The Devil's Gate

Came across the ad quite by accident in the L.A. Times.

"Unique opportunity to own a piece of history. Situated on 5- acres just outside Silver City, NV.

'Devil's Gate' was the main gateway to the Comstock during the boom days of silver and gold.

Property has house and out buildings. Anxious."

I emailed the realtor and was quickly emailed photos from 1877 and today, 2019. It looked very

intriguing and wrapped the whole package up to show Alison, my wife over dinner.

That evening at the restaurant I passed Allison the realtors package, "Happy Anniversary, that is

if you like it!. We've been kicking around the idea of moving out of L.A. to someplace more

remote; less noise, less traffic, starry skies. This could be it"!

Allison flipped through the photos, "I'm thrilled; let's drive over and see it this weekend. If we

like it we'll get it."

The drive proved easy, and not too long. US-395N all the way; a little over 8 hours; and once

free of the city the country was stunning. We stopped for a quick roadside lunch; cold

sandwiches and very cold beer. That afternoon we checked into a bed and breakfast just outside

Silver City; dinner was served family style; hardy spare ribs, rice and beans, beer and plenty of

oven hot bread. The table was full; for a total of eight people. Couples mostly; a warm friendly

group; college students looking for adventure, an old couple looking to retire, myself and Alison

and two IT types that kept to themselves.

Dinner was lively; lots of convivial conversation; "where you coming' from? Where you

headed?' type talk. When I mentioned Devil's Gate and our possible planned move the room got

very quiet. The innkeeper, sitting at the head of the table squinted "Have you been there, yet?

You really owe it to yourselves to spend some time here before you jump into something you

might regret later".

"Tomorrow we meet the realtor and take a look. The photos he sent us tell me it needs some

love. And Alison and I are really tired of the city and are looking forward to some peace and

quiet. We are thinking this might just be the place".

The conversation drifted to hunting season; nothing more was said about Devil's Gate.

Next morning dawned clear and cool; skies were a fantastic blue and cloudless. After a hearty

breakfast we headed into town to meet the realtor.

Mr. Barnes' office was very old; wood floors high ceiling walls covered in various historic black

and white photos; gave the feeling of being in a museum. .

Round of introductions; and Barnes pointed out some of the more interesting photos lining the

office walls along with a little background history. On the back wall a large county wall map.

"Place is just up the road; can't miss it; road narrows to two lanes with volcanic rock cliff. The

property is just on the other side; can't miss it. Lot'a history 'round these parts. The property

used to be a mill for silver and gold, but times change; after the boom the mill shut down; a

family turned one of the buildings into a house; lived in it for a while then packed up and moved.

Place been empty since 1886".

"And no one has lived there since'?

"Nope. Not a lot of jobs here; no industry; pretty quiet".

Alison and I exchanged glances. "Exactly what we're looking for. Should be interesting!"

Barnes rose extending his hand, "Place is open; front doors been gone long time now, just help

yourselves. Watch your step, might be some loose boards. Come on back when your done, we'll

have lunch and a cold beer at the old saloon. You'll love it here, most folks do".

Short drive out to Devil's Gate; plenty of signs pointing the way. At the entrance to the Pass we

stopped to read an historical sign outlining a brief history; the Devil's Gate was indeed an

imposing place. Lots of highway robbery, gangs of near-do-wells, murders and more delights.

The property was somewhat set back off the two-lane; easy to find. The 'house' looked huge; an

old barn or stable? Barnes was right, there was no front door. The step-up to the veranda looked

sound as did the wood planking on the floor so we went up. I thought I heard the sound of

someone singing, children's voices and laughter. I looked at Allison, she shrugged.

As we stepped into the house out from the bright sunlight we paused giving our eyes time to

adjust to the dim light. Inside was bigger than we thought; a long wide corridor running the

whole length of the building, doors opening to rooms on each side; at the end there appeared to

be a rather large open space. The corridor walls were recently painted, a huge mural of brilliant

color swirling floor to ceiling for the whole length. The bright colors seemed to light up the

otherwise dark space.

"Hello"! From out of nowhere appeared a young girl, not more then 15 or 16 years old with a

most striking face; strangely beautiful with long silver blonde hair. She was barefoot and wore

what looked like a 'period' outfit; she looked like she had just stepped out of a daguerreotype

from the late 1800's.

"We thought we heard children singing".

She smiled, "You did, my sisters. Ma and Pa are in town, at the assayer. Can I help you"?

"Well, we didn't expect to find anyone here". Allison moved to extend her hand, but the girl

stepped back.

"Been our home since the mill closed. Pa was a foremen then, now we just hunt for leftover ore,

mostly small pieces, but enough to get us by. This is the only place we have".

Allison, again "Well very nice to met you, I'm Allison, this is my husband Nick".

"I'm Laurie, must get back to the little ones now. Come again when Ma and Pa here".

Allison and I looked at each other; not wanting to intrude further I made a head motion to leave.

"We'll be on our way, thanks again". And with that we headed back to town. Allison and I drove

in a kind of tense silence till she blurted "She said, 'since the mill shut down', Barnes said the

mill closed in 1885"! I just nodded, "Something weird here; maybe we misheard, or something".

