Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Horror/Scary · #775875
A young family is introduced to a secret gold mine, and an ancient curse.
THE BEATTY GOLD MINE
“Ned Beatty, what have you done?” The old woman stood in the middle of the tunnel with both hands on her hips. “Ya know we were told not ta dig in this section of the mine. You're gonna up and ruin everything."
“Now Martha, don't fret so,” Ned said, wiping dirt and sweat from his wrinkled brow. “I just figured that maybe sumtin' was buried here that might be worth a whole lot more than those little nuggets we've been getting.”
“Ned, yer an old fool!” she scolded. “Nuthin' but bad is gonna come from this, I can feel it in my bones. Come away from there ‘fore it's too late.”
Ned went back to swinging his pick-ax, his gnarled muscles bulged like old ropes beneath the skin. Dirt rained down from the tunnel ceiling, dust billowed and choked away the air.
“Ned, please . . . come away,” Martha was pleading now, getting more and more frantic with every whack Ned took at the tunnel wall. There was a loud thud then, like a hurled spear hitting a dead post as Ned's pick struck something solid and stuck tight.
He pulled away a couple of boulders and looked at a black hole in the wall. “Martha, bring the light over here, quick,” he said, excitedly. “I think I might'a found something."
“What is it, Ned?” Martha asked, bending in half and trying to look into the opening.
Ned’s knotted arm, black with dirt and grime, held the lantern up to the hole. “It’s huge. It looks like another room on the other side.” His head followed the lantern into the gaping pit.
“Whatcha see, Ned, whatcha see?”
There was a long silence, where only dirt falling from the tunnel ceiling sounded like sand trickling upon the lid of a coffin. “Oh, my God!" Ned screamed suddenly. “Git back, Martha, git back!”
Then there was a terrible rumble above, below—everywhere, as if God himself were shaking the world and the tunnel began to collapse in an avalanche of soil and clay.
Martha instinctively stepped back, covering her head with her arms. “Ned!” she shrieked. “Ned!” A wall of black dust blew her backwards with the power of an explosion as the thud of boulders crashed down all about her.
“Ned!” she yelled again, but it was already too late, the entire tunnel came crashing down as she fought to get out. Blindly feeling her way along the tunnel wall, she staggered for the mine entrance in pitch dark.
Coughing and hacking from the dust, she somehow found her way to the opening and burst out into fresh air and sunlight. Dust billowed out behind her as though the mountain were ablaze inside.
“Ned! Ned!” She was raving now, yelling into the wound of the cave, her voice cracking like broken glass. “Ned!”
No one answered. No one came out.
“Oh, Neddy,” she whined, choking on dust and tears. “Neddy, I told you. . . I told you!” The mountain looked on stoically, the final insult to a woman already aged and broken like dried kindling.
Slowly Martha’s eyes lifted up and stared into the mountain’s craggy face. “You didn’t have to take him, you bastard! He was all I had! God, damn you,” she screeched, falling to her knees and pounding her fists into the earth. “Damn you! Damn you for all time!” She was whining now. “We would’ve kept your secret. We always have, haven’t we? Please . . .” she begged. “Just give him back. Give me back my husband!”
The protrusions and overhangs of rock, the sprouts of pine trees that had somehow managed to burrow their roots into solid granite, even the mine entrance, like a hideous mouth gaping open ready to swallow her up, suddenly came to life.
The mountain moved, and as if in answer, its monstrous face scowled down at her, full of evil and loathing, and then belched a dark cloud of dust at the crumbled old woman.
The phone was ringing. It had that urgent sound you can feel in your head sometimes when you know it’s bad news, or a bill collector or something. George Beatty was reluctant to pick it up. He didn’t want any more bad news today. His life was going nowhere, his kids were using offensive street-lingo they’d picked up from school, and his wife had just told him she was expecting another child. He hoped the shock and fear of the news didn’t show on his face. He loved Marilyn, dearly, but the way things were headed he just didn’t know how they were going to make it. The timing was definitely bad. He needed a change—a new job. He needed to get the hell out of this city.
“George,” yelled his wife from the kitchen, “are you going to answer that?”
“Yeah, yeah,” he yelled back. “I got it.”
Reluctantly, he answered the phone, his palms sweaty and fear gripping at his insides.
