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Untitled Story No. 18

Ruth Hopkins, North Dakota, USA
March 1999

The story I am about to share with you was told to me by a close cousin of mine. This true story is an experience of his, and he wouldn't speak freely about it- only under a great deal of coaxing. For the sake of convenience, I will tell it to you as it was told to me, as if he were the one speaking.

"I live in a very rural community. In fact, I live on a Indian Reservation which is made up of five separate housing districts. Each district is miles apart; bound together by lonely dirt roads filled with potholes, and sometimes covered by water, be it from the nearby lake, or water run-off.

Travel was a necessity if anyone who lived on this reservation wanted to visit family or friends, or make his way to work. My tribe owns a casino, and this is where I worked, at night. I got off of work at around 2 a.m. Now, my car wasn't in the best of shape; okay, it was a real 'Indian car' if you get my drift. I guess I just believed good luck and faith would keep my car in working order. Still, I had no reason to think this night would be any different than most.

Home was in a district about 20 miles away, and I was used to making my way through winding curves and pitch dark night, with man made lights far from eye view. As I drove along, I noticed the car was louder than usual. I got a little worried because I knew I would have to walk miles to see another human being if I broke down. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. I was very tired, yet I was kept awake by the thought of having to walk in the smothering night air of summer, in the middle of the black of night.

Sure enough, about five miles from the housing where I lived, the car began to sputter and choke like it was on it's last legs. With one last violent jerk, it quit. I barely managed to coast it over to the rugged shoulder of the barren dirt road I was traveling on.

I hopped out of the car trying to be optimistic. Loosing the top button of my uniform shirt, I popped the hood and looked for clues to what was wrong with the car. It was very dark out and I had forgotten to put a flashlight in the trunk like I usually do. I gave up after a few minutes of inspection and sat down in the driver's seat once more.

"Should I try to walk home?" I wondered. I was never one to be superstitious, but the night was so dark and empty, and I was so tired. Yet, I knew it could be hours before anyone passed this way again, and I knew I would feel better knowing I was at least getting somewhere instead of just sitting still in my carcass of a car.

I grabbed my windbreaker and cigarettes, ready to make the journey. The weather is so unpredictable up this way, you never knew when a rain cloud or a gust of wind would appear out of nowhere.

It wasn't long before the car was out of view. My emergency lights were only a smoky red haze off in the distance. I was bored and alternated walking on the opposite sides of the road. It was deathly quiet that night. After a while, I could have sworn I heard footsteps behind me. At first I thought it was some kind of weird echo, but it was different than the scuttle of my tennis shoes. It was more of a "clack clack" as if someone were wearing wooden clogs. I began to walk faster. Wow, I didn't even know I knew how to speed walk, I joked aloud to myself. It sounded like the "clack clack" was getting louder- and fuller in pitch. It seemed to be getting closer. Did I dare look? I debated the idea in my head. Maybe it was a hitchhiker. But I hadn't seen anyone around when I was in the car? Maybe someone saw me and is trying to stop me to help. But why didn't they say anything yet? "You idiot" I thought. "That's it. I'll take a gander." I tilted my head down and looked just off to the side. It was a little hazy out and I then realized I would have to turn my head completely around to see who it was. While still walking, I quickly threw my head around to see what was behind me. Out of the haze appeared a figure of what looked like a man in a red sports coat. It looked like he had his hands in the pockets of his coat. He looked like he was wearing baggy black and gray pants. I spun around once more. I had looked at him too long and a tripped a little. I hadn't seen the man's face, but he definitely scared me. He seemed to walk as if he were trying to catch up to me. I walked faster. I was trying to control myself so I wouldn't get out of breath. No matter how fast I walked, he was gaining on me. I wanted to look at him again, but I was terrified. Part of it was possibly from being told as a child by American Indian elders that you should not look at spirits or try to converse with them, especially if they were evil. But how did I know it was a spirit of some sort?

I could feel him breathing right over my shoulder. He, or it, didn't say anything. I felt like he was going to run right over me. His hot breath was right on my bare neck. I fingered a cigarette in the pocket of my windbreaker. It was then I remembered being told when I was younger that tobacco was a offering of sorts. Like a peace offering. I had an idea. Perhaps it was foolish or strange, but I fumbled to light a single cigarette, and promptly threw it just to the side of me. In an instant, I looked down to see to large, man-sized, goat legs, covered with dense black and gray hair, complete with shiny, huge black hooves in the light of the moon. A thick hand with long spindly fingernails grabbed the smoking cigarette in the air, and stopped walking.

Still walking briskly, I noticed the sound of the footsteps was fading away. I breathed a sigh of relief. The sun was starting to come up. It was only then that I saw the homes which outlined my housing district. By the time I entered the front door of my home it was almost 7 a.m. Why had it taken me so long to walk a simple distance of approximately five miles even though I had been walking as fast as I could without breaking into a sprint? I guess I'll never know.

Ruth Hopkins, North Dakota, USA
00:00 / 01:04
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