There is a crack at the base of the Yukon River, a portal to the the underworld. It lays just
above Miles Canyon at the deepest part of the mighty Yukon River and has seen ice ages come and go; the birth of mountains, the carving of canyons, the rise of man, and the death of men, one in particular; Joe Sahwin.
Beside the crack, sunken logs form the walls of a scurvy shack which has housed Sahwin’s sickened gold lusting soul. Once a year, when the dark half takes over, Sahwin cedes his cries and creeps to the banks of the river, hoping to reclaim his lost relic so he can once again restart his journey to the Klondike gold fields.
Sahwin drifted into Canyon City on a nondescript hand crafted scow on an un-seasonally warm October 31 in 1898. He was hell bent on pushing through the white water, much to the dismay of MaCauley, who hated missing out on a transaction, but Sahwin’s lust for riches prevailed over logic. Like many before him, the turbulent stampede of white horses trampled him to the depths. They never recovered Sawhin’s corpse.
A baby-faced, moustached NWMP constable found Sahwin’s pack tangled in some overhanging alders on the bank of the river and as he arrived back to Canyon City and tossed the dead man’s gold pan in the tin can heap behind the machine shop. Day after day, season after season, year after year, it sat, immersed under the land long after the tins cans rusted to dust. Sahwin looked for it every year but there was always too much snow. It was eventually retrieved over 100 years later and taken to a treasure seeker’s home in Riverdale.
Calum and his Grandpa had gone “treasure” hunting with their metal detectors for as long as he could remember; Army Beach as a kid, Carcross Desert as a teen, Canyon City as a young man. Canyon City became the old man’s obsession when it was rumoured that a diamond ring was found there. When Calum tired of digging up piece after piece of rusted tin can, he would sit back, munching on the wild strawberries while his grandfather plodded on with the military persistence he had honed during his career with the RCMP, mapping each step and find along the way. Calum figured he would never find anything down there.
The old man’s foot tingled and his heart jackhammered as he pressed down the accelerator. Gravel spinning and fishtailing around every bend, he slammed to a stop, jumped out and grabbed his things from the trunk, not even taking the keys out of the ignition before he found himself sliding and staggering down the twisting, root strewn trail, ankle deep in snow. Maddox in hand to break the frost bitten ground, his headlamp flickered and his hands shook as he retraced his steps to the very spot he found the cursed talisman.
He had traced his hallucinations and lucid dreams about the canyon back to the day he found the gold pan.
At first his visions were of lava flowing, carving out a canyon. Eventually a single elder fisherman, gaffe in hand, pointing to the bend in the river by Canyon City, looked at him repeating the word Unilyin over and over. Near the end his dreams became more menacing, with a cold dead hand extending, grasping him in his bed and pulling him into the abyss.
It was the gold pan the dead hand wanted.
As he scrambled over the hardened clay, the dead silence of the Halloween night gave way to a cornucopia as the forest and canyon reanimated. He could hear the hammering of the blacksmiths, the screeching of the Macaulay trams wheels in the frosty night, the braying of the horses, and a piano tune playing from the pub while a raucous group merrily sang the chorus, “Ho for the Klondyke, ho.”
Un-phased by the zeitgeist the old man charged through crowds of wraiths and the spectre of the machine shop. As he began to hammer away at the hard ground Sahwin could hear the smashing from his watery crypt. It was the first time vibrations had broken the silence on the hallowed eve in many years and he rose to the surface crawling towards the old man. The old man felt the malevolent presence and as he turned to the river they locked eyes. His hands grasped for anything to hold as he was dragged towards the water. When he realized he was still holding the gold pan he let it go. But Sahwin didn’t.
The RCMP constable allowed Calum past the caution tape to collect his grandfather’s belongings as a new snow fell. They had ruled that he must have slipped into the river and died from a shock-induced heart attack.
Calum knelt and collected his grandpa’s headlamp, gloves, and the map of his Canyon City findings. As he was getting ready to stand he noticed an abnormal shape in the snow. He brushed the top and felt a hard surface. As he cleared off the fresh snow he saw a gold rush era gold pan. Perhaps his grandfather’s last find. He tucked it under his arm and began to walk back up the trail. He turned his head as he heard a clanking off in the distance and couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being watched. That night as he lay in bed and drifted off to sleep he could hear a dismayed, gruff voice, whispering the word Unilyin over and over.