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SAGA OF DARKNESS VISION OF LIGHT

Chapter Six - Night Thieves

by Dennis R. Cook


SAGA OF DARKNESS VISION OF LIGHT

Chapter Six - Night Thieves

by Dennis R. Cook

I was glad to learn Sheolman would be attending a school board meeting and not an athletic event. Spring athletic events tended to be outside and after school. Sports events made it too easy for him to leave. I had worried that Sheolman would somehow slip away to his coven quarters for some unknown reason, and catch us in the act of gawking at whatever he had hidden in the belly of that mountain. It had bothered me a lot, so much so, that prior to learning Sheolman would be attending a school board meeting, I borrowed Steven's four wheeler one afternoon, "needed to buy some groceries," I told them, and went on a little fact finding mission of my own.

Didn't know what I expected to find, but knew, even if I didn't learn anything about Dr. Sheolman, I was going to learn more about the Navajo culture, especially the local school administration, which seemed to accept the fact that separation of church and state on the "RES" was passé. That intrigued me.

I was fascinated by things I had learned about the local education system from Steven and Old Blackgoat after Mrs. Begay's revelations. I wanted to learn more. I would have liked to have had a couple of days in libraries and museums collecting pamphlets and the like, but I settled for a buzz past two nearby high schools and a stop by the school district central office in Gallup.

I didn't exactly hit the jackpot, but I managed to smooth talk a central office secretary out of the school district's new teacher orientation booklet. "Unbelievable!" I thought, as I browsed through the information. New teachers were actually forewarned of the threat witches posed to their well-being. I couldn't believe it! But it was right there in black and white....

Of course, having found something concrete to back up Mrs. Begay's allegation that Dr. Sheolman was tossing curses right and left against unsuspecting teachers helped my understanding some, "but the poor teachers," I thought, "especially the ones with no spiritual background, how were they supposed to defend themselves? What had they gotten themselves into?" Gave me the willies! The ramifications were terrifying! What if such knowledge got into the mainstream of society, say, by the world wide web? What could be done to prevent it? Hey, you don't like your boss? Just hook up and log on to www.witch.com, and the rest is history, Babylon is back...

My sense of impending doom lessened with the knowledge of the board meeting. That sense of doom receded into the background with Mrs. Begay's assurance that a school board meeting had never been rescheduled, except for snow.

* * *

Our plane tickets had finally arrived via the mail. It was high time, too. The board meeting date had come. Things were set. We would go to the cavern, come back, and pack for our Easter jaunt to Los Angeles to follow Sheolman. The first Sunday after the first full moon, after the Vernal Equinox, was less than 48 hours away.

We had been meticulous planners. It seemed nothing could go wrong, but, then again, tell that to Bonnie and Clyde...

It would be an understatement to say that I had begun to wonder why I had ever let Steven talk me into leaving Mammoto Corp. for the hellfire and brimstone of front-line spiritual warfare. I wondered if Father gave ticker tape parades in heaven for His heroes of faith. I knew He gave crowns of glory....Then, too, I realized his heroes later went by the name of martyrs. Were we but scapegoats for His larger plan? I wondered.....

I had been sitting at the kitchen table watching the evening sun give me winks. Patches of tawny pink and blue cloud wisps marched across it giving the wink effect. I winked back. Forgetting my apprehension momentarily, I breathed in the peacefulness. There was ample time to worry and fret. I wanted to enjoy the sunset, for who knew what night would bring.

Old Blackgoat and Steven were outside checking gear to be sure we had tools enough; that lanterns, should we need them, were full of oil; that ropes, should we need them, were not frayed. I had been impressed that Old Blackgoat had been thoughtful enough to borrow hard hats from a lineman who was on the church board. We acted like we knew what we were doing, but I still had reservations, and as it turned out, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Well, that's not exactly correct. Perhaps Old Blackgoat might have known, for his visionary powers were great. But even if he did know, he wasn't sharing his know-ledge with Steven and me.

