It was the second day of Hector Lopez' second Vision Quest. The boredom had already settled in. He allowed his mind to relive the memories which had brought him here.
* * *
"Excuse me!," Hector had said, trying to recover his own balance, while helping the stranger not fall as well. "I didn't see you."
"No! you blind, or what?"
"I was seeing," Hector had stopped himself. If he'd finished that sentence, the man would have thought he was crazy or lying. "Something in my head," he had finished, lamely.
The man had eyed him in that way Hector had come to recognize. He was trying to figure our Hector's race.
Hector was of medium height and build, with medium dark skin, tight curly variegated-brown hair, a broader than average nose, and hazel eyes. His heritage was a mixture of Cherokee, Seminole, Hispanic, Negro, English, German, and Scotch-Irish. When asked what he was, he generally either answered "everything", or randomly declared an ethnic group, depending on his mood.
His father had long ago told him he was lucky that he was able to fit in just about anywhere, since no one could generally classify him. That was true to some degree, but when it came down to it, Hector didn't feel he belonged anywhere. By being part everything, he often felt like he was essentially nothing.
Unable to determine what Hector was, the man had finally just said, "Be careful, son."
Hector and the other man had been contemporaries, and the comment would have made him laugh except that his mind had already returned to what he had seen.
One second he'd been in the Lake Wales city park at the crowded Pioneer Days festival, the next he'd been standing by the lakeside in an Indian village. An old man seemed to be staring right at him. Hector had turned around to see who or what might be behind him, taken a step, and was back at the festival in the park, bumping into a stranger.
That had been nearly a year ago. He'd never heard about there having been an Indian village at Lake Wales before that, and he'd started researching the topic as soon as he'd gotten home.
Even before the research, he'd been pretty sure it was not a Seminole village he'd seen. He knew the Seminoles (at least the adults) had customarily worn clothing, while most of the villagers he'd seen had been naked. He'd remembered reading that prior to Spanish contact, most Florida Indians had gone naked, so he'd reasoned this had to have been a pre-Columbian village.
His research had shown it was probably a Jororo village, since the Jororos had lived in the southern part of Central Florida when the Spanish had arrived.
Apparently, three Spanish missions had been established in the Jororo territory in the late 1600's. That was about the only direct references to the Jororo he'd found. (That, and the fact that the villages associated with those Spanish missions revolted against the Spaniards a few years later. The Jororos had disappeared by the time the Seminoles had taken up residence in the area.)
He'd also found that local Indians had built some modest mounds, but he wasn't sure whether those mound builders were the Jororo or yet an earlier people.
That was pretty much what his research had turned up. He had been frustrated at finding so little. He had thought it was much like a future archeologist determining that America had built highways and was not predominantly Buddhist.
The desire to learn more festered inside Hector for months before he let it go. Actually he never really let it go, but it wasn't in the forefront of his mind anymore.
That fleeting connection with the ancient past made him decide to have a second Vision Quest.
His first Quest had been to give him a sense of connection to his Cherokee and Seminole ancestors by doing something they had done, and that Quest had succeeded. As a bonus, he'd also had a "mini-vision", as he called it.
He'd hoped by having a second Quest close to this village site might similarly give him a sense of connection with these people. But setting up this Quest had been problematic. A Vision Quest involved solitude. The park was within the city of Lake Wales, and was surrounded by homes. The park itself was too small to contain any secluded spots. But he wanted to be close enough to the 'vibes' of the village area.
This had been an impasse until Hector had had a chance conversation with a friend. He had confided with this friend that he wanted to do a Vision Quest, and bemoaned the lack of suitable locations to use for it.
Hector knew the friend had hillside property only three miles from the park, but he hadn't known there was an old sinkhole on the hill. His friend had assured him that down in the hole Hector would get the sense of being away from everything. Once Hector had seen the sinkhole, he'd wasted no time preparing for his Quest.
During his first Quest, he'd only allowed himself a sleeping bag, insect repellant, and a plastic gallon jug of water. This Quest needed to be more basic. He wanted nothing that he wouldn't have had as a pre-Columbian Indian.
While there was no way to research the conditions of pre-historic Vision Quests, Hector had already researched the Quests of various tribes in historical times. While there were significant variations from tribe to tribe, common elements included being alone in the wilderness with no food, clothing, fire, or tools for 2 to 7 days. Water and a blanket or animal skin were usually (but not always) allowed.