“Hello?” he said, softly. “Beatty residence.” There was static on the line. He tried to keep the phone in one position to get a clear signal. Damn cordless phones, he thought. “Hello? Hello?” he said, “Is anybody there?” Someone finally spoke, like a voice from beyond the grave, all cracked and broken.
“Gram, is that you?” he asked. “What’s wrong? Speak up, Gram, I can barely hear you.”
Marilyn overheard George’s voice, with a worried expression she came in and stood by her husband. George’s grandparents lived on the west coast and were very elderly; she feared the worse, and wanted to be there for him.
“What’s happened to Grandpa?” George asked. “An accident? Where? Are you all right?”
Marilyn’s body went stiff; she knew it was bad news.
Just then, the kids came running into the living room, chasing each other and creating enough noise to make it impossible for George to hear on the phone.
“It’s mine!” Katie yelled. “Give it back, David.”
“Children, please,” begged George, “I can’t hear a thing.”
He gave his wife the look and she quickly ushered the two kids out of the room. Then he heard her whispering something to them as she hurried back to stand at his side with that concerned motherly expression she had.
“Well, I don’t know, Gram?” continued George. “It’s kind of sudden like, isn’t it? You’re just going to give us the house? Yeah . . . I’ll talk to Marilyn about it. We’re going to have to think it over though, Gram.” George looked at his wife and shrugged his shoulders at her as if he was telling her he didn’t know what to say. “All right, all right,” he suddenly said into the phone. “Don’t get all in an uproar, Gram. We can be there in three days tops, all right? It’ll take that long to tie up all the loose ends here. Yeah, we’ll be flying out. Okay, Gram, I’ll see you then. Yeah . . . I love you too. Okay, bye.”
He hung up the phone and looked his wife in the eyes. “Guess what?” he said. “We’re moving.”
George looked out the window of the cab at the pine trees and mountains. “This is the way to live,” he said. “No traffic jams, no concrete skyscrapers blocking the view.” It had taken some doing, but he was able to put his house up for sale, check the kids out of school, and sell off his car. Even Marilyn wasn’t that hard to convince once she realized they were moving out of their small house in New York to a country mansion in Oregon; and just in time for the baby too.
George was excited. This is where he had always wanted to live, out in the wilderness, the untamed mountains covered in fresh pines, just like Gram and Gramps—just like his mom and dad. “I’ll find work easy enough,” he told Marilyn. “Besides, with the sale of the house, plus our savings, I’ll have plenty of time to locate something before we run out of money. Just you wait and see, this is going to be a dream-come-true.”
Katie and David were good with the idea too. They hated school and never really had many good friends. On the flight over, all they could talk about was having some horses, a BB gun, camping in the wilderness, fishing, doing all the things they only read about or seen on TV. It was going to be a kid’s paradise and they couldn’t wait.
“This is it, driver,” George told the cabby. “It’s right up there on the left, the Beatty mansion. There should be a gravel road just beyond that stand of trees. Do you see it?”
“Oh yeah,” said the cab driver. His name was Waylon. “I’ve heard about this place before. In fact, there’s been all kinds of stories about it.”
“Stories?” asked George. “What, stories?”
“Well, you know . . . ” said Waylon, his voice like gravel. “The usual stuff one hears about old houses that have been around as long as this one has.” Waylon turned the yellow cab left onto the gravel road and for the first time the family was able to see their new home.
“Wow, Dad,” said David, flatly. “This place is a real dump. Are you sure this is it?”
Katie looked out the front windshield; her eyes just barely cleared the front seat. “Mom? Do we have to live . . . here?”
“Shhh, kids, be quiet, please.” Marilyn was intent on what the taxi driver was saying.
“The most recent tale I heard,” continued Waylon, “was the one about the young couple that died there mysteriously. Sheriff said it was an accident, but folks around these parts never quite believed that. They say some old folks still live out here to this day. It’s hard to imagine anyone actually living in that house, you know, way out here so far away from town and all.”
“You’re talking about my parents,” said George, a little angry. “They died in an avalanche. There’s no mystery to it. And yes, my grandparents still do live here, but I haven’t seen them since the funeral.” George stared out the window again. “The place sure looked a whole lot bigger back than.”
“I’m sorry,” said the cab driver, now probably afraid he had just talked himself out of a tip. “I didn’t mean to be disrespectful, but you know how people can talk.”
