Joe had stopped in a second hand store in Placerville California to buy some cookware for his camping trip on Mount Konocti, located on the south shore of Clearlake, California. Old volcanic domes and cones dotted the area around the lake.
While rummaging through some old blankets a scrap of buffalo hide fell to the floor. He picked it up and saw a map scrawled on it. Joe didn’t have any idea what the map led to, but for the heck of it, he followed it to the X marked on it, and camped on that spot. Under the stars he imagined what may have been here when the mapmaker marked that X.
Looking at the starlit sky spinning above, he saw that every point of light in the vast empty space was alone. Joe wondered if they were searching for a spark from another to enhance their existence and to add fuel to their already burning core.
He saw so many stars so far apart that were separating more and more, he wondered how lonely they were. Were the heavenly bodies satisfied with being orbiting hunks of rock without a burning heart? Were they envious of Earth, with life of its own? Did they feel anything at all for the orbiting worlds that fed from their brilliant light?
Did they know one day that they’d explode, burn, and be destroyed, along with everything within their gravitational pull? If humans can calculate this, surely stars must know life isn’t everlasting, even for them, and is that why they search through space, hoping to share their light and create something else.
Not so different from him, Joe thought. He too was alone, searching for that spark from another, to add to his creative nucleus, to form something he couldn’t unaided. He watched a falling star. It headed directly for the mountain where he camped. He jumped up, thinking a meteor was going to crash right on the spot marked with an X. The light he saw wasn’t a star at all. It lit his tent and a specter floated above.
Joe aimed his rifle at it and was about to pull the trigger when he heard a girl laughing. Then her voice said, “Go ahead and shoot, it won’t do you any good. I was shot over a hundred years ago, but I’m still alive.”
Am I dreaming, Joe wondered, but asked anyway, “Who are you?”
“Ni’ka,” she said as she solidified. Joe saw a beautiful Indian girl.
“You’re part of that race that enslaved and starved my people I see.” She said. “And like all the rest, you’re ready to shoot and kill for any reason at all.” She pointed to the rifle he had aimed at her.
“No, I’m not going to shoot,” Joe set the rifle on the ground, “I was startled when you appeared is all. Tell me how you light the sky and why?”
“It wasn’t so long ago that my family was murdered by federal troops when they camped on this very spot” I was but a girl when I watched the soldiers kill hundreds of, Pomo. That was my tribe you see.”
“Why did the soldiers kill you?”
“The soldiers were angry because after Andrew Kelsey and Charles Stone not only murdered and starved Pomo’s and forced them to work, they raped the wife of Chief Augustine. His tribe attacked their house, and the warriors, Suk and Xasis killed them both.”
“Did the soldiers know it wasn’t your people who had killed Kelsey and Stone?”
“It didn’t matter to them. They wanted to kill any Indian they could find, and even though we were innocent of any crime, they murdered all 400 of us in retaliation for those who had to take justice into their own hands.”
“But that doesn’t explain why and how you’re here tonight.”
“When I died, I became a star and was allowed to search the heavens for a mate. In all these years there isn’t one I’ve met that I want to spend eternity with.”
“I’m so sorry for what happened to you. Hearing your story makes me ashamed to be part of that race that committed such horrific acts of slaughter and injustice. If there is any little thing I can do to make it up to you, please let me know.”
“Look to the sky,” she pointed to a lone shining star. “It’s so lonely up there. Will you come and be my companion star and travel through the heavens with me?”
“Of course I will,” Joe said, “I have always wanted to be a star.”
flash fiction > Indian > short story > Sprit