“Will, are you kidding? Do you even hear what I’m explaining to you? I don’t understand what there is to think about?”
“I don’t know Mike, maybe I don’t want to drive fifteen hours to New Mexico for some fucking three hundred dollar mythical firework that we don’t even know exists?”
“First of all, it’s twelve hours tops if I’m driving. Second, it definitely exists. Third, is it even an option to not do this? Doesn’t the mere possibility of such an epic and destructive device being in our possession make it worth your while? I popped half a chub explaining it to you just now.”
“I guess, but there are too many variables.”
“Like who made this ridiculous thing and why only make one? And If you are going to make only one of something why leave it in the shittiest place on the planet and only charge 300 bucks for it? It makes no sense.”
“If you knew anything about anything you would know that mythical shit like this doesn’t have to make sense. It can’t make sense. That’s part of the lore.”
“Well if you must know, I know for a fact that it’s real. My cousin is the one that told me about it.”
“Christ. Last year didn’t he spot Osama Bin Laden at Safeway?”
“Is it safe to assume that he was incorrect?”
“Yeah. But this is totally different.”
“It just is dude, look I didn’t even tell you the best part. The back story on this thing is fucking bananas. My cousin told me this old Cherokee has it inside of his smoke shop. It’s been there since as long as anybody can remember, just sitting on the back shelf behind the counter. They say this particular stick of gunpowder was crafted by the devil himself on the day god banished him to hell. He swore that this device would avenge his unearthly injustice. When Lucifer rose from the hollows of the underworld to commence his day of reckoning he found a lone Indian in the midst of an opium induced pilgrimage across what we know today as New Mexico. The devil saw this hungry and dehydrated individual as an easy soul to prey on and decided to indulge himself before exacting his revenge on god. He disguised himself as a human traveler and approached the mysterious Indian to offer him a deal. He told him that he too was a traveler and saw that the Indian was low on supplies and would surely not make it out of the desert alive. Satan continued to explain that he would gladly trade all of his supplies for those of the Indian if he could best him in a simple challenge. Unbeknownst to the lord of the underworld, this, so to speak, was not this Indian’s first rodeo. He easily saw through the devils ruse and accepted the challenge. The devil in disguise initially suggested a foot race, but the Indian declined explaining: ‘Kind friend, is it wise to assume that you would have an unfair advantage considering my weakened state? I beg that you consider a fairer challenge.’ The devil didn’t expect this but decided to humor the poor traveler in what was sure to be the final moments of his life. He proposed to the Indian a throwing competition instead. Whoever could throw a stone the furthest would win. After hearing this proposition the Indian repeated: ‘Kind friend, is it wise to assume that you would still have an unfair advantage considering my weakened state? I beg that you consider a fairer challenge.’ The devil grew frustrated with himself for even wasting time on the old fool. The Indian saw this impatience as an opportunity. He asked the devil: ‘would you agree to a drinking contest? Whichever one of us can fill his belly with water first wins.’ The devil could hardly contain his laughter. This Indian was surely thirsty but there would never be a man or beast capable of out drinking the ruler of hell. Being cast from the heavens into a river of flames tends to leave most thirsty for quite a while. Needless to say, the devil agreed to the challenge and filled up two large canteens of water. On the mark of three by the devils count the contest began. Satan watched in his human form as the dry and thirsty old man brought the jug to his lips and began to empty its cool contents into his mouth with the look of a man who had not felt moister in weeks. After several seconds Lucifer did the same. He smiled as he opened up his throat and poured the water in as fast as it would exit the jug. He finished sometime before the Indian, letting out a gasp and wiping the wetness from around his mouth with the back of his hand. When the Indian finally brought the container away from his face to suggest he could drink no more, it was still nearly half full. Satan had expected no other result to come of the competition but was none the less satisfied with his hard earned victory. ‘I could not possibly drink one more drop’ admitted the Indian. The devil was now in an up roar; his loud billowing laughter echoed off of canyon walls miles away. He then swooped up the Indian’s canteen with one hand and drank the remaining water. ‘I suppose you could probably drink one or two more of those?’ asked the Indian as he nourished his now bloated gut with his hands. This ignited only more laughter. ‘Kind friend’, the devil mocked with laughter booming in his voice, ‘I could drink one hundred more of those jugs if I wanted.’ ‘Then I guess’, said the Indian with a sudden air of smugness in his voice ‘that makes me the winner’. The devils smile only grew with the seemingly ridiculous statement. ‘How do you figure that? I drank twice as much as you.’ ‘That you did,’ replied the Indian, ‘but the wager was who could fill their belly the quickest. Not who could drink the quickest.’ The devil had been duped. Tricked into agreeing to a challenge he could never win. But he would not let this old man get the best of him. He turned over his supplies to the Indian as they had agreed, but before returning to hell he took the old mans tongue and eyes, and cursed him with eternal life as a blind mute. Forced to wander the hot desert for the rest of eternity without the eyes that saw through the devils disguise and the sharp witted tongue that tricked Lucifer himself. Amongst the devils possessions won that day by the Indian was a firecracker. A firecracker unlike any other on the planet. A firecracker hand crafted by the ruler of the underworld to earn revenge on the lord almighty. A firecracker that now resides in a smoke shop in New Mexico. A firecracker simply called, The Hell Raiser.”
