In the psychically charged vortexes of Sedona, with its stunning red rock cliffs that appear to glow a brilliant orange and red in the setting sun, you will find the Hassayampa Crystal Shop. There are many crystal shops in Arizona that carry semi precious stone for healing, love, protection, and almost anything else you desire, but the Hassyampa is the only place that claims to have actual Angel Stones.
The old man looked up as the door to the quaint whitewashed shop opened. He felt the crackle and heard the sounds of static electricity even before he noticed the tall blonde man standing in the doorway, smirking.
"Mastema; Tester of Humans..." whispered the old man, "Master of the Dark, Destroyer of Light; able to bring out the very worst in people."
"Oh, you flatter me, Vince! Sometimes, I really miss the old names... You Navajo's are so creative! Honestly, I didn't think you'd recognize me with the added height, and glorious blonde hair. Trust me, blondes do have more fun!"
"You could disguise yourself as a large purple cougar, and we'd still recognize you. The light sees through the darkness; it's the way it's always been," the wizen albino said.
"Vince, Vince, Vince! Don't you tire of all those old colorful sayings? Is your granddaughter around?" He squinted and peered around the shop.
"You can deal with me," he snapped, as his long white hair fluttered from the static electricity."
"Nice try, but that's not how this works, and you know it. If you're not sure, check with your Council of Elders... Oh wait, I can see by the look on your face that you already have!" He said making a sympathetic face with his lower lip stuck out.
Vince said nothing, but worked his jaw back and forth feverishly. He raised his chin and closed his eyes. "That's better," he said as the static electricity stopped.
"Spoil sport," Mas smiled, "but I know you won't tell her about me. She must face me by herself, if she can. We both know how the game is played, old man."
"She will know you, and she will beat you; just as I did, and her father did."
"Are you sure? You know you can call this all off right now, you and the Council of Elders. Then you know what must be done."
"I cannot. The elders have spoken." Maven entered the room and stopped short with a soft gasp. She stared at Mas questioningly with a frown.
"Maven, isn't it? Tell me… Hassayampa; I'm unfamiliar with that word," he smiled dryly.
"Hassayampa is an Apache word meaning "river that runs upside down. And you are...?"
"Why would they have the need for such a word?"
"The Hassayampa is a real river that runs underground except for a short length above ground. It is very unusual," Maven said trying not to show irritation.
"So... you named your store after it?"
"It means so much more. Either you get it or you don't," she smiled warmly. "But I'm guessing that you already know that."
"Oh, I see!" he laughed heartily.
"No, you don't. Who are you?" she demanded.
"My name is Mas. I am a traveling barterer, of sorts. I am a procurer by trade, who is in town for just a short while," he said studying her closely. "Your skin is the color of caramel, and your hair and eyes are such a shiny black. Yes, you are truly lovely."
She glanced at the grandfather questioningly. He stared back without a flinch.
"Why do you wear those dreary long skirts and all those bangles? They're very dated you know.
"Yes, I do know. I find them comfortable, and very earthy. They're very much me. You should come in some time when I'm wearing my sari. That should really freak you out," she said as she dropped her smile.
"You're really not bothered by anything I say to you, are you?" He looked at her quizzically.
"Should I be? Opinions are like noses; everyone has one."
"Yes," he droned. "You have many lovely things here, except for the atrocious purple crap, and those odd blue stones."
"Most people love amethyst and the blue stones are Angel Stones."
Mas laughed. "Seriously, Angel Stones? What are they for, or rather, what do they do?"
"They facilitate in contacting your angels, of course."
"Why?" Mas laughed loudly.
"What would you want to contact an angel for anything at any time?" Mas sneered.
"For guidance, generally, and sometimes just to stay in contact," she smiled gently.
"Seriously," he whispered, trying not to show his anger.
"Again, either you get it or you don't," she shrugged with a smile, knowing she's found a sore spot in the mysterious man.
He said nothing, but glared intently. "You will soon find that I am not most people," he whispered.
Maven glanced around her shop nervously.
"I sense you are upset, my dear. Is there anything wrong?"
"No! Yes, it's just that my cat ran away this morning. She always comes to work with me, but today when I got to the shop, she screeched and jumped out of my arms, as if something spooked her. I'm just worried about her... and I have no idea why I'm telling you this!"
"By now, she's probably been eaten by a mountain lion or a javelina," he said flatly.
"Why would you say something like that?" Her eyes filled with tears.
"Why on earth would a simply action of the food chain upset you so?"
"Because, I love my cat; Mello is very dear to me! Haven't you ever loved anyone or anything?" she asked as she picked up one of her favorite crystals. It was icy cold. She blinked hard.
"No, I have not; not in that sense, anyway. Oh, I crave, I desire, I loathe, I desperately need... but love? Not so much," he laughed.
"You are most definitely the most pathetic man I've ever met," she said in a half whisper.
Mas raised one eyebrow and frowned.
