Mark of the Shadow Part 12: Parting Ways
We didn’t stop to rest until we’d reached the Goshute village. It seemed smaller than the last time we were here. The people seemed more downtrodden, and there were no children out playing in the dirt as I remembered.
Rolph and John carried Carlson like a log to a smoking tent near the middle of the camp. I followed nearly huggin Rolph’s leg. This place was not welcoming as it was before. Inside the tent it was hot and the black smoke swirling with cadence burnt my eyes and throat.
Four men sat around the fire producing the vile smoke. They each had to have been old, older than fifty I’d reckon. Their eyes didn’t look right, like the smoke that swirled around them swirled in their eyes as well giving them a dreamlike quality. They wore loose fitting robes that seemed to part endlessly behind their movements.
“Can you help this man?” asked Rolph not one to delay the matter.
The four men raised their eyes in unison.
“He’s been shot in the leg. He’s had no care, it may be infected.” Rolph placed Carlson down onto a small rug hatched together with straw.
“We may save him. But it is not for us to decide.”
I wasn’t satisfied with that answer but apparently it was enough for Rolph as he walked out. I can’t say I was disappointed having to leave that place. Outside it seemed as if a burden had been lifted from me.
Rolph lead us back to the tent we’d slept under when last we were here. It seemed unchanged. I sat down on the inviting floor.
“What did you find in the lake Rolph? Did you find the cure?” I asked.
John’s head was outside of the tent surveying the camp, but he heard me, as he turned around and uttered, “Cure? What has this man been telling you miss? There is no cure for our ailment.” It had not occurred to me that John too was marked, but it made perfect sense. It seemed to me as if everyone Rolph knew was marked.
Rolph placed his face in his hands as I turned to look at him expectantly.
“John that can’t be right, Rolph told me that he’d heard of it. I found a diary…”
Rolph raised his head, and looked into my eyes, “There is a cure. It wasn’t in the lake, but I did find something.”
“A trifle, it’s nothing,” said John.
Rolph pulled out a golden treasure from his pack.
“Besides it’s broken,” said John continuing.
“It’s a compass,” said Rolph as he motioned for me to come closer. I moved close to him and looked at the marvel closely. It was closed. On it’s cover the same swirl of dots that I had seen in the diary was laid out. Rolph clicked it open. The glass was cracked, and you could barely see the needle.
“It don’t point north,” explained Rolph.
“So where then?”
“I aim to find out.”
I grabbed it and closed it. Rolph looked startled at the action but did not stop me. I crawled over to my bag and pulled out the diary.
“Your going to follow a compass that is most probably broken in the hope that happens to lead you just where you want to go?” said John.
“John, it’s called faith, maybe if you knew your religion half as well as you pretend you do you would know it’s importance,” retorted Rolph.
“You may be right about that but I sure as hell shan’t be joining you. I have a job to finish here Rolph. You may be too clouded by these people you have surrounded yourself with, but this place is falling into hell along with the rest of this nation and I intend to save it.” And with that John left the tent.
In the meantime I’d found the page with the dot pattern I’d been looking for.
“Here,” I said pointing to the page. I placed the compass next to it.
“What is this; where did you find this?” Rolph said is voice rising in excitement.
“It’s the diary of a boy. I can’t figure how old. He was marked like me. His family was looking for the cure just like we are. They were headed to California.”
“But they didn’t make it.”
“No. I think the boy was very far gone. Some of the passages read like they were written from some other place, by some other person. Is that gona happen to me?”
“Of course not,” Rolph said hurriedly. He grabbed the diary from me and began flipping through it.
“Rolph what happened out there at the Lake?”
“Hmm? Oh, well I was taken prisoner. By the Mormon militia. They had thought I was part of Carriages forces…well I didn’t have the time to tell them otherwise. John showed up and killed every last member of that company. He was adamant to help me for he was sure we were sent here for the same purpose. He means to cleans this land in the old way of God.”
“How is that?”
“Kill everyone, if theres nothing left there can be no evil. He fails to see that there can then be no good…perhaps one day he will see that.”
“My God is there nothing you can do?”
“He won’t succeed. He’s a lone man… we have each other. That’s what he’s missing. It’s what I’ve been missing.”
Then Rolph did something I was sure I’d never see him do. He started crying. He reached for me, and held me close. We stayed that way until the morning the next day.
A Goshute told us that we should go see our companion. Carlson was laid out on a log face up. He smiled at seeing my face. His injured leg was tightly bandaged.
“My little guardian angel,” he said stroking my face, “I never would have made it not for you.”
Rolph seemed to approve of this. I pulled out the map I had found lodged in the diary.
“Carlson what does this line mean? I know you said you were studying cartography,” I said holding the map above his face for him.
Rolph stumbled away holding his face. I was worried about him, but I needed to stay with Carlson.
“Well. If I’m not delusional I’d say that you found a map to burial sites. That right there is where you were, and that second point the line leads to is where the mountain meadows massacre took place.”
“Looks like we should be headed there then,” said Rolph recovered from his moment of pain.