The Crevice on Christmas

Written over two days, the following is a literary present to myself. I hope others enjoy it.

The Crevice on Christmas

by Sean D. Francis

The final days of the year happened to also be the coldest in the mountains of Montana.  The day after the solstice temperatures dropped so low new records were set.  Christmas approached and I had no family to speak of so I took the invitation of a dear friend of mine, Charles Vernon Dawes, the professor, to go with him and his family to his Uncle’s mountain home in Montana.  The idea of spending the holidays in the Rocky Mountains surrounded by deep white snow far away from the noise and crowds of the city excited me.

To say Charles’s uncle was eccentric would be putting a very polite spin on a man who had long ago lost touch with reality.  I surmised, after Charles warned me of his Uncle’s oddities, that part of the reason he invited me was to offer my own opinion on his Uncle’s condition.  Mind you, I’ve only dabbled in the science of psychology, my real area of expertise was and still remains language, linguistics, and symbology.  Charles, his wife Rita, their teenage son Justin, and I rented a Land Rover to carry us from the airport in Bozeman to the mountain home of Uncle Earl Dawes.  I marveled at the splendor of the mountains as Charles drove us into the mountains along some very narrow and treacherous looking roads.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect from the home.  Admittedly, I had pictures of a low slung, tiny, one-story log cabin covered in snow wafting in my head.  What I saw dwarfed my expectations.  I couldn’t believe the lodge: two stories, stretching out near the ridge, served as home for just one man.  Charles explained to me his Uncle had wanted to create a resort and built up the main lodge, a garage, and even started work on some trails before the Feds yanked his leases with little to no explanation.  Earl sealed off the wings of the lodge, maintaining just the central part, which still proved to be amazing.

A large fire blazed in the massive stone fireplace, an immense Christmas tree towered next to the floor to ceiling windows looking out over the valley below.  Earl clearly rolled out a welcome mat for us but he wasn’t anywhere to be seen.  Charles did a quick run through of the living quarters and came back shrugging his shoulders. “He is probably doing some chores on the land.  We’ll make ourselves comfortable.  He couldn’t be far, since his truck is here.”

I could tell right away Charles didn’t believe the words he just said.  His worry showed on his face. I wasn’t too sure what to do.  “How about I scrounge up some lunch if you want to, um, check things out? Does he have a cell phone?”  I offered trying to move Charles from worry to action.

Justin chimed in, “Maybe he took one of the snowmobiles up the trail. We’d be able to tell if there were fresh tracks.  Jerry and Mom can make lunch, you and I can check out the trail heads.  Won’t take us but a moment or two.”

Charles agreed and we set off to our assigned duties. In the kitchen, Rita and I found a well stocked refrigerator and walk in freezer.  There were stacks of butcher paper wrapped bundles labeled with the type of meat, the cut, and a date. All seemed to be fresh beef, lamb, buffalo, and elk.  “How old is Earl, again?”

“I don’t know his exact age, but easily over 70. Why?”

“How does he take care of all of this? Putting up Christmas trees, cutting wood for the fire, getting enough meat to feed an army….”

Rita laughed.  “Oh, gosh no, he doesn’t do any of that really.  He is still very active, but hunters will use his lodge as a stopover, cross country skiers and snowmobilers come up to use the trails he was able to carve out before getting shut down.  He doesn’t accept any money from them, but they make sure he is well taken care of.”

I pulled out some bread and sandwich fixings as Rita assembled a soup.  Within twenty minutes we had a plate of sandwiches and a large pot of soup.  Our timing matched perfectly with Charles and Justin as both burst through the large front door of the lodge as we set the food on the table.  Between them they held a frail looking old man, nearly blue from the cold, dressed only in jeans, boots, and a red flannel shirt.

“Rita! Get some blankets! Hurry!” Charles ordered as they brought Earl inside.

“Should we get him to the fire?” Justin asked.

“No,” Charles responded.  “He has extreme hypothermia, he needs to be warmed slowly or else he’ll suffer a lot of tissue damage. Jerry, call 911.  We’ll need to get him to a hospital as soon as possible.  See if we can get an ambulance to meet us at the turnout at the base of the mountain.”

