The Devil’s Backbone
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“I’ve found it!” Jay shouted. Everyone gathered behind him and peered into the dark hole that had been hidden in the dense underbrush. He grabbed Katie and hugged her. “I’m so glad!” Katie exclaimed. “But, I have to say that I didn’t hold out much hope in finding it.” “Well, I was beginning to worry myself,” Bo said, grinning, clapping Jay on the back. Jay grinned at his friend, but he caught the look Bo gave Katie. Bo had some serious reservations about her coming along since she was still limping from the skiing accident three months ago when she broke her leg and crushed her ankle from a tumble down the Colorado mountain. “Here’s the helmets. Make sure the lights work.” Deacon interrupted Jay’s thoughts, handing everyone a yellow miner’s helmet. “Laura, do you have the map?” Jay asked, Katie’s best friend. Laura was excellent  navigating in caves. “Yeah, it’s here in my knapsack,”she answered handing the folded map to him. Jay put his gear on, opened up the map and studied it again. Although it looked straight forward,  once inside the cave, it could be a different story. “Where did you get that map anyway?” Deacon asked, looking over Jay’s shoulder. “I found it buried away in my grandma’s attic. There was as antique trunk up there that had belonged to her grandfather and the map was taped to the lid of the trunk.” “Are you sure this is the cave that’s on the map? It would be terrible if we drove for over two hours to get here and it’s the wrong location.” Deacon laughed. “It’s the right cave,” Laura replied, snapping her knapsack around her waist. “We researched it. See here on the map the place marked the Devil’s Backbone? Well, this is the Devil’s Backbone.” she said, pointing to the mountains that loomed over them. “Alright everyone, let’s go. We’re burning daylight.” Jay looked around at everyone.  Katie was behind him, Laura and Bo behind her and Deacon pulling up the rear. “Okay, if we find the treasure, remember, we all split it evenly.” Everyone nodded their heads. “Do you have any idea what we might actually be looking for?” Deacon blurted out. “No, but according to the legend, six Confederate soldiers were bringing a trunk of Confederate gold from Virginia to Tennessee. When they were close to these mountains, they realized a half dozen or more Union soldiers were closing in on them. They found this cave and buried the gold. One of the soldiers made a map of its location, but as far as anyone knows, no one has found the gold and only one of the soldiers lived to tell about what happened.” “What makes you think we will have better luck?” Bo asked. “Because of the entrance to the cave,” Laura said. “You see, when I was researching the map, I discovered that the map others have followed isn’t quite like the map Jay found. The other maps have a decoy entrance, the one we saw further around the mountain. This map is the only one I’ve seen that shows this entrance. And this map has a weird symbol on the upper right-hand corner on. It looks like an upside down eye, but I can’t find out what it means.” “Which means that there is a good chance that no one has been this way,” Jay added. “So, since we may have been the first ones here, watch your step and stay aware of your surroundings. Everyone nodded. Jay pushed through the brush and disappeared into the blackness. He stumbled over a pile of rocks that had fallen overhead. When everyone had cleared the rocks, he looked ahead and saw that the cave split into two corridors. “Which way?” Katie asked. Jay saw her rubbing her leg. Getting past the rocks had been more of an obstacle for her than the others. “According to the map, left.” Jay stretched out his hand and pointed. They all followed him to the left, their lights bobbing in the darkness. The corridor twisted and turned, but Jay carried the map in front of him, stopping only when he needed to study it closer. After another ten minutes of twisting, he stopped and announced they were at the spot where they needed to be. He heard sighs of relief. “How far back in here are we?” Deacon asked. “Far enough,” Bo replied and set up torches around the walls. “Ok, the first thing we need to do is look for a rock,” Jay announced. Katie burst out laughing. “Sorry didn’t mean to laugh, but this is one big rock pile.” “Let me clarify. We are looking for a rock with a symbol on it. We think the symbol we’re looking for is the eye.” Everyone scattered and searched around the rock walls. Jay took the map and tiptoed and squatted studying the rocks. Then suddenly he gasped out loud. “What is it? Did you find the rock?” Katie squealed. “I don’t know, but look at the map!” Everyone gathered around him. Laura and Katie gasped, Deacon back up and Bo just stared. “No way!” Bo finally said. “Jay!” Katie said as everyone stared at the map. The upside down eye was glowing and pulsating. Jay held the map away from his body. What was making it glow that way? Everyone was talking, but he hushed them up and cocked his head to one side. He had heard something. “What is it?” Katie asked. Her voice was trembling. Everyone now heard the same thing he had. “It sounds like the mountain is groaning.” Deacon muttered. Everyone gathered close to Jay. Then small rivulets of dirt began to fall from overhead. Katie grabbed Jay’s arm. “Maybe we need to scoot out of here and come back another day.” Bo cried out. “Anyone that wants to leave can, but I’m staying. I think the sounds are connected to the glowing eye on the map.” Jay answered. “Everyone that’s staying, keep looking.” Then Laura cried out. “Look what I found.” Jay was the first to her. He examined the rock. “This is it!” He said