“The Hell Raiser?”
“The Hell Raiser.”
“I know man.”
“Dude, I know”
“It sounds like bullshit but man, you are a good ass story teller.”
“For real I’ve got chills dude.”
“So are you in or what?”
“Eh, I don’t know.”
“Alright, alright I’ll go, but your buying gas.”
The smoke shop was everything you would expect and less. Calling the place a shit heap would be doing shit heaps everywhere a severe injustice. The red brick building, like many of New Mexico’s finest establishments, was less than fifty feet away from a highway absolutely riddled with less than charming truckers and overweight tourists packed into station wagons and minivans. The barely legible sign crusted above the door read simply: “smokes”, but a trip inside proved that this too was a disappointment. Actually, aside from the dime bag of peyote in the Indian’s back pocket, nothing in the shop fit under the category of “smokes”. The dusty glass shelves were packed with items that looked as if the owner had either made them himself or found them in the desert behind the shop. Said items included, but were not limited to: poorly crafted dream catchers of all shapes and sizes with different color beads and feathers attached, lighters in the shape of breasts, smiling plastic cats with arms that infinitely bobbed up and down, various pairs of knock off sunglasses, expired chap stick, lighters in the shape of dicks, rocks, and a less than impressive collection of erotic literature.
Beyond the counter was the shopkeepers living area. It was a modest, but fitting little abode, comprised of an old military cot and a completely exposed toilet. If any bathing or washing took place it was most likely with the water from the spigot out back, but more likely not occurring at all. Above the living area behind the counter was a shelf reserved for the Indian’s most coveted possessions. Included on this shelf was: a framed black and white photograph of a Native American woman, a vile of unknown liquid, a six inch fixed blade hunting knife, a non functioning World War Two revolver, and a lone unlabeled firecracker.
The dynamite had sat on the shelf, untouched, for years, its brown paper wrapping now curling at the edges with age. No taller than five inches and maybe an inch and a half thick it resembled a roll of quarters with a fuse. Despite the thick layer of dust it had collected over its tenure on the shelf, and its uncreative packaging, the supposed doomsday device retained a certain indescribable glow. This glow, so we are clear, was not in the metaphorical sense. Upon inspection, one can easily distinguish an orange hue emerging from within the firecracker, even in the brightest desert sun. The glow was so noticeable that if the Indian were not blind, it may have kept him up at night. The unearthly incandescence drew the moderate attention of locals and tourists alike, but the high price tag and fear of potentially opening a gate to hell kept anyone from actually purchasing the explosive. That is, until today.
Will and Mike entered the shop on a blazing July afternoon. They had spent the previous sixteen hours slowly roasting on the inside of a sedan traveling through the desert, but the inside of the stuffy shop made them long for the comparably refreshing 115 degree leather seats. When they entered, a bell above the door rattled, but judging by the reaction of the shop keeper you wouldn’t have known it. He sat there, staring straight ahead with the two patches of flesh that the devil left him, unaffected by the arrival of the travelers. Mike, giddy with excitement upon spotting the desired treasure on the back shelf, approached the shopkeeper.
“Hello sir. First off, I would like to compliment you on your shop, it’s very charming.” The Indian sat motionless, so much so that one could barely tell if he was breathing. “Alright, well, I guess that brings me to the business I have here in your fine establishment. My associate Will and I would like to purchase one Hell Raiser please.”
The Indian now became animated. He raised his eyebrows slightly and cracked his mouth open barely enough to show off all of three teeth. After a pause, he spoke: “uu wa a hire cacker?”
“uu uh ere oo eiy a hire cacker?”
“Ok, I got nothing. Do you understand a word coming out of this guys mouth Will?”
“I can’t hear a thing over his breath. It’s making my eyes water.”
“Sir, is there anyone here that speaks English?”
The Indian opened his mouth and pointed inside to a dry blackened stump where his tongue once was. He moved this pointed finger to the glowing explosive behind him.
“Holy shit. Hire cacker.”
The Indian nodded.
“So what are we going to do now that we have it?”
