The first time I saw them, I was looking at the sun. They were high on the rim of the canyon, in front of the sun, like black sticks. My mother told me they are the gods who walk on the rim of the canyon.
“Why do they come?” I asked.
“They watch,” she answered.
They come every day. Sometimes there are only a few, but more come; then others, while some go away. They stand on the rim of the canyon and watch.
“They are small, like insects,” I said to my mother.
“They are gods,” my mother said.
“Why do they watch?”
“They watch to see that we stay in the place they made for us.”
“Do they speak?” I asked.
“They are too far away for us to hear the music of their voices,” my mother said. “They make no sound that comes down the canyon because we should not hear such music,” she said.
At night, the people talk of the rim-walkers. They talk in our stone houses. Some of the old men say the rim-walkers are devils and will someday come down into the canyon and destroy our stone houses, our animals, and our fruit trees and kill us. They shake their atlatls and fending sticks over their heads as if they would fight the rim-walkers. “No, they are gods,” the old women answer them.
We make pictures of the rim-walkers, on the canyon walls, at night, by the light of torches. We make pictures of them standing like sticks on the rim of the canyon.
Gene Hines was a Marine in Vietnam, a preacher in South Carolina, a missionary in Japan, a legal aid lawyer in North Carolina, and is now a writer in Tennessee. One of his stories was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.