The cab stopped in front of the house and the driver hurried to the trunk of the car to get their luggage. He piled it on the front porch for them as they climbed out of the car.
“It’s not too bad,” said Waylon. “It just needs a little work that’s all.” George gave him a twenty-dollar bill and watched as Waylon scurried back into his cab and took off down the road.
Then he turned his attention back to the house. “It definitely could use some paint,” he said, trying to break the ice. “I wonder where Gram is?”
Katie ran up the steps of the front porch and started to wipe clean one of the filthy windows to have a look. David followed her, checking the front door to see if it was unlocked.
“How you doing, hon?” George asked his wife as he gently put his hand on her belly. He tried to ease her mind. “Feeling okay, after that long flight?”
“Actually, I’ve never felt better,” she said. “Just smell that air, George! It’s hard to believe this is all really happening to us. Just look at that forest. Have you ever seen anything so beautiful in all your life? It’s like paradise out here.”
“Thanks, honey,” he said, softly, “I’ll make it up to you somehow, I promise. I’ll have this place looking like new long before the baby ever gets here.”
She smiled at him and squeezed his hand. “I love it, George. It feels like home.”
Meanwhile, David and Katie were busy trying to look through the grimy windows. “I think I hear someone rocking in a rocking chair,” said Katie. David tried the old black ceramic doorknob. Turning it very slowly, he heard a click. The door pushed open.
“I think I see someone moving inside,” Katie whispered to her brother.
David gently gave the door a push, it groaned on its hinges.
A wrinkled old hand reached out of nowhere and grabbed the boy hard around the wrist like a vise. He could see black dirt and grime wedged under the long fingernails. Startled, he gave out a yell and tried to pull his hand free.
“Welcome, children,” said Martha Beatty stepping out of the house, still holding firmly to David’s wrist. She wore a heavy, old black dress that went from her neck all the way to the floor. Her face and hands were all that was visible outside the dress; she had the appearance of a large, black crow. “I’ve been waiting for you,” she said, trying to smile and looking down at David. Then she released his hand and gave him a look of warning. “You should always knock before you enter someone’s house, my dear. It’s only polite.”
“Grandma Beatty,” said George, stepping up the porch to greet her.
“Well, how the hell are ya, Georgie,” said Martha looking intently at him. “You look just like your father.” She cupped her hand at the side of his head, holding him there while she studied his face, then she deeply sighed and gave him a big hug. “It’s good of you to come.”
“It’s good to see you again, Gram,” he said.
“Yes, yes, of course” said Martha, her eyes shiny with unshed tears. “But look at all these new faces we have here.” She took Marilyn’s hand. “Welcome, my dear,” she said, smiling. “My, my, don’t you have a glow about you. Are you with child, dear? Heavens to Betsy, you are! Well, us Beatty wives have a long, hard history to tell about raising children. But first I want you as comfortable as possible. You want something, you just ask ol’ Gram, and I’ll fix it up for you, okay, deary?
“I’m fine . . . really, Mrs. Beatty, thanks.”
“Oh, you can just call me, Gram. Everyone else does. And who are these two little mine-rats?” asked Martha as she reached down to touch Katie’s cheek.
Katie stepped back, avoiding contact, and then hid behind her mother.
“Oh, don’t go getting shy on me now,” said Martha. “I won’t bite ya.” She again looked at David. “How about you, sonny . . . you got a hug somewhere for your ol’ great grandmother?”
“It’s nice to meet you, Grandma Martha,” David said politely and slowly looking up at his father for a reassuring sign. He could still feel her steely grip around his arm like a bony skeleton—so strong for such an old woman.
“All right, then,” said Martha, not pressing David for the hug. “Why don’t you all come inside? I’ve got so much to tell you.”
As they entered the house, George had a very concerned look on his face. “Gram, I don’t remember the place being so . . . you know, so run down. What has happened to you and Gramps, anyway? If you needed our help, why didn’t you just call sooner?”
“There’s never enough time to fix up this old house, Georgie,” she said with a chuckle like a bag of bones falling out of her mouth. “What with working in the mine and all.” She clasped his arm as they walked in. “Anyway, all that’s going to change now that you’re here.”
She led them into the main living room area. There were papers and trash scattered all over the place; old frame-splintered photographs lined the walls. On a large table in the corner of the room was a stack of legal documents that looked as though they’d been rifled through several thousand times.
