I unfold the crisp note and read it again. The words are the same. They mock me still.
Why are we like we are? Sure, you’re Sioux, and I’m white. But do we have to be enemies? Can’t we find some common ground? I know that me and the others have made your life Hell at school.
I’m tired of it all. I’ve found a way to put an end to it. Meet me at the old abandoned Res. Health Center tonight. Halloween is a good time to put old ghosts to rest, right?
It was an ambush of course. The Reservation Health Center – where once the white doctors sterilized trusting Lakota girls who came to them for help.
Halloween. I sighed. Leave it to the whites to believe that the dead could only haunt the living one night of the year.
The shadows crept close. The Hunter’s Moon seemed impaled on the canine tooth of the pine above me. Eric and his pack were waiting for me up ahead. I smelled their whiskey breath on the chill wind.
My face tightened. When coyotes hunt the wolf, it seldom turns out well. Even civilized white boys should know that much.
They had not learned the One Lesson:
Growing up is all
about getting hurt. Then getting over it. You hurt. You recover. You move on,
knowing you are going to get hurt again. But each time, you learn something.
Each time, you come out of it a little stronger. At some point you realize there are more flavors of pain than lies in politicians’ mouths. It tastes bad, but you swallow it. You endure.
Evil was not the real threat to the world. Stupidity was because it was more common. But look who was talking?
I smiled. Of course, I came here earlier, learning where the pits were buried, where the nets suspended.
I prayed forgiveness as I dug up the small bodies in the mass grave:
Lakota children who were not given medicine, for the money had gone into the pockets of the white administrator …
Tiny skulls full of nothing like beggar’s bowls.
I filled them with the tiny gears of broken children toys. The dry bat wings from the dead creatures in the Center’s attics were a pain to attach.
Now, those winged skulls replaced the nets, hanging from the branches with the dark in their eyes. Not real Kanontsistonties of Lakota myth. But they would do.
Eric and his pack meant to break my bones like kindling upon the rocks of their hearts.
I did not hate them. To hate the rain does not keep you dry.
They did not know they were evil. There is no road sign that marks the crossroads where you damn yourself.
There is music in every wound. A wound in every season.
At the end of our path, it will be the footsteps we choose that determines whether the melody of our life was sweet or sour.
I was not facing Eric out of hate. At school they made life hell for all the small ones who could not fight back. It ended tonight.
I could hear Grandfather:
“Whatever you do, do it for love. If you keep to that, your path will never wander so far from the light that you can never return.”
When Eric and the others walked to the spot I wanted, I looped the twine hanging from the branch overhead around my hand, and stepped out of the shadows.
Nodding to the knives and lead pipes in their hands, I said, “How not surprising.”
Eric, the pupils in his blue eyes seeming to reflect his dead soul, smirked, “Then, why did you come?”
“Because of the truth in the lie.”
He snorted, “What truth?”
“That because you start out one way does not mean that you cannot grow into someone else.”
Eric snapped to his “friends.” “Gut him!”
I tugged hard on the twine, and a dozen winged skulls twirled and buzzed down upon them. I watched amused as they screamed like little girls.
Two ran directly into the pits they had dug for me.
Their screams as the wooden stakes thrust up into them were shrill. They made enough of a diversion for me to slip into the darkness once more.
It was then I noticed the children in the shadows.
Their eyes were glowing ghost- green like nothing living could. Something powerful and old burned in them.
Like Icarus, we all fly through life on illusion and candle-wax. But soon or late, our choices loosen the threads. And all becomes feathers and the sound of the fall.
Foolishly, I had released the spirits of all those murdered children by digging up their bodies. I made of them, Teihihan, eaters of murderers. I was worse than White.
The tallest husked in Lakota. “Go, Big Brother. We eat well tonight. The biggest we save to eat one bite every winter. His screams will warm us.”
They were so fast, so strong, and their jagged nails sharp scalpels. Eric screamed as they brought him down like a gutted buffalo.
“Oh, God! Luke, help me. Help me!!”
“Go!” ordered the leader of the Teihihan.
I left, leaving a piece of myself behind.
Each year I return, withdraw Eric’s letter, unfolding its worn creases. The words are the same. They mock me still.
The night is dark, the fires long out, and the reason why is the only doubt.
I try to remember the boy I had been. Would he approve of the man I became, the choices I made, what little I had learned from the past?
The past … where the road behind is clear but the bridge is closed … where you learned to dance, but now the music slows.
Then, the children in the shadows bleed from out of the darkness.
The leader chuckles, “There is meat on him still. Go. See you next Hunter’s Moon.”
I leave before the screaming starts.
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