Chapter 10 - What Haunts Her
Ayira and Little Sparrow were resting when a couple of baby hares passed close to them as they ran toward their mother. Little Sparrow laughed and looked at Ayira to see if she laughed too, but she just sadly stared at the hares. She quickly stood up and walked away and he hurried to follow behind her.
“Are we not going to hunt?”
She stopped walking and thought to herself. Little Sparrow became alarmed and nervously looked around.
“Do you see something again?” he asked.
Ayira turned around and said, “I want to learn your language.”
When Little Sparrow looked confused, she pointed at a tree and said, in her language, “Tree.”
She pointed at him and then pointed again toward the tree. Next, she pointed at a bush and said in her language, “Bush.”
She stared at him while he smirked. When he also pointed at the bush and said, in his language, “Bush,” she repeated the word after him. He next pointed toward the tree and said in his language, “Tree,” and she again repeated the word after him. He smiled.
They soon arrived at the waterfall, and Ayira walked into the water until she was ankle-deep in it. She held her spear and watched for any fish to swim by. Little Sparrow also found a spot in the water and waited with his spear in his hand as well. He yelled excitedly when he caught the first fish, and Ayira looked at him in irritation, but then she grinned.
He proudly held up the big fish and said, in his language, “Fish.” When she repeated it after him, he smiled again.
After a while, he counted the fish on the ground near their things and yelled out, “I have five and you have two!”
Ayira, still standing in her spot, grinned and threw herself into the water. Little Sparrow excitedly jumped in also. He splashed water on Ayira, but she had such a serious face that he became nervous and stopped. Then she splashed him back and he laughed. She hurried through the water toward the rocks under the waterfall, then sat down and let the water pour down on her. Little Sparrow watched and smiled.
The men returned to the village from hunting while the women were still cooking. The men were resting and drinking as Ayira and Little Sparrow emerged from the woods, soaking wet. As they walked through the village, everyone stared at them. Little Sparrow stopped to show Yellow Feather the five fish he had caught, but Ayira kept walking.
“Did you catch them with your spear?”
Little Sparrow smiled and said, “Yes, and we jumped into the water after that.”
Red Sun walked up, looking disgusted, and yelled, “Come… You’re going to get sick!” Yellow Feather smiled. Pushing the boy toward his mother, he said, “Go.”
Little Sparrow nodded. As Yellow Feather watched Ayira enter her teepee, he smiled.
A couple of months later, the air grew cold. One morning, when it was dawn and still dark outside, Little Sparrow entered Ayira’s teepee and startled her. She quickly sat up.
He whispered, “You are awake?”
She nodded and then hesitantly asked in his language, “Why are you here?”
“We are going hunting. Would you like to go hunting with us?”
He opened the entrance and Yellow Feather peeked inside and grinned. Surprised, Ayira sadly turned away. Little Sparrow walked back and knelt in front of her. “Is it all right? He wanted to go hunting with us today.”
She glanced at him with disgust, but then worriedly looked down.
“Is there something wrong?
“Does he know?”
He immediately shook his head. She hesitantly nodded yes, and he excitedly ran out of her hut. A couple of hours passed, but it was still dark due to a thick, gray blanket of clouds. It was colder as well. The three had walked far into the woods when, suddenly, Yellow Feather waved at them both to kneel down. He pointed to their left. They knelt quietly and waited for a long time.
“I do not think it is coming,” said Little Sparrow.
Ayira pointed to a large deer that slowly walked far ahead of them. “It is big,” said Little Sparrow.
“Quiet,” whispered Yellow Feather.
He readied his bow and arrow and aimed at the deer.
“Let me,” said Little Sparrow. He put his hatchet down and readied his own bow and arrow. Ayira appeared weary as Little Sparrow aimed and shot an arrow toward the deer. It fell down to the ground, and they hurried over to the dying animal. Ayira knelt and examined it, then pulled out the arrow. As the blood gushed out, she prayed in her language and softly patted the deer. Yellow Feather watched her with curiosity.
“She always prays for the animal before it dies.”
She stopped praying when the animal died. Yellow Feather watched her in awe. “You have done well. Now you can carry your own kill,” he said.
Little Sparrow seemed disappointed, as Ayira tried not to smile. Yellow Feather watched her suspiciously. As he helped Little Sparrow put the deer over his shoulders, Ayira suddenly heard voices. She hesitantly followed them through a thickly wooded area. When the voices stopped, she heard a branch break to her right and she became nervous. She heard the voices again and became scared.