“Have a seat here,” she said to the kids, and pointing to a dilapidated old couch. “Your Dad and I have some legal matters to tend to first.” She led George over to the table.
Martha picked up the paperwork from the very top of the stack. “This here is the deed to the land and the house—the whole kit-and-caboodle,” said Martha handing the papers to George. “You both sign here and it’s all yours.”
“What’s the rush, Gram?” asked George. “Hell, we just got here.”
“Please, George,” she said. “Humor an old woman just this once, and sign the damn papers.”
George took the legal documents from her and the pen she was shoving in his face, and then looked at Marilyn for some kind of support. She silently shrugged to him and walked over to his side to glance at the forms.
“All right, Gram . . . we’ll do this now if that’s what you want.” He spread the papers on a corner of the table. He and Marilyn both signed where shown, and then handed the stack back over to Martha.
“Bless you, George,” she said letting out a huge sigh. “Now I can rest easy.” She put the forms down. “May I offer you all something to drink or eat? You must be tired.”
“We’re fine, Gram, really,” said George. “But I’d like to ask you some questions about Gramps.”
Her face froze as if she had just heard of his death for the very first time. “Well, there was an accident in the mine,” she said, carefully searching for the right words. “And your Grandpa Ned didn’t make it out.”
“The mine?” asked George, perplexed. “You keep talking about a mine . . . what mine?”
“The Beatty Gold Mine, of course, Georgie,” she said, matter-of-factly. “And it’s all yours. Follow me. I want to show you something.” She led the whole family through the run down house, finally stopping in front of a closed door. Reaching into a deep pocket on the front of her dress, she pulled out an old tarnished key hanging from a tattered piece of leather. “This will explain everything,” said Martha, and bent to unlock the door. There was a discernible click. “Go ahead and open it,” she said, stepping out of the way. “It’s all yours now.”
George turned to look at his family; they seemed to urge him on. Turning back to the door, he gently twisted the knob and pushed. The door wasn’t hung right and caught on the floor, stopping half way.
“Lift up on it, George,” said Martha, impatiently. “It’s pretty beat up from all the years of use.”
George lifted up on the knob and pushed the door all the way open. Everyone tried to sneak a peek around his body.
The room was full of dirt and rocks. It looked filthy. A wheelbarrow stood in the corner. “What’s all this, Gram?” asked George. “Why do you have all these rocks in your house?”
“Turn on the light,” Martha urged, and pushed her way past him and through the door. George looked for a light switch—but there wasn’t one.
There was an old dusty table with an array of bottles and chemicals on it. Martha walked over to it and lit a kerosene lamp. She picked up a bottle from the table. “Do you know what aqua fortis is, Georgie?” she asked, looking at him. “You know, what do they call it . . . nitric acid?”
“Yes,” said George, “but what are you doing with stuff like that?”
She picked up another bottle with some good size chunks of rock swimming around in it. “See this? This is pure gold, Georgie,” said Martha. “At least 23 carrots pure.”
“What?” asked George. “Gold? Where'd you get that?”
“From the mine, of course,” said Martha with a laugh. “And there’s plenty more where that came from.” She waved her hand at the room full of rocks and boulders.
“This . . . this is all . . . gold?” George was more than a little stupefied. He bent down and grabbed a rock about the size of a baseball, then held it up to the light. It glittered and gleamed on one side, then somehow, like gold always does, George Beatty was hooked hard with gold fever.
“Wow,” said the kids together. “Gold! We’re rich!”
“If you need money to fix up the house or buy a car or just whatever you want,” said Gram, “I want you to help yourself to this little pile here; plus, all that Ned and I have put in the bank over the years, or have stashed in the mine out back. It’s yours, Georgie, all of it.” She then got a funny look on her face, a scared kind of look, that’s what it was. “But remember . . . ” she said, mysteriously, “it’s always been a secret. You have to promise never to tell a soul.” She looked at each member of the family. “And you must always . . . always keep the secret.”
-WHAT WENT BEFORE-
In 1848, William David Beatty came up the California coastline with a small group of Indians, called, Chumash, that he had hired to help him get to Oregon. The Gold Rush was just beginning and the Europeans were flooding in all over California to find gold. The Mexican Army, seeing what was happening, took control of most of the main trails going north to Oregon in hopes of discouraging any potential prospectors.
Travel by boat along the coastline became the safest way to get all your equipment and belongings to where you wanted to go.
