b. ambrose 'you asked for it'

        Heat, pounding heat, pulsing and writhing like some
decapitated snake, washing in waves to an irregular heartbeat; that
alone was all he knew.  Well, that and the fact that Ned's Atomic
Dustbin was on the radio urging destructive practices on the
television set he didn't own.  "Somewhere along this road," he
mumbled to himself, "there should be a sign, some sort of
demarcation."  There was a pause as he considered how best to tell
himself just what kind of construction was needed.  "Certainly not
something cheesy or conventional like 'Entering ...' or 'Welcome to ...',
but something else [pause], something a bit more undefinable."  The
man chose not to elaborate out loud any further at this point,
speaking was an effort, and the doll on the seat next to him in turn
seemed reluctant to probe for deeper meaning in the statements,
preferring to stare mutely off to the side at the passing landscape.
Not that there was much in the way of scenery as far as the doll was
concerned; the barren terrain that sped by in graduated parallax
offered little comfort.  The doll itself had no name, or at least it didn't
attach any particular concept-sound to itself, and certainly no one
had ever bothered to give it one.  Brightly covered paint strokes
adorned the doll's wooden surface in a swirling pattern, order amidst
chaos, that when combined with the thing's bulbous goggling eyes,
spiraling horns, and permanent grimace, made quite an aesthetically
unpleasant impression despite the obvious care and craftsmanship
that had gone into its making.  Perhaps aesthetically unpleasant
would be the wrong phrase to use, more like aesthetically disturbing.
Whatever it was, it certainly didn't appear to be benevolent in
nature, a fact that didn't bother the doll in the least.  The only other
remarkable feature about the kachina doll, for that is what it was,
was the fact that embedded in its back was a squarish lump of blue-
gray metal.  Cool to the touch even in the mind-numbing heat, the
metallic slab was definitely out of place, but as of yet, no one had
bothered to tell it thus, and so it remained blithely ignorant of the
quizzical looks it received from the man next to it.
        The man, quite unlike the doll, did indeed have a name, David
Proudfoot, to be exact.  David (as he preferred to be called), again
unlike the doll, was rather unremarkable in appearance.  A pair of
dusty boots, a loose slightly-soiled white t-shirt, and blue jeans
punished in ways that rivaled the Spanish Inquisition in brutality all
clung in a sweat-fueled embrace to David Proudfoot's rather lanky,
dark form.  At the present, he seemed to be playing a little game as
to exactly how little he could move his arms, and body in general for
that matter, and still stay on the barely defined road that led deeper
into Hopi territory.  In fact, as far as the neutral observer was
concerned, there were two passengers in a truck that obviously
represented a marvelous advance in technology, for it was doing a
very competent job of driving itself, though at times it would seem to
err and come dangerously close to the road's edge.  Ned's Atomic
Dustbin had long since ceased it's techno-destructive tirade, and the
radio had moved on to a song that David did not recognize.  Whoever
it was, they sure were angry, or at least acting like they were.
        Time passed, sagebrush rolled, the sun shone, and finally the
station crackled into tinny oblivion, unresurrectable unless the
vehicle that housed the radio began to travel in a direction opposite
its current path, but by now it had became quite obvious that the
truck had absolutely no intention of doing so.
