|By Logan Hawkes
Some things in life are just too good to believe. This is not one of those tales. In fact, this tale is creepy and - to say the least - hard to believe. It started with a phone call rather late at night.
A man, middle aged would be my guess, with a raspy voice was on the other end of the phone. He claimed to be a lifelong biker from the “San Antonio area”, who said he had spent the last few months bumming around across the Mexican border. He wanted to know if I planned to republish a story that appeared in last year’s PARADE about road gremlins.
“Probably not,” I explained. “I might use it again in the future. Did you want a copy of the article?” I assumed that was the purpose of his call.
“No,” came the slow response. “But I thought you might like to hear a little story.”
There was a long, pregnant pause on the other end of the phone. The hour was late and I wasn’t that interested in his story. But, what the heck, if it made for good material, I was game.
“All right, let’s hear it,” mildly interested, I reluctantly agreed. There was another pause.
“I’m not a nut case you know,” he sounded sincere. “But I spent that last several weeks shaking off a divorce. I spent some time in Mexico a number of years back, but I had never taken the Hog on a Mexican road trip...” he said.
The biker, who chose not to reveal his identity, said he headed toward Cabo where he “knew a couple of people” but wanted to take the long road there. He said he wanted to skirt Mexico City because of the traffic, but had always wanted to see the Aztec ruins north of the big city, a place he called TEOT.
I knew the place. In fact, I have been there. I could understand why he would want to visit it. It’s rather magical. Once the epicenter of the Toltec civilization, and later the Aztecs, Teotihuacan is known as “The City of the Gods”. It’s towering pyramids and broad and ancient avenues of stone are some of Mexico’s most fabled landmarks. Central to the ancient ruins are the Pyramids of the sun and the moon, and a long and wide stone pathway called the “Avenue of the Dead”. I was getting interested in his story at this point. I told him so.
“Then if you’ve been there you know the place is kinda creepy. And I recommend you don’t go there at night,” he offered.
I prepared myself for what was to come. Teotihuacan is a National Historic Park, and there is no access at night, except for special tours held on special holidays. But Harley (a name I gave the caller because I never got his real name), said he had arrived a short time before sunset.
“It cost me $20 bucks and I was told I had less than an hour before the gates closed. They have a lot of guards posted there because looters had struck the site on many past occasions. Once inside - the place is huge - I quickly got lost and the hour passed far too quickly, so I was technically still inside when the place closed down,” he said. “I had seen a couple of guards walking around from a perch on one of the bigger pyramids, but I skirted them in hopes
of staying a few more minutes before they kicked me out. It was a mistake,”
What happened next is the hard part to believe.
“I’m not a spooky kind of guy. I don’t frighten easy and I don’t believe in ghosts or monsters or anything like that. But like most everyone else, I do have a few superstitions. For one, I have a gremlin bell on my bike, and another one that my ex gave me that I have attached to my key ring. I paid a local to watch my bike outside the front gate, but I had my key chain hooked to my belt when I went inside - and I’m glad I did. I think it saved my life,” Harley sounded sincere.
“Look, here’s the short of it. I watched the sun set in the mountains from the side of a pyramid and was climbing down the steep steps as twilight set in. It wasn’t dark yet, but it was getting there. At the bottom, I rounded a corner of this giant pyramid and almost stumbled over three guys waiting there - just hanging out in this national park that was supposed to be closed. They weren’t guards. That was obvious by the way they were dressed and the way they were acting, especially the big one. He seemed like the ringleader or something.”
“My Spanish isn’t good, but it isn’t that bad either, and when the big guy spoke to me I knew he wasn’t speaking Spanish. I knew immediately these guys were up to no good. The other two were looking around nervously. I assumed they were watching for guard patrols that police the grounds when it’s closed. But the big guy didn’t seem concerned about anything. After a few more words in a language I have never heard before, he spoke to me in Spanish. Not very good Spanish, but I understood what he said - or most of it. He wanted to know what I was doing there. I told him in Spanish that I was just taking in the sites, and then I lied to him when I said I was waiting on
a few friends who were late arriving.”