Because he was pretty sure the people he'd seen were pre-Columbian, he wanted to use an animal hide as his blanket, and an animal skin water container. These had taken weeks for him to obtain.
* * *
Hector watched as the daylight faded from the sky. His Vision Quest was half over, but nothing had happened yet. Not for the first time, he considered climbing out of the sinkhole, gathering his clothes, keys, and cell phone and going home. He could make it back to his car before dark easily if he left now.
As night fell, the mosquitoes took up their serenade, even though the temperature was already dropping. Hector pulled the bear skin around him. At least the annoying insects were helping him stay awake.
The moon had been a mere sliver the night before, tonight promised to be quite dark with no moon. Hector had to be honest with himself and admit he still had some fear of the dark, but during his last Quest he'd had an overcast night where there might as well been no moon. It had been cave-dark, but he'd gotten through it.
He'd guessed right. It was pitch dark. With his eyesight useless, his senses of hearing and touch went into overdrive. He felt the slightest draft, heard the tiniest rustle, and tried to not envision all the things that could be sharing the sinkhole with him. He stayed seated within the circle of cornmeal he'd spread on the ground in the sinkhole.
As with the previous nights, time dragged. He began an internal argument with himself about whether or not this was a complete waste of time.
A renewed onslaught of mosquitoes told him dawn was approaching. He could see the sky lightening, but the sinkhole clung to its darkness tenaciously.
Hector thought he heard someone slap a mosquito at one point, but decided his lack of sleep was catching up to him. He felt certain of that, when he seemed to be seeing a face looking back at him minutes later.
He sat staring at what appeared to be eyes until they disappeared and a sudden sneeze startled him more than he'd ever been startled in his life. Someone was in the sinkhole with him!
After several skipped heartbeats, Hector became angry. He resented this interloper crashing his Vision Quest!
It was still dark enough that the intruder wouldn't have seen Hector startle, especially since the intruder had closed his eyes while sneezing. Hector decided to play it cool and appear unfazed by the intrusion. It was the only way he could see to get back at the jokester.
As more light slowly seeped into the sinkhole, Hector began to make out more details. Like himself, the intruder sat wrapped in something dark. Unlike himself, the intruder was having trouble staying awake. His eyes kept closing, and his head kept dropping forward, waking him back up, but only for seconds at a time.
At one point, the intruder's head dropped forward and stayed there. Dawn continued unfolding while the intruder snored. Before sunrise Hector could tell that , like himself, the intruder was wrapped in a bear hide.
It was full daylight before the intruder stirred. Hector had watched the top of his head for what seemed hours. Hector had already shrugged off the now too-warm bearskin, and continued to sit, watching the stranger.
Now, the stranger stretched, throwing off the bearskin. He yawned, stood up, took a few steps to his right, and began urinating.
Up to this point, Hector had thought a practical jokester was making light of his Quest by dropping in during the night with a bearskin.
Now, it seemed that this young man was as yet oblivious to Hector's presence. For the first time it dawned on Hector that maybe he was having a vision.
The young man's hair was jet black, and his brown bare skin showed no tan lines. Hector was apparently having a vision of an ancient Indian's Vision Quest. He smiled at the irony.
The young man turned and started to sit again, when his eyes went wide with terror. He was looking right at Hector.
At first, Hector thought the young man had just seen him, then realized that there must have been something or someone in the young man's own time frame that happened to be where Hector was now.
The young man relaxed, but clearly only with great effort. He spoke a stream of relieved-sounding, but totally unintelligible words.
Hector was thrilled. Was this the Jororo language he was hearing?
In a low appreciative voice, Hector said "What I wouldn't give to know what you were saying."
As he spoke, the young man's expression became more and more puzzled.
"What, are you hearing me?" Hector asked, waving his hand back and forth.
The boy waved back hesitantly.
"An interactive vision!" Hector said. "Excellent!" He then realized with disappointment that it might just be a dream. Then he rallied, realizing that even a dream in the middle of a Vision Quest was significant.
The young Indian teen began to talk excitedly, but unintelligibly until Hector raised a hand for silence. When the youth fell silent, Hector pointed to himself. "Hector," he said.
"Hector," the boy repeated with effort.
Hector pointed to the boy, who looked down at his own chest. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he looked back at Hector, puzzled.
Hector used both hands to point to his own shoulders, and repeated "Hector". Then he pointed at the boy with both hands.
