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Posted in: Uncategorized by admin on April 6, 2009
He stood in the deepest place. He stood in the place in the Mogollon Bowl that was closest to the core. He stood in the sacred place and held the eagle feather. He raised the feather to the sky, to the sky people, to the guardians of the world above.
“I pray to you, people of the sky, be with us this week, this week be with us. Stay with us and keep us safe.”
Grandfather acted like he was alone, but all the warriors were around him, watching in the predawn. Bud Creeman fanned the smoldering herbs, spreading the smoke’s blessing to all the directions. Hundreds of warriors watched silently, sitting in the deepest place. He turned to the four directions, one by one.
“I pray to you, guardians of the North, for the strength to overcome the cold time, to get through the hard time. To do what is needed to survive. Let my People come this week. Let the People come to this last Meeting. Let them come with clear eyes to see what is here. Let them see the Great One, behind and beyond and through all places and directions.”
Let them give up their strife and faultfinding, the old man prayed silently. Let them stop picking each word I say apart. Let them see you, O Great One, and stop fighting me. I am your tool and your soldier, nothing more.
Grandfather swayed on his feet, feeling the Presence of the One. Oh, Great One! You who fills all the earth, the stars; the things that we can see, and the things that we cannot see. I love you! I praise you! I worship you!
“Let the People feel the river of love this week. Let each of them learn what he came here to learn. Let each learn what she came to learn. Take away the darkness, oh Lord, and bring us your light.”
He turned to the East. “I praise you, Guardians of the East. Give us your power, the power of new life, the power of spring over winter, of awakening. Watch us and give us victory.”
Give us victory over the intruders from the outside, over the intruders from the inside, he prayed in his silent heart. Free us from the poison thoughts and feelings, from the desire to see only small things and differences. Let us see that we are the same. As you are the One, so we are one.
Bud Creeman stood next to Grandfather, fanning the smoke. He let out a piercing cry, eyes pressed closed. “I see you, Great One! I see you!” He raised his hands high.
The warriors shuffled softly, feeling Bud’s ecstasy.
“I turn to the South,” the old man turned and held the feather over his head. “I praise you, great Southern warriors. I praise you with great love. Thank you for your peace, your serenity. Your plenty, the plenty of summer and the good harvest. Be with us this week, show us your bounty.”
And then to the West, the Western gate, the passage between this world and the other side. “Watcher of the Gate, let us die and die again, the little deaths that mean growth and change. Let the parts of us that need to die go, and the parts that need to live stay. May we pass through your doorway in glory when the last dying comes!”
And may our visitors from the great corporation get what they need this week, he voiced silently. May they have the love they need, the courage they need; may they have the will to die and be reborn.
He sang in the old language, voice rising over the Bowl. He stood in the deepest part of the Bowl, in the place they called the amphitheater, the Pit. Where the meteor stuck long before the dawn of days. Grandfather knew that the meteor did not give the Power. The Power was there before anything. The Power made everything.
He stood in the dirt before the stage his followers had constructed. He would be on that stage all the coming week. Now was time for the old ways, for the earth. His feet rested on the ground. His feet worshiped the guardians of the world below. He invoked their presence. He invoked their protection.
He was in the sacred place, the sacred Mogollon Bowl, the place of visions, the place of the Ancestors, the place of the Great One.
“O Great One, you fill the earth from end to end, from top to bottom, from all the directions. You fill us as the weaver fills her loom. You fill us like the breath fills our lungs. Like the breath makes us move and gives us life. You are the life, oh Great One. Our life, the life of all the world. The life of the land, of the stars and planets, and the worlds beyond worlds.
“I love you, I worship you, I praise your name and glory. Be with me all my days. Protect us, oh Great One, from our enemies inside and outside.”
He sat cross-legged on the earth. The warriors were around. Rapture came to him. Tears of joy came to him. Tears of joy rose from the bliss inside. Like a sun came the Great One, like the sun of suns, splitting his heart in two, tearing him in two until the bliss was so great that the universe broke open and he dropped, a shining pearl, a brilliant diamond, dropped into the nothing that exists beneath all that is.
He heard no more until the sun was high.
Chapter 1. The Mogollon Bowl
Will stared out the vehicle’s tinted window, scowling. The Ashley, his luxurious motor home and the hallmark of the Numenon caravan, jolted across the desert in fine form. Will wasn’t doing quite as well.
