The Parties at Chaco.
The Herald Covert Letters. A Paranormal Romance, part 6
Beginning In the latter part of the 1990s, I received letters from a man calling himself “Herald H Covert.” I present them here for whatever entertainment value they may have.
“None of this is true…..probably.”
“Harry, have you ever encountered someone who cannot exist?”
2001, Southwest US.
I was just down the trail from the so-called Sandia Man Cave in Placita New Mexico (US.) The Sandia Man Cave was the boondoggle of one Frank Cummings Hibben, a rather famous (or perhaps infamous) figure of the Albuquerque New Mexico anthropology scene. According to the tale, Hibben discovered pre-Clovis artifacts in an out of the way corner of New Mexico, conveniently close to the University in Albuquerque.
But that’s not why I was here. I was here to meet someone. Somebody I was told could not exist.
Earlier I visited a friend at one of the Satellite Coffee places in the city of Albuquerque. Satellite was in my opinion a shoe-in for Starbucks. Better in most ways.
We discussed the usual subjects. My friend is really into local archaeology. He was very passionate about the subject. Right now he was working as an adjunct professor over at UNM.
I was here for another reason. People had been reporting odd things in the night sky of late. Bright flashes. Loud booms. Probably tests of the nearby laser array at the Sandia Labs DOE site. The Agency sent me out here to check the story and my friend is usually a font of local gossip.
Today he seemed reserved, like something on his mind. I asked him about it and he replied in this way.
“Harry, have you ever encountered someone who cannot exist?” he said.
I didn’t answer him truthfully since, in my line of work I encounter — any number of people who defy conventional logic.
“Go on” I said.
“I’ve met a man, one who I can’t quite wrap my mind around. I mean I think I understand him, probably more than I should.”
“Is he into all of this anthro stuff like you are?” I asked.
“Not like me” my friend replied. “It’s a lot more personal for him I expect.
But he’s — got a rather different spin than I do. He lives up in the Palomas hills. Kind of away from most of the communities up there. “
“What is he? A hermit?” I asked.
“Something like that” my friend answered. “There’s much more, but I can’t begin to tell. You should meet him yourself. He’s up your alley. In any-case you have some skills that would come in useful if if you met him”
“Skills — like what?” I asked.
“Ah, you seem to be able to read people. Discover who they are, where they come from — that kind of thing. “ He said.
“And here I though it was my sparkling personality” I said with a grin. My friend was being modest. I’d never really figured where he came from or even how old he was and I’ve looked.” Of course researching people was my job.
“Tell me where I can meet this mystery man of yours,” I said.
My friend gave me directions. He said that if I sat on a certain rock on a nearby trail, he might come and talk to me.
“Why would he want to talk to me? “ I asked.
“He seems, curious about us” replied my friend. “Lonely too I’d expect. “
“And why do I want to talk to him? “ I asked.
“You do,” my friend replied. “You really want to talk to him. Trust me on this.”
The trail was a few miles outside of town. Albuquerque is hemmed in on one side by a range of mountains. The Sandias or “Watermelons” in Spanish. A long looping road runs up to Sandia Crest, the peak of the mountain. Or one can take an expensive cable car from the city of Albuquerque. On the East side of the mountain There are a few roads leading off of the paved 536 Sandia Crest Road to the top.
The Sandias are an old range. Mostly granite, there are traces of Woolly Mammoths here, ground sloths and of course, ancient human remains are all over the area. People have lived here for tens of thousands of years.
What I was looking for was County Road 165. The term “road” here is used optimistically, it was more like a cowpath. I was musing on what my car rental agent would say about the dings I was putting on their new Tercel when I reached my destination. A sign read “Sandia Cave” with an arrow leading to a small parking area and a trail-head. I took a long swig from my supply of bottled water and headed up.
The trail, it was about a mile or so. Not difficult, but I was above 5000 feet here. The thin air had me breathing hard. The trail led up a couple of stairways, then to a latticework structure with a tight spiral staircase. This led to a platform which stood outside the Sandia Man Cave, a tiny thing in itself.
Soon I made my way down and off the trail a few paces. I sat myself down on a rock and waited. My friend said that if I were lucky, someone would join me.
I waited for some time. The view was spectacular and I could hear water from a stream running in the forest down below. After a while I grew tired, not to mention sore from the rock I was sitting on. I was about to get up when I noticed someone was sitting nearby, just a little to my left and almost out of my line of site. My friend cautioned me not to look directly at him too much,
“If he feels threatened or challenged, he will leave.“ my friend said. It’s best to take things slow, let him warm up to you a bit. Don’t try to direct him or lead him, or even ask him too many questions at first. “
The following is from memory since I didn’t have a pen or notebook handy. I’ve found that such things are no good in my line of work. Pens mysteriously run out of ink, cameras jam and tape recorder batteries run dry.
