Two students stumble upon an old Indian burial grounds
“Are they still following us, Jesse?” Luke asked, winded and leaning forward resting his hands upon his knees. “Can you hear anything?” he gasped.
Jesse stopped, took a deep breath, held it, and then listened. The cold night air ached in his lungs, the breeze, like fingers of ice, tore through his clothes and tormented his skin. Faintly, forty yards to his left, he heard the snap of a dead branch, then another as if someone or something shadowed them just out of reach of their fading flashlight.
Fear filled Jesse as though he were a vessel made of darkness; the shadows themselves felt alive and menacing. As he and Luke continued to scramble clumsily through the forest, there was no doubt in his mind that they were running for their lives.
Jessie Spinone and Luke Foster roomed together at Western University in Bellingham, Washington. After a full semester of hitting the books, they decided to do a little camping and fishing. They packed up some gear on a Friday and entered the Cascades. Their plan was to follow Whatcom Creek Trail through Sehome Park and end up at Squalicom Lake for two days of rest and relaxation. Wandering on and off the trail, they found a tightly knit clutch of bent trees that resembled a fortress-like structure. “What the hell duya thinks in there?” Luke asked.
“Beats me. But there’s gotta be a way in.”
They circled it twice before Jesse finally found a hidden entrance covered with some pine branches and old dead wood. “This is it,” he said triumphantly. “Come on, let’s check it out.”
“I’m right behind you, amigo,” Luke smiled. “Just lead the way.”
As Jesse kicked and pushed debris out of the opening, the two young men squeezed their way through the concealed entrance. Once inside, the air seemed unnaturally still, as if the world was holding its breath. In the center of the place was an old, gnarled oak tree -- probably the only oak tree around this area for miles. The entire enclosure was constructed around this tree, the sides were all built from bent pines leaning upon it and creating a huge room. Hanging from the branches of this tree were dozens of intricately woven dream-catchers and trinkets of beads and bone. But there were others made of smaller bones and twigs tied together to form stick-people. Jesse felt a chill, and his spidey-senses tingled.
Below the old oak were dozens of burial scaffolds made of poles and tree branches built closely together and forming circle after circle and radiated outwards from the base of the tree. Upon each platform were the wrapped remains of the dead. The ones close to the trunk were ancient, but the ones further out were not as old. Without stepping on anything, they carefully made their way toward the center.
They saw painted symbols and markings upon the huge trunk, hand-prints in a dark, reddish color. Upon further inspection, Jesse thought it looked like old, dried blood.
"Dude, this shit is definitely on the weird scale," Luke said.
"Yeah," Jesse agreed, "most of these are old Indian symbols, but some of this is newer and kind of like that dumb Blair Witch junk."
Looking around, Jesse suddenly felt short of breath, suffocating, as if he was covered in a thick wool blanket. "I don't like this," he said. "We need to get out of here."
"Okay, okay, but let's check it out some more first. I bet some of this stuff is worth some cash."
They slowly circled the tree, examining what was beneath and hanging from the scaffolds. They could see arrowheads, rotted shields, broken bows and spear tips. "Oh, man, look at all this cool stuff," Luke said excitedly as he poked through some of the relics. "Everything's in pretty good condition too considering how old this place must be."
They moved outward from the base looking under all the pyres. That was when Jesse saw an old tennis shoe, and he took in a sharp gasp as his body shook from head to toe. Then continuing to poke through the debris he saw some rusted keys on a key chain. There was an old Ford Mustang emblem on it. Now his body started to shiver as though all his joints had come loose at the same time.
"Look at this cool knife," Luke said from behind him. "I want it."
"No! Are you kidding me? Don't take anything!" Jesse warned, feeling as if he were sliding into something beyond his control. "Don't you feel it?" he asked. "It's like we're being watched. Look, we're not supposed to be in here, man. Come on, let's get the hell out."
"But what about the knife?"
"Leave it and come on!" Jesse urged.
They left the structure the same way they entered, on all fours and closing their eyes to keep any stray branches from scratching them. It was at that time, Jesse felt the most vulnerable, half expecting something to grab him and pull him back in. As soon as he was outside in the fresh air, he immediately began to feel better.
When they got back to the trail head it took them two hours to finally reach the lake. They set up camp and pitched their tent. By this time it was closing in on evening and they decided to crash. The hike had been long and exhausting and the trout would be waiting at sunrise. Later, Luke, with a evil grin on his face, produced a joint he'd been hoarding just for the trip. They smoked it and started talking about the burial grounds they had stumbled upon, and then in the middle of the conversation, Luke pulled out the knife he had found.
Jesse freaked. "Shit, are you crazy, Luke?" Jesse asked in anger. "I can't take you anywhere without you fucking-up something. I told you to leave it!"
"Come on, man, it's no big deal," Luke said smiling and trying to defuse his friend's anger. "Besides, if I sell it, I'll split the money with you."
"That's not the point," Jesse said. "What if that damn thing is cursed or something?"
