The Child Dreamer:
A Dead Dreamer Prequel
ᛏᚺᛖ ᚱᛖᛞ ᛞᚨᛝᚲᛖ
Catori was first to my defense. The Medicine Man knew it was something I had done that blinded her. But she surprised me. She claimed I wasn’t the one who blinded her. She said it was the angry spirits who had blinded her. By sacrificing her sight, she appeased their wrath.
Regardless, the tribe became wary of me, just as the villagers had been. They would still smile as I walked by, but they kept their children away. I was dangerous. The spirits had never been this angry before. They had never physically harmed a person to their recollection. This was the first time someone had returned from the Land of the Dead, damaged.
But they were wrong. The spirits they viewed as dangerous were beautiful. They craved warmth and only attacked when provoked. Whereas those they believe benevolent were the true evil. They were foolish to see otherwise. But trying to convince them of the truth was impossible.
None of them knew the truth about those demonic spirits. Every time I brought the topic up with Catori, she would tell me I simply didn’t understand the ways of the spirits. How we weren’t meant to understand, we were only meant to observe. It was foolish, but I argued no more. It was pointless.
Catori could not travel, even in the Land of the Dead, with her new injuries. Her spirit felt weak, as if she were always on the verge of disappearing. Fearing my own safety, she made me promise on multiple occasions to never travel without her; To stay close to the tribe at all times. Close to her. Close to my body. And close to the eyes of the ever watchful Medicine Man. Unfortunately for them, I would find ways to escape their eyes. At first I tried to keep to my promise, but my instincts drove me away.
When each new moon approached, I escaped into the shadows of the forest, only creating light when close to the door. Each time it opened, they would flock to me, all begging for the flames I held.
One night, I gazed in awe as they danced upon my fist. Focusing, I encouraged the embers to grow. With each inch added to the dancing fire, the spirits would make a high pitch squeal of excitement before continuing to dance. Their figures were slender and white. Through the orange and yellow lights, their white skin seemed to glow brighter. They were pure.
At one point, I was so memorized by their forms, that I reached to touch one of them. Startled by my audacity, two of them reached through the fire to the fingers of my reaching hand. Quickly, I jerked the hand back. The other held firm continually focused on keeping the flames alive.
By the middle of the night, there were five of them on my hand. Each fighting with the other to stay engulfed within the flames longer than the others. To appease them, I continued to focus and allow the fire to grow. Unfortunately, there was a limit to my ability and this was the first time I had reached it. The fires were now a foot over my head, but still not enough for them.
Suddenly, they stopped. As if summoned, they lifted their heads to screech to an unknown entity. When they took off, further into the forest, I rushed after them. They flew through the trees with such speed, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up. For the first few feet, I ran after them. My feet hit the earth as if I were awake and in my mortal body. Realizing this, I grunted before leaping off of the ground to fly after them, increasing my speed greatly.
I was beginning to feel the pull of the tether to my body when they finally stopped. On the edge of the forest was a caravan. Three men were sitting around a campfire, their horses behind them eating the dried grass from hot summer days. They were weary from their travels, as were their beasts of burden. The water they passed around was nearly empty from the sound of it.
Just as my fires had before, the campfire attracted the spirits. The five who had been in my hand earlier stood on the crackling logs, attempting to suck in as much of the heat as they could. The flames reflected on their white skin as they continued to glow. As if communicating, they screeched to each other, ignoring everything else around.
The men were speaking with one another about the day before. As one passed the water to his partner, he mentioned his frustrations with the Virginia heat. They had just come from my old village. The wares they carried were barely touched, as the village had little in the way of money. Although frustrated they weren’t able to relieve themselves of their burdens for coin, they were content to try elsewhere. One of them even mentioned attempting to trade with my tribe.
But the calm night would not continue.
Suddenly, all three men jumped to their feet, each pulling out their guns. The spirits, disturbed by this movement, screeched louder than I had ever heard. The campfire soared into the air, threatening to singe anyone near. Had I been awake, my entire body would have been destroyed. But instead, my soul felt calm in the fiery light.
It was then I finally heard what had made them jump. A small pack of coyotes bolted from behind the trees, attacking each of the men without hesitation. One coyote jumped right away for the man’s throat, only missing by a hair. Guns were shot, horses cried, and the men panicked as they tried to run from the wild dogs. One man was brave enough to untie his horse and smack it’s behind before being bitten in the leg.
The spirits leaped from the flames and flew towards the men. Their screams matched that of the humans as they scratched and bit at them. Claws dug into their bodies, causing agony for the men. They were being torn apart by animals and spirits they could not even see.
The corner of my lip curved into my cheek as I watched the chaos unfold. They should not have disturbed the fun of the spirits that night. With their loud screams and gunshots, they had angered them, causing them to lash out. It was only natural. Where there was an action, there was a reaction. The punishment was the reaction to their actions.
Only when the cries had dissipated did the spirits calm. They returned to the flames as I stood on the edge. The bodies of the men and horses soaked the earth with their blood while the remaining coyotes enjoyed their feast. I couldn’t pull myself to look away. They had paid the ultimate price for angering the spirits. There wasn’t a way to tell if they had summoned the coyotes or not. Either way, it was done.
This was probably what Catori had meant. But she didn’t understand; none of them did. They only fought for the living and those on the other side. They never thought to show respect to those most holy.
They only showed respect to those they deemed worthy. And the ones who they believed were worthy were the true evil creatures. The beasts who left the marks of death.
As the sun rose that day, I lit my hand aflame one last time. Reaching forward, I lit the bodies of the dead on fire, burning away their deaths. The coyotes ran off, squealing at the sight of the spreading fire, leaving their kill to burn. The spirits were elated as they danced into the new flames. Their grace left me in awe.
Morning was upon us as I used my fire to guide the spirits back to their door. None acknowledged me when they left the flames for their home. It was time for me to return as well. The sunlight began to pierce through my soul, leaving me with a warm and comforting feeling. Only when I awoke in my body did the foul taste return. It was time to hide who I truly was, in favor of the tribe’s beliefs. At least, for a time.
It wasn’t until a few years later when I learned my lies weren’t the only ones being told.
To be continued…
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