excitedly, rubbing his hands together. He grabbed a hammer and chisel from his sack and began to hammer around a rock. It took about fifteen minutes to chisel all the way around it, but when he was done, he pulled the rock from the wall. Then he pulled another and another until he had a small opening in the wall. Everyone watched with eyes wide open. Then he stuck in hand into the opening, but his face paled . He slowly pulled his handout of the hole. He held his hand up to the light and broke out in a clammy sweat. His index finger was broken and the nail mashed and bleeding. He felt faint. He heard Katie scream and grab his hand. Bo and Deacon took his arms and helped his sit down. Laura grabbed the first aid kit. “Jake, I’m going to bandage your hand and then we’ll get you to a doctor.” Laura told him. She was shaking. “No. We’ve come this far and there is something in there.” “Yeah we know. It almost took off your finger.” Bo said. “I don’t know what happened, but I felt a box in there.” He said. Everyone looked around at each other. Jay sat after his hand was bandaged until the clamminess passed and he felt a little more like himself. Then he went back to the hole. This time he took more rock out until he revealed a small trunk inside and used a small shovel to poke at the trunk, but the shovel was thrown from his hand from some invisible force that surrounded the trunk. “What the…?” He shouted. Then he had an idea. He took the map from his back pocket. He unfolded it and held the glowing eye up to the hole. There was a cracking noise. He retrieved the shovel and poked at the trunk. There was a thump as the shovel smacked into the trunk. Jay dropped the shovel and grabbed the trunk with his good hand, pulling it out and letting it fall to the ground. Gold coins scattered across the cave floor. “We did it! We found the treasure!” Deacon hopped around, laughing. Jake reached down and picked up a handful of coins. “Suddenly the mountain moaned loudly and rocks fell from overhead, barring their way out. Katie and Laura cried out. Now they would have to dig their way out, Jay thought. “Guys do you hear that?” Deacon whispered. Everyone stood still and barely breathed. Jay heard it. Apparently everyone else did too. Footsteps were echoing from deeper in the cave and getting louder. Jay felt a sudden cold spill into the room and then a putrid, dead smell floated in. Jay felt a chill slide down his spine. He grabbed Katie’s cold hand. They all backed up to the pile of fallen rock. Then as he watched in the semi-darkness, a figure passed through the rock wall in front of them, followed by another until five men stood in front of them. Each one was wearing the uniform of the Confederate army and they all had rifles. Jay could feel Katie trembling. Deacon was pulling at the rocks to get out. He stared at the soldiers. “What do you want?” Jay finally asked, trying to sound brave. The soldiers only stared, rifles across their chests. “Jay, I bet the glowing eye summoned the soldiers.” She whispered. “Yeah, that was what I was thinking, but what now?” He asked, but didn’t have to wait long to find out. The lead soldier stepped forward and stuck out his hand. “He wants the map,” Bo whispered in Jay’s ear. “Map” his dead voice ordered hollowly. “No, it’s mine,” Jay said stubbornly. The soldiers stepped forward. Their dead eyes glowed like the eye on the map. Jay took a step backward. Now, Bo was trying to dig through the rock pile. He could hear their labored breathing. Deacon had managed to clear a small opening in the pile. The soldiers surrounded them now. He pushed Katie back as far as he could. He felt a sickening thud in his stomach. If they had to make a run for it, he wasn’t sure Katie could. He knew she was already hurting from the way she had rubbed her leg earlier. Maybe she could get through the hole and take off while they held the soldiers off if they had too. Now Laura was helping to remove rocks from the rock pile. Then the lead soldier was in front of him, close up and personal. Jay could smell death on him. His black eyes stared at him. Jay shoved the map into his back pocket. The other soldiers had lined up beside the first soldier. They raised their rifles. Jay realized what was about to happen as did the others. He shouted and threw himself at the soldier, but he fell through him and rolled across the cave. He saw looked up as the shots filled the cave. Deacon was the first one hit. He lurched forward and rolled down the pile of rocks. Katie was almost to the opening, dragging her leg. Bo was behind her, pushing her along. Jay heard a scream and saw that Laura was hit. She slumped forward and didn’t move. Her knapsack fell at her lifeless side. He got to his feet and moved toward his friends. Then a loud bellow filled the cave and Bo fell backward and tumbled to the cave floor with a thud. Blood streamed from his mouth and he stared at Jay with sightless eyes. Jay tried to run past the soldiers, but a searing hot pain spread through his chest. He stumbled backward, tripping over his friend. He could feel the warm blood gush from the hole in his chest and air became nonexistent in his lungs. One of the soldiers fired at Katie. she was hit in her injured leg. Then his vision blurred, but he saw Katie’s bad leg go through the opening. Run Katie! he thought. The last thing he saw was the five soldiers placing the fallen trunk back in it’s place and the leader of the soldiers reach into Jay’s pocket to retrieve the map, but it wasn’t there. Jay briefly wondered what happened to it and then he remembered a small hand reaching into his pocket. Katie had gotten away with the map.

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