Undaunted, Steven placed a jacketed arm across
face and braced himself to face the fiery wind billowing
from the chasm. He began a cautious descent.
shuddered to think what might lie ahead.
Old Blackgoat looked at me dumbfounded. “Do all
men lack the common sense not to know that we must
sand in a rat hole, not walk down in one?”
“Ike,” I whispered…” “Ike,…, Jesus, Ike.., get out of
there! Ike!” All to no avail…
Were we but sheep leading ourselves to
“Come on,” Ol’ Blackgoat said, “we can’t let him
out of sight.
Remembering my earlier case of nerves, I steadied
with silent confessions. “I can do all things
through Jesus who strengthens me. I can do all
through Jesus who strengthens me. Greater is He
me than he that is in the world.”
Gaining faith, I followed.
Brighter flickers of light now came flaming
the entranceway which opened beneath the last
thirteen steps. The new light
challenged the necessity of our lamps, given the
unmatchable, pride filled egos that wicked fires
manifest. Were they laughing and scoffing at the
thought of ever feeling the pain one might inflict,
they be extinguished?
As we neared the bottom of the steps I thought
heard the sound of creaking. Eerie. Not
the sound of a lone playground swing caught
brisk night wind, or brushed by an unknown
I mused how the scene might play out in the mind
great author struck down by bizarre, life-changing,
circumstances; A wrong turn such as mine, that placed
that he held dear to his soul, in jeopardy. What
line would he write? Perhaps, I thought, some
Shakespearean barb, like: “And fate has played its
indomitable role, that ill wind blown by irony most
Still holding his arm as a brace against the
searing heat, Steven entered the smoke belching pit
Old Blackgoat and myself a step back of
shoulder, making sure he wouldn’t get away.
The pit was a small circular confinement,
perhaps not fifty feet in diameter.
“Gothic,” Steven said. “Now this is gothic
way it is, not like in the movies.”
“Or was,” I added.
“Like stepping out of time into timelessness,”
Rough hewn stones like those of the stairway
composed the floor, with the exception being the very
center, where coals of hellfire burned. A ring of fire
“And it bur… Ike cut me off…
“Joseph, don’t you dare start singing,” Ike said.
“Barbeque anyone?” I quipped.
“Thought you were full of fear,” Ol’ Blackgoat said.
“Faith,” I said. “I remembered my faith. You
all things, the Greater One lives in me.”
“Good,” Ol’ Blackgoat said. “Good.”
A concave shaped ceiling, rising some thirty feet
at its zenith, revealed a single length of
gauge wrought iron chain protruding downward
the sunken furnace; splitting, as it were,
four new lengths; each new length of chain a
clutching talon of captivity, two of which gripped
silver chalice, two of which gripped an extremely
and intricately decorated sarcophagus. All
“Ah, the playground swing,” I said, not thinking.
“The what?” Ike asked.
“Never mind,” I said.
It appeared the weight imbalances on
chain caused the entire fixture to rotate slightly.
emanating from the top of the chalice
suggested we had found the substance we were looking
Steven circled the hellfire, eyeing the dangling
fixtures like a hungry fox, whose prey, a fatted fowl,
taunted him from a tree branch just out of reach.
what he had in mind, knowing a leap
churning coals to the chain above the silver chalice
possible, but knowing too, certain death awaited
friend if he failed. At their lowest point, both
chalice and crypt dangled only a few feet from the
surface of the smoldering heat, but were a good five
feet from where we stood at the fire's edge.
“Talk about a leap of faith,” I said.
“Not funny,” Ike said. “How did you lighten
much all of a sudden?”
“You best focus in on what you are contemplating
doing,” I said. “Forget about me. It is time
I shut up.”
Steven was wasting his time. If he reached his
instant pain from scorched hands would surely cause
lose his grip and plummet into the fiery crown
hell beneath him.
As if to read my mind, however, he pulled a pair
rough, brown cowhide gloves from his jacket pocket
slipped them on, still eyeing the fixtures with
of absolute determination.
"Look," Steven breathed with finality, pointing at
four chain lengths. The chains connect to the
chalice and crypt with eye clamps. If we could
somehow maneuver them away from the fire, we could
them down rather easily I think.
I was just about to speak my misgivings, when Steven
"where did you leave the ropes, Joseph? I've got
"They're back by the elevator,"
nervously, knowing full well I would have to go get
ropes,...alone, and thinking it would take more
than my confession to get me through that journey.
Old Blackgoat sensed my uneasiness. “Just do
he said. “Your confession is enough.”
