracks not a
half dozen feet from the lip of the escarpment.
"Blackgoat was right," he said.
From our vantage point it
looked as if the deer had been grazing when it caught
our scent, and bolted windward up the mountainside, it's
heals catching rock and debris, touching off the slide.
Steven and I were satisfied we didn't need to feel
paranoid any longer.
Ol' Blackgoat looked
"Better to safe...," Steven
said, before Blackgoat cut him off in mid-sentence
"Ya, Ya, Ya,.... Come on, let's
Once back inside the serpent's
passageway we made our way quietly but quickly toward
the suspect cavern section where Old Blackgoat and
Steven had first come upon the high priest or whatever
he was, and his two nocturnal companions. The light of
Steven's lantern showed us the way.
I purposed not to have any real
expectations of finding anyone home. By all
accounts I had read, those engaged in clandestine coven
meetings arranged tight security for surrounding areas.
We had been unhindered in our approach, just as Steven
and Old Blackgoat had been earlier.
My explanation for the absence of a security force was
that this cave was top secret. Meetings were rare
and so small, and the entranceway so obscure, that
someone felt cock sure they wouldn't be interrupted.
And, from the account Steven had given me, I knew only
an act of God had revealed the location in the first
Of course, my second guessing supported the revelation
that the Holy Spirit had given Steven, which was, of
course, that an excess of sin makes one confident to the
point of becoming foolish. It was the sheer
arrogance of the practicing Satanist that had allowed
him to be caught in the act. I didn't think he
would make the same mistake twice. I was right.
Upon entering the great hall, we couldn't find a single
demon to play with. In fact, not only was the
cavern empty of spirits, human or otherwise, the
pentagram, circle, candelabrum, altar, and all that
Steven had described to me, were gone, or, at the very
least, very well hidden from view. They weren't to
be found anywhere, look as we might. There were no
tell-tale signs that someone or something had been
there. We were standing in the cleanest cave in
America. Had Old Blackgoat and Steven dreamed
their experience while high on peyote or chalk beer?
Steven wasn't deceived, however. "I can't believe
they have moved that altar out of this cave!" He swore
with a shout. Shaking his head, he continued, "if
the altar was, in fact, gold, it would have been the
proverbial immovable object. If the altar was only
stone, moving the thing still would have required half a
dozen big muscled men. From what I recall, my
guess is that altar stone was over ten feet long, and
had to be at least five feet wide. The altar base
had to be at least three feet high. Just moving
those items around in here would have taken some doing."
Steven glanced at the bare cavern floor once more in
abject disbelief, then turned toward Old Blackgoat and
me. "We're going to need more light. We've
got to comb this place from top to bottom," he said.
"I'll get the two oil lamps from my pickup," Blackgoat
said. "But will they be enough?"
"They will have to do," Steven answered. "But
while you're at it, grab your straight tire iron and
rubber mallet. Bring one of those chisels you use
for splitting wood, too."
"Joseph, why don't you go with him," Steven said, "then
Old Blackgoat won't have to balance quite so much coming
back down the hill and over those rocks."
I was willing to comply, but held back knowing we all
had to walk back to the opening of the tunnel again
since we only had one lamp. Didn't figure Steven
was too keen on the idea of staying in that labyrinth
alone in the dark. I chuckled under my breath when
Steven finally decided to accompany us all the way back
to the pickup under the pretense that perhaps Old
Blackgoat had other tools we might need. I would
have done the same thing.
Upon returning we were relieved to discover that indeed
Old Blackgoat's lanterns were sufficient to light the
cavern chamber. In fact, we were able to spare the
battery in Steven's electric lamp for possible use
With the extra light I could make out stalactite and
stalagmite formations on either side of the entranceway.
They stood as pillars to a pagan temple. Fitting, I
Steven showed me where the altar had been, then the
circle, and finally where he had scooped up a bootblack
can full of his "living faith."
Meanwhile Old Blackgoat pushed around on the stalactite
and stalagmite formations, and searched for clues in
Using the tapered end of the crowbar I pried at larger
cracks and under a few large rocks.
Steven tapped walls for hollow sounds.
After a few hours, and after leaving no stone
unturned, we had to admit to ourselves we were whipped.
Old Blackgoat began to complain of his need for rest
before the evening service, and I could tell Steven's
conscience was taking a beating, having misjudged the
devil worshipers determination to hide their tracks.
He suggested we pray. Steven agreed that if the
Lord didn't reveal anything to us, we'd call it a day.
As it turned out, Old Blackgoat didn't have a vision,
the Spirit didn't quicken Steven, but once in prayer,
and fortified with one mind, we knew we had overlooked
something. Perplexed, we again surveyed the
cavern, all the while shaking our heads.
That's when it hit me. Leaving was our answer. We
were so cock-sure there had to be another tunnel which
would lead away from the chamber we were in, we hadn't
bothered to check the tunnel by which we had come.
I suggested as much.
I took a lamp to the left wall
of the tunnel. Old Blackgoat took one to the right.
Steven used his spotlight for the ceiling.
We had taken only a few steps
outside the altar room when Steven froze in his tracks.
"Stay right where you are," he
said. "I'll be right back."
Losing no time, Steven
retrieved Old Blackgoat's hammer from the unholy worship
hall and returned. Running his hands over the ceiling,
he exclaimed, "this isn't rock, it's that stuff they use
in the movies!"
Old Blackgoat and I soon
discovered the walls were also bogus. Meanwhile,
Steven made every effort to break through the ceiling,
but to no avail.
"What about the floor," I said.
Steven surveyed. "No
use," he said.
I could see Old Blackgoat was
working out a hunch, running his fingers along the bogus
rock several feet away from us. Steven and I
quickly caught on. Old Blackgoat had discovered a
slight crack that encompassed the floor, the wall, and
the ceiling. Leaving that, he had no trouble
locating a similar crack about ten feet from the
entranceway to the unholy hall.
"Elevator!" Steven and I said at the same
Moments later Old Blackgoat discovered a switch covered
by one lone rock resting in the floor of the cave.
"Pay-dirt," I yelled, and flipped the switch. switch.