If you have just arrived at The Library in Purgatory, the first chapter is here.


"I never found the girl, I never got rich. Follow me."

~Leonard Cohen

Monday, October 20, 2008

Chapter IV.5


The Baar, the Wolf, the Otter, & the Ice Princess (Unfinished)

““This is my helper,” he told Tayo. “They call him Shush. That means Bear.” It was dark, but in the light from the fire Tayo could see that there was something strange about the boy, something remote in his eyes, as if they were on a distant mountaintop alone and the fire and the hogan and the lights of the town below them did not exist.

He was a small child
learning to get around
by himself.
His family went by wagon
into the mountains near
Fluted Rock.

It was Fall and
they were picking piñons.
I guess he just wandered away
trying to follow his brothers and sisters
into the trees.
His aunt thought he was with his mother,
and she thought that he was with her sister.

When they tracked him the next day
his tracks went into the canyon
near the place which belonged
to the bears. They went
as far as they could
to the place
where no human
could go beyond,
and his little footprints
were mixed in with the bear tracks.

So they sent word for this medicine man
to come. He knew how
to call the child back again.

There wasn’t much time.
The medicine man was running, and his
assistants followed behind him.

They all wore bearweed
tied at their wrists and ankles
and around their necks.

He grunted loudly and scratched on the ground in front of him
he kept watching the entrance of the bear cave.
He grunted and made a low growling sound.
Pretty soon the little bears came out
because he was making mother bear sounds.

He grunted and growled a little more
and then the child came out.
He was already walking like his sisters
he was already crawling on the ground.

They couldn’t just grab the child
They couldn’t just simply take him back
because he would be in between forever
and probably he would die.

They had to call him
step by step the medicine man
brought the child back.

So, long time ago
they got him back again
but he wasn’t quite the same
after that

not like the other children.”[1]




Untitled

Can you see the wound
behind the mask,
the boy
behind the wound?


So there once was a Boy—only he was part Baar cause baars are easy going yet wise and full of life, protective, powerful, curious, and slow to anger; he was also part Wolf because he ran in the shadows, was cunning and fiercely loyal; and lastly, he had a little Otter in him, being that otters’ sole purposes in life are mischief and fun—the kind of critters that make you groan, “Fucking otters!”

So, one day he was walking through the Forest of Life, and, seeing that he was a little smarter than the average baar, he didn’t get caught in a net like the lion—who tended to be a lazy, egotistical bastard, nor did he stumble into a pit like the elephant—a rather shabby dresser and snooty conversationalist. No, the Baar avoided all those things and still, he awoke one morning to a terribly sharp pain in his belly that felt like your heart breaking on the hard kitchen floor into so many pieces of lifeless pottery. Somehow, unbeknownst to him, a Thorn had pierced his thick hide, lodged itself in his soul, and was worming its way slowly towards his heart.

He growled and roared in pain, baring his razor sharp fangs and rolling about, knocking down small trees and flattening beds of ferns, tearing at the wound with his claws till it bled profusely.

All the animals that lived nearby in the forest heard the terrible roaring, the crashing and fled frantically for their lives, fearing some evil monster had descended into their neck of the woods to devour them and their families. And even after the din had died away, no one returned to their homes for a long time, and some never came back, deciding instead to settle down in more peaceful parts.

Finally, after many moons, Wolf lay still, bloodied and exhausted. He realized that he could not extract the Thorn this way. The pain was deep but he had fought it to a place where he could keep his head above water; though it numbed him to the bone and most nights it made him dream if another Boy and a flower in a desert, the boy kneeling over the flower, keeping it alive with his tears. However, the salt in the tears is killing the flower, though it matters little since the Boy is running out of tears anyway. When one dies so will the other and it will all be over.

As Wolf lay still, the Wind whispered in his ear,

“Find the Other Boy. He will tell you how the Thorn pierced you in the first place. Then you will be able to remove it.”

Wolf though about this for a while and decided that it was so. He would set out to find this Other Boy though he had no idea who he was, where to look, or how to find him.

Wolf was thirsty and found a nearby stream to get a drink of water. As he drank, he caught his reflection in the water and jumped back in shock. The wound had spread, eating away at his insides till it looked as if there was nothing there, and his once proud face was contorted in pain.

