The following is an excerpt from THE DYING LIGHT, one of the short stories that can be found in my collection WE ARE ALL MONSTERS.
Frank and I had shared spooky stories ever since our families when camping together when we were seven. It was our thing—each of us tried to tell a scarier story than the other guy.
The last one he told me kept me up for a week. I had to sleep with a flashlight. Neither of us would ever admit just how scared we got.
But that was part of the fun.
“A long time ago, when the Finnish and Welsh settlers first came here, there was this Ojibwe tribe that worked the original copper mines. One clever tribesman managed to win the deed from the owner in a poker game. They’d been trying to get the property rights to it for years, saying the mine was made by their ancestors and rightfully belonged to them. So it was a big deal for them to get it back.
“A whole group of tribesmen goes down in the mine to survey and map out the oldest, deepest parts of the mine. Things seemed to be going fine, but none of them came back up at the end of the shift. They sent down a search party to see what happened, and there was blood and body parts everywhere. Like, people were just torn apart by something stupid strong.
“The day after, the tribe just up and left; they practically handed the mine deed back over to the settlers. The last Indian to leave told them not to go down too deep, as certain parts of the ancient mine was guarded by an evil great spirit called Gaaway Manidoo. He said that the miners accidentally found a sacred cave, and paid for it with their lives.
“Seeing how dead serious the Ojibwe were, they boarded off the area that lead down to the section where the murders happened.”
“What? That’s it? That’s your story?”
“No. Shut up, I’m not done yet.”
I laughed and he sucker punched my shoulder.
“You wanna hear the rest or no?”
“OK, OK keep going. Sheesh.”
“Anyways, years later this miner, a young Finnish immigrant, comes across an old section of tunnels and decides to go in them. Then one day he comes up all excited ‘cause he found something.”
“What’d he find?”
“I’m getting to that part. Just wait for it. So the Finn, he gets some guy from the mine museum over in Marquette to come over with a newspaper reporter and they take all kinds of pictures. Turns out the Indians used that section of the mine for human sacrifices. It was a big controversy. My dad says he remembers it happening when he was a kid.”
“Ya way. They took lots of artifacts out of the mine for display; bones of the victims, sacrificial flint-stone daggers with beaded handles, the works. The miner sees that these things have value, so he decides he’s going to find something for himself. You know, like a souvenir or something that he could sell for a lot of money.
“He explores the whole mine system for months, searching for the perfect treasure.
“One day he comes up all pale and scared out of his mind. He’s got this clay pot in his hands, it’s an old oil lamp made by the Indians. His hands are gripped on it, like white-knuckled. He won’t let anyone touch it. He keeps it with him all the time, and starts getting really weird and jumpy. He stops working, he can’t handle being in the mines anymore. It made him a nervous wreck to be down there.
“That winter, he heads out to his cabin in the woods to go hunting. Just so happens that his cabin was over by the mines where he found the lamp.
“A bad storm hit. Like, total white-out blizzard. Howling winds, the works. The roads were closed for the season and the guy gets cabin fever real bad. His neighbor goes and visits him, because he was worried, seeing as how he was living there by himself and all, and he finds that the guy had boarded himself inside the cabin. Took him a while to open the door, and once he let him in, he kept going on an on about lamp oil, ‘cause he was running out.
“A few days later, the miner guy goes from one end of the town to the other, pounding on doors, screaming and carrying on about needing lamp oil and something hunting him from the shadows in the woods. People wanted to help, but no one had any lamp oil. By then most people had switched over to kerosene. So he was shit out of luck.
“His neighbor invited him to come stay at his house a few days, seeing as how he was all alone and it was a real bad snowstorm. He didn’t want the guy to freeze to death or anything, you know? But the dude refused. Even though it would have been in his best interest to spend a few days with people just so he shook off the cabin fever. But…he didn’t. He went home, dejected, scared out of his mind. Boarded up everything. Didn’t light a fire in the fireplace or anything, like he was trying to hide that he was there.
“That night, the locals heard something heavy running across their rooftops. My dad says that his uncle swears that he heard them himself. After the thumping on the roof, a man screamed, and over the wailing winds of the blizzard, they heard several gun shots. His neighbor’s wife rounded up her boys and they went over to the guy’s cabin. They find the boarded-over door on the ground, ripped off its hinges. Snow had drifted inside. The guy was nowhere to be found. All they saw was two deep bloody hoof prints in the snow, the other footprints around the cabin had filled in already by the snow drifts. The guy was never heard from again.”
“It’s true. I asked my dad. His cousin has a cabin over there. It happened.”
“Sure. Try another one.”
“OK. You hear the one about the snipe hunter?”
I hit him hard. “Shut up. Snipes aren’t real.”
“You know, Brad, I know where the cabin is. We should go up there.”
“Sure. Why not?”
You can read the rest of this story, and more in my story collection WE ARE ALL MONSTERS!
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