The next morning (Wednesday) the ranger showed up with his friends, Tiwe (a Pueblo medicine man) and his adult son Nathan.
These people are amazing. They were instantly likeable and sympathetic to my situation. I mentioned them in a tiny update in my last post, but here is what happened:
Lore and legends
Tiwe is an incredible storyteller. He told me that Pikes Peak and the surrounding area was inhabited by the Ute, Manitou, Arapaho, Pueblo, Anasazi, and other Native American groups at various times. In the 1860’s, when the Gold Rush was in full swing, many Indians were violently displaced because of mining operations there. They were torn away from their sacred lands, which was catastrophic to their cultures.
Tiwe stressed that historically, Americans have not understood the significance of land and names to Native Americans, and this is critical to understanding the supernatural presence on the mountain. The major world religions like Christianity and Hinduism and Islam are “universal” – they can be practiced anywhere. You can pick up your whole life and move to Kentucky or Scotland or Istanbul, and you’ll still be whatever religion you are. Your god still hears your prayers, he still intervenes in your life.
But Native Americans practice land-based religions.
The land they inhabit is a part of their creation stories. It’s not that the land belongs to them, it’s that they belong to the land, and both are in a symbiotic relationship with one another. History is embedded in the landscape; a person is reminded of specific lessons and wisdom when they see a part of the land. The mouth of this river has a story attached to it, that fallen tree has a story attached to it. A battle was won here. A chief died there. Peace was made between tribes with a feast here. When a Native group is forced out of its homeland, the people lose their history. What’s worse, they leave behind the places where their dead are buried. Since the dead are bound to that place, the Indians who left no longer have spiritual connections to their ancestors, and thus, to their gods. Their medicines and magic no longer work. They forget the names of sacred places. As the names and history and wisdom are forgotten, the tribe’s spiritual power evaporates.
Tiwe said that when Pikes Peak was taken, a group of disgruntled Utes descended on the miners and slaughtered a bunch of them. Because a complex network of alliances and peace treaties, these Utes were punished by another tribe. They dug holes in the ground and slit the Utes’ throats. Then they buried them upside-down in the holes with their legs sticking out of the ground so that wolves would feast on their calves.
That was supposed to be the end of it, but then something else happened.
The legend says that these dead Utes arose from the tainted ground one night. Because their flesh had been flayed from the hips down, they looked like walking skeletons. They hobbled into the Arapaho camps and took women and children back up the mountain. They forced them deep into one of the mines, never to leave again. The howls of women and children have been reported on the mountain for over a hundred years now.
The Utes and Arapaho engaged in blood feuds, sometimes called “mourning wars,” for years over this. They exchanged curses, executed and skinned and tortured each other. They stained the once-sacred earth on Pikes Peak with rivers of blood.
I was pretty mortified by this story. I just kind of sat there with the ranger while Tiwe and Nathan blessed the cabin.
They burned sage and tobacco inside and outside and used crushed herb dust to cover their hands.
They made a handprint on every window and drew small symbols in ash at the top of the front door inside and outside. They gave me bundled sage/cedar/hawthorn and told me to burn it if anyone tried to get inside. It drives bad spirits insane. Then, they provided me with small pouches filled with herbs and blessed objects to wear around my neck and in my pockets whenever I went outside. Nathan gave me a totem that he wears around his neck and told me to give it to Faye. Then they sang a really incredible chant in their language; it lasted about 15 minutes. I was blown away. I fucking love these guys.
Then, we went outside. I showed them the dreamcatcher, and they told me that they had never seen anything like it. The dreamcatcher is made with three branches woven together with hair, and it has old yarn or wool string with glass beads crisscrossing the center in a pattern. It is old and hand-made. Tiwe told me not to touch it or move it. If you find an object of power and do not know who made it or what it protects, you should leave it alone. I asked him if it could be evil, and he said, “Maybe.”
I got them up to speed on everything that has happened. I said that a lot of my friends (Redditors, but I didn’t explain that) suspected that the Faye at my house in California was a duplicate and that the real Faye was somewhere in the woods. Tiwe and Nathan disagreed with each other on whether that could be, but we searched the woods looking for signs of my Faye. We found nothing.
I told them about the missing ring, and they said exactly what many Redditors have said: if Faye loved the ring and it was powerfully symbolic to her, it could be used by a bad spirit to harm her.
They told me to find it at all costs. They also told me that if Faye indeed were still here on the mountain, she was certainly dead.
And the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Tiwe named the creature that was tormenting us. He said his people call it At’an-A’anotogkua, “the Impostor.” Bad spirits inhabit the land everywhere, and sometimes they get the opportunity to use a tragedy like the Pikes Peak massacres to commandeer a human figure and walk the earth partly mortal. In the case of the Impostor, they collect animal and human parts piecemeal wherever they can, and stitch them together. This is why they walk strangely, vocalize strangely, and why they never show their faces or come out during the day – they cannot pass for humans.
I asked Tiwe why I always see someone facing away from me at the edge of the forest, and he said it is because it does not want me to know its identity.