The boy repeated Hector's gesture but looked puzzled as to what Hector expected. Suddenly, comprehension dawned, and the boy slapped a palm to his bare chest, straightened his posture, stuck his chin out and said "Peepee".'
Hector couldn't help himself. He broke out in uncontrollable laughter. The young man was perplexed at first, but Hector's laughter proved to be contagious. The two laughed themselves to tears. Just when things seemed to be getting back under control, one of them would start laughing again and start the cycle over.
By the time they had laughed themselves out, Hectors ribs ached, and the Indian boy's eyes were red. Hector imagined his were red as well. He deeply regretted that he lacked the language skills to explain to the boy what they had been laughing about.
They each returned themselves to their respective seats, but each soon became restless. What did one do in a vision like this, Hector wondered. He would love to see this boy's village.
He started to move close enough to draw on the ground where the boy could see, when he noticed for the first time that his cornmeal circle was gone. (He had decided on the tradition of staying put during his Quest and had made his boundary out of cornmeal.) He wasn't totally versed on 'vision etiquette', but reasoned that if there was no circle, he needn't try to stay inside it.
As Hector moved close, the boy seemed anxious at first, but quickly bent to see what Hector was drawing once he started.
Hector drew what he hoped were recognizable houses grouped together. The boy seemed to understand what he was seeing. Hector went to his bearskin, and began rolling it up for travel. Then, for no reason he could explain, set it back down. He felt it was very important something of his stay here in the sinkhole as a sort of a 'beacon'. He was afraid if he didn't leave something of his world at the Vision Quest site, he might somehow become lost and not make his way back.
He started to pick up his waterskin, but realized that 1) Peepee had not brought water, and 2) he wasn't thirsty.
When Peepee saw Hector rolling up his bearskin, he did the same.
Hector stood, and motioned for Peepee to lead. It took a few tries, but the boy seemed to get the idea and began the climb out of the sinkhole. (A surprisingly steeper climb than Hector remembered.)
Hector was pleasantly surprised when the vision/dream didn't evaporate on climbing out of the sinkhole on the hill. He'd half expected to see the city laid out below him. Instead, he saw wooded countryside. He turned around and looked across the rim of the sinkhole towards the spot where he'd left his bundle of clothing before starting his Quest. Not surprisingly, there was no bundle.
Peepee seemed surprised Hector had trouble keeping up. Hector was not used to going barefoot on rough ground. He had to choose his path carefully while Peepee seemed to have no regard for what he might step on. Hector surmised the boy had always gone barefoot, and had toughened soles. Then it hit him that this was an incredibly detailed vision to include painful walking conditions!
At one point Peepee stopped and pointed up ahead. Hector could see thatched roofs in the distance. As they moved on, the roofs disappeared. Hector wasn't surprised, with all the tree coverage.
Before long, he was hearing voices ahead. The boy and him were walking down a long hill which, if Hector was not mistaken, corresponded to Spook Hill in his own time. Although, with all the vegetation, there was no straight view down the hill like there would be in Hector's time. There would be no mysterious appearance of rolling uphill here and now.
The smell of smoke was now apparent. Hector hadn't really thought about it, but before electricity, all towns must have smelled of wood smoke.
Afer entering the village, Peepee didn't let up his pace a bit. He continued leading Hector through to a house on the far side.
It hit Hector suddenly that these buildings were chickees. He'd always associated chickees as being built on the water. These chickees were most definitely on dry land.
Well, he mused, the open walls would still admit the slightest breeze, making temperatures and bugs bearable, so why not build them on land?
They stopped in front of an older man who looked up. The man's face seemed familiar, but Hector wasn't too surprised. It seemed like a common enough face.
The man spoke to Peepee. Up till now the boy had seemed tentative toward the man. Whatever the man said, Peepee relaxed and seemed pleased. It suddenly dawned on Hector that this man was probably the village Chief.
The man looked at Hector and spoke. Hector didn't understand a word, but he hadn't really expected to.
"I have no idea what you're saying, but I am very pleased to meet you. This is the same village I saw at the festival."
The old man listened intently, maintaining solid eye contact. The intent gaze jogged Hector's memory. This was the old man who had stared at him in that brief Vision in the park!
That realization hit him like a physical blow. It was one thing to glimpse someone across the centuries in a mini-vision. It was another to have that person sitting 10 feet away.
