Thursday, December 23, 2010

Shooting Painted Horses (a short story by D.L. Siluk)

Shooting Painted Horses
(A Short Story on Betrayal—1820, along the Mississippi)

Chapter One
Along the Mississippi

The cliffs were all painted with horses, so they looked for Nelly de la Cruz; there was no trace of neither her, nor no sign of her husband, those who had been with them two were dead, shot dead, by smugglers.
By and by, she’d be found, but for now she had escaped the pirates who scanned the upper (northern part, to the central region) of the Mississippi waiting in hollows and crevasses, and caves, and then like sharks, by way of canoes, or rowboats, even barges, they’d, if not by land and horse (gallop to their prey), they’d quickly overpower the innocent, shanghaiing anyone and everyone, for rape, sale, blackmailing, or what’re profit they’d bring, it was treasure they were after; they called themselves the Drake Clan or Gang, after their leader Adam Terrance Drake and there were twenty of them (pirates of the Mississippi, operating in the years of 1810 to 1824).
But today was different, upon their approach two escaped their grips, seldom done, and the chances of getting off in secret, as they did were seldom accomplished, but the patches of the morning fog had allowed just this— the shores were difficult to see, becoming misty, as was the houseboat, a source of inconvenience for the pirates, thick patches of white fog, drifting from one side of the river to the other. But soon abandonment would prevail.
They, the family group with Nelly de la Cruz and her husband Mauricio, who came down on a houseboat all eight of them, were told by Sam Nelson, of the upper Minnesota:
“Don’t dare go anywhere beyond Pig’s Eye Point, along the shores you could be cut off by pirates, make sure you hire some guns, good shooters somewhere along the way, lest you want to be taken captive for ransom by the pirates.”
But hired guns cost money, and they didn’t listen of course to Sam, preferred to beat out the river, and kept their cargo aboard, and slowly went down her, “Sam, was right,” Nelly’s husband would say, just before they jumped into the river to escape; find a place just such as they would wish, and hide until the danger was over.
Seven canoes, with painted faces to cover their identity, white men portraying Indians (the pirates), in canoes had surrounded them, shooting, not taking prisoners, hence, all would die but the two.
They, the pirates had set a watch in the cliffs by what was called, the ‘Cliffs by Painted Horses’. The ancient Indians had painted the horses onto the cliffs hundreds of years before, and you could see them with the naked eye while approaching them going down the Mississippi, if indeed one knew the spot and were looking for it. There are dozens of places between the Cliffs of Painted Horses, and others, meaning rock art, on cliffs and rocks, along the Mississippi, but most were hidden from where folks on a boat could see them safely enough.

Chapter Two
The Cave by, Painted Horses

There was a narrow opening between two cliffs, near Painted Horses, and Mauricio crept between them, hiding from the pirates, coming in from off the shore with the booty they had taken from the houseboat, looking for him and his wife, especially his wife, for their personal pleasures, for they had gotten a glimpse of her beauty, and adoring shape, and that immediately sat down deep into their lustful brains, like flags waving in the wind (especially for, Keystone, a young lustful, and bloodthirsty pirate who kept her every inch embedded into his ceremonial mental vaults of what he’d do to her once captured), as I was about to say, they, the pirates had seen her, before she jumped into the river behind her husband, who had jumped off the boat, without even telling her to follow, she simple followed his footsteps nonetheless.
Behind the angle of the well he could see the entrance of the cave called “Painted Horses,” the pirates were shooting at his wife, who had entered the cave, and Keystone who had follower her.
By and large, as we can see at this point, he let her fend for herself, abandoned her. She had looked for him, had lowered her eyes, her brow, her head just a moment, as she ran from the pirates, and when she brought it up to the level where she saw the cave she would enter, he disappeared, she thinking he went inside the cave, where else could he have gone—she instantly pondered, he said not one word, not one single solitary word to distract her from going into that legendary cave, the cave known as the maze, the labyrinth of all caves along the Mississippi, that is why the Clan shot at Nelly, and let be bygones thereafter, and let Keystone chase her into a habitat where screaming wildfowl would not dare enter, eminently suited the pirates with less lustful intentions; for the most part, the smuggling had accomplished what they set out to, as for the husband they felt he had drowned.

