Chapter 13 – Help Her
On a night when it was cold and raining heavily, Ayira was in her teepee, thinking to herself. She started to pace back and forth and angrily started throwing her things around, but then she began crying and fell to her knees. Little Sparrow quickly entered and saw her things scattered around. He hesitantly knelt beside her, and then sat down next to her.
They sat quietly until Ayira suddenly looked at him with tears in her eyes and sadly said, “I don’t see you growing old.”
Little Sparrow was shocked by her comment. She looked away, and then he slowly got up and left her teepee. Ayira got up and pulled out the jug of liquor that Imani had drunk from, and she started to drink.
Hours passed. The fire was low; the teepee was dark and damp. Ayira sat on the ground next to the entrance. She heard a noise outside and waited to see if she heard it again. She continued to drink as she stared at the darkness outside the entrance. Suddenly, something cut through the teepee where she sat and startled her. She quickly crawled backward, further into her teepee. A cold wind blew in and she trembled with fear.
A voice yelled, “Ayira...”
She glanced around as the voice yelled again, “Ayira!”
“Leave me alone.”
Breathing heavily, she saw the silhouette of a man standing at the entrance of her teepee. Squinting, she realized the silhouette was her father. Though he looked enraged, he stared at her anxiously.
“Ayira – you know I will never leave you alone.”
He walked over to her and knelt beside her. Face-to-face with her, he ground his teeth and then suddenly began choking her. Gasping for air, she trembled with fear.
“You cannot get away, Ayira. We are bound together forever.”
She pushed herself forward and broke free. She quickly crawled out of her teepee and ran out into the rain. Though she tried to run fast, the ground was muddy and she kept slipping. When she fell to the ground, she peeked behind her and saw her father standing in the rain, staring at her demonically.
Ayira finally reached Great Eagle’s teepee and burst into the middle of a powwow. Drenched and with the look of terror on her face, she fell down to the ground on all fours.
The men were startled. Yellow Feather quickly stood up as Ayira mumbled to herself and kept looking behind her.
“What is wrong?” asked Yellow Feather.
She crawled to him, terrified and whimpering. “Look at her eyes,” said White Hawk.
She kept trying to move away from the door, but Yellow Feather held her in place. “Wait – stop. What is wrong?” he asked.
“Keep him away from me,” said Ayira.
Yellow Feather looked surprised, and said, “She just spoke our language.”
Like a child, Ayira pouted. She fidgeted and looked down and shook her head no. Then, when she looked at the entrance, she saw her father peeking through the opening.
She got up, screaming, and tripped. Yellow Feather caught her as she fell and tried to restrain her. She had tears in her eyes as Great Eagle blew smoke on her and chanted.
White Hawk helped Yellow Feather lay her down closer to the fire. They held her, while another elder started chanting.
Yellow Feather sniffed her and said, “She has been drinking.”
“It is hard to fight off spirits when one drinks. She is weak,” said Great Eagle.
He stared at Ayira and said, “Who do you see?”
She finally focused and looked at Great Eagle. Her voice trembled as she screamed, “He is over there!”
Everyone followed her gaze as she glanced back toward the entrance, but they did not see anyone. Ayira hesitated to speak.
“She has gone mad,” said White Hawk.
Yellow Feather looked at White Hawk with a serious face. White Hawk glanced back at Ayira, and they continued to restrain her.
“I can’t help you if you do not tell me who is here,” said Great Eagle.
She stopped struggling and Great Eagle continued, “You came here for a reason. I can help you if you let me.”
She started to pout again. White Hawk and Yellow Feather let go of her. She rubbed her head and said, “No one can help me.”
“If you keep running, they will never go away. You must face them. We can help you; just tell us what haunts you.”
She looked at Yellow Feather and slowly sat up. She then turned to ask Great Eagle, “How can you help me?”
“I have my ways.”
She stared at him and then looked down. She said, “My head hurts.”
“It smells like you drank a wagon-full,” said White Hawk. She hesitantly looked at the entrance again.
“Who haunts you?” asked Yellow Feather.
“No one can help me.”
She stood up and staggered toward the entrance. Yellow Feather grabbed her left arm and she glared at him.
Face-to-face with him, she sadly asked, “Why do you make this so hard for me?”
“Be careful when you touch her; a spirit might jump out,” said White Hawk as he smirked. Ayira and Yellow Feather stared at each other for a moment, but then she quickly looked away.
“Something happened for you to run to us,” said Great Eagle.
She sat down again and said, “You want to know what haunts me... Everything...”
She looked at Great Eagle with tears in her eyes and started sobbing and said, “Everything – I see everything – I hear everything – I feel everything. I can’t stop feeling... I can’t stop seeing; I can’t stop hearing... It won’t go away.”