Earl tried to shake both men off of him but was far too weak.  They set him on the sofa as Rita emerged from one of the bedrooms carrying heaps of bedding.  “They’re out there! We can’t leave… They’re out…”  Earl rambled about something being outside but it made no sense to any of us.  I tried calling 911, the phone connected and then was silent.  I figured cell reception was iffy in the mountains so went to the landline.  It was completely dead.

“Charles, do you have reception on your phone?”

He pulled his out and flipped it open. “Yes, here.” He tossed me the phone.  I caught it, dialed 911 and the same thing happened.  There was a sound of it connecting but then silence.  “Hello? Hello? If you can hear me I’m at the Dawes’ home in the mountains and we have a medical emergency. Earl Dawes has severe hypothermia and we need an ambulance to meet us at the turnout leading from Devil Gate Road.  Hello?”

“Any luck?” Justin asked.

“The line is picking up but I can’t hear anyone.  No matter, we need to get him to the hospital, whether the ambulance is on its way or not.”

Earl fussed some more, “Came up the crevice! Saw ‘em in the trees, I did. Watchin’ us.”

“What is he talking about, Charles?” Rita asked as she tucked blankets around him.

“I don’t, I ….”

“Where did you find him,” I asked.

“On the trail, a few hundred yards up.  He had been walking; he was sitting on a log slowly freezing to death. Justin, get his boots off, we’ll need to make sure his feet are okay.  The cold has him disoriented.”

“What’s the crevice?”

Earl started at the word, as if he had been speaking a foreign language and someone finally understood what he said.  “Crevice! Other side of mountain. Darkness, the darkness!”

Charles pressed his hand against Earl’s cheeks to check his temperature and explained over Earl’s confused chatter. “On the other side of the mountain there is a sinkhole, a pretty big one, 200 yards long and fifty, sixty yards across.   Really deep. It’s quite a spectacle but Uncle Earl has never been worried about it before.  Back when I was young there was talk about hikers falling in, but that’d be pretty hard to do.  It is off the trails and obvious from quite a distance.”

“They came up from the crevice. Watchin’ us. Saw them.  Outside….”

I couldn’t help but engage the old man even though it was obvious he was quite out of his mind, either from senility or from the hypothermia. “Why did you go outside, Earl?”

He looked at me, his face contorted with confusion. “I didn’t. I… fire, at the window… Charles…” Earl grabbed for Charles’s hand and started gasping.  His entire body shook for a brief moment.  Death followed shortly after.

Charles held his uncle’s hand, Justin was still at his feet, and Rita placed her hand on Charles’s shoulder. The family had suffered a loss.  I admit I didn’t quite know what to do.  I tried calling 911 again but got the same result. Rings, the line connects, then silence.

No one was hungry, but I insisted everyone eat something.  I don’t know why and it was odd with a dead man on the sofa in the other room, but we all were stressed.  We took the moment to discuss the next steps.  Charles and I would drive Earl down the mountain into town and start the paperwork.  Justin and Rita would stay at the lodge.

Charles took Rita to the side after we had put Earl’s body into Land Rover. “Lock up tight.  Earl may have been delusional but he may have actually seen something.  Okay?  We’ll be gone for awhile.”

Rita agreed. Charles started driving us down the mountain.  We drove about five minutes and noticed the road had drifted over.  Charles pushed forward through the snow but we became stuck.  I got out and tried clearing a path, but when I found myself up to my chest in snow I turned back to Charles  and threw my hands up in the air.  “I don’t think we’re going to make it out. How could the road get snowed over like this? There isn’t barely a wind.”

“It slides down the slope.  A mini-avalanche sort of.  We’ll have to use the truck to plow it out.”

When Charles tried to back out, the Land Rover was stuck.  We rocked it back and forth but it wasn’t going anywhere. Charles got out of the Land Rover and looked over the situation.  “We’d better go back to the lodge.  We can sort this out in the morning.  We’ll back the truck down and chain it to the Rover and pull it out.  The four of us should be able to get the road cleared in no time after that.  We don’t have enough daylight to do that work, get Earl to town, and get back home. “

“Should we.. his body…,” I didn’t know how to say it.  Luckily Charles understood.

“Actually it will be better in the SUV and there isn’t any reason carrying him back and forth. He’d consider that ‘darn foolish’ behavior.  Uncle Earl was a pragmatist.”