        Slowly, almost reverently, David detached an arm from the
steering wheel with an audible *shclup* and lightly punched a button
on the radio.  Static indicated a lack of success.  A similar result with
the remaining five buttons produced a small frown, the nearest thing
to emotion that David had shown externally since the beginning of
the trip.  The arm returned to its former position on the steering
wheel, which seemed to please the truck, for it no longer weaved off
the road like it had when David's arm had been occupied with the
        For what was probably the hundredth time if anybody had've
bothered to count (but of course nobody did), David glanced
momentarily at the doll seated next to him before returning his
concentration once again to the road in front of him.  It puzzled him,
this menacing kachina doll with the metal lump protruding from its
back.  He had picked it up from a small out-of-the-way occult shop in
Phoenix, and though his original purpose had been to buy feathers
for tomorrow's ceremony, he purchased the costly doll so
automatically that afterwards he gave serious credence to the idea
that someone or something else had somehow influenced or coerced
him to buy it, rather than its purchase being a product of his own
        Glancing at it again (101 for those counting), his mind
wandered towards the problem of the kachina doll's origins, purpose,
and function.  It was the metal, not the too-perfect craftsmanship,
nor the chaotic and foreign designs on its surface, that bothered him
the most, he decided.  After he had acquired the doll and returned to
the safety of his cramped apartment, he had spent several hours
poring over it, examining the designs, feeling the smooth contours,
and most of all, puzzling over the metal block.  When he had first
touched it, perched on his sagging bed, a strange sort of vibration
accompanied by a barely audible humming sound seemed to
emanate from it.  Efforts to pry it out proved to be completely
fruitless, it was almost as if the wood not only fit around the metal,
but had also grown into and become a part of it.  David wondered if
the doll's expression perhaps sprung from the very fact that it had
such a lump of foreign substance protruding from its back; he was
pretty sure that he would wear a similar grimace if such a plight was
ever his, but then again he wasn't really worried at this point that
such an possibility lay in his eminent future.   The patterns bothered
him too, albeit to a lesser extent.  Somewhere, he knew, he had seen
these designs, but for the life of him, he wasn't able to recall where
or in what context.  Nonetheless, the thing remained an enigma that
his mind could not ignore.  Who would carve such a thing, and for
that matter why?  Answers obstinately refused to present
themselves, so when it had came time to journey to the village for
the year's most important rain ceremony, the doll became a guest-
passenger on the trip in hopes that someone else might be able to
shed a little light on the mystery.  For now, David just drove, the land
scrolled on by, the sun slugged its way towards the western horizon,
and through it all the doll sat, deaf and dumb, offering not a single

        He arrived at the village at sunset, the colors so brilliant that
he fancied briefly that nature's palette had somehow been scrambled
in a such a chaotic fashion that nothing was left untouched, orange
houses, red dirt, and purplish clumps of water-starved grass.  David
always felt a funny twinge when he returned here to the village,
nostalgia perhaps.  The best he could think of was the feeling of
being caught between two worlds, but even that clich¦ wasn't right.
He couldn't help but liken his situation to that of the kachina doll, an
uncomfortable synthesis between tradition and technology, past and
the present.  He returned monthly, participated in the many
ceremonies, and did his best to help with the survival of the village,
yet at the same time, he lived in the city, in an apartment even, and
did the accounting for a prospering insurance company.  The intricate
doll was caught in the same situation, its form grounded in the
traditions of centuries past, yet also integrated so jarringly with the
present through the metallic parasite.  "The designs too," he thought
suddenly, "they too were somehow connected to the technological
side... where were they from, where were they from?"  He barred his
teeth and shook his head in frustration, but unfortunately, those
gestures did nothing for the puzzle.
        Driving always exhausted David, especially with the summer
heat, so after briefly visiting friends, he retired for the night to his
parents' house.  He dreamed of nothing in particular.
        The ceremony the next day went rather uneventfully.  Looking
around at the sweaty red-faced tourists, David wondered briefly
what went through their minds while they watched.  Did they see the
same things, the harmony, the intricacy, the blending between
nature, people, and lifestyle?  For the most part he doubted it.  "Odd,"
he thought, "I'm witnessing probably the most important rain dance
in the village's history, and all I can think of are some silly-looking
tourists and some oddly-made kachina doll that I picked up for an
arm and a leg from some occult freak back in the city."
Unfortunately, this mental reprimand did nothing for David's
wavering attention towards what was going on around him.
        It had been a bad year for the village, another bad year in a
long succession of bad years, drought and barren fields were
becoming the norm, not the exception.  Of course, with people like
David to help out financially and such, the village was not in any
immediate danger of starving; rather the threat came from within, as
more and more people lost faith in the old ways, especially the
younger ones.  Those who remained adamant in the face of such stiff
adversity found themselves facing a dwindling population as more
and more left the village convinced it had fallen out of favor with the
gods.  If there was any time that rain was needed, now was truly it.
        Two days later, David, was nearly convinced too, that indeed
the place had been cursed by the gods; the weather remained
unbearably hot, the land blistered and parched.  He called in sick
from the village's one phone and remained to help out with the many
jobs that more and more went unfinished as the work force
dwindled.  As he staggered into bed later that night, his toe
connected painfully with a rather hard object that had found its way
into his bed.  Pulling it out from among the covers, he discovered,
much to his amazement, the kachina doll.  What was so amazing to
him though, was the fact that for two days he had been so immersed
in his work that he had managed to completely forget the doll's
existence.  Now that he was reminded of it however, he found
himself bothered so much by its mystery that, imbued with new
purpose, he straight away padded over to one of the village elders's
homes, doll in hand.  His visit was about as successful as the rain-
calling ceremony several days before.