“What do you see?”
“What don’t I see?”
“You see the dead? You see spirits?” asked Great Eagle.
“Not only the dead – other things.”
“What?” asked White Hawk.
“I can see how people will die... Sometimes I just see something bad happening, but sometimes I do not know exactly who – when or how.”
Concerned, Great Eagle said, “I knew of an Indian man long, long ago that had the power to see far in time. They said he predicted the white men taking our land away from our people. He predicted people’s deaths when it would rain, what people were thinking, and he could speak to the dead.”
Ayira started to cry again as Great Eagle continued, “He was a wise man, but they said his only weakness was he did not know his own death. There were two men in his tribe that had a dark secret and they did not want anyone to know. They were afraid he knew about their secret, so they took him far away from his village and tortured him to death. Then they disappeared.”
Ayira sadly thought to herself.
“You can see everything, except for your own death. What kind of power is that?” asked White Hawk.
“A power that cannot last forever,” said Great Eagle.
“A power I do not want.”
“A power you must accept,” said Great Eagle.
Ayira shook her head no and said, “I can’t – I can’t... You don’t know what I see.”
“Enlighten me,” said Great Eagle.
Yellow Feather watched Ayira closely, but she noticed, and he quickly turned away. She was shivering and trembling from the cold, so Yellow Feather got a blanket and wrapped it around her. Without looking at him, she nodded.
“How did you get this power?” asked Great Eagle.
“I do not know.”
“Do you remember the first time you knew of your power?” asked Great Eagle.
“I remembered being very young; they said I was four-years-old. I was watching my father work and I remember sitting through one of his rituals.”
It was night, and in her father’s hut, the light of the fire shined brightly. A young Ayira sat on the ground in the far corner watching her father perform a ritual over an old man.
A young African man walked into the hut. He stared at Ayira as he walked toward her father, then he
calmly stood behind the witchdoctor as he performed the ritual.
Ayira continued, “I kept waiting for my father to say something to the man, but Father ignored him. When the ritual was over, everyone left except that man.”
A young Ayira pointed toward the young man and said, “Father, what about him?”
Looking around, her father asked in confusion, “Who?”
She pointed to the man, surprising her father.
As he looked toward where she pointed, he asked, “Who is the man?”
“My father believed me,” said Ayira.
Everyone in Great Eagle’s teepee stared at Ayira anxiously.
She continued, “I asked the man, and he said he was one of the people my father had hurt with his magic. I had never seen my father scared before, until that day. The man told me to tell my father that he would not rest until he watched my father die.”
Sadly, Ayira looked down and said, “My father said he would never let me leave his side.” Great Eagle had a worried look on his face.
“My father taught me his magic and rituals.” She kept her head down in embarrassment and continued, “He was on both sides... He helped and hurt people with his magic. My father was a witchdoctor – a healer.”
“Who haunts you?” asked Yellow Feather. Ayira looked around, scared.
“How did your father die?” asked Great Eagle.
Ayira was surprised by Great Eagle’s question. She looked down again and said, “My head hurts and my body aches.”
“How did your father die?”
“I killed him – I killed him with his own magic.”
She started crying again as everyone stared at each other, stunned.
“There must have been many people that hated your father,” said Great Eagle.
“Many... I did not want to be like him. There were times when I – had done bad things to people. I helped my father do bad things to people.”
She looked away, trying not to cry, and continued, “My father did a lot of bad magic and I never stopped him. I had chances to stop him and the magic, but he believed in me. He said that it was my destiny – that I was born to be a healer, to see far in time, and do magic.”
“Is it your father that haunts you?” asked Yellow Feather.
“I am not feeling well,” said Ayira.
“Is it your father that haunts you?” asked Great Eagle.
“He and others...”
She glanced at Yellow Feather and then at Great Eagle. She said, “I believe that everything in our lives is already written by the gods, in the stars, in stone, in blood... We cannot change what is to happen to us. That spirit that I saw in my father’s hut said that I would be my father’s death. My father did not believe it, and I thought I could never ever hate him enough to kill him, but it happened... I tried to keep my village from being attacked and I could not stop that, either…”
“Everything happens for a reason. Maybe that is why the great spirits gave you that gift; to change, to help prevent what is going to happen. You just need to find out how to use your gifts,” said Great Eagle.
“No – no matter how hard I try to change what is to happen – it still happens... Maybe not the same way, but it still happens, and worse.”
Ayira started to cry all over again and continued, “I tried to save my village, but I could not change what was to happen. They would not listen to me – they all thought I was mad, just like your people... I would not be here if I could change what is to happen.” She started shivering again and covered herself more with the blanket.