As she slowly walked toward them, she turned around and saw dozens of Indian men wearing war paint creeping slowly towards her.
Ayira quickly hid behind a tree with thick bushes surrounding it. She sat absolutely still, and quietly watching them walk by. One man’s face was painted half black and half red. He kept pointing at the other men, directing them where to go. She pulled her knife out when he whispered to the others and pointed in the direction of the village.
When she looked around, the Indian men were all around her, headed in one direction. One of them was close enough to brush against the bushes she hid behind.
“Ayira!” yelled Little Sparrow.
She nervously watched the Indian men see if they had heard the boy, and then slowly raised herself up against the tree, tears in her eyes because Little Sparrow sounded closer.
Suddenly, Yellow Feather appeared from behind the tree, startling her. Ayira attacked him with her knife, but he was able to grab her arm and keep her from stabbing him.
He yelled in surprise, “Why did you attack me?”
Little Sparrow ran up to them and looked confused. Ayira cried when she glanced around, terrified, and realized that the men were gone. Breathing heavily, she shook her head in confusion.
“Why did you attack me?” asked Yellow Feather.
In her language, she said, “I am sorry.”
“You almost killed me - what if it had been Little Sparrow?”
Little Sparrow anxiously said, “Maybe she thought you were a bear?”
Still crying, Ayira said, “I thought you were someone else - I thought you were someone else.” Little Sparrow looked gloomy as Yellow Feather let go of her arm.
She dropped the knife and asked Little Sparrow in her language, “You did not see the men walk by?”
He stared at Yellow Feather and asked, “Do you understand her?”
Ayira seemed nervous. He turned back to Yellow Feather and sadly shook his head. Yellow Feather angrily walked away.
Little Sparrow whispered to Ayira, “Who? Who did you see?”
“The Indians. They had paint all over them... There were many of them - they were everywhere. You did not see them?
He sadly replied, “We did not see anyone.”
She looked down, ashamed, at the sad look on his face. Yellow Feather yelled, “Let’s go!”
Later that night, when he entered Great Eagle’s teepee, the medicine man asked Yellow Feather, “What happened?”
“Ayira attacked me today.”
Surprised, Great Eagle asked, “How - Why?”
“She attacked me with her knife... I don’t know why, but she looked scared as if she thought I was someone else.”
Great Eagle thought for a moment then said, “Maybe she saw something.”
Yellow Feather sadly said, “I do not know - but what if it was Little Sparrow... What if she had attacked Little Sparrow? I would have never forgiven myself.”
“I do not think she would attack any of us unless there was a reason - no, it was something else.”
“Ayira and Little Sparrow are hiding something,” said Yellow Feather.
“They have been hunting together for months, and I see Ayira has changed...”
Yellow Feather said, even more sadly, “I have to keep Little Sparrow away from Ayira - I do not know if he is safe with her.”
“I understand - I just hope that it is best for all of you.” Yellow Feather appeared clearly upset.
A month later, snow covered the ground. As Yellow Feather was speaking to Red Sun outside of her teepee, Little Sparrow ran up, out of breath.
“What is wrong? You look scared,” said Yellow Feather. “Ayira...”
Red Sun instantly looked angry.
“What about Ayira?” asked Yellow Feather.
“She has not come out today.”
“She was sleeping - they say she sleeps in the day,” said Yellow Feather.
The boy shook his head and said, “She did not come out yesterday.”
In frustration, Red Sun said, “Yellow Feather says she is sleeping. Forget about her. You should not be near her.”
“Today I looked around her teepee, but I did not see any footsteps.” Red Sun was clearly enraged now. Yellow Feather thought to himself as Little Sparrow continued, “Yesterday I saw no footsteps.”
“Did you look in?” asked Yellow Feather.
Little Sparrow shook his head and seemed worried.
“There is nothing wrong with her? She is ashamed. That is all,” said Red Sun.
“The other slaves have not come out of their teepees since it got cold. The women take food to Tapiwa every day. I will check on her.”
Red Sun grabbed Yellow Feather’s arm as he was about to leave and said, “Let her be - she is trouble.” He pulled free from her grip and walked away.
She looked at Little Sparrow and said, “We will speak later.”
Little Sparrow and Yellow Feather walked to Ayira’s teepee, and Yellow Feather called, “Ayira - Ayira...”
He entered the teepee, but the fire was out and it was very dark. Little Sparrow poked his head inside and asked, “Is she here?”
“I need light - hold the entrance open so I can see.”
“Maybe she is dead.”
