Killer Kiva

Little Ones That Take a Long Time, Chilluns


THE DANGER HERE IS PALPABLE. Call it what you will: angry spirits, corruption, evil vibes, you feel it. The structure was already here, a short distance away, when I first rented our old adobe on the hillside. It’s actually a kiva, an underground ceremonial chamber, or at least it was once. The Pueblo Natives who built it inhabited this mesa as early as 900 A.D., so you could be looking at a thousand-year-old hole.

This in itself isn’t so unusual in el Norte. Farther up the mesa is what was once a very large kiva, now just an eroded depression, that someone’s used for a garbage dump. (The vibes aren’t so hot up that way, either.) As you can see, here we have a skylight and a chimney. I don’t know who thought it up or when it happened, but someone decided to make this one a home.

It seems to me that this would take an idiot. So maybe during one of the late 20th century in-migrations? Probably it was roofless back whenever it was and just a deep pit. The roof on it now is made of logs and latillas and covered with dirt, much like the original would have been. Good ole “Uncle Dale” (the dead landlord) must have known how the whole thing went down, but neither he nor our longtime neighbors ever talked about it. I didn’t ask.

One afternoon ten years ago I crept carefully up to the entrance. There were cobwebs and strange bits, and an old hand-made ladder in a state of collapse leading nearly straight down. Thanks to the skylight, I could see a bit of the floor. There was a piece of linoleum (!), some kind of wood stove, and what looked like a rocking chair, just out of sight.

Who knew what else was down there? I was curious as hell but couldn’t trust the ladder. The shaft it stood in was dark and rough. There had to be black widows in the cobwebs and scorpions in the dirt. But these were nothing next to what really gave me pause: how could you defile a place like that and live? Whoever had done this must have met a horrible fate. For all I knew, the evidence was still down there. More than likely, though, he left years ago and succumbed to brain-eating worms. Little ones, that take a long time.

Something drew me to the spot two days ago. It had been a decade since I’d been that close. This time I didn’t peer down the shaft.

What if there had been a body? What if you fell in and didn’t have a cell phone? What if you had one but the hole was too deep for you to get a signal? No one would ever hear you call for help unless they were standing by the hole. You’d have to spend the night in there before the searchers found you.

And when you came out, you might be completely mad. Either that or seemingly okay, just shaken. A little wobble in the left leg and a facial tic, next year something’s in your eye. Little ones that take a long time, chilluns. Bow your head and cry.

Originally published 3/9/2014.