“Why do you think the great spirits gave you these gifts?” asked Great Eagle. “They are not gifts – they are curses,” said Ayira.
She began to look uncomfortable, but continued, “They want to punish me. My father could not help me – no one can help me.”
Appearing disoriented, she lightly touched her head, and then uncovered herself. The men stared while she slowly crawled toward the entrance. Suddenly, she stopped. Her eyes rolled back and she passed out on the ground.
“I will take her back to her teepee,” said Yellow Feather.
“No – I want her to stay here. I need to speak to her father and whatever haunts her. I need answers,” said Great Eagle.
Yellow Feather turned her over on her back so that he could pick her up, and then lay her on a blanket. “Can I stay?” asked Yellow Feather.
“No – everyone must leave.”
“Be careful... I mean it,” said White Hawk.
Great Eagle smirked as everyone left. He chanted into the night. Finally, he opened his eyes and looked around his teepee. Ayira was still asleep and all was still and quiet. He closed his eyes once more and began chanting again.
“You can chant all you want – but you will never get rid of me!” yelled Ayira’s father. Great Eagle quickly opened his eyes and looked around, but saw nothing.
“Who is there?” he asked.
He heard only the crackling fire. “Who are you?” asked Great Eagle.
Ayira’s father stood behind her as she slept. He walked around her, toward Great Eagle. He watched her father walk closer to the fire with a serious look on his face, and was startled by the way the spirit looked. He had scars on his chest and arms and wore a loincloth that only covered his crotch, as well as many necklaces: one was made of different animal nails, another from different animal teeth, and some were human. When Great Eagle looked up, he noticed scars on the spirit’s pale face.
“Who are you?” asked Great Eagle.
“Who would you like me to be?”
“Where do you come from?”
“Where I don’t want to be...”
He ground his teeth as Ayira tossed and turned in her sleep, and then tilted his head to stare at the Indian medicine man.
“You wanted to see me. You called me to you.”
“I asked the great spirits to show me the truth. Who are you? Who are you?”
Ayira’s father stared at Great Eagle for a long time, and then said, “You know who I am.”
He closed his lips tightly and went back to Ayira. When he sat on the ground next to her, it worried Great Eagle.
The spirit crossed his legs and rested his hands on his knees. Then he slowly leaned down to Ayira’s head and whispered into her ear.
Ayira, still asleep, turned over and faced Great Eagle. Her father whispered again into her ear. She shook her head and said, “No – no.”
She whimpered in her sleep and Great Eagle looked even more worried. “Father – no.”
He glanced at Great Eagle with beady black eyes and then smiled. Then an angry look appeared on his face.
“You must rest in peace,” said Great Eagle. “What is peace?”
“Somewhere – where...” “There is no such thing.”
Great Eagle tried to hide his emotions as he cautiously watched Ayira’s father. He started to stroke Ayira’s hair, then opened his hand, but then pressed down on her head. She began to whimper in her sleep again when she tried to lift up her head but could not.
“What do you want?” asked Great Eagle.
Ayira’s father took his hand off her head and she quickly turned over. He stared at Great Eagle. “You can’t give me what I want.”
“I may be able to help you.”
“No one can help me. Only she can give me what I want.”
“And what do you want?”
They were both quiet until, suddenly, Ayira’s father stood up and ran toward Great Eagle. He put his face close to the medicine man’s face, who tried to contain himself. He blankly stared back at Ayira’s father.
“I am not supposed to be like this. Only she can give me life – her life... She owes me her life.”
“You can’t have her.”
He whispered into Great Eagle’s ear, “Yes, I will.”
“Why? Because you say so…”
The spirit stood and went back to sit next to her. He crossed his legs and rocked back and forth.
“You can’t do anything to me. No one can. I will never leave her. She is my daughter; she is my blood and no one can separate us.”
He started laughing and continued, “You are nothing. You are just a medicine man that knows how to put plants together. I have cured many, and I have helped build villages and break them. I have helped men to become chiefs, and chiefs to become warriors. I have helped princesses and kings. You are nothing. You can’t do anything to me. You are just an old man that thinks he is strong in spirit, but really you are just like the rest – nothing.”
“That is all you have done.”
“Do not get me, angry old man.”
“You do not know me.”
His face changed quickly from angry to calm and he said, “I wanted to warn you. Warn you about Ayira.”
“What about Ayira?”
“She is going to follow the men to the battle.”
“Why would she do that?”
“She is going to let them all die.”
Stunned, Great Eagle asked, “Let who die?”
“Yellow Feather, White Hawk, and Little Sparrow.”
“She would never let them die.”
“Why do you think she would never let them die? Do you really know Ayira? Can you trust someone that killed her own father – and mother?”
