The frost on the ground crunched beneath their feet. They left tracks of alternating footprints; one of their steps, the male, had long strides that held up impatiently every few meters, for the frost was crushed from his impatient feet. The other stride was evidently shorter, and the frost was disturbed, but with less purposeful steps.
“I don’t want to go,” she pleaded. Her voice carried softly on the howls of the wind, echoing through the canyon walls. A pleasing sound.
“I have to see it,” he coaxed from ahead. He turned his flashlight in her direction. “We’re almost there, babe, come on.” An aggravation.
She shined her lights up the sandstone cliffs. Black rocks, holes, overhangs. Faces on the cliffs watched her. She felt us. “I don’t want to go. I think it’s better to leave them alone. There’s a reason this place is called Spirits’ Death Watch.” Yet, she took a few steps closer to him.
This time he waited for her. “The spirits are gone, babe. This is just some old Indian burial ground. But the turquoise pendant is there. Let’s get the pendant, and that’s that.” He leaned over and hugged her. “We will be out of here, you can write your little journal-thingy about it and I can sell it so we will both be rich.” He laughed, and his laugh crept into the caves and bounced back and forth between the narrowing walls of the canyon. You will not touch the pendant.
Soon, the canyon’s textured walls closed in, and the couple flashed their lights upward. No longer was the sky visible, for the warped walls obliterated the stars and moon. Just the rock faces and the momentary light of their flashlights. An owl “Hoo-hooed” somewhere above. Their feet now made soft plodding sounds as the frost broke through to soft sand.
“How far does this canyon go? I’m feeling like it’s closing behind us.” She turned her flashlight behind them. The warped inner walls laughed at her light and revealed no exit. You should not be here.
He stopped, leaned back on one wall and took his backpack off. He pulled out a bottle of water, and a map. With both their lights they look at this map. One way in and one way out.
“Not too far, hon, see here we are…” he pointed at the paper. No, here you are.
She took a sip if the water, “If it’s true, that anyone who disturbs this ground will die, then why is this the ground you’re interested in?” You are interested, too.
“I want this for us, babe. I don’t believe that there are any spirits guarding these graves. There are no ghosts in this canyon.” He lit the walls with his flashlight up and down, showing her only the gloomy, droopy rock eyes, and gaping toothless mouths. A wolf howled above, “Wahoooo”.
“Couldn’t we have come during the day?” She pulled him closer. You like this, too.
They pushed on through the canyon, feeling the sharp rocks, and rubbing the smooth ones. He stopped to help her over some fallen logs. “Are you sure this is the right way?” She followed his flashlight at her feet.
“Babe, we haven’t made any turns. This is a slot canyon.” He chuckled. “It’s a narrow crevice that goes one way. That’s why this ground is so precious. At the end of this canyon, the mesa top has the turquoise buried.” This ground is precious because we are buried here.
“I just…I don’t know. Something feels like…” She looked up the canyon walls with her flashlight. The walls, black and sometimes reddish in her flashlight. “These walls must be 90 feet high…” They were quiet for a moment, both shining their lights straight up, searching for the heavens. Too deep now.
He pulled her further along, tripping over each other and keeping their flashlights to the ground. You should have turned around long ago.
“Ouch!” He cried out. She shone her light at his face. Blood dripped down his nose and his neck stopped at an unnatural angle. A large yucca spine stuck in his eye socket from the front and the side of his neck was pierced through with what was clearly an arrow, the greed jade arrowhead glistened in her flashlight, his blood reddening the cracks. He did not move, laugh, or reassure her.
Her screams echoed to the mesa top through the 90-foot chasm. She threw her light on the scene, not wanting to look but being certain that she must run. You will not.
She tripped turning around and fell to her knees. Crying, she got herself up and shined her light on the canyon walls, but could not see the slot. She felt with her hands the sharpness of the rocks, frantically patting for an opening. Her hands bled. She shined her light and found that she had returned to his body. She screamed again as his purpled face came into the beam of her flashlight.
The canyon mouth gave way and she found herself in a smaller round cavern-like room, perched on the wall of the canyon. She had to scramble upwards to get there and her knee left bloody streaks on the sandstone floor. Her flashlight lit the new walls and she saw that the canyon took an immediate plunge to unknown depths. Turning back around, but not wanting to she retraced her steps. I will protect my turquoise. The light of her flashlight helped her find her way back, and she gasped again. His body was gone, the arrow dripped of blood. Her flashlight went dark, and everything fell black.