“But, Kachinas are dolls that the Indians make for tourists,”
Darlene said. Immediately after she finished, she flushed with
embarrassment—she realized that could have sounded like a stereotype. She
didn’t know very much about them, just that they were masked and feathered, and
often sold in novelty stores.
Chief Tall Trees chuckled, a sound like rumbling stones,
and the other young men in the room laughed with him. It was a merry, proud
laugh that banished any worry of offense with good humor.
“It is true,” the chief said, “but I don’t look like a
doll to you, do I? No. But people dolls do look like people as Kachina dolls
look like Kachina. It is this way in many worlds for many peoples. Which is
what brings you to us.
“You have come to us from over a great distance. It was
when the Sun Clan had placed the light high in the sky we could hear the
vibrations of your kópavi—” He touched the top of his head. “—and we
knew that the other Clans would hear you also. The ancient enemy of our
ancestors is on the move and we must move with him. We have heard the song of
the Spider Clan as Grandmother Spider sent them to find him, but he has eluded
their webs. So we called for you.”
“Me?” Darlene put her hand on her chest. “Why—what can I
“You can hear our story and it will guide you to the right
action,” said the chief. “The ancient enemy had taken you, but we stole you
from his grasp. He seeks to end the world, like the world before it, but it is
not time. He may crush your city under his foot if you cannot stop him.” The
chief’s voice became hard and serious, but his eyes remained soft and wise. “White
corn daughter, this must not come to pass.”
Darlene swallowed, her mouth had gone dry. This couldn’t
be a dream. She felt certain now. For all the hallucinatory quality—she could
feel it in her chest. Be practical, she told herself, practical Darlene. If it
was a dream she would wake up; if it wasn’t, she didn’t know what would happen.
And it didn’t matter which it was, because right now all she had was the sound
of the drums, the smell of the smoke, and the kind eyes of the chief on her.
She drew her courage into herself, lifted her chin with
practical stoicism and said, “Tell me the story.”
The chief smiled again.
“There was a world before this one, and a world before
that, and in those worlds the People lived. Each time the People outgrew our
world, we migrated to the new one and the old one was destroyed. Through every
migration there is a door. A door we closed behind us.
“From the last world the ancient enemy followed. He was
jealous that the People would have a new world and he must stay behind. So he
pushed his way through the door and sought vengeance against the People. It
took him many years to travel the new lands to find us, but he did.
“On that troubled day, Kokopelli and Grandmother Spider
came to our kiva to warn us that we must leave our city. The ancient enemy had
broken free of the previous world and wished to undo this one. They told us
that we could only take what we could bear on our backs and we had to leave
before the sun sank from the sky.
“Some of the brave men asked if they could stand and fight
and Grandmother Spider felt pity for them. They had lived in the city all their
lives and they loved it. So she granted them the great medicine necessary to
fight the invader; but to do so, they would have to stay behind. Some of the
brave women of the city also chose to remain. And that is us.
“All of the people left their dwellings when the Sun Clan
and the Moon Clan eclipsed the sun, quieting the light. This blinded our
ancient enemy and he could not see. Kokopelli walked in the great caravan with
the Grey Flute Society and they played their flutes until there was no more
breath in them. Their playing stirred up great storms of dust and sand. So much
that it hid the caravan from the scouts of the enemy.
“We watched them go with dry eyes. There would be time to
weep and sing our joy after the dawn.
“We awoke before it was time to sing the sun back into the
sky and gathered our belongings. Then, with heavy hearts we said goodbye to the
rocks, to the mountains, to the sky, to the sun, and entered the kiva.” He
spread his palms—the feathers on his arms fell to form a wing-like embrace as
he continued to speak. “All that you see here is who stayed behind. We are the
last of our People’s ancestors. Those who barely fit inside the kiva and sang
to that sun for the last time.
“With rising dawn, so rose the great enemy. We could feel
his malice even through the walls of the kiva and the beat of his black heart
thumped even over the sound of our drums.” He pounded his hand to his chest. Thud.
Thud. Thud. “And we were afraid.”
Darlene felt a tear trickle down her cheek, she wiped it
“You’re saying that they just disappeared?”
Jimmy paused a moment at Megan’s question; his chair
creaked and his voice became louder through the phone. “Not precisely. The Anasasi
appear to have abandoned their dwellings suddenly. There is little
evidence of gradual attrition or migration—but we do know that a great drought
had struck them for several years. They would have run out of food and water as
what little agriculture they had dried up and the game withered away. The story
of their ‘disappearance’ is a fairy tale to most of us, it has little reliable
Vex looked up from the book she was scanning and said,
“Tell us about it anyway.”