"Really? You believe in that kinda shit?"
"Just go to sleep," Jesse said. "I don't wanna see it, and I don't wanna talk about it anymore." Jesse crawled into his sleeping bag. "Fucking asshole," he murmured, and then turned over and tried to sleep.
When Jesse awoke, it sounded like it was raining. He grabbed the flashlight and unzipped the tent to take a look. A rock the size of a baseball hit the ground in front of him. "What the hell?" Another hit the tent, followed by several more. He pointed the beam of his light out into the woods, but could see nothing. Another rock almost hit him in the head. Somebody was chucking stones at them. "Luke! Luke, get up!"
"We're being attacked. Get up! Quick!"
Both boys struggled to get their clothes and shoes on even while their tent was being pummeled with a hail of stones. Finally, it started to collapse.
"What the fuck is this?" Luke screamed.
"Come on," Jesse urged. "We gotta make a break for it. I got the flashlight. You ready?"
"Yeah, yeah, let's get the fuck outta here."
They bolted out of the tent and headed for the main trail. Jesse wanted to search the woods with the flashlight, but it was so dark, he had to focus it on the ground to keep from falling. Luke ran next to him. They ran for about half a mile, Jesse's flashlight stabbing at the darkness.
“Are they still following us?” Luke asked, winded and leaning forward resting his hands upon his knees. “Can you hear anything?” he gasped.
Jessie stopped, took a deep breath, held it, and then listened. The cold night air ached in his lungs, the breeze, like fingers of ice, tore through his clothes and tormented his flesh. Faintly, forty yards to his left, he heard the snap of a dead branch, then another as if someone or something shadowed them just out of reach of his fading flashlight.
Fear filled Jessie as though he were a vessel, every shadow felt alive and menacing. As he and Luke continued to scramble clumsily through the forest, there was no doubt in his mind that they were running for their lives.
“I think we’ve lost them,” he lied, knowing his friend was used up. “But it can’t be much further. Another mile or two at the most, and then we’ll be back at the trail head.”
“Shit, I’m scared, Jessie. This whole thing is just too fuckin' weird.” There was another snap of dried wood, unmistakable this time. Luke let out a whimper he was barely able to contain. “Shit!” he whispered, his eyes growing wide. “This is bad, right Jess? Real bad.”
“I told you, man, but it’ll be okay,” Jessie said, with as much conviction as he could muster. “We’ll just put the damn thing back where you found it, and then everything will be fine.”
“Yeah, yeah, you hope. Damn, I never should’ve taken it.”
“It’s cool, man, just hang in there. We’re gonna make it.”
Jessie studied his friend, knew he was done. They’d been running for an hour, and the darker it got, the slower they ran. Now their progress back to the burial grounds was little more than a clumsy stumble through the rocky terrain, and the pounding fear was like a hammer driving the nail deeper and deeper.
As if on cue, the flashlight went out.
“Shit, shit, shit,” Jessie whispered.
Something whirred through the air past Jesse's head, and then Luke made a choking sound.
"Luke?" Jessie pounded the side of the flashlight with his open palm. The light sputtered momentarily, and then blinked on.
Luke was clutching at his throat with both hands. There was blood splattered across his face and gushing through his fingers. Jutting from his neck was an arrow. Then without warning he toppled backwards like a felled tree.
“Luke! Luke!” Jesse yelled, finally discovering the true meaning of horror.
Luke's legs kicked out and shook as though he were being electrocuted, and then he lay still.
"Oh, shit, Luke. No!" Jessie grabbed him and tried to pull him up. "Come on, buddy. We gotta keep going. Come on!" Jessie's mind began to crumble like a plastic bottle with all its air sucked out. "Oh, Luke. Luke. Luke." He rocked his friend back and forth.
There was a "Whoop, woop, woooop!" from out in the forest. Not far from him, and way too close for comfort. Someone was celebrating the kill.
There were more sounds from behind him. They were closing in.
Jesse pulled the cursed knife out of Luke's pocket. At least now he had a weapon, then he sprang up with a new strength and awareness. He was not going to die without a fight.
He ran. It was all downhill from here anyway. He ran.
The sun was coming up. The sky began to change color. He was going to make it.
He could see the trail now. Not far ahead was the junction to the burial grounds. Not far now. Not far.
He saw the mound off to his left. "Almost there," he told himself. "Almost there."
He ran straight to the entrance, crawled in, and then threw the knife at the oak tree. "Here! Take it you son-of-a-bitch. Take it!" Jesse almost collapsed from exhaustion. "Take it . . . ."
With a worn-out sigh, he crawled to the entrance. "It's over," he said aloud. "It's over."
As his head cleared the entryway, something seized his legs from behind and savagely pulled him back in.
In an old Indian burial grounds hidden in the Cascades stands two newly built platforms. A body lies upon each tightly wrapped in wool blankets. Beneath each scaffold lies the warrior's personal belongings. Under one is an ancient handmade knife, and under the other is a shiny, metallic flashlight.