I didn't waste any time retrieving the ropes,
while trotting through the great hall above, I
recited the Twenty-Third Psalm. "As I walk through the
of the shadow of Death, I shall fear no evil."
seemed so appropriate. Why hadn't I thought of
earlier? I felt so foolish. "Sometimes I can
weak, I turn my own stomach," I mumbled to
as I hurried back down the steps made to remind
Old Blackgoat acknowledged my return with a smile.
handed him one section of the rope. Steven and Iwatched as he prepared a professional lasso. His
youthful experience with southwestern rodeos was
off. Like riding a bicycle, he had not forgotten.
"Stand back," Old Blackgoat said, motioning
give him room to apply his trade.
Old Blackgoat's arm darted outward, sailing the
with deft precision toward his target, snaring
two chain lengths which were attached to the
chalice. There would be just enough slack
chain to enable us to move both fixtures just
the lip of the burning embers. All Blackgoat had
was make one trip around the pit with the rope.
caught both objects, and made it easy to pull them
within our reach.
Steven positioned himself to receive the objects.
Blackgoat and I began pulling back on the rope
it was taught against the sarcophagus, then
walked the circumference of the flaming circle
both objects were entwined enough for us to
The chalice was first to come within Steven'sreach. "Oh, for a hot pad," he joked, extending
hands to loose the silvery metallic flask before
lowering it to the ground.
"One of you will have to help me with the crypt,"
said, as he positioned himself to receive
larger object. "I won't be able to hold it and
release it too."
"Joseph will help you," Old Blackgoat said.
rope will not get away from me."
"If you're sure," I said, concerned for the
"Hurry up," Steven said, "the darn thing isn't
getting any cooler."
It only took an instant to unsnap the chains.
freed me to help a wheezing and grunting Steven
the crypt to the ground. But it wouldn't have
mattered had I been late. The weight was more than
us had counted on. The sarcophagus slipped
our arms and sank with a thud to the rock. A
developed on its side from the impact.
"We can't carry that thing out of here," Steven
with disgust, "but we've got half of Sheolman's
treasure. Just taking the chalice of faith ought
him back enough. Let's go."
Old Blackgoat untied his lasso from the chain
recoiled his rope. Steven and I made haste to
the other utensils, but it was too late!
cacophony of triumphant sound filled the room. A
followed by blood curdling laughter filled the
above us. Someone or something was here. We
Steven took valiant action, racing upward with his
chalice of faith before his face. Seeming to
someone, we heard Steven bellow, "in the name of...,"
words were cut short, and fell as so much dribble
floor. We scurried to position ourselves so
could see what was going on. Just then, an as yet
foe or force flung Steven, chalice and all, across
entire length of the glass-like surface of the
Old Blackgoat and I raced after him, but it was
avail...The same mighty force gripped us both
began drawing and dragging us backward toward
Then I saw. The villain glared at us with all
pomposity, some ten feet tall, clad like a titan
in full battle dress, sickle in hand. Death
come for us in person. We were as wheat before
scythe. I fought with all fierceness to speak
great name of Jesus, but I couldn't. I was
I wondered if Steven was alive. I knew,
moment, Old Blackgoat and I wouldn't be.
Struggling was to no avail. The enormous
eyes of Death leered down upon us as chunks of
fired in a kiln. The titan's mouth moved
incessantly. It was as though the fiend was unable to
control it's appetite for human flesh. It lusted
mercilessly upon it's fated prey.
Our bodies began to lift higher off the black
floor. Over the altar we soared, then to a
stop, as the titan prepared, it seemed, to
consider what our fate should be, mouth gaping with
delight at its prize.
I had all but given up hope. I deemed our fate
inevitable. But the monster spoke. "You must
it bellowed, eyeing Old Blackgoat and me with
contempt. "All that enter my holy mountain must
worship at my feet! I will free you if you will
worship me. Here, see that I am a god of my word."
Showing benign intent, the monster lowered us to
Finding I could again speak, I gathered courage,
voice echoing from the pit of hell-fire beneath
altar brought me up short.
"They will not serve you, but you will indeed let
go," a voice of great power commanded, causing the
to rise on the back of my neck, while, at the same
turning the countenance on the face of Death from
frenzied delight to one of abject despair.
"You cannot defeat me again," the monster
shrieked. I still have the chalice of faith!
Maintaining eyes fixed upon the fiery pit, it
pointed a bony finger and summoned the chalice filled
the faith of innocence to his titan hand. Faith
only moments earlier had rested in the hands
beloved friend, Steven.