“Hello” I said. I carefully fixed my gaze ahead and watched him with my peripheral vision. I could see a figure of a man, squatting on a rock. He was very still, like a statue, silent. I had trouble making out what he was wearing. It looked handmade. leather trousers and a rough shirt. Like one you might see on a beach in California. He looked to be about 20 or so. Rather dark skin. His hair was done up in dreadlocks, kind of orange-red. A pretty odd color. Probably a dye job. The skin on his arms had patterns on them. markings that I could not make out. Tattoos I suppose but unlike any I’ve ever seen. He was strong looking. muscular but not ripped like those steroid-laced body builders. No shoes. He was short too. Almost a dwarf.
The figure made a sound, like a bird call. In my peripheral vision it seemed his mouth made an ”O” motion. He was laughing I realized, but his laugh was strange sounding — alien.
“What’s so funny” I asked.
“You” he said “Did the good professor send you up here? I’ve heard of you. Poking around in places that don’t like to be poked.”
“Who told you that? “ I asked.
“You’d be surprised.” said the figure. His voice was high pitched and he lisped slightly. Surprised sounded like “shurprished. ”
The mountain people know you,” he continued. The skyfolk too! You do get around.”
A time passed, a kind of sigh escaped the man and he began to speak in a sing-song. I didn’t recognize the language, but it sounded old. Mixed in were words in other languages that I did recognize. French, Italian, Spanish. Chinese and a polyglot of American native.
Then he said “why are you here?” in English
“I wanted to meet you, my friend thought it would be a good idea — “
He waved his hands in a dismissive fashion. “You have very strange friends”
“That’s certainly true” I said.
“Have you been to Chaco?” he asked suddenly.
“Um, once I think. Quite some time ago.” I answered.
Chaco is a nearby complex of Mesoamerican ruins. It was a religious center for the people called “Anasazi.” Chaco was abandoned when the Chaco Wash river dried up and the climate changed around 850 years ago.
“Wonderful place. “ he said. “The rivers were full of fish and the women were fine and plentiful. There were parties lasting a turning of the Moon. The fish, the drink, the women!”
“All gone now — gone.” he said. “There are parties now, but not like those.”
I waited for a time, silent. Then I asked. “do you live around here?”
The figure made that chirping — laughter sound again. “I live in a nice house, not far from here. It’s better than a cave. Houses are warmer. But I’ll have to move soon. Pity that. I rather like this place. Can’t stay forever though.
He spoke several words in his sing-song language and was silent for a time. A car was moving slowly down the road, far below. I could see him stiffen as if he were about to flee. But the car rattled past and he seemed to relax.
“You have to move? Why? “I asked.
“Changing,” he said. Not ending. It’s not the first time. I have watched you change before.” The empires of South. The Kingdoms of the West. All gone now. Humans; you don’t build anything to last. You always think this time is forever. But change always comes.
“He began his strange sing-song again, then he was silent.
Again, that lengthy pause. As if he was gathering his thoughts.
“Who lived in that cave over there” I motioned to the Sandia Man Cave just visible up the trail.
He didn’t answer at first, just kept up the strange sing-song mumbling. Then when I was just about to ask another question he said —
— “nobody, bad people. Why would people live there? Too far from water, too far from food. Bad folks lived there. Not very long.
“How long have you been here” I asked.
“Long” he said. “ Long before your people dug the lighting from the Earth. Long before the fire-fountains. Long before your people came across the ice. Long before the warlike men from the East. I saw the flames you wrested from the ground. I saw how you loosed it. Against your own kind. You are not the first! You will not be the last.
“What do you mean by that? What do you think is going to happen?” I asked.
He sighed. “How should I know? You made weapons that can burn a city, you make diseases, as if the ones that killed the human folk in this place were not enough.. You fight each other for oil, water and very soon, food. You won’t stop until your cities are fire and you watch your children burn. You have always been this way. You killed the Red People just because they were different. You killed my people for the same reason. I will do what I always do, hide and not come out until your kind is done killing.”
Another car was crunching down the road, it pulled into the parking lot far below and I noticed the man was gone. I didn’t hear him leave. He was as silent as the wind. I wondered if I imagined it. When I looked at the spot where he squatted and spoke to me, there were two smallish footprints. Stamped into the living rock itself.
