Legendary tales of a brave but greedy explorer seeking an ancient land known as "Crystal Canyon" floated around in the late 19th century. The story went that this explorer, a Spaniard by the name of Ignacio Maximo de Chavez, arrived in New Orleans in 1839 and, with a team of men, set off for western lands but never returned. Years later, one man claiming to have been a part of de Chavez' party spoke of the expedition making it far west but encountering monsters, losing men--including de Chavez--and fleeing within inches of their lives. Crystal Canyon--which, based on legend, would likely have rested somewhere in New Mexico--or any records indicating the existence of an expedition thereof, were never found.
However, a few months ago, a package came in the mail for Alibi owner Christopher Johnson, marked with the words "For Your Eyes Only." Because he wasn't around, we decided to open it anyway. Inside, the package was nothing but a dusty and tattered old manuscript. From the manuscript's contents, and with a little Web research, we deduced that it could be the only known record of de Chavez' search for Crystal Canyon. We thought it worth our while to have the thing examined, and after careful consideration by historians at the University of New Mexico, it was deemed to be the authentic final diary of Ignacio Maximo de Chavez. Where it came from, one can only guess. Here, de Chavez tells of his final journey.
28 December, 1839
My Dear Diary,
First, I should mention that I write not in my native tongue of Español* but instead will use Ingles**, as it is a new language to me and I would like to practice.
Five months into this treacherous sojourn, I have run out of pages in my former volume. In the event that I lose the records I've made of this expedition or do not live to return home and recount my adventure, I am taking precaution and in these new pages will do my best to describe the events of the past several months.
After an exhausting four-month voyage at sea, the details of which, though fascinating, are too mundane to recount, I arrived at the port of New Orleans on the 11th of November, 1839, with a fantastic thirst and a mighty hunger. I had little in my possession save 18 strong men, many horses, a handful of mules and one donkey. Also, 14 trunks filled with the finest silks, furs and gold for trading. Also three carts. And, of course, my faithful companion y amigo mejor, Señor Estevan, my dog.
Upon my arrival, I immediately filled my belly at a large feast thrown in my honor by the inhabitants of New Orleans. I regaled the lot with long yarns of my previous travels and explorations of lands unknown to them. At first light I kissed all of the handsome women and set off west toward the Republic of Texas.
Traversing the Republic of Texas was what seemed to be a ceaseless task, and once our party embarked upon old Mexico, we knew we still had many days until we reached our destination, should we even be able to find its elusive location. I could only have faith in my maps, inherited from mi abuelo, who had befriended a cartographer in Toledo. His father had been member to an exploratory party that traveled El Camino Real in the late 17th century.
One night, after numerous tall goblets of rioja, the cartographer told mi abuelo a strange story about a place his father had seen when separated from the others for a week's time. The place was a small canyon that sparkled and gleamed like the heavens, as it was filled with crystals and quartzes of all colors (except brown, of course). When the man returned to Spain, he enrolled his youngest son as a cartographer's apprentice so that he might be able to once again locate the "Crystal Canyon." Upon his death, having realized his fascination with the tale, the old cartographer left his best maps of Crystal Canyon to my grandfather, who left them to me. As a youth, I devoted every moment of spare time to researching this Crystal Canyon and uncovered interesting information about the place, the most interesting coming from a man who'd heard tale of this location in the Americas and who impressed upon me that there may be a cave within Crystal Canyon filled with diamonds. After learning of this El Dorado, I knew I had to find it and claim the riches that must be owed me.
Now, miraculously, our party is finally upon the dusty old road leading toward what I believe to be the fabled Crystal Canyon. Finally, my dream nears.
17 January, 1840
Oh, dreadful day! Today our party suffered greatly while attempting to cross a river. From initial inspection, the water seemed passable, only a few feet high, so we elected to ford. Disaster struck midway through when the depth of the water changed dramatically. We lost five mules, four horses and two men. Also, Conrado caught dysentery and Flavio contracted measles. And we broke an axle. Is any amount of riches worth this sacrifice?
Yes, I'm envisioning piles of diamonds, so yes. If it was just, say, one or two diamonds, then maybe not.
1 February, 1840
We are very near to reaching Crystal Canyon. I know this because mi abuelo spoke of a mountain, a lone peak of a very curious shape that is near to our final destination. The peak revealed itself in the morning light, and I will attempt to sketch this mountain so I will forever remember it--for it is truly remarkable.
Drat, my mule got in the way. Pesky mule.
22 February, 1840
Today we came upon the corpse of a lone traveler. I knew he was dead immediately as I quickly checked to see if he was breathing, but, alas, he was not. Also, his heart was not beating, as I felt for a pulse on his wrist but was unsuccessful. And he was missing his head and some of his legs. He seemed to be the victim of some sort of wild animal attack.
All of my men fled, and with them they took the remaining horses and mules. They are all cowards! I will continue on alone as I know I am near. I can practically smell Crystal Canyon.
12 March, 1840
I apologize for not opening with the more customary "dear," but time is of the essence and I haven't the precious minutes to spare for such formalities (which incidentally is why I wrote “haven't" and not "have not," though I'll admit it here but never in public, contractions do save time) for I believe I am about to be attacked by some sort of beast.
I was correct in my assumption that I was the subject of the beast's aggression. It has wrestled me to ground and is gnawing on my midsection. The pain is acute, ghastly and objectionable. But the physical anguish I suffer now is nothing compared to the disappointment I feel in having come so close to Crystal Canyon only to meet my demise at the hands and mandible of some sort of ape-man. Oh, Crystal Canyon, you saucy bitch, will no man ever caress your treasures?
* Spanish for “Spanish”
** Spanish for “English”