This will not do, he thought to himself, taking a second look. The Boy/We/I has many friends; if they were ever to see me like this…would they understand? Would they run in fear? What if this is contagious? I could never live with myself if I knew that I had passed this on to someone I cared about, hurting them in the process. The pain is great but I will bear it alone. It is the only honorable thing to do.

Having made up his mind, Wolf set about concealing the wound with mud, fur, and leaves; and then carefully constructed a mask that hid the perpetual grimace on his lips and the sadness in his face. The only things that he could not hide were his eyes, since he needed them to see. So it was that, if anyone with a curious or caring mind looked directly into Wolf’s eyes, they would see all the sadness lurking in the shadows behind the sockets. Wolf, however, took to making faces and distractedly moving his drink around when talking to others so that rarely did anyone think to look into his eyes. And so, Wolf set out to find the Other Boy.

Something in him told him to head west but whichever way he went, he always seemed to wind up heading east. Perhaps I am the anti-Columbus, he mused one day, arriving in the West by going east and rediscovering what has already been discovered.

Wolf traveled mostly at night and off the beaten path, afraid that he might run into someone he knew, someone who could see through the disguise to the pain that he carried inside. Even then, sometimes his path would cross that of an old friend who would stop to catch up on old times.

“Wolf, old friend,” they would say, “is that you? It’s great to see you again you old scoundrel! How have you been? What have you been up to? Have you seen so-and-so? Where have you been hiding yourself?”

At this, Wolf would roll his eyes and make some faces, feigning surprise and joy while shifting his drink from paw to paw, drawing figures and shapes in the condensation rings from the bottom of his cup. At first, he was terribly nervous that someone would notice that something was wrong. But, as time went by, he grew more and more confident in his ability to act like everything was all right. Still, he kept to himself as much as possible.

And so it went for some time, Wolf trying to chase down clues and continually drifting east. He did not seem to be making any progress and felt like he hardly knew anything more then when he first set out to find the Other Boy. One day, he tiredly emerged from a forest only to find himself on a thin stretch of white sand that ended in the blue Atlantic Ocean. His legs were tired, his tongue hung dryly from his mouth, his paws were sore, and his heart ached so. His hope was slowly ebbing out with the tide and he didn’t know where to go next.

“I have failed in every way to make any kind of progress,” he sadly said to no one. Nearby, a lone seagull cocked his head curiously to one side and then silently lifted off into the breeze, white wings expertly feeling for the currents. “And now…now I have brought us here to die.” Wolf lay down, resting his head on his paws in front of him and quietly watched the waves roll up on the shore.

*****

When Otter saw the ocean and the blue tumbling waves he gave a squeal of delight and dashed frantically over the beach for the water, little legs kicking up a cloud of sand behind him. Diving into the surf, he splashed about delightedly, body surfing on the waves, constantly chattering excitedly to himself. After a while, Wolf forgotten on the shore he began to swim parallel to the beach looking for fish and mischief. Wolf, watching him go but, but not having the energy to stop him, quietly swore to himself, “Fucking Otter!”

Eventually, Otter came upon a large basin filled with gray frigates, tenders, mine sweepers, destroyers, guided missile cruisers, tugboats submarines and aircraft carriers all tied to piers. This, of course, sent him into another spasm of chattering excitedly to himself. He had actually been quiet for a while now, but only because he had been swimming against the tide and it had been a stiff one at that.

By 2100 that night, with a head full of rum, Otter had managed to ingratiate himself with the crew of one of the sleek gray cruisers and now proudly answered to the title, Seaman Otter.

For the next five years or so, Seaman Otter sailed around the world, only thinking of the Other Boy or the Thorn on those rare nights, as the one is Spain, when he scaled the Fort of Lost Souls and watched the stars dance with the moon in the ocean. Most of the time though, he was involved with things that you would no want your mother to know about, even if your mother was an otter. And, it usually seemed that, if Seaman Otter was not instigating these misadventures, he was wholeheartedly participating in them.


Dream of the 7 Blue Turtles

He was (largely)
the dream
of 7 blue turtles
and as such
spent most of his days
smiling contentedly
down by the water.
One day,
however
the 7 blue turtles
woke up
and went about their turtle business
leaving him
in a most awkward
position.