“What do you mean? We’re going to blow some shit up. Will, do you even get why we drove all this way?”
“Yeah but what about the consequences, the myth? What if something bad happens?”
“Oh now you believe. What happened to ‘bullshit’?”
“I know but did you see his mouth? And his eyes?”
“Yeah I saw.”
“Well it’s just like the myth. Blind and mute.”
“Of course it is. People make up stories all the time. Someone in this boring ass little town saw this poor old bastard and made up some story.”
“But what about the glow? You cant deny that.”
“I don’t know. Radioactive exposure, the same shit in rave sticks? Listen to yourself right now.”
“You’re right. So, what do you want to blow up?”
“Hmm. I hadn’t put much thought into it. Whatever we blow up we should do it in the desert, safety first you know.”
“Oh of course, always.”
“What if we blew up a cat?”
“Ok, different plan.”
“Nah, we need something to really test the power of this thing.”
“Wait, remember that old abandon shack we passed on the way up here?”
“The one just past the gas station?”
“I like where this is going.”
“I bet this thing would blow that little shed to kingdom fucking come.”
The table was set for what these boys were sure would be the most epic fireworks display ever witnessed. They waited until night fall to drive down what could hardly be described as a road, to the desired blast zone. At about 1:30 in the morning the boys, bringing along Mike’s slightly younger cousin Corey, arrived at a small wooden establishment about a mile from the highway. The boys ventured inside to take a first and final look at the structure. It wasn’t much bigger than the small smoke shop they had been in earlier the day before. Inside was one large room, completely empty with the exception of some rodent feces piling up in the corner closest to the door. Although it had long since been stripped, it was easy to tell how this person had lived. Along the East wall was a refrigerator shaped stain in front of the only electrical outlet in the entire room. Directly across from that on the opposite side one could tell where a bed sat for many years by the worn wall a foot above floor level. The North wall showed no signs of wear and held the shacks only window, which looked out onto a debilitated outhouse about thirty feet further into the desert. All of the wood had swelled up and dried out from so many seasons of rain and heat that it looked as if a sneeze might bring it toppling to the ground. None the less, the boys decided it the perfect target. After a brief discussion it was decided that Corey, having not chipped in at all to pay for the firework, would be the one to risk a premature explosion by igniting the ancient fuse while the other two supervised from a distance. After the lighting, the boys would run about 200 feet to watch the show from the cover of Mike’s car. A little excessive? Maybe, but you can’t blame them for being excited. Things started off without a hitch. After the glowing firework was placed in the middle of the room and was successfully lit, the boys took off in a dead sprint through the desert until all three had slid behind Mike’s car and turned to watch the fruits of their labor.
It was several minutes before anything happened. The boys stood there in silence, panting and staring at the house with a desperation in their eyes that looked as if their whole young adulthood were hinged on this single event. As if this were to be the defining moment in their life. After what felt like an eternity of waiting, just as the boys were ready to give up, something happened. A noise. Barely audible at first, it grew louder by the second. It was a rumbling, like the sound of an avalanche. The house began to shake violently, followed shortly after by the ground beneath the house, and then the ground where the now terrified boys stood. Just as the house seemed to be seconds away from crumbling, it all stopped. The silence, louder than ever, rang in the boys ears as they stood in udder shock at what they had just witnessed. After exchanging looks of disbelief, the boys silently agreed to approach the barely standing structure. Unbeknownst to them, this was what most people might refer to as the eye of the storm. As soon as they had stepped into the open, the movement and noise abruptly began again. This time the old shack and the boys would not be so lucky. The earth began to divide and swallowed the house whole. From within the ever growing canyon flowed a blinding white light that lit up what seemed to be all of New Mexico from the ground, up. Had they not been running for their lives, the boys might have seen the car they were using as protection being dragged into the rapidly expanding crack in the earth. Their panicked yells were drowned out by the sounds the earth made as it pushed itself apart and the screams coming from within the hollows of the crevice. They were quickly overcome by the natural disaster and fell. Fell down into a place they didn’t want to believe existed. Each one of them made a dull ‘plop’ noise as they smacked into the molasses like liquid, their flesh burning off before they could remember to scream. This insignificant little episode was overshadowed by a much greater spectacle occurring back on the surface. He had finally risen once again. After centuries of waiting and planning, he was making his first return to the surface since his run in with the sharp witted Indian. The firecracker, as believed by locals, was not a firecracker at all, but instead a key to unlock a gateway for Satan and his minions to scour the earth far and wide for souls to fill hell with. Miles down the road, an old Indian was awoken by a sound he had heard only once before. He lay completely still on his cot, listening to the laughter of an old friend, and smiling at the beginning of The End.