The Lost Dutchman

The canary had died the week before. Not from carbon monoxide in the mine shaft, but from a poisonous caterpillar the Dutchman had given her for breakfast. An unfortunate loss, an accident, but it was followed quickly by the destruction of his sturdiest wheelbarrow, crushed under rubble from a minor avalanche on the north side of the diggings. Two accidents, and the Dutchman couldn’t help but remember the curse his ex-mining partner had put on him. Weak from hunger, the other man had not been hard to kill, a pickaxe to the back, but his last words had been disturbing.

Bear down cross, bear down stone, blood to stone, the devil to take ye. His Irish thick as his finger painted a bloody cross into the gravel.

The Dutchman slurped liver stew, deep in thought. He would eat the man’s organs and cheeks first. If he could make jerky, the meat could last another two weeks in the heat. He could supplement with cactus figs, mesquite pods, and the flowers of the Jacob’s Staff and yucca. And he would brew more of the Mormon Tea that increased his stamina.

He wiped blood from the splitting callouses of his left hand onto his trousers. He was certain he’d strike the thick of the gold vein before he was so starved he could not make it to town. Goldfield wasn’t far, but the thought of leaving made him want to retch.

The sun rose, the coyotes howled the last of their song. He wasn’t sure but it sounded like their voices were close. The remaining ammunition was for protection against bandits, not coyotes. He paused. Although, if he could shoot straight, he could be eating coyote when this ran out. His shaking hands shouldn’t be a problem, as he was normally a very good shot, and coyotes were larger targets than the rattlers and elusive jackrabbits. He nodded in satisfaction.

The early morning air was already warm and filled with the scent of mesquite. It had been a long night in the mine, and he just needed a short rest to recover. The Dutchman drank the last of the brewed Mormon Tea. It helped that he could make as much of the energy-giving tea as he wanted. There were several of the plants nearby, and he had harvested plenty of water from pots he had left out during the monsoons.

He wiped his brow, feeling a bit muddled and weak-kneed. His breathing grew harsh, diminished. It was after he removed his boots to sit on the camp blanket when he felt the first terrifying constriction in his chest. Each pulse brought a memory of the wife he left behind. Her strong voice reading favorite Bible passages. Her lips the color of red currants. Her nipples thickening under his gentle massage. His heart limped, yet raced as he remembered her. But his last thoughts, the ones that lingered, were about the gold. The vein in the ground just meters from him. Now lost.

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Genre: Horror
Wordage: caterpillar, crush
Wordcount: 500

Image: via


  1. Those extra edits you did really brought it to life. I snuck in and read it last week ;)

  2. Thanks, guys! Sapphire, of course you did. I do the same. Haha.


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