(Granted, this was part of his Vision Quest, but the sounds, smells, hurting feet, etc. made this all seem incredibly real. Hector knew enough about Vision Quests to know not to question what was possible and what wasn't. How would he learn from the Vision if it evaporated because of his unbelief?)
He repeated the introduction ritual he'd done with Peepee. The old man's name was incredibly difficult to pronounce or remember. It dawned on Hector that this was going to be a very challenging Vision indeed.
* * *
The next several months were interesting to say the least. Early on, he found that while he could eat and drink, he didn't have to, and couldn't taste anything if he did. Similarly, he could enjoy a night's sleep, but seemed to suffer no ill effects if he skipped it.
The other villagers did not share these traits. They all needed food, water, sleep, and were subject to 'Nature Calls'. It didn't take them long to notice this difference in Hector. As he learned their language, he realized the villagers' name for him meant 'spirit'. He'd objected at first, but then realized from the villagers' point of view, the name was appropriate. He was pretty much only there in spirit.
Yet he was able to physically interact with these people. He helped out with all aspects of village life as he was able.
He began to view this as a reality unto itself. He clearly could not physically be in bodily form in pre-Columbian Florida. He'd decided that this represented a 'what-if' world. He'd often imagined ways of preparing the Indians for European contact, so they had a chance of surviving the onslaught. This vision gave him the chance to try that on some level.
Once he realized that, he eagerly learned all he could, looking for ways to help his adopted Jororo 'family'. As he learned, he also taught what he could. First Aid and knot tying were very popular with the villagers. He was certain he'd taught all the Boy Scout knots to every villager above the age of three. His Scoutmaster would have been proud.
A big frustration was that so much of what he knew depended on 20th and 21st century technology, and was therefore useless to these people. But he was pleased to teach them a little while he worked out his 'master plan' of protecting them from the Europeans.
One thing he'd not even remotely planned for was falling in love. At first, he ignored the girl's obvious interest. Then he noticed that her family seemed to have taken offense.
He'd had to stop and really consider his situation in detail. He actually did love the girl as if she were a real person, and in this reality, she was. But he absolutely knew his presence in this reality was temporary. At some point he would find himself back in a sinkhole on a hillside in 21st century Lake Wales Florida. He didn't want to abandon her like that, but he knew his departure was as inevitable as the sunrise.
On the other hand, this reality was no more real in the absolute sense than a dream was. As long as his actions within the reality of this Vision were honorable, what could be wrong with taking a wife here? He'd long ago decided to be an active participant in the Vision instead of a passive observer. He could be true to a wife and give her his devotion in good faith as long as the Vision lasted.
With that decision, he'd decided to pursue the relationship. Not having seen the process yet in this culture, he was surprised how quickly things moved. He was married within days.
Given his previous experiences in this extended Vision, he was pleased but not greatly surprised to find a few months later he was going to be a father.
Knowing that this would all cease to exist when his Vision concluded, Hector nevertheless took renewed interest in protecting this village from eventual Spanish contact. It was more personal now. He had a family to protect.
* * *
It was a boy. Still not believing this was really reality, and in 'honor' of his good friend Peepee, Hector had impishly named his son Doodoo. It would always be a private joke. He had no intention of teaching these people American slang.
Spanish was another story. While his ultimate aim was to protect these Jororos from the Spanish, communication would be essential. If the Jororos knew Spanish, but not vice versa, they would have the Spaniards at a disadvantage. Hector decided his son's generation would be bilingual. They would be ready to communicate with the Spanish when they arrived. Hector didn't know how long that would be, but they'd be ready.
Hector had thought a lot about what they would tell the Spaniards. He knew the Spanish priests had a genuine zeal to save native souls (possibly in part because they knew how much Spanish domination had ruined the natives' earthly lives). Establishing missions was very important to them. What would it take to convince a Spanish priest that they were not needed here?
* * *
That answer came to Hector when he was explaining to his 7 year-old son why it was important to ask the Creator for help before the hunt, and to thank Him afterward.
Since Hector had lived among the Jororo, he had shared Christ's teachings with them. Not the modern version with European customs heavily layered over top of the Gospel, but just what Jesus Himself actually taught: To love God with all your being, and to love others as yourself.
Considering the difficulty the priests and soldiers would have establishing missions in the remote Jororo country, finding the natives there sharing Christian principles with them in Spanish might convince them their services weren't needed.
* * *
Hector was pleased, that in the ten years he had been among the Jororos, their day-to-day lives hadn't changed much, though their health and prosperity had improved overall.