The terrain had been the same all day: dirt, rocks, cacti. Plus those stupid round trees that dotted the landscape like lice. They weren’t even eight feet high. Will hated New Mexico more than he thought possible. They can’t even grow a proper tree, he thought to himself.
Will rubbed his chin, feeling a screamer coming on. He would not give in to it. He would stay in control.
The last fifteen minutes had been the worst. Phalanxes of junker cars from the 1970’s bounced alongside them, surrounding the Numenon caravan. They enraged Will. It’s 1997, he thought. Not one of those cars is even from the nineties. What kind of people drive cars that old? The vehicles lurched along with their alligatored vinyl tops and mottled paint. Gigantic boxy hulks piloted by dark people who drove like Roman taxi drivers.
“Mark, how much longer?” he shouted.
“It’s right up ahead, Mr. Duane. Over that rise.” The driver pointed at a ridge a short distance away. Will could see laden vehicles driving over the incline and disappearing. Other cars emerged, having dumped their loads. His jaw clenched.
He sat in his command seat, directly behind the driver with his back against the cabin’s rear wall. He faced the same direction as Mark. They were the only ones in the RV who could see out the windshield easily.
Looking to his left, Will saw the anxious faces of Betty and Gil. They sat on the banquet along the Ashley’s left wall, twisting to see through the big picture window behind them.
Why were Betty and Gil Canao the only ones in the cabin? When they started, his secretary, Betty; Gil, Doug and Melissa, the three super-star MBAs; Sandy Sydney, Betty’s assistant; Mark, the driver; and he had shared the cabin. Where were the others?
A light flashed, reflected off of the chrome of one of the vehicles outside. It struck Will’s eye and he rocked back in his seat. His eyes rolled back and quivered.
Red rock walls rising high above them. Bright sunlight. He was running, breathing convulsively. Sobbing. Thrashing on the ground, fighting. Something crushed him into the rock. Everything went black.
Will blinked, coming back to himself. Something had happened out in the desert. He could recall it dimly, like someone else’s dream.
All this fuzziness. Why couldn’t he remember simple things? He felt like his core, the hard center that was him, had cracked.
The damn light did it. New Mexico wasn’t just rocks and dirt. It was light. And space. All day, they had passed though that emptiness and the light. Who he was began to melt away. His control, his purpose, all of him was being undermined. He put his hand on his chest. The tight sensations he felt were nothing. His doctor had told him that the day before. His heart was good.
Will rubbed his chin again, trying to remember.
Something came out of the buzzing, disintegrating void inside him. The old shaman had appeared in the desert in front of them in a golf cart. There he was, shimmering in the light and heat. Will had walked out to him and the light surrounded them. Light had come off the old man, even more than from the sky.
Will had broken down for some reason; he had fallen at the holy man’s feet, sobbing. Why, why? His disintegration had accelerated since then. Why couldn’t he remember?
“We’re here,” Mark called. The Ashley pulled over the bank. The driver stopped the vehicle abruptly, staring out the windshield. Will jumped up and grabbed the back of Mark’s chair. He froze.
* * *
“What is it, Will?” Betty asked. She and Gil moved forward, straining for a look at the place where they would spend the next week.
“Oh, my God,” she said.
The others were speechless.
Betty peered through the windshield. The Mogollon Bowl spread out before them––as far as she could see, a writhing mass of people was interspersed with camping equipment. Well, some of it was camping equipment. Shabby tents and tarps on poles. Shades on aluminum legs. People unloaded cars and headed back to the parking lot outside the Bowl. Other cars inched around, searching for a place to camp. The Bowl crawled with movement.
The sprawling space was virtually undifferentiated: no trees, no lawn, no structures except two derelict buildings in the distance. The Indians’ hallowed ground looked like the desert they’d crossed, but less interesting. No big cactus or rock formations jutted up. It was rocks and dirt and chaos.
This was the legendary Mogollon Bowl where anyone could become psychic and all your problems would disappear? She thought of all the work she’d done in preparing her brief on Grandfather, the famous shaman who led the retreat. On those close to him. On Indian history. On the Bowl itself. For this?
She looked at Will, knowing what his reaction would be. Will only stayed at five star hotels. Living in the luxurious Ashley was his idea of camping. Her boss’s face grayed with horror. He turned to her, mouth gaping.
