The Unbeliever This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   He couldn't get her dang words out of his head. As he snowshoed through a grove of Aspen, toward a new trap line, the words played over and over in his mind like a toothache.

Two days before, near the town trading post, the old squaw had hissed, "The whiteness will eat you." He had just spit a brown stream of tobacco juice on her moccasin and pushed her out of the way muttering, "Crazy squaw."

Up here in the mountains, miles from town, and miles from people, the way he usually liked it, those words were eating at him.

It had been snowing steadily since noon, but as he neared his trap line, the wind picked up. Now blowing from the north, the sky grew darker. It would soon be dark, so he decided to leave his trap line until tomorrow and find shelter. Ever since he had pushed his trap line into this valley, sacred to the Blackfoot, the trapping had been great. Yet, something was bothering him. Maybe it was the constant feeling of being watched, but he wasn't sure. One thing he was sure of, he needed to find shelter, and soon. He'd heard about an area of caves in this valley. The wind seemed more intense by the minute, driving the snow into his almost-frozen face, making icicles in his beard.

Just before dark, he stumbled upon the mouth of a cave nearly hidden by a field of boulders. He suddenly noticed the roaring of the wind had disappeared, almost as if it were forbidden in this place.

Snagging his snowshoe just outside of the cave, he tripped and hit his head. As he pushed himself out of the snow, he saw a skull staring back at him. Scrambling to his feet, he almost swallowed his chaw! After gathering his wits, he spit a brown stream onto the skull in disgust, and moved into the half light of the cave.

His first concern was to get warmth and light. Looking around the cave he discovered the wooden shafts of arrows, spears, lances, and clubs. He broke the sticks and lit the fire using flint and steel. As the fire slowly warmed and lit the cave, he set up a bed using extra clothes from his pack. He sat near the fire and chewed some jerky as uneasiness chilled his spine. While putting another piece of wood on the fire, he snickered at the old squaw's words, "The whiteness will eat you," and muttered, "There ain't no whiteness gonna git me here."

As his eyes strained into the darkness of the cave, he thought, Maybe this place'll bring me luck. This might be the place where a griz is hibernatin' and wearin' a mighty nice pelt.

Using an old war club as a torch, he wandered deeper into the forbidding cave. He squeezed through a narrow passage, the torch light dancing on the painted wall of a large hall.

"Chris' sakes, I'm campin' in a graveyard," he whispered to himself, his voice trembling.

Skeletons, Indian skeletons everywhere! Some were in piles, others leaning against the walls, and still more packed like firewood. Bones, bones, bones everywhere, some still partially clothed in rotting leather, and still clutching weapons, even in death.

"Ain't no pelts in this place, but some o' these weapons will git me some money back at the ol' post," he whispered.

He'd return for the stuff in the morning, but he'd take the best for himself. In a pile of skeletons he found an antler-handled hunting knife wedged in a rib cage. Setting his torch down, he yanked the knife out and jumped back, his heart skipping a beat as a huge spider scurried out of the eye socket. With the torch burning out, he hurried back to stoke the fire. Uneasily, he fell to sleep.

The old trapper tossed and turned as terrible nightmares of the old squaw, parading skeletons, and giant spiders haunted his sleep.

Near morning, after drifting off to sleep one more time, he dreamed of running from something he could neither see nor hear, but only feel. He ran faster and faster, crashing through branches and across streams, but he couldn't escape. Suddenly, he was stopped dead in his tracks by a bony hand. He spun to see a half-decayed skeleton gripping the antler handled hunting knife. The skeleton screamed as it slashed the knife toward the trapper's face!

Sweat dripped off his forehead as he searched into the darkness of the cave. Stiffly, he got up and pulsing light drew him toward the burial hall. As he moved through the small passage, he heard a low moan. At the far back of the cave stood a skeleton, clutching a tomahawk, and bathed in an ugly red light. Although filled with fear and disbelief, he took a few shaky steps toward the gruesome figure. Then, all of a sudden, it let out a deafening war cry and raced toward the trapper. He turned around and a spear sticking out of a pile of bones jabbed into his gut. In pain, he ripped the spear from his side, bringing blood and entrails with it. In terror, he ran through the passage and grabbed his pistol from the pack.

As he backed out of the cave, into the bright sunlight of morning, he unloaded all six shots into the black mouth of the cave and turned to run.

A sound like thunder froze him. He turned to see a wall of white crashing down the mountainside. In an instant, he was buried by a wave of snow.

In the spring, the wolves and ravens made a meal of the unbeliever's flesh. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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