Ever read one of those stories that is so short it kind of angers you? You know, you’re mad because you just didn’t get quite enough? It’s awesome but far too truncated to become intoxicated by its mystique? Well, that’s Matthew J. Barbour’s new flash piece, Piedras Marcadas. It’s rather well written, and it’s engaging… but then it’s over! It’s just…over! You read it, draw your own conclusions and let us know what you think!
The wind howled and the sand stung as it pelted Adam’s face. Goggles over his eyes and a bandana across his mouth and nose made the environment manageable, at least for the time being. After all, the sand storm had been a boon. It would keep hikers away and rangers inside their station.
However, the sand obscured everything. Boulders and saltbush emerged and faded from view with each gust of wind. He was gaining in elevation. While Adam could not see the ridge above him, the terrain sloped upwards. He hurried up the trail to catch up to Jim who moved with purpose. Jim knew exactly where they were going. He had scouted it out weeks before. He had even gotten a buyer to commit before the act was done.
It took only a minute to reach their destination. The full force of the sand storm hit them as they came to stand on the top of the ridge. Jim turned to Adam. “THIS ONE!”
Adam was sure Jim was yelling. However, his voice was barely audible over the wind. Adam examined the boulder Jim had stopped at. Pecked and scratched on its surface were two petroglyphs: one a damaged sun symbol and the other an angry looking mask. He hefted the rock-saw into position.
“JUST THE KACHINA, THE OTHER ONE AIN’T WORTH NOTHIN’!” Jim pointed to the bullet impact marks on the swirled sun.
Adam readjusted the saw and began to cut. While the petroglyph was incredibly ornate, Adam thought the mask ugly. Geometric designs crossed at odd angles. Its eyes were dark empty sockets and the mouth, similar to that of a bird’s beak, possessed hundreds of needle like teeth. Two horns, perhaps buffalo, erupted from the sides of the mask. The idea of the grotesque image displayed prominently in some rich Texan’s sitting room next to an O’Keeffe water color and a Hispanic retablo made Adam chuckle to himself.
“HURRY, I THOUGHT I SAW… I WILL CHECK…” Between the saw and the wind, he could not make out what Jim was saying. Adam turned to see Jim walking slowly back down the path. Then he was gone, swallowed up by the gusts of sand.
Adam turned his attention back to the task at hand. Basalt was a hard rock and he needed to focus or the petroglyph would spall. Minutes passed and Jim did not return. Adam stopped cutting and tried his best to gaze down the ridge to see where Jim had gone. Between the bursts of sand, a figure was just barely visible. “JIM?!”
Over the growl of the wind there came a chattering noise, almost like that of a bird. Through a momentary break in the swirl of sand he saw the figure turn to him and began moving up the ridge. Atop its head were two large horns. Adam dropped the rock-saw and ran.