#254 Treasure Hunt
My father disappeared when I was 5. I wondered what had happened to him until I turned 25. While searching the mountains where he was last seen alive, I found his skeleton buried in a cave. I knew it was him when I read his journal. Following are his words verbatim.
“Look at this, Lucy.” Pointing to a page of an old Atlas where it said, There’s an old Indian legend about treasures buried in the McDowell Mountains.
“And,” I said, “That’s where we’re going hiking Saturday,”
“Yes, but see what it says here.” She put her finger on the small print promising death for anyone who removes it. “So if we find any treasure, we better think twice about removing it.”
“Fat chance we have of finding any. People have been hiking those mountains for years, and no one’s found anything yet.”
“You don’t know that for sure,” Lucy said. “Maybe they did and kept quiet about it.”
“Maybe the curse got to them?” I laughed. Lucy believed in paranormal things. I didn’t
Next day I went to the Tom Thumb Trailhead for a 4 mile hike. Lucy showed up wearing shorts, a halter top and sandals.
“Should’ve worn hiking clothes,” I said.
“It’s only a four mile hike. I can do it naked and barefoot.”
That’s exactly how I always pictured her in my daydreams. What she wore helped stimulate my imagination. “I always plan on something going wrong, so bring what I’d need to survive a cold night.” I lifted my stuffed backpack.
She laughed, “Looks like you’re carrying 50 pounds of gear.”
“Yeah, but you know, better safe than sorry.”
I threw the pack on my back and started up the trail. Lucy skipped along behind me. “I’ve heard that about 500,000 years ago an earthquake caused a rock avalanche and soil to flow here. It’s called, ‘Marcus Landslide?’”
“No kidding? There was a quake close by last week. Think it caused more slides around here?”
After two hours of hiking uphill, we stopped in the shade cast by a giant granite boulder to take a break. I drank some water and offered the bottle to Lucy. As she stepped forward to take the bottle, a sinkhole opened beneath her feet. She disappeared into it. I lay on the ground so I wouldn’t make the hole expand, crawled to the edge. “Lucy,” I yelled.
“I’m okay, I fell onto a pile of soft sand, but it’s dark as hell down here. Wait a minute. My leg’s stuck between some rocks. I can’t get it loose.”
“You’ve got to get out of there before there’s a cave in!”
“I can’t. My leg’s stuck. Can you help me?”
I didn’t want to go below ground, because I’ve always had claustrophobia, and the thought of being trapped underground scared the shit out of me. The nylon rope I carried in my backpack came in handy. I tied an end around the boulder as an anchor. Then I attached one of the two miniature flashlights I carried to it, turned it on and lowered it into the hole.
“Got it,” Lucy yelled. “Oh my God, the boulders are huge and too heavy to move. You have to come and help.”
I looked down and saw the light as she moved it over the rocks pinning her leg. It was only 10 feet to the bottom. I could lower myself down, move the boulders, climb the rope out real quick and then pull Lucy out. I pulled the rope up, made knots every three feet to make it easier to climb and lowered it back down, then climbed down, went right to the rocks holding Lucy captive and using all my strength rolled them off her leg. “You okay”
Lucy stood, hopped around. “Nothing’s broken. Just need a minute to get blood circulating.” She took a few small steps. “God,” She shone her light on a giant sloth half embedded in clay. “They’re extinct. The ancient earthquake must have buried it here.”
She moved her light over the wall, and we saw a mammoth, and a saber-tooth cat. “Wow, what a find! Archeologists will eat their hearts out when they hear what we found.”
“No, they won’t. We’re not going to tell anyone.”
Lucy shone her light into my face. “Why not?”
“These things are worth a fortune. If we tell anyone, the government will take everything, and we end up with nothing.”
“Isn’t it illegal to sell pre-historic animals?” Lucy examined a half-buried skeleton.
“Maybe, but if no one knows, no harm,” I said.
“But aren’t the animals considered a treasure?” Lucy said.
The ground shook beneath us, and I was knocked off my feet. “Aftershock, from the recent quake,” I said
“Aftershock, my ass,” Lucy said. “You know it’s a curse.” Then the clay wall beside her began shaking, then collapsed completely burying her.
I’d never be able to dig her out. I was halfway up when the rock holding the rope rolled onto the opening blocking off my air supply and escape route.