Rumor was he came from Mexico. A big Mexican — the biggest I’d ever seen. But he didn’t look Mexican. He was a gringo with red hair and green eyes. A giant Mexican flag.
Hammer, he said.
I hefted the sledgehammer with both arms and handed it over to him. Wind ripped and tugged at us violently. The big man took the sledgehammer with one hand and set himself to strike the coffin. Bare branches crashed and screamed above our heads. It seemed the wrong time to ask where he was from.
The big man smashed the wood with one blow. Darkness surrounded us everywhere. We always worked by moonlight, but tonight the skies had shifted unexpectedly, veiling the moon and leading the storm’s charge. The big man tore at the coffin with his bare hands, his massive back to me. I heard a noise like a pig squeal and swung my rifle in that direction. Wind perforated my clothes, cut into my skin.
I’ve got something, he said.
I leaned over his crowded frame but could not see in the darkness.
What is it? I said.
He stood, unfolding his shoulders to stand erect. His body extended vertically so that it seemed he was being born, his head rising upward to the skeletal tree branches whipping with the gales, to the moon shrouded in the distant black. He turned and I noticed the eyes first, golden light embedded deep in the eyes of the skull, the Mexican’s hands enveloping the artifact to respect its delicacy and power.
What is it? I said again, mesmerized.
Then weightlessness, light fading to black.
I woke on my back with the Mexican standing far above me, trees surrounding him in the moonlit background. The wind had calmed. I could not move or speak, but fully sensate and aware, felt the granules of earth on my skin, felt the coolness of the dirt on my face rolling down my cheek, as the Mexican worked silently, just the rhythmic scrape of steel shovel into broken earth.