The leader of the Chumash tribe had told William Beatty about a cave they had found with yellow ore lying in chunks all over the ground. Beatty had already felt the pangs of gold fever and paid the Indians handsomely to escort him to the cave. They set out from a place called, The Valley of the Bears near Morro Bay, on the morning of July 25th, 1848.
After a few mishaps, and close calls along the way, they arrived at the Oregon coast and set out over-land to the cave. After a full day's trek up and over the cliffs, they came to a lush area with plentiful game and water. At the base of a huge cliff, Beatty’s Chumash guide showed him the cave entrance.
When Beatty entered the mine for the first time, he found gold nuggets lying about on the ground just as the guide had told him. He quickly tested the gold and the results made him whoop and holler. He had struck it rich!
Beatty convinced the Chumash to help him mine the gold; cut trees to support the mine walls, and also to help him build a cabin to survive throughout the winter. They agreed to stay until the approaching cold was upon them.
They worked hard for two months and William Beatty collected enough gold ore to retire happily for the rest of his days. But his greed consumed him, and he plotted to keep the Indians prisoner there. “No one must ever learn of the location to the mine,” he thought. So while the Chumash toiled inside a small tunnel off-shoot, Beatty planted an explosive charge there and blew up the entrance, trapping them inside forever. The fever had taken over his mind, but his secret was now safe.
Unknown to Beatty, the leader of the Chumash had been a powerful shaman for his tribe, and he endured the initial cave-in. He alone survived long enough to curse William David Beatty and the very mountain of gold he so desired.
The curse still lives on to this day for the next generation of Beatty’s, and the next after that, all, having to keep the mine secret. The mountain cliff itself watches and guards the mine. The secret must never be revealed, and the resting place of the buried Chumash Indians never disturbed.
Generations of Beatty’s were destined to labor their entire lifetimes in the mine, caught up in their greed, for nothing more than the love of gold.
-IT’S MINE! ALL MINE!-
Martha got together a couple of mine lamps and took George inside the mountain for the very first time. Marilyn took the children upstairs to clean and prepare their rooms for the night.
“This is where we do all our work, Georgie,” said Martha, “day and night.” She led him through a twisting maze of tunnels deeper into the mine. “Smell that!” she said. “That’s the smell of gold. You can even feel it in your bones, hey, Georgie-boy?”
George had to admit, that the further he went into the mine, the more he became enthused about finding gold.
Slowly but surely, the mountain cast its spell upon him.
“It’s slowly being mined out after all these years, you know,” said Martha, “but there’s plenty left for you and yours.” They approached a junction, a sharp turn to the left, leading toward another tunnel that branched off from the main way. “You’re never to dig in this tunnel, Georgie,” said Martha with a very serious look on her face. “This is where your Grandpa Ned was digging when the roof collapsed on him. Promise me!” she said, gripping his arm firmly. “Never dig in this tunnel . . . ever!”
“Okay, Gram,” said George, understanding her distress. “I’ll never dig here, I promise.”
“Good,” she said, smiling slightly while patting his arm. “You’re a good boy, Georgie. Now, I’ll show you the shed where we keep all the explosives. You ever use dynamite before?”
George shook his head no, and then Martha led him back outside toward an old wood shed to teach him how to be a real miner. When they arrived she noticed the door was unlocked.
“That’s funny,” she said. “I could have sworn I locked that door. Oh well, I’m getting old Georgie, getting old.” She hugged her arms around herself and slightly shivered. “Come on, I’ll teach ya everything I know about mining,” she said, “ain’t nuthin’ to it. You’ll catch on quick.”
Back in the house, David and Katie looked out the window of their room facing the old gold mine. They watched as their Grandma Martha led their dad back and forth around the mine.
“Look,” said David to his sister, “that’s the way into the mine. You can see everything from here. This is so awesome, Katie, buried gold and treasure! And it’s all mine.”
Katie wasn’t listening to her brothers teasing; instead, she had been studying the mountain face itself. It seemed to be watching her, and the feeling gave her body chills.
“That mountain looks spooky to me, David,” she said, staring at its eerie face. “It feels like it’s alive, and can see right through me.”
“You’re just trying to scare me,” he said. “You want to take all the gold for yourself, but it’s mine, I tell you. All mine!”
