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Trespassers: Short Fiction

Chris has written more than 300 flash fiction/short stories. Working Vacation was 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

Indian Burial Mound

Columbus OH - Campbell Mound State Memorial - Conical Burial Mound - Aden Indians

Columbus OH - Campbell Mound State Memorial - Conical Burial Mound - Aden Indians

Author's Note

When I was growing up in rural, northcentral Indiana, I don't remember hearing much about the native Americans who had lived there long before we did. Even so, the native tribes left their mark on our maps. Here are just a few of the place names from my area. Salamonie Reservoir, Mississenewa (reservoir, river, and school), Maconaqua (county and school), Miami (County).

Francis Slocum was a little girl who lived with her family in Pennsylvania. She was kidnapped by the Miami Indians who raised her as their own. She eventually was accepted as a member of the tribe, and she remained with them for most of her life. Her journey from Pennsylvania to Indiana is known as the Francis Slocum Trail. Her grave is just a few miles from where I grew up. You can read a historical fiction version of her story in the book, Red Heart, by James Alexander Thom.

Trespassers

The trespasser’s skin showed the leathery, wrinkled effects of sun and wind and the natural features of a native American. He was walking across the field where Carl was preparing to plant corn.

“Can I help you?” Carl’s question felt wrong. It didn’t matter who he was or what he wanted, the Indian was trespassing.

His hair hung down in two braids over a red flannel shirt. He turned and raised his arm until his finger pointed at a small woods in the middle of the field. “I come to ask you to allow the people to remain undisturbed where they have rested for many generations.”

“I’d appreciate it if you would identify yourself.” Carl ignored the man’s strange request and reached for his cell phone. “I’m going to have to call the sheriff.”

“I am Topeah.”

“Topeah, what business do you have on my land?”

“Yes, it is your land. Before that, it belonged to another, and before him, another, until it belonged to no man, but to all.” The Indian was still looking at the woods in the field. He turned to Carl. “The bulldozer will destroy everything. Then where will they go?”

Grinding Stone and Bowl

trespassers-short-fiction

Carl felt dizzy. His knees weakened. Recently, he had been thinking about cutting down the trees and leveling the hill hidden in the woods, but he hadn’t told anyone. The project would add five acres to the field and be cheaper than buying more land if he did the work himself. But how had this man known he was even considering it? Carl dialed the sheriff’s department and explained the situation to Sheriff Dalrymple.

When the call ended, the Indian was gone. The toe of Carl’s boot bumped something, and he looked down. A stone shaped like a cow’s horn lay by his right foot. The granite surface was smooth against his skin, and it fit comfortably into his palm.

Carl had a collection of stone artifacts he had found on his property that included projectile points, a hammer, and an ax. What he held in his hand probably was used to grind grain, seeds, and nuts. It seemed odd that it lay on the ground precisely where Topeah had been standing.

trespassers-short-fiction

A car horn broke the silence. Sheriff Dalrymple waved as he got out of the cruiser. The two men shook hands.

“The Indian disappeared, and I mean that literally.” Carl motioned toward the trees. “Would you like to take a look?”

“I suppose that would be a good place to start,” said the sheriff. “The man had to go somewhere.”

Large, ancient, virgin oaks populated the entire area. The two men carefully made their way into the interior while Carl explained that he had thought about clearing the area and incorporating it into the field. The trees were leafless in the early spring, and they could see the hill easily. But there was no sign of Topeah.

“I don’t know why I’ve never noticed these magnificent trees. And how could I not have recognized this hill for what it is?” Carl took his hat off and wiped his brow. “It’s an Indian burial mound, isn’t it?”

“We both grew up here, Carl. We know the Miami built mounds and before them, other native races practiced the same rituals.” Sheriff Dalrymple strode to the mound. Was the Indian trying to tell you not to destroy it?”

“I think so. I’d like to talk to him again. If we confirm this is a burial mound, of course, I won't destroy it.”

“The magic that protects us here grows thin.”

The voice startled the two white men. The sheriff’s hand instinctively reached for his sidearm.

“Follow me.” Topeah moved quietly through the trees and led them to the opposite side of the mound. “Do not be afraid,” he said without turning. Then the Indian walked through the side of the mound as though it were nothing more than a mist.

trespassers-short-fiction

Carl expected to pass through a camouflaged entrance that he had somehow failed to see before. His vision was obscured by the grass growing on the side of the mound in soil that had accumulated over the passing years and by the layers of clay that comprised the original structure.

