Noa Noa – 1918
by Barret Sills
I have been a Pastor for close to sixty years now. And I can feel the end approaching. Old men know when it is coming. You just get this feeling, deep within your bones. I will not fight it. No point. I lived a good life. It has been tough at times. Being a Pastor, you deal with death a lot more than life. It can takes its toll on you. You would think, with being a Pastor, that I would not be afraid of dying. I have no family. No regrets. But, I am afraid. I remember, I was just recently ordained and it was my twenty-first birthday. I was an associate to the Pastor out in Emery County, Utah. Now, Emery County is a real isolated place. It would make a man go insane.
The Crawford’s lived way up in the hills, a real desolate place. Mr. Crawford was an intelligent man, from what I heard. Studied law back in New England, made quite a name for himself there. His wife died earlier that year, pneumonia I think. They had no children. I did the funeral. He took it pretty well - I mean - for a man who had just lost his wife of twenty years. The Pastor and I did not hear from Mr. Crawford for a couple of months. I told the Pastor that I best head on up to see if everything was all right. It was a Sunday, I think. I took my mule and a few supplies. The journey took the better part of a day’s ride and I knew I would have to spend the night there. I reached the foot of the hills around sunset. It was a red evening. Blood red. I sauntered up the makeshift wooden staircase built into the face of the desert rock. With each closing step I could make out the wooden cabin. There was a giant crucifix erected from the cracked earth. A body - a naked girl - lay crucified upon its cruel surface. She was no more than sixteen. Her body hung bare in the fading sunlight. Her breasts had been cut off and her eyes gauged and her genitals mutilated. It was hard to find an area of skin where there were no gouts of blood. Due to the odour, I reckoned she had been there for some days. I fell to my knees, and got sick in the dirt. I was on all fours, like a damn dog, retching at the sight of her, and my own vomit. It turned out Mr. Crawford had crucified her. He brought me into his house. He fed me. He made me tea. He was utterly remorseless. At no stage was I afraid though. Do not ask why. I spoke to him about repentance. He told me God made him do it. She was a Ute, you see. A local injun tribe native to the area. He said that they were blasphemous, and that God ordered her death. He spoke of a dream that occurred a few weeks ago. He was in a small raft, lost at sea, a vast sea of nothingness. And everything was black. The water was black as coal, and the sky was darker than a nigger’s skin. It was not the night, he said, just black. In the distance there was this island. It had a camp fire, glowing red as the sun and he could make out all these shapes dancing around it. All these primitive men. They ate human flesh and danced around this fire and sometimes, they would start to fuck each other. All these men, eating and fucking one another. Mr. Crawford paused for a second. Now all this time he was looking down at his hands, telling me this dream, but he went quiet and began to stare at me, his eyes all watery. He started to tremble when he began to speak. He spoke of these matches he had in the raft, and no matter how hard he tried they would not light. They were not wet. For Mr. Crawford, this was the worst part of the dream. They simply would not light.
The next day the Ute people found the girl, and Mr. Crawford and I sleeping in his cabin. I explained to them that I was a Pastor, and had discovered the girl yesterday. They let me go. They scalped him there and then, right underneath the crucifix. He was all hollering and that. It was a sorry sight. The injun’s stripped his body bare and replaced the girl with his bloodied white body. I sat there until about noon. Alone. I watched the blood turn black in the sun. I am afraid of dying. I am not worried about the pain or the hurt. I am afraid of the boat, and the sea, and the primitives, and the matches, and the darkness, and the darkness.