-GRANDMA’S ROCKING CHAIR-
Katie had trouble sleeping. She wanted to be in bed with her mom, but was too afraid to go walking around the house alone. She could hear Grandma Martha’s rocking chair creaking on the old wood floor beneath her room. Back and forth—back and forth—the creaking sound was about to drive her crazy. “Doesn’t she ever go to sleep?” thought Katie.
She sat up in bed and was able to see out the window toward the entrance of the mine. She saw something move by the front of the cave. She climbed over her bed and put her face right up against the window, looking hard into the shadows. “Yes, there by the tree, now. Someone is out there! Is that Dad?” She was about to wake her brother, who was sleeping in the bed against the far wall, when she happened to notice the face of the mountain. She could have sworn she saw it move. The whole mountainside was moving!
Katie was frozen with fear. It appeared to her that the mountain was actually grinning at the shadowy figure as it ran across the backyard toward the house. She blinked her eyes twice, then opened them again and looked at the mountain. The face on the cliff was staring right at her. It looked like the face of an old Indian, evil and menacing. She tried to scream, but nothing came out of her mouth.
Katie caught her breath when she heard the back screen door slam shut. Her eyes grew so big they looked as if they would pop out of her head. “Someone is in the house!” She was yelling in her mind, but again no sound escaped her lips. The rocking chair continued to creak along as if nothing had happened. Then she heard muffled voices from Grandma Martha’s room below. It sounded like she was arguing with someone, and then a loud thud, as if someone had fallen down.
“Mommy, mommy, mommy!” screamed Katie as she finally found her voice.
The sound of Grandma’s rocking chair had stopped.
David jumped out of his bed so fast he almost fell on the hardwood floor. “Katie, what’s wrong, what happened?” he asked, trying to get to his little sister who was staring out the window screaming. He heard footsteps coming up the stairs and felt relieved that his mom and dad were on their way up.
Katie stopped screeching and looked at the bedroom door. She quickly ran over to it and turned the latch, locking them both inside the room. She slowly backed away from the door and stared at it as if it were going to come to life. The footsteps stopped right outside. She watched as the door knob slowly turned.
“Katie, what’s wrong with you?” asked David again. “It’s only Mom and Dad.” He walked over to the door and unlatched it, and then opened it.
“No . . . .” Katie yelled.
Standing in the doorway was the figure of a bent old man, his white eyes bulging frantically from his dirty face. His hands and fingers were dripping blood. Katie saw the red spots hit the wood floor. The man appeared to be trying to say something, but couldn’t remember the words.
“Git out!” he finally managed to yell. “Git out!” He took a step toward the two children.
David and Katie both started screaming. Little Katie pumped her legs up and down as she squealed, but she could only run in place. Through the howling racket, the footsteps of their parents could be heard coming up the stairs.
“Grandpa Ned?” asked George, looking at what was left of the man he remembered. “Is that you, Gramps? We thought you were dead! My God, man, what has happened to you?”
“Git out!” he bellowed again. “Please -- you must leave here now.” Ned was spilling blood, dirt, and grime with every move he made. “It’s the curse, George! I have to stop it -- the curse! It killed your mother and father, George, twenty years ago. Now it wants you! It’s already seen your family. You have to leave -- hurry!”
“Gramps,” said George, soothingly, “please -- you got to let me help you.”
“Then go! Now George -- just go -- before it’s too late. Git out!” He pushed past his grandson and ran back down the stairs and out the back door.
“Stay with the kids, Marilyn,” said George, quickly. “I’ll be right back.” He bolted down the stairs after his Grandpa Ned.
As he past Martha’s room, he saw her lying on the floor.
“Gram? Gram are you okay?” He entered her room and knelt down beside her out-stretched form. He checked her pulse, but found nothing. The shock of seeing her Ned had been too much for her weak heart. “God bless you, Gram,” he said as he kissed her forehead. “Sleep tight.”
He heard the door to the shed outside as it was being ripped off its hinges. “Gramps!” He got up and ran through the house to the back door.
Ned was gathering up all the dynamite from the shed when George finally caught up with him. “Gramps, please,” begged George, “put the dynamite down and let me get you to a doctor.”
“You don’t understand, George,” said Ned as he hurriedly dropped the sticks of dynamite at the entrance to the mine, then went back for more. “This mountain is cursed. It’s alive, for god's sake, and I gotta destroy it.”