When Carl’s vision cleared, he and Sheriff Dalrymple were standing in the middle of a hardwood forest. The mound was nowhere in sight.

Not far away, sunlight poured into a clearing where oval structures stood that were made of reeds draped over wooden frames. Indian women moved in and out of the dwellings from which smoke rose through a hole in the top. A dozen feet from Carl, a woman sat cross-legged on the ground using the stone grinding tool he had found in his field that day.

What was this place? Carl spun around, looking for Sheriff Dalrymple. The two men faced each other, their eyes wide with wonder. An Indian child tugged on Carl’s pants and held upward what appeared to be some kind of flatbread with a piece missing where he had taken a bite.

Carl knelt to the child’s level and took the offering. He tore off a piece and handed the remainder back to the boy. Carl put the bread into his mouth. While he chewed, he looked over at the woman who was grinding with the grinding stone. Next to her was a pile of corn. It was a different kind from what he grew, but it was corn.

Some of the text that accompanies the original painting: And her mother told her stories; there were many on her tongue;She told her about a river where she lived when she was young; That the tribes are still Aliami, though we see the stream no more

Some of the text that accompanies the original painting: And her mother told her stories; there were many on her tongue;She told her about a river where she lived when she was young; That the tribes are still Aliami, though we see the stream no more

Neither the boy nor the woman seemed afraid of them. No one in the village showed any sign of uneasiness with their presence. Carl decided it was because Topeah had brought them to the village.

The bread melted on his tongue. He smiled at the child and swallowed. The small naked boy stood up and ran off giggling through the village where dozens of people were busy at their everyday tasks. One woman worked an obsidian scraper across the inside surface of a deer hide.

A commotion brought Carl to his feet. The Sheriff pulled his sidearm. Half naked men charged into the village gathering the women and children as they ran. They ignored Carl and the sheriff. The sounds of guns firing and men shouting shattered the serenity of the forest. White men with rifles rode horses through the trees, chasing the people out of their village.

Carl and the sheriff retreated to the shadows, confused, as the white men swept through the village, killing until no one was left alive. The attackers gathered all the baskets of grain they could carry along with dried meat and freshly made cornbread. Then they set fire to the dwellings.

After the last of the invaders had gone, Carl and Dalrymple came out from the trees. They stooped over the body of Topeah. He too was dead.

“I couldn’t shoot.” Sheriff Dalrymple was still holding his handgun. “I didn’t even know if it was real.”

An instant later, they were standing in the field near the small woods. Carl understood. He was being asked to pay respect to the burial places of those who had died in the massacre.

High Point Community Garden, Seattle

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The following spring, Carl stood in the same field. There was a bustle of activity around him as families tended their gardens. Sheriff Dalrymple, with his wife and children, watered the plants in their own plot.

Topeah wanted to convince him not to tear down the mounds, but Carl looked deeper. The lives of the Indians had consisted of producing enough food to survive on this very land. In keeping with that tradition, he had made the field available to the people of the nearby town as a place where they could plant, tend, and harvest their own gardens.

The toe of Carl’s boot touched something. He bent down and discovered the grinding stone he had found in the field the year before along with a piece of cornbread that was still warm. He stood and looked across the field to the trees where the mound was safely hidden. As long as he lived, this field would belong to no man, but to all.

© 2019 Chris Mills

Comments

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on August 11, 2019:

Chris

Wow! This was an awesome story. Thank you for writing it.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 22, 2019:

Shauna, I will consider more on this theme. I think there is a lot of material to work with. I am cautious about over any single theme because I don't want to bore my readers. I appreciate your enthusiasm and your presence here.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on July 22, 2019:

Chris, you've done it again. I had goosebumps as I read the last paragraph. You really are a very good storyteller. I enjoyed this one immensely. I'd like to see more along the same theme. Any chance?

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 14, 2019:

Sean, it's good to see you. Yes, you must tell us about how you became a member of the Leni Lenape. That is intriguing. Please do write about it. I have been reading about the native people of North America for many years. We treated them inhumanely. Their violent reaction to us is only understandable because they were defending the land they called home and their families. We lied to them and manipulated them until we nearly exterminated them which was the goal of many in government at the time. Yes, tell us your story. I have no doubt it will be encouraging.

Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on July 13, 2019:

Absolutely magnificent, my dear brother! I am so proud of you! You know how much I love your vivid writing, but here you touched my strings! Thank you for the respect you show to these beautiful people from whom we have to learn a lot about real living! I am grateful for helping people to learn.

Yeha Noha!

PS: I think someday I have to write about the way I became a member of the Lenape tribe.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 13, 2019:

Ruby, I've been on the Wabash kayaking and fishing. It was used a lot by the Miami Indians up here. Mom is moving in a couple of months and my visits to Wabash won't be as often. I'll miss it.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on July 13, 2019:

I grew up in Mt Carmel, Il. where the Wabash river flows. I spent many days swimming in the good old Wabash river. We used to swing on grape vines and jump into the river. I later learned that there were huge holes in the river where they had dug out gravel. My mother told me that they crossed the river in Mt Carmel on ice when she was a little child. Burr, glad it doesn't get that cold anymore.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 12, 2019:

HI Ruby, I looked up Johnson, IN on the map. It isn't too far from the Wabash River in the southwest. My mother lives in The town of Wabash in the northcentral part. Thanks for reading and sharing.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on July 12, 2019:

This is a beautiful story. This could have happened to my ancestry. My father's mother was one half Indian. I am so glad the burial grounds were left undisturbed. My father and his family also lived in Indiana, a small place named Johnson, In.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 10, 2019:

Venkatachari M, I understand, my friend. I think it hit me this way as well. Feel free to text me back. We may have more to share.

Elijah A Alexander Jr from Washington, DC USA on July 10, 2019:

Chris, Maybe you should look at the response I just made on https://hubpages.com/politics/America-is-Lost-to-a... explaining how I appreciate this nation but hate how it is being unconstitutionally governed.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on July 10, 2019:

A beautiful and touching story, Chris. You have brought out a very vivid picture of the incidents in the lives of those ancient Indian tribes. I got too much moved by the story.

Thanks for sharing this wonderful story.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 09, 2019:

BIg surprises come in small packages.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 09, 2019:

MizB, I appreciate your thoughtful comments about the topic of the story. I've never read a historian who didn't believe the Native Americans came from someplace other than North America. It used to be considered a fact that they came across the land bridge from Asia. Now that is being rethought...and likely will be proven that they came from Europe. Did you know that any one of us, I mean anybody, can get a DNA test through National Geographic? The results will be the same for everybody, i.e. the African continent. But I wouldn't worry too much about the Native Americans in that regard. They arrived in North America in several different waves over time that go back thousands of years before the last ice age. How long does one have to occupy land before they are considered, native. Europeans have been here for about 500 years. Native Americans have been here more than 20,000 years. And nothing excuses the way we treated them. The white race prospered at their expense. They have been given some special consideration that enables them to prosper. I am at least a little satisfied that they prosper at the expense of white Americans who frequent their casinos.

Suzie from Carson City on July 09, 2019:

No kidding you guys? You would both guess that I'm tall? Hmmmm interesting. There have been times I wish I was ..like when I need a step stool to reach things. Alas MzB girlfriend.....I'm only 2 inches taller than you! We short SNITS get a stiff neck, having to look up so much!! At the moment, the only 2 people shorter than I am in the whole family, are my 6 yr old and 9 mo.old grandsons!

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on July 09, 2019:

Chris, the story is a touching blend of history and paranormal. Beautifully done. What our white ancestors did to our Native American ancestors leaves those of us who care in tears. It is gratifying to know that this history is now being researched by those seeking the real truth. It is also heartbreaking that DNA tests are not showing up so-called native DNA in the "five civilized tribes." Research is now being done on the theory that these tribes actually came from the prehistoric European continent, not Asia. If proof is found, will these people be declared to not be "Native Americans?"

I eagerly await our dear friend "sneaky, silent, and sly" Paula's Native American story. Girlfriend looks like a tall woman to me, but maybe not 6'8'. Bet I've got you beat, Girlfriend. I'm a 5 footer so I can write short fiction, tee hee.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 09, 2019:

What's not to like?