But eventually, the Impostor would come for me, wearing Faye’s skin and teeth and hair, and try to convince me that it was her. When I asked him what it wanted, he said,
“Nobody knows.” He also told me that there is power in names, as many Redditors have stated, and that I should not speak its name, especially not to it, because that could provoke it. Of the voices I was hearing in the forest every night, Tiwe said, “They practice what they hear, for decades. It makes it easier for them to hunt.”
The freaky shit
Tiwe, Nathan, and the ranger left at sunset, and I spent the rest of the evening thinking about all of this. And I think I’ve figured a lot of things out. Around 9PM, something disturbing happened.
I used the satellite phone the ranger gave me to call Faye. She actually answered, and was just lying in bed reading. We had a great conversation. I told her I missed her so much, and that I was up here trying to solve what was happening. I told her I wanted to have a family with her. She said that she was feeling better, and had actually gone a whole night without sleepwalking or terrifying Jason and Richard (my buddies who are looking after her while I’m here in Colorado).
After about 15 minutes of talking, I started hearing sounds outside.
I heard footsteps crunching in the dry snow, and I heard a voice – my voice. It said things like, “Flight,” “insomnia,” “miss you,” “See you soon.” The thing had been standing near the window, mimicking my conversation with Faye. I told Faye I’d call her back later, and hung up the phone, then went silent. The thing walked around the cabin slowly, trying to figure out if I had moved, and kept mumbling and repeating a few phrases as it went.
Finally, it came and knocked on the door. Its knock was gentle, just like last night. I was a little bit less scared because of all the blessings Tiwe had put on the cabin, but I still held onto the gun just in case any shit went down. He spoke to me in my own voice, and the first thing he said was,
“The hole will fill with snow and blood.”
So yeah, that amped up my fear quite a bit. Every hair on the back of my neck bristled. Do you know the feeling of being so scared that your vision turns hyperreal? Everything looks like a realistic video game, so everything looks just slightly off. Then it knocked again and said,
“Hello? May I come in?”
I simply said, “No. Leave.”
Then it knocked for another 30 seconds or so, and said, “What is your name? Hello?”
I lied and said, “My name is Daniel. Now leave. You can’t come in.”
The thing started knocking harder, a lot harder, nonstop, and said, “What is your name? What is your name?”
It was terrifying to hear my voice coming from the other side of the door, and to hear rage building in that voice.
I said again, “MY NAME IS DANIEL,” but the thing just kept yammering and asking the same question. It would occasionally say things like, “Ticket, ticket, rental car. You go up in the trees! The hole, the hole, down in the hole. What is your name? May I know your name?”
Then I had an idea. I’m really good with fake accents, and when I was a child my first language was German (dad immigrated to Boston and met my mom). I started speaking in a thick accent, talking about my day, and then started shouting in German. I recited a poem I know by Hermann Hesse, Die Frauen von Ravenna Tragen. My visitor went silent and stopped knocking. I could tell it was just listening. So then I started shouting in a British accent, reciting lines from V for Vendetta (my favorite film of all time). I shouted “thank you” in every single language I know (I once committed to learning it in 100 languages and stopped around 20).
My unwanted guest just sort of stammered a little bit, trying to mimic me, but failed to do so. I was no longer speaking in any recognizable pattern or tone.
Eventually, it just started growling the sounds Faye and I heard in the forest when we first stayed at the cabin – *”Wachu, wachu, wole my, wole my” and started scratching and pounding on the door.
I grabbed the sage bundle and torched it with my lighter, then waved it all around the door frame. I don’t know if the thing outside could smell it, but it walked off the porch all pissed off, growling, and went off into the night. This time, I ran to the window and tried to get a glimpse of it, but all I could see was a very dark, amorphous form disappearing into the trees.
I think I’ve figured a lot of stuff out. I think this entity is mimicking me because it’s going to try to convince Faye that it is me. It is rehearsing my voice and then whispering to Faye while she sleeps, talking to her in her dreams, trying to get her to let it inside of our house. I think it wants to convince her that I am the impostor, not it. I think I also figured out why the voices go crazy at night, and why they’re getting closer to my home. These fuckers aren’t trying to scare me. They’re trying to deprive me of sleep. If I’m psychologically and emotionally drained, I’m weaker. If I’m delirious, I’ll make a mistake. Their (or his) attempts to get to me will be easier.
I’m still trying to figure out how controlling Faye like a puppet in her sleep plays into all this. I know what I saw. There was a man standing outside our house, walking the exact same creepy way Faye was sleepwalking, at the exact same time.
I’m also still considering the possibility that I already made a terrible mistake, and that the Impostor has already won – when I went outside on the first night at the cabin with Faye, trying to see where the voices were coming from. I left the door unlocked. A Redditor said that that was the moment that Faye was replaced by something else.
I just don’t know what to think. But for now, I’m going. the fuck. to sleep.
Update: Well. I found the ring. ?
To Be Continued…
Cover Image Source: Sergiy Zavarykin