“When he laughed it sounded almost demonic. But he was the only one to laugh. His two companions looked as though they didn’t like the sound of that laugh anymore than I did. One was scowling and the other looked frightened. That’s when I began to realize I was going to have to fight my out of this one. This guy meant me no good at all, and I got to thinking about the small Buck knife I had stashed in my bed roll back at the border the day before, wishing I still had it strapped on my belt. This was going to be nasty I could tell, and I was in a bad place staring down
three desperados who looked like they just as soon kill me as give me the time of day.”
“I told them, again in Spanish, that they were making a mistake. I lied again and told them I had been robbed in Guadalajara the day before and that I didn’t have any cash or valuables. I didn’t think they would buy it, but I was now hoping one of those guards with the rifles would come strolling along any minute and save my butt. What happened next was a surprise, and it sent chills down my spine - literally. The big, raspy guy, the straw boss, laughed at me with a weird kind of laugh.”
“What makes you think we want your money gringo? I want your soul...” he said.
“Or blood. I’m not sure which because something got lost in the translation, and admittedly, at this point I was thinking of my best defensive posture and not really spending a lot of time on getting the words right. I knew I was facing a do or die situation there as the night began to slip over the pyramids. The shadows of those big buildings were gone, replaced by the mystery of the night. It was technically still the summer, but there was a chill to the mountain air and alarms were going off inside of my head,” he said.
I could actually hear the trembling in his voice as he recounted the story. He was either an expert liar or something really strange had indeed happened to this guy in Mexico. I felt a tinge of sympathy for him. What a terrible predicament he had himself in. Having spent a lot of time traveling across Mexico, I remember several instances when I knew I had taken a turn into the wrong neighborhood or bar. When you’re traveling alone, the odds are not in your favor when confronted with serious, even life threatening circumstances. In Mexico a lot of things can go wrong. If not from bandits, then from corrupt public officials. You learn quickly not trust anyone.
I encouraged him to go on.
“It was like a nightmare that had come true. Funny though, all I could think about was my ride. What would happen to my Harley if I was killed here in the mountains of Central Mexico. Would anyone ever know the truth? Would justice ever be served? When you get backed up to a wall like that, a million thoughts race into your head. I thought about my family and friends. I thought about becoming one of those statistics you hear about where another American just up and disappears, never to be heard from again.”
“To be honest, those thoughts made me angry. They made me desperate. My mind raced with how I was going to protect myself from these three banditos. The only thing I had on my person that was sharp and could be used as a weapon were my keys. I doubted that would help, but it was all I had. It gave me an idea, as desperate as it may seem.”
“I got very bold at that point and said something to the effect that were messing with the wrong hombre. I told them my father had been a powerful priest of a very dark religion, and he had given me the power to banish evil and to steal their power and banish them to hell.”
I laugh about it now that I think back on it, but when you’re desperate, you’ll say anything that comes to mind to buy a little time. I was still hopeful the guards might be nearby and could hear me yelling, because now I was screaming at these guys, trying to appear fierce and dangerous. But the big guy just kept laughing. That’s when I reached down and unhooked the key chair from my belt loop. I assumed a fighting position and grabbed the first couple of keys I could feel to use them like brass knuckles. But the little Gremlin Bell I carried with me hung down from
the key chain and rang ever so quietly in the mountain air.”
“The rest is history dude, The big guy looked at the ringing bell and something came over his face. He looked confused, then angry. He snarled and turned his head, like the site of the bell really bothered him. And the other two, they bolted into a run. Really. The big guy backed up to the pyramid steps and yelled at me ‘Next time gringo, you will not be so lucky’.”
There a few after story details, but for the most part that concluded the phone call from Harley. I have no idea whether his story was real or not. But if nothing else, the call made me wonder if carrying a Gremlin Bell with you might not be such a bad idea after all. You never know when a talisman, imaginary or not, just might come in handy.