Together, we hiked back up the road.  We’d been gone for just forty minutes or so.  I was looking forward to sitting by the fire and chasing away this horrid chill that had settled into my bones.  I want to say that we were surrounded by silence, but there isn’t silence in the mountains. Wind blows through the trees, branches creak and squeak as they move. The snow absorbs the soft sounds, so the sounds reaching our ears were more intense.  Our feet crunched the snow and my flatlander lungs heaved and panted for more oxygen.  The winter symphony of sound followed us up the road.  The lodge came into view and the symphony shattered with a truly blood curdling scream.

Charles and I didn’t say a word but both broke into a full run, keeping our feet in the tracks the SUV laid.  We ran for the lodge but heard the scream again off towards the garage.

“Rita!?” Charles yelled.  No response.  “Jerry, check the house, I’m going to the scream.”

“Are you sure?” I asked looking for confirmation.  Splitting up just seemed like a bad idea.  Charles didn’t respond as he wasn’t going to debate the matter.  He ran to the garage and I ran for the house.  The door was locked, just like it should be.  I pounded on it and Justin opened up.

“Where’s your mom?” I was out of breath and could barely speak.

Justin turned back to the living room where Rita sat near the fire, reading.  “Over by the fire, why?”

“Oh thank god!  Lock the door again.  Something is going on out here.”  I turned and ran towards the garage.  Another scream pierced the air and I ran harder.   I flung upon the door and peered into the darkness.  “Charles!”

“Stay there, Jerry,” he said from insider.  My eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light and I could make out shapes of snowmobiles, four wheelers, a trailer heaped with a variety of odds and ends.  I could also see movement.

“What’s going on?”

“There’s something in here.”

My mind jumped to the possibility of some sort of wild animal. A cougar or bobcat. I really didn’t want to be standing between it and the door.  I stepped back outside and something caught my eye.  Movement off to the side of the lodge. I thought it was Rita or Justin but noticed both of them standing at the window.  They seemed to be shouting and waving their hands.

“Charles, something is wrong.  Get out of there!”  As I turned back to the door, something, small and dark bolted from the garage, hitting me square in the gut, knocking the wind out of me.  I fell to the ground and Charles came rushing out after it.

“Damn! It go away… are you okay Jerry?”

I rolled to the side and started getting up.  “Jesus, look!”

“What the hell…”

Both Charles and I watched a dozen of these little dark, I reluctantly use the word men but I have no other reference point.  They were not animal at all, though they moved in a very spritely sort of way.  Something about them seemed very threatening.

“Get to the house! Run!”

Our feet flew, we covered the distance in a shot and Justin was at the door holding it open for us.  We barreled through and bolted it shut behind us.

“What are they?” Rita asked, terrified, just as terrified as I was. I had never seen anything so strange, so alien in my entire life.

“I don’t know, I don’t know!” Charles kept saying over and over.

“Close the curtains,” I ordered.  It made no sense. It was a child’s response to danger… hide from it, bury your head under the covers.  If you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.  We stood in the foyer for what felt like hours, waiting for something to happen.  Rita was the one who broke us out of our spell.

“Whatever they are, they are out there and standing here isn’t better or worse than sitting down. I’m opting for some comfort right now.  Charles, shouldn’t you at least get Earl’s guns, just in case?”

Thank god for her sensible reaction.  Charles nodded dumbly and went off to Earl’s room where I assumed he had a gun cabinet.    Justin and I checked the doors and windows making sure they were locked.  The doorways leading off to the sealed portions of the lodge were chained shut.  We still tested them.  One set of chained doors opened up a bit too wide in my frantic opinion, so we piled some furniture in front of it and I wedged kindling from the firewood pile under the doors.

Charles returned with a rifle and a shotgun, three boxes of ammunition, and a book.  He laid the guns on the table with the ammunition.  “This is really weird.”

“What is it?” I asked as Justin, Rita and I converged at the table.