“She killed her mother?”
“Yes – she did. She poisoned her own mother because she did not want her to marry the man she loved. She killed me because I tried to stop her.”
“Why are you telling me this? I don’t understand.”
“She is going to the war and she will be captured by the enemy tribe. She will help the enemy tribe hunt and kill Yellow Feather, White Hawk, and Little Sparrow and your tribe. The enemy tribe works with soldiers and they will promise Ayira a way back to her land.”
“Why do you tell me this? What do you want from me?”
“I want Ayira... That is all I want. If you help me, I will help you.”
“I do not understand – how can I help you?”
“Keep her here with you, in the village, and I will tell you the rest. Only if you keep her here. If you had a chance to save someone, would you? I’m giving you a chance to save them. What reason would you have for not saving them?”
Confused, Great Eagle said, “No reason.”
“What is the reason the gods gave her those gifts? Not to ignore them, but to use them. Maybe the gods are testing her and she is choosing wrong. Maybe she is supposed to save the men. She has those gifts for a reason and that is what I tried to teach her. To teach her not to be scared of her gifts or the gods and to use them wisely. She does not deserve those gifts from the gods. She does not know how to use them. I told her again and again, but she did not listen.”
“What would you do to Ayira?”
“I will tell you this – I was not a bad man. You may think I was an evil man from what Ayira tells you, but I loved her more than I loved any of my other children. I treated her like a queen; she was going to be a great witchdoctor, and many, from lands far away, would have known her. As far as this place.”
Though he was getting angry, he continued, “I would have done anything for her, but she killed me. Now I am stuck here, because of her, because she does not know how to use those gifts. She has no control over those gifts. She does not deserve them.”
When he realized he had been getting angry, he immediately calmed down and continued, “I will tell you the rest only if you keep her from going to the war.”
“But if you tell me the men are going to die, then all I have to do is keep them here or tell them what is to happen. I am sure they will not go, and that will keep Ayira here too.”
“There is more to it than just that or else I would not have told you they were going to die. You only know some of what is to come. If you do not believe me then ask her yourself.”
He ground his teeth, his eyes wide, and looked impatient. “I will ask her and she will tell me.”
“Ask her and you will see. Then you will help me.”
“That is why I am going to ask her. I could never help you... To help you is to go against everything I believe in. No – no, I could never help you.”
Ayira turned over on her back and opened her eyes. She was half asleep, but she saw Great Eagle talking to someone. Behind Great Eagle, a second Great Eagle was lying on his bed. Confused, she quickly sat up.
Her voice trembled as she said, “Father?” He looked at her, and she was terrified. “What is happening?” asked Ayira.
“Ayira – my child. We were talking about you, and he wants to know what I do to people when they get me angry.”
“Leave him alone.”
The Indian stared at them cautiously. Still terrified, Ayira looked down again. Suddenly, her father turned to look to his right, as if he saw something. Great Eagle watched him closely.
Then her father studied Ayira with a worried expression, and then he started to walk backward in the opposite direction. She was confused when he suddenly ran out of the teepee.
“You should not have done this.”
“You don’t understand what is happening. What is going to happen?”
“Why don’t you tell me?”
“You won’t understand; no one will understand. I must keep it to myself.”
“It is too late – my people are already a part of this. You know that.”
She looked at Great Eagle with concern. “All of this was supposed to happen. No matter how much I try to change it – it still happens. I have no control,” said Ayira.
“I want to know if someone is going to die in the battle that is to come? Someone from this village?”
Surprised, Ayira asked, “Why do you ask me this?”
“Ayira, I want to know... Please tell me if someone is going to die in this battle?”
“I – I cannot tell you?”
“Because you cannot change what is to happen.”
“Why don’t I believe that? Tell me what is to happen, and maybe I can change it. Maybe I can help you if you tell me.”
“You can’t help me – no one can. What did my father tell you?”
“I believe that you are strong, I always believed that and that you are scared, and I want to help you, but I can’t help you if you don’t tell me. Please tell me what is going to happen? What are you scared of?”
Ayira said sadly, “Everything... You cannot change what is to happen? Things happen for a reason.”
“Then you are a coward. Maybe White Hawk and Red Sun were right about you.”
Ayira was stunned by his comment and tears fell from her eyes again.
“You, out of everyone, should understand what I go through. I must end it now – I must end it now.” She wiped her tears and looked down.
“Ayira – let me help you. That is the only way. Look at me – Look at me.”
“I must go.”
“You can stay here, so you will not be alone.”
“I will not be alone – thank you.”
Looking sadly down, she left his teepee. Worried and saddened, Great Eagle looked down as well.