He'd learned that the Spanish wouldn't be the only threat faced by the Jororos. A fierce group from the East often came and demanded food and trade goods. In the past, some villagers had starved because these people had taken too much.
He'd read where De Soto had demanded food from the villages he visited in his expedition. Several tribes had heard De Soto was coming, and had hidden most of their goods before he had arrived. Hector figured he could borrow a page from history (even if it hadn't happened yet).
When the eastern tribe appeared the next time, they were angry, but once they had verified there was no more food in the village, they did leave.
The village Chief was extremely pleased with that, and made sure everyone in the village knew it had been Hector's idea.
* * *
Five years later, on his death bed, the Chief asked that everyone assemble by his chickee. As strongly as he could, he announced to the village that Hector was now Chief. He removed his necklace, and gave it to Hector. When the crowd dispersed, he explained that village tradition dictated that Hector put his own permanent mark on the necklace before sunset that day, and that the necklace never be allowed to touch the ground. If it ever did, it would have to be remade. Within the hour, the old Chief passed on.
Hector had fought his knee-jerk reaction of modestly turning down the honor of being Chief. Even after being in this Vision for 15 years, he still had learning to do or the Vision would have terminated. (At least, he believed that to be the case. His body had not needed food these last 15 years, so clearly this couldn't be actual reality.)
He had told the old Chief he would do his best to not disappoint him, and he'd meant it.
* * *
Hector was a grandfather now, of all things. He had nearly abandoned hope of getting back 'home' by now. He understood that dreams/Visions could seem to go on much longer than real time, but this had been extreme.
He'd led his people in a successful campaign of resistance against the eastern raiders. Once he was certain that the raiders weren't Calusa, he'd taught his own people guerrilla warfare tactics, and maintained a lookout.
After Hector's village had wiped out two successive raiding parties, they stopped coming. The village had become more of a liability than an asset.
He knew that tactic would not have worked against the Calusa, who would have massively retaliated and wiped out the village. These raiders were an intermediate group living on the Kissimmee River. They would be under tribute to the Calusa themselves. They were simply trying to shift the tribute burden off themselves and onto others.
In a way, Hector couldn't blame them, but that didn't mean he had to put up with it. Two things really disturbed him. One, was that from bits of speech he heard the raiders utter during the last raid, he realized that they might have been from another Jororo village; the other thing was the metal knife one of his villagers had taken from a raider. The Spaniards had arrived.
He wasn't nearly as concerned with what the Calusas might do to that other village if their tribute came up short.
* * *
After that last raid, Hector had stepped up his practices of teaching his people how dangerous the Spaniards were, and at the same time teaching them Spanish.
The idea that getting close to someone could spread disease was obviously difficult for many of them. He wished he had a way of inoculating them. He considered exchanging some of his own blood with them, in the wild hope that some of his antibodies would transfer. Then of course he realized that his real body was sitting in a sinkhole hundreds of years in the future having a Vision.
* * *
It had been some time since there had been a raid, and Hector was startled when the young lookout burst into his Spanish class. The boy was clearly agitated, but managed to describe the white-skinned strangers approaching from the North.
Hector dismissed the class, keeping only his senior warrior Peepee and his own son Doodoo with him. As they hurried to meet the strangers, Hector was more nervous than he'd been in years. He even had butterflies in his stomach. From the historical accounts, he knew the Priest would be accompanied by at least two, but probably more soldiers who would of course be armed.
He wanted to be sure the meeting took place well away from the village. It wasn't a chance that the Spaniards might be carrying disease - it was an absolute certainty. They were. The location of this meeting would be off limits to the villagers until a month after the next heavy rain, to give any airborne viruses a chance to be washed down into the soil. The villagers would be told never to dig there. Hector and the two warriors would be quarantined for a month after this meeting.
He and his men ran briefly, then slowed to a walk. He didn't want to startle the Spaniards. When he heard their voices, he stopped.
The soldiers walked ahead of the Priest, guns at the ready. Hector and his men stood with arms stretched out to the sides, empty palms facing the newcomers. It wasn't an accident that their poses resembled three crosses.
The soldiers startled on seeing them, , but halted and quickly regained their composure.
Before the Priest had a chance to say or do anything, Hector called out in Spanish, "Greetings, brothers in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!"
