#228 Ascending

#228 Ascending

Clay figures.

Searching for a hidden treasure, we climbed the San Gabriel Mountains. When we climbed above the valley and we were above the low flying clouds, we saw the discharging electrons accelerating to the ground. For the first time in my life, I saw lightning start and end in a flash so quick; it seemed to end almost before it began.

A week earlier at the Orange County Swap Meet I came across an old book with photos of prospectors, burros and men working in mines. For $28. I purchased a piece of history. I went home and attempted to scan the photos into my computer. The book virtually fell to pieces as I opened it wide to scan, and I noticed a different type of paper on the back cover.

I looked through a magnifying glass and saw the edges where paper had been stuck atop the inside back cover. I boiled some water and held the cover in the steam for a few minutes. I figured I could remove it without damaging the cover, but after a few minutes exposure to the heat, I saw a pale brown script and lines begin to appear.

I remembered from chemistry class that Lemon juice, white wine, orange juice, vinegar, and apple juice are all acidic. When applied to paper, any of these substances weaken it so that when the paper is heated, the acid turns the writing brown. So whoever wrote this way back when easily had access to any of these substances.

A head with horns adorned the top of a map. I figured that depicted, “Devils Peak,” a nearby mountain shaped like a head with horns protruding from it. It was either a treasure map, or maybe it marked the spot where gold was found. I didn’t know which, but the written directions were clear enough for me to find the spot marked on the long hidden map.

I started putting my camping gear together when Paulette, my girlfriend walked through the door.

“Going camping without me?”

“Treasure hunting,” I told her.

“Take me with. Where did I leave my backpack?” she said.

“I have to carry enough grub for a week or more. Don’t think I can carry enough for you too.”

“Don’t be silly. You know I can probably carry more than you.”

What she said was true. She was stronger than me. I have always been more cerebral than athletic, and it showed. But she loved me for my brains and not my brawn, so I figured if I took her along, she could carry any extra supplies I may need, and she’d keep me warm on the cold mountain nights. “Alright, we’ll leave first thing in the morning.” She smiled and said, “Thanks.”

We drove as far as possible up the mountainside. I helped her get her backpack on which weighed 20 pounds more than mine. I had put my gold pan in her pack and my sluice box was tied on the outside. I locked the jeep and we started up the steep and narrow trail.

I let Paulette lead the way. She had better eyesight than me, so in the event we came across a mountain lion or bear, she’d see it long before I would have. After three days of strenuous climbing, Devil’s Peak came into sight. I held the map up and sighted in the spot we were headed for. If one were to draw a picture of a face on the mountain, we were headed for the spot that would have been the mouth. It took us a day to get there and night was approaching as we reached the Devil’s Mouth,” as I called the spot. Paulette built a fire while I put up our two person tent and stretched out our sleeping bags. Then I opened a can of pork and beans for dinner.

We ate and sat by the campfire, smoked a joint and kicked back enjoying the starry sky and fresh air when suddenly I saw the devil. Yeah, the real thing, just like pictures I had seen in a book where the devil’s lower half was that of a goat and his upper half was human.

Being relaxed by the pot, I didn’t panic, but said, “You see what I see?”

Paulette stared at the fire and didn’t answer for a while. After a few minutes of silence she said, “What do you see?”

“The Devil.”

“Me, too.”

The devil didn’t seem to even know we were there. The fire is what he wanted, and danced around it and through it. He stood in the middle with flames engulfing him with a smile on his face. Because I thought we were hallucinating, I wasn’t perturbed by the vision. I enjoyed watching Satan dancing round and round until I fell asleep.

I awoke to a smoldering fire. I gathered some wood to get it going so I could cook breakfast. Once it flared up I noticed for the first time that Paulette wasn’t anywhere to be seen. She must have gone somewhere private to do her morning toilet. I cooked and ate breakfast and she hadn’t returned yet. It was then I saw her sweatshirt close to an opening in the Devil’s Mouth.

I grabbed a flashlight and went to what was an opening to a cave. I shone the light in and saw a narrow passage. Squeezing through the opening I walked for only a few minutes and went around four turns before I saw Paulette laying flat on her back. She was nude and I watched her chest rise and fall, so I knew she was alive. I shook her shoulder.

“What’re you doing in here?” I said. The confused look in her eye told me before she said, “I don’t know how I got here.” I shined the light on the soft floor and saw hoof prints all around her.


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