Chapter Three
Inside the cave of Painted Horses

She had run inside the cave, the mist kept coming, in frequent belts, seeping along the floor of the cave to where Keystone the Pirate could not follow her, he took one forked entrance, Nelly another, as she called in echoes for her husband, whom never answered, and then came sunset, one she did not see, but felt it must be for she had run, then walked and then held her hand against the damp walls of the cave to assist her in her next to crawling erect.
Everything was near to indistinguishable inside the cave, her eyes somewhat adjusted, but she was beyond light, and one entrance let into another, and she could hear the echoes of the pirates voice, not her husband’s, and then she knew he had abandoned her, she wanted to believe, had second thoughts even, that out of the confusion, he did what he did, but she knew now, wherever he was, at one point they were both earshot—within a audible range of hearing one another and he did not call out to her, but here the lustful, young pirate, did what a substitute she felt. The trumpeting of his eager voice had dangerously went to a pleading for them to get-together to find a way out, she figured sooner or later they’d bump into one another, then what? Was the question: lest they die beforehand, and that would be settled.
The paths were endless, and the young man’s voice was always either behind her, in front of her or on the sides of her, but not far from her. Her instincts becoming keener, she knew they’d meet at some crosswalk.

Chapter Four
Mauricio’s Escape

Mauricio looked into the cave, the following morning, dark it was, the mist lifted, the pirates gone. He saw Nelly enter it, and he saw the pirate enter it as well, his long knife tucked into his belt, a woodened looking pistol in his hands, a bandana around his forehead, paint on his cheeks, chin and around his eyes. He was frightened of the image he had just formed, and said not a word into the mother cave; elaborate care he took in stepping back from the entrance, satisfied he would not go into it, he felt there was no sense in sticking around—she was not insight, he had done his duty as best he could, his attitude during the dominance of this previous crisis was found to be unconsciously more desirable in saving himself, not getting shot, than saving his wife, and himself, and perhaps getting shot in the process: in which, that would not do anyone any good, so he convinced himself, and thus, she would have to do the same, and so not an evil tough overhung his conscious for wrong doing, nor did he build a rude wall of shame for abandoning his wife—at lest not at this juncture, it was a parallel he felt, saying, “…she ran one way, I ran another…” but of course it wasn’t that way, was it?

He found himself climbing up the cliff then once over the edge of the cliff, cautiously throwing himself forward he peered over it once and for all, then ran into the woods, all in fair weather, he ran until his head got dizzy, an old woman found him on the ground, took him into her home, as though he was her child, or better, a stray cat, in a small town-let deep in the woods.
In time, he would hear after every sunset, wake up, if sleeping, startled by a voice behind him, it was always Nelly’s voice calling out: he never said a word on this matter, he lived with the old lady, for eight-years, and thought the matter would be over with his wife, never mentioning her name. But if ever there was a need to talk, he was the one, but never did. So after the old lady’s death, he tried to master his purpose, one he never found, and died two years later of alcoholism, at the age of thirty-nine: a bloated body, with a liver that was likened be being frostbitten.

Chapter Five
Nelly and Keystone

There was no end to the cave, its paths, its corners, its entrances, no light, it was now the third day, she heard footsteps, it was his, the pirate’s, from silence came a towering body over her’s, she was at wits end, laying down against the damp walls of the cave, coughing, dying slowly.
She had thought the matter over for her, death was eminent, and he would not find her, but he did fine her, tired and no longer hiding, just laying where she was, dirty, turned into a prisoner of the mother cave.
She felt his dark human hand on her leg, it was the least likely thing she expected, she said with a bellow—at this stage of the hunt anyway, “What is the matter with you, we are dying, we will be dead soon, and you are thinking of sex?”
He had a sack of rum that was attached to his side belt, oh, just enough to make a person more thirsty, it held perhaps a pint, no more, he had drank most of it, but gave her the last drops of it, saying, “This is my contribution,” then received her unwillingly, as if he was entitled to his booty, and she was it. There they lay for two more days, him taking her several times, right up to her death. Then he, died twenty feet down that cold damp passageway from her, and wouldn’t be found, until 1902, when a child would be playing above them, falling through a weak spot in the upper crust of the earth, a hole formed by perhaps animals, and thereafter, discovering their bodies.

Parts written 10-15-2008, and 10-17-2008, Huancayo, Peru: the theme was inspired by a similar event that took place in about 1990, a female friend of the author’s was betrayed and stranded in the middle of the Northern Minnesota Woods to fend for herself…