One evening though, after returning to port from a particularly long and arduous deployment, Seaman Otter sauntered down the brow as the sun set, intent on expediently getting to his favorite watering hole for some fun and mischief. As he rounded a corner, a large paw shot out of the shadows and gruffly grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, roughly jerking him off his feet. His cover fell off his head and rolled on down the sidewalk, finally coming to rest on a crack between to slabs of concrete, next to an old, flattened beer cap and a wad of cinnamon gum. He had just turned twenty 8.

Sharp claws pierced Otter’s slick coat and he curled up into a little ball, mewling sadly.

“Enough.” A gruff voice said. It was Baar, scowling sternly down at Otter. But inside, he was sad because, through Otter, in his irresponsible good-natured ways, he had fallen in love with the sea, her sensuous voice and the sleek ships that rode her. In a small way, he knew how Otter now felt and it didn’t make him any happier and there was nothing right now that he could do about it.

Baar turned on his haunches and slowly ambled west. Otter picked himself up and slowly followed, sad tail dragging after him. He stopped once and looked back over his shoulder before turning and following Baar into the shadows. But not even the shadows could hide the quiet tears as Otter left the only thing behind that had taken care of him. Slowly the three made their way West.

*****

Many more moons passed. The Other Boy was nowhere to be found, no matter how hard they looked. The Wind offered no more advice and the Thorn continued on its painful path. All were beginning to feel a keen sense of urgency and depression that overtook them like a fine mist and left their hearts pounding in fear. Otter went along gamely, but his tail dragged constantly (I know, have you ever seen an otter's tail that didn’t drag?) and nothing seemed to excite him anymore. Wolf kept to himself more and more, and Even Baar now went for days on end without saying anything to anyone, just blindly pushing on. In retrospect, he would have liked to have believed that it was faith or vision that kept him going, but, as he knew, he just didn’t know what else to do, except to stop—and that meant death.

“What the hell are we doing?” Otter asked, stopping one day. “We aren’t getting anywhere and if something doesn’t give soon we will die this way.” Baar turned surprised at the tone in Otter’s voice. He had never seen him look so serious.

“You’re right,” Baar agreed, lowering his great head slowly, “I can feel the Thorn moving deeper everyday.” He sat down and looked at the other two intently, “Lately, the pain has become so constant that, occasionally, when I don’t feel it, I’m suddenly afraid…” his voice trailed to a whisper, “afraid that I’m dead.” Wolf and Otter nodded empathetically. All were silent, lost in thought.

“What if,” Otter started?

“No!” Wolf snarled quickly, cutting Otter off. “That is not an option. You know that. We all swore. Besides, who would you like to lay that on? Someone close, someone who has no idea what they’re getting into?” Otter shook his head, twitching his whiskers angrily. Wolf was right, but not entirely right. They fell into a black silence again.

“Let’s spend the night here.” Baar finally interjected. “It’s getting dark and we can get a fresh start in the morning. Maybe Wind will bring us some advice as we sleep,” he added hopefully but halfheartedly.

No one disagreed and Baar curled up by a tree, tucking his nose under a paw since it had been getting cooler at nights and a chill frost covered everything in the mornings as the full killing moon sank into the west. Wolf climbed a small hill to the east and sat on his haunches, sniffing the evening breeze—standing watch over his friends, though if they’d asked, he would have denied it. Later, Otter awoke some time in the middle of the night. In the distance he could faintly hear Wolf howling at the moon in agony and despair. He though his heart would break.

He couldn’t go back to sleep. Baar huffed quietly in a dream, his breath warm on Otter’s back. The moon was just past its zenith and cast crazy shadows down through the trees, shimmering on the frost-covered branches and blades of grass. And, in spite of his dark mood, Otter felt a twinge of his old curiosity returning. It was such a beautiful night. His nose and whiskers twitched, testing the still night air, the fur on the back of his neck rising involuntarily, tingling like an electric current had been applied to his coat. Carefully, he stepped out from between Baar’s great paws where he’d been sleeping and gave his coat a little shake, stretching to yawn. He stood still for several minutes, listening, trying to peer through the shadows for a sign of Wolf. He was still half-asleep. Finally, something he would not be able to explain in the morning, gently grabbed him and led him trotting happily off to the west, his impending doom forgotten. And as he did so, Wolf quietly watched him go with intense yellow eyes clouded with pain.