“It starts off as a ledger of sorts. Just a tracking of supplies over the years.  Then little notes appear in the margins, like reminders to himself. Can’t read some of it, seems like a personal shorthand.  A year ago he started writing in it like a journal.  Listen to this from a month ago…,”

The McCleary party came through yesterday morning, said they’d be back at nightfall.  Wasn’t until midnight when they showed. Ken knew his way about so I didn’t get up when I heard them show up.  They were chatty though.  Heard them talking about the crevice wondering what the lights were they saw. First time someone else had seen the lights. Thought I was going crazy.  2 cords of wood, 3 pounds beef,

“It trails off into an inventory list.  There are more entries like this, all focused on the crevice.  He talks about people being lured into it. “

Rita patted Charles’s shoulder, “He was senile.”

“Senile! What do you call those things out there, Rita? Those seem pretty damn real to me!”

“We don’t know what those are, we can’t jump to wild conclusions.”

I didn’t want to agree with her, but she was right. Both Charles and I are learned men who try to see the world in an orderly fashion.  Yet here we were so willing to buy into the rambled writings of a man we both suspected suffered from a form of dementia.  Hell, the proper skeptic would be forced to question if this McCleary party even actually existed in the first place. All of that could be part of Earl’s delusions.

Charles also saw Rita’s wisdom.  “You are right, we need to address this logically.  Tomorrow morning, first light, we’ll dig out the SUV and use Earl’s plow to get us down to town.  We can have the proper people come back and look into what is going on. We don’t know if those things are a threat or not.  No reason to assume.”

“Right,” I added, “that thing in garage didn’t seem dangerous, just scared.  Nothing has attacked or harmed us.  We are letting our imaginations get the best of us.”  It was a tired phrase and I regretted it once I said it. Certain things are just portents of doom.  The modern mind always attempts to overrule the instincts we developed when living primitive lives.

We agreed to take refuge in the living room despite the large windows. Charles felt certain the windows strength could repel those little things since they worked against bears, coyotes, and bobcats well enough.  It felt like sound logic but I still felt nervous. We kept the shotgun and rifle close and tried to sleep.

I can’t say for certain what woke me up as I was shocked to discover I had fallen asleep.  Rita and Justin also were awake.  Charles walked across the room.  Rita called his name.  Justin quickly chased after him.  I remained confused asking over and over, “What’s going on?”

Charles reached the front door and started undoing the locks.  I heard it.  The eerie screams from outside. A chorus of terrifying voices crying out in the cold winter night filled me with pure fear. I felt the adrenaline rush through my system.  Charles worked the lock on the door as Justin struggled with him.  Why was he trying to open the door?

Rita cried, frozen in fear. Justin wrestled with his father who continued to grope for the locks on the door.  I arose and scrambled to them.  My added strength helped push Charles away from the door.  I could hear the things on the other side. They waited, waited to be let in.  I slid the one bolt Charles unlocked and turned back to my friend.

He struggled against his son, trying to reach the door.  He wouldn’t, couldn’t respond to our pleas.  That’s when I noticed a piece of kindling I shoved under the loosely chained set of doors wiggle.  Something pushed it.  Something on the other side of the door, something inside the lodge.  The door heaved as that something pushed against it.  The small piece of wood flew out from under the door like a shot, followed by another and another.  All the wedges I had jammed under the door were pushed free.  The doors heaved again, blocked by the furniture Justin and I had placed in front of them.

Rita screamed but did not lose her composure. She had grabbed the shotgun and stalked towards the doors slowly, expecting something to bust them wide at any moment.  Justin and I still struggled with Charles who became more violent.

He took a swing at me and I ducked out of the way.  Justin tackled him from behind and dragged him to the ground.  We wrestled some more before I grabbed his kicking feet and drug him away from the entrance.  Justin and I were able to turn him on his belly and from there Justin was able to keep him pinned.  I had intended to leap up to help Rita at the door but I noticed she had gotten right up next to it, the shotgun shaking in her hands.

“Rita!” I called for her, afraid whatever had driven Charles mad got to her as well.  I crawled to my feet and started running when the doors pushed open again, knocking the table and chest back away. The chains held but the gap between the doors seem perilously wide.  Without hesitation, Rita jammed the shotgun into the gap and fired.   She pumped it once more and fired again.

From the other side of the door there was a keening, a sound that made my skin crawl.  We all cringed at the noise.  The screams from outside stopped.  There didn’t seem to be any more movement on the other side of the door and Charles ceased his struggle against Justin.

