At 74-years-old, Grandpa Bill was a man of very few words. One late afternoon, as we sat on his porch in silence, he produced a large cigar box, handing it to me.
“Wanna to tell you ‘bout this,” he said, as he motioned for me to open the box.
Inside was a neckerchief wrapped around three items: an obsidian stone, a length of burnt bone and a battered Colt .45. Being 12-years-old, it was the pistol that held my fascination as I picked it up.
“This is so neat, Grandpa,” I said as I held it as if I were aiming it at a bad guy in some Western movie.
“And it used to be pretty at one time,” he smiled.
“Does it work?”
“Not since the last time I had to use it,” he stated, “And that’s what I wanna tell you ‘bout.”
He picked up a bottle of beer from the ice-bucket beside him and opened it with the ‘church-key’ he had sitting on the table between us, “We were sitting around when a Cherokee woman came crying to us. Said two of her children had been taken by a shaman to a bunch of rocks a few miles east of own and that he was going to kill them.”
“Being hot-blooded, me and James, another Oklahoma Ranger, decided that we could not stand for such a thing and immediately began searching for this shaman. James found the entrance to a shallow cave and we both figured that must be where this Injun had taken the stolen kids.”
He paused to take a drink from his beer, then lit a cigarette, “I crawled through the small crack in the rocks, first. The entrance opened into a narrow passageway, so narrow that I had to turn sideways to get through it. The walls of the passage had scratchings and etchings in then. Then it opened up into a cavern.”
“How could you see all this?” I asked.
“In the center of this cavern was a fire pit. Around it stood a dozen children, chanting and singing, eyes rolled so far back in their heads that you couldn’t see their pupils.”
Grandpa Bill took another drag on his cigarette before saying, “Now this is where it gets strange.”
“You mean chasing a kidnapper into a cave and finding a bunch of kids acting strange, isn’t strange enough?”
He laughed, “Never thought about it that a-way. Anyhow, before I could gather myself, I heard a voice behind me, so I turned, and there’s this old Injun holding a gun to Jame’s head.”
“His English, though broken, was good enough for me to understand that he wanted me to drop my holster. I did,” Grandpa Bill sighed as he shook his head, “And then he blew Jame’s brains out.”
“Naturally, I lunged for the gun, but he shot me through my right thigh. I blacked out and when I opened my eyes, the Injun was in my face asking me if I wanted to meet ‘White-man’s God.’”
“Thank goodness, he didn’t kill you.”
“I think it surprised him when I nodded yes. Didn’t know what to do at that point, so he walked over to a doorway, something I had not noticed before then. It was massive, made of pure obsidian. Biggest slab I’ve ever seen, but it had a large chip in its center half way down.
“The shaman picked up that piece of obsidian, you see in the box, there – and placed it in the chipped area – then something started to push the door open from the other side. As it opened, a unhuman, spindly hand came through the crack between the door and the jamb.”
“The hand was large, long fingers, and it felt around the edge of the door, as if it feared entering the room. Being scared to death myself, I crawled over to my holster, pulled my gun and I shot that dirty Injun in the back.”
“His blood splashed on the hand, which caused whatever it was to go crazy. Next thing I realize, I’d forgotten about my thigh and was on my feet, using all my weight to closed that door.”
“Must’ve surprised it, because I felt it give way, but then it pushed back. I almost had it closed but the hand got in the way.”
Grandpa Bill stopped and looked out towards the setting sun,”I pulled my knife out and hack at the fingers. Lopped one off and it howled a deafening noise as it pulled back.”
“That’s when I slammed the door closed. But whatever it was, the began to push back, opening the door again.”
“Panicked, I noticed that piece of obsidian the shaman had placed in the chip. I forced the door closed again, then clawed the chunk of rock from the door, letting it drop to the ground.”
The second it hit the rocky floor, the banging and guttural roaring stopped. Everything going silent. The kids then snapped awake and started crying.”
“The finger I’d cut off, caught fire, burning till it was nothing but bone. I went to James, but he was done in, so I picked up the bone, the rock and with the children following me, limped my way through the narrows of the cave and into the welcoming glitter of a starlit night.”
“It wasn’t till early morning that a posse found us. A few of the fellas were brave enough to crawl back inside the cave and drag James’ body out.”
“It was sent back to his family in Pennsylvania so as he could have a proper funeral and burial. I continued to ride for the agency for a few more months before I decided I needed a change of scenery and I came out here to California.”
“What a story, Grandpa. How come you never told me about this before?”
“Figger you’re almost 13 and you should know there are things out in the world that defy understanding. I didn’t know this when I left my home in Ohio and I wanted you to have a fighting chance if you ever come up against something you can’t explain.”
“So, what became of the cave?” I asked.
“It was dynamited shut shortly after James body was removed,” Grandpa answered.
We never talked about it again and Grandpa Bill died a few months later. To this day, I have no idea what happened to that old cigar box and its content therein.