Otter was not aware of how long he had been walking. At some point the frost on the grass gave away to a thin layer of crunchy snow but he didn’t notice. Finally, he came to a stop in a small clearing of aspens. Not too far off to his left he could hear the babbling and gurgling of a small brook. The moon had fallen below the trees and the clearing was dark. Whatever it was that had led him here was gone and he shook his head confusedly. He looked around again, as if for the first time and turned to go back before anyone noticed he was gone, when a voice stopped him.

“Hey.” Otter took a step back. He could’ve sworn that the clearing was empty a minute ago.

“Hey yourself…” he ventured as she stepped into view, smiling. Her hair was frost blond/white and her eyes an icy-piercing blue that the stars danced unrepentantly in. Otter’s little brain was furiously working overtime, that face, those eyes. God, it was all somehow so familiar. “Christ,” he moaned to himself, unable to remember, “why did I drink so damned much overseas?”

“What?” she asked.

Otter’s eyes got big for a moment and a paw shot involuntarily to his mouth. “Er…nothing,” he stammered, “hello.”

“You said that once.”

“I know.”

“Would you like a drink?” she offered up a glass. Otter eyed it suspiciously. “It’s Absolut and cranberry.” Otter couldn’t help but lick his lips. He accepted the glass carefully with both paws.

“Careful,” he thought to himself, making sure he didn’t say it aloud, “it’s not plastic.” He took as big a swallow as he thought he could without seeming to be rude and then handed back the glass. Carefully. “Thank you.” The vodka warmed him and made him feel like wiggling happily about.

“You’re welcome,” she brushed back a stray bang. “So what brings you to this part of the woods?”

Otter looked around quizzically, almost doubling back on himself to see where he’d come from.

“I’m not sure exactly,” he said, puzzled, “I just kinda ended up here.” She nodded. It never occurred to Otter introduce himself and he never stopped to realize that he didn’t know the name of the woman he was talking to. They chatted amicably all night long however, until Otter, feeling the Thorn burrow a little deeper, squirmed in pain and gave a little yelp.

“Are you all right,” she asked with just a hint of concern in her voice.

Otter opened his mouth, almost spilling the beans and then closed it again, remembering the look on Wolf’s face, his heartbreaking howling, how tired Baar looked and how quiet he’d been the last several weeks.

“Uhmm…,” he stammered, wondering how he got himself into these things. “It’s really nothing,” nonchalantly, “I’m just soul-sick. That’s all. Nothing to worry about. I’m sure it will clear up as soon as I get back into some warmer, tropical climes.” Otter waved his paw in a diminutive gesture.

“I see,” she said, not exactly sure at all.

“Holy shit!” Otter exclaimed, realizing what time it was as the eastern sky began to lighten. “I’ve gotta go. It’s been really nice talking to you and we’ll have to do it again sometime……” his voice trailed out behind him as he scampered off to the east as fast as he could, leaving the woman sitting alone in the clearing with an empty cup.

Otter was nervous all morning, not willing to meet anyone’s gaze, constantly stealing sidelong glances to see if Baar or Wolf were glaring at him. No one said anything to him though and no one seemed to notice that he had been gone most the night. Several time, Otter almost admitted what he had done, but always stopped short. After all, he had not given up their secret and nothing bad had happened. Yet.

Wolf thought that they might be in the right area, and no one having any better leads, they decided to spend the winter where they were at, hoping to find something that they had overlooked. Otter was all too happy to back Wolf’s idea. And, as the days got shorter, he was able, from time to time, to sneak off and spend the night talking to his secret friend though he never mentioned being soul-sick again, and she never brought it up.

*****

Wolf had known for a while of Otter’s secret comings and goings though he had never said anything. In fact, most nights he had quietly followed Otter under the pretext of keeping a protective eye on him, which wasn’t entirely untrue but he also had to admit to himself that he was just a little curious. Usually he would follow Otter to the edge of the clearing and then drop back, not wanting to eavesdrop.

