The Pilgrims

Here's a slice of some new stuff I'm working on these days. It's a story I'm trying to figure out how to tell. It's about a mysterious group of American pilgrims (but not that group) whose journey into the heart of the continent has long been forgotten. 

In later years, after it all was over, the lost still sought them out: that mincing itinerant, his face swollen from mosquito bites, insisting on his misbegotten interview, or well after that—who knew how long, the waiting blurred the calendar—that Ohio colonel with his flotilla of flatboats offering them passage upriver as if they would ever leave this holy place.

From the beginning it had been like this: the lost ones arriving, seeking them out, their souls bitten with anger and conceit. In the camp outside Cincinnati, great numbers of folk of every age and condition had come looking, the road from that city choked with the traffic of the curious, of those lost to God and man alike. In western New York, in that state’s great table land drawing its visitors down inexorably to the banks of the Cayuga—there in their peaceful camp edging the woods, they had invited those two evangelists into their dwelling house only to be scolded like children and it made all the worse coming from the mouth of the second, that miserable fledgling who brandished his seminary learning like a badge.

Always like this, and now they came even here to this river bank where they had fashioned their lean-to out of cane reed and bark and weatherboard pale as bone. It was all they needed and all they wanted. This was their home, and it was holy ground. It was the Promised Land. The Prophet had told them so. Nothing on earth, they told that Ohio man—nothing on earth would induce them to leave it.