We all looked from face to face trying to determine what exactly had happened.  Rita kept the shotgun trained on the door but backed away slowly, looking over her shoulder to me and then to Charles.   “Charles? Are you okay?”

Charles grunted. Justin eased off him slowly waiting to see what he would do.  “I… I don’t know.”

“What were you thinking?” I asked, still stunned.

“I don’t know… I just had a need to get outside.  Wait, no, the crevice.  I had to get to the crevice.”

“Just like in Uncle Earl’s ledger,” Justin said.  He stood up and went over to where we had put the book.  He started flipping through it.

“What about the crevice, why did you have to get there?”

“I, Jerry, I don’t know….” Charles looked more than distraught.  Rita and I took him over to the fireplace.  I tossed another log onto the fire and stirred up the coals. Rita and he held each other, Justin read the ledger and I sat on the hearth.  Outside I could see giant snowflakes falling. The Christmas tree, though unlit, still held a majestic charm.  We sat in that tableau for hours.  The early morning pink fingers of light broke the horizon.

We made it through the night but weren’t out of the woods, or more appropriately, the mountains yet.  Justin had read through the entire journal in the few hours since we had been attacked. When Charles stirred from his spot talking about a need for coffee, Justin broke his silence.  “Uncle Earl was going to blow up the crevice.”

“What?”

“Yeah, says so here.  He has five crates of dynamite. He made a note next to it saying ‘seal the crevice’.”

“Maybe the dynamite was to clear the snow to prevent avalanches,” I offered in a way of explaining the need for the explosives.

Charles corrected me, “It takes someone who really knows what they are doing to use dynamite to clear avalanches. Uncle Earl wasn’t that skilled.  He’s the type of man who would have hired experts to do something like that.  He is the type of man who would see a problem and blow it up though. Pragmatic to the very end.”

“We should do that,” Justin said.

Charles shook his head, “No, we’d best leave this to people who know what they are doing.”

“Who would know about this?” Rita asked.

I just wanted off the mountain.  Blowing up a hole in the ground seemed, well, how does one blow up a hole?  I certainly didn’t know how to use dynamite and this didn’t seem to be the best conditions to learn while doing.  Hell, we couldn’t even access the Internet for a quick How-To video.  I prepared to voice my opinion when Charles saved me from the embarrassment.

“I don’t know who would know, but we aren’t the people to do it.  There is something strange going on, we can all see that, but who are we to make the judgment on what should be done?”

“Okay, then we stick to the plan.  Let’s get the Land Rover unstuck and get out of here. “

I breathed a sigh of relief.  Justin still didn’t look convinced, but went along with his parents. I bundled up and grabbed the rifle.   Charles held the shotgun and together we opened the front door slowly.   Signs of the creatures were everywhere. The door bore the scars of claws, and not all the marks were down low.  I studied them for a moment; the marks seemed to form a distinct pattern.  Charles urged me on and together we reached the truck.  Charles unplugged the block heater as I kept a look out.

The truck started without a problem and I crawled inside the cab.  Charles drove cautiously clearing away snow before turning the truck around and backing down the road to the Land Rover.   I turned around in the seat to help guide him as he maneuvered the truck with great skill.  I could tell from quite a distance the Land Rover was not in good condition.

Charles stopped the truck and we both got out looking at the damage.  The doors had been torn off, the windows smashed. Earl’s body was the worst.  It has been shredded.  Flesh and bone spread out over the interior of the Land Rover and out onto the snow.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t catch my breath.  I fell back against the truck staring at the gruesome scene.  “I need to get off this mountain!”

“I know,” Charles said, apologetically. “Help me with the chains.”

We hooked the chains to the Land Rover and used the truck to pull it free.   It was not an easy task.  The truck would stop moving forward and start moving side to side. I’d get out, grab pine branches, shove under the wheels and pray the extra traction would make a difference.  Eventually our work paid off and the Land Rover was free of the snow.  We pulled up to the lodge. Rita and Justin ran out and as I unhooked the chain from the Land Rover, piled into the cab of the truck.

I scanned the area real quick and didn’t see anything much to my relief.  I got back in the truck and Charles started back down the road.  We cleared the first stretch of snow but soon realized over a mile of road had been covered.  We’d never make it through.  The risk of getting stuck was too great.