"I apologize... I didn't mean to say that out loud."
"How deliciously interesting; you are afraid of hurting my feelings! My dear, precious creature; you seem truly good, but we will see."
"Oh..." she exhaled and nodded. Maven closed her eyes and took a very deep breath, while making large circles with the arms. "Okay, so you were saying?"
"Oh, indeed; you've blocked me... Well played," he huffed as he turned and left the store.
"Who was that man, Shi'nali?" She asked as her grandfather was suddenly standing beside her. He said nothing, and limped into the back room.
She started to follow, but stopped. One of our legends speaks of a test. Is this my test? Am I to take over as keeper of the light? Her grandfather watched through a slit in the curtain with his hand over his heart.
Maven took the next several hours moving large pieces of amethyst around the store, connecting the five corners to create a pentagram.
"I am ready," she said confidently. Vince smiled and nodded.
"Can you tell me anything? What to expect, clues, keys; anything?"
"You know it all has to do with keeping the world in balance, but, I cannot, my dear; it's not allowed. You must pass or fail on your own, as your father did, as I did and my mother did. This goes back to the beginning of time; it's not a game."
"If this means you will be going home soon, Shi'nali, I will not do it! I refuse," she said with tears in her eyes.
"You know it's neither a right nor choice. Believe me, I don't plan to die soon, but everything has its season; some and long and some are short. I am already ninety-seven years old. Your mother and father's season was only fifty-three years. We have no choice in this."
"Please, no more old family quotations! My parents both died much too young. It was not good versus evil or light versus dark. It was a car accident, plain and simple. A drunk driver crossed over the center line and wiped them out!" She began to sob.
"I know, Pumpkin. My point is, none of us know how long our string is," he said as he stroked her head. She wiped her eyes and kissed him on the cheek.
"You've already done well, just relying on your instincts."
"The pentagram?" she nodded.
"It's just seemed like the wise thing to do," she shrugged.
"But before that, you recognized Mas as being..." he began.
"Just not right," she interrupted. "He knows you, I'm sure of that, and I know you know him, and I know you can't tell me who he is. Am I right?"
"Not bad, and instinctively you went for the amethyst for confirmation," he smiled with pride.
"Funny, I didn't even think about it. I just picked it up," she mumbled. "Icy cold; just like the old stories."
"Instinct," he repeated.
"What else can I expect?"
He just looked at her blankly.
"Okay, okay, so you can only confirm what I already suspect, but nothing else."
Before she could ask anything else, the bell on the shop door rang, and in walked a well-dressed portly woman in a silver pageboy. She looked around the shop, as if she had a bad smell under her nose.
Maven smiled and nodded, which the woman ignored.
Finally, the woman blurted out, "I need amethyst!"
Maven chuckled and told her that the shop was full of amethyst.
"Yes, but I want something set in 24 carat gold, or at least 18 carat. I don't see anything like that here," she said with more than a little distain.
"Hassayampa is an earth store of natural rocks, for healing, protection and such. I think you're looking for more of a jewelry store," she said with a smile.
"No..." she droned sarcastically, "my therapist told me to come here and get amethyst.
"Please, have a seat and tell me exactly what you need this stone for. Then perhaps I can help you." Maven was a truly good soul, and always anxious to help those in need.
"I have some issues with my friends, and I need amethyst; that's all," she said with of her hand."
Maven raised her eyebrows and waited for further information.
"When I go to my therapist, he always asks about my relationships. I tell him all about the people I work with, my neighbors and everyone I know. They all have a lot of problems," she gasped hoping Maven would ask.
"Like what, if you'd like to tell..."
"Certainly, if you think it would help. Some of them are gossips; some are users; some just plain losers. Most of the people I work with are not very good at their jobs. Well, not as good at their jobs, as I am... just the usual things."
"I see," Maven said with a straight face.
"My therapist says that a lot!" she giggled.
"I see the problem with all of this. Your therapist cannot help the people you work with, or your friends. He can only help you. And just how does telling tales on all your acquaintances help anyone?"
"If all my friends are bad, maybe I need a better class of friends, of course! I simply need the stone to ward off losers. It's really very simple," the woman said with yet another wave of her hand.
"Possibly, but maybe he's trying to tell you, to have good friends, you must be a good friend," Maven said gently.
"That is ridiculous! How could I expect someone like you to understand", she said as she left and slammed the door.
"That went rather well," her grandfather smiled.
"Was she part of my test? I don't know if I passed or failed that one!"
"No, Maven, she was not. She was what the Council of Elders calls a bitch!"
They both laughed and hugged. "I'll finish up today. You go home and get
some rest, Shi'nali. You look tired," Maven said as she pushed the old man towards the door.
He hesitated and wanted to say something, but he knew he couldn't, so he left with a deep sigh.
Maven was getting ready to close up for the night when the skies darkened and she could hear the sound of distant thunder; lightening reflected off the red cliffs. She knew the red-orange color of the rock was neuro-stimulating, and said to enhance creative thinking and problem solving, but she also knew they were so much more. She thought of them as Mother Nature's red-rock temples.