“WILL, I WILL NOT STAY IN THIS DUMP!” Doug Saunders charged out of the bedroom bellowing. “IF WE HAVE TO STAY HERE FOR A WEEK, I QUIT.”
He said it for all of them. She glanced at Gil Canao, who looked out the window in glum silence. She opened her mouth to echo Doug’s sentiment, when Will grabbed Doug and hugged him like a grieving father.
“I thought we’d lost you,” Will cried.
And with that, the memory descended upon her––what had happened on the drive in. Will lying in that canyon, covered with blood, bones bent at impossible angles, squashed. Really squashed flat. And Doug next to him, foam coming out of his mouth, body bent backward in a crescent. Blue and bloodless, both of them.
Her sobs took her by surprise. Her hands went to her face and she doubled over. Will, Gil, and Doug jumped toward her. Will caught her in his arms, and the other two men joined the hug. The minute they touched her, her backbone stiffened. She pulled herself erect, trapped in the circle of solicitous males.
“Thank you, thank you so much.” She said to them. Tears streaked her face. “Oh, I’m sorry. I can’t . . .” Will handed her his handkerchief. She snatched it gratefully.
“You don’t have to stop, Betty. Go ahead and . . .”
No one cried at Numenon. Ever. No matter what happened. She sputtered, “Oh, seeing you on that trail, Will. And you, Doug. I couldn’t believe it. Oh.” They moved closer to hold her again, but she stood stiffly, quivering, but not crying.
“It’s OK, Betty,” they said at once. But it wasn’t OK. They almost died, all of them. A flood could have killed them. This was a horrible, horrible trip. But Bud Creeman had saved them.
“We have to find Bud, and thank him again.” She looked up at Will. “He was so good to us. Let’s find him, and then let’s leave. OK, Will?”
Will’s brow lowered and his jaw tightened. “I’ll get you out of here tomorrow, I promise. I’m going to stay.” They stared at him. “I have to stay here––I have business to complete.”
Betty pulled out of her despair enough to stammer, “But Will, you told us that the mine deal was dead.”
“It is, Betty. I promise you.” He glanced out the windshield. The Indians were beginning to cluster around the Ashley. “The mine deal is dead. I have personal business with Grandfather.”
She remembered the old man had approached their caravan when they were still out in the desert. Will went out and talked to him. “It’s not the mine?”
“Not the mine. I promise.”
She had heard so many of Will’s empty promises that she didn’t know what to think. But something else took precedence. “I want to go home to John . . .” The tears came again. She wiped her face, conscious that she’d shed more tears in public in the previous five minutes than she had in twenty-eight years of being the head of Will’s secretarial staff. Private tears didn’t count.
“I’ll make arrangements for all of you to leave. You don’t have to deal with this . . .” Will’s arm swept the crowd outside.
Betty looked out the window. Indians surrounded the Ashley. She saw them as a hats and braids and shirts of every color. Jeans. Faces. Bodies, short and tall. Fat and thin. Some were very dark, almost like African Americans. Others were as light as Gil Canao. Their eyes grabbed hers. Black to hazel, those eyes bored into the Ashley, trying to see past the tinted windows. Trying to see them.
She put a hand to her chest, feeling her heart racing. Not one face was friendly, not one mouth smiled. They stared, a half circle of intense eyes, brown skin, dark hair. The first ring was followed by another, and another.
Their foreignness shocked her. She had never seen so many Indians; she had no idea that that many existed. Four thousand of them were supposed to be at the Meeting, to their ten people. Her breath caught.
On the way in, she had talked about the danger they might be in if the Indians found out about Will’s plan for mining their holy lands. Seeing them surrounding the Ashley, the danger became real. Her heart jumped as though it wanted to leap out and run away. What were they doing there?
Though no one smiled in a welcoming way, some began to point at the Ashley and laugh. Two Indians dashed out and stood in front of the vehicle, posing. Others took their picture. They ran back to their friends, laughing uproariously. Another pair came forward for a souvenir photograph, then another. The crowd roared.
They were laughing at them! The representatives of the largest corporation on earth. Not representatives––the founder of the largest corporation in history and the richest man in the world and his top staff . . . Betty was outraged.
More gathered, forming a circle around all five vehicles in the caravan. Hemming them in. She couldn’t see where the crowd ended. Her pounding heart became a distress signal; they had to get out. “Will, we’re surrounded . . .”
He looked out the window. “Drive over them, Mark.”
“I can’t, sir.”
“There’s someone at the door.”