Allison stared at the open desert, "I'm certain I heard her say that"!

The old saloon was open and we found Barnes in a rear corner booth.

He stood and we shook hands. "You're going to love todays special, and they just got a new keg

of our very own craft beer; good and cold. Wash the dust away".

We ordered the special and the local craft

"So, What 'ja think"?

Before he could get started I told him about the experience we had out at the property; about

Laurie, the children singing, the art painted on the corridor walls. "You didn't tell us the place

was occupied. Lucky we didn't get shot or something; I mean we just walked right in and here

were all these kids. The older girl said her parents were in town at the assayer's office".

He was staring, open-mouthed at us. "Excuse me, one second". rising from the table he walked

to the far wall covered with old daguerreotypes; finding what he was looking for he removed it

and sat down. Allison and I waited for him to begin.

He placed the image in front us. "Tell me what you see".

The print, an original was sepia toned from age, but well focused and sharp. A family was

standing on the veranda, at one end stood a tall man, alongside him was a petty, but tired looking

woman; next to her, four children all posed in the stiff formal style of the day. At the end of the

line the last girl, barefoot in a flour sack dress, pretty with long silver blonde hair stood Laurie.

Now it was our turn to sit with drop-jawed expressions. We stared again, unbelieving at first

then slowly realizing it was a real image and a real Laurie. It was dated 1885.

We both stared at Barnes. He raised his eyes, "Guess I should have said something; just didn't

want to put you off the place. Round here folks pretty much accept the fact that we live in a

place that is really from the past. Sometimes I think half the people here are ghosts, I swear".

"Christ, a warning, a word or even a little hint would have helped"!

According to Barnes after the mill closed a lot of folks lost work; times got hard and some

people turned to less than honest occupations. A gang rode through looting and shooting the

place up; they robbed the house, murdered everyone in it;. all the children. Parents were in town

at the assayer's office at the time. Never caught them fella's. The parents buried the children right

next to the house then just packed up and left; they never returned. We excused ourselves, paid

the tab and left for the B&B.

Over dinner that night Allison and I talked about the whole thing; bottom line, she felt badly for

Laurie; tomorrow we 'just had' to return to the property; see if she was still there. Why? I can't

exactly say, just that Allison insisted, "something I have to do"!.

Next day, a repeat of today, sunny and cool. The drive to Devil's Gate was short. We said

nothing, just riding in quiet silence not really knowing what to expect. Pulling up in front of the

veranda we again heard the children singing. It sounded like the same tune as yesterday. A

moment later Laurie stepped out of the dark hall but not into the sunlight; she smiled and waved.

"I'm so glad to see you. It gets so lonely here. Ma and Pa are not back from town yet. I wish I

had some friends I could talk to; I used to have some friends, but they have been gone for a long

time; guess they moved when the mill shut down".

Allison stood in front of the veranda, "Hello, Laurie. I was hoping you would be here. We came

to say "Goodbye"; I wish we could stay, but we too must leave. We live a long way from here

and just wanted to stop by again and tell you how much we enjoyed meeting you". Again

Allison extended her hand, again Laurie retreated a step. We could still see her clearly; from the

corner of her eyes tears welled up; one big tear rolled down her slim face and off her chin; where

it struck the ground a tiny prairie flower appeared.

"I have to go now, the children need me". Waving goodbye, she retreated into the darkness.

We never returned to Devil's Gate, but many years later learned the property had been bought

and sold as many times and that the sound of children singing could sometimes be heard and the

whole corridor and veranda were ablaze with tiny prairie flowers of every imaginable color;

prairie flowers in the middle of the desert!

January 18, 2020 02:51

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02:37 Jan 24, 2020

Very interesting concept! I love that the wife had to go back and say goodbye to Laurie. The only thing I would suggest is getting a friend to read through for an extra eye for punctuation and such. As for the formatting issue mentioned above I use Microsoft word on my android phone and copy and paste it over and that seems to work ok. :)


G. Miller
22:59 Jan 24, 2020

Suzanne - thanks for reading Devil's Gate. Glad you enjoyed it. I try to catch grammar and punctuation errors, but.... I'll take your advice; a second pair of eyes never hurts.. G. Miller


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Chris Sharrock
02:39 Jan 22, 2020

I really liked your concept; the idea of a town of people knowingly living with ghosts as neighbors is really interesting. Really enjoyed it! As a point for improvement, the formatting made it a little hard for me to read, but I’m reading on my phone so that could be the reason


G. Miller
20:43 Jan 22, 2020

Chris, thanks for your read and comment; I've been cutting and pasting onto the Reedsy submission, but can't figure why it changes the format. Glad you enjoyed "Devil's Gate". G. Miller


Chris Sharrock
21:19 Jan 22, 2020

I’d noticed that it changed mine a bit too. Is yours double-spaced before pasting it over? I wonder if that might be the issue.


G. Miller
22:52 Jan 24, 2020

Hi Chris - My thoughts also; next submission will be single spaced.... We'll see. G. Miller


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