A Night Among the Utes

by Matthew J. Barbour

cabin in the valley of the utesIt was supposed to have been a shortcut across the mountains. If I took the old road through the Valley of the Utes, I would meet up with the interstate around Raton. I had planned to stay the night there before continuing on to Denver, but now it was dark and I was still in the valley.

There were no lights along the road, which was littered with potholes. It wasn’t safe to keep going–not at night at least. I looked for a place to pull off, as if I expected someone else to come down the road. I hadn’t seen anyone for hours.

People must have lived in the valley at one time. Once in a while I could make out a cabin just off the road. All of them looked like set pieces out of an old western film. It didn’t look like anyone had lived in them for years.

The idea of sleeping in the car really didn’t appeal to me. I was going to have to shut the engine off. I couldn’t afford to run out of gas. This high in the mountains, it was already cold. So, I decided I would get some shut eye in one of the cabins. They all had chimneys, and I figured I could build a fire.

So the next cabin I saw, I pulled off the road, jumped out of the car and went inside. It wasn’t like I broke in. There was no lock on the door and no one was sure as heck living there still.

The cabin was a simple structure consisting of a single room. I stumbled a bit in the dark. There was a full moon outside, but between the ponderosas and the cabin walls I couldn’t see anything. I fumbled over to the hearth and lit a fire.

As the light of the fire filled the small cabin, I was surprised to find that it was still furnished. All of it looked like it had been sitting there for at least a hundred years, but back then they must have built furniture to last. I settled myself into a comfy rocker. Maybe this was an old film set, I told myself.

Sleep overtook me almost immediately, but before I faded off into the realm of dreams. I remember seeing what looked like a red stain on the floor in front of the fire place. Blood? More likely paint made to look like blood, but shell casings were scattered about too. It really was like something out of a movie. Definitely an old film set, I said to myself as I drifted off to sleep.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

I awoke to the sound of distant drums. It was like the beat you would hear Indians play at a powwow.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

The room was dark. I must have been asleep for some time. The fire was nothing but embers.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

The drum beat appeared to be getting louder. I got up from the rocker and stuck another log in the fire. It just smoldered and filled the room with black smoke. I coughed.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

I thought about it for a moment. The sound wasn’t getting louder. Rather, it was getting closer. It was probably coming from the stand of trees just outside the cabin door.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

I walked outside. It was still dark. I couldn’t see anything. The moon had sunk behind the ponderosas surrounding the cabin.

Boom. Boom. Boom.

The noise was so close now. I must have been within a few hundred feet of the drummer. I called out. As soon as I did, the drumming stopped. It was silent for a moment. I wasn’t sure what to say or do.

Then, I thought I heard the door of the cabin swing open behind me. Gunshots filled the night air and I could have sworn I heard a woman scream. I didn’t look back. I jumped in my car and sped away.

Matthew J. Barbour is a speculative fiction writer living with his wife and three children in Bernalillo, New Mexico. When he is not writing fiction, Mr. Barbour manages Jemez Historic Site in Jemez Springs and writes for a number of regional newspapers.

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