Yellow Feather found her covered with blankets. Concerned, he knelt beside her and pulled them off. Ayira could barely open her eyes. He was relieved at first, but she shivered and her teeth chattered uncontrollably. She closed her eyes as Little Sparrow walked up.
“Is she dying?”
Yellow Feather took off his glove and touched her forehead. “I think she is freezing to death. Run and go get more blankets. Hurry, and get them from my teepee, not from your mother’s.”
The boy raced out of the teepee and Yellow Feather whispered, “You say nothing, and you give up so easily.” He took off his coat and covered her, and then started a fire. He was cold already, so he rubbed his hands together.
He sat down close to her and watched her, then said, “How can I get close to you, when you are so far away? It hurts me to see you this way.”
Little Sparrow returned carrying four blankets. One by one, Yellow Feather laid the blankets on top of her.
“Will she get better?”
“You say she did not come out yesterday?”
Little Sparrow shook his head, and Yellow Feather asked, “When did she last come out?
“Two days ago, at dusk... I saw her come back from hunting, but she did not carry anything. She looked like she was struggling.”
“Tell your mother I will be back later. I want to make sure Ayira will be all right.” Little Sparrow nodded his head. Concerned, he asked, “She is always alone - why?”
“There is much we all do not understand about her, but – like everyone else –she has to face whatever is haunting her. Go now.”
In the hull of the slave ship, the moonlight shone through the cracks on the walls and the ceiling, reflecting the piles of sweaty bodies that lay motionless. The creaking sounds from the old wooden boards on the ship could be heard over and over again, along with the sounds of moaning and crying and the waves hitting the sides of the ship.
Ayira’s head rested on top of another slave’s back. She had no energy. She could not move her body because she was buried neck-deep under slaves laying on top of her.
Raising her head, she slowly looked around. She started to shiver uncontrollably, and whispered to herself, “Save me from the evil that I see... Keep the evil away from me.”
She repeated the prayer, again and again, listening to whispers all around her. A woman’s voice whispered, “Kill me - kill me.”
An angry man’s voice whispered, “I want you to suffer as I suffered.”
Another man’s voice whispered and said, “I am going to slowly cut your body into pieces and feed them to you.”
Ayira cried in terror. She suddenly heard a chewing sound to her right, and slowly looked toward the direction of the sound.
Her eyes widened as she realized a slave man was eating a dead slave’s arm. Ayira quickly turned away and sobbed.
“Save me from the evil that I see - keep the evil away from me.”
A dark shadow caught her eye and she struggled to lift her head again. When she could look around, she saw two shadows quickly moving back and forth through the hull. Whenever one of the shadows stopped, it stopped next to certain slaves. Slaves that were dying.
She followed one of the shadows with her eyes and noticed that, when the shadow stopped near a slave, the slave moaned or sobbed. She nervously watched when a shadow came near her, but it passed her and stopped at Imani. Imani sobbed in her sleep and tears fell from Ayira’s eyes.
“Save us from the evil that I see – keep the evil away...”
She suddenly stopped and looked toward the stairs. Beneath the stairs, it was completely pitch black.
She squinted and tried not to move a muscle, but she continued to stare at the stairs.
She saw an oddly shaped face watching her from the darkness. The eyes seemed human, though they shined through the darkness.
Terrified, Ayira whispered to Imani, “Imani – Imani...”
The face slowly moved from side-to-side as it looked her over.
“I – I see something.” “What do you see?”
“I do not know what it is, but something is down here with us.”
“Maybe it is the white men.”
“No – no... I would have heard them come down here. No – it is something else... I’m scared.”
“We’re all scared. Please, Ayira, rest. I am very tired...”
The eyes blankly peered at Ayira. Suddenly, she heard snarling next to her ear.
She was paralyzed at first, but then slowly looked to see what was snarling at her and screamed at the top of her lungs.
Ayira sat up in her bed, screaming. She looked around and saw Yellow Feather sitting on the other side of the fire. Confused and scared, she was breathing heavily. She noticed all of the blankets piled on top of her and looked at Yellow Feather in surprise.
“You had a bad dream.”
He looked at her with concern, and Ayira glanced away. He picked up a bowl of food and offered it to her.
“I have food for you. Please eat.”
He gestured for her to eat and said, “Food.”
She shook her head, and he looked disappointed, but then he angrily slammed the bowl beside her and stood up.
He yelled, “You are like a bear caught in a trap that won’t let anyone help it get out!” and stormed out of her teepee.
Embarrassed, Ayira laid back down. She turned over on her side and faced the bowl. She slowly put her hand in it and sadly picked at the food.