Baar was sleeping late one morning as he seemed to do most morning those days when Otter woke up and trotted down to the creek for a drink. He had just finished shaking himself off after a refreshing swim when Wolf walked up behind him, breath billowing in the chilly morning air. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days. Otter had a bad feeling and his heart began to pound furiously in spite of himself.

“I know where you’ve been going at night, Little Friend,” Wolf quietly growled.

Otter gave a little, “Eeep,” and then stammered, “I haven’t told her anything! Honest! Honest I haven’t!”

“I know you haven’t.” Wolf tried to look reassuring, managing more of a grimace.

“I’ll stop Wolf.”

“You don’t have to do that. I know it makes you happy, just be careful that you don’t slip up.”

“I won’t. I promise.” Otter couldn’t believe his good fortune. Not only was he not getting eaten by Wolf, but now he could stop feeling guilty about sneaking around all the time, hoping not to get caught. In fact, he felt so relieved that it skipped his mind entirely to ask Wolf how he knew about the woman in the clearing.

*****

Several nights later, as they lay around the campfire, Otter mustered up enough courage to nonchalantly ask Wolf, “So, who do you think she is?”

“I don’t think that she’s anyone,” Wolf replied tiredly.

“So you don’t have any idea…”

“I didn’t say that.” Wolf cut him off.

“But you said that you didn’t think that she was anyone.” Otter whined.

“That’s right. Because I know who she is.”

“Oh, then who do you know her to be?”

“The Ice Princess.” Otter nodded his head as if he had suspected as much all along but hadn’t wanted to say so.

“So how did you come about knowing this information,” he asked curiously?

“How do you know anything,” Wolf asked back?

“I don’t know, you just do.”

“Exactly.”

“But that’s not real knowing.”

“Okay,” Wolf said, starting to grow impatient, “Let’s suppose that you can’t know anything—at least not like you’d like to be able to. For certain, I mean”

“Okay,” Otter nodded.

“Instead we have probability. And, based on the facts, it is more probable that she is The Ice Princess than it is that she is not.”

“But what facts,” Otter asked with an exasperated sigh?

“Enough questions,” Wolf snapped.

Otter fell silent, what the hell does Wolf know, he thought to himself, probabilities my whiskers. The only probable I know is that I would probably kick his ass if I thought I could get away with it.

As far as Otter was concerned, Wolf could think/know whatever-the-hell he wanted to. The next time he saw her he was going to ask her if she was or wasn’t The Ice Princess himself and then he would know. Humph, probabilities!

*****

She was sitting in the clearing as Otter came scampering in through the snow, churning up a little white cloud of powder behind him. She had barely returned his greeting before he blurted out,

“Are you the Ice Princess?”

She laughed to herself, “What gave you that idea?”

“I don’t know,” Otter rambled on, “it just seems more probable, given the facts, that you are than you are not.”

“And what facts would those be?”

“Well, I don’t really want to say, but I will say that after many years on the high seas, an otter develops a keen ability for sensing things.”

“Is that so…”

“It is,” Otter replied proudly, puffing up his little chest.

“And none of this would, by any chance, have anything to do with your dark friend who is always skulking around in the shadows would it?”

“What?” Otter froze, hackles involuntarily rising on his back.

“He’s a friend of yours right? I’ve caught glimpses of him almost every night you’ve come. Why doesn’t he ever come all the way into the clearing?”

“That’s Wolf,” Otter said out of the corner of his mouth, sidling around to cast a long glance behind him. “He tends to be a little edgy around strangers.”


ODDS AND ENDS THAT NEED TO BE WORKED IN

Wolf stood, soaking wet, at the edge of the clearing, squinting thru the downpour. His coat was matted to his skin and his ears were flat as he slowly searched the shadows, unsure, looking for a sign.

“There you are…,” her voice warmly pierced the gloom and found him where he stood.

He inched forward slowly till he sat just inside the ring of trees. She stood in the middle of the clearing, a black cloak with a hood protecting her from the rain, a glass in either hand. Slowly, she offered one to Wolf, who hesitated and then took it quickly, drawing back to the edge of the clearing.

“I didn’t know if you’d ever get the courage to step out of the shadow.”

Wolf eyed her deeply over his drink, silent.