“The risk of another night in the lodge is greater,” I argued.  “We can’t take another day of this and still have no way out!”

I realize now I sounded like a mad man, raving and ranting.  I tried to calm myself the best I could.  When the decision to go back was made, I felt pure panic flood my very being.  We couldn’t stay another night.  This time when Justin brought up the dynamite, I thought it was far better to be blown up by my own stupidity than be mutilated by a swarm of unknown things.

“I’m going to pull up next to the garage.  Jerry, stay out here with Rita, take the rifle.  Justin and I will go in and get the crates of dynamite.”

I nodded and got out of the truck.  I watched Justin and Charles go into the garage.  The big door opened moments later.  With the extra light they didn’t have to worry about something springing out from the shadows.  They located the explosives and pulled them out, setting them on the bed of the truck.   Charles opened up the crates and examined the contents.  In one of them was a large folded piece of paper.  He grabbed it and we agreed to go inside and warm up.

We spread the paper on the table and quickly realized Earl had everything planned out.  The paper was a basic map of the crevice and he marked out four locations to put the dynamite.  The man was thorough, though no expert, as Charles pointed out earlier.

“We might not be able to trust these, Earl wasn’t an expert,” Charles said. I could sense some doubt coming over him.   I looked at the map as Rita said it would be just as good as our guesses.

“Look, this handwriting isn’t the same as the ledger. I don’t think these are Earl’s plans. You were correct about him, he probably had an expert lay this out for him.  Though why not have the expert just do the job?”

Charles nodded, “The crevice is federal land. Uncle Earl wouldn’t ask someone else to get in trouble or something he wanted done.  Alright, we’ll do this.  Jerry, you and I will set up the dynamite.  We are going to have to go up on the snowmobile.  You’ll drive, I’ll use the rifle.   Rita, Justin, you’ll stay here, but I want you barricaded upstairs in an interior room, okay?”

They agreed.  When I left the lodge again I stopped at the door once more.  The marks weren’t random.  They meant something.  I pulled out my phone and snapped a picture.  There wasn’t time to analyze it now.  Charles and I worked quickly, forming the little bundles of sticks as described on the plans.  Each step was clearly spelled out, as whoever wrote up the plans for Earl took great care that Earl wouldn’t hurt himself.  Once the four bundles were made, we got out the snowmobile, put the dynamite into a duffle bag and prepared to go be stupid.

Charles and Rita shared a lengthy loving hug, Justin gave his father a hug and the two just looked at each other a moment.  “Take care of your mom.  I’ll be back, don’t worry.”

“We’ll be safe, Dad.”

I climbed on the snowmobile and draped the strap of the duffle bag over my head.  Charles climbed on back and patted my shoulder.  It didn’t take me long to learn how to work the controls but I wasn’t doing anything but keeping us on the trail.

About a mile up Charles pointed something moving in the trees.  It was dark and small but not clear what it was.  It made us both tense and Charles took a tighter grip on the rifle.  From the map, we had to set all four charges and then detonate them together to collapse this side of the crevice.   My nerves kicked in again.  I had no desire to see the crevice.  What sort of gaping hole to hell would it be?  I had visions of a savage scar cut deep in the world, deep into the nether regions releasing demons unto us.

As the trail started to curve, we knew we had to veer off it.  Driving the snowmobile on the relatively smooth trail was a breeze compared to navigating around trees, over massive outcroppings of rock, and under low slung branches.   We reached a point where the trees stopped growing.  It was like bursting out onto a large meadow.  There wasn’t even a lot of snow on the ground.  Just a patch of white here and there covered the black earth.

The hole in the earth seemed huge in comparison to me, but tiny in comparison the massive mountains the still towered above us in the distance.  I had one of those moments where I realized just how big the Earth is and how we are shocked and surprised when we discover we don’t know everything about it. I wondered how big this hole was on Google Maps.

The sound of the rifle snapped me out of musings.  Charles had stood and fired off a shot.  Sure enough, there was something moving near the edge of the crevice.  I pulled out the map to judge where the first charge needed to go.  When I looked back up, whatever was moving had disappeared over the edge.  I suddenly had a real strong desire to see what was over that edge.  What was the bottom like? What was in the crevice?  I gunned the snowmobile, not realizing or caring Charles had fallen off.  I wanted to be in the crevice.