Old Blackgoat checked the church one last time ensuring that everything was secure. As Blackgoat put it, "one never knows on the reservation when one might have a visit from a thief in the night, not even Dr. Sheolman." I marveled at his double entendre, for that night on the reservation we would be the sneak thieves, and Dr. Sheolman the unsuspecting property owner.

We were far enough south of the serpent's passageway that a detour east to Route 666 and then northward past Tohatchi would only have delayed our arrival by about an hour. We had debated taking the alternate route as an extra precaution, but in our final analysis concluded we couldn't spare the time.

All fear had left me as we climbed into Old Blackgoat's pickup, perhaps for the final time. A single minded determination gripped us all. Nothing short of an earthquake would deter us from our course.

Driving at night in Navajo country required caution. Horses often meandered across unfenced thoroughfares at an unpredictable moment, but they were not the only wanderers. Deer and cattle and sheep were just as apt to be among the things that go bump in the night on a Navajo road.

One had to be careful. Hitting a stray animal on the reservation placed one in double jeopardy. The penalty included a fine, and, of course, higher insurance rates.

Our trip seemed like a short one. I suppose the excitement and anticipation of being part of a covert operation made time of little concern at the outset.

Nevertheless, we were all well aware of the possible consequences should we over stay our welcome.

I got the honor of carrying two fifty foot lengths of rope over the uneven gorge surface. They were heavy, and grated against my shoulder skin. I wondered why we were bringing them at all. I couldn't imagine any of us falling into a deep chasm inside that cave, although Steven and Blackgoat had already been there and done that. On the other hand, I knew we might need them. We might have to scale some obstacle, tie up an intruder, or drag some object from the cavern. I cleared my mind. After all, contingency planning could only go so far, and fretting about things was not going to make obstacles any easier to overcome.

Steven carried our lamps along with an extra bottle of lantern fluid. Old Blackgoat packed the screw driver edged tire iron we would need to pry up the elevator switch cover. It was time.

Once seated on the cold stone floor of the elevator, Steven asked me if I would honor of putting us in motion. Without hesitation, I obliged. The shaft lurched, as though in protest that we had disturbed it's rest, then sped upward.

I expected a short journey, but our assent entailed a mind boggling distance encompassing several hundred feet. Our stop was abrupt, so much so, that our stomachs seemed catapulted into our already parched throats.

The silence that ensued following our stop was frightening. I wondered if the incessant pounding in my chest was a voice my compadres understood as well. I couldn't tell. Only a stethoscope in the hands of a deft physician would have told the story.

A long, dark tunnel of some thirty feet lay ahead, and at its end, stood double doors of red. The tunnel had been excavated, literally carved out of the barren rock via man's ingenuity, or so it seemed at the time. We walked it's length...with very deliberate steps.

I placed my lantern squarely on the tunnel floor very carefully, then reached for each brazen door knob. Determined, with ever increasing pressure, I forced them ajar. Placing a foot against the base of each frame to guard against their retreat, I stretched my left arm toward my lantern, righted myself, and prepared for what lay ahead.

Attended by Steven and Old Blackgoat on either side, I arched my lantern high into the darkness, eager to survey the scene before me, taking care, as it were, that my first step was not my last, before launching outward onto the cold, black, marble floor.

"Come on," Steven whispered, "let's find a light switch. I want to see what's here.

He didn't waste any time locating a row of gray buttons behind one door. With the push of the first button, the muffled hum of a power generator kicking in gave us quite a start.

"Good grief!" I said.

"Shhh..., be calm," Blackgoat said. "The other buttons will bring light."

I wish they hadn't.

I stepped back, eyes aghast, gaping at the lavish setting.

"The guys at Duke will never believe this," I said.

A black marble floor rolled out across an area at least the size of a football field, perhaps larger. The greatest of mortal kings would have stood proudly upon it. We were dumbstruck, mortified by the wealth before our eyes.