“Gramps, you’re out of your head with fever or something,” pleaded George. “How could a mountain be alive?”
Ned stopped what he was doing and looked hard at George. “Are you blind, boy,” he said. “Look for yourself.” He pointed George toward the cliff and urged him to look up. “What the hell do you think that is?”
George looked up at the front of the mountain. The entire face of the cliff appeared to move toward him. What George thought was the entrance to the mine, was now a giant face moving like a fiend from hell. The entrance reached out toward him as if it was trying to swallow him up with its mouth. It lunged at him and George fell over backwards trying to escape the rotting stench coming out of the mine. Ned helped pull him back from the entrance.
“What is that!” screamed George. “This can’t be happening. It’s not real!”
“That is the face of an old Indian medicine man,” explained Ned. “He and his braves were buried alive by my grandpappy nigh on 150 years ago and they have wrought their revenge on every Beatty since then. Now it’s time for him to go the happy hunting grounds.” Ned reached down to get some more dynamite. “He’s not gonna get your family. Not this time! I’ll see to that!”
“Gramps, you can’t blow up the mine,” pleaded George, “what about all the gold?”
“To hell with that,” yelled Ned. “Git outa my way, boy.”
Ned carried the last load of explosives to the mine entrance and started hooking everything up. The mountain reached out toward him with its evil rage, blowing billows of dust and dirt from the mine portal. Ned was knocked down by the onslaught.
“I’ll help you, Gramps,” said George, running over to pick the old man up. “I know how to use this stuff.”
“No!” hollered Ned. “You gotta git clear of this place, George.”
“We Beatty’s stick together, Gramps,” George said, forcefully. “I’ll help.”
Ned shook his head in disbelief. “The Beatty’s have always been damn stubborn. Stay if you must.”
Together they hooked up the dynamite and started to run a long fuse-line back toward the house. Suddenly, the mountain crumbled, and the face fell down on them from above.
“Look out!” warned Ned, pushing George as hard as he could back away from the mine. An avalanche of rock and debris rained down upon them.
“Gramps? Gramps!” screamed George, but Ned was buried by the mountain. George tried to lift a large boulder off his grandfather, but Ned Beatty was already dead -- and George knew it. He looked up at the mountainside. The face was now almost smooth from the amount of rock it had spilled down on them, but the mouth was still very much alive. It moved like a fish out of water. And George saw something coming out of the mine.
George Beatty couldn’t believe his eyes. There were dead Indians, or what was left of them, pouring out of the mine entrance. Somehow they had been freed after all these years and were seeking their last revenge. Knives and spears were clutched in their skeletal hands and their eyes shone fiery red. Fixing their gaze on George, they began to climb over the fallen rocks to get to him.
George backed away, desperately searching his pockets for a match to light the fuse to the dynamite they had set. “Why did I ever quit smoking?” George mumbled to himself as he patted his pockets down.
“Run, Daddy,” shouted Katie. “Run!”
George turned around and saw Marilyn coming out of the house with the kids. She was carrying Martha’s old kerosene lamp.
George ran to them and quickly snatched the lantern out of her hand and threw it as hard as he could at the unearthly tribe. It hit with a crash of glass on the rocks and immediately burst into flames. The dead continued to walk right through the fire.
“Move!” he yelled to his family. “Now! Run!” They turned and ran toward the house like the devil himself was chasing them.
There was an enormous explosion, and the force of the blast knocked them all flat to the ground. It began to rain rocks and they were peppered and pelted by falling stones and debris. George tried to shield his family as best he could as they lay there waiting for the storm to die down. Finally, everything was quiet.
George was the first to rise and check his family’s condition. Marilyn had been hit in the head and was bleeding slightly from the wound. The kids were shook up a bit but looked uninjured. They all stood and looked at the mountain.
“It’s gone, Daddy,” said Katie. “The bad face is gone.”
The early morning sun cast its feeble light onto the remaining Beatty family members, as they stood outside staring at the rubble that had once been a gold mine. The entire front of the mountain had come down from the explosion and covered up any trace of the Beatty fortune. They could hear the sound of approaching sirens. “The curse has been broken,” thought George. He put his arms around his family, thankful that they were all safe.
Katie, listening intently, thought she heard something in the house. She stopped and stared. Her mouth slowly dropped open. It was the unmistakable sound of Grandma Martha’s rocking chair, creaking on the old wood floor.