        Rising-moon, his paternal grandfather, and one of the most
famous kachina doll makers in the southwest, was not only clueless
as to the doll's origins or meanings, but he also exhibited an almost
hostile air towards the thing itself.  He refused to give any reasons
for his distrust, simply saying that the best thing to do at this point
would be to burn the thing.  Consulting with others produced similar
results, though none so hostile; no one seemed to be able to answer
any of the questions David posed.  More frustrated than ever, he
returned to bed, and drifted off into a restless sleep.

        He awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of a single
wolf howling in the distance.  He felt the strange need for a walk, so
without any consideration whatsoever he sloughed out of bed and
tromped out of the village in the direction of the nearby hills; it was
only when he was a good mile or so out that he realized he'd brought
along the doll.
        The memories of childhood were particularly strong here
amongst the rocky outcroppings and rising swells that constituted his
personal playground as a young child.  Many things remained locked
up and secret, a near-fatal encounter with an angry rattlesnake,
breaking an arm after slipping off a small ledge, and of course the
discovery of the cave.
        David first encountered the cave while on one of his many
walks amongst the cyclopean masonry that seemed to propagate and
reproduce so much in these hills.  Tucked behind a rather monstrous
boulder so that only the slim could ever hope to enter, a small crawl
hole opened into a spacious but bare cavern.  The place still
contained a strong magic, the kind that tended to accumulate in the
mind of a young child.  Barely squeezing through the small niche-like
opening, David recoiled in shock at what he saw when he shone his
light about the cavern.  Someone, or something, had been in here
recently, very recently in fact.  The chamber was completely devoid
of dust, and in the center lay the charred form of a kachina doll.
David's hand automatically reached for his doll, and much to his
relief he found it safe and sound, resting quietly in his pocket.  The
charred doll appeared to be very similar to one his grandfather
might have made, and it seemed not to have suffered extensive
damage, so David gathered it up into the folds of his sweatshirt, but
not before pulling out his own doll.  In the weak and wavering light,
it appeared more monstrous and menacing than ever, leering
mindlessly in a way that reminded David so much of some nameless
zombie in a cheesy horror film.  Setting the doll down in the thin
layer of ashes before him, he crouched down for a while, eyes closed,
wondering what all this could mean.
        Movement occurred, movement that was not his own, and
David shot up out of his crouch so quickly in a rush of fear and
adrenaline that he almost thwacked his head against the low ceiling.
A quick glance around told him that he was still alone, no one but
himself and the doll standing amongst the ashes.  It was at this point
that David's eyes bugged out in a manner that would have made the
doll quite proud, for the doll's physical position and form had
changed; what was once a threatening grimace now was a
triumphant smile that seemed altogether even more hideous than
the formerly leering countenance.  And when the doll began to
speak, David, staring numbly, found himself not the least bit
        He must have dozed, for his next memory was that of a sliver
of morning sun creeping across the back wall of the cave.  Not
bothering to even look around at his surroundings, David
staggered/wormed his way out of the cavern and into the blinding
sun, which although it had but just risen was already beginning the
transmutation of the cold night air to the stifling heat waves of
midday.  He paused, groped about in his pocket, and despite the
warm day, felt an icy, electric chill rush through his body as he
grasped the form of the doll, not the burnt one, but the accursed one
his grandfather would not touch.  He clutched it spasmodically, and
everything came back to him.

        These days David found himself returning to the village less
and less, whether it was out of fear or guilt he didn't want to know.
Besides, the village no longer really needed him; it was prospering
like it never had before despite the numerous disappearances that
had taken place in the area and the ugly rumors that had begun to
spread as a result.  Actually, he knew inside that he'd never go back,
not after witnessing the last ceremony filled with the grimacing
dancers, each and every one twisting and writhing with shining
metal boxes strapped to their backs, not after witnessing how less
than an hour later a gentle and refreshing rain had washed down
and fed the thirsty fields like a mother would her toddler.  There
was something unnatural and wrong about that rain, it had seemed
tainted, almost pinkish, but the corn plants didn't seem to mind in
the least bit.  Just what had he unleashed?  He didn't know, nor did
he want to find out.  No, the village nor its gods were no longer for
him.  You see, it was not until later, not until after waking up from
some blasphemous nightmare that David finally realized what the
design on the kachina doll was and where he had seen it before.  All
he had to do was recall his years in college, one class in particular,
Engineering 41, something he had audited briefly before deciding
that engineering wasn't his calling; the design so carefully painted on
the leering kachina doll was that of a microchip.
Return to index.