– The Death He Expected

by Paul D. Dail

Vamplit Friday Flash

September 23, 2011

Word Count: 998

There’s power in superstition.  I’ve never been too superstitious, but I can tell these three kids out hiking in the middle of the night got a strong streak of it running through ‘em.  Why else would they be going out to the mesa on a full moon?

Well, for one, they’re hiking out there to try and scare the new kid.  But I can tell that in each of ‘em there’s some small sense of belief.  And a little bit of fear.  They’re a little high off it.  Even the redheaded one who likes to whisper for effect.  He says not to be too loud if they don’t want the dead to hear them.  I like this kid.

Hiking through the sagebrush, the new kid catches his foot on something and stumbles forward into the tall kid.

“Get off me, man,” the tall kid says.  “You tryin’ to feel me up or something?”

“You wish,” the new kid says.

“Personally, I think you both wish,” the red-headed kid says.  “Now shut up.  We’re gettin’ close.”

“Sorry, Jake,” the tall kid whispers.

“This is stupid,” the new kid says, but I can tell he doesn’t think it’s stupid at all.  “How do you even know it’s a person up there?  You dig it up or something?”

“It’s under a pile of rocks, idiot,” Jake says.  “You think I’m gonna start pulling out rocks and stick my hand in a pile of rotten flesh?  I just know, okay?”

“Well, who is it?” the new kid asks.

“I heard it was some Indian,” the tall kid says.  “The Big Chief or somethin’.”

“There it is,” Jake whispers and points to the small mesa rising out of the earth about a hundred yards in front of them.

Funny thing about the full moon.  Everything’s real bright, but nothin’s real clear.  It’s easy to pick out the five-foot pile of stones on top of the mesa, but the black granite side they’ll have to climb up is shrouded in shadows.

Seeing this shuts up the new kid.  I can tell he’s scared.  Got a little Indian blood himself, but he hasn’t told anyone.

Them Indians got lots of superstitions.  You want to see superstition in action, go see an Indian.  They’ll show you its power.  That belief can make things happen.  And you don’t need no full moon, either.

When they start walking again, the new kid doesn’t say anything, because he’s got that belief that puttin’ words to something gives it power, like speaking it aloud will bring it to life.

As they climb the rocky slope, I’m tempted to take at least one of them.  It’d be so simple.  A misstep on loose rock, a shoelace caught on some scrub brush.  All this sharp granite.

But I wait.  ‘Cause I got a feeling my time’s gonna come.

The top of the mesa is narrow, only maybe twenty feet at its widest.  At one end is the mound of stones.

“What are those for?” The new kids points at two circles of rock on the ground, about eleven feet across, nearly overgrown with time.

“I dunno,” Jake says, and I sense the slightest chink in his confidence.

“I don’t think you wanna step in them circles,” the tall kid says.

“This is stupid,” the new kid says again, but his voice cracks this time, like he’s back in puberty.

“Then you shouldn’t be scared,” Jake says.  “All you gotta do is get three stones off the top of the pile.”

The new kid stares at him a moment, like he’s weighing his options… and his courage.  Finally he starts over to the pile, careful to edge around the rock circles, until he’s at the mound.

He tries to reach the top stones, but the pile is sloped enough that he can’t lean far enough forward to grasp one.  He’ll have to climb on it.

He puts one foot on the pile, and the stones immediately shift.  He hesitates, one foot still on solid ground, then shifts his weight and pushes forward, getting another foot up.  He gingerly puts one hand down on the rocks and reaches with the other.

Just as he gets hold of a stone, something jumps up from behind the pile shrieking.  The new kid only gets a glimpse of tangled black hair and a grotesquely deformed face before sliding backward in panic.  He pushes away and falls on his ass, but the thing is moving around that pile quick.  He notices that he has fallen into one of the rock circles and lets out a little whimper before scrambling to his feet.

He starts to run, but stops when he sees Jake and the tall kid in hysterics.  Then he hears laughter behind him as well and turns to see the monster pull of the mask, revealing a blond kid.

“You assholes,” the new kid says.

They’re all laughing now, but I’ve been given my opening. For a moment, the new kid truly believed that the dead had come for him.  It was enough to let me in.

Insects are easiest to control, and I send out a swarm of winged ants that have nested in the rocks, a reddish-black cloud that descends on the other boys.  All except the new kid.

The ants don’t bite, but having them crawling all over is enough to send the boys into a panic, swinging their arms around, running in circles.  Jake trips over a stone and there’s a loud crack as his head comes down on another rock.

The new kid can only stare in horror, but I’ve saved the best for last.

There’s nothing special about the Indian buried on that mesa, but I reanimate the corpse, and it starts to drag itself out of the rocks.

There’s power in superstition.  It can bring things to life… even if that thing is Death.  And now I’m here for the new kid.  And I give him the death he expected.

Author’s note:  I’ve actually been to this mesa with my archaeologist father-in-law.  There are are a handful of petroglyphs on some of the rock faces on the slope.  While he didn’t actually explore to the top of the mesa with me, the thing with the ants really did happen when I accidentally stepped into one of the circles and neared the pile of stones.  Should I be concerned?  Or am I just giving in to a little superstition?

2 responses to “– The Death He Expected

  1. Ken Preston

    Interesting story, nice atmosphere and good use of dialogue too. I’m guessing the other kids got away, and it was the new kid who got singled out because of his superstitious nature and beliefs.

    • Ken, thanks for commenting on this story. Glad you enjoyed it. I had a good time writing it. And yes, I would say it was his superstitious beliefs that opened that door. However, I’m not so sure the other kids got away. Not all of them at least.

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