She suddenly felt a deep chill when the door blew open. When she turned to close it, Mas stood in the doorway. A bolt of lightening struck behind him illuminating his silhouette against the dark street.
"Very dramatic!" She clapped and laughed.
Mas raised his arms as a lightening bold struck along with an earth-shattering clap of thunder. Maven jumped. A strong smell of sulfur filled the shop and made Maven feel like puking.
"Okay, so that's pretty cool," she gagged.
Mastema laughed and bowed. "So is your grandfather still here?"
"No, he was tired so I sent him home. How do you know him?"
"We've been acquaintances for decades. He's never told you?"
"No. What do you want from me," she asked firmly.
"Nothing much; I just want to get to know you a little better. Okay, so I want to prove to myself that you're just as selfish, greedy and self-centered as the rest of the talking monkeys."
"Oh, is that all..." she droned."
"Yep, that's all," he began as he stepped into the shop, and jumped back. "So, you know about... Vince told you!" He roared as static electricity filled the room and all the amethyst began to glow; the whole room turned frigid.
"My grandfather told me nothing. It's not allowed, and you know it," she whispered to counteract his roar.
"Not many monkeys know about the amethyst pentagram. Am I to believe that you came up with it on your own?"
"Apparently so, Mastema. Yes, I know who you are! The internet has all the information in the world. Again, I ask you: what do you want with me?"
"Are you strong enough to face me without blocking?"
"Yes, I am strong enough, like all the others in my family," she growled.
"I see... so will you break the pentagram so I can come in?" He said as he tried to smile.
"No, but I will get you a chair so you can sit in the doorway. It just seems prudent," she smiled back.
"Back to Vince... I remember how very upset he was when your parents died. He worried so for you. He called you his fragile little bird."
"My grandfather thinks I'm fragile?"
"Yes, of course. You are alone in the world. Anyone alone is fragile," Mas said gently looking up through the top of his eyes.
"But I have him! I'm not alone," she gasped. Mas smiled gently now that he found her weak spot.
"He's ancient. I have it on good authority he's almost dead, any day now. He's going to fall over from a heart attack. He won't die right away though... there will be a lot of pain first. Oh, a whole lot of pain..."
"Stop it, damn it!" She began to cry.
"See, how very fragile you are? You're crying just like when your parents died."
"Just shut the hell up! Don't you dare..."
He ignored her and continued. "Did you ever wonder what your mother thought just before the car hit them? It hit right on her side, folding it up like a cheap paper fan. Do you think she had time to say 'I love you' to your father?"
Maven picked up a large piece of amethyst and threw it at him, pegging him in the forehead. As it hit, it made an odd sizzling sound. He growled and thunder roared all around them.
"You see, optimists are continually disappointed, but pessimists are never disappointed. You are doomed, my Nubian beauty, and your poor father..."
"My father was an amazing man; nothing poor about him," Maven growled.
"Do you think right before he died, he had a moment of clarity and blamed himself for driving too fast, or too slow? Could he have avoided the car? Was he paying attention or did his mind wander just for a split second that caused the whole thing?"
Maven sobbed uncontrollably; as if he sensed every question or fear, she'd ever had.
Mas began to smile knowing he was about to win when a shrill shriek muffled the fury of the thunder and lightening that surrounded them. Another bright flash of lightening was a backdrop to an even brighter white and purple blur, with razor sharp claws!
The claws dug deeply into Mas' flesh. He howled like a wounded animal as brilliant lightening bolt struck, and Mas disappeared in a flash of sulfur. Maven's ears were still ringing when she realized that it was over, and her cat was back in her arms.
"Marshmallow, you're back... you're back!" She gasped, still choking from the smell of sulfur.
"Where did you get this amethyst collar?" She smiled brightly as she examined the beautiful amethyst rope.
"Ah, Grandfather..."He said you'd be there when I needed you." Marshmallow sneezed several times and rubbed his eyes.
"I understand I have a lot to do... we will be ready when he returns. I will block him from the moment I get even a whiff of sulfur!
Maven sigh deeply as she kicked the door shut. "Life is good..."
Cheryl Gray's short story "Tales from Death Row" appeared in Twilight Times Summer 2012 issue.
She has written several sci-fi novels, all with paranormal elements. Currently she's working on sci-fi fantasy: "Retropan---a Space Oddity" and a murder mystery: "Fade to Black".
Check out her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/cheryl.gray.927 "Stories that walk the line between the paranormal and reality".
She also writes a Facebook blog: The Sabertooth Sisterhood, "When you've evolved past the cougar stage and boy-toys!"
A former IT Project/Program Manager, Cheryl now devotes her time between volunteer work and following her passion of writing. Having lived in southwest where many of her stories take place, she and her husband now live in Colorado.
Read another story by Cheryl:
Published by permission of the author.