Then, primordial rage gripped the monster's hideous
features. Without warning it swung back toward
Blackgoat and me. Death was livid in its glare.
chalice is no good, you have broken the spell,"
screamed at us with contempt, turning again to the
of the chasm.
There, kneeling down, the creature gazed into
flame tempered darkness. We had no idea what
monster saw. Suddenly, the realization that our
tampering with the sarcophagus had wrought a damage to
world that could not be undone, brought a flash
terror to the creature's eyes. Who could bring
terror to Death, I wondered?
Moaning sardonically, the beast raised its arm
dashed the faith filled chalice against the
chasm's entranceway, but its action was to no avail.
Rising, as from the depths of hell, a being
emerged, apparently released from the spell that had
it for ages, either by the crack in the sarcophagus,
removal of the chalice, or both. What did it
being was free! Out of its bonds it sauntered,
confident, strident, powerful. Silently the being
advanced toward Death, unafraid, undeterred, undaunted.
Death, the titan, although much the taller, cowered
being's fierce appeal. Sobering nonetheless, it
unsheathed a sword, red with fire and blood, no doubt
spawned and forged by Hell itself, and brandished it
“Ah ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!” Laughed Death’s
“Where will you strike, Death? I will be where
blow cannot land. Have you forgotten that I see
future? Strike where you will! I will not be
Again Death lost its composure. Unable to shake
its fear a second time, it disappeared into the
nothingness from which it had come.
In the blink of an eye we were free from the
remaining paralysis that immobilized us, but we dared
move, for we did not know if the powerful looking
creature was friend or foe.
I was concerned, but not afraid. The creature
to be sizing us up as well. I used the time to
consider the size and scope of the being before us.
a thick square jaw perhaps twice the breadth
man's hand, full lips, and a nose which bent
broke downward from the middle. His eyes were
wide apart. They pierced and penetrated like
of a falcon. He had a high, broad forehead
roared with intelligence, and long, stringy
hair that curled around shoulders that would
made the greatest of men cower. His arms and
were mammoth, and contoured with muscles aglow
might. His height was every bit of eight feet.
For a few more minutes, and purposefully it
seemed, the creature maintained his vigilance over
Satisfied we were no threat, he turned and began
great strides toward Steven, arriving at our
friend's disheveled frame before either Blackgoat
As Blackgoat and I peeled ourselves up off
floor, the giant gathered Steven into his arms and
toward the elevator. With his head, he motioned
follow. We didn't hesitate.
When we arrived at the hallway which led to the
elevator, the creature was already inside, still holding
with a tender care and concern that one would have
thought impossible for such a being. We marveled
creature seated himself inside the elevator still
cuddling Steven. We said nothing, but took our
To say the least I was intimidated by this being
himself our companion at first. And, I was
perplexed. My senses were off line. I needed
Holy Spirit to quicken my intuition. I needed to
if the creature was good or evil. He seemed kind,
even neighborhood psychos seem neighborly before they
strike, or so I’ve heard.
As we reached the cave below, Steven moved.
Consciousness was returning. I almost wished for
that he would just sleep on until we reached
Blackgoat's house, as things were already confusing
I was about to question the being about Steven's
overall condition, but the mighty creature was
halfway down the passageway leading to the cave
entrance, leaving me standing by the elevator with
mouth half open.
"There's no need to talk," Old Blackgoat said.
has read our minds. Let's hurry. I don't
driving off without us."
I hadn't thought of that possibility. Who knew what
being was really capable of?
By the time Old Blackgoat and I managed to make
way to the camper our friend had already loaded
himself and Steven into the back. I had to laugh
Blackgoat's smile turned to a frown.
"Look at my tires," the old fella’ moaned.
have flattened against the mountainside from the
in the back. He must weigh as much as a half
of wood! How much do you think he weighs?"
I shrugged my shoulders. Old Blackgoat sighed as we
climbed into the cab.
I refused to consider the events of the evening
roared down the twisty mountain road toward
plain below, choosing rather to thank God over
over and over and over, that He was God, and that
would worship and praise Him forever. I would
for the great things he had done!
I had to laugh when we got home and opened the
camper. There sat Steven across from our new found
friend; pale, bug eyed, mesmerized, and not just from
obvious shock of this night's events. We managed
pull him from the truck and stand him on his feet,
Steven didn't take his eyes off our guest all the
the trailer. I didn't either!
I whispered to Blackgoat, "My friend, what can
this mean? Is there a solution to this puzzle?
could the search for the killers of livestock
us all to the gates of the netherworld?
"Shhh," Blackgoat answered, this is not the time
plot lines or stories, problems or answers, let
tend to he, who is like my own son, then we will see.