“You’re soaking wet. That disguise must be cold; can I dry it for you?” Wolf inhaled sharply, the Thorn twisting in his side. He shook his head no. Neither spoke and the rain slowed to a drizzle and then stopped altogether. The pain was growing inside Wolf and finally, he set his cup down, turned and quietly left.

A week later he was back and this time he walked a little farther into the clearing before sitting on his haunches.

“It hurts me to see you this way,” she said, “you know that you can talk to me about anything.”

“I don’t know if I can,” Wolf quietly replied. “I hardly know you and yet I feel a bond that I can’t explain.” She looked up at Wolf who was looking at his feet trying to find the right words to explain. “I…I carry a pain in me, so great that sometimes it’s harder to go on living than no to. How can I…how could anyone share that with someone else?”

“But isn’t that what friends are for?”

“I don’t know. I mean, I have…have been there for others

*****

“You must be Wolf,” she said.

“And you must be the Ice Princess,” he replied. She stopped what she was doing, a look of shock/surprise running across her face, before recovering quickly.

“And how do you know that?”

But Wolf continued, “You live alone, locked in a tower of ice. This isn’t the real you, or at least the total/whole you, only a part projected out into the land. No one knows where your tower is and you never tell.”

“Is that what you’ve heard?” she replied coolly.

“It is.”

“And how do you know that it is true?”

“Tell me it isn’t,” he growled.

She didn’t reply.

*****

“I want to trust you,” Wolf said, “I need to trust you. But…”

“But what?” she softly asked.

“But I’m afraid of hurting you, afraid that you’ll condemn me, afraid that I will care (too much).”

She didn’t say anything for a long time. “I worry about you,” she finally said, “it hurts me to see you this way.”

“I know,” he replied, “and I feel like a bastard for it.”

The wind shifted in the trees above, the gentle rustling swelling and filling in the invisible gulf between them though they sat side by side— the gulf that Wolf so desperately needed to find a way across, the gulf she didn’t know how to help him bridge.

I gotta go,” Wolf finally said. “I’ll talk to ya later.”

“Kay.”

“Goodnight,” he turned and headed back into the trees. She watched him fade into the shadows before turning to go herself.

*****

Wolf stepped slowly, heavily into the clearing and paused, his breath billowing out in a white cloud in front of him.

She stood in the clearing cutting the heads off of rats, looking up as he approached.

“Whatcha doing?” he asked curiously, tilting his head to one side.

“Research.”

“Didn’t find it the first time?”

“What? Oh,” she smiled warmly.

He walked over to her side and sat down, looking up at the crisp, cold stars.

“Beautiful night…,” Wolf said, more to himself than anyone in particular. He looked over at the Princess but she wasn’t looking at the stars, she was looking at him.

“You look troubled tonight…” the concern in her voice was evident.

He nodded slowly. “Tonight my fears keep me company and there seem to be more than I know what to do with,” he paused grimacing. “I…,” he started slowly, “am used to being concerned about myself, you kinda get used to it. But it’s these other things that I don’t know what to do with,” gesturing with a paw. “I am afraid for our friendship. For you. That this is too much. That is some way I will allow you to feel my pain and it/I will hurt you, that you won’t understand, that you will, that you won’t take it seriously, or think it’s some kind of joke. That you seeing me like this will think that I am less than I am.” The pain in his eyes was unhideable.

“But you know that none of that is true.”

“Yes…and no. For all the talking we’ve done I still really don’t know what you think of any of this. And yet, who am I to ask for anything more? What right do I have?” Wolf stared at his paws glumly. The silence was long but not uncomfortable. “In spite of all that, you have managed to see through my disguises; you have come further into this mess, my life, than anyone else; and your caring has done much to ease the pain. I don’t know how much, if any, of this you have realized and feared that I wouldn’t be able to find the right words to let you know.”

*****

The Beast leaped out at him from the shadows (of his mind) — nothing but a dark blur of hate and death. Its claws ripped deep into Wolf’s side slashing towards his wrist, his throat. Wolf managed to roll away, involuntarily howling in agony and surprise, coming up on his feet, baring white fangs and growling ominously. He could smell the rotting stench of decay and loathing on its hot, foul breath and knew that this thing would not rest until he or it was dead. Wolf’s heart pounded in his ears, the blood pouring from his heaving side, warm.

