Treasure of the Ghost Dancers by Kevin Lazarus

(Just a quick note: Today I am participating in Amy Jarecki’s Blog Fest to celebrate the release of her new book Koicto, a native American story. So to celebrate I have joined a number of other authors in writing a short story with a native American theme…but as ever…still scary fun! I highly recommend reading Amy’s work, she is a fine writer [http://amyjarecki.blogspot.com/p/koicto-authors-note.html].

The next installment of The Dark Side of Carthage Falls will be available Wednesday. Until then…enjoy! K. Lazarus)

The old prospector woke to a curious sound—drums pounding away in the middle of the night—echoing throughout the valley. He climbed out of his makeshift bed, a dirty old tick filled with straw, and ambled over the edge of the hill he was sleeping on. The first thing to catch his eye was the stars, bright and flowing from horizon to horizon. He rubbed the whiskers on his chin and, blinking away the sleep from his eyes, looked down into the lower valley at a curious sight. The golden glow of firelight flickered against the desert hills, revealing strange luminous shadows—dancing a curious dance. The sound of bells and hushed voices hung in the air, wafting in on a warm desert breeze. The old man continued to watch, both curious and a little disturbed.

He had been prospecting for gold in the mountains of Nevada for many years and had never seen or heard anything like what he was seeing now. But, for that matter, he hadn’t seen much in the way of gold either. He had spent nearly twenty years and what little means he had searching in vain for El Dorado, the legendary city of Gold. His life had been spent busting his back and tearing down his body for little more than a handful of gold dust and mostly dirt. He was done and he could feel it in his bones. The soreness in his joints made that abundantly clear. After nearly two decades, he was packing it in and heading back to civilization. His heart sank a little as he thought about his dreams—the dreams that had led him to this desert Hell. They were a bust and he’d been beaten down to pulp. He was going back empty handed and winced at the thought. Curious though, he considered silently, seeing this strange sight on the eve of my retirement.

With out any hesitation, dressed in only his nightshirt, he straddled his mule and road her down into the lower valleys. The flickering light from the mysterious dancers undulated between the hills. The eerie pounding of the drums increasing as he closed the distance between him and whoever was dancing around the fire.

Finally to where he could have a better look and still not be seen, he slid off of his mule and crawled up a small hill. From the top of it he watched as Indians fully clad in odd masks and colorful skins scooted and shuffled around a tall fire; chanting in low voices; bells clanging and deer skinned drums pounding into the night air.

Suddenly, one of the Indians stopped and turned, looking in the old prospector’s direction. His mouth fell open, shocked, feeling as if the dancer was staring directly at him. He slid back down behind the rocks praying that he hadn’t been seen, the sound of the drums growing louder with every beat. Now on his back, the old man watched horrified, as the shadow of the dancer increased in size on the cliffs facing him. Leaving little doubt in his mind what was happening. The dancer was coming towards him. This would be a fitting end! he thought. Fine end to a failed life!

And yet as the shadow grew in size and magnitude, the old man watched, astonished. Like smoke rising, it gradually disappeared, vanishing from the side of the cliff. At almost that same moment the beating of the drums, the bells and the chanting, ended abruptly. Deep silence overtook the night. All that remained was the golden yellow glow of the firelight flickering against the side of the mountain. He rolled back over on his stomach and crawled back to the top of the hill. And peeking over one of the rocks, he was stunned to see that they were all gone. Only the fire remained, embers floating up into the night sky.

The old prospector clamored over the top of the hill and down the other side to the fire pit. He looked around at the darkness as he approached the flames, deeply afraid that they would appear suddenly from the darkness at any moment and take his life. At first he stumbled around the fire pit, now more aware than ever of just how feeble he had become, and knowing that he had nowhere to run. He was just too old and there was no way that his old mule could outrun a brave’s pony. With apparent resolve, he sat down by the fire to warm himself, taking a deep breath and thinking that, perhaps this was a fitting end to a failed life.

But somewhere during those moments of waiting, he noticed a long slender object sitting on top of a pile of rocks—not far from him. The old man stood and carefully approached it, walking around the mound of stones several times. As he did, he realized that what sat on top of the stones, decked out with black feathers and colorful bead work in a leather sheath, was a peace pipe.

He knelt down, glancing around to make sure he was still alone, and lifted the stone holding the pipe in place. The old man held the pipe up in the fire light and almost instantly realized just how beautiful it actually was. Clearly whoever had been there was sending him a friendly message, and one that restored his sense of sanity. After a minute of admiring the pipe, as he stood to go back to his mule, he noticed something else out of the corner of his eye. There was something unusual about the pile of rocks. At first he didn’t think much of it, figuring that at night everything looked a little different. But, in the warm glow from the firelight…there was a special kind of shine coming from all of the rocks…a shiny golden glow! The old man stared at them in disbelief and then picked up the rock that he had removed from above the pipe. Weaving through the stone was a good size vein of pure gold, spider-webbing out into smaller veins—like little golden fingers. He picked up rock after rock, his hands shaking nervously, as he realized that every single one them was rich with gold. One of them was a fist sized nugget. The old man looked around once more at the darkness, realizing that what he had just been given was a going away present.

At that, he took off his night shirt, and standing there in his old winter underwear, used it to bundle up his gold. He then held up the peace pipe with one hand and nodded. “Much obliged,” he said, hearing his own voice echo through the valley.

There was no response, only silence. With that he carefully lifted the nap of his makeshift gold sack and disappeared into the darkness; heading back to his old mule, grateful…that he wasn’t leaving empty handed.

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2 Responses to Treasure of the Ghost Dancers by Kevin Lazarus

  1. Jose says:

    Creepy!

  2. rohmorgon says:

    Yay! I can finally comment! (turns out my login info was buried in my email spam box).

    Love this story that starts out so creepy, then takes a turn to the upbeat. Congrats on winning the blogfest!

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