Suzie from Carson City on July 09, 2019:

No "Head's up" honey......C'mon, Chris.....Be real. I'm sneaky, silent & sly with my attacks. Who knows? You might just like it, Chris.....LOL

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 09, 2019:

Paula, give me a heads up if I ever piss you off. I want a running head start.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 09, 2019:

Eric, a peyote-induced vision might work in a longer version of the story. The account you mentioned might be interesting to read.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 09, 2019:

Pamela, The ending was the most difficult part for me to write. I wanted a happy ending but a memorable one as well. Thank you for your comments.

Suzie from Carson City on July 09, 2019:

Chris, my sweet man...The power of my personality, makes people feel they should think twice before pissing me off......:) Hugs, poopsie!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 09, 2019:

Paula, I won't even pretend to be able to keep up with you in the humor department. Really? Quite short? I wouldn't have guessed that. The power of your personality makes people think taller.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 09, 2019:

Thank you, Liz. I don't really like to "make points" in my writing, but occasionally the point makes itself. Thanks for visiting.

Suzie from Carson City on July 09, 2019:

Hmmmm, I suppose a "Tall drink of water," is better than a "tall drink of arsenic," which could really hurt! Anyway, I'm sure you realize I was merely injecting my strange brand of humor, Chris. I cannot tell a lie.....I'm actually quite short! I do believe I have confused Elijah.....LOL

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 09, 2019:

Paula, I've always considered you to be a "Tall drink of water," but I don't think that would impact your writing of short fiction. I will keep an eye out for that article on your experience with the NA culture. Thanks for taking time to read the story.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 09, 2019:

Well just as good the second time but I was prepared. Now I only heard of this guy eating peyote and venturing into a sweat lodge and then walking part way up a sacred mountain the Whites call San Francisco Peaks. It would not surprise me if he had similar type visions that changed his life.

I am getting some age here but I think Nizhoni is correct in The Dine'

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 09, 2019:

This story is so touching, and it sadly based on the fact that the Indians were treated horribly. Your story is very good, and I like the giving heart of the farmer who let his land be used by others in the town. The ending was so good, and I was glad the beautiful trees were not cut down.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story Chris.

Liz Westwood from UK on July 09, 2019:

This is an inspiring and extremely well-written article. You take the reader with you back in time and make a valuable point about heritage as you do so.

Elijah A Alexander Jr from Washington DC on July 08, 2019:

LOL Chris, Yes, "some things might (rather would) improve."

Paula, You are "too tall" to write "Short Fiction" made me LOL, what are you 6'8"?.

Elijah A Alexander Jr from Washington DC on July 08, 2019:

LOL Chris, Yes, "some things might (rather would) improve."

Paula, You are "too tall" to write "Short Fiction" made me LOL, what are you 6'8"?.

Suzie from Carson City on July 08, 2019:

Very moving story, Mr. Chris. I love it. I have read an enormous amount of history & culture on the American Natives. I was married to a Native American for 17 years and he is the father of my 2 younger sons (38 & 40)....I have lived the majority of my life in an area surrounded on 3 sides by N.A reservations. In this particular area, extremely "wealthy" Reservations, thanks to their casinos and many tobacco sales outlets.

They work quite hard and religiously to keep their culture alive and bring their people up and out of past poverty and oppression.

Just recently as I drove onto the reservation nearest me, I realized that I should definitely write an article in honor of these people and their territories. I probably will do that in the near future. It would have to be lengthy with lots of photos.

I don't think I could write "Short Fiction," Chris......I'm afraid I'm too tall........................................Peace, Paula LOL

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 08, 2019:

Jeff, thanks for reading and for your kind comments.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 08, 2019:

Eric, you are welcome any time and in any condition.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on July 08, 2019:

Elijah, I love my country, but I don't condone everything done by our leaders or citizens. I will say this about our modern leaders of nations. I think if we turned all governments over to 8-10 year olds children, not much would change. In fact, some things might improve.

Jeff Zod from Nairobi on July 08, 2019:

I love your story.It is very touching.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on July 08, 2019:

Maybe I will come back after the tears are gone.

Elijah A Alexander Jr from Washington DC on July 08, 2019:

A very touching and inspirational piece, Chris. You gave a heart to someone who had never considered how this land came to be called (Un)United States of America that it still is. I really appreciate your magnificent presentation.