“Do not be afraid, Wolf,” it hissed through clenched teeth. “Give in to me and I will make your death a painless one. No more will the anguish of the Thorn torture you, haunt you.”

Wolf shook his head violently from side to side but he could not get the voice out of his head.

“Baar and Otter have already both given in; they’re waiting for you…to join them.”

“No…,” Wolf moaned quietly, shaking his head in vain, “No…”

The Beast had not moved from where it was crouched, all but hidden in the shadows. “It’s a Mercy Killing,” it whispered reassuringly.

“No…,” Wolf said again, tears rolling from his eyes.

“She doesn’t care…” the shadow purred, smiling.

Rage welled up in Wolf, “No!” he howled, launching himself forward, teeth ripping into the shadows, crashing into the undergrowth where the Beast, now gone, had been. He tried to stand back up but sank back to his knees, adrenaline rush gone. Feebly he tried to call out to Baar or Otter but the wind drowned out his feeble tries. A part of him told him to go back to the clearing but he couldn’t do that, not twice in one night, not like this. That would be too much, too much to ask. He finally passed out where he lay, alone.

*****

One night Wolf woke up crying and whimpering in his sleep. He had been dreaming— about the Thorn.

His body, his muscles, his bones, his skin all had a collective memory of their own and they remembered, remembered the night of the Thorn even though Wolf didn’t. That memory was strong, specific in a vague kind of way. It was more of an impression, a feeling instead of linear logic and details, but just as strong and persuasive in its own non-logical way.

Tears spilled down Wolf’s cheeks as he lay curled up, rocking himself slowly, trying to remember.

Several months later Wolf went back to the clearing, to see the Princess. It was the first time in a long time— even Otter had stopped going, for the most part.

*****

In their own way, each of them is dying— all to one degree or another— from isolation.

Baar from a growing sense of despair and failure— he feels that he is the eldest, the spiritual leader and that he has somehow through his own misguidance/poor judgment been unable to steer them on the correct course.

Wolf is especially dying from a sense of loneliness— he sees himself as the physical protector of the group and it was his failure that led directly to the Thorn wounding them in the first place. His pain is the deepest and most acute of the three. He is terrified that he will be unable to protect the other two and that they will die, leaving him alone.

Not much gets Otter down— he tends to be naturally happy, but he senses Baar and Wolf’s pain and in his own way tries to make things better, to lighten things up; and when not terribly successful it brings him down. He feels all the worse because he sees his role as the smallest, though still important, which makes his failure all the greater; because, in all honesty, Otter may have the biggest heart of them all and there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for any of them. He just wants them to all be happy again so they can have fun and go on wild adventures.

All of them, though Otter to a lesser degree, feel how the Thorn makes them different and feel the need to conceal its existence within them from everyone, even those they trust.


Dream— The Indian Goat/Sheep Herder

There was this little native Indian boy— herded sheep or goats. Nothing special about him if you looked, but he was different somehow. His father, or maybe his mother, had been a shaman perhaps. His spirit mingled freely with the animals I think. He knew things, though you’d never know it by looking at him, ‘cause all he did was herd his goats/sheep.


He died somehow; I’m not sure. His grave was on the edge of a cliff that overlooked the desert below; though nobody really knows who buried him. It could only be reached by a little, precarious roundabout trail that can scarcely be seen and shoots off from the trail/gully/gorge that he herded his goats/sheep in everyday.


I went to the grave ‘cause somehow, someway, this little Indian kid was me. I knew exactly where the hidden trail would be— like I’d seen it a thousand times before. There was only a little mound of raised dirt to mark his grave and in the NW corner a little circle of that dirt was wet, as if an animal had marked its territory. And in that circle of dirt was a lone paw print— a wolf’s or coyote’s maybe. He was a wolf or coyote now— I knew this— could almost feel him watching me while I was there, hidden. But I didn’t know what I was supposed to learn here, what message he was s’posed to give me.



Wolf


I saw a shadow walking through the night

his name was Wolf.

He was hungry,

you could see it in his eyes.

The rain followed on his heels

the night before him.

He stopped for a moment

to share a word

and tell

of life on the other side.

His eyes were haunted.

“The night’ll do that to you,” he said.

His words were bare

as lean and gaunt as his body.




[1] Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony, p. 128-30

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