Seeing the stunned look on the Priest's face, Hector continued. "We are a poor village, and there is much sickness we do not wish to spread. Our village is too remote for profitable trade, and we have nothing special to trade anyway. I know your trip from the land of the Mayaca was long and difficult. We can provide you with food, but we have nothing else for you but the message our God has given us."
The Priest was clearly dumbfounded. When he recovered, he asked "What message?"
"Hector smiled. "Love God with all your heart, mind, and strength, and love others as yourself."
"But how can you know this?" The Priest asked. "You are still naked savages."
"Who made man's body?" Hector asked. "Can God's creation be shameful? Did God say 'Thou shalt wear clothes'?"
The Priest was clearly having trouble taking all this in. Before he could compose an answer, he and the soldiers startled at something behind Hector.
Hector turned to see two tall, robust native men he had never seen before. One of these men spoke. "This man has spoken the exact truth. These people have the Gospel. They are too remote for profitable trade. You have experienced the difficulty of traveling here. You and your countrymen have brought disease to every village you encountered, even if not intentionally. Some of your fellow Priests have greatly mistreated the native people, which you have seen yourself.
"This man has prayed that his village be spared, and God has answered that prayer. Do not enter this village."
Hector turned to look at the Priest, and was surprised to find him kneeling.
"Get up," the man behind Hector said. "Worship God, not us. Listen to His words. You may eat and sleep at this spot, then tomorrow you must move on."
"Thank you," Hector told the man.
The man motioned for Hector to come close.
When Hector did so, the man said in low tones, (and in English) "I'll pass your thanks along. I'm just following orders."
"You're an angel?" Hector asked.
"Things are not always what they seem," the man said, not actually answering the question.
Hector wondered about that for a second, then realized that this was still part of his Vision. An angel of God would have to be truthful. If the angel said yes, it would imply a real angel in a real situation, not a vision angel within a Vision. Yet saying no would render his words no more valuable than anyone else in the Vision.
"Still, thank you," Hector said.
"You're welcome. Now, we will take care of feeding and watching the visitors. You do what you need to," he said, pointing at Hector's stomach.
His gastric butterflies had by now become the most intense hunger he'd ever experienced. It wasn't just hunger, either. He'd never felt so thirsty in his life.
He couldn't go to the village to eat because of the quarantine. He knew that the hunger and thirst must be coming from his body. He needed to go back to the sinkhole.
* * *
The years had not been kind to the old bearskin. It had succumbed to the elements and lay in ruin on the sinkhole floor. Hector was amazed it hadn't been dragged off or eaten over the years.
There was nothing to do but sit and wait. The wait wasn't very long. As his hunger and thirst intensified, paradoxically his body began to feel insubstantial. At the same time, the light was fading. Before it got completely dark, he saw and felt the necklace fall right through his shadow-like body. So much for keeping it off the ground, he mused.
Sitting in the darkness now, his thirst intensified beyond endurance. He reached for his waterskin and found it right where he'd left it. He drank as much as he could stand. He laid it aside and slid into a deep dreamless sleep.
The warm sun woke him up. He finished up his water bottle and got up unsteadily. His bearskin was missing. It hadn't just fallen off while he was sleeping - it was gone.
He started to climb out of the sinkhole and soon dropped to all fours. His fasting and inactivity had weakened him. He continued climbing.
His friend had assured him no one would mess with his stuff during his Vision Quest, and sure enough, when he reached the top, there was the plastic bag with his clothes, keys, and cell phone.
He turned on the cell phone and got dressed while it booted up. He wondered how many days' work he'd missed, and whether he still had a job.
He picked up his phone and looked at the display. He was stunned. He'd only been in the sinkhole for five days. He'd planned on questing for four days and recuperating on the fifth day before returning to work. He'd just awakened from a deep sleep, and still had a night to sleep yet before he was due back at work. He hadn't missed anything!
He began walking to his car where candy bars awaited. They'd do fine on the way to his favorite restaurant.
* * *
He was at the park again. The lake really hadn't changed much over the centuries. Most everything else had, but he could still remember how the village had been laid out. He walked to where the Chief's chickee had been. Ironically, someone had placed a bench there.
Hector sat, depressed. In the Vision, he had assured the survival of this village, at least for a few generations. In reality, they'd died off pointlessly after the Spaniards arrived. All that time and effort he'd seemed to have invested was just a fantasy. What had even been the point of the Vision?