"So this is where Madoff hid his treasure," Ol' Blackgoat said.

I laughed.

Ike frowned before speaking.

"Would you look at that ceiling? Jesus! I bet it is made of marble as well. And that painting! Where do they get these guys?"

"Ya," I said. "It had to be stroked by the hand of a master."

"Perhaps Michelangelo has returned from the dead," ‘Ol Blackgoat said.

I wondered... For a triumphant pictorial display of Satan leading away one third of the host of heaven toward earth, caused me to marvel at the sight. The facial detail shocked me with its intricacy. The brightest of pastel colors, pink, green, blue, lavender..., engrossed me. It was as if we were in the refurbished Sistine Chapel. I felt the hair on the back of my neck bristle. I shuddered.

Beneath the beauty of the pristine ceiling, suspended in mid-air, a masterpiece of ornithological wonders appeared to fly before us. Hundreds of crystallinecreatures displayed in a myriad of hues ranging from dazzling white to darkest purple, squawked,chirped, tweeted and guffawed while moving in a great arcing pattern above us. I was reminded of the Tikki Room at Disneyland.

Seeming to materialize from nothingness, floating balls of fire and light projected into the room from all directions with an ebb and flow which was both horrifying and hypnotic in its appeal. The best laser light shows paled by comparison.

Beneath it all, the golden altar we had been desperate to find, rested as the centerpiece of the mammoth sanctuary. Surrounding it, a great white circle harbored menacing pictures of paradise lost.

Round about the walls were pagan sculptures finished with the finest detail. Ionic pillars made of glowing bronze stretched their pagan strength like arms of titans.

Far to the opposite end of the counterfeit temple our eyes came to rest on the end of our survey. Great white marble steps made an arching semicircle around three towering black ebony thrones, each inscribed with Greek etchings inlaid with pure gold. As we approached the shrines, the names only dark minions hallowed, worshiped, and adored, appeared. Lucifer, Hell, and Death, sat there.

Steven tore into his hip pocket with all Godspeed, and ripped out his little canister of faith. With fevered brow, and hands trembling, Steven removed the lid. Once open, he shoved the priceless substance into Old Blackgoat's hands.

"Quick, anoint us," Steven breathed, his face ashen.

Old Blackgoat flattened the entire palm of his weathered hand against the substance and wiped the residue, first upon the forehead of Steven, and then upon mine, chanting Holy Scripture in his native tongue.

When he was finished with the two of us, Steven repaid Old Blackgoat the kindness, also in Blackgoat's native tongue.

Somewhat calmed, our eyes continued to survey our confines. There was another set of double doors to the right of the thrones, and though inclined to satisfy our curiosity about them, we found wrenching our gaze away from the room's unholy regality and prodding our feet into action a first rate challenge.

"Come on," Old Blackgoat said, "there is much to explore and so little time. Look, there is a stairway beyond these doors."

At the top of the stairway we entered what looked to be a modern living quarters replete with leather couches and loungers surrounding a towering rock fireplace. Sconces blazed eternal flames on either side. Ebony lamps helped the comfort of the setting, while a rainbow fountain to our left streamed, to our amazement, letters of words I could not quite make out. There were a few well placed, expensive looking paintings. We noted a cocktail bar stocked with the finest liqueurs along with some brownish red liquid left unlabeled. I gagged at the thought some crazed mind could imbibe such, then sobered at my own naïveté. Long ago the Aztecs had worshiped through both blood drinking and cannibalism.

Beyond the fountain spiraled another staircase, this one of wrought iron. Taking its course we found a catwalk which encircled an Olympic sized, swimming pool. The only way down was by the ladder on the high dive located opposite us at the other end of the catwalk. We retraced our steps.

Back in the living room our vision rested upon a hallway partly hidden from view by a bushy, greenish, tropical, FICA plant. Once inside the hall we found thirteen bedrooms, each paneled and trimmed with the same walnut veneer. Canopied beds, richly covered with satin and lace, welcomed not the tired and sleepy, but the aroused who yearned for illicit love.

