An excerpt from DINKLE'S LIFE: A SPIRITUAL BIOGRAPHY, a serious ghost story for our times:
“It has rained most of the night,” continues Jimmy; “a cool damp soaking September rain. Leaves are just starting to turn, and the few yellowish ones stand out like wet signals in the green oaken forest. Lonnie Paul can smell the Earth as he walks toward the open mound, picking his way through the harsh and tangled blackjacks, green briar snapping at his cuffs. As he walks, a doe comes up beside him, slipping silently through the brush until she is suddenly at his side, within reach, tiptoeing over dead branches, through the litter. Her eyes are large black wet marbles. Far off he hears blue jays calling, then closer, until they’re overhead, jumping through the branches, softening their bell-like notes. A small covey of quail runs ahead, taking many paths; the doe sidesteps them nicely. The sun breaks through the clouds, casting a shaft of light on bare earth, a spot where the day before he’d stopped digging. It had been too dark to see exactly what he was doing, and his trowel had struck something hard. I’m going to make a discovery today; he smiles at the doe. He swears she smiles back.”
“With his trowel in one hand, a brush in the other, he starts to uncover the object he’d encountered the previous day. An unusual number of wild creatures seem to be moving in the nearby woods, almost frolicking, he thinks, absolutely unafraid. The doe lies down, folding her long legs. Titmice call—peter peter peter—then bounce nervously above his head, waiting, almost, excited, happy . . . yes, happy, that was the word he wanted . . . happy. He moves the soil away one grain at a time. His brush uncovers a bone, rounded, with figures carved into its surface. A skull! At a deeper level than the flint! He spends most of the day enlarging his trench in order to excavate around the head. It is tedious work, for all flints pottery shards, basket pieces, implements, must be numbered and recorded. He stops periodically to rest and make notes. Slight movements reveal two dozen birds, a pair of squirrels, watching; rabbits, their noses twitching regularly with their chewing of the fresh grass, waiting . . . almost smiling. The doe is at peace.”
“By late afternoon be has the top half of the skull excavated. The carved figures are locked in a violent dance, a fire on the left temple, flames on the right. Daylight fades, nearly into darkness before he lifts the entire skull free, after centuries, from its earthen prison. He stares into the face; it smiles back, an ancient, long gone, happy, almost entertaining, smile. It has been a spectacular and fascinating day. Lonnie Paul is exhausted but the doe is wide awake; night time is whitetail time. Rabbits nibble green twigs. The suns final rays, coming in red and low from the west, make shadows on the underbrush. The shadows move, a sylvan theatre of . . . of what? The weasel comes from nowhere at the speed on light, hitting one of the rabbits with a heavy thump. Screams pierce his ears, then more screams, screams that will not end. The doe sits hypnotized, frozen. Then it’s over and as red shadows fade the air becomes cool, and black. The skull crumbles in his hand, the lower jaw, facial features falling in pieces on his feet, leaving only the cap with its twisting figures. A great suction takes his breath, a giant suction, pulling up leaves, a whoosh of air that he can hear careening through the valley, escaping into the mountains to the south.”
“Then it is silent and still. From far in the distance he hears Radiator yapping. He puts the skullcap into his pack and starts for home, where Ma tells him what he’s done.”
“What had he done?” asks Monica, staring at Jimmy in a way that made him uncomfortable.
“He’d let out the first of the North Sallisaw Burial Mound demons: the spirit of the fairy tale, the God of Fiction.”
“That’s stupid, Jimmy! What’s wrong with fairy tales?”
“Ask those rabbits, Monica. They believed everything was okay, that everything was going to be all right.”
DINKLE'S LIFE is available on kindle and smashwords.com. The demons that Lonnie Paul Dinkle released from the North Sallisaw Mound are still with us.