“Alright, I’ll tell you what I know. Just remember, this
isn’t even Native American mythology—it’s the flight of fantasy of an Anglo
archaeologist who misinterpreted some petroglyphs near Canyon de Chelley.”
The rustling of papers preceded Jimmy clearing his throat.
“First and foremost we must understand what the glyph of
the centipede is not. Here it is not a centipede, it is a depiction instead of
a ladder. The tribes in question believe that the worlds before them had been
destroyed and they had emerged into each new world—leaving the destruction
behind—by way of an upward motion. The climbing of a ladder.
“We see chipped into the walls views of various ceremonies
that involve the exit from one world to another. Members gather within the
ceremonial building—so-called here a kiva but other names are also
used—around the base of the ladder which they purify themselves before
ascending. Upon emerging thy arrive into a new world, leaving the old world
behind. This is symbolic of their great migration.
“Scholars before me have posited that this is a mnemonic
remnant in tradition of the history of ancestral tribes moving from place to
place as resources became scarce or other tribes showed increased hostility.
This forced them to migrate, sometimes over great distances, perhaps even over
great stretches of water. This, however, leads to my own diversion, a
particular depiction of the ceremony that involves an unorthodox ending.
“We see the gathering above the ladder and not below.
They have already ascended and now are in their new world, so why is the
ladder/centipede glyph still in play? Damage to the various murals and
petroglyphs makes the narrative difficult to discern, but using ultrasound reconstruction
I believe that certain worn sections include a crudely drawn door. Perhaps the
top flap or covering atop the kiva where the smoke hole would be, and
the arches of lashings.
“So. After climbing the ladder. The old, now destroyed,
world was sealed behind them.
“But it does not stop here. As in a later mural—again with
the use of ultrasonic reconstruction—the “ladder” is depicted as closer to the
flap, and the flap is noticeably bowed and bent. Is it that always before the
centipede glyph was just the ladder and now it is something else? Something
pushing its way through?
“Let us look at ancient lore from other Pueblo tribes that
seems to indicate that some of the later migrations suggest an ancient foe. A
foe that appears to be stupid and easily tricked as the tribal history often
reflects the Trickster fooling the enemy so that the tribe can escape unharmed.
“One particular mural, found within an Anasasi settlement,
tells the story of the centipede coming to visit. The village’s people are
shown leaving through the back while a group of warriors remained behind to
face the monster—which is obviously not a ladder in these murals. Except
instead of fighting the spirit mandible to spear, the mural shows the warriors
stepping out of their houses into another place.
“The centipede arrives at the village to find nothing and
is defeated? That part is unclear.
“Perhaps the centipede in this context is really another
tribe bent on destroying the tribe that occupied the pueblos. When they managed
to leave before the arrival of the siege the raiders found nobody to kill or
take captive, and nothing of value, and so they left. But why would the raiders
then not move in on this newly vacated prime territory?
“The story is puzzling, but enlightening to other murals
that I will now elucidate upon.”
The thump of a book being closed echoed through the
phone and Jimmy’s chair creaked again.
“That’s it,” he said. “He goes on and on about other
things, but none of them are related to your petroglyphs. Thanks for the pictures,
by the way—oh and by the way they had GPS tags. I may be able to get my boss to
help fund an expedition to check them out.”
“You’re welcome,” said Megan.
“Thanks, Jimmy,” Vex said. “I think that I can handle this
from here. You’ve been a great help.” He spoke his own goodbyes and the phone
clicked to dead air.
“What are we handling anyway?” Megan said. “I don’t know
about you, but I’m really creeped out that one of those things you saw
jumped out of a drawing. And then there was the concert… Huh.”
“I’ve been following breadcrumbs,” Vex replied. “I’m
getting really sick of being lead around by the nose.” She made a stabbing
motion with her hand in the direction of Phoenix and Tempe proper. “The
massacre at ‘A’ Mountain. Our musician girl playing magick on her violin at the
concerts… These kids at the library playing with magick. It’s all interrelated
and I intend to hit them where it hurts, but first I have to know where they
Megan hugged her arms around herself. “We,” she said. “You
mean we. This is our city too. You may know a lot more about this than me, but
I want to help.”
“I agree,” said Nathan. “I’m staying with you on this.
We’ve faced devils before—together—you’re not leaving me out this time.”
In reply to Vex’s gaze, Patrick just shrugged, then smiled
“If I didn’t think you’d be with me, I would not have
brought you along,” she said, flipping the book a few pages back. “Alright.
This is what I know.”