Again, at the end of the hallway, crimson doors told us there was still more. I hurried to open them, my curiosity getting the best of me. They opened up to display a spacious dining room and well organized kitchen. Thirteen chairs covered with rich, soft, Spanish leather surrounded a table made of the finest lead crystal, inlaid with pure gold. Insignias of goat heads and pentagrams imprinted on fine china, silverware and finger cloths completed the setting.

At the back of the kitchen, one last set of crimson doors beckoned for our inspection. Through them we found an enclosed, paved, parking lot, that, like everything else we had seen, appeared built to rival the finest of such architectural structures. A ramp led upward from the garage floor. Two huge hydraulic wells sided the ramp, which I concluded must open a hatchway to the outside. I spotted a lever on one of the metal pylons that fortified the compound's superstructure about the same time as Steven.

"Flip you for this one," Steven teased.

"Oh, go ahead," I replied, smiling. "You deserve the honor."

Steven pushed the lever. The pop and whir of air engaging an hydraulic system filled the garage for a moment, then slowly the barrier above the ramp lifted.

Steven and I raced up the incline, Old Blackgoat following as fast as his legs would allow.

The hatchway opened to a rutted mountain pathway with an incline of about 30 degrees. We couldn't see the highway, but knew it couldn't be far away. The sound of a lone eighteen wheeler downshifting removed any doubt of that. We turned, walked back down the ramp, and closed the hatch.

"What, now?" Steven asked. "Do we see what's pool side or return to the altar?"

"I say we take a closer look at that altar," Old Blackgoat said. "My legs have tired from all this investigating. We have already walked up and down too many steps and ladders."

I knew Steven was anxious to see if there was any more of that faith substance so I sided with Old Blackgoat. That seemed to please Steven. Above all, I wanted to keep us in agreement. Agreement was a hedge we couldn't afford to be without.

The idea, however, of passing back by the monstrous thrones began to bother me as we retraced our steps closing doors and turning off lights. I didn't understand my fear. The closer we came to the trio of hideous thrones, the greater my sense of apprehension. As we began our descent of the last marble stairway, I hesitated. Suddenly, I bolted!

The idea of passing back by the monstrous thrones had given me such a tremendous sense of fear and dread, because of who might be sitting on them, that I wasn't about to be the last one out. My companions may have been ashamed of me at that moment, but I didn't care. The thought of those three gruesome specters glaring down at me was enough to swallow me up, and I wasn't about to stop until I reached the far side of the altar. And I didn't!

What shocked me the most after I slid into the safety of the elevator side of the altar was the clamor of footsteps I heard trailing in behind me. I nearly fainted when Steven and Old Blackgoat's faces came panting around the corner.

"What in blue blazes is the matter with you?" Steven blurted out after catching his breath.

"Couldn't," I stammered, still panting, "couldn't overcome a vision of that nightmare trio sitting at the ready, waiting to grab us on our way out....had a panic attack...O.K., now,...sorry.."

"Thank God," Old Blackgoat breathed. "You had us worried."

"We thought for sure you had seen or heard something that spooked you," Steven said. "That's why we followed your lead, thinking you must be in danger."

"Let's hurry up and get out of here," I pleaded, heart still pounding. "I've had all of this place I can stand for one night."

While Steven and Old Blackgoat poked and prodded around the golden altar looking for a vulnerable spot, I garnered enough resolve to pull myself up for one...., last...., eye-level glance across the hall toward the thrones.

Was that ever a mistake...."Oh, no," I hollered, as my ears caught the unmistakable sound of air engaging hydraulics. "What have I done? Steven, Old Blackgoat, quick, stand back from the altar," I yelled.

With that, the bizarre centerpiece began to ascend before our eyes. Rancid smoke came billowing out of the darkness of the gaping hole underneath the altar causing us to cough and choke.




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