It was madness, I know, and I can’t explain my actions.  I was saved by my inept driving, as the snowmobile his an embankment and toppled over.  It rolled over me, sparing me a crushing death.  I was knocked down and stunned.  I couldn’t move yet I still had a desire to be in the crevice.  I made motions to start crawling but only moved a small ways before Charles fell upon me.

“Jerry, stop it! Stop it! It’s not real, stop it.  You don’t want to go into it!”

I couldn’t form words but I know he was right. I didn’t want to die and I knew death is what lay at the bottom of that hole.   I had no control over my actions.  I moved when I didn’t want to.  I willed my body to stop.  Nothing worked.  I don’t honestly know what made me think this, but something deep inside me told me to trust myself.  Trust my intuition, trust my instincts.  My instincts were of pure fear.  It seemed crazy to me to give into fear.  I did, though.  I gave into the fear, instead of scrambling for control of my body I just let the fear wash over me.  That paralyzing fear.  Deer in the headlights fear.  The fear that numbs the brain, prevents decisions from being made. I let all those things happen and I stopped moving to the crevice.  Fear locked me up.  We spend so much of our lives trying to conquer fear, saying fear is a bad thing, we fail to realize there are reasons why it evolved in us.  I stopped fighting with Charles, I let my fear stop me.  He stood up and he saw the fear in my eyes.

“Jerry? Jerry!”

“Go…,” I groped at the duffle bag. “Do it.”  I couldn’t manage many words but Charles understood.  He pulled the bag off of my and headed for the crevice. I heard a few more gun shots.  I wanted to still my nerves and help but the inner voice told me to stay.  Slowly I felt able to move, and move of my own accord.  I stood and saw Charles at the edge of the crevice setting what had to be the third charge.  I looked to the snowmobile, toppled on its side and worked to rectify it.

As soon as I got it righted, Charles fired another shot, then another. I knew I had to get over to him.  I started the snowmobile and raced it to him.  As I approached the edge of the crevice I could see deep down into the darkness. Dark things moved all along the walls, climbing up, to the side, disappearing into holes… a nest of disturbing creatures.  Charles carefully fired shots picking off ones that seemed to be getting too close, but there was no way to get them all and they seemed to be flanking his position.

“Get on!” I shouted.

“I’ve got one more to set.”

I looked at the creatures and realized there was no way we’d be able to do it in time.  “We’ll have to do it with three!”

Charles looked down, fired another shot, and then nodded.  He spooled out the wire and climbed onto the snowmobile.  I drove away slow enough to not tangle or tug on the detonation wire as Charles spooled it out.   As it reached the end, I slowed to a stop.  Charles wired it to the detonator.  I took the rifle and shot at some of the dark creatures that had emerged over the edge.  He worked quickly, wrapping the leads around the detonator posts.

“Ready?” he asked.

“God, yes!” I shouted and ducked down.  Charles twisted the knob on the detonator and three bright lights followed by three massive plumes of debris shot up in the air.  The explosion deafened both of us, and echoed through the mountains.  The ground shook and we saw the edge of the crevice cave in, collapsing , moving towards us.

“Go!” Charles ordered and I did as he directed.

The snowmobile flew into the cover of the trees.  I tried my best to guide it carefully, but in this instance fear was telling me to go, go faster, go as fast as I possibly could.  I hung onto the machine, Charles hung onto me.  The ground fell away behind us taking a wide swath of trees with it. We hit the trail and the ground no longer threatened to swallow us, though I had no desire to stop and verify that fact.

We spent another fearful sleepless night in the lodge and saw the sunrise on Christmas morning.  We had been given a very special gift, the gift of life.  Sounds corny, I know, but I know I was one of those people who didn’t truly value life because my life was never at risk.  We spent the day plowing and digging or way out.  We were met halfway by a group of concerned emergency workers responding to the explosion.  They were accompanied by some very disturbing looking Federal agents who didn’t appear happy about the crevice being collapsed.  I studied the picture I took of the door and am more than certain now that it was an attempt at communication.  Creatures, deep in the earth, intelligent enough to have a written language, with the ability to drive men mad truly exist.

The Earth is a big place and there are many mysteries on and in it.

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