"You're not finished ," said an elderly male voice at the other end of the bench. Hector hadn't seen him approach or sit down, but that wasn't surprising, as self-absorbed as he'd been. He didn't look toward the man. He wasn't in the mood for small talk with some old stranger.
"You let it drop," the old negro man said.
Hector wondered if he was talking to someone on a cell phone or talking to himself. He sneaked a glance.
The man was looking at him intently. "You've got to do some digging," he said.
"Excuse me?" Hector replied.
"Don't be afraid to go back to the source," the man said.
This was weird. Was the man crazy? Or - "Are you an angel?" Hector asked for the second time in his life.
The man got up, and with the help of his cane, hobbled over to face Hector. "Things are not always as they seem," he said. He then shuffled over to a large Oak tree and walked around behind it. When he didn't emerge from the other side, Hector jumped up and hurried over, thinking the man had fallen.
No one was there. Hector's whole body prickled with Goosebumps. Had he imagined the man? Not unless he was still imagining the man's footprints.
* * *
As he drove, Hector listened to the man's words over and over in his memory. "You're not finished", "You let it drop", "You've got to do some digging", "Don't be afraid to go back to the source", and of course "Things are not always as they seem".
He called his friend to ask about going back to the sinkhole, and was told it was okay. He stopped at his house for a hand shovel, and drove to his friend's property.
As he reached the sinkhole, he paused. What exactly was he doing? He didn't know exactly, but it involved digging at 'the source'. He walked down into the hole.
Finding the spot he sat during his Quest was easy. He dropped to his knees and began digging.
He wasn't sure what he'd expected to find, but shells weren't on the list. He'd actually broken the first one with the shovel before putting it down and using his hands to continue digging in the loose sand. After finding four of the shells, he knew there should be a total of twelve.
After finding all twelve, he kept digging until he was satisfied there were no more. He then scooped up the shells in his tee-shirt and made his way back to his car. He was going to wait till he got home to wash them.
All the way home, he wouldn't let himself speculate. He would see what he would see at home.
He spread the dirt-encrusted shells out on his sidewalk. Enough dirt had come off just in handling that he could now see holes in three of them. He brought his garden hose over.
He'd only washed two of the shells before he found the letters HL scratched into one of them.
He turned off the hose and sat on the ground. He calmed himself and tried to sort things out.
He'd done his Vision Quest sitting a foot or so above the remnants of a shell necklace. Had he psychically picked up 'echoes' from the shells and incorporated them into his Vision?
Maybe, but that didn't explain his initials, carved in his own distinctive style on one of the shells.
Yet how could he have truly gone back in time in bodily form while his actual body sat in the present, growing hungry and thirsty?
The old man said he wasn't finished. What had he meant? Was this all going to fall in place and make sense at some point?
He got up and started washing off the rest of the shells. He kept churning the questions around in his mind.
When he'd put the shells safely away inside, he decided to take his own advice. As Chief, he'd told his villagers that when they weren't sure of something to pray about it, being very specific.
He remembered the story of Gideon's fleece. He didn't have Gideon's patience though, so he prayed "God, I know you've sent me a Vision, as well as two angels (or maybe one twice), but I guess I'm a bit dense. I would love to believe that village survived the coming of the Spaniards, but that's based on me having actually been there, and I'm pretty sure my body stayed here. If the Vision were literally true, I married and fathered children there, yet my body never had to eat or drink. You can understand my skepticism.
"If they did survive, they would have eventually been absorbed by the Seminoles, and so some of them could actually be my ancestors. It's kind of a big deal to know.
"So. I am going to ask a big favor, and I know I'm pushing things after what You've already done. When I turn on the radio, could you let whatever song is playing, or whatever someone is saying answer my question?"
Hector paused, feeling a bit silly. Then he turned on his radio. The DJ was talking.
"I know I said I'd take the next request and play it if I had it, so I kind of set myself up here. I am a firm believer that the Big Guy upstairs has a great sense of humor, and this is a prime example. This isn't a song we'd normally even have at this station, much less play, but I had it here with my personal CDs, and a promise is a promise, so Hector, enjoy."
If he had not already been paying close attention, that last part would have done it. The song began, sounding like an old-time Country Western tune. It described a man marrying an older widowed woman who had a grown daughter. The singer's father then married the widow's daughter.
Hector was wondering how in the world this odd song was supposed to relate to him until the chorus hit. "I'm my own grandpa. I'm my own grandpa. It sounds funny I know, but it really is so. I'm my own grandpa."