I met my friend a couple of days later in his university office. He was grading papers but seemed to relish the interruption.
“What did you think of him” he asked.
“I’m not sure,” I replied. “he didn’t really make much sense. I got he feeling he was reliving events that happened in his past. But a long time ago. He wasn't that old looking.”
My friend nodded.
“He spoke of watching,” I said. “ Watching time pass or cultures passing as if he was viewing events. He mentioned wild parties at Chaco Canon. I got the impression I was talking to an ancient statue, one that had seen history ebb and flow beneath his feet.”
“Did he mention fire fountains?”
“Yes” I said. “It didn’t make much sense.”
“Well,” said my friend. Just to the west of the city are a number of cinder cones, very recent ones geologically. He mentioned that he saw them erupt once. “
“There’s another thing,” my friend said. “I was able to get a sample of him, the rock he squats on retained skin cells, enough to run DNA and mitochondria tests. What we found doesn't make much sense either. He differs from us by as much as 1000 base pares.
Wait, are you saying he’s not human? I asked.
Not exactly, he’s of homed stock, just not the same species. He couldn't breed with us or if he did, the offspring wouldn't be viable. Like a mule. We can’t nail him down though. He seems to be — ”
“ — Not the same species? I said. How could —
“ — Denisova hominin “ said my friend. ”I’m thinking, a transitional form. Denisova was a dead-end and though they interbreed with the Neanderthal and probably Homo Sapiens, they went extinct around 50 thousand years ago.
— “How is that possible” I asked. “ How could evolution go backwards?”
“Oh no.” said my friend,” It can’t, not without genetic tinkering. But that didn’t happen in his case. He’s a mutant. A siding. He might be the origin of the Starnake legend, Sitecah or the“Elder Brother. He remembers this land being invaded by what he called “other people.”
“What other people?” I asked.“You mean the Spanish?” I said, “but that was hundreds of years ago.”
My friend was silent for a moment. “No, not the Spanish. This invasion came from the West as he tells it. Over the Bearing sea on a land bridge that is covered in water by now. On the order of 30 thousand years ago. “
“you see, he’s — “ my friend began.
— “You can’t be serious.” I said.”
“Well those volcanoes were erupting long before then.”
“And when was that?” I asked dreading the reply.
“My friend was silent for a moment.” We are not sure” he said. “ around 200 thousand years ago. I told you it was recent in geologic terms.”
“You mean he’s two hundred thousand years old?” I asked.
“Probably much older” my friend replied gravely. “He might have been part of the African diaspora, crossed the Bering Straight long before recognizable humans. He’s a survivor. He exists on the fringes of civilization. He doesn't live directly with us. I get the impression he stays away from society.”
“I doubt that time exists for him as you and I,” he said. “Years must past like seconds. He might be the first American,” Everyone else here, the first human, the various natives, the Spanish and other Europeans are all newcomers to him. “
I was silent for a moment. There was too much to take in. I’ve met very long lived people before. Not like this!
“Can’t you bring him in” I said. Study him,find out how he’s able to live this long?” I asked. “Think of the history we could learn.”
My friend regarded me. “He has no interest in that. I’m sure he’s survived countless attempts at capture. Do you think we could outwit him? And even if we could, then what? Lock him in a cage, chain him down and run tests on him? He’s living the way he wants. We need to respect that. “
“We could learn so much” I said.
“No,” said my friend. “ Let him be free. He’s a survivor. Whatever fate awaits us, he must transcend and survive. A living artifact. Our story will echo into the future though him —
— and people like him.” he added.
That startled me for a moment. “You mean, there are others like him” I asked.
“My friend was silent.” For a moment I could see the age in his American Native cast — the sadness.
“The parties at Chaco were glorious once” he said.
A word on Herald Covert.
I started getting The Herald Covert letters several years ago. They were sent via a number of anonymous re-mailers and never the same one twice. I’ve replied to a couple and gotten responses, but always using a new mail system.
According to his story; Herald is associated with a shadowy organisation — private or governmental I have no idea. This “agency” (according to Herald) sends him to various parts of the world to discover the truth about physical and social “anomalies.” Criptozoology, paranormal phenomena, UFOs and sinister oozings for all I know. Most of his material is of questionable value and sounds like fiction to me.
He claims it’s not.
— more to follow.
G Allen is a technical geek who does various IT related things and writes on the side. If you liked this story, please mash the “like” button. Or leave a comment.